Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Days 2 and 3--Progress!

At the end of third day, we are finally making progress and beginning to find some interesting stuff. In the unit where we are hoping to find the privy, we discovered yesterday that the first layer comes down onto two different layers--stratigraphic level 2, which consists of three mounds (one large, two small) of hard-packed sandy loam, surrounded by stratigraphic level three, a mixture of orangish clay and the the same kind of soil that is usually the top layer in a yard. This morning Diamond and I (Bob) excavated strat 2, and as we suspected, it comes down right to strat 3 and has very few artifacts (a few pieces of brick and charcoal and one glass shard). We then began shoveling out strat 3, but discovered that it quickly comes down on the next layer, stratigraphic level 4. Diamond spent most of the day valiantly screening the dirt from strat 3 while I tried to clean up the unit and get it down to strat 4 all across. Unfortunately for Diamond, there were again very few artifacts in strat 3--mostly coal and charcoal, with a few pieces of glass, rubber, and a nail. We didn't quite finish the paperwork for strat 3 before the end of the day, but tomorrow we will begin taking out strat 4. It appears that this new layer has a heavy concentration of mica; we are currently surmising that strat 3 was put down over this layer as a way to cap it, so as to prevent accidental injury on a pile of mica dumped there from elsewhere on the site.

Over in the other unit, where we are hoping to find the remains of an outbuilding, Dave, Thomas and Jacinda worked all day to get down to the layer below the cement block they discovered on the first day. They were rewarded by finding a feature below the second stratigraphic layer in that unit. It appears to be big enough that it might, indeed, be the footprint of a former outbuilding.

Stay tuned for further updates, and pictures from our first week! And remember, we welcome visitors at any time that we are in the field, and if you are interested in volunteering to help us dig or wash and catalog artifacts, contact us at hampdenarchy@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

First Day a Success

The 2006 season of public archaeology in Hampden is officially underway as Dave and I, along with three of our intrepid Baltimore Youthworks assistants (Thomas, Jacinda and Diamond), returned to the Pacific St. site to continue excavations there. We actually began the morning at the Hampden Family Center, washing artifacts from last year while we waited to see if the rain would stop. It did, so we headed out to Stone Hill around 11:30. The first order of business was to lay out a new unit at the back of the yard, where we hope to find the privy.

After lunch, Jacinda and Diamond began stripping the sod off of the unit, while Dave took Thomas over to another unit (laid out a few weeks ago) where we think a small building or shed once stood. Diamond and Jacinda are finding coal, oyster shell, brick, plaster, and some 20th-century coins in their unit--nothing spectacular, but then again, they haven't even gotten past the grass roots yet. Dave and Thomas have discovered a cinder block in their unit; so far, we can't tell if there are others around it, which would suggest the previous existence of a structure, or if it's just a single block. They are also finding glass and ceramic artifacts in the top layer, which doesn't appear to be too deep.

Weather permitting, we'll be back out at Pacific St. tomorrow from about 8:30 to 2. More updates to come!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Annual Field Session to Kick Off Next Week

We are gearing up once again for six weeks of dirt-moving, sweat-from-the-brow-wiping, soil-sifting, artifact-discovering fun! Yes indeed, the time has finally arrived for the beginning of the second annual Field Session in Community Archaeology here in Hampden. The project is great fun because it gives us an opportunity to conduct research in public, with the public, and with local youth who learn about archaeology and heritage while getting paid by Baltimore City's Youthworks program. This summer we are receiving additional support from the Hampden Community Council, the Hampden Family Center, and the Baltimore Community Foundation, so thanks to them!

In addition to excavating at two Hampden sites this summer, we will also be holding a couple of public "dig days" at the sites on Saturdays. One will be on 8 July, and the other on 29 July. These have been a lot of fun in the past, and we encourage anyone interested to watch this spot for further updates.

