The Garrett’s Chance site (18PR703) is predominantly a late 17th to early 18th-century domestic site containing the remains of an earthfast house (probably the home of a tenant). The site also contains a Late Woodland period lithic scatter.

Archaeological Investigations

This site was initially identified by Jim Gibb for Andrew Garte & Associates during a Phase I survey of the Stanwick Farm in May 2004. In June and July 2004, Phase II and III testing and data recovery excavations were conducted. Phase II included additional surface collecting, shovel testing at 25' intervals, and one 4'x3' excavation unit. Phase III data recovery excavations consisted of extensive mechanical stripping to expose features. Cultural features identified included six original postholes and six replacement postholes and associated molds, representing the footprint of an earthfast building measuring 20' by 16.5' (a perch, a standard unit of measure in surveying during the Colonial period). That the building was a dwelling seemed evident by the large root cellar at one end, filled with burned daub and charcoal. In addition, eight borrow pits were identified to the south of the building, most of which cross-cut one another in a manner typical of early Colonial sites.

The various lines of evidence--archival, spatial, stratigraphic, and artifactual--admit a fairly straightforward interpretation. The dwelling, on land occupied by Native Americans sometime in the Late Woodland period, if not earlier, was built in the last decade of the 17th century by Bernard Johnson for himself or by and for tenants. The pipestem dates, the scarcity of white salt-glazed stoneware sherds, and the relative abundance of Rhenish blue and gray and English brown salt-glazed stoneware sherds support that initial date. The lack of case bottle fragments and the recovery of only one lead-backed tin-glaze sherd from Feature 2 argues against an earlier date, as does the rare occurrence of tobacco pipestems with bore diameters of 7/64" (n=4, two each from Features 4 and 21). Sometime in the early part of the second decade of the 18th century, possibly with the conveyance of this parcel to William Wilkerson, a tenant household rehabilitated the dwelling, replacing the original posts and reconstructing the wattle-and-daub chimney. While some of their trash may have ended up in the original borrow pit (Feature 1), the tenants probably deposited most of their kitchen refuse, and some architectural debris, into their principal borrow pit (Feature 21). Precisely when the site was abandoned remains uncertain. The building certainly burned in its entirety, the leaded windows destroyed along with some furnishings and utensils. The chimney collapsed through the burned wooden floor and into the re-dug root cellar. (The lack of a separate chimney bay may have made this building susceptible to catastrophic fire). The burning of the structure was hinted at when the field crew first examined the surface; the soils there were considerably darker than anywhere else in the project area. The recovery of only seven sherds of white salt-glazed stoneware--three from Feature 2, the latest of the features to be filled, and four from the surface or shovel tests--suggests abandonment during the second quarter of the 18th century.

Archeobotanical Studies

Ten liters of soil and one sample of waterscreen-recovered material from Feature 22 at the Garrett’s Chance site were submitted to Justine McKnight for macro-botanical analysis. Feature 22 was a pit feature formed in the early 18th century and relating to domestic contexts within a dwelling of earthfast construction.

A full quantitative inventory of the flotation sample was made, with a total of 6.24 grams of carbonized plant material (an average of 0.624 grams of archeobotanical material per liter of feature fill) recovered. Wood charcoal totaled 427 fragments weighing 5.67 grams. White oak was most common, along with American chestnut, hickory, and beech. Carbonized seeds totaled 14. Sedge, poke, copperleaf, yellow poplar, and an unidentified grass were identified. Maize was well-represented by 25 specimens (0.36 grams), including a variety of cob elements (cupules, cupule fragments, and glumes).

Analysis of the waterscreen-recovered plant material was limited to a presence-absence assessment. Wood charcoal (hickory, white oak, and yellow poplar), black walnut shells, maize, and seeds of poke, sumac, and sedge were identified.

The small but rich botanical data from the Garrett’s Chance site suggest that the local landscape during the 18th century included a patchwork of cultivated fields and pasture land surrounded by hardwood forests. The remains of food plants recovered from archaeological contexts at the site document a subsistence economy focused on maize agriculture and wild-gathered nuts and fruits. Orchard and garden products were not recovered, which is more likely a reflection of archaeological sampling than of the probable importance of these foods to the site’s historic inhabitants.


Gibb, James G.
2006 A Phase I Intensive Archaeological Survey of the Stanwick Farm, Aquasco, Prince George's County, Maryland, Phase II Investigations of Garrett's Chance #3 (18PR704) and Phase II/III Investigations of Garrett's Chance #2 (18PR703) . Andrew Garte & Associates. MHT # PR 382.
Justine W. McKnight
2006 Archeobotanical Remains from Feature 22, The Garrett’s Chance Site (18PR703), Prince Georges County, Maryland. Appendix C to A Phase I Intensive Archaeological Survey of the Stanwick Farm, Aquasco, Prince George's County, Maryland, Phase II Investigations of Garrett's Chance #3 (18PR704) and Phase II/III Investigations of Garrett's Chance #2 (18PR703) . Andrew Garte & Associates. MHT # PR 382.

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