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Maryland's National Register Properties

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Skipworth's Addition
Inventory No.:
Date Listed: 12/22/2008
Location: Anne Arundel County
Category: Site
Period/Date of Construction: Late 17th century
Related Multiple Property Record: Quaker Sites in the West River Meeting, c. 1650-1785
Description: The site was identified in 1990 when the owners of the property unearthed several large pieces of North Devon pottery while burying a horse. Fieldwork in 1991 by Al Luckenbach and Esther Doyle Reed of Anne Arundel County Planning and Zoning began with surface walkovers, noting the distribution of tobacco pipe fragments to the south side of the springhead. Following surface walkover, 11 shovel test pits were placed at 10-foot intervals in the immediate vicinity of the horse burial, to the north of the springhead. Four of the test pits revealed features. These shovel tests by Anne Arundel County archaeologists, with the assistance of the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation, produced 17th-century artifacts, including glass, tobacco pipes, nails, refined earthenwares, and coarse ceramics. The high concentration of glass and ceramics indicates a domestic site, and both the ceramic finds and the archival evidence confirm this site to be that of Skipworth's Addition. The discovery of North Devon ceramics, both gravel-tempered and sgrafitto, was particularly informative as both date to the 17th century, and make up 87% of the ceramic sherd assemblage. It was posited that the features identified in the four shovel tests were all part of the same cellar. A limited Phase II investigation was conducted by the Lost Towns Project in October 1997 with the assistance of a team of volunteers from the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation. Ten 5x5' test units were excavated, placed around the horse burial, to determine the nature and significance of the feature disturbed by the interment. The bulk of the artifacts recovered were from the plowzone. Several features were identified during the excavation, including a post hole/mold and a series of shallow pits, most likely borrow pits or root cellars that were filled with trash during the Skipworth occupation. The horse burial cut into one of these features. Many large artifacts protruded from these features, including North Devon milk pans, olive green bottle bases, a stirrup, two smoker's companions, and lots of daub. Of the series of features, three were bisected, leaving half of each feature in situ. An area to the southeast of the series of features had reddened, burned soil and was interpreted as evidence for a nearby hearth. In both the Phase I and II surveys, only a small area was excavated, and in that small area there is evidence of an earthfast building with a wattle-and-daub chimney. Most of the features found were bisected and this half of the features remain in situ. The one post hole and mold are evidence of a structure, though it is currently of unknown dimensions. There are certainly more archaeological resources on the site--at the very least, the rest of the building and any associated features such as borrow pits and cellars. The presence of the archaeological remains of outbuildings associated with the Skipworth occupation--that have not been uncovered and are undisturbed--is also very likely, given the good condition of the features uncovered. Archaeological research at the site has recovered nearly 2,000 artifacts. The ceramics in particular point to the pristine 17th-century nature of the occupation. Almost 87% of the nearly 1500 ceramic sherds recovered were North Devon gravel-tempered and sgrafitto, and 98% of the entire ceramic assemblage is typical of 17th century colonial ceramics in the area. The preponderance of refined ceramics, along with other artifacts such as a shard of Venetian glass, suggests that the Skipworth family was wealthy, an assertion that is corroborated by archival evidence. However, the Skipworths seem to have lived in an earthfast home, which was typical of most housing for County residents in the 17th century. Significance: The site is located within the bounds of the 1664 patent - "The Addition." The Certificate of Survey was issued in December 1662 to George Skipworth (also - Skipwith, Skipwirth) for an 18 acre tract. In 1680 Skipworth resurveyed the tract for 21 acres. Skipworth was married to Elizabeth Thurston, daughter of Thomas Thurston, an early Quaker "missionary" to the region. The Skipwiths were active members of the Quaker community. They hosted a half-year Meeting for Men in their home at Skipworth's Addition in 1680, which was attended by 24 Friends from both the Eastern and Western Shores of Maryland. The Skipwiths occupied Skipworth's Addition until 1682, when they moved approximately 15 miles south to the plantation "Silverstone" in the Herring Creek Hundred. George Skipwith died two years later, and in his will, gave 5 pounds sterling to the Quakers. His wife Elizabeth married twice more, both times to prominent Quakers--William Coale II and Samuel Chew II. As evidenced by the archaeological record, Skipworth's Addition was not inhabited again in the historic period until the 20th century, and thus has a pristine archaeological context available for study. Skipworth's Addition is a data-rich example of an early Quaker domestic site in Anne Arundel County. Only a small portion of the site has been excavated, and several subsurface features remain unexcavated or only partially excavated, leaving the site's integrity intact and offering ample future research potential. Artifacts recovered from the plowzone contexts as well as the tested features indicate an 18-year habitation during the late 17th century, which has been upheld by archival research. The inhabitants were very active Quakers in the West River, and the material culture and architectural data recovered from this site helps archaeologists understand how they practiced Quakerism--since Quakerism was embodied in action, in material objects, and in architecture. Their devotion to Quakerism is made clear through documentary records, and their material culture can inform us about their practice of this faith. This site is valuable for the archaeological data it can provide, taken both as a stand-alone site, and also as one of a growing number of comparative Quaker sites from this region. Future archaeological research has the potential to reveal more about this early, short-lived habitation site and the Quakers who lived there.


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