So, as always, interested parties are welcome any time, but should contact us first by clicking here to send an email. Also, if you'd like some more information, you can check out our web page at the Center for Heritage Resource Studies.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who Was John Knight? (The Long-Awaited Conclusion . . . Sort Of)

The answers to the questions I posed at the end of my last blog post are a bit surprising. In the 1980s a descendant of John Knight contacted the Lovely Lane Museum to find some genealogical information, and at least part of this correspondence has been saved in the vertical file for Hampden United Methodist Church. According to research already done by his descendant (and which I was able to confirm during a trip to the Baltimore County Historical Society Library just this morning), John Knight was the son of one Horace Knight, millwright, and his wife Catherine—née Gambrill. Catherine Gambrill was the first daughter of John Gambrill, one of the founders of the textile industry in Hampden-Woodberry.

What is the significance of John Knight’s family connections? For one thing, the fact that his father was a millwright means that Horace Knight was a skilled artisan, likely a partner of John Gambrill’s at some point. At the very least he was no mere operative. Thus, it would seem unlikely that the grandson of a capitalist and the son of an artisan would himself be a mere unskilled (or little-skilled) mill worker. Indeed, while the photograph of John Knight’s Clipper Road home reproduced in Rev. Stone’s history seems modest enough, the portrait of John Knight himself is striking: he is wearing a full suit and holding a top hat—hardly the attire of a wage worker. So what exactly was John Knight’s position in the mills? Was he, in fact, a manager? And if he was, then why would Rev. Stone, writing in 1917, have suggested (without explicitly saying so) that Knight was an average operative? Was this merely a misinterpretation of source material on Rev. Stone’s part, or did he have some political reason for wanting to represent Knight as a working-class man? What might such a reason have been? Was the MP Church largely a working-class church at this time? Or can it just be chalked up to Christian humility?

My second question was, why did John Knight, whose portrait is reproduced in much of the historical literature produced by Hampden United Methodist Church over the course of the 20th century, disappear from Rev. Stone’s history of the church as soon as worship services left his home and moved to Cox’s Chapel in 1868? According to the letter written in response to his descendant, John Knight was admitted on trial to the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1873. (Recall from my last post that the ME Church, South split from the ME Church over the issue of slavery, with the latter church supporting its continuation.) Knight continued on trial until he withdrew from the church in 1876. During that time, however, he had appointments as a circuit rider (a preacher who traveled to a number of churches over a large area that were too small to have their own full-time ministers) in Howard and Harford counties.

Why (and when) did John Knight leave the MP congregation that he founded? Was it because he felt more in tune with the ME Church, South’s pro-slavery stance? (But keep in mind, the Eastern Conference of the MP Church, headquartered in Baltimore, was also largely pro-slavery—and slavery had been legally ended by this time, anyway.) Why did he subsequently leave the ME Church, South? Did he leave his position at the mills (whatever it was) when he became a circuit rider? Did he go back to the mills after he left the ME Church, South? John Knight died in 1888 in Remington, and the location of his grave is unknown, although his wife, who died in 1919, is buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Hampden—perhaps he joined her in the Episcopal faith. Unfortunately, important parts of John Knight’s life still remain a mystery.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Who was John Knight?

A question I’ve been puzzling over since I first read the history of Hampden Methodist Protestant Church (now Hampden United Methodist Church, on Falls Rd. south of 36th St.) is the make-up of the original members of the congregation, who bolted from the existing Methodist Episcopal Church in Hampden. Were they workers, managers, owners, or middle-class business people? Or were they a motley assortment from all of these groups? I can’t yet say that I’ve found the answer, but after a trip to the Lovely Lane Methodist Museum and Archives (www.lovelylanemuseum.com) right here in Baltimore, I’ve found some intriguing clues.

