A Historic Context for the Archaeology of

Industrial Labor in the State of Maryland

 

by Robert C. Chidester


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VI. Western Shore

            Charles, St. Mary’s, Calvert, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties are grouped together to form the Western Shore region in the Maryland Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan.  These counties are some of the oldest and first to be settled in Maryland.  Originally colonies under the patronage of British aristocrats, these counties have always been largely rural and agricultural.  If any part of Maryland, a former slave-holding state, can be said to have resembled the “Old South”, it is the Western Shore region.

            Colonization of the Western Shore began first in St. Mary’s County during the early 1600s, but Calvert and Anne Arundel counties were not far behind.  The colony of Maryland was officially established in St. Mary’s County in 1634.  Providence, Leonardtown, St. Mary’s City, and Prince Frederick are some of the oldest towns in the state.  Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and much of the 19th century, there was virtually no industry on the Western Shore.  Unlike the agricultural areas in other parts of the state, however, the Western Shore does not have an abundance of grist mills.  This is due to the fact that for most of its history the Western Shore has grown primarily tobacco instead of other crops.  Corn, wheat and other crops have also been cultivated, but they never took over from tobacco here as in other places.

            Early industry on the Western Shore consisted of just a few iron furnaces in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, run by slave and indentured labor and begun during the late 18th century.  Iron processing continued in this area through the 19th century.  The Great Mills area in St. Mary’s County was the site of an attempt at industrialization through grist, saw and woolen mills throughout the 19th century.  During the late 19th century steamboat transportation gave rise to several industries.  Shipyards became more common, especially on the coasts of St. Mary’s, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties.  The maintenance of wharves also became an important occupation.  Nearly every navigable river had several wharves to facilitate the shipping of local agricultural produce to commercial centers.  Finally, Anne Arundel County saw the beginnings of the seafood and produce packing and canning industries.  The above three industries relied largely on seasonal labor from the surrounding agricultural community, especially women and African-Americans.

During the 20th century only the packing and canning industries survived, but even these suffered due to competition from similar operations on the Eastern Shore.  Today St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles counties have returned to a primarily agricultural economy.  Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, on the other hand, have undergone extensive suburbanization and are now dominated by service industries.

Due to the extremely limited scope and similar nature of industry and industrial labor in St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert counties, these three will be grouped together throughout the following discussion.  Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties will be discussed separately.

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Rural Agrarian Intensification, 1680-1815

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

            Anne Arundel County has the most diverse industrial history of the Western Shore counties.  Eighteenth-century industry included furnaces, kilns, mills, a shipyard, and a brick yard.  Mills were by far the most numerous, but as in other parts of the state, early mills in Anne Arundel County were often small operations run by farmers for their neighbors.  Davidsonville was the only community that grew up around a mill.[203]  Lime kilns are only known from the archaeological evidence.[204]  Not much is known of the Whitehall Brickyard in St. Margaret’s, but it seems to have been a small operation begun for the specific purpose of providing bricks for one building.[205]  The Stephen Steward Shipyard operated from the mid- to late-18th century and produced vessels for Maryland during the Revolution.  The laborers at the shipyard included free wage laborers, indentured servants, convicts and slaves.  Barracks for the laborers were built near the shipbuilding area.[206]

            Although there were only two iron furnaces in Anne Arundel County during this period, they were probably the most important industries.  The Curtis Creek Iron Furnace, near present-day Glen Burnie, was constructed by two brothers named Dorsey and a man named Alexander Lawson in 1759 to produce pig iron.  (These three men also constructed the Elkridge Furnace in what was to become Howard County, and one of the Dorsey Brothers, Caleb, built Dorseys Forge in Baltimore County).  Not much is known of the early years of the furnace, but apparently it changed hands several times.[207]  The second furnace was known as the Snowden Furnace or the Patuxent Ironworks.  Production of cast iron began at this site east of Laurel in 1734.  The first Snowden to come to Maryland had been an indentured servant, but eventually the family accrued just enough wealth to begin this business.  As the primary iron producers on the Western Shore during this time, the family became extremely wealthy.  Even though they were Quakers, the Snowden family owned a large number of slaves which they used both to operate the furnace and to run their substantial agricultural interests.  The Snowdens also ran a mill near present-day downtown Laurel in Prince George’s County.  Despite their success as iron producers, the Snowden patriarchs always thought of themselves first and foremost as aristocratic farmers.  Unfortunately, the Snowden slaves, their working conditions and their social lives have not been studied.[208]

