Archeologists Uncover Large Slave Village Near Washington
Photo: VOA - K. Cardoza
Archeologist Joy Beasley walks across the land now known as Best Farm. But approximately 200 years ago, it was a 300- hectare plantation called L'Hermitage, owned by the Vincendieres, French farmers from Haiti. Their stone home and outbuildings still stand. The National Park Service archeologist says her team discovered evidence of six other homes on the property where slaves were kept. The Vincendieres owned 90 slaves.
"That's roughly 10 times the number you'd expect them to have for the size of plantation they were operating," says Beasley. "That made them the second-largest slave holders in Fredrick County and one of the largest in Maryland at that time."
VOA - K. Cardoza
VOA - K. Cardoza
Birmingham says they've found many more buttons than they would normally expect. "We know that, based on where the chimneys were placed on the houses, it would have been very cold inside. A working guess is that they had excess clothing they were taking the buttons off of because the primary reuse of clothing would be as quilts. "
But digging up the past is painful, says Mary Harris, who has researched African-American history in Fredrick County. She's been following the excavation with interest. Harris says these slaves wanted what everyone wants: a home, family. She says they were survivors who provide a lesson for everyone.
"It's what they overcame. It's strength and perseverance," says Harris. "And we can use those things in our lives today."
National Park Service archeologists resume their work at the L'Hermitage site this summer. Joy Beasley says they hope to eventually set up a permanent exhibit, featuring the artifacts they recover, to tell visitors the story of the plantation's history.