Country's House (18ST1-13)

Introduction

Calvert House, Town Center, St. Mary's City (Courtesy Historic St. Mary's City)

The Country's House was a large wooden dwelling built in St. Mary's City, the colonial capital of the Maryland colony, during the first decade of settlement, although the exact year of its construction remains unclear. It is possible that the house was initially built as a home for Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, in 1635, a year after the settlers arrived in Maryland. The earliest record for the patent is 1641, and the house was first mentioned in the documents in 1642. The building initially served as the home of Governor Leonard Calvert, who developed the 100-acre property as a tobacco plantation.

Calvert appears to have sold the house and property to Nathaniel Pope in 1644, with Pope re-conveying the house back to Calvert in 1646. At the time, Calvert allowed Pope a room in the house to store his things until the spring. When Leonard Calvert died in 1647, his inventory refers to a "a large framd howse, wth 100 Acres of Town-Land," indicating that the property remained in Calvert's hands.

Calvert's probate inventory describes some of the furnishings and other goods in his possession, some of which may have been items found at his Piney Neck plantation which also included a "large house." The inventory lists beds, tables, chairs, chests, trunks, and a "forme" (bench) as well as linens, shoes, pins, spoons, plates, jugs, kettles, and bottles. Calvert also owned axes, large quantities of nails, guns, and a saddle along with several horses. Of special interest are the 6 "Armes length Roanoke" which Calvert would have used in transactions with local Native groups.

Calvert's house was subsequently occupied by William Stone, who appears to have, by 1655, moved into the house without the permission of Leonard Calvert's heir and son, William Calvert. Lord Baltimore had appointed Stone as governor of the colony in 1649 with Stone using the house until his death in 1659. In 1661, William Calvert brought a suit against Stone's son and heir, Thomas, to force him to turn the property back over.

In 1662, the colonial government purchased the building for use as a statehouse, or "Country's House." The assembly leased the building to a series of innkeepers who were also responsible for maintaining the building. These lessees included William Smith (1665-1668), Daniel Jennifer (1668-ca. 1670), and Richard Moy (ca. 1672-1675).

In 1668, a room-by-room description of the Country's House was included in innkeeper William Smith's probate inventory and suggests how the building's interior space was organized for use as both a state house and ordinary. The inventory lists a "Lodging Chamber" containing a "Parlor" and a "Bed Chamber," a "Hall," a "Kitchen" with adjoining store room and cellars, and rooms over the lodging chamber and hall. A "Great Roome called St. Marys" was also listed.

In 1676, most political functions were moved from the Country's House to a newly completed brick state house. The Country's House continued to serve as an inn and ordinary. In 1678, John and Elizabeth Baker entered into a lease agreement with the colony for a period of 25 years; John died in 1687 and Elizabeth appears to have continued as an innkeeper at least through 1688.

A second room-by-room inventory was created in 1687 as part of settling Baker's estate. This inventory describes six rooms, including the "St. Mary's Roome," "Ye Roome Agt ye Cellar," "Ye Cellar Roome," "Ye Kitchen," and "the pantry." The inventory also lists "Mr. Beales Roome." Mr. Beale is evidently Thomas Beale to whom Baker had leased the Country's House. Beale had married Elizabeth Bateman, the daughter of Baker's wife, also Elizabeth, and John Baker had helped to establish the young couple as early as 1680.

John Baker's inventory further describes a fairly spacious and well-furnished plantation dwelling house, possibly Blewstone Rock, suggesting that, when the courts were not in session, Baker remained on his plantation with Beale in residence at the Country's House. Beale was a planter, merchant, and innholder in St. Mary's City and served as an alderman in the town in 1688 and again in 1694. Beale appears to have entertained committees of the assembly at his house in 1688 for which he requested payment; it is likely that Beale's house was the Country's House.

By February 1695, it appears that Thomas Beale's lease of the Country's House had ended. Elizabeth Baker sold the lease with eight years remaining to Charles Carroll, who then petitioned the assembly for an additional 25-year lease of the building.

The capital of Maryland was also moving to Annapolis in February 1695, a decision made in 1694 and reflecting the colony's population growth and settlement trajectory (Thomas Beale was an alderman who, in late 1694, signed the petition against the move of the capital). Because St. Mary's City would continue to serve as the county court, however, Carroll no doubt envisioned potential business for the inn. His petition revealed that the Bakers had expended considerable sums "in making Brick walls and Chimneys & other Reparations," perhaps with the assistance of their son-in-law, Thomas. Still, Carroll continued, "one side of the said house and the whole covering is now quite decayed and unless speedily Repaired will fall to the Ground."

