The Two Friends site (18CH308) was a small farm or dwelling occupied between about 1740 and 1780. The project area is located within the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge, near the town of Benedict in Charles County.

Archaeological Investigations

The Two Friends site is located within a 675 acre property owned by the State of Maryland, known as the Murphy and Weidemeyr tracts. An archaeological survey of this entire property was conducted in 1998 by Mary Barse as part of a planned larger study of several state-owned properties along the Patuxent River. Approximately 50% of the Two Friends site was located within a 10-acre field where the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) planned to construct a wetland, designated Area 5. Phase I, II, and III investigations were carried out by the Louis Berger Group, Inc., on behalf of the SHA to survey the proposed wetland mitigation effort.

This site is defined by a moderately dense scatter of 18th-century glass and ceramic artifacts, which include olive amber and olive green free blown bottle glass, white salt-glazed stoneware, Westerwald stoneware, slip-decorated earthenware, and Buckley ware. Brick and dense oyster shell were concentrated along the eastern edge of the hedgerow. Very dark organic soil was concentrated within the zone where the artifacts were recovered on either side of the hedgerow, indicating the presence of midden or refuse disposal pits. It is unknown to what extent these assumed features have been disturbed by the plow, although it is likely that the site's position under the field divide has shielded it from plowing within the last 25 years, based upon the estimated age of the trees growing in the hedgerow. This site is classified as an 18th-century domestic occupation with strong potential for undisturbed contexts.

Phase I surface collecting identified a dense scatter of oyster shell on the field surface, and a noticeable darkening of soil. More than 50 shell fragments were collected in two adjacent 15-foot squares along the western edge of the field. A thin scatter of shell extended about 200 feet into the field, and from the southwest corner north for about 540 feet. About 30 18th-century artifacts were recovered during the surface survey, including green wine bottle glass, a white clay pipestem, brick fragments, sherds of tin-glazed earthenware, white salt-glazed stoneware, British brown stoneware, Staffordshire combed slipware, and coarse red earthenware.

Phase II testing consisted of 19 test units, recovering 250 artifacts and 38 bone fragments and oyster shell fragments.

Phase III testing consisted of an additional 49 3'x3' test units, followed by mechanical stripping and hand excavation of all cultural features. Excavation of the eastern 40% of the site, in the path of the wetland replacement project, exposed about 24 overlapping trash pits filled in around 1760 to 1780. The pits contained evidence of animal butchering and gunflint manufacture, as well as large amounts of wine bottle glass and some ceramics. This part of the site has been interpreted as a work yard. The associated dwelling must have been in the western, unexcavated portion of the site. It was part of a large plantation known as Two Friends, belonging to the Southoron family. 18CH308 does not represent the main plantation house. The presence of high-status artifacts and large amounts of cattle bone suggest that it is also not a slave quarter. Perhaps it was an overseer's residence.

The Two Friends site was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Maryland Historical Trust in March of 2002. During the data recovery excavations, conducted in July and August of 2002, the plowed soil was removed from the site and the area of the trash midden was exposed. The midden consisted of about 20 small pits, each measuring about 1 foot deep and 2 to 5 feet across. Several of the pits contained large amounts of oyster shell, animal bone, bottle glass, and other artifacts dating to the 1740 to 1780 period. Analysis of this material suggested that the excavated area was a work yard where animals were butchered and where craft activities may have been carried out. A residence was obviously nearby, and much residential trash was disposed of in the pits. The social and economic status of the site's occupants is not clear, since the artifact collection had some hallmarks of high status and some of very low status, and the dwelling itself must have been outside the excavated area. The archaeological fieldwork was supplemented by a study of Charles County probate inventories, which was designed to provide additional data on the livestock-raising practices and household possessions of 18th-century planters.

Archeobotanical Studies

Archaeological plant remains were obtained through the water flotation of soil samples retained during the Phase III excavation of cultural features at the site. Twenty-seven soil samples from 14 features (a total of 38 bags measuring approximately 37 liters) were collected. Of these, 12 samples from 6 features (a total of 14 bags measuring 28 liters) were submitted to analyst Justine McKnight for flotation-processing and analysis. Processing yielded 42.22 grams of carbonized plant remains. Overall, plant remains were abundant and diverse, and the condition of recovered organic remains was good.

A variety of economically important wild and cultivated plants were represented in the analyzed assemblage. These include a predominance of wood charcoal (dominated by oak species), carbonized and non-carbonized seeds, the remains of crop plants (corn and possibly bean), and miscellaneous plant materials, including fungal fruiting bodies, monocot stem fragments, rind fragments, and amorphous carbon. The site botanical assemblage is consistent with general domestic refuse disposal. The wood charcoal recovered is dominated by a variety of oak species, and may represent the discarded remains of hearth fires, or possibly burned architectural debris. Cultivated plants are well-represented by the recovery of corncob remains and possibly bean. The carbonized seed assemblage shows a predominance of berries in association with ruderal yard and farm herbs. The presence of non-carbonized seeds attests to the probable introduction of modern agricultural weeds into archaeological contexts, a common occurrence across the coastal plain.


Bedell, John
2003 The Two Friends Site, 18CH308: A Maryland Work Yard and Trash Midden, 1740-1780. Proposed Murphy Wetland Mitigation Area Maryland Route 5 Hughsville Bypass, Benedict, Charles County, Maryland. The Louis Berger Group, Inc. MHT # CH 113.

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