The Journey Home

By Rebecca Morehouse, Curator of State Collections, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab

In 1980, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded a project to build townhouses in the block between what is now City Gate Lane and Dean Street in Annapolis. Excavation of the townhouse basements disturbed a portion of what was later identified as a 19th-century African American family cemetery. When archeologists at the Maryland Historical Trust heard of the discovery, they went to the site to rescue the human remains that had been exposed. They carefully mapped, photographed, and removed what turned out to be the partial remains of two individuals. In the event of this kind of inadvertent discovery, an archeologist’s priority is to identify what remains of the burials, document as much of the site as possible, and transfer any human remains to another location for protection. In the case of these two individuals, they were placed in the custody of MHT, and cared for at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab) at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM), a unit of MHT.

Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis
Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis.

Little was known about these two individuals until research conducted by Janice Hayes-Williams in the early 2000s indicated their remains were likely removed from what had been the family cemetery of Smith Price. Price, formerly enslaved, came to Annapolis as a free man. He owned the property where an 1860s plat indicated his family cemetery was located, as well as the land where the Asbury United Methodist Church now stands less than a block away. Smith Price was a founding member of the African Meeting House in Annapolis, which eventually became the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1803, Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in 1838, and then the Asbury United Methodist Church in 1968 (Figure 1).

While attending a meeting at the MAC Lab in April 2019, Janice Hayes-Williams asked me if the human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery were curated at the MAC Lab. When I told her they were, she asked if the remains could be returned to Annapolis and reburied there.  A flurry of correspondence soon followed, as MHT staff worked with the Office of the Attorney General to chart a course for the permanent transfer of the remains that would satisfy State regulations. 

The official request for transfer came from Asbury UMC in June 2019 and was quickly approved by the MHT Board of Trustees. The transfer took place on July 24, 2019 in a ceremony at Asbury UMC. In preparation for their trip to back to Annapolis, Janice Hayes-Williams wrapped the boxes which held the remains with Kente cloth and adorned them with sunflowers (Figure 2). I had the honor of assisting.

Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

Once in the custody of the Asbury UMC, the church transferred the individuals to Dr. Julie Schablitsky, Chief Archaeologist at the Maryland State Highway Administration.  Dr. Schablitsky took the lead on coordinating the analysis of the remains, which included a detailed examination and inventory by Dr. Dana Kollmann, Forensic Anthropologist at Towson University, and facial reconstruction by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant (Figure 3). Dr. Schablitsky also arranged for DNA testing at DNA Labs International in Florida. Unfortunately, the extracted DNA was degraded and, while the scientists are still trying, they have been unable to match it to living descendants.

Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.
Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Analysis by Dr. Kollmann showed that the remains belonged to a man and a child of African ancestry. The man likely died sometime in his late forties or early fifties. Associated coffin nails dated to the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Though no personal artifacts were recovered with the skeletal remains, blue-green discoloration on the man’s left wrist indicates the presence of a copper alloy burial shroud pin, button, or cufflink. His skeleton showed evidence that he was muscular and would have participated in heavy physical labor. He had a minor injury to his left shin, which, while not resulting in a break, would have been painful. He also had arthritis in his right arm and shoulder, which would have also caused significant pain and hindered his movements. His teeth had  a well-defined pipe facet from carrying a tobacco pipe between his teeth on the right side of his mouth. The cause of the man’s death could not be determined.

The child, of unknown gender, likely died between the ages of 5 and 6 years. Copper alloy staining on the left temple suggests the child may have been wrapped in a burial shroud held in place with a copper alloy pin. The teeth show evidence of malnutrition or a significant illness, such as influenza. However, this did not contribute to the child’s death.

Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

On November 1, 2019, Maryland’s Emancipation Day, following a community ceremony at Asbury UMC, these two individuals were laid to rest for a second time in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis (Figures 4 and 5).

While MHT does not encourage the excavation of human remains, there are times when burials are threatened and must be removed, as with the case of the Smith Price family cemetery. Today, unlike in 1980, immediate relocation or reburial of disturbed human remains is now the preferred course of action, rather than being placed in the care of the State. On the occasion that human remains do end up in MHT’s custody, they are placed in a specially designated area, known as an appropriate place of repose, apart from the State’s other collections. This area is only accessible by MHT staff and is not visible to the public.

I consider the care of these individuals a sacred responsibility and one of the most important duties I have as Curator. However, if I am given the opportunity to help facilitate the return and reburial of human remains in MHT’s custody, I am honored to do so. Being able to participate in the preparation of the human remains, as well as the transfer and reburial ceremonies, was an experience which I will not soon forget.

Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

A Maryland Patriot’s Annapolis Home (Guest Blog)

By Glenn E. Campbell, Senior Historian, Historic Annapolis

William Paca was one of the four Maryland men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and he served as the state’s third governor at the end of the Revolutionary War. After marrying the wealthy and well-connected Mary Chew in 1763, the young lawyer built a five-part brick house and terraced pleasure garden on two acres of land in Annapolis. The couple had three children, but only one of them survived to adulthood, and they cared for an orphaned niece for several months in 1765-66. In addition to Paca family members, the Georgian mansion also housed a number of enslaved individuals and bound servants.

William Paca House

William Paca House and Garden, located at 186 Prince George Street in Annapolis. Photo: Ken Tom

After William Paca sold it in 1780, the house continued as a single-family home until 1801, then served mainly as a rental property for much of the 19th century. Later owners and occupants added upper floors to the building’s wings and hyphens; this increased the square footage of its potential rental space but disrupted the structure’s original Georgian symmetry. In 1901, national tennis champion William Larned purchased the property, added a large addition and created Carvel Hall, known as Annapolis’s finest hotel for much of the 20th century.

WPHG Summer 2017 Credit Tom, K

In the early 1970s, Historic Annapolis and the State of Maryland undertook extensive archeological investigations to restore the garden to its colonial appearance. Photo: Ken Tom

Concerned that developers might tear down the home of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, the nonprofit preservation group Historic Annapolis and the State of Maryland bought the Paca mansion and the rest of the Carvel Hall site in 1965. Over the next decade, a team of experts—archival researchers, archaeologists, architectural historians, paint analysts, x-ray photographers, carpenters, masons, landscape designers, horticulturists, and other skilled professionals—restored the William Paca House and Garden to their 18th-century configurations and appearances. The site was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1971. Historic Annapolis and the Maryland Historical Trust continue to work closely together as the property’s stewards for today and the future.

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Candidates for American citizenship take the Oath of Allegiance on July 4, 2016. Photo: Ken Tom

Since 2006, Historic Annapolis has hosted an Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony at the William Paca House and Garden. It’s especially fitting to welcome new citizens (over 300 so far!) into the American family at the Signer’s home every July 4th, because William Paca himself became a citizen of the newborn United States on that historic date in 1776. The basic truths and simple yet profound ideals expressed so powerfully in the Declaration of Independence motivated his patriotic action 241 years ago, and they continue to attract people to our shores to share in the freedoms enjoyed by American citizens.

Maryland’s Old Senate Chamber Reopens Its Doors!

By Marcia Miller, Chief, Office of Research, Survey and Registration

The Chamber is open! The Old Senate Chamber in the Maryland State House has opened its doors to visitors once again after completing a multi-year, state-of-the-art restoration. The extensive project returned the room as accurately as possible to its 18th-century appearance. Exhaustive physical investigation and meticulous research, combined with fieldwork throughout the City of Annapolis, ensured the authenticity of the richly-ornamented architectural detailing and the furnishings as they would have appeared on December 23, 1783.

The Old Senate Chamber as it would have appeared on December 23, 1783 during the resignation ceremony of General George Washington. The gallery has been recreated based on historic photographs, physical evidence, and documentary records.

The Old Senate Chamber as it would have appeared on December 23, 1783 during the resignation ceremony of General George Washington. The gallery has been recreated based on historic photographs, physical evidence, and documentary records.

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Guest Blog – Bells Across the Land: Remembering Appomattox

 

By Nick Redding, Executive Director, Preservation Maryland

Bells Across the LandOn April 9, 1865, after four years of combat, the Civil War came to a symbolic end in the tiny hamlet of Appomattox, Virginia when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The surrender at Appomattox signaled the end of the long, harsh conflict which ultimately claimed the lives of 750,000 individuals and led to the emancipation of the nearly 4.5 million enslaved African-Americans held in the southern states, including Maryland.

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Four new historical markers have been installed this fall along Maryland’s roadways

The Maryland Historical Trust, State Highway Administration, and local partners recently installed four new roadside historical markers along Maryland’s roadways, bringing the total number of markers to 816!  The new markers celebrate a wide range of stories and places, ranging from the slave trade in Baltimore City to the establishment of the Town of Princess Anne in Somerset County. Continue reading

National Park Service to hold public meetings on the John Smith National Historic Trail

This October, the National Park Service is presenting alternative concepts for the future of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. These concepts will describe management objectives, policies, and actions that will guide the development of the trail over the next 15-20 years. How do you think the trail should be developed? Please join us for a series of eight public workshops to be held around the Bay in mid-October. Continue reading