Searching for King Opessa's Shawnee Town in the Mountains of Maryland

Author(s): Stephen Potter; John Bedell

Year: 2015


In 1688, a band of Shawnee left Fort St. Louis on the Illinois River and headed east. Eventually, some of them settled at King Opessa's Town on the upper Potomac River, circa 1722, in the vicinity of Oldtown, Maryland. In 1975, a National Retister Nomination was prepared identifying a 122 x 213 m surface scatter of prehistoric artifacts as the site of King Opessa's Town, which also corresponds to the location of "Shawno Indian Fields Deserted" on Benjamin Winslow's 1736 map. Subsequent test excavations and a magnetometer survey in 2009-2010 by archaeologists of the Louis Berger Group revealed two villages dating 1490-1560 CE.

Intensive archaeological survey and testing was also undertaken on the Moore Tract, closer to Oldtown, where land patents mentioned the prior location of a Shawnee town. Despite these efforts, King Opessa's Town remains unidentified. There are at least three explanations for this failure: 1) it it not within the bounds of the C&O Canal NHP; 2) it is located somewhere that has not been surveyed; or 3) it is in a place that has been searched but has not been recognized. The latter explanation is a distinct possiblity that is discussed further.

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Cite this Record

Searching for King Opessa's Shawnee Town in the Mountains of Maryland. Stephen Potter, John Bedell. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396360)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -84.067; min lat: 36.031 ; max long: -72.026; max lat: 43.325 ;