Figure 9. Grist Mills in the Third District of Anne Arundel County, 1687-1887.  (Source: Mintz et al. 1992: Table 3.  Courtesy of R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates)

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PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY

            With the exception of the Laurel vicinity, Prince George’s County has been the site of very little industrial activity throughout its history.  Only two mills are recorded from the period of Rural Agrarian Intensification in the Maryland Historical Trust files.  These were a powder mill in Adelphi and a grist mill on a farm in the vicinity of Friendly.[209]  Bladensburg was a shipping center during the 18th century, but as such reflected merchant capitalism rather than industrial capitalism.[210]  The only other industry in the county occurred at a site now known as the Woodyard.

            Industrial production at the Woodyard, a tract of land near Clinton that was patented in the late 17th century, began around the commencement of the Revolutionary War when its then-owner, Stephen West, began to manufacture arms for the Continental Army.  By 1777 he was also producing linen blankets and clothing for American troops, and he also had a small brewery and distillery on his property.  The Woodyard was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological site in 1974.  The primary historical research that exists for the property was done for the National Register nomination form, and makes no mention of the labor force employed by West.[211]

CHARLES, ST. MARY’S, AND CALVERT COUNTIES

            Industry in the southern counties of the Western Shore region was virtually non-existent during the period of Rural Agrarian Intensification.  Charles and St. Mary’s counties were home to five known grist mills each, all small and undoubtedly local in scope.  Calvert County only had two mills known to date from this period, although two additional mills may also have originated at this time.  Once again, they were all small, agricultural mills, and thus provide no opportunity to study industrial labor.

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Agricultural-Industrial Transition, 1815-1870

 ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

            Industry in Anne Arundel County during the period of Agricultural-Industrial Transition was not much different than it was during the period of Rural Agrarian Intensification.  Once again custom mills dominated the field.  An alum works opened on Black Hole Creek near Pasadena, but not much is known of this business.[212]  A small tannery may have been operated in Annapolis during this time.[213]  The Snowden Furnace continued to operate into the 19th century, but its importance slowly faded.[214]  The Curtis Creek Furnace, on the other hand, thrived during the first part of this period.  A foundry was erected in 1829 and by 1840 the operation employed around 150 men.  Not much is known of the work force.  By 1851, however, the furnace went out of blast for good.[215]

            The town of Odenton was built during this period thanks to the coming of the railroads.  While most of the Western Shore was passed over by the major railroads emanating from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., a number of smaller railroads took the opportunity to connect to the more rural areas.  First the Annapolis and Elkridge Railroad and then, in 1868, the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad ran through the area that is now Odenton.  As an agricultural stop on the line, a community of railroad workers eventually formed.[216]

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY

            Industry flourished in northern Prince George’s County from 1815 to 1870, but passed over the rest of the county.  Fewer than 10 grist mills existed here during this period.  Laurel, however, became a model Rhode Island-style textile mill town in the 1840s and remained that way throughout the rest of the period.  It was also around the middle of the century that the Muirkirk Furnace, owned by the Ellicott family, began operation just south of Laurel.

