Untold Stories of the
Gunpowder Falls Archeology
|In the 1960s
members of the Central Chapter representing Baltimore City and Baltimore
County, like Spencer
Geasey in Frederick County, became interested in exploring local rockshelters.
At that time, Central Chapter conducted archeological investigations at
12 rockshelters, 11 of which were next to roads in Baltimore
years later, in the early 1990s, Central Chapter continued this interest
in exploring the local rockshelters and initiated an eight year long archeological
reconnaissance locating and recording the rockshelters along the 51 mile
long Big Gunpowder Falls and 34 mile long Little
Gunpowder Falls Watersheds
The mission of the 1990s rockshelter reconnaissance
was to locate, record and evaluate each rockshelter for its archeological
along with providing an opportunity for the interested public to participate
in investigating the presence of prehistoric man existence in the Big
and Little Gunpowder Falls Watersheds. The goal of the rockshelter
reconnaissance was to record every rockshelter and prepare a report
on the reconnaissance
findings. 413 rockshelters were added to the 12 recorded rockshelter inventory
on the Gunpowder Falls Watershed.
may discover a little about the Gunpowder Falls and a little of the history
on the archeological rockshelter survey. Further information can also
be found in an 1997 unpublished manuscript on The Reconnaissance of the
Resources of the Gunpowder Falls Watershed in Baltimore, Carroll, and
Harford Counties, Maryland, on file at the Maryland Historical Trust.
of the Gunpowder Falls Watershed
Central Chapterís renewed interest
in the Gunpowder Falls Rockshelters got started when I received a telephone
call from Jim Davis in the spring of 1991, after seeing my name on an
Inc. brochure. Jim proceeded to tell me about the rockshelters he had
seen while walking along the Gunpowder Falls, when he was in high school
the early 1970s. Jim soon showed me the rockshelters where he had picked
up lithic projectile points and prehistoric ceramics. Along Jimís Gunpowder
Fallís sojourns, he had met several artifact collectors through friends
while in high school, who had collected prehistoric projectile points
and ceramics along the Gunpowder Falls and throughout Maryland. First
me his project point collection had been given, while high school,
during a visit to his apartment. Now with a biology background and interest
in archeological research, Jim was eager to participate in the methodological
recording of the rockshelter prehistoric resources in the Gunpowder
Falls two watersheds.
|Beginning in January 1992, Jim and I began walking the Big Gunpowder
Falls on Sundays January through April. Winter is the time of the year
when the foliage is minimal and the watershed slopes most visible. The
mission in 1992 was to build upon Central Chapterís 1960ís rockshelter
field investigations of several rockshelters in the Big Gunpowder Falls
watershed in Baltimore County. The rockshelter survey evolved into an ongoing
Central Chapter field survey that included the entire watersheds of the
Big Gunpowder Falls and the Little Gunpowder Falls extending into Baltimore,
Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland and into York County in Pennsylvania.
The rockshelters ranged from a single bedrock boulder with a roof overhang
to massive bedrock outcrop or series of boulder rocks with roof overhangs
exposed on the stream valley slopes and bottom floodplains.
Davis in the Morris Meadows Rockshelter excavation trench with
Chuck Fuller looking on.
|What made the Big and Little Gunpowder
Falls easily accessible
for the rockshelter survey was the unique ownership of the land. One third
of the 51 mile long Big Gunpowder Falls Watershed was within the Gunpowder
Falls State Park, another third was within the Prettyboy and Loch
Raven Baltimore City Reservoirs and the final third was privately owned.
The Little Gunpowder Falls Watershed, 34 miles long stream was similarly
divided between the Gunpowder Falls State Park and privately owned land.
Each Sunday morning I packed my field equipment into my backpack, topographic
notebooks, pens and pencils, rulers, black and white and color 35 mm film
cameras, trowels, paper bags, tripod, meter survey scale rod and a packed
From 1992 to 2000, the Gunpowder Falls Rockshelter Survey
team of ASM volunteers and interested others, walked a segment of the
Gunpowder Falls Watershed, main stems, tributary streams and the Loch
Raven and Prettyboy Reservoirs; on Sundays. Over the eight year period
of the rockshelter survey, fifty-five volunteers accompanied us. The
personal adventures differed each weekend being in different localities
and with different volunteers. We obtained permission to test five rockshelters;
Clipper Mill Road, Big Piney Run, Losch, Morris Meadows and the Rockdale
Rockshelters. The rockshelter survey and test excavations set the stage
for a variety of personal experiences that are were not recorded in the
Chuck Fuller standing with 2 1/2 meter range pole.
