Huntingtown High School Connects Past to Present through Archeology

By Patricia Samford, Director, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab

For the last several years, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum has been working with the Archeology Club at Calvert County’s Huntingtown High School on a project to tell stories about Baltimore’s past.  Students in this year’s club identified and studied artifacts from a privy that was filled with household garbage between 1850 and 1870. In addition to mending pottery and glass and identifying the seeds and animal bones that made up the food remains in the privy, the students turned to land records to discover just whose garbage they were studying.

Figure 1 seth williams 2017

An Archeology Club member mends a circa 1850-1860 platter. About 90% of the vessel, decorated with a Greek Revival motif, was present.

Once they learned that the artifacts were discarded by the family of Nathan Mansfield, a collection agent, they became excited to take their research one step further. They decided to find living descendants of the Mansfield family in order to share their project with them.  A surprisingly short session on Ancestry.com (assisted greatly by a rather unusual family middle name!) revealed that the great-great grandson of Nathan Mansfield is alive and well, still selling yachts in Florida at the age of 90!  Through their club leader, Jeff Cunningham, the students contacted Mr. Mansfield.  A history major at Yale, Mr. Mansfield was delighted to learn what the students have been up to this year.

The students will give a presentation on this year’s findings at the Federal Reserve Bank on April 21st.  The bank was built over the site of the nineteenth-century neighborhood block where the bank was built in the early 1980s.

Figure 3 emily curren and rachelle at embry site

A Huntingtown student and Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum staff member recover a surface find from a postbellum tenant house. Photo: P. Samford, 2015.

In addition to gaining research and lab experience, the students are also learning about archeological field work. They have been working on documenting and testing a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tenant house located on the grounds of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.  Their goals at this site include completing a state site form and learning more about the lives of African American tenant farmers in the postbellum period.

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