Ar­ti­facts dis­cov­ered at Bayly prop­erty

Dorchester Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@ches­

CAM­BRIDGE — Ar­chae­ol­o­gists from the Mary­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion shared find­ings from a two-week dig Thurs­day, Sept. 20, un­earthing ar­ti­facts from the mid-1800s at one of the old­est prop­er­ties in Cam­bridge.

The Bayly House, at 207 High St., is es­ti­mated to have been built in the 1740s in An­napo­lis. The house then was brought by barge to Cam­bridge, to where it now sits along the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road By­way.

The use of a small dwelling be­hind the prop­erty has long been un­known, al­though the­o­rized to be a for­mer slave cabin.

Julie Sch­ablit­sky, chief ar­chae­ol­o­gist with the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion,

said while the group has un­cov­ered ce­ram­ics, bones and a litany of other ar­ti­facts, there are unan­swered ques­tions about the cabin. Slabs of brick un­der­neath the frame of the cabin in dif­fer­ent ar­range­ments could tell ar­chae­ol­o­gists about the orig­i­nal struc­ture and whether it was re­built, she said.

“We’ve been asked to de­ter­mine whether or not this was a slave cabin. I think the ques­tion we want to an­swer is: Was this a home?” Sch­ablit­sky said. “It was. It was an AfricanAmer­i­can home for peo­ple who served the Baylys un­til about 1900.”

While the team has found hun­dreds of ar­ti­facts dur­ing the past two weeks, one of the old­est items iden­ti­fied is a piece of blue china, es­ti­mated to date to 1830. An­other ar­ti­fact — a medicine bot­tle be­lieved to be a carmi­na­tive — dates back to the 1840s. Both items are chiefly pre­served, she said.

“When this build­ing was closed off as a home around 1900, then sec­on­dar­ily used as an out build­ing or some kind of shed, ev­ery­thing un­der the floor boards is ex­actly how it was in the 1900s, 1890s, when it was used as a home,” Sch­ablit­sky said.

Lo­cal his­to­rian Her­schel John­son said his main fo­cus while re­search­ing the prop­erty has been the names of en­slaved in­di­vid­u­als who lived there. John­son said ac­cord­ing to the 1870 cen­sus, six peo­ple lived on the prop­erty, not in­clud­ing the Baylys, which are listed as “do­mes­tic ser vants.”

“Louise Young stayed with this fam­ily for years; I think she was listed in the will of Dr. Alexan­der Bayly,” John­son said. “They listed these peo­ple as do­mes­tic ser­vants ... Even though it’s cleaned up, they were en­slaved peo­ple.”

Be­fore and af­ter the event, ninth-grade stu­dents from Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester High School as­sisted ar­chae­ol­o­gists dig­ging, clean­ing and ex­plor­ing the site. Stu­dents ro­tated be­tween four sta­tions lis­ten­ing to a lec­ture by John­son and search­ing for ar­ti­facts on dif­fer­ent parts of the prop­erty.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gist Ryun Pap­son said the team digs at each site in in­cre­ments of 1/10th feet, so they can doc­u­ment where items are found as ac­cu­rately as pos­si­ble. Other tools the team use in­clude large sift­ing screens and metal trow­els, which are used to scrape lay­ers of dirt with pre­ci­sion.

“It’s im­por­tant to doc­u­ment how ev­ery­thing is laid out, es­pe­cially for en­slaved peo­ple, be­cause some­times this is the only record you have of them,” Pap­son said.


Lo­cal his­to­rian Her­schel John­son speaks to stu­dents and other at­ten­dees Thurs­day, dis­cussing the his­tory of in­di­vid­u­als who lived in the slave cabin.

Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester High School stu­dents rinse ar­ti­facts Thurs­day, at one of four in­ter­ac­tive sta­tions. Stu­dents also as­sisted dig­ging, sift­ing dirt and iden­ti­fy­ing ar­ti­facts.

Ryun Pap­son, right, ex­plains the dig­ging process within the slave cabin to a Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester High School stu­dent, Thurs­day.


Julie Sch­ablit­sky holds a medicine bot­tle, be­lieved to be a carmi­na­tive, which was dis­cov­ered dur­ing the two week ex­ca­va­tion.

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