The Compton Site (18CV279) is a mid-17th-century tobacco plantation located near the mouth of the Patuxent River at Solomons in Calvert County, Maryland. The traces of at least two earthfast structures and post and rail fencing dating between 1651 and 1685 were uncovered in advance of residential construction. William and Magdalen Stevens acquired the Compton Site in 1651, when they are believed to have come to Maryland from Virginia. The Stevens and their children remained at the site until 1665, when they left for Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The site continued to be occupied until 1685 by as-yet-unidentified tenants.
The Compton Site collection has the potential to yield important information about 17th-century plantation life in the rural Chesapeake. Although the Compton Site resembles a typical tobacco plantation in many ways, the site’s architecture and artifact assemblage suggest the variability that is suspected to characterize early colonial culture. The Compton collection can be used to address questions of adaptation, household organization and change through time, trade, standards of living, and other issues concerning colonial Chesapeake culture.
Thunderbird Archaeological Associates identified the Compton Site in 1987 during a Phase I investigation for the Patuxent Point residential subdivision for CRJ Associates, Inc. Agricultural fields in the project area were plowed in 20-foot wide strips and then surface collected in 20-by-20-foot squares. The excavation of two one-foot square test pits in a surface concentration of oyster shells revealed the presence of a subsurface feature.
Phase III investigations of the Compton Site were conducted by Louis Berger and Associates (LBA) between June and August 1988. The first period of data recovery focused on the excavation of 162 2.5-by-2.5-foot units from the plow zone layer within the site boundaries. All soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh, and 57 samples for soil chemical analysis were collected. Following the plow zone sampling, the remaining plow zone was mechanically removed from a 140-foot-by-150-foot area. During the second phase, subsurface features, such as post holes, post molds, and pits, were identified and mapped. Of these features, 26 were excavated, most of them pit features. The refuse pits were excavated following natural stratigraphy, and a flotation sample was removed from every major layer. No soil was screened during feature excavation. Unfortunately, few post holes or post molds were excavated, making it difficult to sort out precise construction technologies and sequences for the structures and fence lines identified at the site.
LBA initially interpreted the site plan at 18CV271 as consisting of five post-in-the-ground structures, four surface middens, two cooking pits, post-and-rail fencing, and other subsurface features. Post hole patterns were re-analyzed in collaboration with project members and architectural historians from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, suggesting the presence of two and possibly three earthfast buildings. The first structure measured 18 by 20 feet with a shed addition. This building was heated with a wooden and clay chimney at the dwelling’s east end. A second structure measuring 16 by 16 feet may have served as a quarter. Two elliptical pits were possibly utilized for cooking, while three additional ones were probably used for the preparation of mortar.
A total of 27,832 artifacts were recovered from Compton. This collection includes a large number of Dutch artifacts, such as brick, ceramics, and tobacco pipes. Furthermore, the occupants at Compton appear to have invested a portion of their wealth in portable material goods, as indicated by the presence of several costly artifacts.
The ceramic collection includes primarily English, Dutch, and locally-made earthenwares, along with smaller numbers of Italian, Iberian, and French earthenwares and German stonewares. Identified earthenware types included North Devon gravel-tempered, gravel-free, and sgrafitto, Morgan Jones, Staffordshire-type slipware, tin-glazed, Dutch earthenware, North Italian slipware, Iberian storage jars, Saintonge ware, and Red Sandy ware, while stonewares included Rhenish brown and Rhenish blue and gray. The large number of identified Dutch forms, with their distinctive handles and rim shapes, is unusual, and they include skillets, pipkins, bowls, and a pitcher. Other vessel forms from the site include dishes, porringers, jugs, plates, an ointment pot, a storage jar, a rectangular baking or drip pan, and a barrel costrel. At least one Indian-made Potomac Creek vessel was recovered, and is believed to be contemporary with the site’s occupation.
A total of 2,699 white and terra cotta tobacco pipe fragments were recovered from Compton. European tobacco pipe fragments have various decorative motifs, including Pikeman/Minerva, thumbnail impressions, fleur-de-lis, rouletting, and incising. Fifteen pipes with “EB” maker’s marks, which were produced by Edward Bird from 1635 to 1665, were recovered, along with one with the mark of Flower Hunt (1651-1672). Decorations on eight terra cotta pipes include rouletted and dentate motifs such as running deer, triangles, and horizontal lines. One agatized tobacco pipe bowl was recovered.
The majority of the glass artifacts from 18CV279 are beverage-related. Fragments from 22 case bottles, one wine bottle, and three drinking vessels were recovered. These drinking containers include a colorless non-leaded stemware fragment for which portions of the stem and bowl survive, an opaque white paneled drinking vessel with red and blue enameled decoration, and a decorative amber prunt. One small red bead and one millefiori bead with alternating blue and white horizontal stripes were recovered.
Architectural artifacts include seven lead window came fragments, two stock locks, a latch lock bar, and a sliding bolt. Clothing and sewing-related artifacts consisted of 52 copper alloy straight pins, five iron hook and eyes, two pairs of iron scissors, one copper alloy hook and eye, one decorative copper alloy mesh band made from links and coils, and a copper alloy thimble. Fifteen lead shot and an iron trigger guard for a wheellock musket were found, along with a copper alloy upholstery tack with a floral shape, a heart-shaped hasp with a keyhole, and a trowel-shaped hasp without a keyhole. Two iron knife blades and two bone knife handles made up the recovered kitchen implements. Personal artifacts included a copper alloy spur with either a gold wash or gold leaf, and a bone comb with two different tooth sizes.
Faunal and floral materials reveal additional information about the diet of the Compton Site occupants. A total of 6,829 animal bones were recovered, representing such species as chicken, goat, sheep/goat, pig, cow, horse, deer, raccoon, opossum, mole, shrew, drum, yellow perch, sheepshead, turtle, and crab. Floral remains included peach, cherry, persimmon, raspberry, pin cherry, corn, and sorghum.
Gardner, William. 1988. Archaeological Investigations at the Proposed Patuxent Point Development (Phase I) and 18CV272 (Phase II & III) Near Solomons, Maryland. Report prepared for CRJ Associates, Inc., Camp Springs, Maryland.
Gibb, James G. 1994. “Dwell Here, Live Plentifully, and be Rich”: Consumer Behavior and the Interpretation of 17th Century Archaeological Assemblages from the Chesapeake Bay Region. Ph.D. dissertation, State University of New York-Binghamton.
Gibb, James G., and Julia A. King. 1991. Gender, Activity Areas, and Homelots in the 17th-Century Chesapeake Region. Historical Archaeology 25(4):109-131.
Gibb, James G., and Wesley J. Balla. 1994. Dutch Pots in Maryland Middens; or What Light from Yonder Pot Breaks? Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology (9):67-85.
Louis Berger and Associates, Inc. 1989. The Compton Site, circa 1651-1684, Calvert County, Maryland, 18CV279. Report prepared for CRJ Associates, Inc., Camp Springs, Maryland.
Further Information on the Collection
The Compton Site collection is owned by the State of Maryland and curated by the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. For more information about the collection and collection access, contact Rebecca J. Morehouse, Collections Manager at 410-586-8583; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
Cite this Record
Compton (18CV279). ( tDAR id: 6069) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8WQ055D
Calendar Date: 1651 to 1685
min long: -77.498; min lat: 36.633 ; max long: -75.41; max lat: 39.368 ;