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Part of the history of Sotterley Plantation that we missed in the previous post relates to the period in which its third family owned it. In 1826 Walter and Emily Briscoe purchase Sotterley. It was during this era that the Plantation was the site of one of the largest communities of enslaved African-Americans in Southern Maryland.
The slave cabin on the grounds is the only one still standing in Southern Maryland. It is a small structure built of sawn-logs, built around 1830. It has only one room and a loft with a fireplace in one wall. The floor is now just hard-packed dirt, although at one time there was rough wooden flooring. Up to 20 slaves would have lived in this 16’ x 18’ cabin. After emancipation, windows and stairs were added. It was still occupied in the early 1900s when Herbert Satterlee purchased the property.
There are a number of architectural features to this simple hut which have helped it survive for over 200 years. Along the walls of the cabin are channels of pebbles providing a french drain to draw away water from the foundation of the building. Unusual for such a simple structure, the chimney is brick. The standard technique of the time was to use wood and mud which was much more prone to catching fire. The frame of the cabin is hewn and sawn, rather than being left unfinished. The posts on the exterior walls of the cabin brace the walls which stops them from buckling outwards.
Collectively, these details have not only helped preserve this rare example of 1800s slave quarters but they also provide an insight into the skill and forethought of the person who built it.