A Historic Context for the Archaeology of

Industrial Labor in the State of Maryland


by Robert C. Chidester

Back to Table_of_Contents

V. Eastern Shore

The Maryland Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan includes nine counties in the Eastern Shore region: Cecil, Kent, Talbot, Caroline, Queen Anne’s, Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester.  While one might expect the rural, agricultural Eastern Shore to be the least industrialized of all the regions in Maryland, this is not necessarily the case.  Industry did begin later here than in most other places, and industrial labor on the Eastern Shore has largely been drawn from the Anglo- and African-American agricultural population.

            Early industry on Maryland’s Eastern Shore was confined to scattered mills and shipyards.  The only “heavy” industry consisted of two ironworks, Principio (active in Cecil County during the 18th century) and Nassawango (active in Worcester County during the second quarter of the 19th century).  Principio was run mostly with slave labor, while Nassawango gave rise to a small village that outlived the furnace.

Tobacco had long been the basis of the Eastern Shore’s economy, but the depression of 1819 severely damaged this business.  Soon thereafter many farmers shifted to seafood harvesting or diversified their crops.  Hemp wheat and pork were important, since they had all been introduced to the Eastern Shore during the mid-18th century.  Fruit and vegetable cultivation also became important when the railroads connected Eastern Shore farmers to large markets.  The second half of the 19th century saw a boom in the canning and seafood packing industries, especially in Cambridge (Dorchester County) and Crisfield (Somerset County).  Canning was able to take hold due to the new emphasis on fruit and vegetable cultivation.  Tomato canning was second only to seafood packing in importance.  A peach blight in the 1880s proved disastrous to fruit growers, however, and fruit canning slowly faded out of the picture.

Lumbering was a minor industry throughout the 19th century, undertaken primarily to support the shipyards and railroad construction.  A few other minor industries tried to take root but couldn’t succeed.  The economy of the Eastern Shore has slowly reverted to one based almost solely on agriculture and seafood harvesting during the 20th century.

            Although classified as an Eastern Shore county, Cecil County is different from the rest for a number of reasons.  It is by far the most heavily industrialized county, probably owing in part to its relative lack of access to the Chesapeake Bay oyster and crab waters.  As in many Maryland counties, milling has been important throughout Cecil County’s history.  Milling here, however, was more diverse than in most areas, including not just saw and grist mills but also flax, oil, paper, fulling, and woolen mills, among others.  However, an even more important industry in Cecil County has been iron, represented best by the Principio Iron Works (discussed above).

For the following report, the Eastern Shore will be broken up into three sections: Cecil County, the Upper Eastern Shore (Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline counties) and the Lower Eastern Shore (Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester counties).

Back to Table_of_Contents

Rural Agrarian Intensification, 1680-1815


            Cecil County was home to a diverse array of industries during the period of Rural Agrarian Intensification.  Much of the industry consisted of small mills.  While many of these were corn, grist or saw mills, there were also a flax mill and two oil mills. The Little Elk Creek area provided waterpower for grist, saw, paper, oil and fulling mills.[79]  The Cecil Manufacturing Mill, in this district, began as a spinning and carding mill in 1796 but later became a paper mill.  In 1800 it employed 20 people.[80]  The Carter Paper Mill, however, was even bigger: it employed between 20 and 60 people in 1814.[81]  A granite quarry was opened around 1789 in the vicinity of Port Deposit.[82]  A nail factory that was operating in the Little Elk Creek district during the late 18th century was bought and converted by the Elk Forge to make bar iron in 1808.[83]  Another forge erected in 1795 was located in Rowlandsville.[84]  Many of the laborers who worked in these varied industries were either people of English extraction whose families had been in North America for some time, or Scotch and Irish immigrants.  Some of the earliest company housing in Maryland may be located north of the mill town of Providence, where a row of eight houses stand that may have been constructed by the owners of either the Meeter or the Providence Mill for their workers.[85]

            Perhaps the most important individual industrial operation in Cecil County during this period, however, was the Principio Iron Furnace.  Principio was the first such furnace in Maryland and one of the first in the English colonies, the company forming in 1714 and production beginning in 1716.  The original site of Principio Furnace was probably in the village of North East, but by 1723 it had moved to its permanent home near present-day Perryville.  The owners of the furnace bought iron ore from Augustus Washington, father of George.  The company also later erected a furnace in Accoceek, Virginia and bought the Kingsbury Furnace in Baltimore County and the Lancashire Furnace, located at an unknown spot on the Patapsco River.  The furnace produced bar iron and cannonballs for the U.S. military during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, but was burned by the British during the latter.[86]

The labor force at Principio Furnace consisted primarily of British indentured servants during its early years, supplemented by a number of unskilled slaves and free wage earners.  Some of the skilled artisans and ironworkers received wages, while others were employed on a piecework basis.  Many of the non-indentured or un-enslaved workers were paid partially in company store credit.  By the middle of the 18th century a chronic shortage of skilled labor in the colonies had led to a higher number of enslaved African-Americans working in skilled positions at the furnace.  Market fluctuations and other factors led to unstable work schedules, but the average workweek was probably about five and a half days long.[87]

