The Mount Aventine Manor House is open for visitors again on Sundays from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Keys to History Signage

The Friends of Chapman State Park have installed new interpretative signage—“Keys to History”-- covering the property’s evolution from a 18th century plantation supported by enslaved labor, through the Civil War era, to a 20th century horse breeding farm.  Most of the signage is accessible via an easy walk from the entrance drive.  Others are located at the river front.  Experience this exploration of our area’s heritage

While Mount Aventine manor house remains closed to visitors due to the pandemic, the trails are open and welcoming.  Masks/social distancing are requested.


fcsp keys pg 1

fcsp keys pg 2

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fcsp enslaved sign

Chapman Family Cemetery 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

“[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