Archaeologists working along the Tiber in Ellicott City recently discovered “a treasure chest” of historical documents dating back to the earliest years of the area’s European settlement. Though most of the recovered papers deal with land grants, ownership, and inheritance, one in particular gives us a glimpse into colonial-era feuds. Two familiar names are mentioned vying for ownership of the land around the Tiber for “milling and… planting.” The two men, “Mr. Ellicott,” from whom the town gets its name, and “Mr. Gravele,” who some feel points to the local “Graveleigh” legend.
The dispute, according to the document, had escalated into theft of “diverse cattle” from Gravele’s farm, though it is unclear if this was actually done by Ellicott. Jim O Connor, the lead archaeologist at the site, told us “[w]e don’t know who this actually is- though I’m sure there are a lot of people who secretly hope it’s the infamous Graveleigh character.” O Connor, for his part, seemed not to take the possibility very seriously.
The “Graveleigh Legend” refers to the Howard County local legend dealing with a family of that name who lived at some point in the woods around main street Ellicott City. As the story goes, they were responsible at various points of history for the disappearances of dozens of young children. For many high school students, the myth has led to late-night excursions into the woods in search of evidence of the invisible killers.
Historical sources, though, have not been kind to the stories. It first appeared on record in a 1976 school newspaper publication about the legend. Previous to that, the records make no mention of a Graveleigh family or disappearances of children. But if the Gravele of this week’s discovery really is the same name- then who knows what will be found next?