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.

History of Mulberry Point

Recently, I was hired to do a property history for a new property owner’s birthday present. The 18th-century home and land I researched were purchased last year for conversion into a vacation rental. Below is the land’s history and some photos of the property (click on the images for larger versions).

Waterside view of Mulberry Point. The two-story porch was added during a recent renovation.

The property today known as Mulberry Point can be traced back to the mid 1660s. It has seen many owners and names over the years. Residents and owners participated in the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. Some residents were slave owners. Several residents died on the property and at least one was buried there.

View from down the dock on Broad Creek, originally known as Second Creek, near Bozman, Md., in Talbot County.

The ownership history of the waterfront property, located on Broad Creek near Bozman, Md., is quite complicated — pieces of the property were split up and reunited over the years, in different configurations.

The main home was built in 1752 and has undergone extensive renovations. The windows and the front door, with its transom, lead me to call this a Georgian-style home.

A view of the front of Mulberry Point. Tax records show the house was built in 1752.

One of the outbuildings may be even older. Check out the details on the doors of this shed below.

That's a neat old gas pump too!

The Harrison family held the land for the longest period of time. Margaret (Harrison) Benson and her husband George* sold the land to a different family in 1865 for the sum of $4,325. It has changed hands many times since.

Margaret Benson was the daughter of James Inloes Harrison. The Bensons took over the land from Harrison’s sister, Mrs. Ann Caulk, widow of William Caulk.

The Bensons were slave owners, as evidenced by an exchange of slaves between the Harrisons and the Bensons in the distribution of the estate of James Inloes Harrison. Ann Caulk’s will, which distributed slaves to her heirs, was disputed by heirs of her brother, James. In the resulting ruling, Margaret Benson was awarded the following slaves: Thomas who was 28 years old and valued at $800; a 10-year-old slave named Harriet, valued at $400; a 24-year-old woman named Molly, valued at $250; an infant also named Molly (6 months old), valued at $50; as well as another 10-year-old girl named Frances, valued at $350.

Since the Bensons sold the property in 1865, one can imagine that when they had to give up their slaves after the Civil War, they might not have been able to maintain the property anymore, forcing them to sell. It’s just a theory, but it fits the timeframe.

James Inloes Harrison died at Mulberry Point 30 October 1855 (he is buried in Bozman Cemetery). Arthur Harrison, the son of James Inloes Harrison, was buried at Mulberry Point and his tombstone was eventually found in the water on the north side of the house by the children of more recent owners.

Ann Caulk and James Inloes Harrison were the children of Thomas Harrison and Elizabeth Inloes. Ann Caulk died in 1854 and is buried at Mulberry Point. Her husband William was a major in the War of 1812 and was known as a prosperous farmer. William served under General Perry Benson in the 26th Talbot Regiment. William resided at a plantation by the name of Lostock near Mulberry Point. Ann Caulk presumably moved to Mulberry Point after the death of her husband.

Ann Caulk was left Mulberry Point by Samuel Harrison, her uncle. Samuel Harrison obtained the land from William Harrison in 1825 for $1,940.50, but it does not appear that he lived there. At that time, the pieces of land were called Harrison’s Security and Freeman’s Rest & Vacancy Added, totaling about 167 acres, as well as part of a tract called Harrison’s Partnership.

The Harrisons obtained these lands from Robert Haddaway in the late 1790s. Broad Creek at that time was known as Second Creek. It appears that tracts by the name of Haddaway’s Discovery and Hap Hazard were located to the south of what is now Mulberry Point.

Detail of circa-1900 map of Talbot County.

The lands were passed down to Haddaway by his parents, William Webb Haddaway and Frances (Harrison) Haddaway, who obtained them through the will of her father, John Harrison.

Robert Haddaway was a house carpenter according to land records (he also is listed as a farmer in a mortgage to Thomas Harrison). The main residence at Mulberry Point was built in 1752, according to tax records. The owners at that time were Robert Haddaway’s parents — might he have helped to build the structure?

William Webb Haddaway served in the Revolutionary War in the 38th Maryland Battalion, eventually achieving the rank of colonel. He was a slave owner, as the 1776 Maryland Colonial Census lists several blacks in his household.

John Harrison’s will of 17 July 1744 gave his lands to Frances Harrison (William Webb Haddaway’s wife). John appears to have been willed the land by his grandfather, Robert Harrison, in 1718.

Robert Harrison inherited lands called Prouses Point and Haphazard from his wife, Alice Oliver, when her mother, Mary Oliver, died. The portion containing Hap Hazard appears to have been given to John Harrison’s brother James and is to the south of what is now Mulberry Point. Prouses Point appears to have evolved into what is known today as Mulberry Point.

Mary Oliver had been married to James Oliver, who obtained Prouses Point from George Prouse in 1668. Prouse had the land surveyed in 1664 at 100 acres. It appears he was an immigrant to Maryland and the original owner of the land patent for the property.

