Site 18FR787 is an early 19th-century site with a privy, located at 22 South Market Street, in downtown Frederick, Maryland.

Archaeological Investigations

The offices of the Federated Charities of Frederick occupy the site, and the Maryland Historical Trust holds a Preservation Easement on the property.

Phase I testing on the site in 2000 documented that it has been impacted by several construction and demolition episodes over the last 100 years. Archival investigations revealed that the area had been completely developed by the 1830s, with a good portion under standing buildings by that time. Research and testing also documented that the area was substantially filled prior to development in the 19th century. As much as three feet of fill was deposited to raise the ground surface above the flood stage of the frequently flooded Carroll Creek.

In 2001, R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates conducted monitoring of demolition and excavation activities at the rear of the property. This confirmed deep fill deposits and a possible buried A horizon corresponding to those recorded during Phase I unit excavation. Associated construction efforts revealed a brick feature, possibly a privy or cistern. Limited data recovery on the feature was carried out, revealing a brick-lined privy which predated the extant structures at the site.

Artifacts recovered in the privy included a variety of ceramics, with a minimum vessel count of 62 vessels; bottle glass; an 1828 fifty-cent coin; several buttons; assorted glass, metal and brick artifacts; and faunal remains. Stratigraphy of the soils around the privy clearly showed several fill episodes. The artifact assemblage observed during monitoring indicated that the fill activities and a mixing of the soils was an ongoing process through recent times. Modern trash was observed in most strata within the project area. Only within the privy deposit were artifacts found uncontaminated and in context.

Archeobotancial Studies

Phase III data recovery of the brick-lined privy included the retention, processing, and analysis of unstratified feature fill. Samples were processed using a modified SMAP-type flotation system at the Frederick office of R. Christopher Goodwin and associates, and Justine McKnight did the analyses. A total of 26 liters of cultural fill was processed from the privy. This comprised approximately 3 percent of the entire feature deposit. The flotation sample was divided into ten separate bags for processing; the samples all relate to a single provenience.

Recovered archeobotanical remains included both carbonized and non-carbonized plant parts. Wood charcoal totaled 33 specimens, with hickory and white oak woods identified. Non-carbonized wood fibers totaled 122 fragments, with pine, red and white oak, and walnut family woods identified. Nut remains were unburned, and included almond (2 fragments) and chestnut (1 fragment). A single carbonized bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) fragment was recovered. All other seed remains were uncarbonized. These seeds were the most abundant and diverse class of plant material recovered from the cistern. A feature total of 38,526 specimens was estimated. Twenty-two distinct taxa were identified, representing both woody and herbaceous plants, and including both cultivated and ruderal species. Identified taxa included: raspberry or blackberry (14,355 seeds), strawberry (10,033), tomato (5,377), buttercup (4159), grape (2,166), apple (1,438), cherry (622 seeds), squash (26 seeds), blueberry (25 seeds), pumpkin (18 seeds), morning glory (12 seeds), persimmon (9 seeds), watermelon (8 seeds), cucumber (3 seeds), wheat (1 seed), knotweed (1 seed), poke (1 seed), Kentucky coffee-tree (1 seed), and muskmelon or cantaloupe (1 seed). Miscellaneous plant remains recovered included abundant deciduous leaf fragments, grass stem/leaf fragments, an unidentifiable rind fragment, and two pieces of muskmelon/cantaloupe rind.

The archeobotanical materials contained within the Federated Charities Cistern provide an opportunity to examine yard features associated with early 19th-century working class families in Frederick, Maryland. Plant macro-remains recovered from the privy reveals details of daily life and the organization and use of land (yard) space. Specifically, archeobotanical analysis has yielded an abundance of plant material relating to waste management, diet, privy construction, and landscape.

The Federated Charities Cistern contained both carbonized and non-carbonized plant remains. Non-carbonized seeds occurring within archaeological soil samples from open-site environments are usually considered to be modern. However, privy contexts often constitute an exception to this rule, as is the case here. The preservation of paper and textile fragments in association with non-carbonized archeobotanical materials suggests that the non-carbonized plant remains are contemporaneous with period artifacts recovered from same contexts.

The archeobotanical assemblage provides valuable subsistence data. The recovery of vegetable-garden remains and cultivated fruits or orchard products attest to the importance of these plants in the subsistence economy of the site. The wheat, bean, squash, and pumpkin seed identified document the importance of agricultural staples to site residents. The remains of poke, persimmon, and possibly the raspberry/blackberry and grape recovered suggest that locally-available wild plant products contributed to the diet. The recovery of common garden weeds such as poke, buttercup, and morning glory suggest that fruits and vegetables may have been grown in small, intensively-cultivated back-yard gardens. The recovery of almonds and Kentucky coffee-tree are interesting deviations from the assemblage of otherwise locally-abundant products. Almonds were never successfully propagated along the Atlantic seaboard, and attempts were abandoned by the middle 1850s. The recovered almond may represent a luxury item imported for rare consumption. Kentucky coffee-tree, while not native to Frederick County, was a popular ornamental tree which was propagated throughout the region. The recovered seed may be the product of an arboreal feature of the home landscape.

Archeobotanical remains often provide strong markers for seasonality, and the data from the Federated Charities privy suggest some seasonal patterns. Based on the botanical remains recovered, it is evident that garden, orchard, and field crops were important to site residents. If these staples were propagated on-site, their products would have been available for consumption or processing during the summer and early autumn. However, determining seasonality is difficult, as almost all of the comestible plant remains documented at the site constitute readily storable foods, and the specimens recovered from archaeological contexts may represent preserved foods used at any time of the year.

All wood taxa identified within this assemblage are native to the project area. The identification of oak, pine, and hickory species attest to the use of locally-available forest resources which were affordable, good for fuel, and well-suited to building construction. Both wood charcoal and non-carbonized wood fibers were recovered. The charcoal may have entered archaeological contexts as discarded fireplace ash, and the non-carbonized pine fibers may represent decayed building materials from the privy superstructure.

Improvements in urban sanitation from the nineteenth century onward included the routine removal of privy fill, and it is likely that much of the cultural material examined from the privy was episodic fill deposited just prior to feature abandonment (c. 1830). Fruit seeds and pits were the most common elements identified from the Federated Charities privy, and the assemblage included many species with durable seed coats (which can travel unharmed through human digestive tracts) that are routinely recovered from historic privies. The seeds and pits of comestible fruits and other food remains may also have entered the archaeological record as kitchen trash disposed of in the privy.


Markell, Anne B. and Kathleen M. Child
2002 Archeological Monitoring at the Federated Charities Offices, 22 South Market Street, Frederick, Maryland and Excavation of a Brick-Lined Privy at 18FR787. An Addendum to Phase I Archeological Investigations at 16 and 22 South Market Street, Frederick, Maryland. R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates for Federated Charities Corporation of Frederick.
Markel, Ann B. and Katherine Grandine
2000 Phase I Archeological Investigations at 16 and 22 South Market Street, Frederick, Maryland. R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates for Federated Charities Corporation of Frederick.
McKnight, Justine W.
2002 Botanical Report: Analysis of Flotation-recovered and Waterscreen-recovered Archeobotanical Remains from the Federated Charities Cistern. Appendix III to Archeological Monitoring at the Federated Charities Offices, 22 South Market Street, Frederick, Maryland and Excavation of a Brick-Lined Privy at 18FR787. An Addendum to Phase I Archeological Investigations at 16 and 22 South Market Street, Frederick, Maryland. R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates for Federated Charities Corporation of Frederick.

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