Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Monday, November 28, 2005

Religion in Hampden

Just today I've written a little bit about religion in Hampden, using as my source a book entitled The History of Hampden Methodist Protestant Church, published in 1917 (the 50th anniversary of the founding of that church) and written by then-pastor Edward D. Stone. Not unsurprisingly, this church history is devoid of any mention of class struggle or the hardships of life in an industrial community. Perhaps more surprisingly, there is practically no mention of Hampden's industries. This book begins, naturally enough, with the story of the founding of the church, and it is in this section that the cotton mills and the foundry are mentioned for the first, and only, time. According to the author, the Hampden of the mid-19th century "was just a plain old-fashioned country village going along in its easy way," one in which there just happened to be cotton mills and a foundry. Despite the monotony of long hours in the mills, "The people in the village were . . . just country folks moved to town. . . . the hard evil things of the great city had not yet found root in the village" (pg. 8-9). Indeed, due to the "good business sense of the leading men of affairs" of the time, even in 1917 the sale of intoxicating beverages within a mile of the mills was prohibited.
Built in 1868, the history of the church is told as a triumphal history, one in which the good citizens of Hampden faced many serious challenges and overcame them all. Originating from a schism within the Methodist Episcopal church, the Hampden Methodist Protestant Church allied itself with the Baltimore circuit of the Methodist Protestant Church and began holding meetings in the home of one of its members. Soon the home was not big enough, and a small building was erected; again, the church quickly attracted so many members that it needed an even larger building. And of course, in later years renovations were needed and parsonages were constructed. Each time, the church nearly ran out of money to complete the task, miraculously finding it only at the last minute and through the devotion of its members (chapters 1-4).
Great emphasis is placed on the evangelism of the church. Hampden was a community that loved camp meetings, and its churches did not hesitate to supply this service. According to Rev. Stone, Hampden M.P. church became famous throughout its circuit for its revivals. Indeed, declared Stone, "Soul-saving can never be a side issue with the church that follows Jesus. It can never be an appendix, it must be the supreme business always" (pg. 22; emphasis in original). Descriptions of these revivals printed in the Methodist Protestant Church newspaper proclaimed the conversions of hundreds of souls in Hampden on a regular basis from 1867 to 1882, and Stone himself took responsibility for over one thousand conversions between 1913 and 1917 (pg. 22-25).
The middle part of the book is concerned with great individuals in the church's history, and especially its various pastors. This section is succeeded by chapters on the Emmanuel and Queen Esther Bible classes, for adult men and women respectively, as well as other church organizations. The description of the phenomenal growth of the Bible classes during the 1910s, and the zeal of their members for converting others, is enough to make one wonder how many of Hampden's residents weren't members of this church. Indeed, Stone claimed that his church had gained international notoriety, and a picture of the congregation's "native pastor," Rev. Yotaro Koizumi (who was spreading the message in Nagoya, Japan), is even included. The penultimate chapter of the book (chapter 15) consists of a number of songs and verses that were written by various members of the church, and the last chapter ends with the following verse (pg. 104):

One more day's work for Jesus,--
How sweet the work has been,
To tell the story,
To show the glory,
Where Christ's flock enter in!
How it did shine
In this poor heart of mine!

One more day's work for Jesus!
Oh, yes, a weary day;
But Heaven shines clearer,
And rest comes nearer,
At each step of the way;
And Christ in all
Before His face I fall.

Oh blessed work for Jesus!
Oh rest at Jesus' feet!
There toil seems pleasure,
My wants are treasure,
And pain for Him is sweet.

Indeed, the theme of this verse runs throughout the book: the salvation of souls as a kind of work that makes one weary while also providing the deepest sense of satisfaction. However, I don't feel that all of this can be taken as evidence that religion in Hampden served to distract people from their position as exploited workers in the mills, as some scholars have done in other contexts. In fact, in many cases labor activists of the late 19th century used Biblical rhetoric to support their cause, as prominent labor historian Herbert Gutman has argued, and Methodism in particular was crucial to the formation of class-consciousness in England earlier in that century, according to even more prominent labor historian E.P. Thompson. So, the role of religion in Hampden during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is still a little bit fuzzy.

I haven't had a chance to look at other church histories from Hampden, but I do know that several exist, including histories of the Presbyterian and Baptist churches. (I am still trying to obtain a copy of the Presbyterian church history, and the Baptist church history is available through interlibrary loan.) If anyone knows of any other Hampden church histories, I'd love to know about them. There is also a recent doctoral dissertation about cross-racial appointments in the Methodist church using Hampden as an example, written by Paul Choonam Kim, then a pastor at the Hampden and Mt. Vernon United Methodist Churches. Unfortunately, the dissertation is written in Korean, a language which I cannot read. So, if anyone out there can translate Korean, or knows how to contact Rev. Kim, I'd much appreciate it.