Some information on life in the ironworks community is known.  Unlike ironworks in other areas, such operations in colonial Maryland did not completely resemble “iron plantations.”  While located in rural areas, many were close to major roads or waterways and were not self-sufficient.  While the Principio Company ran a large farm for its workers, it also owned a company store that provided outside goods.  Clothing, especially hats and shoes, were sold to free laborers and issued to enslaved and indentured workers.  One of the more popular commodities was rum, and drunkenness was apparently a frequent problem among the workers.  Escape attempts, by both enslaved and indentured laborers, were not uncommon.  While the Principio Company undoubtedly provided housing for its workers (especially its enslaved and indentured laborers), little mention is made of such accommodations in the official company records.  It is possible that the company simply bought such housing from local farms.  Laborers were generally provided with enough land to begin their own little gardens, but most of their food was provided by the company.  Indian corn and salt pork were the staples of the laborers’ diet.  There is some evidence that the food provided to enslaved laborers was prepared separately from and was of a lower quality than that provided to other laborers.[88]

Back to Table_of_Contents


            During the period of Rural Agrarian Intensification there was much less industry on the Upper Eastern Shore than in Cecil County.  In Kent County, a shipyard was run on the appropriately named Shipyard Creek.[89]  The only other industry consisted of small mills.  There were at least six of these,[90] but a number of identified mill sites of unknown date may be from this period as well.  The center of industry in the county was Millington, then known as Head of Chester, on the straddling the border with Queen Anne’s County.  The first grist mill was established in the area by 1760, and eventually there as many as six mills within a three-mile radius of the village.  In 1808 a woolen textile fulling mill began operation, and in 1810 a carding mill was built.  Tanning was also an important activity here during the early 19th century.[91]  Finally, there was a small silver mining operation near Galena in the first years of the 1800s.[92]  No research has been done on the laborers who worked at these industries.

            In Queen Anne’s County, at least seven agricultural mills were operating in the 18th century.  One of the earliest was the Church Hill Mill, which may have been built as early as 1698.  The original grist mill was augmented with a saw mill in 1765.[93]  The fulling and carding mills and the tanneries at Head of Chester also provided employment to Queen Anne’s County residents during this period. The Gilpin Tannery, in particular, included a bark mill, currying shop and a 20-vat workshop.  In 1808 a coverlid manufacturing enterprise began near Bryantown, and in the 1810s merino sheep were introduced to the county, providing employment for people weaving and dyeing the wool.[94]

            Only a couple of small agricultural mills were erected in Talbot County during the period of Rural Agrarian Intensification.  The Wye Mills, however, fostered a community that included a church and a school.[95]  In the 1690s the area around Trappe became a major shipbuilding center, but the village itself grew around an early-19th-century grist mill.[96]

            In Caroline County, the Denton vicinity was the center of early industry.  During the late 18th and early 19th centuries a number of small industries developed to serve the local agricultural community, operated by skilled artisans.  These included grist mills, tanneries and a plow factory.  A possible 18th- and 19th-century shipbuilding site has also been located north of the town.[97]  In Greensboro a mill had been constructed by 1795, and a tannery was also in business during the late 18th century.[98]  The early-18th-century Exeter Mill in Federalsburg began as a grist and saw mill, but by the early 19th century included a carding mill and a small iron furnace.[99]

Back to Table_of_Contents


Industry was negligible on much of the Lower Eastern Shore during this period.  Worcester County saw some lumbering, while a shipyard and a few mills operated in Somerset County.[100]  In Wicomico County a mill appeared as early as 1735 in the Mardela Springs area, but it didn’t survive long into the 19th century.[101]  Madison, a small village that grew around lumbering and shipbuilding, was the center of 18th century industry in Dorchester County.[102]

Back to Table_of_Contents

Agricultural-Industrial Transition, 1815-1870


            Milling continued to be an important industry in Cecil County during this period, but iron took on an even more important role in the county’s economy.  Principio Furnace was reconstructed after being set on fire during the War of 1812, but then abandoned.  The Whitacre Iron Company bought the works in the 1830s, and a third blast furnace was erected in 1836.  By this time the community had grown into a large self-sustaining village, including a post office, a company office, worker housing, and an ironmaster’s house.  Slaves continued to make up the bulk of the labor force until the Civil War.[103]  In addition to Principio, a rolling mill opened near Cowentown[104] and the McCullough Iron Company was formed in North East.  The company erected four houses in which to board its workers, some of which still survive.[105]  Elk Forge, which expanded to include a textile mill, also built several housing units for its workers during the mid-19th century.[106]

            Port Deposit continued its industrial growth.  Lumber and gin mills were erected, as were a foundry and stove works.  A free African-American community known as Cedar Hollow developed within Port Deposit, and many of Cedar Hollow’s residents worked in the town’s industries.[107]  Bayview, in the Gilpin’s Falls area, was home to a woolen mill during the period.[108]  With the construction of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in the 1820s, the town of Chesapeake City became a shipping and lumbering center.[109]  The village of Elkton became a flour-packing center.[110]  The Little Elk Creek district also continued to be an important seat of industry.[111]  The Meeter Paper Mill thrived,[112] and the villages of Leeds, Childs and Marley became mill towns populated by immigrants.  All of these villages still have remnants of company housing.[113]  In Rowlandsville, the Octoraro Rolling Mill, a bark mill, incorporated in 1828 and employed 23 people by 1850.[114]

