Henry Brooks Tenant Site (44WM205)


The Henry Brooks (or Henry 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.

Archaeological Investigations

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 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 along 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 white 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 Potomac Valley.

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

There is little documentation related to the 1930s excavations. It appears that during the 1930s, the site was surface collected and trenched in order to identity architectural remains. It is unlikely that feature fill or plowzone was screened. The accession number that represents these early excavations, 279, describes this provenience as "outbuilding and surface."

During the 1977 excavations, plowzone was mechanically stripped. Soils were probably screened through 1/4-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. A total of 162 contexts yielded artifacts.

Further Information About the Collection

The Henry Brooks Site collection is owned by the National Park Service and managed by the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. For more information on the collection, contact Superindent Melissa K. Cobern at melissa_cobern@nps.gov.

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