Finds Underfoot Create Collection

March 10, 1995|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

The Rev. Edward McCabe is a hatchet man. He also keeps 9-inch stone knife blades, arrowheads, spearheads, bits of pottery and some peace pipes in his basement.

The 55-year-old North Laurel resident has collected more than 2,000 Native American relics -- many within a three-mile radius of his Hammond Village home.

"The traces of what the Indians did are all over of the place," said Mr. McCabe, an amateur archaeologist and a retired art director for the federal government. "I don't do any digging. I don't disturb the ground. I just walk and find them."

On the paneled walls in his basement are nearly two dozen picture frames with artifacts carefully mounted on them, ffTC testament to the tenacity of his quest.

They include stone and metal arrowheads, clay pipes, jagged-edged stone knives, and smooth, flat stones with small holes, which served as hair pendants.

"A lot of people are just amazed when they see it all," said Mr. McCabe's wife, Janice. "They always ask, 'Where did you get this stuff?' "

Mr. McCabe started collecting the artifacts when he was 8. He spotted a reddish arrowhead in his mother's flower garden at his home in Worcester County's Snow Hill, a town of about 2,200 people.

"I knew exactly what it was," Mr. McCabe said of the piece, which he still has. "It was absolutely beautiful."

That discovery was the impetus for his lifelong hobby.

Mr. McCabe would lug his rock collection from place to place, always looking for a new piece. He would put on his walking shoes and look for sites where he could find some artifacts.

"Wherever I've been, if there's a cornfield or riverbed, I've probably walked there," Mr. McCabe said.

A graphic artist by trade, Mr. McCabe became the art director for the U.S. State Department in 1970, a position from which he retired in 1983 to "dedicate my life to ministry and the work of the Lord." He's now minister at the newly formed Burtonsville Assembly of God Church.

Mr. McCabe continues to use his artistic skills, mounting artifacts on wood boards in the shapes of fish, Native American profiles and birds to display in his home.

About 90 percent of his collection comes from Worcester County, where Native American tribes such as the Nanticokes and the Pocomokes once made their homes. He also has pieces from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, Florida and Kentucky.

"Each thing has something unusual about it," Mr. McCabe said.

The second-largest part of Mr. McCabe's collection comes from Howard County soil. He has more than 350 pieces he has found while walking around the county -- some of them in his backyard.

"There were a number of tribes in this area, mostly Piscataway," said Lee Preston, president of the Upper Patuxent Archaeological Group, part of the state Archaeological Society. "They were either pushed out by the Europeans or they moved on their own volition. Basically, they moved west."

There are about 180 Howard County sites where Native American artifacts have been found, Mr. Preston said. Many of the relics are 4,000 to 5,000 years old or older. Others can be traced to what is known as the Woodland period -- the time of settlement by the Europeans.

Mr. Preston said that collections such as Mr. McCabe's help the group with its research into the history of Native American tribes in the area.

"There's not that much of a backlog of information" on Howard County's Native American tribes, Mr. Preston said. "There really hasn't been a lot of research done."

Mr. McCabe, meanwhile, is still building his collection. Even with more than 2,000 pieces, he said he doesn't have an unbroken stone pipe or Native American bowl found in Maryland.

"I want to hear from other collectors," he said. "I expect to hear from people."

But most likely, he'll find those last pieces the way he's found most of the others -- by walking.

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