Back to Table_of_Contents


            There were at least seven small mills operating in Kent County during this period.  Once again, however, many undated mill sites could have originated during this period.  Millington was still an active milling center,[115] but around the middle of the 19th century Rock Hall became the industrial center of the county.  Rock Hall was a diverse community, with lumbering, shipbuilding, seafood harvesting, farming and canning all playing an active role in the community’s development.[116]

            Around nine small mills were active in Queen Anne’s County during this period.  In addition to the mills and tanneries at Millington, cotton manufacturing began at Church Hill around 1815.[117]  In 1843 a foundry was constructed at Ruthsburg to manufacture farm implements.[118]  The coming of the railroads fostered a thriving canning industry in the Fincastle-Prickett area.  By 1870, 626 people in that area were employed in “light industry,” of whom 460 were employed in canneries.  The primary center of canning was the village of Price.[119]

Figure 2. Childs Row (CE-685), 19th-century mill workers' residences, Childs, Cecil County.  Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust.

            Industry in Talbot County was even more sparse during this period than during the previous one.  No major industry in known to have developed here during the first three quarters of the 19th century.  In Caroline County, several small mills were in business between 1815 and 1870.  Federalsburg was the center of industry in Caroline County, hosting milling, shipbuilding, and shipping operations.  By the middle of the 19th century several sawmills had been built specifically to serve the shipyards.[120]

Back to Table_of_Contents


Snow Hill and Pocomoke City became centers of industry in Worcester County during the period of Agricultural-Industrial Transition.  Snow Hill had always been an important center for the shipment of local agricultural produce, and it was during this period that food processing industries began operation.  In the 1860s a fruit drying plant was established, and it wasn’t long before canneries and mills dotted the outskirts of the town.  A brickyard was also established in Snow Hill during this period, and the town was an important center of the shipbuilding trade.[121]

Figure 3. Red Lion Mill (QA-29), Crumpton, Queen Anne's County, 19th century.  (Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust)

The most important industry in the Snow Hill vicinity during this period, however, was the Nassawango Iron Furnace.  The only iron furnace on the Eastern Shore besides Cecil County’s Principio Furnace, Nassawango was constructed in 1830 by the Maryland Iron Company to process bog ore.  Nassawango Furnace is important technologically because it is one of the first examples of hot-blast iron technology to be used in the United States.  The owners of the furnace endured several financial difficulties, and the operation finally ceased in 1849 under pressure from increasing competition by furnaces in the Great Lakes region.  Nineteen years was enough, however, for a small community to grow up around the furnace.  The population of several hundred people built a church, post office, company store and a boarding house.  In addition to furnace laborers, the company employed a number of skilled artisans.[122]

It was during this period that Pocomoke City began its ascent to the position of largest and most industrialized town in Worcester County.  In 1839 a steam sawmill for the production of shingles was constructed.  In 1845 a larger steam sawmill was built that lasted until 1865 and inspired other such ventures throughout the county.  Shipbuilding also became an important industry, and by 1865 Pocomoke City rivaled Snow Hill in this regard.[123] A minor lumber industry also developed near Whaleyville during this period,[124] and the Tilghman Mill Complex, which included saw and grist mills and a blacksmith shop, was built near Whiton.[125]

The only industry in Somerset County at the beginning of this period was a steam-powered saw mill in Princess Anne, the county seat, that was constructed sometime around 1815.[126]  By the middle of the 19th century the village of Inverness, on Fishing Island, had become home to a cannery and packing house, as well as a mill and a lime kiln.[127]  The seafood processing industry was also picking up in other areas of the county, notably the Crisfield area.[128]  The shipyard on King’s Creek was in operation by this time as well.[129]

Several mills were located in Wicomico County during the period of Agricultural-Industrial Transition.  These were mostly small, local grist and saw mills.  The only community focused around milling was the village known as Rocawakin Mills.  A family named Anderson owned grist, saw and carding mills on Rockawalkin Creek.  This business lasted until the late 19th century.[130]  The Salisbury area also had its share of milling during this period, including flour, lumber and lime mills in the 1840s.[131]  The largest industry in Wicomico County throughout the 19th century, however, was shipbuilding.  Whitehaven, Mardela Springs, Sharptown, and Riverton all grew up around shipyards in the early and middle part of the century.[132]

A number of small rural mills appeared in Dorchester County during the 19th century.  Since the flat topography of the county does not lend itself to water-powered milling, a number of these were windmills.[133]  From the 1850s to the 1870s Cambridge became important for its lumbering industry, which provided materials for shipbuilding and railroad construction.[134]  No other industry of note was located in Dorchester County at this time.

