Howard-McHenry Mill (18BA100) was the site of an early to late 19th-century mill and tenancy complex owned by Cornelius Howard and James Howard McHenry in Baltimore County, Maryland. This small enterprise, in operation between 1798 and the 1880s, contained the archaeological remains of a flour mill with its associated mill race, tail race, and stone weir, two associated domestic structures, a dairy or cold storage facility, a stable, and three fencelines.

Howard-McHenry Mill was typical of the rather small-scale flour mills that emerged in the Baltimore region during the 19th century. The flour trade promoted harbor improvements and opened new trade routes, stimulating Baltimore City’s rapid growth during this period. This collection also allowes a rare archaeological glimpse of the wealth and social status of tenant millers in 19th-century Baltimore County.

Archaeological Investigations

Howard-McHenry Mill was identified in 1973 during a Phase I archaeological reconnaissance for the Northwest Transportation Corridor. Artifacts, including nails, bottle and window glass, and ceramics, recovered in three test pits revealed a 19th-century occupation at the location.

The Maryland Geological Survey conducted a subsequent Phase II investigation of 18BA100 between October 1981 and April 1982, under the direction of Silas Hurry and Maureen Kavanagh. A pedestrian reconnaissance of the site revealed a number of cultural features on the surface. Three hundred and forty-four shovel test pits, measuring 30 to 40 centimeters in diameter, were excavated to subsoil across the site at intervals of 2.5 meters. All soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh, and all cultural material was retained. Soil samples were also taken from the A horizon at three-meter intervals to collect soil chemistry information. Based on artifact concentrations and the locations of structural remains, six one-by-one-meter units, one one-by-two meter unit, and one 3-by-.5-meter trench were excavated. Excavation of these test units followed natural stratigraphy to sterile subsoil, and all dirt was screened through ¼-inch mesh. Four trenches were then mechanically excavated to test post-occupational disturbances on the site peripheries and to investigate surface features. Approximately 310 square meters of overburden soil was mechanically stripped to expose architectural features. Archaeological features were sampled but not completely excavated during this project. A Phase III investigation was not undertaken for 18BA100 because archaeologists determined that the Phase II investigation produced an acceptable record of occupation at the site, and additional work would be superfluous. Much of the site was destroyed by highway interchange construction.


Over 13,300 artifacts were recovered from Howard-McHenry Mill, and these were mostly associated with the tenant occupants of the mill. Numerous glass bottles and ceramic vessels from the 19th century, such as coarse and refined earthenwares, stonewares, and porcelains, reflected a wide variety of activities. Bone artifacts included utensil handles, toothbrushes, and a comb, while various types of horse furniture, such as eight horseshoes, bridle hardware, and possible saddle fragments were recovered during excavations.

Distribution maps of artifacts recovered from shovel test pits delineated activity areas at Howard-McHenry Mill. Ceramics and tobacco pipe stems were concentrated in the southern, southwestern, and western portions of the site. Bottle glass and oyster shell produced the same results, with additional concentration areas in the northern and central portions of the site. Architectural materials, such as brick, mortar, nails, and window glass, disclosed the location of structures and were clustered in the southern, southwestern, north central, and western portions of the site. Soil chemistry concentrations tended to match the general artifact patterns, with phosphates and potash indicating a sheet midden to the west of one domestic structure.

Refined earthenware sherds recovered from the shovel test pits were utilized for vessel analysis. One hundred and seventy-eight ceramic vessels, consisting of creamwares, pearlwares, cream colored wares, whiteware, and porcelains, were identified. The separation of the earlier ceramics - creamwares, pearlwares, and cream colored wares - from the later ceramics - whitewares and porcelains - revealed that the inhabitants of Howard-McHenry Mill became considerably poorer over time. The change in status/wealth appears to reflect the mill tenants losing economic ground during the 19th century, as the rise of Western wheat led to the decline of miller fortunes in Baltimore.


The document collection consists of original records in good condition, with moderate stains from field usage. The collection is housed in two letter-sized clamshell archival boxes.

Excavation records include excavation unit reports, feature forms, plan drawings, profile drawings, and cross-section drawings for individual units. The excavation records are organized by unit number and include 80 units. Folders of multi-unit plan and profile drawings are also included, and are organized by excavation area, including Barn Area, Domestic Loci, Mill/Unknown Domestic Loci, and Home Area.

Miscellaneous records consist of ceramic vessel forms, artifact frequency distribution notes, miscellaneous site maps, shovel test pit reconnaissance logs and notes, trench elevation notes, soil analyses, artifact analyses, historical research, project correspondence, photograph logs, and artifact catalogs. These have been scanned as .PDF files and are accessible online but are not searchable. A bound field journal covering the period October 1981 - April 1982 is also included in the collection and available as a .PDF file. There is one published report available online for the Howard-McHenry Mill site: Intensive Archaeological Investigations at the Howard McHenry Site, a Nineteenth Century Mill/Tenancy (Hurry and Kavanagh 1983).

Researchers should note that provenience cards which fit into a consecutive series are occasionally labeled with the year 1981, rather than 1982. This is most likely just a typo, but in order to avoid introducing bias, these cards are given an entry for each of the two possible dates.

Photographs taken on-site or in post-processing are available through the online database, and are searchable using the above criteria. Researchers should note that images are not linked directly to specific documents, and photograph records do not necessarily exist for all features or units. Original images consist of slides and are housed at the MAC Lab.


Clark, Wayne E.
1976     The Northwest Transportation Corridor. Archeological Survey Project, 1973-1975. Maryland Geological Survey Division of Archeology File Report 30. Prepared for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Hurry, Silas and Maureen Kavanagh
1983     Intensive Archeological Investigations at the Howard-McHenry Site, a Nineteenth Century Mill/Tenancy. Maryland Geological Survey Division of Archeology File Report 182. Prepared for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Digital Resources



Archaeological Report
Artifact Documents
Excavation Documents
Feature Forms
Field Notes
Field Specimen Logs
Historical Research
Mapping Data
Photo Log
Soil Documents
Specialized Analysis

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An online archive of over 30 archaeological sites in Maryland, produced by the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab with the support of the National Endowment of the Humanities.