BENNETT’S POINT
18QU28

Introduction

The Bennett’s Point (18QU28) collection comes from a colonial period tobacco plantation located in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. The home of Peter and Frances Sayer between 1675 and 1698, and Elizabeth and Richard Bennett III between 1700 and 1749, Bennett’s Point was also a major port. The assemblage dates to the occupation of the site by Richard Bennett, a lawyer, planter, merchant and one of the wealthiest men in the colony. Bennett was known as America’s first millionaire.

The Bennett’s Point collection represents the domestic core of a large tobacco plantation, one of a very few early to mid-18th-century household sites excavated on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Because of the salvage circumstances of its excavation, field notes, maps, and descriptions are incomplete, limiting the kinds of studies suitable for this collection. Still, the collection is useful for documenting the kinds of material culture found on a late 17th/18th-century plantation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where planters shifted from tobacco to grain production.

Archaeological Investigations

Members of the Archaeological Society of Delaware (ASD) conducted intermittent excavations at Bennett’s Point between 1966 and 1974, before and during the construction of a housing development on the property. Under the direction of John Ludlow and John and Henry Watkins, ASD volunteers first excavated shovel test pits to locate activity areas. Over the course of the investigation, excavators found between three and seven structures on the property, but their primary focus was Icehouse Point, where several sub-surface features were uncovered. These features included Pit A, the brick foundation of a dwelling, and an eroding foundation of a second building.

During June and July 1968 and May 1969, ASD archaeologists focused on the excavation of Pit A at Icehouse Point, which they interpreted as an 18th-century trash pit. Pit A was excavated following natural stratigraphy, reaching a depth of three feet two inches at its southeastern end. The shape of Pit A is detailed in several sketches, but no complete plan or profile exists.

ASD members uncovered the southwest corner of a brick foundation in a plowed field at Icehouse Point in August 1969. Forty-eight five-foot squares were excavated to reveal a a brick and a half-wide foundation laid in Flemish bond and and measuring 22 feet by 80 feet. Two massive H-shaped hearth foundations were located in the center of the dwelling’s western half, with four rectangular pits on either side. This structure, with a height of more than one story, was probably built in the late 17th century and was used as a residence until the mid-1760s, when it was destroyed by fire. Excavation ended in June 1973 to allow for the construction of a new house on the site.

In 1969, an eroding foundation on the beach at Icehouse Point was examined through the excavation of four test units. This area was revisited in 1973, when two units were opened to reveal an associated refuse pit. Excavated in five arbitrary levels, a wide variety of late 17th- and 18th-century artifacts were recovered.

ASD members also documented the location of the cemetery at Bennett’s Point in May 1969. Investigators discovered a number of underground, vaulted brick crypts, several headstones, and a brick foundation wall surrounding the boundaries of the graveyard. Gravestones were located and recorded for Richard Bennett, Elizabeth Bennett, D. Caroll, and an unknown sailor.

Artifacts

The Bennett’s Point collection consists of 29,192 artifacts, primarily domestic and architectural items dating from c.1690 through the third quarter of the 18th century. A total of 4,683 ceramic sherds from a wide variety of vessel forms and ceramic types are found in the collection. Earthenware types include North Devon gravel-tempered, gravel-free, and sgraffito wares, tin-glazed pottery, Iberian ware, and black-glazed redwares in various forms. A nearly complete burned lead-glazed coarse earthenware bowl was also unearthed, along with 83 manganese and cobalt painted tin-glazed tile fragments. Seven stoneware types, including white salt-glazed, Rhenish blue and gray, and English brown wares, were found in tankard and jug forms. Two polychrome hand-painted white salt-glazed bowls were also discovered, along with one "bellarmine" fragment. Three hundred and thirty Chinese porcelain sherds from bowls and teacups were recovered, including specimens with gilding and polychrome over-glaze decoration.

Wine bottle fragments were the predominant glass container types recovered at 18QU28, but smaller quantities of case bottles and medicine bottles were also found. In addition, twelve wine bottles seals were discovered, including nine for Richard Bennett and three with an unidentified woman’s name and coat of arms. Four complete and 15 broken glass beads of various colors and two fragments of hand-painted glass were also recovered.