            Laurel is actually situated in three different counties (Howard, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s), but the majority of the incorporated municipality is in Prince George’s County.  The town owes its early development to the Snowden family, who built a grist mill on the Patuxent River in the Laurel vicinity in 1810.  In 1824 the mill was adapted to spin cotton yarn and employed about 100 people.  In 1835 it was converted back to a grist mill, but soon thereafter resumed textile production.  Under the management of Horace Capron, the Patuxent Cotton Manufacturing Company developed the small village into a model company town.[217]

            Capron was a shrewd businessman who was familiar with current industrial practices.  He soon built about 50 fieldstone and brick duplexes to house the families of his approximately 500 employees.  He also expanded operations so that the mill could produce its own parts, such as spindles, looms, and cogwheels.  In the mid-1840s Capron built a second mill, the Avondale Mill, in town.  By 1849 the entire business included two cotton mills, a foundry and a machine shop.  The mill burned in 1855, but was quickly rebuilt and resumed operation.[218]

            Women only slowly began to go to work at the mill in the middle of the 19th century, and they were paid much less than men.  They often started out as servants or seamstresses.  Capron built a school for his employees’ children in 1841, and his business partner, Theodore Jenkins, donated money for the construction of a Catholic church in the town in 1843.  Capron’s wife also sponsored the erection of an Episcopal church in the town.  This church was actually a point of contention between the town’s upper class and its working class, which had actually raised most of the money for its construction (despite low wages) but felt it had no control over the process.  Indeed, Capron held a tight rein over the town then known as Laurel Factory, even going so far as to prohibit any “house[s] of general entertainment” within a mile of the factory and the workers’ houses.[219]  By 1850 the company employed over 1,000 people.

Figure 10. The Laurel Factory House, built in the 1840s. (Photograph by the author)

            Not much is known about the Muirkirk Furnace, located between Laurel and Beltsville.  Named after the Muirkirk Furnace in Ireland, it went into blast sometime around 1847.  Most of the workers were slaves rented from the Snowdens.  A small community developed around the furnace that included a store, post office and several houses.[220]

            The Washington Branch of the B&O Railroad was built through Prince George’s County during this period.  During 1834 a riot broke out between the two main factions of Irish workers, the Corkonians and the Longfords, in the area from Laurel to Vansville.  Shanties were destroyed and several people killed before the militia stopped the affair.  Another series of violent episodes occurred in November of 1834 near Laurel as well.  Despite widespread public fear of the Irish workers, at least one Baltimore paper came to their defense, blaming the company’s low wages and poor treatment of its workers for the debacles.[221]

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CHARLES, ST. MARY’S, AND CALVERT COUNTIES

            The amount of industry in Charles County actually diminished in the years between 1815 and 1870—only two small mills are known to date from this period.  Calvert County supported three small mills and a number of wharves that serviced steamboats.  Many of these wharves were probably not maintained as commercial ventures in themselves, however.

            The only significant attempt at industrialization in St. Mary’s County prior to the 20th century occurred in the area now known as Cecil’s Mill (between St. Mary’s City and Leonardtown) during the first half of the 19th century.  In addition to the Clifton Factory, a woolen, cotton, grist and saw mill, the small village supported a tannery, blacksmith shop and post office.  In addition to the mills, which were built in 1810, Clifton Factory consisted of a weaving house, dairy, stables, smokehouse, tailor shop and houses for the workers and supervisors.  Little is known about the people who worked at Clifton Factory, although they likely came from the surrounding agricultural community.  The business operated smoothly until the 1860s, when it hit financial difficulties.  Although it continued to operate until the end of the 19th century, it never regained its former success.[222]  Besides Clifton Factory, St. Mary’s County only had a number of small mills during this period.[223]

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Industrial/Urban Dominance, 1870-1930

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

            Industry in Anne Arundel County diversified during the period of Industrial/Urban Dominance.  There were still quite a number of mills, but the growing suburbs were slowly pushing agriculture out of the picture.  A sand mine was opened near Arden.[224]  There were no longer any iron furnaces in the county, but canning became an important industry, as did steamboat transportation.  A glassworks was opened in Annapolis, and railroad workshops began to spring up wherever there were railroad stops.[225]  Small ore mining operations were begun near present-day Jessup.[226]

            The canning and packing industry was centered in Jessup, a railroad stop in a predominantly agricultural area of the county.  Much of the industry, which developed in the late 19th century, was focused on tomato canning (tomatoes were a popular product for area farmers).  The industry was seasonal, operating mostly during the summer.  The primary source of labor was the local African-American agricultural community, although eastern European immigrants were also sometimes brought from Baltimore to do the work.  The laborers usually lived in small, multiple-family tenant houses, working long hours for little pay.  The industry slowly faded in Anne Arundel County during the 20th century, as larger Eastern Shore canneries took over.[227]

