2019 Charles County Holiday Trail

HolidayBrochure2019 smReprinted from CharlesCountyMD.Gov

Charles County Holiday Trail

Saturday, December 7 through Sunday December 8, 2019

Charles County's holiday tradition continues in 2019 with the Annual Charles County Holiday Trail. This event features Charles County's leading historical sites and art venues. Step back in time for a historical Christmas, listen to carolers in period appropriate clothing, purchase goods from various local vendors, or just enjoy local art. The Charles County Holiday Trail is sure to have something for everyone. Days, times and cost varies for each location. Please see the complete list of locations and event information below. This event will be rain or shine. Please check with individual sites the day of the event to see if there are any weather-related closings.

2019 Holiday Trail Participants:

African American Heritage Society of Charles County, Inc. | Heritage House

Holiday Heritage/Family Traditions

What special, family traditions are celebrated during the winter, holiday season? Are these traditions associated with your family's history? Let's share our stories!

7485 Crain Highway, La Plata

Dec. 7, 12 - 3 p.m., donations accepted


Chapman State Park, Mount Aventine

Christmas at Mount Aventine

Enjoy live music, guided tours, food, children's crafts, and items will be available for purchase from vendors.

3452 Ferry Place, Indian Head | FriendsofChapmanSP.org

Dec. 7 & 8, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., $3 per car


Christ Church, La Plata

Gingerbread House Family Extravaganza

Visit historic Christ Church and decorate a gingerbread house to take home. Materials will be provided, you bring the creativity and Christmas cheer. Children and adults are welcome. There might even be a visit from old St. Nick! Adults can take a tour of the beautiful church, which was moved to La Plata stone by stone from Port Tobacco in 1904.

112 Charles Street, La Plata | ChristChurchLaPlata.org

Dec. 8, 1 - 5 p.m., Reservations Requested, call 301-392-1051


Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum

Victorian Christmas

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum will be decorated in Victorian finery and will feature costumed docents, period music, light refreshments, antique dolls and Santa & Mrs. Claus.

3725 Dr. Samuel Mudd Road, Waldorf | drmudd.org

Dec. 6 - 8, times vary, children 5 and under are free, 6-12 are $2, adults $8


Maryland Veterans Museum at Patriot Park

Holiday at Patriot Park

Holiday at Patriot Park will be celebrating a military Christmas. Take a tour of historical exhibits and artifacts from each American conflict. Individuals who contributed to America's freedom are recognized and honored. Visit with Santa from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., as you tour look for the holiday train, Christmas soldier and Christmas trees in each gallery. The Maryland Veterans Museum at Patriot Park will be offering hotdogs to all visitors to enjoy.

11000 Crain Highway, Newburg | MDVets.cc

Dec. 7, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., FREE


Mattawoman Creek Art Center

Holiday at Mattawoman Creek Art Center

Holiday at Mattawoman Creek Art Center will feature at Holiday Market, indoor arts, and original arts fair in the Jenkins Gallery. There will be a reception on December 8th at 2 p.m. in Gallery II, featuring art work from Charles County Public Schools middle school students.

5565 Upham Place, Marbury | mattawomanart.org

Dec. 7 - 8, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., FREE, items available for purchase


Maxwell Hall

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Crossroads of Hughesville Garden Club invite you to come see this historic house decked out with spectacular Colonial Holiday decorations. This year's theme is the Twelve Days of Christmas and will feature outdoor displays, live entertainment, refreshments, holiday demonstrations and children's crafts.

17388 Teagues Point Road, Hughesville |

Dec. 7 - 8, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., FREE


Port Tobacco Historic Village

A Christmas in History, Historic Stagg Hall

Experience the Christmas season at Stagg Hall during three distinct periods in American history. See how merchants celebrated in the colonies, families remembered missing loved ones throughout the Civil War and decadence returned during the Gilded Age. Learn about Stagg Hall and Port Tobacco Historic Village from costumed docents or in one of our interpretive panel rooms while enjoying refreshments, music and children's crafts.

