Wilderness Site (18AN596)

The Wilderness site (18AN596) is an intact mid-18th to mid- 20th century farmstead located in the Arundel Mills area of northern Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The above ground remains of a roughly 5.5 X 6.7 m (18 X 22 ft) log dwelling are present at the site, along with the ruins of at least 2 other log outbuildings, and a large brick chimney. The site was first identified during a Phase I survey conducted in 1985 and 1986. In the survey tract which contained 18AN596, survey work entailed only ground reconnaissance, since the site was easily identified by above-ground remains.

The 1987 Phase II work entailed archival research to place the site in its proper historical context, as well as the excavation of 180 STPs and twenty-one 1 X 1 m test units. From the mid- 18th century, into the 20th century, the property on which the site is located was owned by a family of German immigrants and their descendants. The site is situated on a property originally patented (in 1755) as “the Wilderness” tract to Nathan Hammond. In 1762, Hammond sold the property to five German immigrants: Matthew, George, John, and Andrew Harman and Sebastian Hatler in a partnership known as George Harman & Co. Within a few years, the large tract was partitioned into individual holdings. Site 18AN596 is situated within the property partitioned off to Matthew (Matthias) Harman in 1775.

By the 1798 Federal Assessment Matthew Harman’s property had been improved with a large 1 story wooden dwelling house, and 7 outbuildings, with the entire property valued at $240.00. The property was inherited by Matthew’s son John Harman, who operated the property as a farm for his entire life. The property remained in agricultural and domestic use into the 20th Century. The owner of the property in 1899 was Charles A. Disney. He had inherited the property in that year from Julia Anne Harman Disney. The 1899 deed states that Charles was Julia Anne’s grandson, the only son of her son William. Charles Disney’s property was placed in a trusteeship when he was declared a lunatic after lunacy proceedings were held between 1906 and 1911. In 1911 the trustees sold the property to Bruner R. Anderson, who subdivided the property and sold it to others.

A total of five or possibly six partially standing structures were found there. The structures uncovered by clearing consisted of a residence (named Structure 1), a root cellar (Structure 2), a log structure (Structure 3), a possible post-in-ground shed (Structure 4), a modern chicken coop outbuilding (Structure 5), and a possible summer kitchen (Structure 6). Following clearance of the vegetation, the site was surveyed with shovel test pits (STPs) to locate the site boundaries. STP artifact finds helped to define the edges of the site, but did not identify any significant artifact concentrations or activity areas. A number of cultural landscape features were encountered during this initial survey stage of the Phase II testing program. Among these were several access roads, a sawmill area for firewood, a spring, and a possible garden area.

Seven of the 1 X 1 m test units were placed in the vicinity of Structure 1. Seven more units were placed in the vicinity of other structures. The seven remaining test units were situated outside the main yard areas (the portion of the site that was cleared.

The artifact distribution data supports arguments that German settlers did not throw their debris into the yard areas next to their homes. Further, the data seem to indicate that this did not hold true for outbuildings, where trash fell and was apparently not collected. Three of the units with heavy concentrations of debris seem to indicate that there were some special areas for trash disposal. Beyond trash disposal patterns, the units also illustrate that aside from Structure 6 (which was demolished and cleared) and Structure 5 (which is mid-20th century in origin), the buildings were probably used throughout the occupation of the site.

Structures 1, 2, 3, and 6 appear to be the earliest structures on the site. Structures 1, 2, and 3 appear to have been used from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century. Structure 1 appears to have been the main residence at the site. The earliest period of construction of the building consisted of a hall and parlor design with an interior chimney on the hall end of the house. From construction details this period dates to the mid-18th century. The second period was an addition around 1815onto the parlor end. The last period of construction was represented by the addition of two porches onto the front (north side) and rear of the house. These rested on cinderblock piers and are probably early to mid-20th century.

Structure 2 was reportedly a root cellar. Structure 3 was a low log outbuilding of undetermined function. Structure 6 may be the earliest building (probably 18th century) and was the first to be abandoned and it seems likely that this was the house’s original summer kitchen. Structures 4 and 5 appear to have served as an animal pen/open-sided shed, and a chicken coop respectively. The early farmstead complex therefore consisted of a house, a kitchen, a large root cellar, and a small barn. The historic assemblage consisted of some 5,674 artifacts. A minor prehistoric component was encountered at the site.

In conclusion, Site 18AN596 is an intact mid-18th to mid-20th century farmstead. The site was occupied by the same German immigrant family until the early 20th century. The site contains discrete, as well as mixed, archaeological deposits which have the potential for illuminating the study of intra-site function, culture change, socio-economics, and ethnicity of a German immigrant family over a period of a century and a half. There are also good historical and architectural data to act as a control on the archaeological data.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)


  • Wheaton, Thomas, and Mary Beth Reed
  • 1989. Maryland Route 100. Phase II Archeological Investigations. Garrow and Associates, Altanta, GA.

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