Sudley Post Office


Robinson House
Sudley Post Office










An Archeological and Historical Investigation of
Sudley Post Office (44PW294)

Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia

By Matthew B. Reeves, Ph.D., with a contribution by Jennifer L. Moran
Co-principal Investigators:
Stephen R. Potter, Ph.D., Chief Archeologist
National Capital Region, NPS, and
Paul A. Shackel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland
Report Submitted to the National Park Service, National Capital Region, under the auspices of the Cooperative Agreement between the National Capital Region and the Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland at College Park
Occasional Report No. 14
Regional Archeology Program
National Capital Region, National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, D.C.
Stephen R. Potter, Series Editor
bulletManagement Summary (below)
bulletAcknowledgments (below)
bulletContents (next page)

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Management Summary

In June of 1997, the National Park Service and the University of Maryland entered into a cooperative agreement to locate, identify, evaluate, and sample any archeological resources that might be impacted by the emergency stabilization of Sudley Post Office.  For the stabilization project to proceed it is necessary to excavate footers around the foundation of the structure.  The archeological investigations at Sudley Post Office were designed to examine the project area for any impact on cultural resources.   Also, the archeologists cleared a proposed utility corridor  to the southwest of the structure leading to Sudley Road.  Archeological testing and impact assessment complied with the 1966 Historic Preservation Act, as amended.

Preliminary background research on local tax, census, and deed records took place in July 1997.  This work generated the household history of Sudley Post Office from the early 1840s.  Four occupations occurred at the site prior to its being acquired by the National Park Service:  the Thornberry Household (1843-1869), the Matthews Household (1869-1905), the Davis household (1910s-1920s), and the use of the structure as a vacation home by the Woodward family (late 1930s-1966).  This research allowed project archeologists to associate cultural deposits located during excavation with specific households that occupied the site.

Project archeologists performed excavations from July 29, 1997, through October 2, 1997.  They excavated 29 units (13 were 5 ft x 5 ft and 17 were 2.5 ft x 2.5 ft) and 108 shovel test pits.  Archeologists identified only one potentially significant cultural resource in the immediate vicinity of the foundation of the Post Office.  This resource is located where ground-disturbing activities for the stabilization of the structure will occur and is an early twentieth-century sheet midden located on the east side of the structure.   Archeologists recovered a 30% sample of this deposit in the area where ground disturbing activities will take place.  In the eastern yard of the structure three resources were identified: 1) the remains of the kitchen and associated root cellar, 2) a downslope midden deposit that contained early twentieth-century materials, and 3) a boiling stand.  Archeologists identified the size and shape of the root cellar; 20% of the root cellar was excavated.  Archeologists also sampled 20% of the downslope midden.  Fifteen feet to the east of the northern portion of the structure archeologists identified a boiling stand associated with the Davis household.  This feature was completely excavated and recorded.  A geophysical survey using ground-penetrating radar and metal detectors located an earlier privy hole and an area relating to John Thornberry's wheelwright activities.  Neither of the areas identified during geophysical surveying will be impacted by the stabilization project.

Based on the archeological work, construction activities may proceed within the immediate vicinity of the structure and for the proposed utility corridor to the southwest of the structure.  Monitoring should occur during the excavation of footers, the removal of debris from under the structure, and for the excavation of the utility corridor to the west of the structure.  Also, vehicle and heavy equipment traffic should avoid the area of the kitchen and root cellar in the eastern yard.


Archeological and historical research on Sudley Post Office was made possible by dedicated crew, ever helpful volunteers, staff of the National Capital Region and Manassas National Battlefield Park, and local community members who provided valuable memories of the Sudley area.

