“Uncovering Our Past” — An Update on The Hill

For those interested in learning the latest on the explorations and research into The Hill neighborhood in Easton, please plan to join us on Saturday, November 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We believe “The Hill” is the oldest African American neighborhood in the country, predating what is thought of as the oldest documented African American neighborhood: “Treme” located in New Orleans, LA.

“Uncovering Our Past” will take place at the Talbot County Senior Center (400 Brookletts Place) and will provide a debriefing on the on-going documentation efforts regarding “The Hill” and a discussion on the role of archeology and historic preservation. Professor Dale Glenwood Green of Morgan State University School of Architecture and Planning and Dr. Mark Leone of the University of Maryland College Park Department of Anthropology will highlight a panel discussion followed by a open session for sharing and collecting stories of the neighborhood history. Light refreshments will be available.

For more information on this project, please see:

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

Archaeological Dig on The Hill in Easton

Update from The Hill

Help Preserve an Historic African American Neighborhood: The Hill in Easton, Md.

Saving the Miller’s House

Below are photos from a visit I made along with other members of Historic Easton to the Miller’s House in what is now Wye Mills back in April. The Miller’s House was built by Edward Lloyd III in the 1700s to attract a miller to the area as local agriculture transitioned from tobacco-based to grain-based.

After sitting vacant for years, the home has fallen into quite a state of disrepair. Historic Easton is trying to stabilize the house before it falls down. While we have grants to help cover some of the work, we are seeking support from anyone interested to help offset costs (donations can be made via Paypal to historiceaston@gmail.com).

Click on the photos below to view larger versions:

The Miller’s House, perched on a hill above the Wye Mill’s area in Talbot County, Md. A security fence has since been constructed to protect the house.

A closer view of the other side of the house.

There is significant damage to this side of the house, which was compounded by last year’s earthquake.

Close-up view of some of the damage to the exterior wall.

Various means are being employed to keep the walls from moving any further.

Supports also are holding up the floors. This picture was taken in the basement of the house.

This hook is embedded in the ceiling of the basement. A woman whose aunt used to live in the home said that the family lived in the basement during the summer because it was cooler.

Brickwork in the basement.

Closer view of the brickwork.

A piece of pottery in the rubble outside of the house.

There is a cemetery on the property — I’ll be helping to map out the gravestones when the weather cools and vegetation dies back.

Cemetery on the property.

A piece of pottery in the cemetery.

Pottery fragment on the ground outside of the home.

Another pottery fragment.

Snake sunning itself on the brick exterior of the home.

 

Debris on steps outside of the house shows the color that one of the porches used to be.

Update from The Hill

Just a quick post to share a link to another blog: Archaeology in Annapolis by the team of students from the University of Maryland who spent three weeks on an archaeological dig at the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” in Easton’s The Hill neighborhood. They found some great stuff!

Archaeological Dig on The Hill in Easton

Photos below are from the archaeological dig going on at the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” in The Hill area of Easton, Md. (323 South Street). Visitors are welcome to stop by this upcoming week, Monday thru Friday, between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., to observe the dig.

The house (built c. 1880) belonged to relatives of William Gardner, a Buffalo Soldier. The archaeological dig is part of a process to help save the house and also is part of a wider investigation of the history of the entire neighborhood.

(click on the photos below for larger versions)

UMD students examine a button they found during the excavation.

Excavating in the backyard of the house.

Combing through the excavated rubble and dirt.

Excavating an area thought to be part of an alley that once separated the house from another home next door that has since been demolished. The students have found coins, marbles and pieces of metals and plastic so far.

Photos of the house itself:

323 South Street

The rear of the house.

Portion of the side porch. Many of the windows and doors are gone and covered with plywood painted to resemble the real thing so the home looks nicer.

View of a hole in the ceiling of the front porch reveals older trim and paint.

Layers of siding reveal themselves.

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

I had an amazing time today at the presentation about The Hill in Easton — I got to hear stories from current and former residents about the way African Americans developed this neighborhood from the late 18th-century to today. We took a walking tour and stopped into one of the churches that is at the neighborhood’s core. I also discovered that I had happened upon a real gem during a prior project that has value for the history of The Hill.

Below are some photos and tidbits from the day (click on the photos for larger versions):

Our tour started on Higgins Street, in front of these duplexes that pre-date indoor plumbing. A resident said that bathrooms eventually were built on to the back porches of houses.

Another view down Higgins Street, with the AME church steeple in the background.

The steeple of the church is topped with a pineapple, a Colonial symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The church dominates the view down South Lane.

The “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” Sgt. William Gardner never lived there, but his enlistment papers were found there. The house was owned by his brother.

View of the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” with one of The Hill’s AME church steeples in the background. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland will dig at this site this summer.

Barney Brooks, a descendant of one of the owners of the “Buffalo Solider’s House” is interviewed by a student from Morgan State University during today’s breakout session, where residents could tell their stories and have their documents scanned for posterity.

Habitat for Humanity will be renovating this house. Today, they were painting the boards over the windows and doors to make them look like real windows and doors in the interim, to keep the property from looking abandoned.

This is one of the oldest houses, especially brick structures, in The Hill neighborhood, dating to 1798.

The corner of Hanson and South Streets, with 3 c.-1870 brick homes. The neighborhood has traditionally been mixed-race. Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse (aka actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, for those outside of Maryland), grew up here. He got his ideas for creating a mixed-income, mixed-race community from his time spent in Easton.

Frederick Douglass once spoke at both AME churches in Easton. The rostrums at which he spoke survive to this day. Here is the rostrum at the Bethel AME Church on Hanson Street.

Now, for the coolest part of the day for me. In a talk about the “Buffalo Soldier’s House,” local historian Priscilla Morris mentioned two black women from The Hill, Ann Eliza Skinner Green Dodson and her sister, Temperance (whose son was the Buffalo Soldier, William Gardner). [4/2: Oops! I was a little confused during this presentation -- I was so excited when I realized I had the photo. Temperance's sister Ann was an early owner of the property known as the "Buffalo Soldier's House." The house passed to Temperance's son before it was sold to the Gardner family.] Morris mentioned that Temperance was a servant of the Hambleton family, who lived in the building that is now the Bartlett Pear Inn.

I realized I had a photo of Temperance.

When I did the history of the Bartlett Pear Inn, I came upon a stereograph image of the building (the top photo on the poster here) at the Historical Society of Talbot County. Pictured on the front porch are members of the Hambleton family. On the sidewalk, with two of the Hambleton children, is the Hambleton’s African American servant. Temperance.

No one at today’s meeting had seen the image before — I was able to show it to them on my phone. It was so exciting to share this rare piece of history with the group!

The Hill Project Presents: “A Stroll Down Memory Lane”

I hope those in the Easton area can attend this event on March 31 (click on the poster for a larger view):

I’m really looking forward to learning more about this area from the residents and to participate in the walking tour. I’ll post a follow-up blog post when the event is over!

Learn more about The Hill here and/or visit the Historic Easton web site.