First, some background on Methodism. Founded in Britain during the 18th century by John Wesley, Methodism quickly spread to the colonies and became particularly popular in the mid-Atlantic states. The Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church was officially organized in 1784. By the 1820s a number of lay Methodists had grown discouraged with the refusal of the church hierarchy to allow lay participation in matters of church governance, and in 1830 they split off to form the Methodist Protestant (MP) Church. Both the ME and MP churches later split again over the issue of slavery; the MP church reunited in 1877, while the ME Church and the ME Church, South remained apart until the reunification of the ME and MP churches in 1939. Shortly thereafter, this new group joined with several other Methodist denominations to form today’s United Methodist Church.

Hampden MP Church was founded in 1867, reportedly because the “Establishment” of the ME Church in Hampden did not approve of the emotional, expressive form of worship preferred by some of its members. The leader of the rebel faction was one John Knight, a resident of “The Clipper” section of Hampden, and he and 34 others decided to form their own congregation and join the Baltimore Circuit of the MP Church. Knight at first held services in his own home on Clipper Road, before Cox’s Chapel (named for Knight’s co-rebel) was built in 1868.

In Edward Stone’s 1917 history of the church, the following description of John Knight appears:

In the main, “The Clipper” is made of small houses built of Falls road stone. These houses are owned by the mill company and rented for a small sum to those who work in the mills. In one of these little stone houses lived John Knight, in whose heart burned a love for Jesus Christ and a yearning to see men saved. How strange to some of us, when God wishes to do a great work, He goes so often among the poor and obscure to find His man. . . . From the cotton duck mills of Hampden village God raised up John Knight and those who labored with him to enter into a great work. (Stone, The History of Hampden Methodist Protestant Church 1867-1917, pg. 10)

Stone clearly implies that John Knight was a humble mill operative, renting his abode from his employers and living a life generally free from luxury. (Stone’s rather uncritical depiction of work in the mills is another story.) Certainly this is the interpretation given in a later document, “A Century of Service, 1867-1967,” published by Hampden Methodist Church (previously Hampden MP Church) on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. But is this correct? Was John Knight really a lowly mill operative? Furthermore, why does he drop out of the story of Hampden MP Church after the construction of Cox’s Chapel?

As is my habit, I will cut off this already overly long post and leave the answers to these questions until a later date.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Does this look like your idea of a good time?

We will be kicking off the summer field season this Thursday down at the Pacific Street site. There is a test unit (pictured above) to be completed, some mapping to do, and most exciting of all, a privy to be located. Bob and I will be there starting at approximately 9:00 AM, and would love to have some company for digging, sifting and general companionship. You don't need to know anything - we'll teach you as you go.

Contact us at hampdenarchy@yahoo.com ahead of time to let us know if you'd like to come out.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Presentation at Roland Park Place/Call for Volunteers

Earlier today Dave and I gave a presentation for the Lunch & Learn speakers’ series at Roland Park Place. We had a large crowd, and they seemed to enjoy our presentation quite a bit. Dave began by giving a Powerpoint presentation recapping the history of Hampden and discussing the results of our excavations last summer. He then passed the baton on to me, and I discussed at length the research I did last fall into representations of Hampden’s heritage, and specifically what those representations can tell us about class consciousness in Hampden during the 20th century (the specifics of which are detailed in my blog posts from last October through early this year).

We then fielded questions for about 20 minutes. We had a number of really interesting questions and comments on various topics, including class consciousness, the history of the mills, social institutions in Hampden, and Hampden’s reputation as a racist enclave. After the presentation was over, we continued to discuss our project with a number of people informally. We had a great time, and found our conversations with people to be most enlightening.

We were pleasantly surprised to have several attendees volunteer their services to help us clean artifacts and perform other lab activities this summer. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to put out a general call for volunteers, both in the field and in the lab. Come one, come all! Archaeologists are not usually known for turning down free labor, and we would really appreciate any help you can give. If you would like more details on how to volunteer (and what you can do to help), contact us at hampdenarchy@yahoo.com or rchidest@umich.edu.