SMITH’S ST. LEONARD
The Smith’s St. Leonard Site (18CV91) was the homelot of a tobacco plantation occupied during the first half of the 18th century in Calvert County, Maryland. It is situated today at the southern end of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM), on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Patuxent River and St. Leonard’s Creek. Documentary evidence suggests that Richard Smith Jr. built a residence at this location in 1711. After Richard’s death in 1715, the property was inherited by his son, Walter, who in turn left it to his son, John. After John’s death in 1754, the plantation fell into the ownership of absentee landlords, and the homelot was probably abandoned. Court records from the early 1770s indicate that the Smith house and surrounding outbuildings were in ruins by that time. Archaeological evidence of at least four of these structures has been uncovered at the Smith’s St. Leonard Site.
One of these buildings appeared to be a quarters for enslaved workers. Comparing the artifacts and features found at this structure with those uncovered at the Smiths’ own nearby residence provides an opportunity to examine 18th-century social relations on the plantation. The rich 18th-century documentary record on the site adds to the database. The picture of social relations can be expanded diachronically when the evidence from 18CV91 is compared to two other sites on the plantation: 18CV83, Richard Smith Jr.’s home from c.1690-1711, and 18CV92, where Smith’s father lived starting in the early 1660s. The Smith’s St. Leonard Site is also important because in southern Maryland the archaeological evidence of 17th-century life is, perhaps surprisingly, better known than that of the 18th century. Investigations at 18CV91 help fill in these gaps in the archaeological record.
The Smith’s St. Leonard Site was first identified in 1981 during a preliminary archaeological survey of the Patterson property. No further work was done on the site until 1999, when a small trash pit was uncovered during a shoreline stabilization project. The unusual artifacts recovered from this pit, when combined with the detailed documentary evidence available on the Smith family residency, led JPPM archaeologists to make the site the subject of the museum’s annual Public Archaeology Program.
In May 2002, the first extensive investigation of the site began. First, 117 shovel test pits measuring approximately 30 centimeters in diameter were excavated at 8-meter intervals across the site. All soil was screened through ¼ inch mesh, and all cultural materials were retained. Next, seven 1.5-meter test units, and two half-units, were excavated in areas where the shovel test pits revealed artifact concentrations or buried features. Again, all soil was screened through ¼ inch mesh, and all cultural materials were retained. However, in many cases only a 10% sample of shell, brick, and other bulk items from plowzone contexts was kept, after first being cleaned, counted, and weighed. The trash pit first uncovered in 1999 was fully excavated in 2002. All soils from this feature, the only one excavated in 2002, were dry-screened through ¼ inch mesh and then water-screened through window mesh.
Sub-plowzone features were uncovered in every test unit excavated in 2002. In two of the units, portions of the brick foundation of the Smith house were found. The thickness of the foundation suggested that the house was a substantial structure. The probate inventories of Richard and Walter Smith indicate that the building was probably cruciform in shape, but there was not sufficient archaeological evidence to determine its size. A smaller brick footing, possibly a chimney base, was found approximately 30 meters east of the Smith house. Documentary evidence suggested that this could be the location of a kitchen. Twenty meters to the north, the posthole of an earthfast building was uncovered. The function of this structure is uncertain, but it was surrounded by abundant oyster shell and domestic refuse. Another structural posthole for an earthfast building was found 35 meters further north. Again, the combined archaeological and historical evidence suggested that a slave quarters had once stood there.
Finally, several adjacent test units were opened to fully expose the trash pit uncovered in 1999. This revealed that the pit measured approximately 1.2 meters by 0.75 meters, and was about 0.35 meters deep. Based on a coin and other artifacts found in the pit, the deposit dated to sometime shortly after the mid-1740s. The types of artifacts recovered suggested that they came from the nearby kitchen.
The archaeological record supported the documentary evidence which indicated that the Smith’s St. Leonard Site was occupied from c. 1711-1754. Only a couple of artifacts dating to before 1711 were found, and no creamware or other later 18th-century objects were recovered. The 2002 excavations were too limited in scope to reveal much about the appearance of the buildings which once stood on the site. However, 18CV91 will continue to be the subject of archaeological investigations by JPPM staff.
A total of 112,850 artifacts were recovered from 18CV91 in 1999-2002. The vast majority of these (92%) consisted of oyster shell, brick, and mortar. Architectural items were most abundant near the Smith house, while shell and domestic artifacts were common near the presumed kitchen. The area around the supposed slave quarters produced fewer artifacts than did any of the other buildings.
The artifact assemblage from 18CV91 included 479 ceramic sherds. The majority of these were tin glazed earthenwares, various unidentified lead-glazed coarse earthenwares, and English brown and Rhenish blue and gray stonewares. Lesser amounts of porcelain, white salt glazed stoneware, Staffordshire-type slipware, various North Devon earthenwares, Buckley earthenware, and Manganese Mottled earthenware were also recovered. A total of 411 glass fragments were found. Most came from bottles, but table glass and window glass was also included. Four hundred sixteen white clay tobacco pipes fragments were found. Several were marked, including one made by Llewellin Evans that pre-dated the site.
A number of interesting artifacts were recovered from the trash pit first noted in 1999. Among these were two iron firebacks, one decorated with an eagle or griffin sitting in a tree-like object next to two shields, the other ornamented with a scroll design; the base of a copper-alloy chafing dish that was probably made in Germany; a George II halfpenny minted between 1740 and 1745; a copper-alloy button with a star design; a copper-alloy bridle boss; a length of iron chain; a whetstone; several dressed sandstone fragments; bone knife handles; a bone comb; and a number of straight pins. There were also a number of animal bones present, including a large drumfish jaw. Finally, four unusual prehistoric artifacts were found in the pit: a large rhyolite blade, a gorget, part of a pestle, and a smoothed, discoidal sandstone object with a trapezoidal profile that was possibly used as an abrader. The lack of debitage, prehistoric ceramics, or other incidental Native American artifacts in the pit suggests that these objects were collected by someone in the Smith household.
Because excavations at 18CV91 are still ongoing, existing records are occasionally updated and modified. For this reason, no effort has yet been made to scan these records and enter them into the database. They will be digitized and added to the database at a future date, when the field investigations are completed. Photographs will also be added at that time. However, a portion of the Smith’s St. Leonard artifact catalog is now accessible through the online database.
- Chaney, Edward
- 2003 Interim Report on the 2002 Excavations at 18CV91. Report on file, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, St. Leonard, Maryland.
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