8450 Commerce Street, Port Tobacco | ExploreCharlesCounty.com

Dec. 7 - 8, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., FREE


Holiday at Burch House 

Holiday at Burch House will feature period decorations, light refreshments and archeological displays.

8396 Commerce Street, Port Tobacco | CCArchsoc.blogspot.com

Dec. 7 - 8, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., donations accepted

Colonial Holiday, Port Tobacco Courthouse

Experience music, holiday decorations, history, light refreshments and children's crafts while celebrating a Colonial Holiday at Port Tobacco Courthouse.

8430 Commerce Street, Port Tobacco | https://porttobaccocourthouse.com/

Dec. 7 - 8, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., donations accepted


Serenity Farm and the Farm Heritage Conservancy

Greening of the Burial Ground

Start at the Harvest House to make swags to decorate the graves of 23 enslaved African Americans dating from 1780-1810. Greenery and materials provided, or bring your own, please only use natural materials. When the swags are completed take a walk to the burial ground to place them. A brief history on burial ground will be given.

6932 Serenity Farm Road, Benedict | SerenityFarmINC.com

December 8, 1 - 3 p.m., donations accepted


Smallwood State Park

Colonial Christmas at Smallwood's Retreat

The home of General William Smallwood will be open and decorated with fresh greens for the annual 18th century Christmas celebration. Tours will be provided by costumed docents throughout the day and into the evening when the house is lit by candles. The kitchen will be aglow as the Smallwood Foodway Guild demonstrate authentic 18th century cooking. Visitors can also dip candles and make wreaths with fresh greens. The perfect way to get into the holiday spirit is to enjoy a cup of spiced cider and cookies while gathering around the bonfire for stories, laughter and singing. Don't be supervised if General Smallwood stops by for a visit.

2750 Sweden Point Road, Marbury |

Dec. 7, 1 - 6 p.m., FREE, donations appreciated


Saint Ignatius Church & Saint Thomas Manor

Holiday at St. Ignatius Church & St. Thomas Manor

Take a tour and enjoy the holiday season at St. Ignatius Church and St. Thomas Manor. Refreshments will be served.

8855 Chapel Point Road, Port Tobacco | ChapelPoint.org

Dec. 7, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Dec. 8, 12:30 p.m. - 4 p.m., FREE, donations accepted


Historic McConchie One Room School

Christmas Traditions

Located inside the front gate of the Charles County Fairgrounds, the Historic McConchie One Room School invites you to step into a time capsule when you visit the school house. Meet former students now in their 80's and watch a video about student life in the 1920's. This is a family-friendly event and a "hands on" experience.

8440 Fairgrounds Road, La Plata  |

Dec. 7 - 8, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.


Port Tobacco One Room School

Holiday at The Port Tobacco One Room School

The Port Tobacco One Room School invites you to take a tour provided by members of the Charles County Retired School Personnel Association. Children will be able to participate in a scavenger hunt and adults & children will be able to make s'mores over an open fire pit.

7215 Chapel Point Road, Port Tobacco

Dec. 7, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., FREE


Thomas Stone National Historic Site 

A Colonial Christmas

Tour the mansion of Thomas Stone, signer of the Declaration of Independence with costumed interpreters. The mansion and grounds will be decorated for the holidays.

6655 Rose Hill Road, Port Tobacco |

Dec. 7 - 8,  10 a.m. - 4 p.m., FREE

Chapman Family Cemetary Research and Restoration

Thanks to a grant from the Southern Maryland Historical Area Consortium, the Friends of Chapman State Park are working to research and restore the Chapman Family Cemetery.  Volunteers are needed to do further research on and restoration of this site.


headstoneSummary, “Documentation of the Chapman Family Cemetery.”

The cultural landscape of Southern Maryland is rapidly disappearing because of development pressures in the area and the inevitable loss of physical evidence with the passage of time.  Old family cemeteries provide a record of the people who lived here, and connect us to their story.


