King’s Reach (18CV83) part of the Richard Smith Jr. Plantation, is a tobacco plantation homelot site occupied from 1690 until 1711 in Calvert County, Maryland. The site is located on the grounds of the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum and is associated with a nearby quarter (18CV84) and a large tobacco barn (18CV85). The archaeological traces of a house with a hall-parlor plan and two attached sheds, along with a one-room quarter, were uncovered at 18CV83. King’s Reach is probably the home of Richard Smith, Jr., a wealthy colonist with close ties to the Calvert family. Documentary evidence suggests that Smith probably inherited the property in 1689 and lived at King’s Reach until 1711, when he constructed a new dwelling elsewhere on the plantation.

King’s Reach was occupied at an important point in the history of Maryland, when the colony’s tobacco economy was in a severe and prolonged depression and the transition to a predominantly slave labor force was well underway. Although Smith was fairly well-to-do, he lived in an impermanent, earthfast dwelling. The King’s Reach collection, which is striking in its size and variety, suggests that Smith invested his wealth in portable household goods. In 1711, as the tobacco economy was beginning to strengthen, Smith abandoned King’s Reach for a large house constructed at least partially of brick (18CV91). The King’s Reach assemblage has the potential to shed light on the material conditions of life in this transitional period.

The King’s Reach site complex is representative of the mid-size tobacco plantations that dominated the Chesapeake region during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, a period when the tobacco economy was in prolonged depression. The assemblage from the main house, 18CV83, can be used to address issues ranging from standards of living during the tobacco economy depression to the organization of plantation homelots at the end of the 17th century. The collection can also provide evidence of material conditions for servants and slaves as the transformation to a slave economy was underway. Plow zone materials reveal the use of domestic space on the plantation, while the relatively large collection of Border wares provides useful data for investigating this ware type in Maryland.

Archaeological Investigations

The King’s Reach Site was identified in 1981, when a preliminary survey by Wayne Clark and Michael Smolek revealed a concentration of nails, brick, glass, ceramics, tobacco pipe fragments, and other domestic and structural debris from an early colonial site. After the creation of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in 1983, King’s Reach was selected as the first site to be excavated by staff archaeologists. A systematic surface collection across an area measuring 50-by-60-meters in 1984 allowed better definition of site boundaries and artifact concentrations. Excavation began in June 1984 and lasted for two summers, with additional limited excavations in 1987. One hundred and sixteen two-by-two-meter units were excavated in the site core, while 28 were systematically distributed in the outlying area. All plow zone soil was screened through 3/8-inch mesh. An extensive complex of subsurface features was exposed in the plantation core. All features were recorded, and selected ones were excavated. Soils from excavated features was screened through ¼-inch mesh, with some portions water screened through 1/16-inch mesh. In addition, soil chemical samples were systematically taken from the plow zone across the site, and tests were run on phosphates, calcium, and potassium.

The site plan of 18CV83 consists of two earthfast buildings with a connecting foreyard. The one-story main dwelling measured 30-by-20-feet, divided into a hall and kitchen with a sleeping loft above. The building’s source of heat was a wood-framed, mud-lined hood and chimney set on a brick hearth in the kitchen. A ten-foot wide trench-set wooden shed extended along the rear of the structure, while a five-by-seven-foot post-supported shed was attached to the north gable. An unusual feature of the main house was the presence of at least six cellars below the wooden floor of the structure. Two cellars appear to have had specialized functions: a possible root cellar in front of the hearth and a dairy cooling pit in the small shed. The remaining four cellars appear to represent successive generations of general storage pits which were replaced when walls collapsed. One doorway led from the kitchen to the foreyard, while a second led outside from the rear-set shed.

The second structure, measuring 20-by-10-feet, was possibly a quarter for servants or slaves. A chimneyless hearth on the west side of the building appears to have heated the structure, and a single eight-foot square cellar served as general storage. One doorway led into the foreyard toward the main house, and a second was placed on the east gable. Two generations of ditch-set fences joined this building and the main dwelling to form the foreyard.

