Historic Sotterley Plantation located in Southern Maryland about 60 miles south of Washington DC

Historic Sotterley, Inc. is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), public charity organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law.

The History of Sotterley Plantation

Sotterley’s Colonial Past 1699-1775

Sotterley Timeline

Riverside of Sotterley’s Plantation HouseIn 1699 James Bowles purchased 2,000 acres of land on the Patuxent River. The son of a wealthy London tobacco and sugar merchant, James Bowles prospered through trade with England, West Africa, and the Caribbean, dealing in tobacco, lumber, livestock, and slaves. Appointed to the upper houses of Colonial government and Collector of the Upper Potomac, Bowles also earned stipends and helped to regulate and control trade in the region.

Old Aerial Photo of Sotterley CreekBy 1703, James Bowles had built the first two room plantation house on his property using post-in-ground construction later adding a third room by 1720. Also that September the ship, Generous Jenny, arrived with a cargo of slaves from the Gold Coast of Africa to be consigned to James Bowles.

Upon Bowles’ death in 1727, his widow, Rebecca Tasker Addison Bowles, and his three daughters inherited the property that included 41 slaves. In 1729 Rebecca Bowles married George Plater II and thus began four generations of Plater ownership.

George Plater III - Sixth Governor of MarylandTheir son, George Plater III, was prominent in Colonial government as his father had been. His second marriage to Elizabeth Rousby from Calvert County added to his connections. Elizabeth Rousby Plater was a political and social asset to her husband. The plantation became known as Sotterley, named for the ancestral home of the Platers (Playters) in Suffolk, England2.    [top]

Loyalist to Patriot, Two Wars with the British 1776-1822

George Plater III did decide to join the Patriot cause shortly before the Declaration of Independence was signed and was a member of the 2nd Continental Congress from 1778-1780. He helped to draft the first Maryland Constitution and became the sixth governor of the State of Maryland only serving the last three months of his life. At its height Sotterley grew to almost George Plater III's wife - Elizabeth Rousby Plater7,000 acres.

By the 1790’s, Sotterley had an enslaved population of at least 93 persons. Sotterley passed to George Plater IV.  With his death in 1802 it fell under the oversight and management of his brother, John Rousby Plater, as guardian to young George Plater V. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Sotterley lost much of its labor force as a result of enslaved running to and fighting alongside the British. With this loss of labor combined with economic depression and generations of accumulated debt, George Plater V sold Sotterley in 1822 to William Clarke Somerville.    [top]

Family, Civil War, and Emancipation 1823-1909

Sotterley Plantation - Civil War EraThomas Barber acquired the property soon after, and upon Barber's death in 1826, Sotterley was willed to his daughters, Lydia Barber and her step-sister, Emeline Dallam. The property, including the enslaved population; was divided between the two women. Emeline, who had inherited the parcel of land with the plantation house, married Dr. Walter Hanson Stone Briscoe and during their sixty year marriage that spanned through the Civil War, Emancipation2 and Reconstruction, made their living with a medical practice, running a girl’s boarding school, and farming a 400 acre mixed crop with over 50 slaves.

Herbert and Louisa's first visit to Sotterley in 1906As Confederate sympathizers, three of the Briscoe’s sons, Chapman, Henry, and David, went to Richmond and joined the Army of Northern Virginia. George W. Barnes (Briscoe), an enslaved Sotterley farmer, joined the U.S.C.T. 7th Regiment in 1863, opposing the son of his owner at the Battle of Petersburg. Sotterley’s owners supported their wealth and property through enslaved labor for 165 years. There were many examples of flight and resistance.  Maryland emancipated slaves on November 1, 1864 through the state constitution. With the collapse of the slave system of labor and lack of industrialization, Sotterley with the rest of St. Mary’s County fell on hard economic times.     [top]

Restoration, Revival, and Vision 1910-1961

Satterlee's Major Revival Restoration of Sotterley - 1910'sThe last Briscoe family owner, Elizabeth Briscoe Cashner, sold Sotterley to Herbert L. Satterlee and his wife, Louisa Pierpont Morgan Satterlee2,3 of New York in 1910. As part of what is now referred to as the Colonial Revival, Mr. Satterlee restored the property to his vision of an 18th century plantation, saving the plantation house and several old outbuildings, including an original 1830’s slave cabin that still survives today.  His vision and his wealth, along with the belief that he too was a descendent from Suffolk, helped him save Sotterley from ruin. In residence only part of the year, Mr. Satterlee hired young Charles Knott as his farm manager. Mr. Knott managed the 1,000 acre property for the next 50 years. Other people lived and labored at Sotterley during the first half of the 20th century to include the Barber and Walter Barber and Earnest Knott with hay wagon - 1910'sScriber families. Upon Mr. Satterlee’s death in 1947, his daughter, Mabel Satterlee Ingalls, bought the estate. In 1961, Mrs. Ingalls opened Sotterley to the public as a non-profit historic foundation, offering tours on a limited basis. She continued as owner and was involved in its management, visiting about four weeks per year until her death in 1993 at the age of 92. Sotterley’s management was then turned over entirely to the foundation.     [top]

Sotterley's Mission Today

Eleanor and Mabel Satterlee with dog Shep at sundial - 1910'sToday, Sotterley is the only tidewater plantation in Maryland open to the public that is a testament to all those that lived, died, labored, and resisted here. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000, Sotterley is older than Mount Vernon with a history that spans three centuries. A non-profit public charity, Sotterley is governed by a Board of Trustees that has included descendants of former owners and former Sotterley Plantation - 2006enslaved, and is supported by fees, grants, memberships, sponsors, and events. The mission of Historic Sotterley, Inc. is to preserve, research, and interpret Sotterley Plantation’s diverse cultures and environments, and to serve as a public educational resource. As part of the Southern Maryland community, Sotterley offers a variety of cultural and educational tours, events, exhibits, and programs for all ages on its beautiful 95 acre site on the shore of the Patuxent River.    [top]

Sotterley is proud to be a participating partner of a growing number of byways and trails, including:

Sotterley Timeline



Buy Tickets for Special Events - Historic Sotterley Plantation

Tickets for our special events become available approximately 45 days before the date of the event thru Ticket Derby.





To preserve Sotterley Plantation's historic structures and natural environment and use the powerful stories of our land, lives, and labor to bring American history to life while serving as a cultural resource.  


To foster a better understanding of our world today by providing a living link to America's complex history and legacy of slavery.


  Hours of Operation
Tickets and Admission
Tour Information
  •  Plantation House Guided Tours
  •  Self-Guided Tours
  •  Audio Tours
  •  General Visiting Information
Group/Specialty Tours
Colonial Revival Gardens
Land, Lives and Labor Exhibit
Things to Do
  •  Nature Trails
  •  Bird Watching
  •  Family Fun
  •  Exhibits
  •  Museum Shop
Visitor's Map of Sotterley
Photo Gallery
  Become a Member
The Sotterley Society
Ways to Give
CFC #13401
Corporate Circle Membership
Job Opportunities
Visit St. Mary's
  Wedding/Reception Venue
Corporate Events
Private Parties
Family Reunions
Photo Gallery
Calendar of Site Availability
  Field Trips
Field Trip Calendar
Book a Sotterley Field Trip
Day Care Outings
Homeschool Groups
Junior Docent Academy
Spring Break at Sotterley
  About Sotterley Plantation
Farmer's Market at Sotterley
Grounds Use Policies
Misc Sotterley Forms
Stay Connected
Site Map
  Preservation Needs
  •  Past and Future Efforts
  •  Adopt a Project
  •  Building Maintenance
  •  Grounds Maintenance
  •  Adopt-A-Tree/Landscape Fund
  •  Conservation & Preservation
  •  Research
  •  Adopt a Collections Piece
Preserving Our Stories
  •  Research
  •  Oral History
  •  Video Library
  •  Middle Passage Project
  •  Genealogy
  1699 - 1775
1776 - 1822
1823 - 1909
1910 - 1961
  •  Colonial Period
  •  Federal 
  •  19th Century - Part 1 
  •  19th Century - Part 2
  •  20th Century
Sotterley Today
  Ticket Sales
Plan Your Event
Photo Gallery
  Barn Bash
The Holidays at Sotterley
Farmer's Market
Gala in the Garden
Ghosts of Sotterley

Homeschool Days
Plant Sale & Free Plant Exchange
Riverside WineFest at Sotterley
Butterfly Fridays
Speaker Series
Spring Break at Sotterley

Sotterley Plantation is proud to be a Distinctive Destination of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

All National Trust members receive 10% off admission when visiting Sotterley Plantation.

Historic Sotterley Plantation    44300 Sotterley Lane (PO Box 67)    St. Mary’s County    Hollywood, Maryland 20636    officemanager@Sotterley.org    301-373-2280

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