Finding the Small Plantation

Mattawoman Creek

Mattawoman CreekThe Mattawoman Creek is a 60,300 acre watershed located in Prince George’s and Charles Counties. Approximately 44,479 acres of the total area is located in Charles County. The Creek originates in Brandywine in Prince George’s County and fl ows south towards Waldorf in Charles County, where it begins to follow the border between the two counties at U.S. Route 301 and goes to the Maryland Route 228 crossing. From this point, it fl ows southwest about nine miles to Maryland Route 225 where it becomes a seven mile tidal estuary before entering the Potomac River. There are nine sub-watersheds nested in the Charles County portion of the Mattawoman watershed, each averaging 7 square miles and defi ned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) as 12 digit watersheds. Some of the major tributaries to Mattawoman Creek include Piney Branch, Old Woman’s Run, Laurel Branch, and Marbury Run.

Early Life in Charles County

The following information was extracted from the Charles County Historic Sites Survey

“Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the region was home to a number of Algonquian-speaking tribes collectively known as the Conoy. Associated tribes included the Doages, who lived in the vicinity of Maryland Point, and the Pomonkey Indians, who resided near the headwaters of Mattawoman Creek. At the time of European contact, the native population lived in loose villages along the coastal plains or on inland tidal creeks and rivers. They subsisted on a variety of food staples including seafood, limited cultivated crops, and game.

The Mattawoman Creek and estuary near Marbury, Charles County, MD; Home of William Warden from Elgin, Scotland in 1698. Photo by Peggy Brennan, 2007.

The Mattawoman Creek and estuary near Marbury, Charles County, MD;
Home of William Warden from Elgin, Scotland in 1698. Photo by Peggy Brennan, 2007.

The earliest European settlement in Charles County took place along the shores of the Wicomico River in, and then along the Port Tobacco River, Nanjemoy Creek, and Mattawoman Creek, as Maryland colonists radiated out from St. Mary’s City. In 1660, Charles County had an estimated population of 900. Within fi fteen years, the number of residents had increased to approximately 1,884. Tobacco quickly became the staple crop throughout the region. As a cash crop in great demand in England since its introduction in the early 17th century, tobacco promised to yield impressive profits that lured many adventurers to the Chesapeake Bay. The county was initially settled by a handful of wealthy gentlemen-adventurers who patented large tracts of land between the 1640s and the 1660s. However, the manpower necessary to cultivate tobacco was not readily available in the emerging colony, and thus the actual occupation of these tracts lagged far behind the initial patents.

Each gentlemen-adventurer who paid for the passage of a certain number of “indentured servants” was given land. The mattcreek2initial labor source diminished however, as these servants’ terms of indenture expired. At the end of their term, an indentured servant had the right to a small parcel of land. Many of these newly released servants set up small farmsteads on the frontiers of the colony. This, along with the profitability of tobacco cultivation, provided for the growth of a significant population of small-scale planters in the colony. It was not until the advent of the African slave trade in the 1680s that a prosperous landed gentry class emerged and large plantations began to dominate the landscape.”