*It’s possible that Margaret Benson’s husband George Benson was the great-grandson of Perry Benson, an officer in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. George Benson’s father was Robert F. Benson (born in 1807). Perry Benson’s son James had a son by the name of Robert, also born in 1807. It is possible he was the father of George Benson.

This aerial photo was taken in 1981:

(Image courtesy of the Historical Society of Talbot County)/HSTC Catalog No. 1981.019.019509

Sources:

Ancestry.com. “Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s.” Record for George Prouse. (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8 February 2012).

Ancestry.com. “Maryland Colonial Census, 1776.” Record for William Webb Haddaway. (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8 February 2012).

Covington, Antoinette H. Harrisons of Talbot County. Tilghman, Md.: 1971.

Leonard, R. Bernice. Talbot County Maryland Land Records 1740-1745. St. Michaels, Md.: 1987.

Maryland, Talbot County. Distributions 1858-81, Liber NR 5, 33, distribution of the estate of James I. Harrison 25 Oct 1858. Circuit Court of Talbot County, Easton. Maryland State Archives microfilm, CR 90,289.

Seymour, Helen. Caulk Family of Talbot County, Maryland. St. Michaels, Md.: 2002.

Seymour, Helen. Thomas Harrison Descendants. St. Michaels, Md.: 2003.

Stewart, Carole. Caulk Family Genealogy, 2007.

Talbot County, Maryland, Deed Records, Circuit Court of Talbot County, Easton. Digital images. MDLandRec.net. http://MDLandRec.Net

Talbot County Free Library. “Map of Talbot County, Maryland.” Maryland Room — The Starin Collection – Talbot County. (http://www.tcfl.org : accessed 12 January 2012).

The Ruins of St. John’s

The ruins of St. Johns along the Miles River. Photo taken from Unionville Road.

Drivers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland who take the Unionville Road bridge over the Miles River are treated to a view of Gothic church ruins. These are what is left of St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church, which was finished in 1839. The money for the church was donated by Miles River Neck landowners who wanted a parish closer than the one in nearby St. Michaels, Md. It was one of the first Gothic Revival churches on the Eastern Shore.

The walls are made of granite. The church was deemed structurally unsound in 1900 and it continues to crumble. A photo of the ruins in “Where Land and Water Intertwine” (1984) shows a turret at the front of the church, but is has since fallen away.

Overhead view of St. Johns, courtesy of Google Maps

These ruins are not to be confused with Dundee Chapel, a circa 1720 church built further inland in Tunis Mills near what is now the intersection of Unionville Road and Todd’s Corner.

Information for this post came from “Where Land and Water Intertwine, An Archictectural History of Talbot County, Maryland” by Christopher Weeks (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), pages 105-106.

Hurricane Irene: The Finale (Day 5)

Read about Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4

Sunday, August 28

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. because my bedroom door was rattling. Now I could hear a really strong wind, which had shifted so it was coming from the south (correction, west; I’m notoriously directionally challenged) and hitting the window behind my bed. I could tell it wasn’t raining as much. I’d apparently slept straight through the worst part of Irene.

I got up to see what was going on in the rest of the house. A very damp smell hit me when I opened the bedroom door and walked into the dining room (where the basement door is). There was still water in the basement, but the leaks appeared to be slowing. The attic leaks looked to have stopped completely. The wind was rattling the exterior cover of my bathroom vent quite loudly. Thankfully the power was still on.

This led to a comedy of errors though because I had turned on the overhead light in my living room so that I could see. It’s operated from a remote control and though I was able to turn it on, the remote then stopped working. I tried using a remote for a similar fixture in the dining room. That turned on the dining room light, but then it also stopped working. Now I had two blazingly bright lights on in my house at 4:30 a.m. and I just wanted to go back to sleep. I plucked a third remote from the wall in the guest room and removed its battery, swapping it out for those in the other two remotes in turn, which then allowed me to turn off those lights.

Then I flopped back into bed.

Just little branches fell on our street.

I awoke again at 7:15. Very strong winds were once again causing my bedroom door to rattle. The screens in the windows were rattling too. I chanced a peek outside and saw lots of small branches were down in the street.

I got up and once again surveyed the various parts of the house. I took the big floor fan I’d purchased out of its box and set it up to start drying out the basement. I also set up the canisters of DampRid. Then I took the tower fan out of my bedroom and set it up downstairs as well, for good measure.

Once it stopped raining and I saw folks venturing outdoors, I went out and picked up the largest limbs from my front yard. I took a quick walk around our block — the old oaks had dropped tons of small branches.

Tree broken in half on Dover Street.

I came back to my house and grabbed my phone and set off for a longer walk. It was still quite gusty. I took several pics of large limbs down along the way. A large tree in front of the Inn at 202 Dover had broken in half.

A large limb down on South Harrison

Large limb down on Goldsborough.

When I got back to the house, I decided to use Febreeze in the living room and dining room to try and combat the damp smell. I emptied the cooler that had been storing ice, which was now mostly melted.

Downstairs, I opened a small window to let still more air into the basement. It caused the basement door to rattle whenever a strong gust blew through.

