On Friday, August 10th, ninety-five interested, self-proclaimed historians gathered in the auditorium at Assateague Island Visitor Center to enjoy a presentation entitled “The Archeology of the Rackliffe House and South Point, Worcester County, MD: Shell Middens, Trading Posts, Colonial Plantations, British Raiders and Pirates!” Noted archeologist, Aaron Levinthal who currently serves on the board of Rackliffe House, spoke. Sounds heavy? Not so, enlightening and entertaining.
Mr. Levinthal, ever the scientist, began by discussing the early geologic eras and resultant climatic changes that formed our local landscape. As example, it’s believed that some early evidence of Assateague Indian habitation may now buried about 50 yards offshore – due to the earth’s climate extremes resulting in shoreline and ocean floor changes.
No matter, we do know from buried evidence that a stable Native American population – the Assateague Indians – mostly of the hunter-gatherer persuasion, peopled the early Sinepuxent Neck area. Fish and shellfish were plentiful as were nuts and berries. Though no found bones, it was suggested that even a mastodon or two might have roamed the Neck. However, shell middens – the collected refuse of many mollusk meals are to be found throughout the area. We learned of a log canoe recovered from the marshes near Trappe Creek – alas, quickly deteriorating in the air, no evidence remains.
Fast forward through to the Contact Period when Europeans landed on our shores. The Sinepuxent Neck and other surrounding areas became home to trading posts as populations began to move about. Homes began to pop up, at first constructed of wood and later brick. Today, up and down the Neck, several Colonial plantation period home sites may be found in varying states of condition. Williams Grove, Henry’s Grove, Fassitt House and Genezer are a few examples.
The most recent restoration of a period home is the Rackliffe House – located near the Assateague Island Visitors Center on Tom Patton Lane. Leading the challenge, Mr. Patton, a life-long area native and other interested volunteers, carefully brought a derelict structure to beauty and life once again. Digs throughout the property produced many interesting objects. Though no longer with us, we say thanks to Tom! Now open to the public two days each week, a visit to Rackliffe House (c. 1740) will take you back to a time before traffic snarls and cell phones.
The fascinating archeological history of the Sinepuxent Neck area (today more easily identified as Maryland’s Route #611 aka Stephen Decatur Highway in Berlin) continues to be a study in progress. One in which we hope you’ll take part.
With so much yet to discover – you’ll be glad you did!