The Susquehanna site is located aboard the Naval Air
Station Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The peninsula
on which the site sits had been occupied by colonists since the 1650s,
but 18ST399 was not established until the mid-18th century. The first
construction at the site seems to have been undertaken by Captain Henry
Carroll and his wife Araminta Thompson Carroll, who had inherited the
property by 1767. After Henry Carroll died in 1775, Araminta married George
Briscoe, who moved in with her and managed the property until they moved
to Prince George’s County in 1813.
After Araminta’s death, the property shuffled
among Carroll family heirs for several decades. In the 1840s, Henry J.
Carroll managed the property and assumed ownership. Henry Carroll was
a planter who owned up to 65 slaves, but he suffered financially when
a failed business venture was followed in short order by the Civil War
and the emancipation of the enslaved individuals that had previously represented
a large portion of his estate’s value. He died in debt in 1884,
and his daughter Eleanor Carroll Darnall had to buy the property at a
court ordered sale in order to remain there.
From 1894 to 1942, the property was owned by absentee
landlords and occupied by tenant farmers. In 1942, the Navy acquired the
property and made plans to develop it. The landowner at the time offered
the house at Susquehanna to Henry Ford for a new a new museum he was establishing.
They believed that the house dated to the 17th-century and had been the
residence of Christopher Rousby, who was buried nearby in a grave marked
by a large slab tombstone. Ford accepted the donation of the house, and
it was subsequently dismantled and moved to Dearborn, Michigan, where
it is currently part of the exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.
Henry Ford Museum sponsored a systematic archaeological project
at Susquehanna in the late 1980s. The project included the excavation
of 175 shovel tests and ten 5’ by 5’ test units, all
of which focused on the main house and its yard. These excavations
revealed the presence of a c. 1760-1820 house foundation that
measured approximately 35’ by 30.’ This structure
had been located just west of the dwelling that had been moved
to Michigan, and it is interpreted as the residence of Captain
Henry Carroll and his wife Araminta Thompson Carroll.
Archaeological and dendrochronological analysis determined
that the house at the Henry Ford Museum was probably constructed in the
1840s by Henry J. Carroll. Artifact distribution studies suggest that
it was maintained with a formal yard area and symmetrically placed outbuildings
during the occupation by Henry Carroll and his family. After the property
passed on to absentee owners and tenant farmers in the 1890s, however,
the formal layout was abandoned in favor of using the yard for farm production
as much as possible. Land was plowed and planted within 15 feet of the
house, and chickens were raised in the nearby outbuildings.
More distant outbuildings and activity areas associated with Susquehanna
have been given their own site numbers. For example, 18ST393 is a possible
slave quarter, but study there has been limited. The Rousby site, 18ST751,
is primarily a 17th-century plantation, but Phase II excavations also
revealed evidence of 19th century activities that have been attributed
to the site’s proximity to Susquehanna. It may have been used for
creek access or oyster processing during the Carroll family’s tenure.
|King, Julia A.
||Archaeological Investigations at Susquehanna: A 19th
Century Farm Complex Aboard Patuxent River
Station, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Report prepared for the Henry
Michigan. Published by the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Jefferson
Patterson Park and
Papers No. 2.
The Susquehanna archaeological collection is
owned by the Naval District Washington, Naval Air Station Patuxent River
and curated at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.