I began emptying the large plastic drawers filled with water that were in the tub. Then I folded the tarp in the living room and started moving my scrapbooks and documents back into the office, which fortunately did not leak.

Blue sky!

At 1:30 p.m., I spotted the first hint of blue sky since Friday. Shortly thereafter, the sun was out. I pulled my car out of the garage and then I went out back to get my composter out of the shed and wrestled it back into its frame. I re-hung the flag out front.

After a trip to the gym, I was pleased to discover that the house no longer smelled like a swamp when I walked through the door. I’m contemplating returning the un-opened sub-pump and hose. Surely if the basement didn’t flood after nearly 9 inches of rain in less than 24 hours, I’m not going to need it, right?

Later in the afternoon, all the neighbors were in their yards raking up the branches and leaves that had fallen. I opened all my doors and windows to let as much fresh air as I could into the house. I made another sweep of the sidewalk to get still more sticks out of the way. Everyone was saying how lucky we were that it wasn’t worse, even though we’d all prepared for it.

I took another walk into town and noticed quite a bit of the damage that I’d seen before was already cleared away. Talbot County Schools are closed tomorrow, but everything should be back to normal after that (at least in our part of town). Good riddance, Irene!

Tombstone Tuesday: Little Lambs

St. John’s Chapel is on Tilghman Island. A friend and I noticed quite a lot of children’s graves there on a recent visit.

This memorial to the children of one family is especially poignant:

In loving memory of the children of Perry and Ada K. Porter.

Ella J., aged 19 years.

Hattie B., aged 13 years.

Hazel K., aged 1. Infant son, born and died March 2, 1893. Katherine, aged 2.

Unfortunately, there’s no trace of these children on the U.S. census as they were born after 1880 and the 1890 census is unavailable. I didn’t find the family in 1900 or 1910. I think I found a widowed Perry living in Virginia in 1920. I couldn’t find evidence of any surviving children.

This church is noteworthy in one other respect. It was the location of a Kennedy wedding recently (article link may require subscription after the summer of 2011).

Tombstone Tuesday: Old Wye Cemetery

Historical Marker for Old Wye Episcopal Church

Old Wye Episcopal Church has sat along Route 662 between Queenstown and Easton in one iteration or another since 1721.

The historical marker by the church reads:

“Old Wye Episcopal Church

Only remaining Anglican church in Talbot County. Built in 1721 as a chapel-of-ease by donations of 60,000 pounds of tobacco and 100 pounds of sterling. Originally named St. Luke’s it was a place of worship until 1829. Reconstructed in 1854, but later fell into disrepair until restored in 1949 to original design with high box pews, hanging side pulpit and gallery with original royal arms.”

You can read more about the history of the church on the parish web site.

It’s a quiet location in a residential neighborhood. The church and the grounds are quite beautiful.

On a recent trip there, I snapped many photos around the cemetery. There’s a neat old tree towards the back where dozens of people have carved their initials and other messages over the years. On the right in the photo below, you can see the bridge I mentioned in last week’s Wordless Wednesday post.

Unfortunately, only one of my tombstone photos can be read clearly. I’ll have to go back and take more photos — there are only five graves listed for the cemetery on FindaGrave.

The above stone is for Joseph George Neal (born and died in what looks like 1851 or 1857) and Matthias George Neal (born in 1859 and died in 1861). They are listed as the children of Louis W. H. and M.E. Neal.

I looked Louis up on Ancestry. He apparently was married to a Henrietta M. E. George (so the tombstone was carved with the ‘&’ separating the wrong initials above). Joseph and Matthias were their only children. They all apparently are buried at Old Wye Church. Louis may have remarried, but I didn’t find evidence that he had any more children.

Tombstone Tuesday: St. James Cemetery

A couple of weeks ago, I drove a friend visiting from out of town to Tilghman Island. As we were passing through Sherwood, my friend spotted a cemetery. On our way back home, I pulled off the road so we could check it out — it was St. James Cemetery*. I was shocked at what we found.

The cemetery was completely overgrown, which isn’t too terribly shocking. The reason why it troubled me is that many of the graves we did find were really recent. We saw several graves from the 1990s to as recent as 2008. It was really sad to see them in such a state.

Grave from 1999

Grave from 1992

At first, I thought this cemetery was one that I’d been unable to find before, while fulfilling FindaGrave requests in the area last fall. Turns out this is a completely different cemetery. None of its graves are listed on FindaGrave yet. I hope to return when the weather is colder and the greenery has died back a bit. We briefly skirted around the perimeter of the cemetery on this excursion and got bitten by who knows what in the process.

We couldn't get back to these graves without walking through knee-high weeds to get there and we weren't dressed for the occasion this outing.

* I found the St. James Church on the Maryland Register of Historic Places (link opens PDF). I don’t recall seeing the church, but we weren’t looking for it either. There appeared to be a private residence bordering the cemetery, not a church. There were several tumbling-down shacks in the vicinity. I didn’t find anything else about the congregation on the web — maybe it’s no longer active. This could explain the sad state of the cemetery…