Back to Table_of_Contents

 Industrial/Urban Dominance, 1870-1930


            The period of Industrial/Urban Dominance in Maryland actually saw a slight decline in industry in Cecil County.  Many of the largest mill operations went out of business in the early 20th century, including the Elk Forge mills, the Johnson Woolen Mill, the Octoraro Rolling Mill and the Cyclone Mill (in the Little Elk Creek district).[135]   Iron also suffered, as the McCullough Iron Company,[136] Frey’s Forge in Rowlandsville[137] and Principio Furnace went out of business.  A fourth blast furnace was constructed at Principio in 1890, but the company went under after World War I.[138]  Unfortunately, not much is known of the labor force at Principio Furnace after the Civil War.  Port Deposit suffered a general decline.[139]  In Chesapeake City a bottling plant was opened in 1906, but it only lasted until 1930.[140]

Some industrial businesses continued to flourish, however.  Elkton became the location of pulp mills, machine shops, fertilizer plants, canneries and a shipyard between 1880 and 1900.  Three different areas of the town were developed with housing for laborers. [141]  The Meeter Paper Mill continued to be successful, employing around 200 people by 1910.[142]  Other mills in the Providence area also continued to be successful, as more workers’ housing was constructed in this area during this period.[143]

Back to Table_of_Contents


            About half a dozen mills are known to have operated in Kent County during the years between 1870 and 1930, with many others possibly dating from this period as well.  The importance of Rock Hall diminished, although canning grew in importance.[144]  The original Millington Mill burned in 1872 but was rebuilt and operated throughout the rest of the period, and the carding mill was still running.[145]  The major industrial development during this period, however, was the growth of the village of Massey Crossroads.  The convergence of the Kent County Railroad and the Kent and Queen Anne’s Railroad in 1866 provided the impetus for a canning industry that remained vibrant into the 20th century.[146]

            Eight small mills operated in Queen Anne’s County between 1870 and 1930, but canning had become the dominant industry.  The Fincastle-Prickett district continued to be a major canning center until the 1930s.[147]  In the vicinity of Queen Anne, the Queen Anne’s Railroad serviced a growing number of local canneries, including a tomato cannery in the town itself.[148]  The Needwood-Content district also hosted many canneries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, specializing in tomatoes and corn.[149]  Other industry in Queen Anne’s County included a flour and feed mill and an early-20th-century coal yard in Queen Anne,[150] a late-19th-century brick kiln near Roberts,[151] and seafood processing and packing on Kent Island.  In the late 19th century approximately 1,300 laborers were employed as watermen or in the ten processing plants on or near Kent Island.)[152]

Figure 4. 1890 furnace stack and employees, Principio Furnace (CE-112/18CE48), Cecil County.  (Source: Maddex and Kemp 1998. Courtesy of the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology, West Virginia University.)


Figure 5. 19th-century shed, possibly slave quarters, Principio Furnace (CE-112/18CE48), Cecil County. Source: Maddex and Kemp 1998. (Courtesy of the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology, West Virginia University.)

            Industry finally came to Talbot County during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The St. Michael’s Mill (a flour mill) was constructed around 1890 and provided employment to about 15 people.  After World War I the company expanded to two shifts, employing about twice as many people.[153]  In Trappe, a creamery and several vegetable canneries began business in the early 20th century.[154]  Tomato canning began in Bozman during the early 20th century, accompanied by two saw mills.  Bozman is also home to one of the very few labor union halls mentioned in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Places.  This hall served a local chapter of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics beginning in the 1920s.[155]  In the early 20th century a creamery opened in Easton; the only remaining building from this business was probably used as a residence by a company employee.[156]  Finally, Applegarth’s Marine Yard opened in Oxford in 1917, providing shipbuilding and repair services to local watermen.  Oxford was also the site of seven seafood processing plants during this period.[157]

            Caroline County also saw a florescence of industry during this period.  Steamboat transportation provided more convenient exportation options than the railroad for the only land-bound county on the Eastern Shore.  Federalsburg, already an important industrial center, became home to a prosperous canning industry that specialized in tomatoes during the late 19th century.  Printing and paper plants and saw and flour mills also began business here at this time.  Federalsburg’s period of prosperity lasted through the early 20th century.[158]  Denton didn’t see the profits of industrialization until the early 20th century, when lumbering and food processing made possible by steamship transport flourished.[159]

Greensboro was an even bigger canning center than Federalsburg, profiting from an oyster boom in the waters of Caroline County’s rivers and creeks.  During the last quarter of the 19th century over 150 canneries opened in the county, many of which were in the Greensboro vicinity.  Black and white men both worked in the canneries on a seasonal basis.  Greensboro’s women found employment at the Mill Street Cake Brothers Factory in the early 20th century.[160]

Back to Table_of_Contents


Industry in Snow Hill and Pocomoke City in Worcester County intensified during the period of Industrial/Urban Dominance.  By the end of the 19th century Snow Hill had two planing mills, a box factory, grist and weaving mills, a rawhide whip factory and a canning factory.[161]  Pocomoke City benefited from railroad expansion, and by the first decade of the 20th century the town was home to the Pocomoke Foundry and Machine Works, a grain elevator and the Eagle Mills.[162]

Lumbering continued to be important throughout Worcester County, especially near Snow Hill and Whaleyville.[163]  The village of Berlin became a railroad town during this period.[164]  Bishopville was the home of saw and grist mills by 1877, and from 1919 to 1927 the Eureka Packaging Company (seafood packing) operated in the town.[165]  In addition to the lumber industry, Whaleyville also hosted a flour mill in the late 19th century and canning businesses during the early 20th century.[166]  No historical research on the labor that drove these industries has been done.  Another minor industry during this period about which not much is known is salt panning, which was concentrated on Assateague Island.[167]

