By Bernard K. Means

Unlike Pennsylvania to its north, but more like Virginia to its south, Maryland saw limited archaeological investigations during the Great Depression.  Two of Maryland’s counties saw work relief archaeology:  Frederick and Washington.  The relief archaeology in Washington County was supported by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was limited to investigations at Fort Frederick (  These CCC investigations were conducted prior to reconstruction of the old stone fort at Fort Frederick—and  generally follow a pattern seen with CCC investigations at other heritage sites. As with the early excavations at Jamestown, the CCC investigations at Fort Frederick apparently emphasized the uncovering of structural remains rather than a serious attempt to address any research questions.

All of the work relief archaeology in Frederick County was conducted under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  WPA investigations were conducted at the Catoctin Iron Furnace, part of the National Park Service’s Catoctin Mountain Park, in 1936.  Local resident William G. Renner was foreman of the 1936 WPA excavations and was interviewed in the 1970s about his life-long interest in the Catoctin Iron Furnace—dating back to the age of three in 1899. The goal of the WPA investigations was to locate a 1774 furnace.  A casting shed associated with the furnace was uncovered and identified by the WPA excavation team (Orr and Orr 1975:6-8).

The remaining work relief archaeology funded by the WPA in Frederick County was conducted under the direction of E. Ralston Goldsborough, who had as his official sponsor the Maryland School for the Deaf.  Goldsborough was an avocational archaeologist who began surface collecting archaeological sites along the Monocacy River beginning in the early years of the 20th century (Peck 1979:20-21). With WPA funding, Goldsborough investigated a number of American Indian sites, including a rockshelter and a small village (Peck 1979:21). Although he maintained a healthy correspondence with archaeologists in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., Goldsborough does not seem to have completed a formal report on his WPA investigations.  Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus Brenna McHenry Godsey assembled and examined the available archival record on Goldsborough’s work housed at the Historical Society of Frederick County, Maryland, while she was still a student.  These records focused largely on Goldsborough’s pre-New Deal archaeological work.  It remains unclear exactly what the nature of Goldsborough’s relationship was with the Maryland School for the Deaf.  Was the School simply a project  sponsor, or did some of their charges participate in the WPA excavations?

Orr, Kenneth G. and Ronald G. Orr
1975       Field Report of the Archaeological Situation at the Catoctin Furnace Stack 2 Casting Shed Site, Frederick County, Maryland.  Report prepared for the Division of Archaeology, Maryland Geological Survey.

Peck, Donald W.
1979       Archaeological Resources Assessment of the Monocacy River Region, Frederick and Carroll Counties, Maryland: Phases I and II.  Report prepared for the Maryland Historical Trust.

I’d like to thank Dennis Curry, Benjamin Fischler, Brenna McHenry Godsey, and Maureen Kavanagh.  All were instrumental in providing me with data on Maryland’s New Deal archaeology, especially Brenna who presented a paper focused on E. Ralston Goldsborough at the 2009 joint Archeological Society of Virginia/Eastern States Archeological Federation meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia.