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John Broad

by Herring Run Archaeology Team Member, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Ph.D.

This post describes the life of John Broad, the first European settler in present-day Herring Run Park. Although John Broad was only rarely mentioned in historical documents filed at the Maryland State Archives, we know that he was an indentured servant who had become a successful farmer by the time of his death in 1709. During the colonial period, wealthy individuals sometimes financed the trans-Atlantic voyages of poor English laborers who signed a contract of indenture to serve for a specific number of years. The wealthy sponsors were also entitled to receive land from the colonial government that amounted to 50 acres for each laborer. John Broad is listed among 21 individuals on a request for 1,050 acres made by Calvert County planter and merchant, Henry Hosier in 1670. Sometime after completing his indentured service, John Broad moved to Baltimore County where he probably farmed unclaimed land. In 1695, he filed a patent to legally occupy a 173-acre tract located in present-day Herring Run Park. When he died in January 1709, his wife, Barbara, and two children, Thomas and Jane, continued to live on the property.

It was customary to compile an inventory of the belongings the deceased had at the time of his death including crops, livestock, and household items. According to the inventory, Broad had harvested 4,000 pounds of tobacco which was hanging in several drying sheds. In addition, the Broad family may have planted a kitchen garden that was not listed on the inventory, because the crops it produced were likely for personal consumption. The inventory of livestock includes one old horse, a herd of cattle (12 cows, five steers and one bull), and several pigs that were (according to notes in the inventory) in very poor health. Since inventories were often compiled room by room, a careful reading of the document can provide some insight into the size and layout of the house. Since the inventory includes three beds, we can infer that John Broad’s house was likely a one or two room structure that served largely as the sleeping space for the family. The kitchen was likely a detached structure because, if the kitchen caught fire, then the house and family would be safe. Generally, farm houses from this period also included out buildings such as privies, wells, and sheds.

While we have not yet discovered any foundations or structural remains of the home of the Broad family, we continue to find the traces of their presence through the artifacts they left behind. During the 2016 field season, we opened several more test units in the earlier part of the site, and we’ve identified a trash midden containing domestic trash dating to the time of the Broad family occupation – 1680 to 1740. Amidst a truly huge number of oyster shells and pieces of animal bone (mostly pig, some possible cow), we found a delicate china teacup, a Chinese porcelain bowl, numerous pieces of stoneware tankards and jugs, wine bottle glass, and clay pipe stems. Future fieldwork at this site will increase our knowledge of everyday colonial life in the Baltimore area – a time period about which we know very, very little.

For more information about the historical residents of Herring Run Park, see our history section!

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