Henry Brooks Site (44WM205)
The Henry Brooks (or Brooks Tenant) site (44WM205) is located on the south shore of the Potomac River on Bridge's
Creek at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
The site lies 1,500 feet northeast of the John Washington site (44WM204), and was originally named for
mid-17th-century patentee Henry Brooks. The archaeological traces uncovered at the site,
however, date to the first quarter of the 18th century, a period when Brooks' granddaughter
owned the land. The site was likely occupied by tenants and not by Brooks family members.
Like the John Washington site, it was first identified in the 1930s and more fully excavated in the 1970s.
Henry Brooks, who had come to Virginia from Maryland sometime between 1647 and 1650,
patented land in 1651 along Nomini Bay at Bridge's Creek. The property passed to his
wife, Jane Wickliffe Brooks, at his death in 1662 and included 1,000 acres of land at
Nomini Bay. Jane died in 1683, and the property, including the parcel of land on which
the site is located, passed to her oldest daughter, Jane, and Jane's husband, Original
Brown. Brown died in 1698 and Jane around 1700. The property then passed to Brooks'
granddaughter Jane, and her husband, Nathaniel Pope, the grandson of Nathaniel Pope
and the father-in-law of John Washington.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Jane and Nathaniel Pope owned the property
when the site was occupied. The Popes, however, lived elsewhere and probably
rented the site to tenants whose identities remain unknown. Nathaniel Pope
died in 1719 and, in 1726, Augustine Washington, the grandson of John Washington
the immigrant and the father of George Washington, purchased the land from his widow.
The acquisition of the property by Washington appears to coincide with the abandonment
of the site.
A 1683 property survey, owned by the George Washington Birthplace National Monument,
depicts the location of the Washington house and two others. One house, annotated "where
old Mrs. Brooks lived," was likely Henry's original manor, and the other, identified
as Original Brown's dwelling house, was where his daughter and son-in-law lived. The
survey does not show any occupation in the vicinity of the Brooks Tenant site.
The site provides important evidence about the architecture and portable material
goods of an early 18th-century tenant household, part of a group poorly understood
through the documentary or archaeological record to date.
Archaeologists who conducted the initial work at the Brooks Tenant Site believed
the site to have been occupied by Henry Brooks and his family, but a recent reanalysis
of the site indicates that it was not established until the early 18th century, long
after Brooks' death. The location of his home is currently unknown, but likely close by.
The Henry Brooks Tenant Site was first identified during the same 1930s project in which
the John Washington site was located. Trenches dug across the property by James Latane
revealed the remains of a structure with brick foundations, "Outbuilding A," in the domestic
core of the farm. Latane excavated the cellar of the building and the overlying plow zone
together, recovering over 1,000 artifacts. No records of stratigraphy or recovery methods
remain for the archaeology done at this time, but it is unlikely that any of the soil was
screened or that the plow zone was sampled during the 1930s project. This part of the
assemblage is biased towards larger, more visible artifacts, and it is likely that small
mammal, fish, and bird bones, and small finds such as beads and pins, are underrepresented
or missing from the assemblage.
In 1977, Brooke Blades, under the direction of John Cotter, returned to the Henry Brooks site.
As at the John Washington Site, the plow zone was mechanically removed from the site. The
plow zone was not screened, but feature soils were screened through ¼-inch mesh. Blades
mapped the architectural and landscape features that were exposed. In order to construct
a site chronology, he partially excavated selected features following visible stratigraphy
and recorded their profiles. During these excavations, he discovered the remains of a 19-by-20-foot
dwelling southeast of Outbuilding A. The house was built either on piers or on sills set on the walls
of a brick-lined cellar. A small root cellar measuring approximately 2.5-by-9-feet was located in
front of the hearth, and was replaced by the large brick cellar.
Blades also uncovered the brick-lined cellar associated with Outbuilding A. The cellar
was located 48 feet northwest of the dwelling. At the base of the fill and the center of
the floor, excavators discovered a raised pad of clay whose deposition likely relates
to the construction of the building. The exact function of this structure is unknown.
It may have served as a kitchen, quarter, dairy, or a combination of all three. Blades
reported on all phases of archaeology in 1979 while, in 1978, Sharon Burnston reported
on the 548 faunal remains that were recovered.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the people who lived on this site were tenants
who lived in a fairly small house with minimal access to expensive consumer goods.
Brad Hatch has analyzed the ceramics from this site. He calculated a TPQ of 1725, a
Mean Ceramic Date of 1718, and a ceramic intersection of 1700-1725.
The cataloged assemblage includes 3,452 artifacts. Ceramics and clay pipes predominate
while nails, wine and case bottle glass, and faunal remains are common. Of the 814
ceramic sherds, the most prevalent ware types are Buckley, Rhenish blue and gray
stoneware, and tin-glazed earthenware. North Devon gravel-tempered ware, Staffordshire
slipware, Manganese mottled earthenware, and unidentified earthenware are also represented
with small numbers of Astbury sherds. Hatch has included the ceramics from this site in
his study of the relationship between foodways and definitions of early modern manhood
in the 17th-century Potomac Valley.
