Phase I and II Archaeological Testing at the Talbot County Women’s Club, 18 Talbot Lane, Easton, Maryland, 18TA439


The University of Maryland, College Park, Archaeology in Annapolis Project, conducted Phase I and II archaeological excavations of the Talbot County Women’s Club (TCWC) in Easton, Maryland, from July 8th through July 26th, 2013. This site is located at 18 Talbot Lane. The Women’s Club granted permission for this excavation as a part of The Hill Community Project to document and publicize the history of the Easton neighborhood known as The Hill and of the community of free African Americans that coalesced around this neighborhood in the nineteenth century. Following on the heels of the 2012 successful public excavation of the Home of the Family of the Buffalo Soldier (HFBS), this second public excavation within The Hill Community Project sought more information on early members of the free black community and on the material conditions of tenants living on The Hill in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. It also continued archaeologists’ efforts at the HFBS to test the capability of archaeological sites of bringing together people of different backgrounds to forge a more open, civil discourse about the past. To these ends, archaeologists conducted a shovel test pit (STP) survey of yard spaces at the Women’s Club and opened seven test units to further investigate activity areas and construction phases, while maintaining a public dig site. While the HFBS excavation focused on African-American landowners from 1879 to 2002, the Women’s Club excavation focuses on the non-landowners who lived here from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries in order to highlight the diversity of experiences among neighborhood residents through the years. These residents included enslaved and free African Americans in the nineteenth century and tenants of unknown ethnic background in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today, upwards of two thirds of the residents of The Hill rent their homes. The high rate of tenancy has been identified as a major contributor toward the gentrification processes that currently threaten the integrity of the African American community by pushing black families from dilapidating homes and demolishing historic community and racial landmarks in attempts to remove blight from the neighborhood. Excavations at the Women’s Club therefore sought more information on the material conditions of tenancy and the ways in which community can exist even without home-ownership. The most promising archaeological materials for addressing these questions at the Women’s Club are a nineteenth-century kitchen used by both enslaved and free cooks and a sheet midden created by the several families renting the property from 1891-1946.