AAA meetings this week

Both Bob and Dave G. will be presenting our research at the American Anthropological Association meetings in Washington, DC this week. The meetings start Wednesday, and our session, chaired byDave G. and fellow community archaeologist Jodi Barnes, will focus on archaeology as a tool for activist research. Our session is Friday from 1:45 to 5:30 p.m. in the Mariott Wardman Park Hotel, easily accessible by the Red Line Metro.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Check out the new piece about Hampden archaeology in December's Urbanite, available all over Baltimore, FOR FREE. Some nice photos and a nice piece in general. My only regret is that they do not, anywhere, mention the fantastic support that we received from Hampden Community Council this summer. As soon as they post the article on the Urbanite website, I'll post a link.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hampden Reservoir

Originally uploaded by Megananopod.
This afternoon, I've been editing transcriptions of oral histories recorded by the 1979 Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project. The project recorded oral histories all over Baltimore in 1979. A number of them remain untranscribed, and the tapes are stored in the special collections department at the University of Baltimore. Recently students from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland have begun to work on the transcriptions as part of the Hampden Heritage project. Those texts are then posted on the project website. They are really good sources of information about Hampden's past and make for good reading.

Two of the ones I edited today mentioned the Hampden Reservoir. Engineer James Slade designed the reservoir in 1861, and it remained in Roosevelt Park for nearly 100 years.

During its time, the reservoir provided first drinking water, and later fed the city's fire hydrants. Shortly before 1960, crews building the Jones Falls Expressway began to fill in the reservoir with their excavation spoils, to the consternation of many community members. The site of the reservoir is now a series of open athletic fields.

One Hampden community member, interviewed in 1971, remembered that the city just began to fill in the lake one day, without community consultation:

I guess that was the beginning. I became concerned, because I learned at that time that the residents and the property owners in Hamden had no say, whatsoever, when Baltimore City officials made up their mind to do something. It made no difference whether they were going to tear a street up, whether the residents wanted it or didn’t want it, the street was going to go. Even with considerable opposition, with legal help…with paid legal help, Baltimore City did what they wanted to do. The beginning was the Hamden reservoir, which had been there for many, many, many, many years-- way before the 1900s...The first time that anyone from Hamden, the residents, knew that the lake was being disposed of was when the fence was torn down and there were dump trucks and dirt being dumped in along the edge by Potts and
Callahan, who were under contract by the city to build the Jones-Falls
Expressway. See, dirt had to be disposed of, obviously, but the residents
did not know of the plans for the disposition of the dirt from the causeway,
when they level it off and fill it out. So the contract was left with Potts
and Callahan with the understanding to fill in the Roosevelt park lake, because
it was closer to the excavation of Jones-Falls expressway. In that sense they wouldn’t have to haul the dirt as far so the city agreed to let them fill in the lake, and that’s exactly what they did. From that time on I swore to stay as knowledgeable as I could with what was going on around Hamden. Later on, I started to attend the Baltimore City council meetings every Monday night, the Zoning Commission on Tuesday, and the Liquor Board hearings.

Another Hampdenite, active for many years in the machine politics of the Trenton Democratic Club, tells a very different story:

Interviewer: In the 60’s and then the Trenton Democratic club and the Trenton Democratic Club was still strong in the 50’s. Is that right? Okay, in the 50’s there was talk about filling in the reservoir a couple of times, one or twice, and people got upset. And that what I know about people can call on the community issue, what is there any way you would act or did act?

Response: Yes. I was called by several people they said that they was having a meeting in the Hampden Methodist Church and that I won’t mention the man’s name, the man in charge of the Department of Woodbridge of (?) circle said that we was going to be there and… So, I called Jack Pollack and told him about the meeting and I said I was going to be there and wanted to get all the facts and everything and I wanted to get with you. Pollack said, “Maybe tomorrow and come over to my office and tell Ms. Herbert what you think.

Anyway, he had all the plans there and everything, there having been a kid and swam there a couple times, I have hurt myself . I know of others that got hurt because of the way the lake was slanted and all. It was not being used at that time and after I got all the facts together. And then I all considered, what’s involved, who is involved and why? We as human beings, we have our doubts about any kind of change. Any change we like is getting a new car. We have a dislike of , why you gonna put that light over there why you put it there; it got to be a reason for that.

Anyway, I went down and attended the meeting. They had the plans and everything down there and they had the architect and grant and all the blueprints and I look things over and then I tried to close my eyes and tried to make a mental picture of what it would be, what it was now and what is now, what it’s gonna be.

Actually , sure I could show you a picture of it. I got picture of it downstairs; you want to see it? Did you want to see it? I went to Jack the next day and I said Jack, “I said I have been personally involved because we were kids we dove off the granite building”. Down at the end and it is about as big as the room here and kids used to climb up and the stone stuck out about that far from the climb up on that and you could see the cobblestones, the cobblestone bottom there, if you don’t cut real quick you and
see. But as kids this isn’t a challenge here and I know several that got hurt . I was convinced that was a better thing.

