Slave quarters unearthed in Crownsville, Maryland

When archaeologists began digging around Rockbridge Academy in May, they expected to find the place where the Comte de Rochambeau camped in September 1781 on the way to Yorktown and the final major battle of the Revolutionary War. Instead, they stumbled upon something very different. Slave barracks bigger than ever found before in Anne Arundel County.

Slave quarters unearthed in Crownsville, Maryland
An archaeologist digs in the northeast building corner, uncovering part of the a 
brick floor on the interior. The team was keeping an eye out out for any 
west African spirit caches [Credit: SHA via Facebook]
“The discovery of this is an amazing contribution to understanding African-American life in Anne Arundel County,” said Jane Cox, county cultural resources planner. “Up to this point, we did not know they were building slave barracks like this.”

To better understand the history of the area in Crownsville along Generals Highway between Interstate 97 and Annapolis, the county and the State Highway Administration joined in a 30-month excavation project.

The $300,000 project was funded by a Transportation Enhancement Program grant, and will help the SHA make decisions about development and highway planning.

Rockbridge Academy is on what was once Scott’s Plantation, also known as Belvoir, the home of Francis Scott Key’s grandmother.

Slave quarters unearthed in Crownsville, Maryland
Mike Roller, a archaeological contractor for the State Highway Administration, 
works on the site [Credit: Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette]
Key, a student at John’s College in Annapolis who would write the words of the “Star-Spangled Banner” in 1814, visited Bevoir during summer 1789.

Belvoir’s legacy includes noteworthy residents such as Ann Arnold Ross Key and John Ross. But slavery is also part of its history.

On July 18, Maryland Archaeology announced on its Facebook page the discovery of slave barracks at Scott’s Plantation.

County Archaeologist Al Luckenbach said the finding differs from other known slave quarters.

“It’s a very unusual size for a slave quarter,” Luckenbach said. “Most slave quarters are small things. This is more like a dormitory.”

Slave quarters unearthed in Crownsville, Maryland
Among the findings inside the quarters was this 18th century tin glaze ceramic 
with painted flower. It is a associated with a pile of metal, ceramics, brick, and fish,
 rodent, sheep, pig bones [Credit: SHA via Facebook]
Luckenbach said slave quarters were typically 20 by 16 feet or even 20 by 12 feet, about the size of a large shed or single-car garage.

The slave quarters found at Scott’s Plantation were more than twice that size: 34 by 34 feet.

“The foundation of this thing is so massive, we strongly suspect it had two stories,” Luckenbach said.

Other discoveries beneath the dirt included a stirrup, a button from a 19th-century Navy uniform, a 19th-century ring, an 18th-century tin glazed pottery shard, a piece of a blue transfer print teacup, wine bottle bases, several other buttons, and porcelain and glass fragments.

Janice Hayes-Williams, a historian who writes a column about African-American history for The Capital, said the finding is particularly poignant because it comes as the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves approaches in November.

Slave quarters unearthed in Crownsville, Maryland
Some of the artifacts found on the site include a bayonet, a stirrup and 
some broken pottery [Credit: Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette]
“We finally hear the voices that have been silenced for so long,” Hayes-Williams said.

“We only heard the voices of Scott Key or Upton, but what about the people who cleaned, who took care of those people? Those are the people who are no longer silenced because of the unearthing of the slave quarters.”

The project, which continues through June 30, will investigate six other sites: Brooksby’s Point, Rising Sun Inn, Bunker Hill, Iglehart, Baldwin Crossing and the former Crownsville Hospital Center.

“To be on such a significant property as Belvoir has been a fascinating discovery,” Cox said.

Author: Sarah Hainesworth | Source: Capital Gazette [July 30, 2014]

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