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Maryland's National Register Properties

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Burle's Town Land
Inventory No.:
Date Listed: 1/21/2011
Location: Anne Arundel County
Category: Site
Period/Date of Construction: 1649-1680
Related Multiple Property Record: Providence MD: Archaeology of a Puritan/Quaker Settlement
The nomination is marked Not for Public Access. Qualified Medusa accountholders should please contact the MHT Librarian for a copy.
Description: Burle’s Town Land is an historical archaeological site located within the 17th-century settlement of Providence, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The site is situated at the edge of an agricultural field on a natural terrace overlooking a creek. Much of the site is within the boundaries of an 18th century family cemetery. Because of the cemetery, roughly two-thirds of the site has escaped plowing and remains intact. Near the site lies a silted-in spring that archaeologists believe would have flowed in the late 17th century, when the site was occupied. Excavation of the site by the county archaeologist in 1992 revealed over 60,000 artifacts, mostly dating to the seventeenth-century occupation of the site, and 41 discrete 17th-century features. By mapping the location of these features, researchers were able to discern the outline of the post-in-the-ground building that they located there. That building was a three-or six-room dwelling house measuring sixty by twenty feet, divided into two sections. This dwelling, impressive for its size when compared to other 17th-century Chesapeake houses, was also appointed with glazed windows, decorative yellow fire bricks, Dutch tin-glazed and lead-glazed tiles, and red clay pantiles. It is likely that the two sections of the building were constructed simultaneously, during the earliest periods of the site’s occupation. Each section had a fireplace located along the east and west (non-gable) walls. Gable-end chimneys were much more common for earthfast houses in the 17th century. Dutch yellow clinker bricks were used in the firebox. The vertical support posts were likely raised in pairs, using bent construction. The exterior was likely riven clapboard, and the presence of lath-inspired daub as well as lath nails on the site indicate that the interior was lathed. However, very little plaster, very common on other Providence sites, was recovered. Distribution mapping of the pantiles (curved, interlocking roof tiles) suggests that at least the northern half of the house had a tile roof. Plowing on the southern portion of the site makes such analysis less certain for that portion of the site. Pantiles are a common feature for a 17th-century house and have been recovered from only one other Providence site, Swan Cove, where they may have served as part of a tobacco-pipe kiln. The presence of pantiles, window glazing, and other trappings of wealth distinguish Burle’s Town Land as a place of some importance on the landscape of 17th-century Providence. These objects, along with numerous fine ceramics, such as tin-glazed earthenwares, Rhenish stonewares, curtain rings, iron locks, and a wide variety of other objects recovered from the site, also attest to the relative affluence of the site’s occupants. In addition to providing clues about the social standing of these people, the artifacts on the site allow archaeological dating to the early to mid 1650s. Significance: Robert and Mary Burle patented Burle’s Town Land in 1662. Burle lived at the site from at least 1662 until his death in 1676. Burle was a government functionary for the Providence settlement and Anne Arundel County, keeping land records and accounts, and serving as a witness on official documents. Burle appears repeatedly in the earliest records from Anne Arundel County. The Burles are also the authors of one of a handful of texts actually penned by Providence settlers. Their letter, written to the fathers of the Puritan church in New England sometime in the 1660s, provides a window into the religious life of Providence. The Burles’ letter asks the New England Puritans for advice on doctrinal issues related to the preaching of William Durand. Durand, an Oxford-educated Puritan, preached a brand of radical theology known as “antinomianism,” somewhat similar to Quakerism. While the Burle letter mostly contained matters of a religious nature, it hints at a social division in the Providence community along theological lines. The Burle’s Town Land site is archaeologically significant in association with the Contact and Settlement Period in Anne Arundel County and the greater Chesapeake region. The site has yielded valuable data about the earliest period of settlement in Anne Arundel County, including evidence of an unusually large and well-appointed earthfast dwelling. Artifacts, recovered from the site through controlled surface collection and archaeological excavation, indicate that the site was occupied from the 1650s through approximately the 1680s. The locations of intact subsurface deposits, especially architectural features, confirm the site’s subsurface integrity. These features and their associated artifact deposits represent a valuable source of data about the daily lives of members of a well-to-do family in Providence, along with a great deal of information regarding architecture and trade patterns in Providence. Although a number of features have been sampled, a number of these remain unexcavated, and thus the site retains its integrity and research potential.


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