HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WJLA) — A shovel full at a time. With every shake of sifter. With every check of the screen, bit by bit, an artifact at a time, a story is being told.
“There are marbles, doll parts, slate pencils, everything that speaks to family,” says Maryland State Highway Administration chief archeologist Dr. Julie Schablitsky.
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She is leading a week-long dig at what may be the oldest structure in Hagerstown. It is 180-year-old log cabin in the heart of what was once a thriving African American community. Her work is uncovering a history she says went largely unrecorded.
“It’s really our job to go into the soil lift those stories out and tell the public what we’re finding out," she says.
So far she’s learned the cabin was built by German immigrants. Probably in the 1830s. Decades later it passed into the hands of African American families who built the area around it along Jonathan Street into a cultural and commercial hub.
“It is long overdue that this lost and forgotten community rich history story is told,” says Reggie Turner. He serves on the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture. He is a driving force behind the project.
“The African American community here, their history is intertwined with the founder of Hagerstown and now it’s time to talk more about the contributions of this community,” says Turner.
With the research nearly complete, the hope now is this old cabin will be restored to its original condition and this chapter of Hagerstown history will never again be forgotten.