Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2015 May 15.

Field Notes from Herring Run: Excavating the immediate aftermath of an oyster picnic

Here it our latest in the series of field notes from archaeological dig at the Eutaw Manor and Mill complex in  Herring Run Park. Read on for Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer’s fifth journal entry – dated Thursday, May 14, 2015. Don’t forget to join us this weekend for the Herring Park Park Archaeology Open House – Saturday and Sunday!

As of today, we have discovered three of the walls of Eutaw House. Jason placed several exploratory test pits on the southern end of the site and this afternoon, exposed the top of the south wall. The south wall is located approximately 60 feet from the north wall, so already we know that this is a substantial structure. If we find the east wall, we’ll be able to figure out the building’s size, orientation, the arrangement of some rooms in the house, and the likeliest locations of other features like chimneys and outbuildings.

Oyster midden, 2015 May 13
Oyster midden, 2015 May 13

Lisa and her crack squad of volunteers excavated the oyster midden this morning. This little trash pit was exciting, although it contained relatively few artifacts compared to other spots across the site. It was a shallow pit, approximately 4 feet in diameter, filled with oyster shells and a handful of historic-period (ca. 1770-1820) artifacts. The oyster shells are likely the remains of a single meal, and we can tell that once they were discarded, they were completely undisturbed until we found them. So the oyster midden represents a moment in time, the immediate aftermath of an oyster picnic preserved for hundreds of years.

Only three days left! Today, we’re hunting for the east wall of the house and will begin to explore more of the yard space. Plus: is the mysterious depression on the western edge of the site the foundation of a small outbuilding, or something else entirely? We hope to find out over the next few days.

 

Photography by Eli Pousson, 2015 May 13.

Field Notes from Herring Run: How big is Eutaw House?

We are continuing to share field notes from Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer as they lead our archaeological dig at the Eutaw Manor and Mill complex in  Herring Run Park. Read on for Lisa and Jason’s third journal entry – dated Wednesday, May 13, 2015 – or look back at past entries from Monday and Sunday.

Today marked the midway point for this first field season of the Herring Run Archaeology Project, and we enjoyed the beautiful cool weather as we continued to make new discoveries.

One of our ongoing goals is to define the dimensions of Eutaw House. We need evidence of all four walls to get a sense of how big the house was, so Jason set out this morning to identify more of Eutaw’s foundation.

As it turns out, the west wall, much like the north wall, was still intact and fairly close to the surface. A section of the west wall was uncovered and documented by lunchtime. While digging, one of today’s volunteers (NPS archeologist and Baltimore Heritage board member Dave Gadsby) noticed a dark stain near the west wall. After some careful cleaning of the area we determined the stain was likely the remains of a decayed post that may have supported a porch or stair. Tomorrow we will excavate the post and begin searching for the other two walls.

2015 May 13
David Gadsby, Jason Shellenhamer and Margaret DeArcangelis examining the western wall and post hole, 2015 May 13.

To the west of Eutaw House, Lisa and her team of volunteers continued their excavation of the mixed historic and Native American component of the site. In addition to finding nearly seventy-five Native American stone artifacts over the last two days, they have also discovered some of the earliest European artifacts at the site. These artifacts point to an occupation that predates that of William Smith by several decades.

Another interesting discovery was the identification of an oyster shell midden (trash pit). So far, the excavation of the oyster midden is in its preliminary stages, and we’re looking forward to exploring it more fully on Thursday.

Photograph by Jason Shellenhamer, 2015 May 13.
Lisa Kraus excavating the oyster midden. Photograph by Jason Shellenhamer, 2015 May 13.
Photograph by Lisa Kraus, 2015 May 12.

Field Notes from Herring Run: Finding trouser buttons, teacups, and Delftware

Here is the latest update from Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer on our archaeological dig at the Eutaw Manor and Mill complex in Herring Run Park. Read on for Lisa and Jason’s journal entry from Tuesday, May 12, 2015 or look back at past entries from Monday and Sunday.

