Ghost Walls

Ghost Walls: The Story of a 17th Century Colonial Homestead

About the Book

In 1638, John Lewger made a home in the wilder­ness of the New World. He named his house St. John’s. 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 and the betray­al of native peo­ples. They wit­nessed the strug­gle for equal­i­ty between men and women. One hun­dred years lat­er, the house sat aban­doned. Its walls fell and time erased all above ground remains. St. John’s walls were silent for more than two cen­turies. But they weren’t lost. Ghost Walls is the sto­ry of how teams of sci­en­tists and his­to­ri­ans coaxed St. John’s house into telling its many tales.


Com­mon Core Connections

Liv­ing His­to­ry Activity

The first three per­ma­nent British colonies were: James, Ply­mouth, and Boston.

Enjoy your vir­tu­al vis­it to colo­nial America’s fourth per­ma­nent British colony, St. Mary’s City. You’ll find a wealth of infor­ma­tion about the colo­nial town where St. John’s house stood.


“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)

“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.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“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.” (Bul­letin of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s Books)

Ghost Walls

writ­ten by Sal­ly M. Walk­er
Car­ol­rho­da Books, Oct 2014
hard­cov­er: 978–0761354086
136 pages, ages 10 and up

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