AVW/Area 2/Site 3 (18BA526)

Site 18BA526, also known as AVW/Area 2/Site 3, is a late 19th-century artifact concentration located near the Middle River area of Baltimore County.

The site area is likely affiliated with William J. Vanness (or Vannass). The first record of Vanness is an 1857 Map of Baltimore City and County, where a property and house are indicated in this area south of a local road. Three years later, the 1860 US Census has a single record for William J. Vanness in Maryland. The Vanness the census describes was a merchant who lived in the 14th Ward of Baltimore City. William J. Vanness was likely an absentee owner who employed a caretaker to live on and operate his property. In 1866, Vanness sold his property to Mary Howell. In the 1870 Census, Mary Howell (62) is indicated as living in Middle River with her husband, David Howell (41). The couple is described as being immigrant farmers from Wales. In 1883, the house owned by Mary and David Howell was willed to their son Henry, who likely remained at the estate until his death in 1915. According to documentary evidence, Henry Howell appears to be the last resident of the parcel containing the site.

The site was first identified in 2005 during a Phase I archaeological survey of a 1,000 acre property slated for development of a business campus. The site was identified based on the presence of 50 historic artifacts found in 17 shovel test pits. The material recovery appeared to be confined to an upper disturbed plowzone layer. No intact cultural features were found in the site area. After examining the data, the site was classified as an artifact scatter connected with a 19th-century domestic occupation.

Phase II work in 2005 at 18BA526 consisted of 193 shovel tests. The artifacts were found to be fairly evenly distributed over the site area with a rather wide dispersal of materials. However, a concentration of artifacts was identified in the western portion of the site area. After examining the nature and distribution of the artifacts, six 3 X 3 ft. test units were excavated. One hundred twenty-one shovel tests and all six test units produced positive artifact recoveries. A total of 2,417 artifacts were recovered. By quantity, the recovery consisted of the following: 2 prehistoric artifacts, 2,324 historic artifacts, and 91 modern objects. The two prehistoric materials were quartz and chert debitage, both of which were identified within disturbed modern plowzone.

The Phase II data suggest a small, but long-term domestic occupation at the site. This view was supported by the extensive recovery of domestic and architecture-related materials. The residence was likely occupied between 1840 and 1914, based on the presence of creamware, Rockingham, Jackfield, Bristol/Albany Slip stonewares, and manganese-tinted glass. Those occupying the site were likely farmers who have been connected with the Vanness and/or Howell families. The artifact recovery was confined to organic strata overlying subsoil. These strata were classified as exposed and buried plowzones.

No intact masonry or other architectural features were identified during Phase II work at 18BA526. However the presence of so much domestic and architectural material suggests that substantial residence was once present. It was thought likely that the site represents an extension of nearby site 18BA517 where a possible structure was encountered. Based on the quantity and nature of the artifacts, the residence was thought to have been occupied for several generations. The nature of the ceramic assemblage suggests that site occupants were middle income planters.

(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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