Seafood processing and canning flourished in Somerset County during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Oyster processing facilities dotted the landscape, and canneries opened in Inverness, Westover, Crisfield, and on Fishing Island and Deal Island.  Flour, grist and saw mills also opened in many of these towns.  In addition to packing and canning seafood, many industrialists also began canning locally grown tomatoes and vegetables.[168]

Crisfield was the center of the seafood processing industry.  The town experienced rapid growth after the arrival of the Eastern Shore Railroad in the 1860s and remained prosperous until the 1920s, when the local oyster population was exhausted.  A large number of tenements were built to house the new industrial labor force, many of which are still standing.[169]  Jersey Island, a part of Crisfield, was one of the biggest processing districts, but there were over 150 different seafood processing plants in the Crisfield area. The town of Crisfield itself, in addition to packing houses, also had a fish fertilizer factory from 1871 until 1932.[170]   The area of Upper Fairmount and Fishing Island also benefited economically from this new industrial development, hosting fruit, vegetable and seafood packing houses, steam-powered saw and flour mills, a lime kiln, a blacksmith and a shipyard.  As in other areas of the state, much of the labor for this work was culled from the local agricultural population.[171]

In addition to its previous shipbuilding communities, Wicomico County developed a few more industrial villages during this period.  Capitola was an African-American community near Whitehaven whose residents worked in the shipyards of the larger town.[172]  Nanticoke and Bivalve both grew as a result of the introduction of canning and packing to the county after the Civil War.  Bivalve hosted an oyster packing house in the late 19th century and vegetable canneries during the first half of the 20th century.[173]  The Phillips Brothers Canning Company incorporated around 1910 near Green Hill and soon expanded its operations to include tomato canning plants in Quantico, Riverton, Whitehaven and Powellville.[174]  Mardela Springs developed a limited bottled spring water and soft drink production industry in the early 20th century, and Riverton became home to a canning factory, a shirt factory and sawmills.[175]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Dorchester County became an important canning center.  Galestown was a small village that had arisen around a grist mill, but lumbering and vegetable and fruit canning became prominent there around the turn of the century.[176]  Madison and Hurlock, the latter of which had grown around a railroad junction in 1867, both opened canneries.[177]  However, it was Cambridge that was the undisputed king of the canning industry in Dorchester County.

Leaving behind milling and lumbering, Cambridge quickly developed into the nation’s second largest canning center, trailing only Baltimore.  Oyster packing and fruit and vegetable canning were the primary focus of this industry.  As many as 16 canning factories operated in town at one point, and by the early 20th century Cambridge was known as the tomato canning capital of the world.  Packing and canning employed as many as 800 to 1,000 people, many of them former slaves.  Many rowhouses were built in the town to house these new industrial laborers.  In addition to packing and canning factories, Cambridge was home to a shipyard and box and basket factories during the early 20th century.[178]

Figure 6. Catlin Tenant House (WI-204), early 20th-century seafood processing workers’ house, Whitehaven, Wicomico County. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust.

Figure 7. Early 20th century seafood processing workers' houses (S-129), Crisfield, Somerset County.  Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust.

Back to Table_of_Contents

Modern Period, 1930-Present


            As in other areas of the Eastern Shore, industry has declined greatly in Cecil County during the Modern period.  The only industries historically recorded are the small Arundel Mining operation near White Hall[179] and the Marley Mill in the Little Elk Creek district.  In 1936 the Marley Mill converted to the manufacture of brown corrugated liner and employed 150 people.  In 1969 it became a pulp paper mill, but its days were numbered and it closed in the early 1970s. [180]


            Industry has largely died out on the Upper Eastern Shore during the Modern period.  In Kent County, Rock Hall and Massey Crossroads have gone back to being quiet agricultural areas.[181]  In Millington, the carding mill and the original grist mill continued to operate until the mid-20th century.[182]  Milling and canning have both died out in Queen Anne’s County.  Canning in the two major industrial districts, the Fincastle-Prickett and Needwood-Content areas, was wiped out by the Great Depression.[183]  The Jarrell Cannery in Queen Anne went out of business in 1955.[184]

            In Talbot County, Applegarth’s Marine Yard in Oxford still operates.[185]  The Gibson Wright Mill, which was built in the early 19th century, continued to operate until the 1960s.[186]  The St. Michael’s Mill went out of business in 1972.[187]  Seafood processing continues to this day in the communities of Wittman, Bellevue and Tilghman, but not in Oxford.[188]

            Industry on the Upper Eastern Shore was strongest in Caroline County during the Modern period.  While Denton and Federalsburg saw the passing of their boom years,[189] Greensboro continued to be a manufacturing center.  Garment and sporting goods factories opened here during the 20th century, and the Roe Cannery operated until 1941.  The Helvetia Company ran one of the largest condensing plants on the Delmarva Peninsula here as well.[190]  Another minor industry was a button factory near Hobbs.[191]


