The Avery’s Rest Site – Sussex County, Delaware
Investigations by the Archaeological Society of Delaware, Inc.
Daniel R. Griffith
In 1674 John and Sarah Avery, along with their children, left their home in Somerset County, Maryland to settle on the north shore of Rehoboth Bay. The Avery’s were English immigrants; John captained a merchant ship, operated a plantation, and served as a commissioned officer in the Delaware militia and a Justice of the Peace. Their new home, an 800-acre tract called Avery’s Rest, was a mix of woods, fields, and marsh which the family transformed into a successful tobacco, grain, and livestock plantation. The Avery’s daughter Jemimah and her husband inherited a portion of the plantation including her parents’ home, rebuilding and expanding the operation until ca. 1715, when the house site was abandoned. The Avery family lived in a culturally diverse world in which complex relationships were formed for purposes of profit, status, and survival. These relationships were influenced by the broader political, economic, and social processes evolving in the Atlantic World of the 17th century. This was a frontier culture.
Since the fall of 2006, the Archaeological Society of Delaware, Inc. conducted archaeological fieldwork at the Avery’s Rest site. Over 50 members of the society and other interested people participated in the fieldwork and laboratory analysis of this significant site. Fieldwork at the site was completed in October 2015 with the excavation of a 17th century well and surrounding areas. Excavation s in 2015, covering almost 6 months of fieldwork, revealed the final elements of a complete colonial homestead, with two structures, a well and a fenced garden. Artifacts and other analysis at the site clearly show the occupation of John and Sarah Avery (1674-1682) and the occupation of their daughter Jemima, who inherited the site in 1698. There were surprises though. It seems that the Avery’s were not the first occupants of this site as there is clear evidence of occupation during the period from 1640-1665. Who were these early people? Were they Dutch or American Indians with access to European goods or English colonists occupying areas then under Dutch and/or Swedish control? Research continues.
This presentation will focus on the results of the 2015 field season and offer some broader perspective on the contribution of the research to a broader understanding of the colonial period in southern Delaware.