I think the two accounts are a really interesting illustration of different approaches to civic engagement in Hampden, and particularly into the power of Democratic machines in running this town until very recently.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Historical research on Hampden

Hello again. Like Dave, I have shamefully allowed my contribution to this blog to lapse. However, I plan to begin a regular series of postings updating you on the historical research I'm doing while we are not in the field. I'm currently working on a paper that will be an analysis of the different ways in which Hampdenites and others have represented Hampden, and specifically its heritage, throughout the 20th century. In addition to the ethnographic observation of HonFest which I undertook this past summer, I have been collecting as much written material as I can find on the history of Hampden. While we usually think of historical documents as being things such census reports, newspaper articles, personal letters, diaries, etc., for the most part I am not looking at these kinds of things (newspapers being the exception). Rather, I am using what would normally be considered to be secondary sources--histories of Hampden and individual institutions within the community (such as churches), the programs for the 50th and 100th anniversary celebrations of Hampden's annexation to Baltimore, and other such things. Essentially, the paper that I am writing will consist of an ethnographic interpretation of these documents, with the goal of tracing the ideas and themes that have characterized the way that people think about Hampden, and especially how these ideas have changed over time.

In addition, I am trying to locate information that will help me to contextualize some of the community institutions that have been important in Hampden at various points, including the Sovereigns of Industry in the 1870s, the Junior Order of the United American Mechanics in the late 19th century, and the Improved Order of Red Men from the 1890s to the present. Oddly enough, the Labadie Special Collection at the Hatcher Library of the University of Michigan, where I am currently a student, seems to be the only place in the country that has information on the Sovereigns of Industry--quite fortuitously, for me.

So, like Dave, I will try to post to this blog about once a week, updating our readers on what sources I've been able to acquire and how I am interpreting those sources. I would love to hear feedback on my interpretations, especially if you disagree, since a Hampdenite's perspective on these sources will undoubtedly be very different from my own--and also since these perspectives in themselves will help to sharpen the ethnographic understanding of Hampden that is so important to our project.

Friday, November 11, 2005


This so-called "blog" has suffered immensely from neglect, and I have been feeling guilty about it. SO, this is my online pledge to you, gentle reader, that I will post at least once a week. It will probably be on Fridays, but maybe also on Tuesdays.

I hope that nobody minds if provide a brief recap of what this blog is about and the project that it is linked to. We (Bob and I) are archaeologists for the Center for Heritage Resource Studies at the University of Maryland. We are not paid for this distinction, except for when we can raise money through grants that pay us. Bob is also a PhD student at University of Michigan, and I am a PhD student at American University.

We started thinking about this project in the spring of 2003, while finishing our master's degrees at the University of Maryland. Bob had a strong interest in labor archaeology and history, and was preparing a survey of labor archaeology sites in Maryland. I had a strong interest in responsible and community archaeology, as well as the archaeology of the Chesapeake. I also lived in Hampden, and had, in wandering around the neighborhood, become interested in its history. We decided to undertake a community archaeology project in Hampden together. We envisioned a project that would involve as many community members as possible in as much decision-making as possible while incorporating history, archaeology, and ethnography.

I began by researching area history and writing a small grant to fund public history workshops. The plan was to hold three of these workshops in order to try to understand how people in Hampden thought about their history and, in turn how we should proceed with our research. After getting a small grant from Maryland Humanities Council we held three such workshops in the fall of 2004. Guest speakers (Bill Harvey, Bill Barry and Bob Chidester) lead the attendees in lenghty discussions of heritage issues in Hampden.

One of the things that these discussions verified for us was that Hampdenites have a strong sense of history and heritage, and that it factors into their contemporary consciousness. Another insight was that many peoople who live here divide the neighborhood into "Old Hamdpen" and "New Hampden", and that this division has all kinds of consequences for social life in Hampden. Hampdenites also told us that they were concerned with issues of class, race, gentrification, family structure and gender, and labor.

From these workshops, we developed a loose research design to guide our future archaeological research. It is available for download at our Website, along with several newly transcribed oral histories from the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project. With the generous help of three landowners, we were able to find three sites in Hampden, dating from three different eras to begin our archaeological explorations.

We began in July of 2005 with a group of kids from the Baltimore City Youthworks program and the Hampden Community Council, who provided generous funding for the project. We excavated at three sites, recovering hundreds, if not thousands of artifacts from our test units. We held two site open houses and, I think, accomplished a great deal over the course of the summer.

We are currently seeking additional funding to continue the project next summer. We are also in the process of cleaning, cataloging, and interpreting artifacts, a process that is quite painstaking. Since Bob and I are currently in school, this is proceeding more slowly than expected. We hope, however, to have a brief report on our initial excavations by the spring.