Carroll's petition was the last mention of the building. Archaeologists believe the building either collapsed or was demolished and was gone by the early 18th century; in any case, Carroll does not appear to have committed further attention to the property.

Archaeological Investigations

Calvert House foundation, Town Center, St. Mary's City (Courtesy Historic St. Mary's City)

Although historical evidence suggests that local residents knew the location and function of the Country's House site in the late 19th century, it was not until 1938 that architectural historian Henry Chandlee Forman uncovered and documented the foundation. At the time, the Country's House's now buried foundations extended under outbuildings associated with a standing c. 1840 plantation dwelling since removed from the site.

In 1981, archaeologists with the St. Mary's City Commission (now Historic St. Mary's City) under the direction of Garry Wheeler Stone began work at the site. This project continued through 1985 with additional excavations in 1987. More than 700 5-by-5 foot test units were excavated as part of this project. Researchers using the database will find that the site's units were organized first as 10-by-10 foot. Each 10-by-10 foot unit was then divided into units measuring 5-by-5 feet. Each quad was assigned an alphanumeric designation representing the unit number and quad. For example, Test Unit 1210A represents the northwest quad of Test Unit 1210; 1210B represents the northeast quad of 1210; 1210C represents the southeast quad; and 1210D represents the southwest quad. This rotation applied to levels designated as topsoil, plow zone, unplowed humus, and so on.

In 1992, excavations were undertaken to facilitate removing the Brome House from its original location astride the Calvert House site. This involved archaeological excavations where jack pits for lifting the house were to be located. In 1995, archaeologists returned to the Country's House site for a single season, this time under the direction of Timothy Riordan. Archaeologists returned again in 2008 and work at the Country's House is ongoing in preparation for site interpretation and exhibit development.

For this project, only materials recovered and cataloged before 1998 were available. Prior to 1998, the plow zone assemblages from the Country's House site were all screened through 3/8-inch mesh, a compromise made at a time when many archaeologists working in the region were mechanically removing plow-disturbed deposits. In 1998, archaeologists at Historic St. Mary's City switched to screening plow zone deposits through ¼-inch mesh, including at the Country's House site. Researchers using the data provided herein should be aware of the methodological implications for this change both when comparing plow zone deposits and distributions with similar contexts from other sites and when comparing plow zone deposits from the Country's House excavated before 1998 with those excavated after 1998.

Archaeologists have determined that the Country's House measures 40 by 67.5 feet in plan, although whether the building was erected in one or two campaigns remains unclear.

The single-phase campaign theory suggests that the house was built in one phase by 1642, the year the building is first mentioned in the documents. The house would have measured the full 40 by 67.5 feet. At Leonard Calvert's death in 1647, the structure was described as a "large fram'd house."

The two-phase campaign theory involved an initial construction ca. 1635 followed by a doubling of the building's size before 1645 (the year Pope's Fort was constructed). Under this scenario, the Country's House initially measured 18 by 50 feet with a central H-shaped fireplace and a cellar with a fired clay wall. This early iteration appears to have been constructed on a dry-laid stone and brick foundation with a hall-parlor form.

Archaeologists at Historic St. Mary's City are now placing more weight on the second interpretation, acknowledging that material from recent excavations remains to be analyzed before a firm conclusion is reached. Whether or not the structure was built in one or two phases, the house was, by 1647, one of the largest colonial buildings in the colony if not the largest.

The dwelling's northern bay is believed to have been the location of the "St. Mary's Room," or space where governmental meetings were held when the structure served as the Country's House. This space is estimated to have measured 22 by 45 to 50 feet with an exterior chimney placed along the room's long north wall. During the building's use as the Country's House, a brick-lined cellar with a bulkhead entrance was added to the structure's west side.

Archaeological investigations reveal that innkeeper John Baker made substantial renovations to the structure in 1680, dividing the "Great Roome called St. Marys" into two smaller spaces by removing the existing chimney and inserting a new, H-shaped chimney between the two rooms. Baker also appears to have added a center hallway running the length of the building and an entry porch on the building's south side.

The Country's House remained one of the largest structures in early Maryland although, after about 1660, most elite builders chose to build up rather than out. The Country's House had a first floor footprint of 2,680 square feet while Mattapany had a first floor footprint of 1,250 square feet and Notley Hall 1,380 square feet. The latter two structures, however, had second floors with full rooms and third floor lofts or garrets.