Figure 11. St. Lawrence Martyr Parish Church (AA-20), Jessup, Anne Arundel County, built 1866. This church was new when the canning industry developed in Jessup.  (Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust)

            The rise of steamboat transportation meant a corresponding rise in the importance of wharves and shipbuilding.  The Stephen Steward Shipyard near Shady Oaks was one of the most important in the county.  The remains of a few wharves and sunken steamers have been located archaeologically, but not much is known about the workforce of this industry.[228]  Similarly, only a few railroad workshops have been identified and the labor force has been glossed over.

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PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY

            Industry and labor in Prince George’s County from 1870 to 1930 were not much different than they were during the preceding period.  There were still a handful of small mills dotting the county.  Railroad and steamship transportation began to leave their marks in the southern part of the county, connecting rural agricultural areas with the ports of Baltimore and Washington.  The seat of industry remained in Laurel, however.

            Laurel Factory incorporated into the town of Laurel in 1870.  By 1886 the company had built an Assembly Hall for its workers, the town’s only public meeting place besides the churches.  Capron no longer owned the company.  In 1894 the operation included a large cotton mill, a shirt factory, two foundries and a flour mill.  From the late 19th century into the early 1900s, young boys could earn 25 cents a day working in the mill.  Adults could earn as much as $1.25 a day.  Employees worked six days a week from 6:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening, and were charged anywhere between $1.25 and $2 a month for rent.[229]

            By the end of the period, industry was waning in Laurel.  The mill was still in business, but an ever-smaller percentage of Laurel citizens found employment there.  Advances in rail technology made it practical for people to live in Laurel and commute to either Baltimore or Washington.

            The Muirkirk Furnace operated through the 19th century.  After the Civil War, former slaves continued to work at the furnace but scattered into three different communities: the Grove (in Laurel), Bacontown (in Anne Arundel County near Maryland City), and Rossville, just east of the furnace.  Rossville is one of the most interesting African-American communities in Prince George’s County.  The land on which Rossville was erected came from the estate of a Vansville farmer named Mark Duvall.  After his death the land was subdivided and sold to a small number of Muirkirk Furnace employees, the chief person being Augustus Ross.  The community had already erected a small church named Queen’s Chapel on the property in the 1860s.  Ross and his fellow furnace workers built their own homes during the late 1880s.  Shortly thereafter the community built the Rebecca Lodge Number Six of the Benevolent Sons and Daughters of Abraham (also known simply as Abraham Lodge), a benevolent society prevalent among African-American communities in Prince George’s County during the period.  The community also built a one-room school in 1922 which is now used as an American Legion post.  Even though the furnace went out of blast by 1900, the community of Rossville continued to be inhabited by the descendants of the furnace workers.  Even now, though new generations have moved out of the immediate settlement, the community is held together by the Queen’s Chapel Methodist Church (which was rebuilt in the 1950s).[230]

            During the early years of the 20th century Mt. Rainier developed as a trolley suburb of the nation’s capital.  However, during the 1890s and 1900s a sizeable portion of the community found employment both with the railroad companies and in the Navy Yard in town.  The extent of this working-class influence on Mt. Rainier’s development has not been studied.[231]

CHARLES, ST. MARY’S, AND CALVERT COUNTIES

            Charles County still only had three small mills during the period of Industrial/Urban Dominance, but one finally attracted a community.  The village of LaPlata began as a stop on the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad in 1873.  By 1887 the community had a grist and saw mill.[232]  No extensive research has been done on this community, however.  A new industrial development did occur at Indian Head in the early 20th century, where the Navy opened its first major chemical factory.  The Indian Head Naval Powder Factory produced smokeless powder and included a solvent recovery house, a powder picking house, an ether vault, research labs, and smokeless powder magazines.[233]  Once again, the picture of the labor force at this plant has yet to be painted.

