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 (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.

Experience Maryland Archeology First Hand at Patterson Park

By Charlie Hall, State Terrestrial Archeologist

What better way to celebrate Maryland Archeology Month than by doing archeology in Maryland!

Imagine it’s September of 1814 and the British, having burned Washington just a few weeks earlier, are on their way to Baltimore.  Fort McHenry stands ready to defend the harbor from attack by the British fleet.  A 3-mile wide earthwork with 100 cannon and more than 10,000 regular, local militia, and irregulars, are in place to repulse the anticipated land attack.  Surprised by the strength of Baltimore’s defenses, the British eventually flee the field of battle.  Most Americans remember the event best through Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner.  But you have an opportunity to get close to the battle by helping archeologists investigate the War of 1812 fortifications in East Baltimore’s Patterson Park!

Rodger’s Bastion on Hampstead Hill, from the Patterson Park pagoda, Baltimore (

Rodger’s Bastion on Hampstead Hill, from the Patterson Park pagoda, Baltimore

Sponsored by Baltimore Heritage, with financial support from the Maryland Heritage Areas Program, archeologists from The Louis Berger Group will supervise a cadre of volunteers every Tuesday through Saturday from April 15th until May 17th.  You can volunteer for all 25 days, or for any portion down to a single morning or afternoon.  Pre-registration is required, and it’s easy!  Simply go to the Baltimore Heritage website  and click the blue button labeled “Register as a fieldwork volunteer” (toward the bottom of the page).  Complete the on-line form and answer a few questions about your availability, experience, and interests, and then click “Submit”.  That’s it!  You’ll be contacted by someone associated with the project to schedule your volunteer time.

No experience is necessary.  Free street parking can be found nearby.  There are plenty of great eateries in the area.

Still not sure?  You might want to attend a Volunteer Workshop hosted by Baltimore Heritage on April 15th from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM.  Light refreshments will be provided (free food!!).

See you in Patterson Park!