Harmony Hall (18PR305)

Introduction

The Harmony Hall site is a late 17th- to mid-18th-century domestic site located on a ridge overlooking the Potomac River and the mouth of Broad Creek in Prince George's County, Maryland. The site, which is adjacent to a late 18th-century brick Georgian house of the same name, was identified in 1985 when a pre-construction archaeological survey was undertaken in advance of modernizing the standing structure.

The tract on which the site sits was first surveyed in 1662 for 500 acres and was known as Battersea; the patent for Battersea, however, was not issued until 1668 to Richard Fowke. The property was later sold in 1688 to Richard Iles and Phillip Mason. In 1692, Mason sold his half (250 acres), including the property on which the site is located, to Thomas Lewis. In 1696, Lewis willed 100 acres to his eldest son, Richard, noting that Thomas's wife, Katherine, lived on the property. Richard was 11 years old at the time. Katherine was remarried by 1697 and dead by 1698. Richard Lewis inherited the property and, in 1709, sold it to William Tyler.

Thomas and Katherine Lewis had four children in addition to Richard, including Anne, John, Thomas, and Margaret, all minor children at their mother's death in 1698. Thomas's inventory lists no servants or slaves at his death. The inventory was relatively modest, listing 24 pigs, 14 cattle, three horses, 17 sheep, some kitchen equipment, two beds and a "prcell of old Carpenters Tools." Thomas was just 31 years old at his death; had he lived, chances are he would have accumulated more wealth. Circumstances changed for the Lewis heirs who likely remained at the property because, in 1707, Richard was accused of fathering a child with his female servant.

William Tyler owned the property from 1709 until his death in 1721. Tyler was listed as a carpenter and also owned a mill and another parcel known as Clarkson's Purchase. His wife married Henry Massey and probably moved to Massey's plantation.

Documentary evidence suggests that, after Elizabeth Tyler left Battersea for her new husband's plantation, the site remained unoccupied until the 1770s, when the standing brick structure known as Harmony Hall was built. The archaeological evidence recovered from the site supports the site's occupation between 1692 and 1721, indicating that at least two households (Lewis and Tyler) occupied the site consecutively.

Archaeological Investigations

Facade with excavators

Archaeological excavations were undertaken at Harmony Hall between 1985 and 1987 under the direction of Stephen R. Potter. A total of 49 –by-5 foot units were excavated on the property in three areas; one of those areas, located just south of the standing brick Georgian house, contained 17th- and early 18th-century materials. A block of 20 5-by-5-foot excavation units was excavated in this vicinity in an effort to more fully document the earlier component. Soil from all the units was screened through ¼-inch mesh and all artifacts were retained. Stratigraphy at the site includes a modern topsoil and 1930s-era occupation overlying a 19th- to early 20th-century plow zone. A transitional zone from plow zone to subsoil was also observed in the units. These five strata, which covered the entire site, are described in the report but are not included in the database at this time.

Feature 14 was identified as a shallow basin-shaped refuse pit that appears to have been filled in rapidly late in the site's occupation based on a mean ceramic date of 1729.

Feature 17 was identified as a large, late 17th- to early 18th-century borrow pit. Initially, archaeologists thought that Feature 17 was a cellar or other architectural feature due to its large size, roughly straight and parallel edges, the presence of charred wooden members, and an associated post hole and mold. Upon excavation, Feature 17 revealed an irregular bottom, indicating that the feature was a relatively shallow borrow pit excavated to secure clay for making daub or brick. Feature 17 contained two additional features, including Features 63 and 64. Feature 64 was initially interpreted as a hearth with a roughly square shape and fill containing an abundance of charcoal, ash, daub, and soft brick. Ultimately, the excavators determined that Feature 17 was initially dug as a clay source and that the feature was ultimately filled with the burned debris of an earthfast building. Given that both the documentary record and the artifacts from the site indicate an initial occupation date of 1692, it is unclear when Feature 17 would have been initially dug. The size of the feature suggests that it was dug for a large amount of clay, an action typically associated with a site's beginning date of occupation. The artifacts contain dipped white salt-glazed and white salt-glazed stoneware (along with a few fragments of pearlware and whiteware, presumably intrusive), suggesting a fill date no earlier than 1720.

Feature 14
Feature 17, plan view

Feature 22 was a small refuse pit consisting of three distinct levels of fill. Artifacts recovered from the pit suggest that the pit was filled rapidly late in the site's occupation. Although not discussed in the report, Feature 22 may have been initially excavated for clay to repair a daub chimney associated with the late 17th-century house, especially since this house was approximately 30 years old when the pit was filled.

Matt Virta and Nancy Chabot

Feature 24 was identified as a brick clamp that was not fully excavated. No diagnostic artifacts were recovered during the testing, although the archaeologists believe that the clamp is associated with the brick Georgian house and not the site's early colonial component.

Features 41 and 41A were a post hole and mold (A) for an earthfast structure. The feature was typical of post holes and molds associated with the construction of pre-assembled reverse assembly post-in-ground buildings, with a large mold located at one end of a stepped post hole. No artifacts were recovered from the post hole, suggesting traces of a building erected soon after the property was acquired by Thomas Lewis.

Feature 48, which is included in the database, was interpreted as a ca. 1780 or later deposit associated with the brick Georgian house. The feature is, however, located in the vicinity of where the excavators project the southwest corner of the late 17th-century earthfast structure.

Artifacts

The artifacts in the database number 4,955 objects and include materials recovered from feature contexts only, including Features 14, 17, 22, and 48 (Features 41 and 41A, the post hole and post mold, did not include any artifacts). Not included are artifacts from the overlying five strata.

Domestic materials recovered include 620 clay tobacco pipe fragments, 595 ceramic fragments, 294 wine bottle glass fragments, and 362 animal bone fragments. Of the pipe fragments, only two from the late 17th to early 18th century are decorated with rouletted pipe bowl rims. Ceramics include ware types expected for this period, notably tin-glazed earthenware, North Devon gravel-tempered ware, Buckley earthenware, Staffordshire slipware, Rhenish blue and gray stoneware, English brown stoneware, dipped white salt-glazed stoneware, and white salt-glazed stoneware. Pearlware, whiteware, and Rockingham ware are associated with the later occupation of the property.

Architectural artifacts include 201 brick fragments, 967 iron nails (not all wrought), 4 iron hinge fragments, and 3 window leads.

Small finds include 9 glass beads, three buckles, three gunflints, two copper alloy straight pins, two buttons, one button, one iron hoe, one iron ladle, one pair iron scissors, and one iron lock.

Only 325 of the 1,424 recovered animal bone fragments were identifiable (the total reported exceeds the numbers reported for the features included in the database). Cow, pig, sheep, chicken, deer, goose, duck, teal, catfish, snapping turtle, and box turtle comprised the food species; bones from a dog were also identified. Beef and pork constituted the greatest consumed meats, forming nearly 93 percent of the meat weight in the faunal assemblage.

References

Sonderman, Robert C., Matthew R. Virta, Marilyn W. Nickels, and Stephen R. Potter. 1993. Archaeology at Harmony Hall: Exploring the Late Seventeenth-Century Frontier of Maryland. Occasional Report No. 9, Regional Archeology Program. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service-National Capital Region.

Further Information on the Collection

The Battersea/Harmony Hall (18PR305) collection is owned by United States and curated by the National Park Service. For more information about the collection and collection access, contact Bob Sonderman, Director, Museum Resource Center at 410-586-8583; email bob_sonderman@nps.gov.

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