            The early 20th century saw a diversification of industry in St. Mary’s County.  There were still five small agricultural mills.  The county was also home to at least one oyster processing plant, an oyster packing plant in Wynne, a tomato cannery in Mechanicsville, and a bottling company in Leonardtown.[234] All of this was made possible by increased steamboat traffic.  The oyster business was doubtless run by people whose families had been living off the water for generations, while the tomato cannery drew its labor force seasonally from the local population.  Both white and black people were employed; women peeled the tomatoes while men packed them.  About 15 to 20 people were employed in this fashion during the summer months.[235]  Another industry that took hold in the northern part of St. Mary’s County during this time was lumbering.  Facilities were impermanent and workers built shanties in which to live.[236]  No historic properties related to this activity have been identified.

            Calvert County also saw a slight diversification of industry during the period of Industrial/Urban Dominance, driven mostly by increased connection to larger ports via steamboat transportation.  Two silicate mines were opened in the Dunkirk-Chaney area during the 1880s, and continued throughout the period.  These mines also had an associated mill.[237]  The major industry to take hold in Calvert County, however, was the seafood packing industry.  Solomon’s Island was the locus of this enterprise.  There are many tenements from this era remaining in Solomons today, but the effect of industrialization on the area’s inhabitants has yet to be studied.[238]

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 Modern Period, 1930-Present

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

            During the Modern period the fading of industry paralleled the rise of the suburbs and service industries.  An ice manufacturing company opened in Glen Burnie and an asphalt plant was built near Patuxent.[239]  The major industry in the county, however, came from the U.S. Coast Guard.  During the second quarter of the 20th century the Coast Guard facility at Curtis Bay operated a shipyard that included an internal railway system.[240]  Once again, not much is known about the labor force of any of these industries.

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY

            Like Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County became a largely suburban area dominated by bedroom communities and service industries during the Modern Period.  The Avondale Mill in Laurel became a lace factory before World War II, but did not stay in business long.[241]  No other heavy industry survived in the county.

CHARLES, ST. MARY’S, AND CALVERT COUNTIES

            Little new industry appeared in these three counties during the modern period.  Seafood processing continued to be important.  A new flour mill (although one built on the site of an old mill), the Chaptico Mill, opened in St. Mary’s County in the 1930s and operated until the 1960s.[242]  The only other new industry in the county developed at the Indian Head Naval Facility in Charles County, where the Navy opened an extrusion plant (a rocket-propellant production factory) and ballistics laboratory during World War II.  The plant closed in 1946.[243]  Unlike Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, these three have so far largely escaped the expanding phenomenon of suburbanization and remain primarily rural and agricultural today.

Figure 12. Patuxent River Mining Company building (CT-79) in the Dunkirk-Chaney vicinity, Calvert County, 1880s-1960s.  (Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust)

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Labor Archaeology on the Western Shore

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

            The primary focus of historical archaeology in Anne Arundel County has traditionally been the 17th and 18th centuries, as evidenced by the long-term research carried out by the Archaeology in Annapolis and Lost Towns of Anne Arundel County projects.  Therefore, most of the industrial sites that have been identified in the county have come from compliance archaeology.  Due to the strong historic preservation ordinances enforced by the county, there is actually a large number of industrial sites that have been recorded relative to the county’s industrial heritage.  Unfortunately, not a single labor site has been recorded, although it is possible that some of the industrial sites may contain significant information about labor.

            A number of the industrial archaeological sites that have been identified are mills.  For the years from 1685 to 1815, six of 16 sites are mills.  Other site types include the county’s two iron furnaces, two lime kilns, three wharves,[244] two shipyards and a pottery/brick production site.  The Curtis Creek Furnace site (18AN42) was tested by amateurs in the 1960s, but they were primarily interested in the site’s prehistoric component.  The area has since undergone intensive development.  It is not known if any part of the site remains, much less any part such as worker housing. The Gorski site (18AN1203)—the pottery/brick production site—has recently been excavated by the Lost Towns project.  A final report has not yet been completed, so it is not known if questions about labor were incorporated into these investigations.

