The Pope's Freehold site (18ST2) contains occupational evidence from both historic and prehistoric times. The site contains a middle eighteenth- to middle nineteenth-century house site, shell middens, and a Woodland era artifact scatter. The site is located just north of St. Mary's College of Maryland, occupying a low terrace on the north bank of Fisherman's Creek. A portion of the site is now owned by St. Mary's College, and currently supports a stabilized chimney ruin.

Archaeological Investigations

Archaeological and archival investigations have documented that the land described as Pope's Freehold was granted to Robert Tolle in 1746. Tolle developed the property for agriculture and built a home there. By 1765, the land and the house were owned by Reverend Moses Tabbs, a minister of William and Mary Parish in St. Mary's City. Pope's Freehold was owned by a series of individuals during the first half of the nineteenth century, but was apparently occupied mostly by tenants. Archaeology suggests that the Tolle-Tabbs house stood until about 1860 and domestic habitation of the tract then ceased.

Archaeological excavation of the Tolle-Tabs house site in 1971 and 1972 (Miller 1996) encountered material culture dating to the Woodland period. A shell midden containing both prehistoric and early historic artifacts was also documented. Miller also excavated a large pit feature (225A) which was interpreted as an aboriginal fire hearth. This feature contained ash, charcoal, stone tools and oyster shell. Tool marks in the pit periphery record the use of a digging implement -- perhaps a shell -- in pit construction. A soil sample of unknown volume was secured from the lower stratum of this feature and processed using water flotation.

Archeobotanical Studies

In the winter of 2009, Silas Hurry suggested that the analysis and radiocarbon dating plant material from the archived flotation sample from Feature 225A be undertaken. Justine McKnight performed the analysis of the sample, documenting a concentration of hickory nutshell, woody charcoal (probably bark and cambium material), and unidentifiable amorphous carbon.

Beta No
Measured Age
Cal 2 sigma
Cal Median
Cal 2 sigma
620 +/- 50 BP
AD 1284
AD 1349
AD 1410

A radiometric date was obtained on the hickory nutshell fragments recovered from the hearth feature. The sample produced an uncalibrated radiocarbon date of 620 +/-50 BP: AD 1330. This result documents the use of the hearth during the fourteenth century of the Late Woodland period.


McKnight, Justine W.
2009 Analysis of a Flotation Sample from 18ST2 and a Radiocarbon Date on Hickory Nutshell. Submitted to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Maryland.
Miller, Henry M., Robert Bray, Jr., Donald Winter, and Julia von Uffel
1996 A Phase I Archaeological Survey for the Maryland Route 5 Streetscape Project, St. Mary's City, Maryland (SHA Report No. 159).  MHT # ST142.

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