Avery’s Rest is an 800-acre parcel of land on the north side of Rehoboth Bay that was granted to John Avery by Governor Andros of New York in 1675. John Avery had a complicated background. Before finally settling in Delaware, he had lived in Charlestown, Massachusetts, London, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland for different periods of time. His occupation in London earned him membership in the London Guild of Barber Surgeons, but in the colonies he became a planter and mariner who transported crops such as tobacco. Between 1674 and 1682, John Avery was active as a Lieutenant of the colonial militia, the President of the Whorekill Court, and a Justice of the Peace who had a reputation for controversy and lawsuits.
Avery’s wife was Sarah Browne, an educated Puritan from Charlestown, Massachusetts. Together they had five children, three of whom, Mary, Sarah, and Jemimah, survived to adulthood. After John Avery died in 1682, his wife remarried while his daughter Mary and her husband Hercules Sheppard remained at the plantation and made several improvements, including building a new house with a second story room and a glass window. Jemimah later sued for her portion of the estate, and was awarded half of the acreage in 1698, allowing her to settle one tract, while her sister’s family lived on the other half of the plantation. By 1715, Jemimah and her husband John Morgan had sold off their portion and may have moved out of the area.
The Avery’s Rest site was discovered during a 1976 survey of cultivated fields undertaken by archaeologists from the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. At that time, the significance of the Avery family’s occupation of the site led to its nomination and listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2006, the field where the Avery’s Rest site is located was targeted for inclusion in a planned housing development, prompting a project to recover data from the site prior to its disturbance. The Sussex County chapter of the Archaeological Society of Delaware led the excavations with the assistance of archaeologists from the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, cultural resource management firms, and volunteers.
From 2006-2009, archaeologists undertook controlled surface collections, followed by testing with mechanical trenches, shovel tests, excavation units, and feature excavation. Among the features excavated were a series of borrow pits, two wells, a fenced enclosure, and a 12’ by 16’ cellar to a structure that has been interpreted as belonging to a storehouse for farm tools and crops.
Archaeological evidence is consistent with the site having been initially inhabited by the Avery family in the mid 1670s. The site went through a phase of abandonment and neglect after John Avery’s death, however, as indicated by slumping and erosion in the cellar (Feature 63). This period was followed by a circa 1690s-1720 reoccupation when the cellar and other features were filled with later domestic debris. The reoccupation episode seems to correspond with Jemimah Morgan’s ownership of a portion of the plantation.
Summary by Sara Rivers Cofield
The Avery’s Rest collection is still under analysis, so for more information, researchers should contact the Archaeological Society of Delaware. The interpretive materials used to write this site summary come from text for an exhibit on the Avery’s Rest site by Daniel Griffith of the Archaeological Society of Delaware, and staff archaeologists Alice Guerrant, Craig Lukezic, Chuck Fithian, and Gwen Davis of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
The Avery’s Rest collection is owned and curated by the Archaeological Society of Delaware.