English or Dutch ball clay pipes comprise the majority of the assemblage, with only
11 of 437 pipes of local production. Lauren McMillan has included pipes from this
site in her study of trade, identity, and community formation in the 17th-century
Relatively few architectural materials are present in the collection, although the
assemblage does include some brick, mortar, wrought nails, a piece of roofing material,
and a single piece of window lead.
Small finds include a lead and a brass candlestick, a brass spigot, a brass bodkin,
a straight pin, glass tableware, buckles, and a chisel and gimlet. A small Native
American component was recorded consisting of five points (one quartz, the others
quartzite), a lithic tool, likely a knife, and a smoothed, polished bannerstone.
Of the 158 faunal remains analyzed, a number of domestic species were present including
cow, pig, chicken, and sheep. Three horse bones, as well as dog bones and a single bone
from a cat, represent domestic species that were not part of the diet. Wild species were
represented by ducks, turkeys, rabbits and geese. Catfish, gar, sturgeon, snapping turtle,
shark and whale completed the assemblage, along with a quantity of oyster shell.
Archives of Maryland Online Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly 1637/8-1664.
Maryland State Archives and Hall of Records Commission, Annapolis, MD. http://www.aomol.net/html/index.html. Accessed Spring 2012.
Judicial and Testamentary Business of the Provincial Court 1649/50-1657. Maryland State
Archives and Hall of Records Commission, Annapolis, MD. http://www.aomol.net/html/index.html. Accessed Spring 2012.
Beale, G.W. 1904. Col. Nathaniel Pope and His Descendants. William and Mary Quarterly 12(3):192-196.
Blades, Brooke S. 1979. Archaeological Excavations
at the Henry Brooks and John Washington Sites, George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Virginia. Report to
George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Colonial Beach, VA.
Burnston, Sharon Ann. 1978. Report
on the Faunal Remains, George Washington Birthplace
Excavations, 1977, George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Report to George Washington Birthplace
National Monument, Colonial Beach, VA.
Hatch, D. Brad. 2015. An Historical Archaeology of
Early Modern Manhood in the Potomac River Valley of Virginia, 1645-1730. Doctoral dissertation, Department of
Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Library of Virginia (LOV) 1691-1699 Westmoreland County Deeds and Wills, microfilm reel 2.
Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.
McMillan, Lauren. 2015. Politics, Conflict, and
Exchange in the Chesapeake: An Archaeological and Historical Study of the Tobacco Pipe Trade in the Potomac Valley,
ca. 1630-1730. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
What You Need To Know To Use This Collection
The first archaeological investigations at the Henry Brooks site occurred in 1933, at the same time
the John Washington site was being excavated (Blades 1979:13). Up to three structured were
identified during these early NPS investigations, one of which had brick foundations. The
cellar of the building with brick foundations, identified as Outbuilding A, was completely excavated
in the 1930s, resulting in the recovery of well over 1,000 artifacts (Blades 1979:38). Archaeology
at the site resumed in 1977, led by Brooke Blades, under the direction of John
Cotter (Blades 1979:1). The 1970s excavations exposed at least two structures and associated landscape
features, as well as recovering over 1,000 artifacts. Blades completed a summary of the previous
archaeology at the site and the results of his excavations in 1979.
There is little documentation related to the 1930s excavations, but, judging from references to letters
written during the 1930s and archaeological evidence from the 1977 excavations, it appears that the
site was surface collected and trenched in order to identity architectural remains. When the foundation
of Outbuilding A was discovered by the 1930s excavators, the area immediately surrounding this
structure was stripped and the cellar was excavated. It is highly unlikely that the feature
fill or plowzone was screened. The accession number that represents these early excavations, 279,
describes this provenience as "outbuilding and surface." Therefore, while the majority of the
artifacts likely came from the cellar of outbuilding A, many of them probably also originated in
the plowzone. Additionally, there are no records of the stratigraphy in this feature, and it
is unlikely that the cellar was excavated stratigraphically. Over 1,000 artifacts were recovered
from Outbuilding A.
The methods used during the 1977 excavations are better understood because of the report produced on
the site (Blades 1979:16). The plowzone at the site was mechanically stripped in order to better
understand the extent of the site and the physical and spatial relationships of structures. A
site plan was created and selected features were partially excavated in order to understand the
temporal dimensions of the site. Features were excavated stratigraphically and their profiles were
recorded. Although Blades' report does not explicitly note screening at the site, it is likely
that all soils were screened through quarter-inch mesh based upon a visual examination of artifact
size and Blades' notation about screening during the 1930s excavations. A total of 1,131
artifacts were recovered during the 1970s excavations (Blades 1979:77).
Further Information About the Collection
The John Washington collection is owned by the National Park Service and managed by the
George Washington Birthplace National Monument. For more information on the collection,
contact Museum Curator Amy Muraca at 804-224-1732; email Amy_Muraca@nps.gov.
To Download Data
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please go to the Downloads page.