Over the weekend, we headed out to Herring Run to prepare for the upcoming field season, now only 19 days away! With the help of Aiden and Ilka, we decided to check out a spot near the Eutaw Manor house that we have been curious about for several years now. So on Saturday we dusted off our screens and shovels, strapped on our boots, and started a fun afternoon of exploration.
Several historic maps from the mid-nineteenth century depict a series of buildings located just down slope from the Eutaw Manor house (we’ve been referring to these as “The Mystery Buildings”). The exact function or use of these buildings is presently unknown, but according to newspaper advertisements and property records, Eutaw included not only a stately manor home and mill, but also a stable, miller’s house, and one or more storehouses. At least twenty-four enslaved people also lived on the property during the 19th century. While some of those enslaved on the farm likely lived in the house, the majority likely lived in separate dwellings or quarters nearby.
Historic maps are useful to archaeologists as a means of determining whether any buildings existed on the landscape, but they are certainly not without error. Of the two maps that show the Mystery Buildings, each depicts the structures in slightly different locations. While the difference may be the result of a map maker’s error, it is just as likely that each map depicts different buildings. Landscapes evolve and outbuilding are demolished, rebuilt, or simply moved. However, it is important to point out that each map was produced after Eutaw Manor burned down and the property owner abandoned the site. We know that the owner, William Carvel Hall, never rebuilt on the same location after the 1865 fire, yet both maps show the house in the same place.
Shovel testing at the location of the various Eutaw Mystery Buildings was slightly more challenging that in other areas we tested in the park over the years. In the majority of the areas we tested over the weekend, we encountered between one and two feet of imported clay fill soils. These soils were likely brought in to smooth out the landscape, after the land was part of Baltimore City park system. Digging through clay is hard work, but this imported fill may have helped preserve the archaeological resources in this location. When the fill was deposited in this area, it was placed on top of the historic ground surface, protecting the underlying archaeological deposits.
Once we broke through the fill, we found dozens of mid-19th century artifacts in the historic ground surface of Eutaw Farm. We found brick and nails as well as ceramics and glass left by the people who once lived on this part of the farm. As testing continued through the day, two particular areas sparked our interest. On the east side of the field, near the mill, a large deposit of broken ceramics suggests the presence of a trash dump or midden. Was this a garbage dump associated with the nearby occupation of the tenant who ran the mill? Or could it be kitchen trash from the household of an enslaved family who once lived nearby?
At the end of the day, we encountered our second surprise: an intact foundation wall! On the far west side of our survey area, we encountered a section of a well-built articulated stone foundation wall. The wall was made of the same type of stones used in the construction of Eutaw Manor’s foundation. Additional testing nearby found more evidence of the wall as well as piles of stone rubble underlying the fill soils covering the site.
The wall was an amazing find! Is this part of the quarters dozens of people called home during their decades of bondage at Eutaw? Is this the home of Eutaw’s miller? A stable, a warehouse, or something else altogether? Only additional testing will be able to provide additional clues to answer these and many other questions. We only just began exploring this area and we’re looking forward to returning to this spot as part of Field Season 2016.
Join us for our Open House on April 30th to learn what we discover!