CUMBERLAND — The Jane Gates Heritage House board of directors will host a public event Sept. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sept. 8 from noon to 4 p.m. that will combine archaeological research with tours of ongoing restoration and renovation at the Jane Gates House. The two-story, wooden-gabled structure at 515 Greene St. is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and has been the backdrop for nearly 150 years of family life along a corridor that was once the path of Braddock’s Road and the National Highway.

The property has been recognized by the city of Cumberland and the Maryland commission on African American History and Culture. The house has nurtured generations of the Gates family and witnessed the development of Cumberland across three different centuries. Jane Gates was born into slavery, but shortly after the Civil War was able to purchase the two-story wooden home.

According to the 1870 U.S. Census, she was occupied as a laundress and nurse and lived at the home with some of her five children. Three generations later, her descendants and members of the community have rallied around the building with the mission to rehabilitate the house and develop programming that will teach the history and honor the spirit of Jane Gates.

Oxbow Cultural Research principal Suzanne Lee Smith will direct archaeological work that includes screening outdoor areas near the house for artifacts. Smith is seeking volunteers to participate in the research during the house event.

The archaeological discovery study is made possible by contributions from the Allegany County Historical Society, the Jane Gates Heritage House board of directors and the Western Maryland Heritage Association.

The archaeologists have been invited to attend a mixer to be hosted by the Allegany County Historical Society on Sept. 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m at the Gordon-Roberts House to talk about the project. 

House renovations are funded by a capital grant from the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.

This opportunity for archaeological exploration will add to the archival, genealogical and oral history already researched by Gates’ great-grandson, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard professor, African American scholar and host of the PBS show “Finding Your Roots.”  Organizers see this phase of the project as a valuable method in understanding local African American history through recovered objects, treasures and trash — the discovered fragments of real and daily life that represent information unattainable by other means. Anyone interested in participating in the dig or obtaining more information about the event should contact Oxbow Cultural Research at 301-784-9132.

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