The Willow Grove site represents an antebellum plantation
and post-war farm complex that was founded by the prominent Bowie family
near the end of the 18th century. The construction of the main house has
been attributed to Walter Bowie Sr., who inherited the property in 1791.
Walter Bowie Sr. had a large commercial tobacco shipping business in addition
to nearly 1000 acres of land, with its associated structures such as his
dwelling, tenant homes, slave housing, meat houses, outhouses, etc. The
1798 tax assessment lists 56 slaves as being owned by Bowie. Bowie’s
son Walter Bowie Jr. built a major addition to the main house in the 1830s
and reoriented the house façade so that it would look impressive
from the entrance to the 1836 reconstructed Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
across the street. The Bowies were parishioners of that church and those
who lived at Willow Grove are buried in its churchyard.
After the Civil War, the Bowie family continued to operate
a farm at the site, though by the end of the 19th century the size of
the property was reduced to about 300 acres. Many of the former slaves
stayed on the farm as tenants, and some of the tenants on the property
are mentioned in the historical documents. For example, the 1900 census
lists the white farm manager Thomas Simpson and his family, three black
farm laborers named Joseph Fletcher, Robert Jackson, and John Hawkins
and their families, and a black railroad worker named Benjamin Johnson,
among others. Other freed slaves from area plantations settled in the
nearby village of Collington.
The main dwelling on the farm was occupied well into
the 20th century, but in a 1968 photo it appears to be abandoned. It stood
until 1974 when it caught fire and was subsequently razed. Tenants also
seem to have stayed on the property into the middle of the 20th century.
A Phase III data recovery was conducted on a 29.3-acre
portion of Willow Grove prior to residential development. The
data recovery focused on four areas that had been identified as
potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
during Phase I and II testing. Locus 1 concentrated on the main
house, its yard, and associated outbuildings such as the kitchen,
ice house, meat house, blacksmith shop, well, tobacco barn, and
frame garage. Locus 2 and Locus 3 both contained possible slave
or overseer quarters turned tenant houses (Structures 2 and 4).
Locus 4 concentrated on a late 19th-early 20th century probable tenant house (Structure 5).
|Gill, Matthew, Tonika Berkley, Nathan Workman, David
Berg, Peter Holmes, and Thomas Barrett
||Phase III Archaeological Data Recovery at
the Willow Grove Site (18PR510) in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Report on file at the Maryland Historical Trust.
The Willow Grove archaeological collection is
owned by the Maryland Historical Trust and curated at the Maryland Archaeological