            Industry has largely died out on the Lower Eastern Shore during the Modern period.  What survived is concentrated in the towns rather than in rural areas.  Seafood processing has continued to be important in Somerset County, although many communities are now small villages concentrated around fishing and seafood harvesting.[192]  Vegetable canning in Bivalve, in Wicomico County, lasted until World War II, and a shirt factory opened in Salisbury around 1930.[193]  Even in Dorchester County, where the canning industry was the strongest, agriculture has slowly come back to prominence in the economy.  Only three new canning factories are recorded in Cambridge during the Modern period; however, others opened in Fishing Creek, Tar Bay, Crocheron, and the Toddville and Crapo vicinities.[194]  Crisfield managed to retain most of its industrial prosperity, boasting cutlery, paintbrush and garment factories, seafood processing plants and a frozen food packing plant for the famous company Mrs. Paul’s.[195]

Back to Table_of_Contents

Labor Archaeology on the Eastern Shore


            A total of 21 industrial and/or labor archaeological sites have been recorded in Cecil County, by far the largest number of any Eastern Shore county and over four-fifths of the total number from the four Upper Eastern Shore counties combined.  Twenty of the Cecil County sites are primarily industrial, although five of these have labor components.  The industrial sites include 12 mills, 11 of which are saw, corn or grist mills.  The other, 18CE53, is the site of the rolling mill near Cowentown.  Three of the mills have associated domestic buildings.  Ten of the mill sites have not been investigated.  Of the other two, one is a part of the larger New Hall Plantation (18CE41) and thus did not receive the majority of the archaeologists’ attention during excavation.  The other, a mill site near Perryville (18CE256), has undergone Phase II testing, but is not recorded as having a domestic component.  Other industrial sites in Cecil County include two wharves (18CE327 and 18CE342), a barge wreck (18CE297), a shipyard (18CE326), and two sites associated with the Arundel Mining operation (18CE323 and 18CE324).  None of these sites has been investigated.

            The sites of the McCullough Iron Company (18CE47) in North East and the Principio Furnace (18CE48) near Perryville contain domestic components.  At the McCullough site, which has not been excavated, the superintendent’s house is the only building still standing.  Many of the late-19th-century structures from Principio are still extant.  While the above-ground remains there have been recorded in some detail, only preliminary sub-surface excavations have been carried out.  These have focused on the surviving 1836 furnace stack.[196]

            A management plan for the Principio Furnace district was completed in 1998 by the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology at West Virginia University.[197]  While this management plan focuses on industrial history and archaeology, the authors do acknowledge that archaeological and architectural investigations of the extant workers’ houses and community buildings (mostly from the 19th century) will be an essential step in the construction of an interpretive program that would address the social history of Principio Furnace.  Many structures are targeted for immediate restoration needs, but only one of these, a shanty within the industrial area that may have served as slave quarters, is a community or residential site.  The plan proposes several different kinds of interpretive programs, the most interesting of which is to open the district as an open-air museum.  Along these lines, the report suggests that future historians and archaeologists should investigate Principio Furnace as one kind of company town.

            The only labor-specific archaeological site recorded in Cecil County is the site of the community of Cedar Hollow (18CE158).  This site was located during a typical Phase I survey of the Bainbridge Naval Training Center and was only subjected to three rows of shovel test pits. Nevertheless, the findings were of great significance.  Two features, one a house foundation and the other two stoves in an articulated position, were discovered.  A possible household refuse feature was also identified.  Artifacts collected included large quantities of glass, ceramics, faunal remains, metal artifacts, nails, and wooden floor planking.[198]  The preliminary testing was not enough to permit extensive social analysis of the settlement; however, the site has been preserved through listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, thanks to its potential to yield significant information pertaining to both African-American and Maryland history.

Back to Table_of_Contents


            Very little industrial archaeology, let alone labor archaeology, has been carried out on the Upper Eastern Shore.  Only five industrial/labor sites have been identified in Kent County.  The industrial sites are a mid-18th century mill site (18KE349) and a late-19th-century or early-20th-century commercial barge wreck.  Neither has been excavated.  Three sites, two domestic and one of unknown (but possibly domestic) function, have been identified and correlated with the 18th-century shipbuilding activities on Shipyard Creek.  While these sites may be able to provide a great deal of information on the domestic lives of early industrial workers and skilled artisans, none have been excavated.

            Nine industrial/labor archaeological sites have been recorded in Queen Anne’s County.  The eight industrial sites include four mills, a possible lime kiln site (18QU95), a boat repair yard (18QU911), and two shipwrecks.  None of these have been investigated.  The ninth site, the Cannery Store (18QU222) in Willoughby, underwent shovel testing in 1988.  Over 2,500 artifacts were recovered, representing three different components: a 19th-century component, an early-20th-century component, and an early-20th-century domestic component.  The site has no explicitly demonstrated link to industrial labor; however, it is located near the town of Willoughby, a village that was swept up in the late-19th-century canning industry boom on the Eastern Shore.  Phase I investigations did not yield enough data for a useful analysis, but it is possible that further excavation of this site could reveal significant information about consumer choices and preferences in a 19th-century industrializing rural community.[199]

