Archaeologists Find Forgotten Graveyard

PORT TOBACCO, Md. (July 30, 2008)—Archaeologists uncovered four Colonial period graves and the remains of a fence that bounded the cemetery during a two week study of historic Port Tobacco. At least one of the graves is that of a child.

Volunteers from across Maryland, as well as from New York and New Jersey, participated in the excavation of four sites that had been identified during an archaeological survey of the Colonial town site last fall. Project sponsors included the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco, Charles County's departments of Planning and Economic Development, the Maryland Historical Trust, and the Archeological Society of Maryland.

Discovery of the graveyard has brought the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project very close to identifying the exact spot on which an Anglican Church stood between the 1680s and 1709. Excavators recovered pieces of clay daub from above and within the graves. Those fragments of burned clay, one of which is the size of a baseball, likely had been used to plaster the fireplace and chimney of the wooden church.

Very few historic artifacts were recovered from above the graveshafts and most of those are associated with a nearby house site that may have been built as much as 200 years after the church was constructed. The replacement church constructed of brick in 1709 may have been located near the present reconstructed courthouse. No brick was recovered from the cemetery.

Local residents and historians have long known of the community cemetery on the north side of town. It was used throughout the 1800s but was buried by sediment around the turn of the 20th century. No effort has yet been made to relocate it.

The graves uncovered in June have been mapped, but will remain unexcavated. The uncovered graves are approximately 160 feet south of the outline of the 1886 Episcopal Church. Future excavations will continue to explore the cemetery with the goals of determining its extent, the number of graves, and the location of the church.

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