Fair Fountain (18CH4)


The Fair Fountain site (18CH4) is a well preserved 17th-century frontier settlement located in close proximity to Zekiah Town (not to be confused with Zekiah Fort) near La Plata in Charles County, Maryland. The site, which measures approximately 250 by 400 feet, is situated below a high terrace near Kerrick Run and Zekiah Swamp. The soils in the study area consist of Beltsville Series on the terrace and Grosstown Series along the gradual slopes (where 18CH4 is located).

The site is part of a 1,000-acre tract known as Fair Fountain first granted to Josias Fendall in 1663. The site appears to have been occupied at about this time by an as-yet-unidentified tenant (Fendall is known to have been living closer to the mouth of the Wicomico River). In 1681, Fendall, a former proprietary governor who had been in conflict with Lord Baltimore and the Maryland Council for years, was exiled from the colony. He sold Fair Fountain to Henry Hawkins in 1683, although Hawkins lived at Johnsontown and not Fair Fountain. The Fair Fountain site appears to have been abandoned ca. 1695.

While little documentary evidence survives about the site, the site's history of ownership, dates of occupation, artifact assemblage, and location suggest that first Fendall and then Hawkins may have had the tenant(s) on the property for the purpose of trading with the local Indigenous population. Other documents indicate that residents of Zekiah Town would sell deerskins to the colonists, using trails established along Zekiah Swamp to reach colonial buyers at the Wicomico River's headwaters. The Fair Fountain site is the most northerly colonial site along the Zekiah Swamp at this time.

Zekiah Town (not Zekiah Fort) was located somewhere in the vicinity. The same document that describes people from Zekiah Town with skins to sell at the headwaters of Wicomico River provides distances that place Zekiah Town in the vicinity of Kerrick Run. Artifacts in the possession of a private individual and recovered from the vicinity include dozens of Potomac Creek ceramics, numbers far higher than for most locations along Zekiah Swamp. The majority of these ceramics were not recovered from the Fair Fountain site but from nearby, although this second site has yet to be tested.

Regardless of the precise location of Zekiah Town, the archaeological evidence indicates that the English tenant living at Fair Fountain was in close contact with both the people living at Zekiah Town and probably later (after ca. 1680) with the Piscataways living at Zekiah Fort. The Fair Fountain site represents a rare example of an English frontier settlement that may have seen greater interaction between Indigenous people and a colonial household. The abandonment of the site ca. 1695 roughly corresponds with the abandonment of Zekiah Fort.

Troweling Test Unit 3, Fair Fountain Plantation (St. Mary's College of Maryland)

Archaeological Excavations

The Fair Fountain site (18CH4) was first identified in 1960 by R.B. Looker, Jr. and Carl Manson. Looker and Manson's project was part of a survey of the Zekiah Swamp region and focused on the identification of Native American archaeological sites. The two surveyors described finding points, blades, scrapers, and European ceramics (but not Native ceramics) at Fair Fountain although precisely where these materials were found on the greater property remained unclear.

Between 1960 and 2009, the property owner's grandson surface-collected more than 2,000 artifacts from 18CH4 and its surrounding fields. The majority of the collection was gathered south of a nearby cemetery not associated with the Fair Fountain site although it is considered to be within the boundaries of 18CH4. The grandson, who kept some notes and photographs, described the Fair Fountain site as the "Pipe Stem Field." In 2009, the collection of material in the possession of the grandson was loaned to and cataloged by archaeologists from St. Mary's College of Maryland. The collection consists of hundreds of artifacts, including lithics (mostly projectile points), Native and European ceramics, 19th- and 20th-century ceramics, white and red clay tobacco pipes, bottle glass, and other materials. The collection indicates a significant 17th-century component at the "Pipe Stem Field."

In 2009 and 2010, St. Mary's College of Maryland under the direction of Julia A. King and Scott M. Strickland undertook archaeological investigations in the vicinity of the "Pipe Stem Field." In 2009, 216 shovel tests were excavated at intervals of 100 feet in a wooded area where the grandson had pin-pointed Pipe Stem Field. Where artifacts were encountered, the shovel test interval was reduced first to 50 and then to 25 feet. Soil from the shovel tests was screened through ¼-inch mesh. Stratigraphy at the site consisted of a plow zone overlying subsoil.

St. Mary's College returned to the site in 2010, excavating fourteen 5-by-5 foot test units in an effort to increase artifact samples and to identify evidence of subsurface features. The units were placed in areas where the shovel test pits had indicated concentrations of early colonial domestic artifacts in association with Potomac Creek ceramics. Fill from the units was screened through 1/4-inch mesh. A number of features were encountered during the testing, the majority of which are unidentified and some of which included root molds and plow scars. At least one feature may represent the edge of a cellar, borrow pit, or other cultural feature and a second feature could represent traces of a structural post hole and mold, all dating to the site's 17th-century occupation.

Other features appear to post-date the site's colonial occupation. Traces of a farm road, evidenced by gravel encountered during excavation, were uncovered in one test unit while a possible post hole and mold may suggest a 19th- or 20th-century farm gate. Plow scars were observed in at least five units. The features were tested as part of these investigations.