            Only three industrial/labor archaeological sites are recorded in Talbot County.  Two are industrial sites: the 19th-century steamship wreck New Jersey (18TA210), which was investigated in the mid-1980s, and Clay’s Hope Waterfront (18TA362) in Bellevue, a shipyard site of unknown date which has not been excavated.  The labor site is Brick Row (18TA204) in Easton, a late 19th-century domestic area where Mid-Atlantic Archaeological Research, Inc. performed some preliminary excavation in the early 1980s.  Actually, the identification of Brick Row as a labor site has not been confirmed.  Phase I archaeological investigation was requested by the Maryland Historical Trust in advance of the demolition of Brick Row and construction of new buildings on the site.  However, Easton demolished the existing buildings before archaeology began, severely disturbing the site.  While information on the lives of the inhabitants of Brick Row during the late 19th century may still be recovered from historical records, the destruction of the archaeological deposits was a great loss.[200]

            Eight industrial archaeological sites have been identified in Caroline County; no sites related specifically to labor have been recorded.  The industrial sites include three barge wrecks and four wharves, one of which (18CA96) also contains a possible 18th-19th century shipyard.  The final site, 18CA203, is a trash dump near Hobbs that contained over 2,500 plastic button blanks from the factory there.  The only site to undergo any sort of excavation has been the trash dump, which was only test pitted a few years ago.

Back to Table_of_Contents


            Nine industrial archaeological sites have been identified in Worcester County, but no labor sites have been recorded.  The industrial sites include a tannery (18WO214) and brick kiln (18WO123) near Jones, a shipwreck and possible mille site in Buddy Cove (18WO226), the Tilghman Mill Complex (18WO163), a possible lumbering site near Ocean Pines (18WO168), a possible lime kiln on Assateague Island (18WO164), a granary and mill on Geneser Bay (18WO179), a brickyard in Snow Hill (18WO159), and the Nassawango Furnace (18WO19).  Several of these sites have been the subject of preliminary test excavation, but the information gained is sketchy and has no bearing on labor.  Furnace Town conducts occasional public digs at sites in Nassawango village, but no reports have been produced from this work.

            Sixteen industrial archaeological sites have been identified in Somerset County, concentrated in the periods of Agricultural-Industrial Transition and Industrial/Urban Dominance.  Ten of these sites are seafood-processing areas, while another is a cannery site (18SO253).  Also represented are a lime kiln (18SO239), a shipyard (18SO323), and two mill sites (18SO142 and 18SO325).  The final site is the town site of Inverness (18SO262).  Only this last may have a component specifically related to labor.  No archaeology has been done at any of these sites.  The majority of them were identified during a field survey in the mid-1990s by Darrin Lowery.  Lowery’s focus was on prehistoric sites, and he didn’t evince much interest in historic sites unless they dated to the 17th or 18th centuries.  As a result, he often glossed over these industrial sites, saying that their recent vintage and small nature reduced their potential significance.[201]

            Only seven industrial and labor archaeological sites are recorded in Wicomico County.  The industrial sites include three small mills, the Parker Mill and Dam (18WC82), the Quantico Mill (18WC91) and the Adkins Mill Complex (18WC92).  Three abandoned houses may be associated with the Quantico Mill.  Also recorded are a possible shipyard (18WC115) and a barge wreck near Whitehaven (18WC135).  The other two sites may be related to labor: St. Peters Church in Salisbury (18WC52) and the Whitehaven Hotel (18WC103).  St. Peters Church has not been investigated archaeologically; a few artifacts were accidentally turned up during construction work.  The Whitehaven Hotel, however, was the site of Phase I and II excavations in 1997.

            The property on which the Whitehaven Hotel stands may have been used as a store house as far back as the late 18th century.  A dry goods store was on the property by the 1870s, and by 1887 it was functioning as a hotel.  The owner of the hotel also owned an oyster-packing house in Whitehaven.  The Hotel went out of business in 1904, after which the structure was used as a residence.  It has now been renovated and is used as a bed and breakfast establishment.  The limited nature of the archaeology performed at the site did not allow extensive analysis of the deposits revealed.  Many of the yard deposits were mixed, making it difficult to discern the differences between the property’s residential and commercial uses.  The archaeological record is further confused by the existence of deposits from the owner, who may have lived full-time at the hotel, and his transient guests.  Who were the clientele of the hotel?  Did the owner associate with his working-class oyster house employees, or did the hotel serve a richer segment of society?  These questions could not be answered.  The presence of at least 19 intact features, however, suggests that Phase III excavation may be able to clarify some of these issues.[202]

            Ten industrial archaeological sites have been recorded in Dorchester County.  They include an oyster processing facility (18DO411) and two shipwrecks (18DO404 and 18DO408).  These have not been excavated.  The remaining seven sites are all saw and/or grist mill sites, including a windmill (18DO175).  None of these sites are reported to have domestic components.  One site, the Saw Mill (18DO5), was excavated by amateur archaeologists in the 1950s, but they were only interested in the prehistoric component.  The Wilson Mill (18DO177) near Eldorado underwent Phase II investigation during the early 1990s, but this consisted of shovel test pits and only one excavation unit.  Thus, an archaeology of industrial labor has not yet been attempted in Dorchester County.  The potential of the late 19th-early 20th century workers’ housing areas in Cambridge has not been investigated.

Back to Table_of_Contents



[79] Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP) CE-1296.

[80] MIHP CE-655.

[81] MIHP CE-71.

[82] MIHP CE-1291.

[83] MIHP CE-1296.

[84] MIHP CE-789.

