Workers Barracks Site (18BA314)

The Workers Barracks Site (18BA314) consists of the remains of a mid- to late-19th century Irish immigrant multi-residential tenant structure, including the foundation ruins and two intact walls. The site is located in the town of Texas, Baltimore County, Maryland. The village of Texas was a 19th-century Irish Catholic community where limestone quarrying and the production of lime was the principal economic activity. Texas was first settled in 1703 by Joseph Taylor. In 1725, Thomas Cockey purchased Taylor’s improved house and lands. Cockey owned the land until his death in 1737. Cockey’s son, Thomas Cockey Deye, inherited the land at his father’s death. In 1804, John Clark began a small-scale quarrying and lime operation on land that he was leasing from Cockey Deye. The arrival of the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad in the village in 1832 encouraged the limestone business and provided transportation of the product. In the 1840s, Irish immigrants settled and worked at the kilns and quarries or ran local businesses. In 1846, Samuel Griscom purchased a 44 acre parcel on both sides of the railroad that formed the center of Texas. Within a year he was operating a quarry. Griscom built a number of duplexes by 1854 along either side of the railway line. Industry in Texas peaked between 1850 and 1880. By 1852, there were 37 individually owned kilns operating in Texas. The industry gradually declined into the 20th century, due mainly to a lack of modernization, but was revived in the 1930s.

The land tract that Site 18BA314 sits on passed from the Cockey family to the Bosely family to David Griscom sometime prior to 1854. In 1854, the land was purchased by Jacob Burroughs, a prosperous limeburner, who held it until his death in 1859. A small structure postulated to be a quarry-related outbuilding was depicted on an 1854 map. In 1859, A. Denmead acquired the property and sometime before 1866 the multi-residential workers dwelling was constructed on the property. A single family residence, possibly the mine owner’s residence, was built prior to 1866. A station keeper’s house was also built on the property sometime between 1854 and 1866. The 1866 plat records showed a long, two-story multi-residential structure and the single family home. A historical account dated from 1927 suggested that the residential structure was a series of row houses known as "Catholic Row." The housing complex was maintained for Irish kiln and quarry workers. It was destroyed by fire in 1896.

Site 18BA314 was initially identified in 1985 in advance of a proposed highway project. In Phase I archaeological survey, pedestrian survey and probing was followed with subsurface testing. The building remains consisted of standing portions of the east and west end walls. Several features—a pit (Feature 7), a shallow refuse deposit (Feature 3), a deep pit (Feature 4) and a buried refuse deposit (Feature 16) were also discovered.

Phase II site examination was conducted at the site in 1986. Seventeen 2 ft. test units and six 3 ft. excavation units were dug. Excavations in the yard area revealed that the compacted fill deposit of sandy clay and limestone with artifacts dating from the 19th and 20th centuries extended over most of the area around the foundation. Results from the foundation interior evidenced that burning had taken place. In the yard area, the compacted fill contained a relatively equal ratio between the kitchen and architectural groups, and personal and other domestic artifacts were present. An examination of the artifacts recovered from the 3 strata situated below the compacted fill revealed patterns that were probably related to refuse disposal at the site. The lower deposit contained a greater variety of domestic artifact types than the above strata. It may have constituted a localized refuse accumulation placed on the surface of the buried topsoil that represented a disposal area that was maintained during the history of the structure. All 4 units excavated inside the foundation recorded several fill sequences which overlay a burn stratum and refuse deposit. The lower fill levels, burn stratum, and refuse deposit had artifacts that dated from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries that were probably associated with the occupation of the Barracks and its subsequent demolition. A total of 4,346 artifacts were recovered during the Phase II investigations at the site.

Phase III archaeological investigations were carried out at Site 18BA313 in 1990. The objective was to reveal the interior structure of the building in order to determine if it was a series of individual dwellings or a single, large barracks building for workers. Approximately 47 units were excavated in the interior of the foundation, which measured 115 ft. by 35 ft. Five cultural layers were identified in the interior foundation. Several features were also identified in the foundation interior. Feature 15 was a robber trench, Feature 16 was a scatter of bricks, Features 17 and 18 were a trash deposits. Feature 19 was a masonry support. Feature 20 was a small, square-shaped hole that possibly served as a coal chute. Feature 21, a deposit of coal ash and Feature 22 was a posthole. A series of postholes representing porch supports, a cut stone step and a possible northeastern corner entrance were uncovered along the building exterior. Several other features were recognized during the excavations in the north yard area, including two 19th-century privies (Features 36 and 37)and an ash pit (Feature 42). A total of 23,373 historic artifacts were recovered from Site 18BA314 during the Phase III archaeological investigations.

Based on the Phase III archaeological investigations, it was concluded that the fire which demolished the structure occurred during its occupation; the fire prohibited the removal of household furnishings and personal belongings. The variety of gender and age specific artifacts recovered indicated that men, women, and children were living at the residence. It was recorded that the building was destroyed in ca. 1896 and the burned artifacts recovered from Layers B and C generally corresponded to that date stratigraphically. An analysis of the distribution of functional artifact classes was conducted in order to determine interior and exterior use patterns. The majority of kitchen-related items, including food remains, were found in in the northwest portion of the structure. Quad B contained furniture-related items that possibly indicated the location of a living room or parlor. Quad C, like Quad A, appeared to contain artifacts related to kitchen activities. In Quad D, artifacts related to bedroom use and clothing storage were located. Based on general interpretations of activity areas, it was postulated that the structure represented a community plan where the occupants shared living areas but maintained private bedrooms. Historic accounts of the buildings occupation indicated that only 4 families were residing there at any one time.

Three separate functional areas were assessed from the analysis of the distribution of functional artifact classes in the north yard area. Architectural features related to activities near the dwellings included a front porch whose existence was determined by a series of postholes, the entryway to the structure, the possible coal chute, and an ash pit. There were also 2 privies which were used first for waste disposal and secondarily for refuse disposal.

The Workers Barracks Site (18BA314) consists of the remains of a mid- to late-19th-century Irish immigrant residential tenant structure, including the foundation ruins and two intact walls. It was postulated that 4 families lived in the building, with communal facilities such as a kitchen and parlor on each of the two floors. A non-extant, burned 19th-century barn and 2 privies likely serviced the residents. Other support buildings may have existed but were not located within the bounds of the completed archaeological investigations. The yard area around the dwelling was used for recreational purposes as evidenced by the assemblage of leisure-related artifacts.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Payne, Ted, Kenneth Baumgardt, and Betty C. Zebooker
  • 1994. Beaver Dam Road Widening: Phase III Archeological Investigations at Nineteenth Century Irish Workers Residential Sites: 18BA313, 314, and 325, Baltimore County, Maryland. MAAR Associates, Inc., Newark, Delaware.

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