Today we continued our investigation of the earlier historical occupation of the site to the south of the Eutaw House cellar, and expanded the excavation to the west, in order to explore the area between Eutaw House and the Eutaw Mill.

Photograph by Lisa Kraus, 2015 May 12.
Photograph by Lisa Kraus, 2015 May 12.

The southern portion of the site continues to yield somewhat earlier artifacts than those recovered from the Eutaw cellar. Today, volunteers Megan Cooke, Sara Sette, Irene Smith, Kasey Johnson, Eva Schneiderman and Patty Dowd got to work and made some great discoveries, including a lovely piece of Nottingham-type stoneware (ca. 1690-1790) and a flat brass trouser or cuff button. Today’s efforts continue to point to an earlier dwelling somewhere nearby.

Meanwhile, Jason, aided by volunteers Jody Landers and Curtis Waters, began to explore the area north and west of the Eutaw House foundation. This area appears to have been open space during the occupation of Eutaw House (ca. 1760-1865), and the artifacts recovered are mostly domestic trash that date to that time period, and included a huge fragment of animal bone and the dainty rim of a blue and white porcelain teacup. Although we had fewer artifacts from these units, they provide important information about the way buildings and open spaces were arranged while the site was in use 150 years ago.

Photograph by Jason Shellenhamer, 2015 May 12.
Photograph by Jason Shellenhamer, 2015 May 12.

In the afternoon, volunteers Sarah, Eva, Ellen, Megan, Gene and Curtis helped investigate the western part of the site. Here we found more artifacts that seem to relate to the occupancy of Eutaw House, along with several that dated earlier. One exciting small find was a tiny piece of Tin-Glazed Earthenware, also known as Delftware, which had a long period of manufacture, but was most popular from the late 1600s through the late 1700s.

We also discovered further evidence of a prehistoric Native American presence on the site, but we’ll share more about that in our next post. Until then, many thanks to our enthusiastic volunteers and to everyone who stopped by to visit us today!

2015 May 12
2015 May 12
Burned plaster from Eutaw House, Herring Run Park Archaeology. Photograph by Lisa Kraus, 2015 May 11.

Field Notes from Herring Run: Getting to the bottom of the Eutaw House cellar hole

We are continuing to share field notes from Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer as they lead our archaeological dig in Herring Run Park. Read on for Lisa and Jason’s second journal entry – dated Monday, May 11, 2015 – or look back at yesterday’s update and our gallery of photos.

We had two goals when we arrived at the site this morning: the first was to get to the bottom of the Eutaw House cellar hole, which we accomplished! It took all day, but dedicated digging by volunteers Kasey Johnson and Ernie Dimler helped us expose the cellar floor, which turned out to be native bedrock.

2015 May 11
Stone wall and cellar hole, 2015 May 11

Now we have a much better understanding of the sequence of events that followed the burning of the house in 1865. We continued to find pieces of serving dishes and teawares amid the rubble today, which is of particular interest given what we know of the history of the Hall family, who lived in the house when it burned. They were preparing to host several guests in honor of a young family member’s christening when the house caught fire. Many of the plates and teacups we found in the rubble were likely set out in anticipation of that happy event.

2015 May 11
Volunteers moving dirt, 2015 May 11

Our second goal was to figure out what was going on in a test unit placed near what would have been the center of Eutaw House. Instead of uncovering a continuation of the cellar hole, which would not have extended across the entire footprint of Eutaw House, we discovered what appear to be remains of an earlier structure. We’ve been finding artifacts of slightly earlier date in this location, but not very many of them. We haven’t yet answered our questions about this complex area of the site – in fact, we have even more questions than when we started – but we’ll be tackling all of these as the work continues this week.

We’re also expanding the dig to include areas that would have been located outside Eutaw House, and will be trying to identify other spots that could contain intact remains of the house foundation. So there’s lots of interesting work to come!

2015 May 11
Lisa trying to figure out Unit 5, Photograph by Jason Shellenhamer, 2015 May 11
Archaeologists Jason Shellenhamer and Lisa Kraus, 2015 May 9.