Other artifacts reveal the wealth of the occupants at Bennett’s Point during the first half of the 18th century. A gold-plated button, two pairs of white metal cufflinks (one with a central green jewel), and a silver-plated buckle fragment were among the clothing artifacts recovered. Two book hinges, a coin weight, a copper alloy pestle handle, several ornamental copper alloy furniture hardware fragments, and a carved bone medallion were also found. An iron padlock and key, two smoker’s companions, five pewter spoons, a shovel blade, and a complete fireplace shovel also reveal information about the wide range of activities that occurred across at the site. An ornamental brick/daub fragment was used to accentuate architectural features.

Records

The collection consists of original notes, both handwritten and typed. A large quantity of photocopied historic documents, journal/magazine articles, and excerpts from books are also present in the collection. Overall, the record collection is in fair condition, composed mainly of historic research with very little field documentation. Documents taken from one research notebook (Ludlow Historic Research Notes 1968-1973 Notebook) showed signs of mold and were vacuumed. The collection consists of two letter-sized clamshell boxes, one legal-sized clamshell box, eight undersized enclosures, seven oversized enclosures, and three document rolls.

Although the site was excavated over a period of at least seven years by several different amateur archaeologists and historians, with the exception of a few maps, plans and profiles, there are no excavation records. The bulk of the collection consists of historical and genealogical research. There are six field journals in the collection: Watkins, John and Mary (1966-1967); Watkins, Mary (1969-1970); Watkins, Mary (1970); Ludlow, John (1972-1973); Watkins, John (1966-1968); Unnamed (1962-1964).

All records have been scanned as .PDF files. Document folders include: excavation notes; project correspondence; historic document copies and notes; Ludlow’s 1968-1973 notebook; miscellaneous artifact information; bottle analysis; miscellaneous site maps and sketches; Ludlow’s Maryland State Archives research notebook; post-project correspondence; an unofficial site analysis report; miscellaneous genealogical and historical research; graveyard notes; miscellaneous background research from published sources; miscellaneous death notices, wills, and inventories; property history notes; geological survey maps and data; site report notes: conservation notes; and historic and prehistoric research from unrelated archaeological sites (this last category has not been scanned). Box enclosures include six field journals, an artifact journal, and a research journal. Envelopes contain oversized wills, newspaper articles, miscellaneous site maps on paper, transparencies, and mylar, and historic document copies and notes. Oversize document rolls contain wine sample graphs, site blueprints, and USGS topographic maps.

The principal investigator of this site died before producing an official report. A site analysis was later written by Kit W. Wesler of Murray State University and is available online in .PFD format.

Because the records are limited, the Bennett’s Point collection is perhaps most valuable for the artifacts recovered during the excavations, rather than for discerning relationships among these artifacts and the stratigraphic levels from which they were recovered. While a large quantity of background research was completed for this project, the investigators appear to have been involved in studying and excavating several sites at once, including some in Delaware. The material is therefore more of a personal research collection than a compilation of specific site data. Every effort has been made to separate actual Bennett’s Point research from the unrelated site material, but due to the nature of the documentation and its organization, this has not always been feasible.

Photographs taken on-site or in post-processing are available through the online database, and are searchable using the above criteria. Researchers should note that images are not linked directly to specific documents, and photograph records do not necessarily exist for all features or units. Original images consist of slides and prints and are housed at the MAC Lab.

References

Jacobe, Stephanie A.
2001     The Bennett’s Point Site:18QU28. Manuscript on file at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
Preston, Dickson
1972     Ozymandias Beside The Chesapeake: Richard Bennett was at One Time the Richest Man on the Continent, and Now There’s Only a Gravestone. The Sun Magazine, November 5, pp. 20-25.
Wesler, Kit W.
1984     Excavations at Icehouse Point, 18QU28: The Sayer-Bennett Plantation. Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Delaware 17:1-28.

Digital Resources

Documents

  • No documents

PDFs

Archaeological Report
Artifact Documents
Catalogs
Conservation Documents
Correspondence
Excavation Documents
Field Notes
Historical Research
Lot Index
Maps
Notes
Project Documents
Specialized Analysis


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