Field excavations were carried out by Mara Greengrass, Prashant Kaw, Jennifer Moran, Jason Rust, and  Jimmy Peckham Stephens.  Their dedication in the dry hard clay allowed us to uncover the many interesting finds at Sudley Post Office.  Volunteers also assisted in field excavations.  John Imlay helped out for four weeks of full time labor and stayed on even when the artifact pickings were very slim!  Bob and Vicki Newhman made their way out from Akron Ohio to spend their vacation excavating in the root cellar at Sudley.  Local volunteers from the Archeological Society of Virginia, including Pat Gallagher, C.K. Gailey, Phil Gloss, Beverly Regeimbal and Barbara Welch, assisted during the final month of excavations.  Staff from the National Capital Region, including Toni Boyd, Laurie Burgess, and Susannah Dean excavated a unit in the prehistoric component of Sudley Post Office.  Several members of the American Battlefield Protection Program spent a day excavating at Sudley.  These members include Ginger Carter, Tanya Gossett, Kathleen Madgan, and Hampton Tucker. My brother Michael Reeves and his dog Bailey also came out to dig a couple of weekends.  Bailey's tennis balls continue to surface in the lawn at Sudley!  Thanks also go out to my son Cole Griffin Reeves and wife Tanya Reeves for coming out and cheering us on at the dig.  The crew thanks Cole for the many baby-breaks he allowed as "Boss" at the site.

During September of 1997 William Leigh III and Robert Marcus conducted a metal detector survey of Sudley Post Office.  Thanks to their efforts we were able to locate John Thornberry's wheelwright shop and several other outbuildings that were "invisible" to our shovel test pit survey.  Pete Petrone conducted the Ground Penetrating Radar survey and was generous enough to stay long into the evening running his machines across the lawn!

The same great crew who performed excavations carried their efforts into the washing, cataloguing, labeling and data entry of the artifacts from Sudley Post Office.  Also, volunteers Barbara Welch and Phil Gloss continued their efforts in the field into the lab by cataloguing artifacts.

Thanks goes out to Mara Greengrass and Jennifer Moran for their help in the final production of this document.  Mara produced the excavation unit summaries at the end of this volume and digitized the excavation unit profiles.  Jenn wrote the GPR section of Chapter 3 and helped out in scanning maps.

Many thanks go out to the Principal Investigators of this project.  Stephen R. Potter, Chief Archeologist of the National Capital Region, provided guidance in the field, identified artifacts, and served as a sounding board for interpreting site data and regional history.   Paul A. Shackel, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, provided guidance in all matters and happily examined many drafts of this report. 

Staff at the Regional Archeology Program of the National Capital Region in Latham Maryland provided invaluable assistance during the course of this project, especially Marion Creveling, Susannah Dean, and Bob Sonderman.  Laurie Burgess thoroughly proof-read this document.

The entire staff at Manassas Battlefield contributed to this project in one way or the other.  Thanks goes out to Park Superintendent Bob Sutton for his support and high level of interest in the project.  Ray Brown, Cultural Resource Manager, served as the liaison with the Park for this project and was always available for advise and resources.  Thanks also go out to Ray Brown and Brian Gorsira, Natural Resources Manager, for sharing their space for both an archeology  lab and office.  The interpretative staff at Manassas National Battlefield, most especially Jim Burgess, were very helpful in finding historic maps, identifying militaria, and for general advise.  Frank Harrell, Volunteer In the Park at Manassas, scanned in the photos and historic maps for this document.  Frank also set up a web page featuring the results of historic investigations at Sudley Post Office. Very special thanks is extended to the Maintenance Yard and Jim Thompson, Chief of Maintenance, for their help moving equipment, battling the hoards of wasps and yellow jackets at Sudley, and most especially for backfilling the excavation units.

Local community members lent interest to both excavations and information on the history of the site.  Local stories about the households that resided at Sudley were provided by Wilson Beavers, Gilbert Davis, Frank Lee Davis, Audrey Davis, Betty Duelly, Mary Hannover Smith, Elizabeth Conner and John Senseney.  Robert Alvey Jr. lent the nineteenth-century day-books from his family=s store to the park for photocopying.   Don Wilson, Archivist at the Prince William County Regional Library,  was of great help in identifying sources for the historical research of this project.  Special thanks is also extended to Ron Turner, Prince William County Historical Commission, for sharing his knowledge on local history and his exhaustive research on census records of Prince William County.

Matthew Reeves

Project Director and Author

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