The property was purchased by Nathaniel Chapman circa 1740.   Son of a wealthy Virginia landowner and business man, Nathaniel built an impressive home on the shore of the Potomac below and slightly east of the current Mt. Aventine mansion. He and his wife Constantina raised their six children here.

The cemetery sits on a grassy knoll, surrounded by woodland, in an unenclosed clearing at the edge of the field below Mt. Aventine. It is located near the site of the original Chapman home.  The location is accessible from the shoreline trail and is marked on the trail map.  The first recorded burial was in 1773 and the last was in 1900.

Four standing stones remain, facing east as was the custom of the time.  Each has a corresponding footstone carved with the deceased’s initials.

Note: Pearson #1 (1725-1784) was the second generation of Chapmans to own the plantation.   Pearson #2 (1803-1877) was his grandson and the builder of Mt. Aventine.


headstone2Graves with headstones are:

  1. Matilda L. A. Chapman, wife of JNC. S. Chapman b. Nov. 18, 1799, d. March 25, 1874 (Matilda was the sister of Pearson #2 and the wife of John Chapman.. She had no children.)
  2. John S. Chapman, b. 1792, d. Oct 1, 1841. (The headstone has a carving of the Masonic emblem and significant text as yet not deciphered. Although his surname was Chapman, he is not believed to be related to the Virginia/Maryland Chapmans. He practiced law.)
  3. S. M. Chapman, “Our Mother.” The birth and death dates 1807-1870 are partially obscured and the stone is broken. (Mary Sigismunda Alexander Chapman, wife of Pearson #2. They had eleven children);
  4. Pearson Chapman, b. Sept. 7, 1803, d. May 10, 1877. (Pearson #2 is credited with designing and building the current house and developing the plantation into a prosperous business.)

Records of other burials include:

  1. Matilda Louise Chapman, b. 1772, d. 1773 (infant daughter of the Pearson #1 and Susanna Chapman);
  2. Gustavus Alexander Chapman, b. 1779, d. 1780 (son of  Pearson #1 and Susanna Chapman};
  3. Pearson Chapman, b. June 24, 1725, d. July 31, 1784. (Pearson #1, son of Nathaniel and Constantina the original owners of the Maryland property “Grymes Ditch,” and grandfather of the Pearson #2 who built the current Mount Aventine.  He was a Captain in the Maryland Division in the Revolutionary War);
  4. Susanna Pearson Alexander, b. April 12, 1744, d. Sept. 30, 1815 (wife of Pearson #1);
  5. Nathaniel Chapman, b. 1767, d. unknown. ( Son of Pearson #1);
  6. George Chapman, b. February 24, 1820, d. Dec. 29, 1840.( Brother of Pearson #2);
  7. William Brown Chapman, b. Oct. 3, 1871, d. Oct. 13, 1871;
  8. Nathaniel Chapman CSA, b. 1842, d. not recorded (son of Pearson #2 and Sigismunda. Physician with CSA who later practiced medicine at Mt. Aventine and in Washington, D.C.);
  9. Infant daughter of Helen Pearson Chapman, b. July 1900, d. July 1900.

NOTE:  These records were originally compiled by Elmer Biles, an amateur historian and volunteer.   


A GPR survey of the site was performed in May, 2019 by Mr. Matt Turner of GeoModel, Inc., Leesburg, Va.  A geologist by training, Mr. Turner has been conducting ground GPR surveys nationwide and internationally for over twenty years.  Possible grave sites are identified by locating specific anomalies in the soil.

headstone3The photo shows the location of the possible graves as identified by the GPR survey.

The results of the GPR survey and the records from burial records are consistent and indicate 13 to 15 burials on the site.

The Friends have taken steps to make the site more accessible to visitors and help protect the site for further investigation.

Corner fences were installed to mark the area of the central burial field containing the headstones and those located by GPR.  New signage has been installed to help tell the story of the people buried here.

