Introduction

The stone Schiefferstadt House stands today within a city park in Frederick, Maryland. Owned and operated by the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, the property operates as the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum.

The house was built ca. 1756 by the Joseph Brunner family, immigrants from Germany. Brunner named the new plantation “Scheverstadt” after the German town from which he emigrated. During the 19th century, the farm was occupied by tenants (including the Yonson family) who worked for the owners, the Steiner family. Archaeological investigations have also documented Late Archaic and Late Woodland period occupations at the Schifferstadt site.

Archaeological Investigations

Archaeological resources at the Schifferstadt site have been investigated on several different occasions, yielding thousands of historic and prehistoric artifacts which contribute to our understanding the lives of German Americans in the 18th century and the earlier native inhabitants.

The Scheifferstadt House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Site testing and planning was conducted from 1973 through 1975 in conjunction with the purchase of the property by the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. In the late 1980s, field schools from Hood College and Frederick County Community College were conducted at Schifferstadt.

In 1995, Hettie Ballweber (ACS Consultants) conducted excavations around the house and garden in anticipation of proposed structure stabilization and rehabilitation efforts. Four historic cultural features were identified in the vicinity of the house (privy, well, smokehouse, and a feature of indeterminate function). Contained within the privy were thousands of artifacts interpreted to have been deposited over a short period of time, possibly during construction of the extant 19th-century brick addition. The privy, well, and smokehouse were likely constructed by the Brunners during their 18th-century tenure. The privy artifacts (which are attributed to the Yonson family tenure) contained numerous cross-mendable fragments of ceramics, bottles, and other items that were mended and associated with specific makers.

A prehistoric base camp was identified at the site, based on the presence of a hearth feature with a possible associated small posthole potentially used for a meat rack. Prehistoric diagnostic artifacts found at the site include two Bare Island points, two Brewerton-like points, and a Madison point.

Archeobotanical Studies

Archeobotanical studies at Schifferstadt have been limited to historic contexts directly associated with the standing house. Two suites of analyses were conducted in 1996 by Justine McKnight for ACS Consultants:

The first included material excavated by Orr and Orr in the 1970s: six stratigraphic sections of two soil blocks collected from Room 002. Room 002 was a narrow passageway which connects the brick floor (Room 003) with the cellar (Room 001). Processed using water flotation, these soil samples (weighing 5,795 grams) produced 0.85 grams of carbonized plant remains and 0.50 grams of non-carbonized plant materials. Samples were processed using a SMAP-type flotation system equipped with a 1/16 inch mesh screen. Wood, hickory nutshell, and an array of non-carbonized seeds (including abundant fruit remains - strawberry, elder, raspberry/blackberry), leaf fragments, and amorphous carbon were recovered. All of the recovered seeds were non-carbonized. The archeobotanical assemblage recovered from Room 002 is entirely consistent with the vegetative landscape documented for the site and the region. All wood species identified are representative of the general forest cover of the Frederick Lowlands on which the site is located. Seed remains documented from Room 002 are representative of useful, locally-available and historically-documented food plants, as well as weedy plant species which would have easily colonized the yard, gardens, and greater agricultural landscape of the Schifferstadt farmstead during the 18th century. The botanical assemblage from Room 002 yielded only limited data pertinent to reconstructing the diet of the house inhabitants. Although edible plant species were in evidence within the assemblage, known dietary staples for the time of occupation (maize, wheat, rye, barley, and tree fruits, as well as garden produce) were lacking from this assemblage. It is probable that the botanical remains from Room 002 were unrelated to the direct preparation and/or disposal of food, but rather may represent incidental inclusions only peripherally associated with the handling of human food stuffs at Schifferstadt.

A second suite of samples was analyzed from an early to middle 19th-century stone-lined privy (Feature 4). Eight flotation samples were secured from eight privy strata totaling 16 liters of feature fill. Samples were processed using a SMAP-type flotation system equipped with a 1/16 inch mesh screen. Both carbonized (41.59 grams) and non-carbonized (18.48 grams) plant materials were recovered. These included wood charcoal and non-carbonized wood, amorphous charcoal, and abundant seeds (a total of 33,764 specimens). Seeds taxa identified include many edible fruits such as mulberry, elder, raspberry/blackberry, and sunflower, along with a variety of farmyard weed species. All of the seeds recovered were non-carbonized. The recovery of wood charcoal from all levels of the privy may point to the periodic addition of alkaline wood ash to the functioning privy as a customary maintenance practice. The consistency in plant species represented throughout all privy levels sampled, and the lack of seasonal diversity in the plant species recovered, suggest that Feature 4 reflects short-term deposition. Episodic cleaning-out of stone or brick-lined privies was standard practice, and it is likely that the Feature 4 fill probably represents a short period in time.

References

http://www.frederickcountylandmarksfoundation.org/fclf_schiffgen.html

Ballweber, Hettie
1997 History and Archaeology at the Schifferstadt Site (18FR134), Frederick, Md. Report prepared for the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, Inc.
 
Fiedel, Stuart J., Kerri Culhane, Sandra Smith, Charles Goode, and Charles D. Cheek
2000 I-270/US15 Multi-Modal Corridor Study, Montgomery and Frederick Counties, Maryland. John Milner Associates, Inc. Report prepared for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
 
McKnight, Justine
1996 Archeobotancial Analysis of Plant Remains from Interior of Schifferstadt House (Site 18FR134)
Recovered During Orr's Excavations of the 1970’s
. Report Submitted to ACS Consultants.
 
McKnight, Justine
1996 Archeobotanical Analysis of Plant Remains Recovered from Historic Feature 4 at Schifferstadt House (18FR124), Frederick County, Maryland. Report submitted to ACS Consultants.
 
Orr, Kenneth and Ron Orr
1975 A Preliminary Field Report on the Archaeological Situation at the Schiefferstadt House, Frederick, Md.
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