The most ordinary day can turn extraordinary with just a phone call, and that is exactly what recently happened at the Historical Society when we took a call from Mr. Barry Sawyer from Lancaster, PA. Here is what he told us that day, and we were so intrigued that we immediately set a date for Mr. Sawyer to visit the Society. Mr. Sawyer was so passionate about his collection and was such an animated gentleman that we asked him to return so that we could tape an interview with him which, after editing, will appear on our website. Following is Mr. Sawyer’s story.
“For many years (1930-1950) my family vacationed at Crystal Beach on the Elk River. While there, we would worship at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Earleville and pick up our mail at the post office. We always looked forward to seeing Mrs. Loller who went out of her way to be helpful and always remembering us from year to year.
One Sunday after service, we were approached by an elderly man with a white beard who was eager to give us the history of old St. Stephen’s. He took us up to the altar and kneeling behind the altar he rattled what sounded like creaking old wood and pulled out a velvet bag which he explained contained the original silver communion set presented to the parish by the King and Queen of England. I’m sure now, that set is behind lock and key.
He introduced himself as Lindsey Price and asked where we were from. We told him that we were vacationing at Crystal Beach and that we were from Lancaster, PA. Immediately his face brightened, and with a broad smile he exclaimed, Lancaster restored his life. He explained that for over 30+ years of his life he could not talk and it was Dr. Herbert Cooper, the founder of the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, who restored his speech after so many years of silence.
He then turned his attention to me. I was 12 or 13 at the time. He obviously noticed that I had a repaired cleft lip. Maybe it was that or my incessant questions regarding the church and cemetery, but the bond was sealed. I was totally captivated with his stature, high pitched voice and that white beard, so different from my suburban life in Lancaster County.
I’m not sure how it started, but somehow, we began to discuss the early inhabitants of Maryland, specifically the Indians of the region. He showed us his farm across from the church and how he would unearth arrowheads and points when he plowed after a rain. Of course, I was ecstatic and totally captivated with his knowledge and understanding of the ancestral life on his farm.
Not long after, I came home from school one day and my mother told me that a small package arrived for me. I wasn’t expecting anything, what could it be? I opened it and there was a small box of perfect arrowheads that were dated, Early Archaic Period (before 3000 B.C.) That’s how it started. Little boxes would arrive, one after another. It was an exciting time. We questioned these gifts and why he was passing them on to me. He made it clear that he didn’t want anyone digging up his farm.
Mr. Price was using a chart from the article, “The Seven Ages of Man in Maryland” by James H. Bready, The Sun, August 29, 1954, to categorize his collection and he sent me a copy so that I might continue his work. The article referenced the work of archaeologist T. Latimer Ford who was curator of Indian archaeology for the Maryland Academy of Sciences and was involved in several digs at the time. A special thanks to Mr. Paul McCardell, librarian, for The Baltimore Sun for helping research this article.
In later years Mr. Price would visit us in Lancaster and we would visit him. I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with him while on vacation. His house was the prelude to my life of appreciation for old homes and antiques. He pointed out the black snake that was hanging on the implements in the farm shed. I was terrified, but he said, “You don’t disturb him.” He comes back every year and takes care of the rodents. I missed his passing in 1965 as I was in Germany, serving during the Vietnam War era. I would have gone to his funeral. He was 80 years old.
I have had his collection for over 60+ years, and it belongs in Cecil County where it was found. Mr. Price was in his seventies when he gifted his collection to me, and now, in my seventies, I pass it on to the Historical Society of Cecil County. Sincere appreciation to Lisa McKeown Dolor, research volunteer and Curator, who helped make this happen.
Lindsey Price was one of Cecil County’s first turn of the 20th century amateur archaeologists. He didn’t just collect, he cleaned, sorted and categorized as best he could. He loved history and had a profound appreciation for Maryland’s first inhabitants.”
Barry Sawyer, Lancaster, PA
To give you some background, Lindsey Price was born in Cecil County on February 10, 1885. He lived and farmed in Earleville, MD across from St. Stephen’s Church. Lindsey died in Sassafras, MD on November 2, 1965 and is buried at St. Stephen’s Church. Walter Z. Collings and Virginia H. Craven compiled “A Potpourri of Price Families of Cecil County, Maryland” of which the Historical Society has a copy. This genealogical record was dedicated to Mr. Lindsey Price whom the authors did not know, but without his extant Bible and other records, much of the material contained in this record would have been long in coming.
Since Mr. Sawyer dropped off his collection the Historical Society has contacted Dan Coates, president of the Archeological Society of the Northern Chesapeake (ASNC) (a chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland). Mr. Coates was excited about this donation because he said you rarely get this many artifacts from one area along with the provenance that ensures the artifact has not been passed around among dealers or collectors. Mr. Coates believes the collection contains pre contact items (before white men) and is going to catalogue the collection using Excel with extensive detail. When Mr. Sawyer learned of Mr. Coates’ interest, they made plans to work on the collection together and have been doing so for several weeks. Their plan is to register the farm where the artifacts were found with the State of Maryland.
The Historical Society is now open to the public by appointment only. Please contact us at 410-398-1790.