Artifacts indicate Calvert's mansion Scientists excavate Patuxent naval site

September 30, 1992|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Staff Writer

LEXINGTON PARK -- To his critics, he was a tax-and-spend autocrat who took frequent junkets overseas and rode roughshod over his constituents. After a coup, Charles Calvert, the only Lord Baltimore ever to live in Maryland, was history.

Three hundred years later, there seemed to be little evidence left Calvert's rule. Until now.

Archaeologists working on the grounds of an abandoned nursery at Patuxent Naval Air Test Center have found what may be the site of Mattapany (pronounced "mat-a-pan-EYE"), Calvert's 17th-century mansion. And they think they've identified Mattapany's magazine or armory, which troops loyal to the Roman Catholic peer surrendered, without firing a shot, to Protestant rebels in 1689. (Calvert, the third Lord Baltimore, was safely in England at the time.)

Locating these structures "is very important and very exciting as far as early Maryland history is concerned," said Julie King, who is an archaeologist with the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, part of the Maryland Historical Trust, in St. Leonard.

For almost 20 years in the late 1600s, Dr. King said, Calvert ruled Maryland from Mattapany. Colonial courts and Calvert's privy council convened at his estate house. And, it appears, he built the colony's armory and stationed his troops within 100 yards of his home.

"Mattapany is also important because few Lord Baltimores came to Maryland during the Colonial period," Dr. King said. "Here we have a site where one lived for nearly two decades."

Last year, Dr. King, colleague Edward Chaney and a small crew of students began systematically digging shallow exploratory holes in a large patch of woods near the admiral's quarters at the naval air station. That 19th-century home inherited the name Mattapany, an Indian word meaning the meeting of two rivers or the meeting of a path with a river.

The work was part of an archaeological survey that was ordered by the Navy, which is considering putting underground utility lines through the area.

The scientists set out hoping to find clear evidence of an early Jesuit mission, destroyed during an Indian raid in 1642. So far, they haven't found it. What they did find, though, were deposits of handmade brick, expensive tile, ceramics and glass. These artifacts were scattered near the surface amid a tangle of ornamental trees and shrubs.

Dr. King and Mr. Chaney were puzzled. Clearly, the high-priced materials came from the home of a wealthy and important person. But the only grand house at the time was the original Mattapany.

Archaeologist Dennis Pogue, working in the summer of 1981, had located and done some minor excavation work at what he thought was the site of the mansion, about 100 yards east of where Dr. King and Mr. Chaney dug.

Dr. King and Mr. Chaney took their rubble back to the Jefferson Patterson museum, studied the literature and reviewed the artifacts gathered at Dr. Pogue's site. They came up with their own theory.

Dr. Pogue, Mr. Chaney said, "found a lot of military-type artifacts," including dozens of lead bullets, a section of rifle barrel and flints used in the firing mechanisms of 17th-century firearms.

Even the domestic items from Dr. Pogue's site were the kinds of things a soldier might own -- a piece of a ceramic skillet, for example, and a single bone die from a pair of dice.

Domestic items give clue

Dr. King and Mr. Chaney, meanwhile, found only domestic items during their limited digging in 1991: clay pipe stems, bits of pottery and glass.

Their conclusion? "That we had found the actual home, while tTC Pogue had found the estate's armory," Mr. Chaney said.

This interpretation might clear up a mystery about Dr. Pogue's site.

He found shallow pits with level bottoms, which he interpreted as "borrow-pits" where servants mined clay.

Dr. King and Mr. Chaney decided the pits were too carefully groomed to be borrow-pits.

Instead, the scientists said, the depressions might have been part of a fortification -- a dry moat, perhaps, dug by soldiers in front of some long-vanished earthworks.

The documentary evidence for an armory separate from the main house seems strong, the archaeologists say. Based on contemporary descriptions, Dr. King said, "we know there was a Colonial magazine out here. We know it was pretty sizable. We know at one point it was threatened by pirates in the Chesapeake. We know they eventually posted a garrison there."

More digging in 1993

On Jan. 1, Dr. King and Mr. Chaney plan to return to the air station for three months of extensive digging.

If they find more of the type of artifacts that a wealthy 17th-century lord might have owned, Mr. Chaney said, the team can be sure it has pinpointed the manor house.

Charles Calvert has been portrayed as heavy-handed and bumbling for the way he dealt with political, economic and religious conflicts among the colony's settlers.

But Dr. King said the third Lord Baltimore had been unfairly attacked. "He was fighting to maintain control of his colony," she said, while being harassed by hostile Indians, marauding pirates and the plotting Protestants who ultimately overthrew him.

"I tend to give Baltimore the benefit of the doubt," she said.

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