Field Notes from Herring Run: Meeting volunteers and finding Eutaw House

Over the next week, we’re excited to share updates the daily journal of archeologists Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer as they lead our archaeological dig in Herring Run Park. Read on for Lisa and Jason’s first journal entry and check out our gallery of photos from the first weekend of the dig.

When we first came to the Eutaw House site in the fall of 2014, we weren’t quite sure what we would find. We had studied historic maps, land records, newspaper archives, even paintings, and we knew that Eutaw, the home of wealthy merchant William Smith, must be nearby, but we couldn’t pinpoint its exact location.

During Smith’s lifetime, the view from the house would have included Herring Run, the Eutaw Mill and miller’s house, and several other tenant houses and outbuildings. While we were sure of the house’s general location, we were not confident that evidence of the house would still be present in the archaeological record.

Artifact, 2015 May 9.
Artifact, 2015 May 9.

On a brisk fall day, we came to a small bluff overlooking Herring Run and began digging a few holes known as shovel test pits. Almost at once, we identified traces of the house that once stood on the site and the people who occupied it: small broken pieces of dining and tea sets, bottle glass, tobacco pipe fragments, bricks, and several nails. Many of the artifacts were dateable from about 1760 to around 1860.

Eventually, we hit the jackpot! In one of our holes we encountered what looked like the top of a stone wall. Was the wall part of the foundation of William Smith’s 18th century manor house, called Eutaw, or some other outbuilding associated with the house? Or did we find the remains of something even earlier, perhaps the remains of a house that stood here before 1760? The only way to find out was to do more archaeology.

Luckily we have great neighbors who are also interested in the history of Eutaw and the greater Lauraville area. Members of the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable, Baltimore Heritage and bunch of great volunteers are helping us uncover an astonishing archaeological site.

Young volunteer on top of the stone wall, 2015 May 10.
Young volunteer on top of the stone wall, 2015 May 10.

We started work this past Saturday, May 9th. The first place we explored was the mysterious stone building foundation we originally discovered in the Fall. Shortly after starting the excavation of our first test unit we rediscovered the wall. And as an added bonus, it appeared the building also had a cellar!

Finds from the first day, 2015 May 9.
Finds from the first day, 2015 May 9.

Was this wall part of the Eutaw House, or could it be a foundation to one of the outbuildings? The historical research we conducted on the property has provided some significant clues. A newspaper article from the 1850s tells us that Eutaw House was a substantial building (sixty feet on each side). A building that big would have been built on an equally substantial foundation. We also knew that in 1865, the Eutaw House burned down while guests were gathering there for the christening of one of the young family members.

While no one was hurt in the fire and much of the furniture was saved, the house itself burned down completely. Bad news for the Smith Family, but good for archaeologists: we knew if we found a burned foundation or blackened and melted artifacts, that would be persuasive evidence that we had found Eutaw House.

Cellar hole, 2015 May 10.
Cellar hole, 2015 May 10.

Starting Sunday morning, we began to explore the cellar and foundation wall further. As it turns out, it’s a pretty big wall, made of mortared, dressed fieldstone measuring approximately two feet wide. The foundation was certainly large enough to support the house described in the newspaper accounts.

As we began excavating the cellar hole, we found artifacts that had clearly been affected by fire: burned bricks and mortar, 19th-century teawares and serving dishes, melted bottle and window glass, and hundreds of burned nails. It appears we found the Eutaw House.

We’ve also found intriguing evidence of an even earlier structure nearby, possibly predating the 1760 Eutaw House. We’ll be investigating further this week as well. We’ve had some amazing volunteers this weekend, and it’s been a blast getting to know them as we continue solving the mystery of this incredible archaeological site. We’re excited to see what happens next – and we’ll keep you posted!

Archaeologists Jason Shellenhamer and Lisa Kraus, 2015 May 9.
Archaeologists Jason Shellenhamer and Lisa Kraus, 2015 May 9.