Catoctin Furnace is a group of archaeological sites associated with a 10,000-acre iron working furnace complex dating from the late 18th and 19th centuries in Frederick County, Maryland. The collection includes materials from the foundry site (18FR320), a springhouse site (18FR321), an African-American slave cemetery (18FR323), and a 19th-century miner’s house (18FR324). These sites were documented in 1977 during a Phase I survey by Orr and Son for the proposed dualization of U.S. Route 15 between Putnam Road and Maryland Route 77 in Thurmont. Catoctin Furnace represents a valuable resource for documenting the development of the iron industry in the United States and increasing understanding about the lifestyles and material culture of its workers.

Catoctin Furnace Carty House (18FR324)

The Carty House Site (18FR324) is a 19th-century dwelling for one of the iron workers at the Catoctin Iron Furnace. Possibly associated with Earl Carty, a worker at the Big Ore Bank, this log cabin had a stone foundation measuring approximately 21-by-21 feet, with a cellar at its south end. The site is significant for the information it revealed about the lifestyles and material culture of the workers at the Catoctin Iron Furnace.

Archaeological Investigations

Orr and Son excavated two two-by-two-foot test units, four two-and-a-half-by-two-and-a-half-foot test units, and a trench measuring one-by-five feet within both the stone ruins and the yard of the Carty House. In 1979, Mid-Atlantic Archaeological Research, Inc. (MAAR) conducted Phase II excavations in the Carty House west yard, which fell within the highway right-of-way. Seventy-four shovel test pits were excavated at five-foot intervals with a six-inch post-hole digger to subsoil or a depth of 30 inches. Five-foot test units placed across the west yard were then excavated following natural strata. All soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh. Four major features were uncovered: a brick sidewalk, a subsurface trash deposit, a shallow trench, and a brick slab covered with Portland cement, possibly representing an outbuilding. MAAR also excavated the builder’s trench of the structure, and two postholes. Unfortunately, MAAR’s report on the Carty House and its associated paperwork have not been located, so all information concerning their excavation was located in Orr and Son’s 1980 Interim Report.


A total of 5,954 artifacts were recovered from excavations at the Carty House. They represent the domestic refuse of the dwelling’s inhabitants between its construction around 1825 through the early 20th century, when it was abandoned.

The 1,214 ceramic sherds from the Carty House included lead-glazed coarse earthenwares, creamwares, pearlwares, whitewares, ironstones, yellowwares, Rockingham-type glazed wares, and soft and hard-paste porcelains. Also present were 87 white clay tobacco pipe fragments, 90 glass bottle fragments, five glass canning jar lid liners, and three table glass fragments.

A number of personal items were also recovered from the Carty House. Buttons, including 22 shell, 17 porcelain, five metal, three glass, and two bone, were found in various shapes and sizes. The presence of children on the site was indicated through seven marbles, three graphite pencil fragments, a lead alloy toy sword, and a white porcelain doll fragment. In addition, five hair comb fragments, a purple glass bead, a complete iron spoon, and a copper alloy furniture tack in the shape of a shell were recovered.


The Catoctin Furnace Records Collection has been divided into four areas by archaeological site number: the Foundry (18FR320); the Springhouse/Bathhouse/Raceway (18FR321); the Renner Burials (18FR323); and the Carty House (18FR324). Original records for all four sites are minimal, but those that exist are in good condition, with little dirt and staining. The collection is composed of four letter-sized archival clamshells, one oversized enclosure, and one document roll.

Excavation records for 18FR320 consist of daily field journals, plans, and profiles. They have been organized by year of excavation (1979 and 1981). For the 1979 excavations, only nine feature forms are present. All other records have been scanned as .PDF files, available online but not searchable. They include plans/profiles, bag and photograph logs, background research, elevation/depth records, notes on the basin dam, oversized maps, and other miscellany. There are two reports on the Foundry site: Archaeological Excavations at Site 18FR320 Catoctin, Maryland (Milner 1979), and A Report on the Excavation of an Ancillary Area (Site 18FR320) of the Historic Ironworking Complex at Catoctin Furnace, Frederick County, MD (Parrington and Schenck 1982). All type-written reports are available online in .PDF format and are word searchable.

Excavation records for 18FR321 are incomplete and have not been included in the database. All records have been scanned as .PDF files and are not searchable. They include plans/profiles, elevations, artifact catalogue packing and delivery lists, ceramic analysis, miscellaneous artifact analysis, geological reports, and miscellaneous maps. Two reports for the Springhouse/Bathhouse/Raceway are included: Interim Report of the Catoctin Furnace Archaeological Mitigation Project (Orr and Orr 1980); and The Catoctin Furnace Archaeological Mitigation Project Final Report of the 1979 Excavation (first, second, and final drafts) (Orr 1982).

There are no excavation records for 18FR323 (Renner Burials) and 18FR324 (Carty House). A small number of miscellaneous notes have been scanned as a single .PDF file. One report exists: Archaeological Data Recovery at Catoctin Furnace Cemetery (Burnston and Thomas 1981).

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 photographic records do not necessarily exist for all features or units. Original images consist of slides, negatives, contact sheets, and prints, and are housed at the MAC Lab.


Burnston, Sharon A. and Ronald A. Thomas
1981     Archaeological Data Recovery at Catoctin Furnace Cemetery, Frederick County, Maryland. Report prepared for the Maryland Department of Transportation by Mid-Atlantic Research, Newark, DE.
John Milner Associates
1980     Archeological Excavations at Site 18FR320, Catoctin, Maryland. Manuscript on file at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
Orr, Kenneth G. and Ronald G. Orr
1980     Interim Report of the Catoctin Furnace Archaeological Mitigation Project, Contract F522-152-770. Report prepared for the Maryland State Highway Administration.
1977     An Intensive Archaeological Survey of Alignment 1 Corridor, U.S. Route 15 from Putnam Road to Maryland Route 77 in Frederick County, Maryland. Report prepared for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Parrington, Michael and Helen Schenck
1980     A Report on the Excavation of an Ancillary Area (Site 18FR320) of the Historic Ironworking Complex at Catoctin Furnace, Frederick County, Maryland. Report prepared for the Maryland State Highway Administration by John Milner Associates, West Chester, PA.

Digital Resources


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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.