In addition to the Country's House, the yard included generations of fences and outbuildings throughout its history. The layout of fences, associated outbuildings, and orchards is depicted in the accompanying image.

Artifacts

There are 580,090 artifacts included in the database from the Country's House. These artifacts include materials recovered from excavations undertaken between 1981 and 1995. Excavations have continued at the Country's House, beginning in 2008 and continuing through the present. These materials are not included in the database because they have not been fully processed.

Most of the artifacts in the database are associated with the Country's House but researchers are cautioned that, beginning in 1840, a plantation dwelling house was erected over the foundations of the Country's house and 19th- and 20th-century materials associated with this occupation are also included in the database. Evidence for Native American occupation dating to the Early Archaic (8000-9500 BP) will also be found in the database.

The artifacts from the Country's House include 17,049 tobacco pipe fragments, 14,194 European ceramics, 15,747 bottle glass fragments, 52,825 brick fragments, and 52,333 nails and nail fragments. Native-made ceramics include 1,418 examples, many of which may be contemporary with the site's colonial occupation.

Small finds include 315 beads, two bridle bits, six bridle bosses, 78 buckles, 154 buttons, one candlestick, five coins, six firearms (including a cannon barrel), 78 gunflints, three leather ornaments, 219 pins, and 235 shot.

Images of the small finds recovered from the Country's House are not available at this time.

References

For primary documents, see the list of associated individuals, right.

Forman, Henry Chandlee. 1938. Jamestown and St. Mary's: Buried Cities of Romance. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Miller, Henry M. 1994. The Country's House Site: An Archaeological Study of a Seventeenth-Century Domestic Landscape. In Paul Shackel and Barbara J. Little, editors, Historical Archaeology of the Chesapeake, pp. 65-84. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Miller, Henry M. 1986. Discovering Maryland's First City. St. Maries Citty Archaeology Series no. 2. St. Mary's City Commission.

Miller, Henry M. 1981. A Search for the "Citty of Saint Maries." St. Maries Citty Archaeology Series no. 1. St. Mary's City Commission.

Riordan, Timothy B. 2012a. Preliminary Report on the 2012 HSMC Archaeological Field School Excavations at the Calvert House Site (18ST1-13), St. Mary's City, Maryland. Manuscript on file, Historic St. Mary's City.

Riordan, Timothy B. 2012b. A Detailed Archaeological Analysis of the Calvert House Architecture. Unpublished manuscript on file, Historic St. Mary's City.

Riordan, Timothy B. 2003. The Plundering Time: Maryland and the English Civil War, 1645-1646. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society.

Riordan, Timothy B. 2013. Preliminary Report on the 2013 HSMC Archaeological Field School Excavations at the Calvert House Site (18ST1-13), St. Mary's City, Maryland. Manuscript on file, Historic St. Mary's City.

Stone, Garry Wheeler. 1982. Society, Housing and Architecture in Early Maryland: John Lewger's St. John's. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of American Civilization, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Willoughby, Wesley R. 2015. The Country's House: Examining Public Space and Community in St. Mary's City's Seventeenth-Century Town Center. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University.

What You Need to Know

The Country's House artifacts are included in 1,313 individual contexts. As noted above, these contexts are ordered by test unit, given a numeric designation, and soil levels, given an alphabet designation. Test units measure 10-by-10 feet and were divided into four quads for excavation purposes; each quad would be assigned a unique alphanumeric designation. For example, topsoil in Test Unit 1210 would consist of 1210A, 1210B, 1210C, and 1210D. Plow zone would then consist of 1210E, 1210F, 1210G, and 1210H, and so on. The designation, "Delta," refers to unprovenienced materials.

The majority of midden soils (topsoil, plow zone, unplowed humus) excavated from the Country's House site were, before 1998, screened through 3/8-inch mesh. Features are reported to have been screened through ΒΌ-inch mesh and window screen.

The artifacts found in the database were taken directly from catalog sheets provided by HSMC. None of the artifacts were physically checked. To provide greater standardization in the database, decisions were made to rename certain objects (red pipe for terra cotta pipe, for example). The original catalog descriptions are preserved in the remarks section of the database and the artifact catalogs used to populate the database can be found here.

Further Information on the Collection

The Country's House collection is owned by State of Maryland and curated by Historic St. Mary's City. For more information about the collection and collection access, contact Silas Hurry, Curator of Collections and Archaeological Laboratory Manager, at 240-895-4396; email silash@digshistory.org.

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