Stephen Steward Shipyard (18AN817)
The Stephen Steward Shipyard (18AN817) is a 40 acre
18th-century Colonial and Revolutionary War period
shipyard on the West River, Anne Arundel County,
Maryland. It is one of the best-documented and preserved
shipyards of the period in the State of Maryland.
The Steward Shipyard, begun around 1753, was a
thriving business for most of the second half of
the century, known locally and abroad for its
products. The yard was apparently a joint venture
between Stephen Steward and a prominent local
planter-merchant, Samuel Galloway, and produced
ships for both the trans-Atlantic and Caribbean
trades. Construction of vessels ranging from 20 to
270 tons demonstrates that they were capable of
turning out a wide variety of products: everything
from the smallest sailing craft to larger than
normal ships. Documentary history makes it clear
that Steward’s enterprise was both large and complex.
Located in a rural area, it employed free craftsmen
and laborers, indentured servants, and slaves, and
it housed and provided for them. It was, in essence,
a plantation, but a plantation on which the staple
product was ships rather than tobacco. The workshops
and storage buildings, and the houses, barracks,
and support structures for its workforce, must
have encompassed a large area. Together with the
debris from construction and the garbage of
everyday life, they promise a wide range of
buried archeological evidence as to how life
and industry were carried out on this important
The first hint that a site might be present in the area
came in 1976 during a shoreline survey of the area, but
the location of the site was field-checked and confirmed
during a survey of the West and Rhode Rivers conducted
in 1991. In 1992, the Maryland Historical Trust staff
carried out a successful testing program at the site.
Metal detector tests, 25 shovel test pits (STPs) and
one meter square test units were excavated. Surface
collections of plowed fields in the western portion
of the site were also undertaken, and linear coring
and additional metal detector surveys were carried
out to better identify artifact concentrations and
site boundaries. All of these methods suggested
extensive activity on the site during the latter
half of the 18th century.
The 1993 Archeological Society of Maryland field
session within the eastern portion of the site
entailed both terrestrial archaeology and underwater
archaeology. Tube auger testing was conducted along
a 180 m portion of the shoreline. Based on the
auger survey and the results of the shovel testing
and coring operations conducted in previous years,
a total of 101 one meter square test units were
excavated in trench and block configurations. A
total of 15 cultural features were encountered in
these units. One of the features was interpreted
to be an ovoid root cellar (Feature 011), five
others appeared to be refuse pits, and the remainder
were postmold and posthole configurations. The
1993 excavations clearly demonstrated the presence
of one or more buildings. These probably housed
industrial and domestic activities, but lacking
a detailed description of what was found, or a
catalog, one cannot determine the date of the
deposits or the relative representation of
domestic and industrial materials.
In 1997 and 1998, personnel from the Lost Towns of
Anne Arundel Project conducted geophysical survey,
electronic mapping, and limited test excavations in
the western portion of the site (the area not tested
in 1993). Magnetometry as well as ground penetrating
radar (GPR), were used to locate subsurface anomalies.
The results from the geophysical survey of the
shipyard provide valuable information into the
internal structure of the site. The site was clearly
more intensively used to the north, as this was the
shipyard work areas, as evidenced by many submerged
and shoreline features previously documented. The
southern edges of the property, according to
geophysical results, appear to have seen less
intensive activity during the shipyard period.
It was likely reserved for domestic or residential
uses for the community of shipyard workers.
The 1997-1998 geophysical and archaeological testing
confirmed that clear functional and chronological
distinctions exist across the Steward Shipyard site
and also successfully located subsurface features.
In addition to defining activity areas, the 1997-1998
excavations resulted in the location and documentation
of portions of two post-in-ground buildings, one of
which was accompanied by a large pit of unknown
function that appeared to post-date the structure.
The size of the postmolds and the nature of the
artifacts associated with this structure suggest
that it was used for industrial purposes. A small
number of domestic artifacts and the recovery of
window glass and brick (for a chimney) suggest
that the building also served some domestic functions.
This is not unexpected at an 18th-century shipyard.
The other structure identified was also large and
almost certainly was involved in shipbuilding activities.
Additional buildings were suggested, but not proved,
in the other areas investigated across the site.
These “potential” buildings contained both materials
dating to the height of the shipbuilding era and after
the site had been destroyed by the British and went
into agricultural use. A tally of artifacts recovered
during the 1997-1998 project is not available.
The various excavations and investigations conducted
at the Steward Shipyard (18AN817) demonstrate that
it is a highly significant site with a high degree
Historical Trust Synthesis Project)