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Highway project unearths history near Bushmill Tavern, reveal tavern that George Washington visited

Also stop for Rochambeau during Revolutionary War
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Posted at 3:00 PM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 19:22:00-05

Across from Bushmill Tavern in Abingdon is Doctor Peter Holt's office. He treats patients for arthritis these days, but it you go back a couple hundred years, the same location provided a different service.

In the mid-1800's it was a tavern that served some pretty famous names.

George Washington would ride through on his way from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia, according to Chief Archaeologist Doctor Julie Schablitsky.

"So he stayed here, he writes about the town of Harford, also known as Bush, in his diaries, so this place has wonderful history," Dr. Schablitsky said.

Washington's ally, who helped him win the Revolutionary War, French Commander Rochambeau, brought thousands of men through the town on his way to and from the battle of Yorktown, and also stopped at the tavern.

"In 1781 and 1782, and when he was here he had more than 4,000 men, so that's going to leave a signature on the landscape," Dr. Schablitsky said.

When archeologists dug in the backyard of the tavern they found two other buildings, one with a water well, an area for food storage, and another with a fireplace that seemed to indicate a home.

Plates, glass containers, money, tobacco pipes are just a few things archeologists unearthed in the area. They would have found more if it weren't for thieves.

"It's a hot spot for site looters...a lot of those guys who do that sort of thing, you know they are a source of information too because they've been doing this sort of thing for a long time. They have a lot of local knowledge, but they don't go about their excavations as scientifically as we are," Archeologist Aaron Levinthal said.

The reason for the excavation is for the community, as the Maryland Department of Transportation looks at options to improve the connection between Route 136 and Philadelphia Road.

"It is so important for archeology to try and fill in the gaps of our past because a lot of times what has happened is, 100, 200, 300 years ago is completely gone," Dr. Schablitsky said.

The owners of the business technically own anything that comes from the dig, but according to Dr. Schablitsky, everything that was found on this site will be donated to a museum.

The dig took about 3 weeks, of logging, digging by hand with shovels and trowels, sifting, and bagging artifacts. Logs of each layer, and what was found, were carefully cataloged. Artifacts were shipped to the lab where artifacts were analyzed to find out their age.

Now Dr. Schablitsky will share her findings with the DOT, in an effort to shape roadway plans that avoid, mitigate or minimize the historic site.