|I met Chuck Fuller in Manchester, Carroll
County, at the Manchester Environmental Center, in
the spring of 1992, where I was invited to speak on the archeology of the
Woodland Indians in Carroll County. When I arrived at the Environmental
Center, I was introduced to a dozen Native Shawnees. I decided to drop
the talk on the Prehistoric Woodland Indians for a dialogue with the Native
Shawnees on recognition and cultural clashes. The discussion lasted one
and 1/2 hours at the Environmental
Center and another 4 hours at a nearby home of one of the Shawnee participants.
After the dialogue, Chuck came up to me with his cigar box full of projectile
points he had collected along the Gunpowder Falls. In
the presence of the Shawnees I did not want to look at the points, and
told Fuller to telephone me at home at a later date.
|We came across 25 rockshelters that had been previously pot
hunted. Several of the shelters appeared to have been dug within the last
five years from the looks of the digging area and back dirt pile. Evidence
of digging included quarter-inch rabbit wire screen and garden trowels
left behind, flakes and pottery on the ground, pot holes to shallow filled
in trenches along the rear of the rockshelters.
|During the survey, we made a number
of unanticipated finds in several of the rockshelters: steel fishhooks
along with projectile points
and flakes, beer cans and whiskey bottles, sleeping bags, girly magazines
and a modern hunterís station with folding chairs, boxes of spent bullets
and beer bottles. Finding girly magazines lying on the floor of one rockshelter
and along a road near Franklinville on the Little
Gunpowder Falls, goes
to prove rockshelters are still being used. We also came across a rockshelter
next to the abandoned North Central railroad track that contained 1930s
glass, ceramics, metal utensils, and thick lens of charcoal associated
with railroads and Hobos. There was always a new experience to be had on
the rockshelter survey.
|Once we came across a hang mans noose
on an 8-foot high wood frame with ropes, chains and clothing on the ground
in the Little Gunpowder
Falls floodplain. Out of curiosity, I telephoned Dana
Kollmann, to learn
that the Police only investigate the scenes where dead bodies are found.
|A Gunpowder Falls State Park Volunteer
trailblazer, who was responsible for maintaining the hiking trails, had
shown the team
a rockshelter on the Little Gunpowder Falls. The shelter was a large open
type rockshelter on the floodplain where we had picked up quartz flakes
and pottery sherds from pot hunters back filled piles. A year later, I
touched base with the volunteer trailblazer and he informed me he had made
a trail to the rockshelter for hikers. I accompanied the trailblazer, soon
thereafter to see the new trail. His new trail cut right through the upper
25 cm of the rockshelter floor. The Trail Blazer had assured me that he
did not disturb the rockshelter, as the artifacts are buried. I informed
the Trail Blazer, he had indeed damaged the archeological siteís integrity.
Charles Hazard, an artifact collector
identified a carved stick deer petroglyph in the Glencoe Rockshelter
on the Big Gunpowder Falls in 1970. In 1971, Charles Hazard took Tyler
the Glencoe rockshelter to see the deer petroglyph. However, the
deer petroglyph was no where to be seen. While, Tyler Bastian was skeptical
of the deer petroglyph, how
do you explain Charles Hazardís deer petroglyph find the year before,
as an artist employed by the Baltimore Sun?
We came across a boulder
about the size of an automobile on the edge of the hiking trail on
Gunpowder Falls, whose fire redden and charcoal floor feature representing
a prehistoric fire hearth was recognized immediately beneath the leaves.
To my surprise
the feature was still intact.
Millie McCoy holds a 2 1/2 meter range
pole while Kelly Hott plots the Glencoe
Rockshelter floor plan with Sylvia Durant and Stephen
|We saw a lot of nature
on our walks. Spring has many interesting natural events. The Wood Frogs
sang their loud mating song as they leaped down the slope
to a pond to mate. Another time, wedisturbed a Canadian Goose
sitting on her eggs at the edge of theGunpowder
Falls early one morning. Upon returning to that spot late in the afternoon,
we found a very angry mother goose and her newly hatched yellow goslings.