            Phase II investigations of the Lake Waterford Mill (18AN432) were undertaken in 1992 by R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates.  However, no labor components were discovered.  Furthermore, the site was found to have been disturbed to the point that no intact features or significant artifact-bearing strata were present.[245]

Investigations at site 18AN652 were conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A small article about historical research on the site appeared in Historical Archaeology in 1991.[246]  The article describes the grist mill on Whitehall Plantation during the late 18th century.  The mill was operated by a skilled slave named Charles Cox.  In 1783 the mill burned to ground, and with it Cox’s chest of important personal belongings.  Interviews by the plantation’s manager attempting to ascertain the cause of the fire are now preserved by the Maryland State Archives.  From the descriptions given of the contents of Cox’s chest, the author suggests that this chest presents a strong parallel with root cellars associated with African-American components of other plantation sites, thus perhaps identifying their function as social, economic and ideological expressions of the material culture of enslaved persons.  It would be interesting to expand this research to determine other points of conjuncture or disjuncture between the material culture of slaves working in industrial contexts and those working in agricultural contexts.

A draft report for site 18AN652[247] was finally completed in 2001.  Phase III excavations had focused on investigating the role of the mill in the community, the evolution of the cultural landscape and various activities (especially on a causeway), and the definition of a mill artifact pattern.  In the area of the mill archaeologists found a large number of artifacts such as tobacco pipes and gunshot, suggesting that this was the location of considerable social activity.  Thus, the mill served more than merely commercial purposes for the community.  The causeway area similarly evidenced social interaction, a surprising find since archaeologists often dismiss such areas as having low information potential.

After applying artifact pattern analysis to the recovered assemblage from the entire site, the authors of the report proposed a “Mill Pattern.”  In the Mill Pattern, there would be a relatively small ratio of kitchen artifacts to architecture artifacts, similar to the

 

 

Figure 13. Artifact pattern from the Sharpe-Ridout-Boone Mill Complex (18AN652 and 18AN730), Anne Arundel County.  Source: Sprinkle and Ervin 2001: Table 2.  (Courtesy of the Maryland State Highway Administration)

 

Public Interaction Pattern,[248] and a relatively large ratio of tobacco, clothing and armaments artifacts.  This would be due to the dual function of many early mills: Sites such as 18AN652 evidence less formal distinction between work and home life, fulfilling domestic functions as well as industrial ones.

The Archeological Society of Maryland and the Lost Towns Project both investigated the Stephen Steward Shipyard (18AN817) during the 1990s, producing several reports.  The ASM excavations were exploratory only.  Lost Towns performed a geophysical survey of the site in 1998.[249]  The principal question addressed by this investigation was the structuring of space within the shipyard, including the apportioning of space to different activities such as manufacturing, storage, and domestic life.  The geophysical survey was accompanied by limited ground-truthing.  This work confirmed that the northern part of the site was primarily industrial, while the southern part may have been the domestic area.  However, several excavation units also demonstrated that some areas were used for both industrial and domestic activities, an occurrence not uncommon on 18th-century industrial sites.  It wasn’t until the 19th century that capitalism began to force the separation of the two.  The report finished by suggesting that future investigations should concentrate on firmly identifying the domestic areas of the site and on determining any differences in housing and domestic life between slaves, indentured servants and free laborers.

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PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY

Twenty-two different labor and/or industrial archaeological sites have been recorded in Prince George’s County.  Of these, nine are in Laurel or the immediate vicinity.  During the period of Rural Agrarian Intensification, only two sites, the Adelphi Mill (18PR105) and the Woodyard (18PR136) are recorded.  During the Agricultural-Industrial Transition period, eight sites are recorded.  These include four rural mills, the Muirkirk Furnace site (18PR149), the Laurel Cotton Mill site (18PR227) and the Avondale Mill (18PR388), and a house on Main Street in Laurel that was once a company duplex (18PR228).