[85] MIHP CE-548, CE-695, CE-696, CE-697.

[86] MIHP CE-112.

[87] Robbins 1986:88-131.

[88] Robbins 1986:238-280.  See also May 1945.

[89] ASR 18KE334, 18KE335, 18KE336.

[90] MIHP KE-78, KE-96, KE-175, KE-286, KE-287, KE-290, KE-291, KE-293.

[91] MIHP KE-684; See also Alexander 1990.

[92] MIHP KE-597.

[93] MIHP QA-138, QA-181.

[94] Emory 1950:392-393.

[95] MIHP T-51.

[96] MIHP T-946.

[97] MIHP CAR-284, ASR 18CA96.

[98] MIHP CAR-264.

[99] MIHP CAR-285.

[100] MIHP WO-186; ARS 18SO142, 18SO323, MIHP S-73.

[101] MIHP WI-371.

[102] MIHP D-650.

[103] Maryland Archaeological Site Records (ASR) 18CE48; MIHP CE-112, CE-113, CE-374, CE-375, CE-1231.

[104] ASR 18CE53.

[105] ASR 18CE47, MIHP CE-886, CE-1337, CE-1347.

[106] MIHP CE-163, CE-165, CE-167.

[107] MIHP CE-1291.

[108] MIHP CE-220.

[109] MIHP CE-1292.

[110] MIHP CE-1295.

[111] MIHP CE-1296.

[112] MIHP CE-548.

[113] MIHP CE-651, CE-652; CE-661, CE-685; CE-636.

[114] MIHP CE-789.

[115] MIHP KE-684.

[116] MIHP KE-666.

[117] MIHP QA-181.

[118] Emory 1950:393.

[119] MIHP QA-522.

[120] MIHP CAR-285.

[121] MIHP WO-186.

[122] ASR 18WO19, MIHP WO-10, Bastian 1975. The site of the Nassawango Furnace village is now a living history museum. The furnace site was listed on the National Register in 1975. For more information concerning Nassawango see Prettyman 1966 and Furnace Town n.d.

[123] MIHP WO-187.

[124] MIHP WO-293.

[125] ASR 18WO163.

[126] MIHP S-128.

[127] ASR 18SO262.

[128] MIHP S-127.

[129] ASR 18SO325.

[130] MIHP WI-68.

[131] MIHP WI-145.

[132] MIHP WI-144, WWWI-352, WI-353, WI-371.

[133] ASR 18DO175, MIHP D-315.

[134] MIHP D-699.

[135] MIHP CE-165; CE-761; CE-789; CE-692.

[136] ASR 18CE47, MIHP CE-1337.

[137] MIHP CE-789.

[138] ASR 18CE48.

[139] MIHP CE-1291.

[140] MIHP CE-1292.

[141] MIHP CE-1295.

[142] MIHP CE-548.

[143] MIHP CE-645, CE-660, CE-666.

[144] MIHP KE-666.

[145] MIHP KE-684.

[146] MIHP KE-685.

[147] MIHP QA-522.

[148] MIHP QA-530.

[149] MIHP QA-486.

[150] MIHP QA-530.

[151] MIHP QA-408.

[152] MIHP QA-463.

[153] MIHP T-437.

[154] MIHP T-946.

[155] MIHP T-696.

[156] MIHP T-439.

[157] MIHP T-547.

[158] MIHP CAR-285.

[159] MIHP CAR-284.

[160] MIHP CAR-264.

[161] MIHP WO-186.

[162] MIHP WO-187.

[163] MIHP WO-186, WO-293.

[164] MIHP WO-184.

[165] MIHP WO-292.

[166] MIHP WO-293.

[167] ASR 18WO164.

[168] ASR 18SO262, MIHP S-127, S-174, S-371.

[169] MIHP S-127, S-129 through S-139.

[170] MIHP S-304; Woodrow T. Wilson (1973, 1977) has written two definitive histories of the Crisfield region.

[171] MIHP S-429.

[172] MIHP WI-312.

[173] MIHP WI-289, WI-297.

[174] MIHP WI-315.

[175] MIHP WI-371; MIHP WI-353.

[176] MIHP D-657.

[177] MIHP D-650, D-653.

[178] MIHP D-390, D-699.

[179] ASR 18CE323, 18CE324.

[180] MIHP CE-636.

[181] MIHP KE-666, KE-685.

[182] MIHP KE-684.

[183] MIHP QA-486, QA-522.

[184] MIHP QA-530.

[185] MIHP T-547.

[186] MIHP T-127.

[187] MIHP T-437.

[188] MIHP T-1152, T-1153, T-1154, T-1155.

[189] MIHP CAR-284, CAR-285.

[190] MIHP CAR-264.

[191] ASR 18CA203.

[192] MIHP S-127, S-371.

[193] MIHP WI-297; MIHP WI-145.

[194] MIHP D-710, D-726 through D-737

[195] MIHP S-127.

[196] See Vogel 1968, Ervin 1993 and Maddex and Kemp 1998.

[197] Maddex and Kemp 1998.

[198] The results of excavation were reported by Hughes and Lebo (1982).

[199] Barse 1991.

[200] Thomas 1982.

[201] See Lowery 1997.

[202] Otter 1998.