We just had to snap a picture or two. That isnít a situation one comes
|Walking the two Gunpowder Falls watersheds in
the early spring was always a treat and full of surprises. The beauty and
color of the early spring Jack-in-Pulpits, Spring Beauties, and Blood Root
and watching the tree buds leaf out was an extra reward for those of us
on the rockshelter survey. Whether we were in the wooded slopes, open meadows,
floodplains or cultivated fields, we often sighted families of white tail
deer either feeding or running away from us. The white tail deer were easier
to see in the snow. A number of the smaller tributaries flowed over a series
of rocks and boulders creating a series of small cascades. We often stopped
for breaks to take in the beauty of the natural and wildlife watershed
|In the early 1990s, we
found the beaver were busy in the Gunpowder Falls. Down stream of the
130-foot high concrete dam, the beavers had built a thick and tall dam
of tree branches and brush in a steep sided reach across the Big Gunpowder
Falls and another smaller dam on the Little
Falls floodplain that flooded
some 25 acres. The Maryland Department of Natural
Resources from time to
time blew up the beaver dams using dynamite.
|Sometimes along the smaller tributaries, there
were no trails to follow. Occasionally we would follow deer trails. The
slopes varied from gentle to steep and occasionally we had to navigate
across boulder outcrops on the steep slopes. The slopes were sometimes
dry, sometimes wet and muddy, and sometimes covered with snow. Each condition
had its own navigational challenges.
|One Sunday on our survey, we ran into a thicket
of Mountain Laurel on the Little Gunpowder along a steep slope. There was
no trail; we had to work our way through that very thick stand of rhododendron
which took us over an hour to transverse, there being no other way to study
the large rock outcrops nearby.
|Dr. Martin Larrabee, a
retired JHU Biologist and an avid hiker, had shown Tyler Bastian a rockshelter
on the Big Gunpowder Falls east of York Road in the early 1970s. Dr.
Larrabee accompanied us in the winter 1992 spending all day climbing
up and down slopes and on
the hiking trails. At the end of the day, I remarked, how good shape he
was for a 65 year old man. Dr. Larrabee replied that he was 83.
|Once, while walking along
the Big Gunpowder Falls east of York Road, to get to the opposite stream
bank, Jim shinnied over a long linear log that lay across the Falls.
I then shinnied across the log without
falling in, thus avoiding Jim Davisís laughter. Another time while walking
on wet boulders at the Fall Line to cross the Big
Gunpowder Falls, I slipped
off the rocks. When I looked down there was a snake coiled up at the base
of the boulder. Jimís laugh told me that the coiled up snake below me was
|On one very bitterly cold
February Sunday morning, in crossing Long Green Run over slippery wet
rocks, I slipped and fell in. Soaking wet, Frank Davison coaxed me into
seeing an old church in his old neighborhood. It would have been alright
but Frankís car heater wasnít
working and I nearly froze to death on the way to the church. I couldnít
wait to get back to my car to get warm and drive home.
|One Sunday we crossed the
Loch Raven Reservoir shoreline mud flats on our way to a tributary with
steep slopes, a determined volunteer walked into the mud. He sank up
to his boot top and to get to
safety, he walked out of his boots toward solid ground in his socks. Later
he went back and retrieved his boots.
|On another Sunday outing while walking along
a small stream, I lost the marked up USGS topo map with our rockshelterís
locations on it. The map had fallen out of my coat pocket. Chuck made up
his mind that it fell into the stream, but as Chuck and I back tracked
to look for the topo map, we saw it lying safely on the bank of the stream.
A year after hearing about the toilet paper man residing
at the Loch Raven Reservoir, Jim took a group of us to that area to look
at a Revolutionary War era Iron Furnace firing range, where cannon balls
have been found
in recent times. No sooner had we left our cars, we saw
toilet paper thrown everywhere along the edges of the trail. We had
not walked one half mile, when a man started stalking the four of us.
Our reactions were interesting. Some of us paid no attention to the
man trailing us. Others became very concern about their own safety.
Ultimately, we continued to our destination and walked back to our cars
without incident with the toilet paper man.
Once, Chuck and I dug
an initial exploratory STP at the Big Piney Run Rockshelter and found
no artifacts. A group of neighborhood children
scouting the stream bank next to the rockshelter spotted a Jackís Reef
Pentagonal Point made of black chert, several lithic flakes and pottery
sherds along the bank which were below the STP. After the kids made
their discoveries, Chuck and I dug our STP deeper and ran into the
same types of lithics and prehistoric pottery.
