Inside those 3 coffins: members of the Calvert family

April 06, 1994|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The crypt beneath Chapel Field in St. Mary's City has a name again -- Calvert. And one of its dead has a face.

Scientists and historians concluded unanimously yesterday that the adult remains found in the coffins unearthed in Maryland's vanished Colonial capital are those of Philip Calvert, the colony's first chancellor who died in 1682, and his first wife, Ann Wolsey Calvert, who died about 1680.

The infant girl found buried beside the couple in November 1992 remains unidentified. But historians believe she may have been an unknown child of Philip Calvert by his second wife, Jane Sewall. The tiny remains showed the baby was terribly malnourished.

Ann Wolsey's face -- unrecorded in any known portrait -- was reconstructed by a forensic artist working from a cast of the skull recovered from the grave. It was unveiled at a news conference yesterday in Washington, looking rather wistful in a fine white linen cap and collar typical of the late 17th century.

Rescuing her image from oblivion "gave [the archaeological project] a whole new dimension to me that I don't often get to see," said a beaming Dr. Henry M. Miller, research director for Historic St. Mary's City.

No intact skulls were found in the other two coffins.

The identifications -- based on historic data and 17 months of scientific investigation -- complete the rediscovery of the crypt of Maryland's founding family. The Calvert remains, once forgotten beneath a farm field, now represent the oldest identified European burial in Maryland.

No one at yesterday's news conference at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History was surprised by the identifications.

"I was quite certain there was a Philip Calvert connection from the first time we talked about it," said Maryland state archivist Edward C. Papenfuse.

Of all the wealthy and prominent Catholics who lived and died before the Brick Chapel was razed in 1705, and who might have rated the place of honor beneath its north transept, "he was the most important," Mr. Papenfuse said.

Even so, the researchers painstakingly proposed, and one by one eliminated, 10 other prominent male Catholics of the day. Comparisons included the dates each died with the seasonal pollens found in the coffins, and their ages at death with the aging revealed by the bones.

They also calculated how long each candidate lived in America, and compared that with carbon isotope data from the bones. The data revealed how long the people had eaten American-grown food.

"The array of facts we have amassed makes it almost impossible for anyone else to fit," Dr. Miller said.

Philip Calvert was the youngest son of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore. He also was the half-brother of both Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, and Leonard Calvert, the colony's first governor.

As chancellor, Philip was the chief legal officer of the colony. He established a court to settle civil disputes, and served as chief justice of the Provincial Court in the governor's absence.

He also established laws and procedures for the inheritance of property and the protection of orphans' estates that survive in modern law. He began the archiving of property records that ensured their preservation for heirs, creditors and modern historians.

He was also a Colonial diplomat, negotiating treaties with Dutch settlers in Delaware, with William Penn in Pennsylvania, with Indians and Virginians.

"He spent his life in service to government," said Mr. Papenfuse. "He was a man who came to this [new] world and tried to establish a government in which people could be somewhat secure." Based on his remains, scientists concluded that Chancellor Calvert was about 5 feet 6 inches tall with "flowing" auburn hair and a "corpulent" build that reflected a sedentary life.

Ann Wolsey (sometimes spelled Anne Wolseley), was the well-born daughter of Sir Thomas Wolseley of Staffordshire, England. The dates of her birth and marriage are unknown, said Dr. Lois Green Carr, historian for Historic St. Mary's City. Mrs. Calvert is not known to have had children.

After arriving in America with Philip in 1657, she lived a busy, and ultimately painful life in the colony.

Dr. Douglas Owsley, a Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who studied her remains, described her as a "petite" woman -- about 5 feet 3 inches tall. Perhaps five years before her death, she suffered a broken leg that never healed properly and was chronically infected. The thigh injury left her with a pronounced limp. Her injury "would have ultimately led to a deterioration of her health," Dr. Owsley said. She also was anemic, and her hair showed signs of arsenic, which was used in many medicines.

Mrs. Calvert also sustained a back injury, perhaps from the same accident, that fused two vertebrae in her middle back, leaving her with more pain and limited movement.

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