House Site #1 (18BA331)

House Site #1 (18BA331) is a late 19th- to late 20th-century tenant house site consisting of a stone house foundation, a well, outbuilding remains, and a cistern located southwest of Owings Mills, in Baltimore County, Maryland.

In 1859, Frederick Dolfield purchased a 160 acre tract of land. Dolfield, originally a cooper, worked the land as a farmer. The 1876 Tax Assessment shows that structures on the land consisted of a frame dwelling, corn house, stable and a tenant house (probably 18BA331). The McClure family is depicted at this location on maps dated from 1877 to 1915. The Moser family reportedly lived in that house, as estate caretaker’s, during the later part of the Dolfield ownership. Frederick Dolfield’s son, Alexander, built the Dolfield summer house in the 1880s. The house was a three-story Victorian structure used as a vacation home. Alexander Dolfield died in 1918, and the title was transferred over to Dolfield’s son, Frederick A. Dolfield. The 1923 tax records show that F.A. Dolfield owned 200 acres containing a dwelling, barn, other buildings, three tenant houses, and a corn crib. This is the earliest specific mention of the house at 18BA332, the black tenant house. In 1951, the property was sold to one-time caretaker Raymond Moser. During the Dolfield ownership, several black and white families squatted on the Dolfield property and adjacent properties. These families lived along Dolfield on the western side of the property and were engaged as chrome miners. Several of the structures in which these families lived burned down. The Moser family never lived in the summer house, which was left unoccupied and was eventually destroyed by fire. Finally in 1986, the Dolfield/Moser property was acquired by a private developer based in Owings Mills.

Site 18BA331 was possibly established as early as the 1850s and by the 1870s, a tenant farm was maintained there by the McClure family (between 1877 and 1915). The grandmother of a local informant and her children moved onto the Dolfield farm ca. 1913, apparently taking over the house at 18BA331. By 1928, the Mosers were tenants. Occupation continued until the house burned down in the 1960s.

Site 18BA331 was identified during a pedestrian survey when field investigators noted that a stove dumped into an old well near the house foundation, as well as a scatter of late 20th-century trash. A Phase I/II archaeological testing program was undertaken in 1989. Phase I investigation at Site 18BA331 consisted 10 shovel test pits and surface reconnaissance. Phase II testing consisted of extensive clearing of vegetation, the excavation of 40 STPs, and a single test unit. The test unit was placed in the southwest corner of the foundation in order to provide a profile of the foundation and to collect a sample of the interior cultural materials. Excavations revealed that the house foundation enclosed a full cellar with a concrete floor. Two stone foundations with concrete and cement caps adjoining the north and south walls were also identified. These form a front and back porch, respectively. To the southwest of the foundation the remains of a frame building were located. This was probably at one time an animal enclosure (chicken coop). A total of 57 historic artifacts were collected from House Site #1 during the 1989 Phase I/II testing.

Site 18BA331 was likely one of the original farms in the area and the use of the site as a tenant farm within the Dolfield estate offers the potential for addressing questions related to socioeconomic differences between the land owners and tenants. Although modern artifacts were collected, the remainder of the assemblage dated to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 18BA332 was occupied by African American tenants while 18BA331 was occupied by Caucasian tenants.

Phase III data recovery operations were carried out in late 1989. A total of 18 test units were dug and 415 square meters of topsoil were stripped in the yard. Feature 2, a large buried 19th-century artifact and food refuse scatter (midden), was found in the east side yard area. It was gridded into fourteen 1 X 1 m units and surface collected. Fifty percent of the units were then excavated to the interface with subsoil. A posthole and a privy feature were found on the west end of the site, near the chicken coop and pen area. The former was not excavated by the usual cross-section procedure because the fill was very loose and contained a very high concentration of artifacts, most of which was glass. Only basic diagnostics were collected. A 1 X 1 m test unit was excavated on the exterior of the north end of the west wall house foundation in order to locate a builder’s trench. Another was placed on the interior southwest corner in order to gain information concerning room use, floor structure, and early occupation data as reflected in the artifact assemblage.

Seven features were identified during the course of the Phase III investigations. Feature 1 was a buried layer of topsoil near the house foundation which appeared to represent builder’s trench fill. The trench had a depth of 1.1 m below surface and tapered in shape. Feature 2 was a large, oval-shaped disturbed scatter of refuse in the southeastern yard. Three discolored circular stains were recorded in the central and northwestern part of the feature. The vast majority of artifacts recovered during Phase III, came from this feature. Feature 3 was the outlet of a 9 cm kitchen drainpipe. Feature 4 was a stain in the upper part of the subsoil whose function is uncertain. Another soil stain in the subsoil, Feature 5, was oval in form and measured 1 X 1.4 m. A posthole was located nearby, which may have been a structural support for a drawer-type privy which an informant placed in this area. The stained area may have resulted from the operation of a drawer type privy at this location. Feature 6 was a trench-like depression located in and below the southwestern part of Feature 2. Feature 7 was situated north of the privy and was a post hole, possibly part of a fence line that bounded the rear and western yard area.

Based on the presence of marked and dated artifacts, it was possible to attribute the contents of some features or strata to either the period of occupation by the McClure family during the late 19th century or the period of occupation by the Moser family during the 20th. The ceramic inventory was composed of common wares dating from the late 19th/mid-20th century. Some porcelain sherds were recovered, including vessel forms from a tea service. However, these upper economic level ceramic sherds were a minor part of the assemblage, probably being gifts or payment for services. Architecturally, the 18BA331 residence, support buildings and features were typically rural in nature. The chicken coop and “drawer” privies represented the area. The on-site well was sufficient for providing fresh water to the occupants, while a cistern located north of the house was used to service 18BA330 and 18BA330a, along with the barn compound located east of the two sites.

The land-use at 18BA331 serviced the domestic needs of the house and/or aided in the farming enterprises. Waste materials were generally removed off-site, but food debris was noticeably higher at 18BA331 than at nearby sites (18BA330 and 18BA330a). Site 18BA331 is the apparent remains of a late 19th-early 20th century tenant house, and likely the oldest house on the property. The excavation work primarily verified the oral and written history of the area.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Payne, Ted, and Martin Reinbold
  • 1991. Phase II & III ArchaeologicaL Investigations Owings Mills New Town, Baltimore County, Maryland. 2 vols. MAAR Associates, Inc., Newark, Delaware.

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