St. Mary's City in St. Mary's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
"...buried...in a most solemn manner"
From the mid-1630s until about 1730, "the Chapel Land" served as the final resting place for the remains of many of the colony's settlers and some of its most important historical figures, including Governor Leonard Calvert. It is likely that a high percentage of the colonists who arrived on the Ark and Dove are buried in this field.
Although some grave markers were used, no trace remains above ground today. It will never be possible to identify all these individuals, since no church records survive. However, through archaeology, HSMC will locate and mark their resting places to honor the memory of all those who are buried here.
Excavated posthole at the foot end of a grave. This and matching hole at the head end, would have held a post-and-rail marker.
In the early years of Maryland's settlement, the deceased were wrapped in a shroud and placed in a shallow grave without a coffin. By the late 1600s, however, a "proper" burial included a wooden coffin. Rarely does any wood survive, but the coffin nails do, and their locations and orientation can point to the style of coffin, such as: gable-lidded, hexagonal, or simple box. In all, eight distinct types were identified in the chapel field. Since bodies were wrapped in shrouds and unclothed, no buttons, buckles, or other clothing items are found. However, there were straight pins, used to close up the shroud.
As archaeologists excavate forensic pathologists record details about one of the 60-70 burials within the chapel.
Many graves in the chapel field show archaeological evidence of originally having had wooden markers, a common English practice in the 17th century. These could range from a simple board place at the head of the grave, to an elaborate post-and-rail marker, like this reproduction. Initials, or the name of the deceased, were often carved into them. None of the original markers survive.
"He that sees every churchyard swell with the waues and billows of graues, can think it no extraordinary thing to die."
John Donne (1572-1631)
Locating all of the graves will be accomplished by using a number of methods. Given the geology, soils, and nature of the grave shafts already excavated, the primary tool will be remote sensing technology. An early test of ground penetrating radar (GPR) demonstrated the usefulness of this technique. In 1989, testing was carried out across the brick chapel's foundation and into part of the cemetery. Not only were several clusters of graves identified but the survey was responsible for the discovery of the three lead coffins excavated from inside the remains of the brick chapel in 1992. Later, GPR investigation detected hundreds of possible graves outside the chapel.
Remote sensing points to the presence of a large cemetery throughout the chapel field. The red ovals and black dots show probable grave locations based on ground penetrating radar, while the blue outlines show burials found by archaeology.
Erected by Historic St. Mary's City.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial Sites • Churches & Religion • Colonial Era.
Location. 38° 10.993′ N, 76° 25.716′ W. Marker is in St. Mary's City, Maryland, in St. Mary's County. Marker can be reached from Point Lookout Road 0.4 miles west of Rosecroft Road, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 16721 Point Lookout Road, Saint Marys City MD 20686, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Project Lead Coffins (here, next to this marker); Putting Together the Pieces (here, next to this marker); Andrew White, Apostle to Maryland (here, next to this marker); Shock Troops of the Counter-Reformation (here, next to this marker); The "Priests' House" (here, next to this marker); The Chapel Architecture (here, next to this marker); An End of Freedom but Persistence of Faith (here, next to this marker); Sacred Ground and Holy Buildings (here, next to this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Mary's City.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 11, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 72 times since then. Photo 1. submitted on September 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.