Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pete Nears Middle Age

Yes, folks; it's true: Pete is officially one year older than he was last year and one year closer to retirement. In commemoration of his birthday, I offer this photograph with Pete (left foreground) in a typical pose, guarding his excavation area against all comers.

When Pete gets back from a short birthday trip (assuming he plans to return), he'll be finishing his part of our latest report. That report will cover the work conducted during the June 2008 field session of the Archeological Society of Maryland. Just a reminder: the previous three reports are available as pdf files from the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco website:

Happy birthday Peter.


Friday, October 10, 2008

In Search of John Hanson

Work at Port Tobacco often involves more than conventional archaeological and documentary research and, sometimes, involves partnerships. Today Anna Blinn Cole and her team of stalwarts from the University of Delaware spent the day in Port Tobacco recording the Wade family barn on Chapel Point Road. We look forward to seeing the final drawings and we hope to post them and the team's findings in the near future. Perhaps Anna will write the blog?

Monday Pete and I return to Mulberry Grove, home of John Hanson, to finish recording the family cemetery and, perhaps, to conduct some low-level testing to determine if there is a grave in an area from which a bush had been removed some months ago. Nobody knows where Hanson was buried and we are investigating the possibility that he was interred at Mulberry Grove. We'll let you know what we have learned.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mystery Building Part 2

Could the mystery be solved?? Maybe!
Thanks to Elsie for sending this along to us.

The "Clax Rice Shanties"
The attached photograph appearing in the Maryland Independent 12/11/69 for whatever reason was printed in obverse (hold it up to a mirror for the correct perspective). It show the Baptist Chapel and the first of the "Clax Rice shanties" as they appeared in the early 1940's. R. Claxton Rice, a local brick mason, worked on converting the South Wing of the original 1819 Courthouse into the Baptist Chapel, as shown in the photograph, around 1906. He obtained part of the Courthouse lot and sometime thereafter constructed his first shanty from original materials in the North Wing which was demolished. This first shanty stood somewhat in front of the original North Wing.

In 1947, the site of the first Rice shanty was obtained by Robert T. Barbour and his wife Phyllis, and later transferred to the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco. The first Clax Rice shanty was dismantled and rebuilt on the far west side of the old Jailhouse lot and beyond the original Jailhouse foundation. The Jailhouse lot and second "Clax Shanty" was obtained by Robert T. and James L. Barbour in 1960 and later demolished. Consequently, the two "Clax Rice Shanties" were built and demolished in the 20th Century and would not appear on any of the earlier maps of the village. The foundations of these two buildings should not be confused with the foundations of the original Courthouse or Jail even though the original bricks and other materials from such buildings may have been used in the "Clax Shanties."

The Baptist Chapel, built in 1906 from the original South Wing of the Courthouse was deeded to the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco in 1949. It was later dismantled and incorporated in the present restored 1819 Courthouse.

Prepared by: James L. Barbour, 10/23/07

(Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco)
I fooled with the image a little bit to show you both the original picture as it appeared in the Maryland Independent (left side) and as it was originally shot (right side). The building in question is circled in red and although its hard to make out, it looks like the Chimney House in the background.

- Peter

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mystery Building

Almost a year ago we held a very successful weekend field session in which we continued our shovel test survey of the north side of the town including in front of the courthouse. During that time, we hit some articulated bricks in an STP (#326) just to the right of the footpath leading to the courthouse. This is where we decided to put in Test Pit 3, just a few feet to the west of it. We came down upon a line of bricks poorly put together that could very well have been part of a brick sill or foundation to a building. According to local residents, there was a squatter who lived in a ramshackle building that he constructed in front of the courthouse in the first half of the 20th Century.

Well, today I was looking on the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco website for a particular picture and came across one that I had seen a hundred times before but never really paid any attention to. Here it is:


As you can see by the labels I put in, the building on the right doesn't fit. It is clearly too close to the foreground to be part of the courthouse. Could this be the mystery building that was found last October? And what purpose was it used for? It certainly doesn't look like a ramshackle building for a squatter to me.

This picture brings to light the issue of careful analysis of information already on hand. We went through the pictures many times and most likely just saw this as just another picture of the old courthouse as a church. A closer study of the photographs is necessary.

- Peter

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Wade Tobacco Barn

This Friday, students from the University of Delaware School of Historic Architecture and Design will be in Port Tobacco to complete measured drawings for the Tobacco Barn project for the MHT. I will be there with them for a few hours while they take measurements and photographs of the barn. Once they have all the information that they need, I am hoping we can use their research and reconstruct the barn digitally just as we have for the one room schoolhouse and the courthouse. The barn will only add to the historical aspect of Port Tobacco. Here are a couple of pictures of the barn as it appears today. The barn stands at the northeast corner of Chapel Point Road and Commerce Street, is owned by the Wade family, and dates to the first quarter of the 20th Century.
(West side of Chapel Point Road facing South)

- Peter

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reports Online

Thanks to the efforts of our learned colleague Dr. April Beisaw, all three technical reports on the archaeology at Port Tobacco are now online. They can be downloaded from the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco (, which is also an April creation. The report that we are currently preparing on the June field session should be posted by November 1, 2008.

These are very important documents because they tell future scholars what we did and what we found. They are not meant to be 'light' reading; however, we have done our best to insure that the reader need not hold six doctorates to be able to understand them. We have avoided jargon wherever possible and there are no sophisticated statistics. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

For those of you who missed yesterday's blog, very expensive Comcast service hasn't been delivering value for the last day or so.