King's Reach (18CV83)
King’s Reach (18CV83), part of the plantation known as “St. Leonard,” is a tobacco plantation homelot site occupied from 1690 until 1711 in Calvert County, Maryland. The site is located on the grounds of the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) and is associated with a nearby quarter (18CV84) and large tobacco barn (18CV85). King’s Reach is probably the home of Richard Smith, Jr., a wealthy colonist with close ties to the Calvert family. Documentary evidence suggests that Smith probably inherited the property in 1689 and lived at King’s Reach until 1711, when he constructed a new dwelling elsewhere on the plantation.
King’s Reach was occupied at an important point in the history of Maryland, when the colony’s tobacco economy was in a severe and prolonged depression and the transition to a predominantly slave labor force was well underway. Although Smith was fairly well-to-do, he lived in an impermanent, earthfast dwelling. The King’s Reach collection, which is striking in its size and variety, suggests that Smith invested his wealth in portable household goods rather than in architecture. He also invested heavily in land in Maryland. In 1711, as the tobacco economy was beginning to strengthen, Smith abandoned King’s Reach for a large house constructed at least partially of brick (18CV91).
The King’s Reach assemblage is especially important for the potential to shed light on the material conditions of life in this transitional period. The assemblage from the main house, 18CV83, can be used to address issues ranging from standards of living during the tobacco depression to the organization of plantation homelots at the end of the 17th century. The collection can also provide evidence of material conditions for servants and slaves as the transformation to a slave society was underway. Plow zone materials reveal the use of domestic space on the plantation, while the relatively large collection of Border wares provides useful data for investigating this ware type in Maryland.
While King’s Reach is, in many ways, typical of late 17th-/early 18th-century plantations in Maryland, the site exhibits striking differences when compared with contemporary sites occupied by elites in Virginia. Richard Smith, Jr. was clearly a Maryland elite: he owned vast tracts of land, was a strong supporter of the Calvert government, and held important political offices, including the position of Surveyor General. Many researchers have expressed surprise that such a politically well connected and wealthy planter would live in a relatively small, earthfast dwelling with no obvious source of heat.
Although the few surviving records in Calvert County are in bad shape, it is very unlikely that the property was occupied by someone other than Smith and his family. This conclusion is based on a close reading of surviving records and extensive archaeological survey of the St. Leonard’s tract. No other site is a likely candidate for Smith’s residence, given the wealth of artifacts recovered from King’s Reach.
Smith’s circumstances may have also been determined by political upheaval in Maryland in 1689, about the time that the dwelling at King’s Reach was built. Protestant rebels had just seized control of the Maryland government and Smith, a supporter of that government, was imprisoned every time a ship left for England. The rebels had no desire for Smith, a Protestant, to return to England and argue the Maryland proprietor’s case.
King’s Reach suggests the extensive but still little understood diversity characterizing material conditions of life in the colonial Chesapeake.
The complex of buildings that make up Smith’s late 17th-/early 18th-century plantation, including the dwelling, nearby building, outlying quarter, and barn, was identified in 1981, when a preliminary survey by Wayne Clark and Michael Smolek revealed concentrations of nails, brick, glass, ceramics, tobacco pipe fragments, and other domestic and structural debris in the field containing the sites. After the creation of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in 1983, the King’s Reach site or main dwelling was selected as the first site to be excavated under the direction of Dennis J. Pogue. A systematic surface collection across an area measuring 50 by 60 meters in 1984 allowed better definition of site boundaries and artifact concentrations. Excavation began in June 1984 and lasted for two summers, with additional limited excavations in 1987. One hundred sixteen two-by-two-meter units were excavated in the site core, while 28 were systematically distributed in the outlying area. All plow zone soil was screened through 3/8-inch mesh. An extensive complex of subsurface features was exposed in the plantation core. All features were recorded, and selected ones were excavated. Soils from excavated features was screened through ¼-inch mesh, with some portions water screened through 1/16-inch mesh. In addition, soil chemical samples were systematically taken from the plow zone across the site, and tests were run on phosphates, calcium, and potassium.