On one Sunday in the summer, our group was accompanied
by a Gunpowder Falls State Park Trail Guide. Upon seeing a group of
young people sunning themselves on a large boulder on the Little Gunpowder
Falls, the Trial Guide person became embarrassed and chased them away.
According to the old timers, sunbathing was a common slight on most
sunny afternoons before WWII along the Gunpowder Falls.
Jennifer Rowland , foreground,
and Chuck Fuller working
at the Big Piney Run Rockshelter
occasion while crossing a large fallow agricultural field along the Little
Falls, we heard several
gun shots. Some of the survey team, stood still while others took off running
with waving anything red they could find.
|A farmer on
the Little Falls grudgingly
gave us permission to walk along the stream that passed through his farm.
The farmer said he was reluctant to give us permission, but since we had
asked his permission he let us walk through his farm. He said, most hikers
and hunters walk through his farm without asking, and that upsets him.
The farmerís 10 year old son asked us many questions regarding what we
could find archeologically on his Dadís farm.
|On the first
day at the Clipper Mill Road Rockshelter excavation in the Prettyboy
Reservoir in September
1995, the new batch of No. 6 bags for artifacts, made in China, were opened.
They had no bottoms, I used Don Wilsonís cell phone to phone my wife with
a request to purchase a new batch of heavy duty paper bags. I had to drive
to a high hill to make the telephone call to Baltimore. My wife Barbara,
drove to downtown Baltimore to purchase the new heavy stock of paper bags
then drove them out to the Clipper Mill Road Rockshelter, where 12 anxious
volunteers were waiting to get started.
evening, Brad Applings only drove 1/2 mile of his return
drive to Alexandria, Virginia,
when, at 6 p.m., both of his right tires blew out on his pick-up truck,
the evening before Labor Day. After using a farmers telephone to find
truck arrived at 10:30 p.m. to take Brad and his pick-up truck to Pepboys
Randallstown being the only service station in the areas that would
be open on Labor Day.
following a heavy morning rain, police showed up at the Clipper Mill
Road Rockshelter where an enthusiastic
excavation crew had set up a tarp over the excavation units. The excavation
team was not going to let a morning rain stop them. I arrived to the
rockshelter as police arrive, slightly after noon and showed the
Police a Baltimore
City Right of Entry and MHT Archeological Excavation Permit. Neighbors
had called the Police assuming people were camping without a permit.
The police noted all the tools and notebooks indicating that we were
Brad Apling holds a 2 1/2
meter range pole
the Fall during deer hunting season, unthoughtful deer hunters had
of their deer carcasses in the stream between Clipper
Mill Road and the Clipper Mill Road Rockshelter. Sometimes, when the
wind blew toward our park cars or toward the rockshelter, the foul
stink of the carcasses
|Kristin Ward, one of the regular volunteers,
met us one Sunday morning in Lineboro, to walk a track of land at the
head end of the Gunpowder Falls for reported rockshelters. Kristin arrived
to the rendezvous location and got out of her Ford Explorer and locked
herself out. To our surprise
and especially Kristinís, the property owner, Mathew
Woods, turned out
to be an Automobile Repo Man, and had Kristinís driver door open in no
On a high and very steep slope on
the Little Falls on Gore Road, I was next to Dr. Harold Weiss when
I twisted my right ankle. I limped back to the car one-quarter of a
mile away. The good doctor
told me not to walk on the sore ankle.
|Once we came across a large
cavity at the base of the slope along the Little Falls. The property
owner had told us that when he was a kid he had played and slept in the
cavity. We suspected the
cavity was now the home of small mammals with very strong obnoxious odor.
Jim Davisís 7-month old Black Turkey
Vulture, ďStinky,Ē who he had raised, thought Jim was his mother. One
Sunday, Stinky followed us hiking to a rockshelter on the north side
of the farm where Jim and
Stinky lived. Stinky with his big 5-foot wing span flew low overhead.