Potomac Creek ceramics recovered by a collector from the Fair Fountain Plantation (St. Mary's College of Maryland)


The collection in the possession of the property owner included 2,107 artifacts organized by containers. The materials come from an area much greater in size than the Fair Fountain site. Therefore, although the collection has been cataloged, the materials are not included in the online database. A PDF of the paper catalog is, however, available on this website in the section under catalogs.

Of the 216 shovel tests excavated in 2009 in the effort to relocate the Pipe Stem Field site, 145 are included in the site proper and are found in the online database. A total of 787 artifacts were recovered from the 145 shovel tests with an average of 3.6 artifacts per shovel test; artifact recovery ranged between 0 and 129 artifacts. The shovel test data revealed not only a 17th-century component but a long, pre-Contact archaeological history. The 14 test units excavated in 2010 yielded 1,638 artifacts, all mirroring the materials recovered from the shovel test pits along with several additional artifact types.

Artifacts recovered from the shovel tests and test units at Fair Fountain include lithics, ceramics, tobacco pipes, bottle glass, nails, brick, and shell.

Lithics include tools, flakes, shatter, and fire-cracked rock. Diagnostic projectile points include Clagett (3500-1000 BCE), Bare Island (2500-1600 BCE), Vernon (2500-1600 BCE), Broadspear (post-2000 BCE), Calvert (1000 BCE-200 CE), Rossville (1000 BCE-200 CE), and a single triangular point. Lithics also include fragments of European flint, one of which is possibly a strike-a-light. A second flint or chalcedony fragment was found in association with Native ceramics.

Ceramics include Potomac Creek wares, including plain and cord-marked varieties, tin-glazed earthenwares, lead-glazed coarse earthenwares, Buckley-like earthenwares, Rhenish and English brown stonewares, and white salt-glazed stonewares. Ceramics dating to the later colonial and post-colonial periods include creamware, pearlware, yellowware, whiteware, North American gray salt-glazed stoneware, and porcelain.

A fragment of what may be colonoware, or a hand-built ceramic made in European form, was also recovered from the Fair Fountain site and appears to derive from a rim. The fragment came from plow zone and is small in size. The fragment is somewhat irregular for Potomac Creek with significantly less sand-/grit-temper than the other Potomac Creek fragments. The fragment has an overall smoother fabric and the rim appears to be more pointed than rounded.

Both white and red clay tobacco pipe fragments were recovered from the Fair Fountain site. Thirty-two white clay tobacco pipe stem fragments yielded a Binford date of 1665 and a Harrington histogram date of 1660-1690. No complete pipe bowls were recovered although one rouletted bowl fragment was. Red clay tobacco pipe fragments include both those made in molds (presumably by colonists) and those built by hand (presumably by Indigenous people). Two mold-made pipes, each with a bore diameter of 6/64ths-inch, are marked "WD." The "WD" mark also appears on red pipes recovered from other Potomac valley sites, including St. John's (18ST1-23), Smith's Ordinary (18ST1-13), and Notley Hall (18ST74) in St. Mary's County, Maryland, the Fendall/Digges site (18CH805) in Charles County, Maryland, and the John Washington site (44WM204) in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The red WD pipes recovered from these sites were all found in contexts dating ca. 1660-1680s. The initials may be those of William Digges, a son-in-law of Charles Calvert, who lived at Notley Hall and then the Fendall/Digges site.

Seventy-three glass fragments were recovered, 14 of which are modern in date. Colonial bottle glass fragments included round and case (flat) bottle fragments.

Architectural artifacts include brick, daub, plaster, nails, and window glass. Brick represents the largest category of architectural material, with two handmade brick bats recovered. One bat measures 2 3/8 by 4 1/4 inches (473.0 g) and the second measures 2 1/4 inches (268.3 g). The majority of these fragments, however, especially those identified as daub/brick, average less than ½-inch in size. Only two small fragments of plaster, which would have been used to provide for smooth walls and brighter rooms, were found; interestingly, these two plaster fragments were recovered from shovel tests and not from the larger test units. Wrought and unidentified square nails and other nail fragments too corroded to identify dominate the assemblage although two wire nails were also recovered. The wire and perhaps some of the square nails may be associated with a large 19th-century barn located in the western portion of the project area.

Only one possible bone fragment and three oyster shell fragments were recorded. While this low density is not unexpected given both the plowed contexts and the acidic nature of the soils, it is striking when compared with the animal bone counts recovered from the Zekiah Fort site.

One especially interesting find includes a single fragment of copper scrap.

The distribution of artifacts recovered from shovel tests reveal an intriguing pattern: Potomac Creek ceramics are distributed directly adjacent to but not overlapping with a concentration of colonial artifacts, suggesting some sort of association. The concentration of colonial artifacts includes case bottle, white and red clay tobacco pipe fragments, European flint, and English brown stoneware fragments. The close association but obvious segregation of the two sets of artifacts is striking. Whether this delineation represents spheres of interaction is unknown.


Strickland, Scott M., and Julia A. King. 2011. An Archaeological Survey of the Charleston Property: Josias Fendall's Dwelling Plantation. St. Mary's City: St. Mary's College of Maryland.

What You Need To Know To Use This Collection

Only materials from the 2009 and 2010 fieldwork are found in the database. Materials found in the property owner's collections are catalogued in a separate PDF file found on this web site.

Further Information About the Collection

The Fair Fountain site collection is privately owned and not accessible for study.

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