The site plan of 18CV83 consists of two earthfast buildings with a connecting foreyard. The one-story main dwelling measured 30 by 20 feet, divided into a hall and kitchen with a sleeping loft above. The building’s source of heat was a wood-framed, mud-lined hood and chimney set on a brick hearth in the kitchen. A ten-foot-wide trench-set wooden shed extended along the rear of the structure, while a five-by-seven-foot post-supported shed was attached to the north gable. An unusual feature of the main house was the presence of at least six cellars below the wooden floor of the structure. Two cellars appear to have had specialized functions: a possible root cellar in front of the hearth and a dairy cooling pit in the small shed. The remaining four cellars appear to represent successive generations of general storage pits which were replaced when walls collapsed. One doorway led from the kitchen to the foreyard, while a second led outside from the rear-set shed.
The second structure, measuring 20 by 10 feet, was possibly a quarter for servants or slaves. A chimney-less hearth on the west side of the building appears to have heated the structure, and a single eight-foot square cellar served as general storage. One doorway led into the foreyard toward the main house, and a second was placed on the east gable. Two generations of ditch-set fences joined this building and the main dwelling to form the foreyard.
The King’s Reach dwelling appears to have been abandoned around 1711, when the Smith family moved to a new residence on the property. This new dwelling was of at least partial brick construction. Nearby outbuildings included a kitchen, storehouse, barn, slave quarter, and wheat barn.
The outlying quarter, called King’s Reach Quarter, has been the focus of excavations by the Public Archaeology Program at JPPM. Testing consisted of a systematic, intensive surface collection in 445 three-meter squares across a plowed agricultural field to define artifact concentrations. In addition, 132 shovel test pits and 54 test units, measuring 1.5 by 1.5 meters, were excavated. All fill was screened through ¼-inch mesh.
Excavations revealed an unusual, trench-set post building measuring approximately 20 by 40 feet. Wooden posts, ranging between three and six inches in diameter, were set into the trench approximately two-and-a-quarter-feet apart. Several excavated posts reveal that the trench was deeper than the posts. As no daub or unfired clay was recovered, this building was probably clapboarded. The concentration of structural and domestic remains, the lack of a hearth, and its central location to surrounding agricultural fields suggests that this building possibly served as a servant’s or slave’s quarters or less likely, as an agricultural building. A single posthole for a second structure was uncovered, but the function of this building and its size are unknown. A fence line ran between the two buildings, in the general direction of the main house at King’s Reach. A large number of artifacts suggest the location of a refuse midden between the two structures.
Finally, a large barn measuring 25 by 50 feet was uncovered in the vicinity of both the main dwelling and outlying quarter during road and utility construction. The barn was first identified by concentrations of iron nails, white clay tobacco pipes, and European flint fragments. The barn appears to have been constructed about the same time as the main dwelling and outlying quarter, but continued in use perhaps for as long as a hundred years after those two domestic buildings were abandoned.
A total of 66,371 artifacts were recovered during the investigations at 18CV83, Smith’s main dwelling. These included architectural, kitchen, and furniture objects, personal items, tools, arms, horse furniture, and food remains. Given that the dwelling was fairly modest, the household apparently invested a notable portion of its wealth in portable material goods, as indicated by the costly and abundant artifacts recovered.
One hundred and fifty-three ceramic vessels were identified from the site. The majority of these vessels were tin-glazed earthenwares, Border wares, Staffordshire-type slipwares, black-glazed earthenwares, Buckley-type earthenwares, Red Sandy earthenwares, Rhenish blue and gray stoneware, and English brown stoneware. Numerous tin-glazed earthenware sherds exhibited blue or polychrome hand-painted motifs, possibly representing sets of matching ceramics. Border wares had both clear and green lead glazes on interior surfaces. Red Border ware was also recovered at the site. A total of 4,322 glass artifacts were found at King’s Reach. While this assemblage consisted mostly of wine and case bottle fragments, 144 table glass fragments, 64 mirror fragments, 19 beads, 14 medicine bottle fragments, 13 window glass fragments, one unidentified bottle seal, and one black glass button with a white and yellow hand-painted flower were also found.
