AVW/Area 9/Site 2 (18BA470)

Site 18BA470, also known as Site #4 or AVW/Area 9/Site 2, is the archaeological remains of a mid-19th- to early 20th-century dwelling located near the Middle River area of Baltimore County.

While portions of the historic tract on which 18BA470 is situated were originally patented in 1682 and 1743, the parcel appears to have only been actively used just prior to 1828 by a Benjamin Ferguson. Ferguson was a wealthy shipping merchant from Virginia who also owned a townhome in Baltimore during the first quarter of the 19th century. Aside from his holdings in Virginia and the City of Baltimore, Ferguson also owned several tracts of land in Cecil County and Baltimore County, including his tract in Middle River. In his 1828 will, he indicated that his land as well, as “all building improvements” were to be given to his sister, Charlotte Ferguson. Some time prior to 1846, Charlotte Ferguson died and the parcel willed to Benjamin Ferguson’s two daughters, Lucy A. Gray and Mary Owen. The land fell under the control of the courts and on July 11, 1846 the property was sold by the courts to a Samuel Wilkinson. According to the 1850 Census, Wilkinson appeared firmly settled on the land. The Census shows that Wilkinson left Middle River by 1860. The 1860 Census also shows Wilkinson’s daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Thomas Biddison operated a farm in Middle River. Following the death of Samuel Wilkinson in 1867, the property fell to the executor Thomas Fowler. Two years later, Fowler officially transferred the farm to Wilkinson’s daughter and her husband. The 1870 census describes Thomas Biddison as a 46 year old farmer living with his wife, Rebecca. Following Thomas Biddison’s death in 1880 the property was willed to his daughter, Elizabeth E. Edwards. From 1880 until 1906, archival research is unclear whether the land owner lived on the property or rented it out to tenants. By 1906, William H. Dell was awarded the estate. Dell remained at the estate for 11 years operating the property as a farm. William H. Dell died in 1917 appears to be the last resident of the parcel containing Site 18BA470.

In 1998, a Phase I archaeological survey was conducted, consisting of a pedestrian survey or walk-over and a subsurface investigation. The investigation consisted of 515 shovel tests. It was characterized as a 19th through 20th century residential compound, consisting of a fieldstone and concrete cellar hole, a concrete cellar hole, a circular well, a brick-lined rectangular shaft (a possible privy), and a rectangular formation of fieldstone and concrete thought to be a grave or flowerbed. The excavation also recovered a total of 2,285 artifacts, the majority of which were architectural debris.

In 2005, a second Phase I archaeological survey was carried out at the site. Phase I work entailed the excavation of 74 shovel tests. A total of 137 artifacts were recovered during the 2005 Phase I project. The Phase II work consisted of 284 shovel tests and ten 3 ft. test units. A total of 8,756 artifacts were recovered during Phase II work at 18BA470. The historic artifact recovery was thought to be associated with a mid-19th- to early 20th-century occupation period, given the recovery of creamware, yellowware, white granite, whiteware, North American blue and grey stoneware, machine-cut and wire nails, and other items. The occupation period likely began sometime around 1840 and extended until 1910-1920. The artifacts were mostly confined to the upper two or three organic strata overlying subsoil. In some cases, however, portions of the artifact assemblage were found in deeper strata. The artifact-laden strata were generally classified as yard soils, buried organic layers, or historic plowzones.

Based on the nature and distribution of artifacts in relation to numerous cultural features, Site 18BA470 was thought to consist of two distinct occupations, the earliest existing from the early-to-mid 19th century and the later existing from the late 19th to early 20th century. The material recovery also suggests the occupants of the earlier historic site were likely middle income planters while during the later period the site was occupied by wealthy urban/professional individuals using the area as a second home or country estate. This later interpretation was based on the quality of materials recovered, including imported table wares and recreational items. Of the numerous cultural features identified, a fieldstone and mortar dwelling foundation (Feature 1) and a circular well were likely associated with the earlier historic occupation. A concrete dwelling foundation (Feature 2), burnt/collapsed kitchen (Features 3, 6, 8, and 14) and the circular well were likely associated with the later occupation. In total, three structures were identified, two dwellings and a ruinous kitchen. A possible fourth structure was also identified in the proximity of a large architectural artifact concentration. This fourth structure would likely be an outbuilding associated with the earlier 19th-century occupation.

The Phase II research at 18BA470 revealed that very well-reserved artifact deposits were present in the northeastern portion of the site. This was precisely where the yards and structures associated with the earliest occupation of the site were situated. The outlying west and southern areas of the site, by contrast, had clearly been impacted by plow action and were not considered to be intact.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)


  • Shellenhammer, Jason, Michael Roller, Ryan Papson, Michael McGinnes, Kelly Cooper, and Philip Hill
  • 2005. Phase II Archeological Evaluation of Sites 18BA470, 18BA526, 18BA536, and 18BA538 within Areas 2,5,and 9 on the 1,000-acre+/- A.V. Williams Trust Property Located Between Bird River Road and Leland Avenue in Baltimore County, Maryland. Archaeological Testing and Consulting, Inc.

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