Phase I and II Archaeological Testing at 321 and 323 South Street, Easton Maryland, Home of the Family of the Buffalo Soldier, 2012

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Jenkins, Tracy H.
Skolnik, Benjamin A.
Leone, Mark P.
The University of Maryland, College Park, Archaeology in Annapolis Project, conducted Phase I and II archaeological excavations of the property in Easton, Maryland, known as the Home of the Family of the Buffalo Soldier (HFBS) from July 9th through July 20th 2012. The Housing Authority of the Town of Easton owns this property, located at 323 South St., and excavations were conducted at the request of Historic Easton, Inc., with the Housing Authority’s permission, and forms a part of The Hill Project to document and publicize the history of the Easton neighborhood known as The Hill, which has been home to a community of free African Americans since the late eighteenth century. This first excavation within The Hill Project successfully tested the potential for research archaeology to serve the interests of The Hill’s resident and descendant communities, and excavation at the HFBS contributed to The Hill Project’s ongoing historic preservation and community revitalization efforts. Four shovel test pits (STPs) and three 5’x5’ test units were excavated in yard spaces. The Hill’s free black community dates to the late eighteenth century. However, documentary and oral history indicated that the standing built environment at the HFBS dated only to the period of the first African American owners of the site, from ca. 1879. Shedding light on the development of the community through time, archaeological remains documented at the site suggest that this period was the first inhabitation of the property, despite the inhabitation of other properties nearby for the one hundred years prior. They indicate that much yard space has been used in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries for activities including gardening, play, and trash disposal. Two US Army buttons from ca. 1900 support the site’s association with Buffalo Soldier William Gardner and his family, who curated his discharge papers in the house. The site remained open to the general public during excavation and was actively interpreted to site visitors. During and since the excavation, the HFBS has received many visitors, including many Hill residents, and has attracted much news interest. As of the summer of 2013, it has been included in regular walking tours of The Hill’s historical heritage. The excavations determined that the archaeological record at the HFBS, and likely across The Hill, is quite intact and can support active research. Both the HFBS and The Hill are therefore eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places under criterion D. Because of the integrity and uniqueness of the archaeological record at the HFBS, we recommend that the site be protected for further archaeological research. However, since the communities’ interest in researching the origins and early development of the free African American community that existed on The Hill during the time of slavery can be more effectively addressed elsewhere in the neighborhood, we recommend that excavation at the HFBS be a secondary priority for archaeologists for the present.