Old Chapel Field (18ST233)
The Old Chapel Field site (18ST233) is part of an early Jesuit settlement located south of
St. Mary's City on the St. Mary's River in St. Mary's County, Maryland. St. Inigoes Manor,
as the settlement was known historically, was in Jesuit hands by 1636. St. Inigoes served
as the mission's headquarters and home plantation throughout the 17th century. In addition,
a fort was built on the manor by 1637 in an effort to protect the fledgling colony from naval
attack. This fort was large enough to accommodate the local population for up to a year
Old Chapel Field was occupied from c. 1637 until about 1660, and probably represents a
domestic occupation associated with the Jesuit mission headquarters. 18ST233 could also
be the site of the c. 1637 fort, although little archaeological evidence was recovered
to suggest that this is the case. Several graves were found in association with 18ST233,
and are among the earliest European graves yet documented in Maryland.
St. Inigoes Manor remained a Jesuit holding until 1942, when the northern half, approximately
800 acres, was sold to the United States Navy. Today, the Old Chapel Field site is part of
the Naval Air Station Patuxent River–Webster Field Annex. The balance of the original land
holding remains in possession of the Jesuits, and is one of the longest continuously-owned
tracts in North America. Although not the focus of this project, many sites have been
identified that document Jesuit ownership up through the 20th century.
Because of its early date of occupation, Old Chapel Field has the potential to reveal information
about life in Maryland shortly after permanent European settlement began. During these early
decades, colonists lived in close proximity to the colonial capital at St. Mary's City, from
which comes most of our archaeological information about this period. The comparatively large
numbers of trade goods and Indian-made terra cotta tobacco pipes found at 18ST233 suggest the
relationships the Jesuits were attempting to establish with the local Native American population.
The Old Chapel Field site was first identified in 1974, when Steve Wilke
and Gail Thompson recorded a scatter of shell associated with prehistoric
artifacts in the area. The site was re-surveyed in 1981, when Michael Smolek
of the Maryland Historical Trust’s Southern Maryland Regional Center excavated
17 shovel test pits in the area Wilke and Thompson had examined. Both prehistoric
and historic materials were identified.
In 1996, Julia A. King and Edward Chaney of the Jefferson Patterson Park
and Museum undertook a comprehensive Phase I archaeological survey of the
Webster Field Annex, including the Old Chapel Field site. Shovel tests
were excavated at intervals of 25 feet, and King and Chaney were able to
relocate 18ST233 and identify it as a domestic occupation from the early
to mid-17th century.
In 2000, King and Chaney returned to Old Chapel Field to conduct
additional testing. The work was funded by the Naval Air Station’s Natural
Resources Branch and the Department of Defense’s Legacy Resources Program.
Twenty 5-by-5-foot test units were excavated at 18ST233, with the plow
zone soils screened through ¼-inch mesh. A number of features were
exposed below the plow zone, including a borrow pit, a possible lime kiln,
three grave shafts, three post holes, and several unidentified intrusions.
A portion of the borrow pit was excavated to document the feature’s shape
and stratigraphy, and to recover a sample of artifacts. In addition, traces
of what may have been a wooden grave marker were observed at the head of
More than 356,000 artifacts, including large quantities of oyster shell,
were recovered from the 2000 excavations at 18ST233. Both Native American
and European manufactured items were recovered from the site, and it is
likely that many of these materials are contemporary with one another.
European ceramics include tin-glazed earthenware, early North Devon Fine
ware, Martincamp ware, North Italian slipware, Kraak (Chinese) porcelain,
and Rhenish brown stoneware, as well as various lead-glazed coarse earthenwares.
Both terra cotta and white clay tobacco pipes were recovered from 18ST233,
but terra cotta pipes dominate the assemblage. Nearly all of the terra
cotta pipes appear to be handmade, and most are decorated. Local Native
Americans likely produced these pipes. Several fragments of a probably
locally-made tobacco pipe composed of mixed red and white clays were also
recovered. These stems were decorated with stamped rosettes and rouletting,
and were probably produced by a pipemaker working in Virginia.
Other artifacts from 18ST233 included various glass beads, a probable
copper alloy bead, a jetton, a coin weight, a sword belt hook, a spur fragment,
horse furniture, lead shot, scissors, fish hooks, a mouth harp, knife blades,
buttons, a hook-and-eye, and tenterhooks. Interestingly, no religious artifacts
were recovered from 18ST233.
Galke, Laura J., and Alyssa L. Loney. 2000. Phase I
Archaeological Investigations Aboard Webster Field Annex, Naval Air Station,
Patuxent River, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Report prepared for the Department
of Public Works, Naval Air Station, Patuxent River. Manuscript on file,
Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Jefferson Patterson Park
and Museum, St. Leonard.
Sperling, Christopher I., and Laura J. Galke. 2001.
Phase II Archaeological Investigations of 18ST233 and 18ST329 Aboard Webster
Field Annex, Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
Report prepared for the Department of Public Works, Naval Air Station,
Patuxent River. Manuscript on file, Maryland Archaeological Conservation
Laboratory, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, St. Leonard.
Further Information on the Collection
The Old Chapel Field collection is owned by the United States Navy and
curated by the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. For more
information about the collection and collection access, contact Sara Rivers Cofield,
Federal Collections Manager, at 410-586-8589; email SRivers-Cofield@mdp.state.md.us.
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