We learned that day that Vultureís poop on their legs to keep cool in
summer. He was quite a bird.
|Three of us once rented a piper club
and pilot from the Westminster Airport in Carroll County for a two hour
flight over Prettyboy Reservoir and the Gunpowder Falls early in April
1993. The aerial view of Gunpowder Falls was excellent, as we saw many
familiar landmarks. There was the pilot
and Jim Davis in the front seat and Dick
Baublitz and I in the back seat.
One-half hour into the flight, the pilot indicated to me he had to return
to the airport. I asked why? The pilot said Jim was air sick. I asked the
pilot to forget about Jim. The pilot responded that he did not want to
clean up the mess that Jim would do all over the cockpit. However, in reality
Dick and I were equally queasy and green in the face as Jim. We returned
to the airport, Jim was ok and I then slept for two hours in my car missing
my next appointment.
|One Saturday in August 2001, while
excavating at the Morris Meadow Rockshelter on the Little Falls in the
Freeland area, there was a sudden cloud burst that caught seven volunteer
excavators by surprise.
The down pour started at noon, after which the cloud stood still for two
hours. We placed our cameras and excavation forms against the rear wall
of the rockshelter and Jim, Chuck, Jack Davis and I put on Annetta
Schottís emergency garbage bag raincoats and waited out the storm. Twice
the tributary stream in front of us over flowed its banks coming to within
15 feet of
the rockshetler as logs, and fallen trees roared past us. Mary
Ann and her mother Lisa Vicari, made it to their car parked above the rockshelter.
They sat out the storm in their car. Today, Mary Ann is pursuing archaeology
in Graduate School at Washington University at St. Louis.
|At a large rockshelter near Freeland
on Beetree Run, I had
arranged with the property owner to test. The owner being out of town,
his farm hand accompanied us to the rockshelter located near the North-Central
RR hiking trail. The farm hand upon seeing an unopened bottle of whiskey
inside the rockshelter became very angry and opened it and drained the
contents onto the floor, before we could say stop. Then the farm hand left.
We spent the entire afternoon sniffing the whiskey in the air as we excavated
a test pit inside the rockshelterís dripline.
|One February, during a cold snap following
a snow storm a few days earlier, Chuck and I attempted to survey Bush
Cabin Run a small
tributary within the Gunpowder Falls State Park. The snow was deep and
hard crusted in the morning making hiking slow and treacherous. In the
afternoon the snow had become soft and hard to walk through. Fortunately,
we were able to make it back to the cars before dark. That was a lot of
energy spent for recording only one rock overhang near the top of a steep
slope. Occasionally, we didnít arrive back to our cars until after dark.
I wasnít concerned when everyone on the survey that day was experienced,
but I avoided arriving back to our cars after dark, when we had new volunteers.
|On numerous Sundays when we were in
the Prettyboy Reservoir area, we frequented the Prettyboy
Country Market on Middletown Road for
refreshments and coffee during or after a dayís survey. On one cold and
wet Sunday, Sandy, one of the volunteers offered to drive us to a McDonaldís
Restaurant for lunch in her large van. I am sure going to the bathroom
in private had a lot to do with lunch at McDonalds.
At the Losch Rockshelter on Poplar
Run, Michael and Amy Losch were so supportive and appreciative that
we were testing a large open rockshelter on their property next to
the stream, that they prepared a home cooked meal for Central Chapter.
Similarly, Paul McKean, after showing Chuck and I, a rockshelter on
his farm in Pennsylvania just over the Maryland line, served us lunch
and deer stew from a deer he had killed.
Twelve years later, Jim, Chuck and
I returned to the Big Gunpowder Falls to field check the Rockdale
Road Rockshelter that we
had seen in 1994, but not tested. What began as an early warm spring
Sunday in March 2007 to check the rockshelter at Prettyboy
we found to our surprise snow and ice on the side of the road and along
the trail. The temperature dropped steeply once we arrived in the dense
hemlock covered, narrow and steep sided hollow, where the rockshelter
was located. In the hollow, the trails were still covered with compact
snow and ice.
The snow and ice along the small stream made walking treacherous. We
could not carry any records, as we had to use both hands to keep from
falling on the snow and ice on the uneven terrain. This was our first
visit to the hollow since 1994, when we had identified several rockshelters
in this hollow. In April 2007, we planned and initiated a test excavation
of the Rockdale Rockshelter, as a Maryland Archeology Month, Central
Chapter field activity.
Dan Coates prepares to process a soil sample from theRockdale Shelter