Ghost Walls: The Story of a 17th-Century Colonial Homestead
In 1638, John Lewger made a home in the wilderness of the New World, in a place called Maryland. He named his house St. John's, and for nearly eighty years, it was the center of an ambitious English plan to build a new kind of community on American soil. Men and women lived and worked within its walls. Babies were born. Last breaths drawn. St. John's walls witnessed the first stirrings of the great struggles that would dominate the continent for the next three centuries: The unimaginable wealth of the New World's crops and natural resources. The promise of religious tolerance under a new model of government. The injustice of slavery. The betrayal of native peoples. The struggle for equality between men and women. If St. John's walls could have talked, they would have spoken volumes of American history.
And then the walls crumbled. One hundred years after it was built, St. John's House had been abandoned. The buildings slowly deteriorated, returning to the Maryland soil to be plowed under by generations of Maryland farmers. St. John's walls were silent for more than two centuries, little more than ghosts haunting the historical and archeological records.
But they weren't lost. Not entirely.
Award-winning author Sally M. Walker tells the story of how teams of scientists and historians managed to hear the ghostly echoes of St. John's House and, over the course of decades of painstaking work, made them speak their stories again.
Earn by promoting books
Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.Become an affiliate
About the Author
"In 1638, Maryland provincial secretary John Lewger built the colonial equivalent of a McMansion, a two-story, four-room house that was doubtless the envy of his neighbors. It not only served as the Lewgers' home but also as the official assembly house for the colony, and it was thus the site of several well-documented episodes of the period's history. By the early 1700s it fell into neglect, was cannibalized for building materials, and nearly slipped from notice until the 1960s, when archaeologists attempted a first excavation. Others followed, and now the homestead is preserved as a partially excavated, partially reconstructed artifact enclosed within a modern museum. Walker focuses on the past and ongoing research that has brought the estate back to life, discussing the physical excavations and the search for documentary evidence that occasionally overlap with each other, much to the delight of investigators. Teens fascinated by archaeological fieldwork will appreciate Walker's inclusion not only of the dig but the reasoning behind many of the archaeologists' conclusions (often tentative and changeable) concerning use of space and artifacts. There are also plenty of good stories for history buffs, from the gruesome murder of a servant (likely a slave), to trials concerning deaths of neighboring Yaocomaco Indians at the hands of white settlers, to the occasion of the first-known vote cast by a person of African descent in colonies. Plentiful illustrations include photographs of the excavated sites, artifacts, and documents, as well as computer-generated reconstructions of the homestead at various points in its history. A timeline, source notes, bibliography, and index are appended." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books-- (1/1/2015 12:00:00 AM)
"Just as Walker's Written in Bone (2009) dealt with forensic anthropology at colonial sites in Virginia and Maryland, her latest book introduces the work of archaeologists at another significant location. Using the excavation at the site of St. John's, a long-lost house in St. Mary's, Maryland, as the focal point, she opens the book with the harrowing story of a slave cruelly killed outside the house in 1656, then begins the discussion of excavations at the site, which began in 1962 and continue today. The book traces the house's history chronologically while also detailing the methods and discoveries of archaeologists as well as related research on the period. Along the way, Walker offers a great deal of miscellaneous information about colonial life in Maryland, from building practices to legal disputes to governance to women's roles. The many illustrations include digital drawings of the house at various periods and archival documents as well as many color photos of sites, artifacts, and costumed interpreters. A detailed resource for those studying colonial Maryland, this well-researched book will also interest aspiring archaeologists." --Booklist-- (9/15/2014 12:00:00 AM)
"The site of a 17th-century home owned by a colonial Maryland official reveals the story of its origins with the help of historians and archaeologists. An early citizen of the Maryland colony, John Lewger built a home for his family and servants that reflected his stature. One hundred years after its establishment, the house was gone, and the role it played in the early years of American history was seemingly lost. However, historians and archaeologists were able to literally unearth information about the structure of the house and lifestyle of its inhabitants. The tension inherent in operating a system of indenture alongside a growing number of slaves is just one of the stories revealed by historical documents. With great attention to archaeological detail, Sibert medalist Walker explores the work of the scientists who studied every aspect of the site, both physically and through historical records. The author's considerable skill at bringing historical stories to life is on display. However, the level of detail makes for a slow read. The text is quite dense, although the plentiful illustrations provide strong visual support. A few of the bookmaking decisions, such as the use of green ink in captions and the font size, may be problematic for some readers.Though it doesn't sparkle like some of her earlier works, there's much here for patient readers." --Kirkus Reviews-- (9/1/2014 12:00:00 AM)