Artifacts discovered at Bayly property
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.