Four rural mills are recorded for the county during the period of Industrial/Urban Dominance.  Also recorded are (once again) the Muirkirk Furnace and the two Laurel mills.  Four new Laurel company house sites join the one from the previous period, all located on Main Street (18PR210, 18PR211, 18PR222, and 18PR223).  Abraham Hall (18PR410) is recorded as an archaeological site, as are a power plant in College Park (18PR261), a quarry near Bowie (18PR421), and an old store site in Piscataway Park (18PR232) that once serviced a steamboat landing.  Finally, two shipwreck sites, one on Rosalie Island in the Potomac (18PR591) and the other near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the Potomac (18PR592), are recorded.  The former actually consists of 11 different wrecks and the latter of eight wrecks.  The sites for the Modern period include all of the Laurel sites, Abraham Hall, the quarry (18PR421), the two shipwreck sites and a new shipwreck site, also in the Potomac River.  A single mill site (18PR109) has an unknown date.

As could be expected, the most significant archaeology of labor in Prince George’s County has occurred in Laurel.  Most of the other sites in the county were located during routine Phase I cultural resource surveys, and have received no further attention.  Sites 18PR210, 18PR211, 18PR222, and 18PR223, all located on the 600 block of Main Street Laurel, were subject to test excavations during the 1980s and early 1990s by the Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group under the direction of Lee Preston.[250]  While a fair amount of cultural material was recovered, all of the deposits had been sufficiently disturbed to render the sites insignificant.  Subsequently the 19th-century duplexes were razed to make way for a modern business strip.

The house at 817-819 N. Main Street (18PR228) has proven to be a more viable archaeological site.  This property has actually undergone a series of excavations during the 1980s and 1990s.  The first excavations were performed by an amateur archaeologist named Conrad Bladey.  Bladey’s excavations focused on the exterior of the building.  Unfortunately, after Bladey managed to get himself a position as city archaeologist for Laurel he had a falling out with the city government.  He never produced a written report of his findings, and he is still in possession of the artifacts that he excavated.[251]  Several years later, as part of a survey along the Patuxent River in Laurel, Norma Baumgartner-Wagner excavated three units on the exterior of the house, hoping to clarify the extent of Bladey’s excavations.  She estimated that these had covered about 10% of the property.

The most recent excavations conducted at the site were in 1994 by James Gibb.  He conducted Phase II work in advance of structural stabilization so that the house could be turned into a museum for the Laurel Historical Society.  Gibb excavated eight units in the basement of the structure which revealed original construction elements.  He also excavated four units, a trench, and 24 shovel test pits outside the building, recovering a wide range of kitchen, architectural, clothing, furniture, faunal, and clothing artifacts.

Although Bladey’s excavations and landscaping have disturbed the site (Gibb suggested that Bladey’s excavations covered far more than 10% of the property), there are a couple of areas of fill on the property that may overlie cultural deposits from the 1840s.  Gibb also concluded that further information pertaining to the building’s construction might be obtained through more excavation in the basement.  While he concluded that artifact distribution analyses would be impractical given the amount of disturbance to the yard areas, he did suggest that the northeast portion of the yard may contain intact features such as a privy.  Thus, the Laurel Factory House could still reveal significant information on a number of topics, including the differences between northern textile mill towns such as Lowell, Massachusetts and southern textile mill towns like Laurel.  Gibb concluded by encouraging the assessment of Bladey’s collections and notes and possibly funding the completion of a final report on Bladey’s excavations.[252]

 

 

Figure 14. Exposed 19th-century floor surface inside the Laurel Factory House (18PR228), Prince George's County. Source: Gibb 1994: Figure 13. (Courtesy of James Gibb)

In the late 1980s archaeologists from American University performed test excavations at Abraham Hall in Rossville in advance of a new parking lot.  While the excavations were limited, they demonstrated that the property contains a large amount of undisturbed 19th century material.  This site could yield significant information on the social life of Rossville, which centered around Queen’s Chapel and Abraham Hall, as well as such topics as Rossville’s community formation, African-American cultural identity, and the social dynamics of a community of formerly enslaved industrial workers.[253]  The district of Rossville was formally determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in early 2003.

