Online History Programs
Life in Colonial Maryland
Maryland, one of the original thirteen colonies, was founded in 1634 by approximately 140 colonists aboard the ships Ark and Dove. The state was made up of large plots of land that contained many acres of farmland with housing for people and livestock. These large plots of land were called plantations.
The majority of colonists in Maryland grew their own food along with major cash crops such as tobacco and grains. They raised a variety of fruits and vegetables which were planted, cultivated, and harvested by enslaved laborers and indentured servants.
The Village of Sandy Spring, home to Woodlawn Manor, was founded in 1728 by members of the Religious Society of Friends. Much of Sandy Spring during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century was made up of large plots of farmland that surrounded the village center located at the headwaters of the Anacostia River.
Baseball: The Game of Summer
ter up! The boys of summer are back! Baseball originated with the British games of rounders, a children’s game, and cricket. Many versions of the game known as “base ball” were played during the eighteenth century.
Soldiers played the game during the Civil War as did children and families using homemade stick bats. In 1845, formalized rules were developed by a volunteer firefighter and bank clerk named Alexander Joy Cartwright.
To learn more about the history of baseball, visit the
Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park Facebook page.
Water: The Essential Element
Water is essential to the productivity of farming agriculture for both crops and animals. For crops, water determines plant growth, development, availability or scarcity, and water can mean a successful harvest, or total failure.
Dr. Palmer, a respected community physician who lived at Woodlawn Manor during the nineteenth century, realizing that a physician’s salary during that time period would not support his growing family, began to focus on enhancing the agricultural pr
oduction on his farm. Learn more about why this element is important to farming on the Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park Facebook page.
Teddy Bear Picnic Day
On July 10, we celebrated Teddy Bear Picnic Day. In 1881, when Benjamin Palmer inherited Woodlawn Manor from his father, Dr. William Palmer, summer picnics became quite fashionable in America. These Victorian Era family and social gatherings provided an opportunity for gaiety and respite from the day to day toils of life. Much like today, participants would bring their own delicious culinary treats to share at the picnic. Learn more on the Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park Facebook page.
The Carp Pond
In Europe, carp fish was a dietary staple for upper class families as far back as
the fifteenth century. These immigrants were quite surprised that carp was not available and native to America. In 1867, Dr. Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian Institution was appointed head of the newly formed United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, and one of his first missions was to begin importing carp to be grown throughout the United States by farmers. Visit the Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park Facebook page to learn more about the history of this fish’s presence in Montgomery County.
History of Cabin John Regional Park
Where is the “cabin” in Cabin John? Although Cabin John Regional Park is located a few miles away from the Cabin John community located next to the Potomac River, there are many stories of how the park got its name. And, there is a lot of history within the park, like this cabin. It was built in the 1930s as a summer and weekend retreat by Dr. Charles Armstrong, an NIH epidemiologist. (We are grateful for our epidemiologists of the past and today.)
Read more about the history of the park on the
Cabin John community website.
Discovering African American History at Needwood Mansion
Discover Needwood Mansion’s African American history! As you come down the tree-lined drive from Needwood Road, look past the bronze marker prominently displayed in the front yard, walk around the late-federal, three-story brick mansion, and focus your attention on the two-story stone structure and the surrounding area in the back. It is here where enslaved men and women were able to rest from their long days laboring on the plantation known as Sunnyside. Enslaved people lived in the upper story of the stone dairy as well as in housing that existed to the east of the dairy building. Learn more on the
Needwood Mansion Facebook page.
Several slate pencil fragments have been found at the Josiah Henson Museum and Park. These nineteenth-century pencils were likely crafted from slate that was locally sourced from commercial quarries in Howard or Frederick County.
Although paper was widely produced in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century, it was very expensive. School children used slate pencils and writing boards to practice their lessons and show their work, frequently wiping their slates cle
an between lessons.
For more on the history of writing slates and pencils, visit the
Smithsonian National Museum of American History collection and The Museum of Teaching and Learning.
Historic Districts of Montgomery County
Did you know Montgomery County was initially part of Prince George’s County? In 1698, Prince George’s County included Fredrick County, part of Carroll County, and western Maryland. There were no colonists living in western Maryland at the time. In 1776, at the Maryland Convention, it was decided that Maryland would be divided into thirds and Montgomery County was established. Visit the
Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park Facebook page to learn more about the historic districts in Montgomery County.
It’s Harvest Time
It’s harvest time! June and July were one of the busiest times of year for women in the nineteenth century, including the women at Woodlawn Manor. The woman of the house was selecting recipes for her family’s winter meals and enslaved household servants were picking the produce to begin preparing for the laborious days ahead preserving the food. The most common preservatives used for canning were: sugar, vinegar, salt and alcohol. Some food was air dried in the sun or heat dried over the hearth. Once the food was preserved, it would be placed in jars, bags or crocks that were stored in cool dry cellars to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. A few favorite recipes of the time were: chow chow, brandied peaches, and fruit leather. We can only imagine that the nine Palmer children were partial to fruit leather because it remains a favorite childhood treat today.