Metal objects reflect various personal and farm-related activities that were occurring at King’s Reach. A number of iron farm implements were recovered, including two hoe fragments, two axe head fragments, two chain link fragments, a collar stud, a pintle, a scythe, and a number of unidentified tools. Forty small lead shot, nine musket balls, one gun barrel, and 29 casting waste fragments were among the arms artifacts found at King’s Reach. Horse furniture included four unidentified harness parts, three buckles, three bridle bit fragments, two bosses, and two stirrups, while kitchen-related artifacts included 39 knife blade fragments, four pewter spoons, and three copper alloy spoons. Locking mechanisms from King’s Reach consisted of five key fragments, four padlock fragments, three other lock fragments, and one latch, while sewing implements included 215 straight pins, eight scissors fragments, and two thimble fragments.
Personal artifacts included three copper alloy decorative buckles, three copper alloy book hinges, two iron smoker’s companions, one copper alloy finger ring, a set of copper alloy cuff links, and a whistle fabricated from a white clay tobacco pipe stem fragment. Among other metal artifacts recovered from King’s Reach are seven lead bale seals, three possible lead weights, two curtain rings, two copper alloy pestles, and a copper alloy screen.
At King’s Reach Quarter, 191,683 artifacts were recovered, of which 185,590 were oyster shell fragments. This site contains a greater percentage of utilitarian artifacts and less diversity in artifact types than the nearby main dwelling of Richard Smith, Jr. Unlike Smith’s site, there were few artifacts at the outlying quarter that reflected wealth, supporting the idea that this was a quarter for servants or slaves.
Recovered ceramics included Border ware, tin-glazed earthenwares, Rhenish blue and gray stoneware, English brown stoneware, and unidentified lead-glazed earthenwares. Border ware sherds exhibited both clear and green lead glazes on interior surfaces, and Red Border ware was also recovered. King’s Reach Quarter yielded only 40 tin-glazed earthenware sherds, substantially less than 18CV83. No marked tobacco pipe fragments were recovered. Glass artifacts included numerous wine and case bottle fragments, five table glass fragments, three glass beads, and one “WC” bottle seal. The majority of metal artifacts were iron nails, but seven lead shot and one unidentified copper alloy hardware piece were also recovered.
Galke, Laura. 2000. King’s Reach Site (c.1690-1715). Manuscript on file, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
Gaynor, Jay. 1993. “Tooles of all sorts to worke”: A Brief Look at Trade Tools in 17th-Century Virginia. In The Archaeology of 17th-Century Virginia. Special Publication No. 30 of the Archeological Society of Virginia. Dietz Press, Richmond, VA.
Holt, Cheryl A. n.d. King’s Reach Plantation Homelot, 18CV83, Faunal Analysis. Manuscript on file, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
King, Julia A. n.d. 18CV85 File Report. Manuscript on file, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
Pogue, Dennis J. 1988. Spatial Analysis of the King's Reach Plantation Homelot, Ca.1690-1715. Historical Archaeology 22(2):40-56
Pogue, Dennis J. 1990. King’s Reach and 17th-Century Plantation Life. Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Studies in Archaeology No. 1. Maryland Historical & Cultural Publications, Annapolis, MD.
Pogue, Dennis J. 1991. Clay Tobacco Pipes from Four 17th Century Domestic Sites in the Lower Patuxent River Valley of Maryland. In The Archaeology of the Clay Tobacco Pipe XII: Chesapeake Bay. BAR International Series 566, Oxford, England.
Pogue, Dennis J. 1997. Culture Change Along the Tobacco Coast: 1670-1720. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, American University, Washington, DC.
Pogue, Dennis J., and Patricia J. McGuire. 1988. Servant Versus Planter: Household Assemblages from the King’s Reach Site (ca.1690-1715) Calvert County, Maryland. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Baltimore, Maryland.
Further Information on the Collection
The King's Reach 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 email@example.com.
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
Cite this Record
King's Reach (18CV83). ( tDAR id: 6071) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8P84D8G
King's Reach (18CV83)
Calendar Date: 1690 to 1711
min long: -77.498; min lat: 36.633 ; max long: -75.41; max lat: 39.368 ;
Individual & Institutional Roles
Project Director(s): Dennis J. Pogue