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CHARLES, ST. MARY’S, AND CALVERT COUNTIES

No archaeological sites primarily related to labor have been located in Charles, St. Mary’s or Calvert Counties.  Charles County can only claim three industrial sites, two mills (one from the 17th century) and a steamboat wreck.  None have been excavated.  Twenty possible industrial sites have been recorded in Calvert, 16 of them being wharves.  The other four are all rural mills.  The most extensive archaeological work done on any of these sites has been surface survey, and there is no indication of millers’ residences associated with any of the mills.

St. Mary’s County boasts nine industrial archaeological sites, including five mills, an oyster processing plant, and three shipwrecks. Three of the mills and one shipwreck have undergone preliminary Phase I testing.  None of the testing at the mills has included a miller’s residence, although the remains of a dwelling, mill house, blacksmith and wheelwright shop, carriage house, corn house and tenement house are reported to be in the vicinity of the Indian Bridge Mill (18ST259), north of Great Mills[254].  Unfortunately, no archaeological surveys have yet turned up any evidence of the temporary lumbering camps that dotted northern St. Mary’s County during the early 20th century.

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NOTES

 

[203] MIHP AA-95.

[204] ASR 18AN140, 18AN142.

[205] MIHP AA-327.

[206] MIHP 18AN817.

[207] ASR 18AN42, MIHP AA-122.

[208] ASR 18AN191, MIHP AA-190.  The Snowden family mansion, Montpelier, has been restored to something approximating its condition in the 1780s, when it was newly built.  It is operated by the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission and is open to the public for tours.  For more information on the Snowden family and their business interests, see Friends of Montpelier 2001.  Robert Chidester (2002) provides a brief discussion of the nature of current knowledge about the Snowden slaves.

[209] ASR 18PR105, MIHP PG:65-6, PG:81B-10.

[210] MIHP PG:69-5.

[211] MIHP PG:82A-41, Walton n.d.

[212] ASR 18AN1090.

[213] ASR 18AP39.

[214] MIHP AA-190.

[215] MIHP AA-122.

[216] MIHP AA-869.

[217] PG:LAU-1.

[218] PG:LAU-1, Poe 1970.

[219] Bucklee 2001:72.  Much of the historical information about Laurel in this report comes from two sources: Sally Mitchell Bucklee’s A Church and its Village: St. Philips Episcopal Church, Laurel, Maryland (2001) and Gertrude Poe’s Laurel, Maryland: Souvenir Historical Booklet, Centennial 1870-1970 (1970).

[220] ASR 18PR149.

[221] Dilts 1993:176-183.

[222] MIHP SM-298, Fenwick 1970, Marks 1985.

[223] Fenwick (1970) has compiled a list of early mills in St. Mary’s County.

[224] ASR 18AN491.

[225] ASR 18AP25, 18AP96.

[226] MIHP AA-991.

[227] MIHP AA-991.

[228] ASR 18AN817.

[229] Poe 1970:41.

[230] Berger 1991, Pearl 1996.

[231] MIHP PG:68-13, PG:68-74.

[232] MIHP CH-326.

[233] MIHP CH-491.

[234] MIHP SM-398, SM-567, SM-664.

[235] MIHP SM-398.

[236] MIHP SM-660.

[237] MIHP CT-79.

[238] MIHP CT-1182.

[239] MIHP AA-984, AA-2169.

[240] MIHP AA-784, AA-787, AA-800, AA-801.

[241] MIHP PG:LAU-1.

[242] MIHP SM-420.

[243] MIHP CH-493.

[244] These wharves would have been pre-industrial during this time period and probably the next, but they lasted into the late-19th-century period of steamboat transportation.  That is why they were included in this survey.

[245] Mintz et al. 1992.

[246] Sprinkle 1991.

[247] Sprinkle and Ervin 2001.

[248] Garrow 1982.

[249] Moser and Cox 1998.

[250] See Preston 1984 and 1993.

[251] For more on Bladey’s excavations and subsequent investigations, see Lounberg 1981, Baumgartner-Wagner et al. 1988 and Gibb 1994.

[252] The Laurel Factory House is now used as a public museum and research library by the Laurel Historical Society.  It has a website at http://www.laurelhistory.org/ (Laurel Historical Society n.d.).

[253] Sorensen 1990.

[254] ASR 18ST259.