The King’s Reach dwelling appears to have been abandoned around 1711, when the Smith family moved to a new residence on the property. This new dwelling was of at least partial brick construction. Nearby outbuildings included a kitchen, storehouse, barn, slave quarter, and wheat barn.


A total of 66,371 artifacts were recovered during the investigations at 18CV83. These included architectural, kitchen, and furniture objects, personal items, tools, arms, horse furniture, and food remains. Given that the dwelling was fairly modest, the household apparently invested a notable portion of its wealth in portable material goods, as indicated by the costly and abundant artifacts recovered.

One hundred and fifty-three ceramic vessels were identified from the site. The majority of these vessels were tin-glazed earthenwares, Border wares, Staffordshire-type slipwares, black-glazed earthenwares, Buckley-type earthenwares, Red Sandy earthenwares, Rhenish blue and gray stoneware, and English brown stoneware. Numerous tin-glazed earthenware sherds exhibited blue or polychrome hand-painted motifs, possibly representing sets of matching ceramics. Border wares had both clear and green lead glazes on interior surfaces. Red Border ware was also recovered at the site. A total of 4,322 glass artifacts were found at King’s Reach. While this assemblage consisted mostly of wine and case bottle fragments, 144 table glass fragments, 64 mirror fragments, 19 beads, 14 medicine bottle fragments, 13 window glass fragments, one unidentified bottle seal, and one black glass button with a white and yellow hand-painted flower were also found.

Metal objects reflect various personal and farm-related activities that were occurring at King’s Reach. A number of iron farm implements were recovered, including two hoe fragments, two axe head fragments, two chain link fragments, a collar stud, a pintle, a scythe, and a number of unidentified tools. Forty small lead shot, nine musket balls, one gun barrel, and 29 casting waste fragments, were among the arms artifacts found at King’s Reach. Horse furniture included four unidentified harness parts, three buckles, three bridle bit fragments, two bosses, and two stirrups, while kitchen-related artifacts included 39 knife blade fragments, four pewter spoons, and three copper alloy spoons. Locking mechanisms from King’s Reach consisted of five key fragments, four padlock fragments, three other lock fragments, and one latch, while sewing implements included 215 straight pins, eight scissors fragments, and two thimble fragments.

Personal artifacts included three copper alloy decorative buckles, three copper alloy book hinges, two iron smoker’s companions, one copper alloy finger ring, a set of copper alloy cuff links, and a whistle fabricated from a white clay tobacco pipe stem fragment. Among other metal artifacts recovered from King’s Reach are seven lead bale seals, three possible lead weights, two curtain rings, two copper alloy pestles, and a copper alloy screen.

Archeobotanical Studies

A study of macro-botanical samples collected during the 1984-1987 cellar excavations (Feature 200) was made during the fall of 2011.  Five charcoal samples, three waterscreen-recovered floral samples and nine flotation samples were submitted for a full, quantitative analysis.   All of the floral samples analyzed contained carbonized plant macro-remains, and a variety of wild and cultivated plant food types were well represented.  Wood charcoal totaled 180.68 grams (17,947 fragments), with oaks, hickory, black locust and pine being best represented.  Nutshell remains were scant, being confined to four fragments of walnut family nutshell within a single context.  The remains of fleshy fruits were identified, including plum, cherry, sumac and grape.  Both Native American and Old World crop plants were in evidence.  Maize (216 specimens), squash (n=1), sunflower (n=1), wheat/oats (n=15), bean (n=11) were recovered from the analyzed assemblage.  Miscellaneous plant remains included fungal fruits (four fragments) and 540 fragments of unidentifiable amorphous carbon.  An interesting result of the analysis was the recovery of 57 uncarbonized tobacco seeds from two contexts within the cellar feature.  The presence of these seeds was unexpected at an open-air colonial site on the Chesapeake Coastal Plain, where delicate, uncarbonized seeds do not survive from the Colonial period.  It is probable that these seeds entered the archaeological record during modern times.


Galke, Laura
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