Learn to make strawberry fruit leather with your kids with this
recipe from PBS Food.
Mulberries: The Forgotten Fruit
June is berry picking season. We are all very familiar with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, but the little used mulberry was a main staple in the colonial American diet. Learn more about this fruit’s place in history on the
Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park Facebook page.
Everyone Counts: Let’s Learn About the Census
This year, every household in the United States received a questionnaire about who resides in each home. Found in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, decennially (a fancy word for “every ten years”!) collected data is used to determine population, demographics, services, voting districts, and taxes. This data collection is the 2020 Census, and it is legally required that everyone participate. Visit the
Agricultural Farm History Park Facebook page
to learn about the history of the Census.
The Life of Josiah Henson
WAS born, June 15, 1789, in Charles County, Maryland…” This is how Josiah Henson starts his 1849 narrative, sharing his life’s story that begins in Maryland, continues to Kentucky, and ends in Ontario, Canada, where he and his family sought freedom from slavery. Josiah Henson was enslaved on the Riley plantation just outside of Rockville until 1825. His experiences served as an inspiration for Harriett Beecher Stowe’s main character in the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
The archaeological excavations on the Riley Plantation site are revealing the nineteenth century landscape Josiah Henson and the other enslaved people created and lived in, adding to this important part of American history. The Josiah Henson Museum and Park is under construction and will open later this year. Read the electronic version of his
Hoyles Mill Historic Map
Maps are a great resource for archaeologi
sts and historians to compare historic records to the cultural landscapes of their day. The earliest record of the Hoyles Saw and Grist Mill can be traced to an 1816 Maryland Second District Tax Assessment. This section of the 1865 Martenet and Bond’s map of Montgomery County, Maryland, shows some familiar features along the Hoyles Mill Trail, including Little Seneca Creek, John Hoyle’s Saw and Grist Mill, and an unnamed rural road—now known as Hoyles Mill Road. While the mill is no longer standing, Hoyles Mill Road has been modified for public use since the nineteenth century.
Almanacs Tell the Story
“How will we share the stories of today’s events in the future? Dr. William Palmer, owner of Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park, often used his almanac as a journal to detail the events that took place on his nineteeth-century farm.
Starting a journal or almanac to record today’s events will make sure that your history is saved for future generations.
The Story of Photos
Most families have a box of photos. Some date back before digital photography and some go back generations. Do you know all the people in the photos?
Historians are sometimes challenged by photographs because the people, places and activities are unknown.
Visit the Agricultural Farm History Park Facebook page for a
photo project using your family pictures to tell a story of your family.
Every Family Has a Story
Have you ever asked your grandma what her favorite meal, game, or toy was growing up? Have you ever asked your parents how they first met, or where they went on their first date?
Our families all have their own histories, each as unique and interesting as the person sharing it!
One job of historians is to capture what are called “Oral Histories”. Oral histories are considered “primary sources,” or history captured from the perspective of an actual person who lived it (letters and diaries also fall into this category!).
Collect your own family stories with this
Oral Histories project from our staff at the Agricultural Farm History Park.
The Woodlawn Museum is housed in a stone barn that was constructed in 1832 by master mason Isaac Holland for Dr. William Palmer.
The three-level barn is considered a bank barn. Bank barns are built into the side of a hill or embankment, allowing the ability to enter all three levels without the need of stairs. Two of the entrances to the stone barn can be seen in the photo to the right. Learn more about restoring historic barns on the
National Park Service website.
History of Sandy Spring and the Northwest Branch
More than 300 years ago, Quaker settlers built a thriving community around the northwest branch of the Anacostia River. The village of Sandy Spring was named for the gentle headwaters that flow through the fields, woods and farms of the community. The “Sandy Spring” is located at the end of the Underground Railroad Experience Trail at Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park. Learn more about the history of this area on this
Create Your Own Piece of Montgomery County History
In honor or Maryland Archaeology Month (April), we challenge you to recreate your own piece of Montgomery County history!
Search your home for materials to build a small-scale version of your favorite local historic site, architecture or cultural space. Then, share your creation with us in the comments section of this post on the Needwood Mansion Facebook page and tag us (@NeedwoodMansion).
For inspiration, visit our
History in the Parks page or check out the Archaeological Institute of America’s Build Your Ow n Monument challenge.
History of Ice Skating
How long have people been ice skating? The answer may surprise you. Check out this informative
article from Encyclopedia Britannica on the history of ice skating and the invention of the modern ice rink.
Zamboni (R) is a brand name. But, do you know who the Zamboni (R) is named after? Well, learn some Zam-history with this
timeline from the Zamboni (R) Corporation.
Online Archeology Programs
Tricks of the Trade Series
Visit the Needwood Mansion Facebook page for their series about how historians and archaeologists prepare for work in the field.
