Sukeek's Cabin Site (18CV426)

The Sukeek’s Cabin Site (18CV426) is a late 19th- through early 20th-century African American domestic occupation located on a ridge above Mackall Cove at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) in Calvert County, Maryland. The site contains the fossiliferous sandstone foundation of a house that was constructed c. 1870 and abandoned before 1920. The vacant dwelling stood on the site until at least 1952. The site encompasses approximately one-half acre around the remains of the dwelling, including a swept yard south of the ruin, and two possible trail-heads connecting the dwelling to a spring and to the farm where some of the tenants worked. In addition, 18CV426 incorporates a 1930s hog-processing site just west of the ruin.

According to eye-witness descriptions, the house was a two-story structure with one room on each floor, approximately 17 feet square. It had clapboard siding, a single entrance on the south facade, few windows, and a metal roof. The interior walls were covered in plaster over wood lath.

The study of the Sukeek’s Cabin Site included oral history, archaeology, and documentary research. Oral historical information was gathered from several sources, including descendants of Sukeek and people who worked on the surrounding farm in the 1930s. The descendant family traces their lineage to a woman known only as Sukeek, who was enslaved on the plantation that is now JPPM. ‘Sukeek’s Cabin’ may be a misnomer, as it is not confirmed that Sukeek herself lived there, though the elder descendants believe she did. Documentary and oral historical evidence suggests that Jane Dawkins Johnson - Sukeek’s granddaughter - and her kin occupied the site, probably up to a few years before Johnson’s death in 1918. Sukeek could have lived there before her granddaughter.

The Sukeek’s Cabin Site represents Sukeek’s descendants’ first home as free people. After Emancipation, family members continued to work on the farm of their former owners, the Petersons. Analysis of the site helps to document one of the important social transformations in American history: the change from enslaved to free.

The Sukeek’s Cabin Site was first noticed during a rapid survey in 1983. In 1996, oral history suggested a connection between Sukeek’s descendants and the cabin ruins. In 1999, volunteers cleared the site and began a controlled surface collection. Twelve 3-meter squares were collected. Intensive investigation of the site took place in 2000 and 2001. Investigations entailed surface collection, shovel-testing, and the excavation of test units. Fifty-two 1.5-meter squares were surface collected in 2000. In 2001, twelve shovel test pits were excavated.

In addition to the surface collection and shovel tests, test units were placed northwest, west, and south of the foundation, as well as within the foundation. Three units were excavated within the foundation. A trench feature and a foundation stone that protruded into it, presumably to support a floor joist, were found in the northeast corner of the dwelling, and suggested that the dwelling was log, at least on the first story.

Other units revealed that a barbed-wire and wire-mesh fence at the edge of the slope south of the house had defined the perimeter of the yard. A few artifacts were clustered along the fenceline, but the yard itself contained little cultural material. This, and the presence of complex erosional features in the yard, suggested that the area had been kept clean and vegetation-free through sweeping, a common practice among African Americans in the region. Two additional units were excavated on the relatively steep slope south of the fenceline, in an area where residents apparently dumped their trash. Visible artifacts were scattered over an area of the hillside that was at least 25 meters wide. Most of the artifacts from the site were recovered in these units.

Three test units were excavated west of the dwelling. All bore evidence of the processing of butchered hogs. This included soil disturbed by the excavation of pits to hold steel boiling drums, and the remains of fires in which metal objects were heated to make the drum water boil. Artifacts recovered directly west of the foundation suggested that objects from the house were collected and burned, perhaps during demolition.

(Edited from Archaeological Collections in Maryland)


  • Uunila, Kirsti
  • 2002. Sukeek's Cabin Site (18CV426) Report.

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