The tract of land that encompasses the Two Friends site (18CH308) has an uncertain history for the period of the site’s occupation. Land records associated with the area lack the boundary descriptions that would be needed to establish an official chain of title, but it is likely that the site was associated with the Two Friends plantation. John Sothoron purchased Two Friends in 1696, and then passed it on to his descendants when he died. The date of the site, ca. 1740-1780, corresponds to a period of ownership by John’s sons Benjamin Sothoron, who died in 1745, and Samuel Sothoron, who inherited the tract from his brother. Probate inventories indicate some growth in the plantation from one generation to the next, as Jon Sothoron’s inventory lists only three slaves, while his son Benjamin’s inventory has eight. Although the excavations at Two Friends did not uncover an actual dwelling, the midden that was found may be associated with a tenant site or a quarter built to house the additional slaves.
A portion of the Two Friends site threatened by a wetland mitigation project underwent a data recovery project after Phase II excavations determined that it offered significant information about 18th century rural farming practices. Plowzone sampling was undertaken in zones of high artifact concentration, and the site was then mechanically stripped of plowzone to expose features. While Phase II excavations identified a large midden deposit, further excavation revealed that the midden was actually a series of trash pits. Sandy soil eliminated the possibility that the pits were clay borrow pits for daub or brick manufacturing, and all of the 22 pits identified held some kind of waste such as animal bone, oyster shell, and other domestic trash.
The assemblage of artifacts recovered in the features is not a typical domestic refuse scatter, and other than some small posts that might have supported a shed, there was no evidence of a building. The excavators therefore suggest that the site was a specialized work and disposal area. The faunal assemblage included cuts most likely to be butchers waste, while prime cuts of meat were absent. This suggests that butchering, or possibly hide processing for leather tanning took place at the site. Such activities would be likely to produce aromas worthy of the effort to bury trash. Additionally, much of the waste may have been organic in nature, explaining why the trash pits were not full of artifacts like one would expect for refuse from a dwelling.
Other artifacts support the interpretation of the site as a work station for animal processing. The artifacts that were not present, such as sewing tools, window glass, and teawares, would not be expected in a butchering or hide processing yard. Artifacts that were found, however, such as faunal remains, bottle glass, bowls, and pipes, could easily have resulted from such activity. As a strenuous and messy process, butchering might be the kind of activity that kept one out of the house until the job was done, so artifacts resulting from meals being brought to the site, pipes being smoked on a break or while at work, and liquids being consumed to alleviate thirst all make sense in the context of a work area.
Summary by Sara Rivers Cofield
||The Two Friends Site, 18CH308: A Maryland Work Yard and Trash Midden, 1740-1780. Proposed Murphy Wetland Mitigation Area MD 5 Hughesville Bypass, Benedict, Charles County, Maryland. Archaeological Report prepared for the Maryland State Highway Administration, on file at the Maryland Historical Trust.
Archaeological collections from the Two Friends site are owned by the Maryland Historical Trust, and curated at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.