How to Dress for the Field
How to Pack for the Field
Identifying and Preventing the Spread of Poison Ivy
Tick Identification and Prevention
Material Culture during the COVID-19 Era
Archaeologists look to the material culture of past societies to interpret the human experience over time. In the archaeological record, material culture is defined by the objects and spaces that past people have modified to reflect their behaviors, beliefs or traditions.
Learn more about material culture on the
Needwood Mansion Facebook page.
What is so enticing about a trash midden? In archaeology, we refer to a deposit of domestic refuse, like broken ceramics, plant, and faunal remains as a midden.
Archaeologists are challenged to find food remains because acidic soil conditions degrade organic materials. Middens, like the kitchen trash midden at the Josiah Henson Museum and Park, are ideal micro-environments for preservation. To learn more about trash middens, visit the
Needwood Mansion Facebook page
Costumed Interpretation at Needwood Mansion
Montgomery Parks’ archaeologists hold their Archaeology Day every year at Needwood Mansion (formerly known as the
Sunnyside Plantation) to introd uce archaeology to the community. Visitors, young and old, learn about current archaeological investigations, dig and process artifacts from the simulated archaeological site, and try out different archaeological activities. such as ceramic mending and seed identification.
One of the popular activities at Archaeology Day is visiting with the costumed interpreters, who portray people who lived at, or near, the mansion during the nineteenth century. Visit the
Needwood Mansion Facebook page to learn more about costumed interpretation.
Piggy Bank at James Hanson Miles site
-twentieth century piggy bank was found during excavations at the James Hanson Miles site in Little Bennett Regional Park. The piggy bank is a yellow ware decorated with a mocha slip. Yellow wares were first manufactured in the United Kingdom during the late eighteenth century and were not produced in Maryland until the mid-nineteenth century.
Notice that the bank is broken. The ceramic bank has a single slot at the top and would have been intentionally broken to r
etrieve the coins placed inside. The machine-made glass marbles and piggy bank likely belonged to children who either lived at the farmstead or vacationed at the property during the summer months.
For more information on yellow ware and other earthenwares, visit the James Patterson Park & Museum
online resource page on historic ceramic identification.
Frozen Charlotte Dolls
Frozen Charlotte dolls were widely produced in the United States following the publication of an 1843 cautionary poem, “A Corpse Going To A Ball by Seba Smith.” The poem memorialized the death of a young woman who suffered from hypothermia while on her way to a ball on New Year’s Eve, 1839.
The poem’s popularity spread across North America over the mid-nineteenth century and inspired a folksong and the production of small porcelain dolls known as Frozen Charlottes. Frozen Ch
arlotte dolls are similar to European bisque dolls, generally manufactured and imported to the United States between 1840 and 1900. Unlike their European counterparts, Frozen Charlotte dolls were typically crafted as one-piece unjointed porcelain figurines.
This Frozen Charlotte doll (pictured to the right) was recovered during excavation at the Seneca Store site in 2019. The doll may have belonged to a child living on the property during the Darby occupation in 1855.
For more information on nineteenth century folk music, visit the
For other examples of Frozen Charlotte dolls recovered from archaeological sites, visit the
Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum “Small Finds” page.
Newlin’s Mill Archaeological Site
Enjoy this 3D reconstruction
video of the Newlin’s Mill archaeological site as it it may have looked when in operation during the Nineteenth century. Located in Brookeville, this site, along with Thomas Mill, helped propel the town to economic success.
Virtual Tour of Muncaster Mill
The ruins of Muncaster Mill are still visible at the intersection of Muncaster Mill and Emory Lane near Meadowside Nature Center. Visit the Needwood Mansion Facebook page to see a
photo album of these ruins and learn about the operation that existed for nearly two hundred years.
Josiah Henson Artifact – Saucers
These ceramic fragments (pictured to the left) found at the Josiah Henson site were once part of a saucer. They came from a kitchen trash deposit discovered during construction for the museum. Based on the handpainted design and colors, this saucer was made sometime between 1795 and 1815. For more information on similar ceramics, and how archeologists determine and artifact’s age, take a look at the “Diagnostic Artifacts” on the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum website.
Zeigler Log House
One of the best preserved archeological sites within Little Bennett Regional Park is the Zeigler Log House located off the Western Piedmont Trail. Visit the
Needwood Mansion Facebook page to learn more about this historic property.
Excavations at Zeigler Log House
The Montgomery Parks Archaeology Program has excavated the Zeigler Log House for over a decade. With the help of our volunteers and Montgomery Parks Archaeology Camp participants, we are learning more about what life was like for those who lived and worked on a farm in the nineteenth century. See highlights from our excavations, artifact finds and history on the
Montgomery Parks Archaeology Program website.
What was Concealed Behind this Wall at the Zeigler Log House?
Many historic structures hold deliberately hidden objects within their walls. These ritually concealed artifacts could be dropped into the hollow spaces between walls during repairs or periods of new construction to ward off evil spirits.
Can you guess what artifacts were purposefully hidden at the Ziegler Log House?
To find out the answer and the story behind this artifact, visit the
Needwood Mansion Facebook page.