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Untold Stories of the
Gunpowder Falls Archeology
Rockshelter Survey

Stephen Israel

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 County. Twenty-five 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 research potential, 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.

The reader 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 Further information can also be found in an 1997 unpublished manuscript on The Reconnaissance of the Rockshelter Resources of the Gunpowder Falls Watershed in Baltimore, Carroll, and Harford Counties, Maryland, on file at the Maryland Historical Trust.

Map 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 ASM, 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 in 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 Jim showed 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.
Jim 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 maps, 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 lunch.

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 technical reports.

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 Bastian to 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 the Little 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 Isreal.
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 across everyday.
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 scenery.
In the early 1990s, we found the beaver were busy in the Gunpowder Falls. Down stream of the Prettyboy Reservoirís, 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 not poisonous.
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
On another 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.

That same 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 help, a tow truck arrived at 10:30 p.m. to take Brad and his pick-up truck to Pepboys in Randallstown being the only service station in the areas that would be open on Labor Day.

One Sunday 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 not treasure hunting.

Brad Apling holds a 2 1/2 meter range pole

In the Fall during deer hunting season, unthoughtful deer hunters had disposed 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 was unbearable.

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 time flat.

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 Reservoir, 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