Burial places of Native Americans and of the enslaved people who help build the plantation are not yet known.  Additional investigation would undoubtedly provide opportunities for interesting discoveries and a more complete picture of life during this era.

More research and investigation is needed to help complete the picture of this interesting place and its role in our cultural history. 



Maryland Independent Reports Mount Aventine Kitchen Ready for Cooking and Interpretation


Mt Aventine Kitchen

Mt. Aventine kitchen ready for cooking, interpretation
(reprinted from SoMDNews)
The Friends of Chapman State Park recently received a mini grant for a historical food program called “The Culinary Story of Mount Aventine and Southern Maryland Cuisine.” 

The money, awarded by the Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium, will be primarily used to host a series of three lectures by Joyce White, an expert in Maryland culinary traditions, over the summer and help interpret the recently restored kitchen at Mt. Aventine, a 19th century manor house overlooking the Potomac River at Chapman State Park in Indian Head.

“We are interpreting the kitchen area from two perspectives: from the first private occupant, Nathaniel Chapman, and the last private occupant, Margit Bessenyey,” said Sheryl Elliott of Swan Point, a member of the Friends’ board of directors and curator of the kitchen exhibit and culinary program.


With grant funds, Elliott had signs made describing various aspects of the kitchen such as one entitled “Hearth Cooking,” which explains how hearths, or fireplaces, were used when the original house was built in 1810. The original one-and-a-half story cut stone cottage was greatly expanded with two-story additions in 1840 and 1860. The original hearth attached to the cottage was eventually filled in so it is being creatively interpreted with a small amount of brick and lintel showing and a large picture of a similar hearth beneath.

“We snaked a camera in [the bricked-in hearth] to see if we could take the bricks out and expose the original hearth. But, unfortunately, it’s all filled in with gravel,” Elliott said.

Along with the “hearth,” there are shelves of early cooking accessories put together by Elliott and other Friends members based on a document entitled “1761 Inventory of Kitchen & Serving Wares of Mr. Nathaniel Chapman.” The items include things such as a chocolate pot, saucepan, plate warmer, tea kettle, frying pans, dripping pan ladles, brass and tin candlesticks and “34 pieces Delftware,” a popular Dutch pottery.

The newer aspect of the kitchen dates from the 1950s when the aforementioned Hungarian countess Margit Bessenyev owned the property from 1954 to 1984. The main feature from that period is the metal, high quality St. Charles cabinets with stainless steel countertops. The mansion was no longer occupied as a residency after the countess died.

“The cabinetry in the kitchen all dates to when the countess was here — it’s all kind of state-of-the-art 1950s cabinetry,” said Linda Dyson, president of the Friends board. “We need a working kitchen because we have functions here. So, we’re leaving that in place and interpreting the 1810 kitchen.”

“We’ll have a lot of people around here who remember 1950s cabinetry, like me,” she added with a laugh.

The kitchen restoration started a year ago, and, as of late March, it is ready for interpretation.

Maryland food historian Joyce White is scheduled to present two programs over three dates, repeating one of the culinary history presentations. One is the “Taste of Maryland” and the other is “Dining in Colonial Maryland.” The programs are tentatively scheduled for June 3, Sept. 9 and Oct. 7, pending board approval. For updated information, go to www.friendsofchapmansp.org.

“[White] gives programs demonstrating foods and how foods were made and cooked, and shares recipes and so forth,” Elliott said. “She has a nice Powerpoint that goes along with her demonstrations.”

Elliott said she’s also been reaching out to local restaurants to generate some interest in doing other food-oriented programs for both adults and children. The intention is to create more programs to attract more visitors to the antebellum mansion along with hosting events.

“We would like to see this as the gateway to Southern Maryland,” Elliott said. “We think this is a very important, historic property and house. I think it can serve the overall tourism effort of Charles County very well.”

“We’re always being discovered,” Dyson added.

Twitter: @Darwinsomd