Col. Barton Lucas: more than a military man

Reposted from Academia.edu. I originally wrote this while working at the Maryland State Archives on the Finding the Maryland 400 project.

A zoomed version of a 1754 map by Emanuel Bowen apparently showing English Plantations

In the past, we have written about Col. Barton Lucas, captain of the Third Company. Previous posts have focused on records kept by Lucas’s clerk about the clothing worn by members of the Maryland 400 and mentioned in passing that he was sick and missed the Battle of Brooklyn. We also recalled how John Hughes, a private in Lucas’s company, mentioned how the Battle of Brooklyn made Capt. Barton Lucas “deranged in consequence of losing his company” and about his other military duties in the rest of the war including his service as a militia captain. Rather than just reciting the recently expanded biography of Lucas, this post focuses on a number of aspects of Lucas’s life including his family relations and life as a slaveowner with a plantation.

According to some sources, Barton Lucas was born in Prince George’s County in 1730. Thomas Lucas was his father and Anne Keene his mother, and Barton had four other siblings named Basil, Sarah, Margaret, and Thomas. [1] In 1756, Lucas’s father died, willing his half of his 112-acre-plantation on land called “Hopeyard” or “Hope yard,” sitting on the Potomac River, to Lucas and the other half to his brother, Basil. [2] Six years later, in 1762, Lucas married Priscilla Sprigg, the daughter of Osborn Sprigg, a prominent Maryland legislator, whose last name changed to Lucas after their marriage. Prisey, his “beloved wife” was born in 1735 and, like Lucas, had four siblings named Lucy, Esther, Rachel, and Eliza. [3] In the 1750s and 1760s, Barton cemented himself as a well-off plantation owner and slaveowner like his father, buying and selling enslaved blacks for his farming plantation. [4]

When he inherited the land from his father, plantations were transitioning. During the 1740s Maryland slavery began to change with enslaved blacks developing immunity to diseases in the Americas and planters, seeing the advantage of a domestic, self-reproducing labor force, imported men and women so that ratio of enslaved men and women balanced out and they, as a result, relied less on the transatlantic slave trade. On Maryland plantations, this change definitely had an impact. [5]

In the years after the Revolutionary War, a time when Lucas returned as the overseer of his plantation, many planters shifted from tobacco to a mix of corn, wheat, hay, and livestock raising, among other products, with important markets of urban populations in Maryland cities and towns. [6] The list of his possessions, which showed that he possessed plantation tools, tanned leather, and sizable amount of wool, along with numerous farm animals and six enslaved blacks, could indicate that the plant sheered sheep, slaughtered and skinned cows for their leather, which could be used for leather shoes or belts, and killed pigs for their own consumption and sold to broader markets. [7] During the Revolutionary War, the previous trade exchange between Britain and the 13 colonies was disrupted, but commodities such as bread, flour, wheat and tobacco were sent to parts of the world, such as the West Indies, while vital supplies sent back to sustain the war effort. [8] In addition, livestock, in Charles County for example, had to be pastured and fed, beef and pork salted, and wheat grown to feed the Continental Army and other military forces despite a “war ravaged economy.” [9]

Lucas’s plantation falls into an existing historical context. Based on the list of his possessions after his death, which includes tablecloths, napkins, walnut chairs and tables, wine glasses, tea kettles, and pots, it is clear that he, a well-off planter, was part of a broader trend of eighteenth century Maryland plantations, in the pseudo-classic Georgian style, which came with “tea, china, and good manners.” [10]

When Lucas died in either 1784 or 1785, in Prince George’s County, with six enslaved blacks held collectively by his wife and himself, and much of his property value consisted of enslaved blacks. [11] Lucas’s brother-in-law, Osborn Sprigg Jr., who was a prominent figure in the revolutionary period, became executor of the estate because Priscilla Lucas died. [12] Lucas’s plantation stayed in the family with Sprigg sold the land in 1786 by a member of the Lucas family. [13]

Burkely Hermann, Maryland Society of the Sons of American Revolution Research Fellow, 2016.


Notes

[1] Will of Thomas Lucas, 1765, Prerogative Court, Wills, Liber BT2, pp. 114, MdHR 1308-1. [MSA S538-44, 1/11/01/038].

[2] Ibid. The will of a well-off planter, a “John Smith,” who was “sick and weak in body,” wills all sorts of land to his descendants and 150 acres of a land called “Hopeyard” to “Thomas Lucas son of Thomas Lucas and to his heirs forever” (Will of John Smith, Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Liber 1, p. 31-2, MdHR 9724-1 [MSA C1326-1, 1/25/07/002]; Inventory of John Smith, Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Liber BB 1, p. 31-2, MdHR 9792 [MSA C1228-1, 1/25/08/038]

[3] Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson. “Sprigg, Osborn.” A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789. Vol. 2: I-Z (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1985), 763; Effie G. Bowie, Across the Years in Prince George’s County: Genealogical and Biographical History of Some Prince George’s County, Maryland and Allied Families (Richmond: Garrett and Massie, Inc., 1947), 595; “Sprigg Family,” Maryland Historical Magazine. 8 (1913): 80; Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1765, Liber TT, p. 0338-9 [MSA CE65-19]; Special Collections, Legislative History Project Collection, Osborn Sprigg (ca. 1741-1815) [MSA SC 1138-001-1160/1177, 2/11/12/72].

[4] Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1775, Liber CC 2, p. 0135 [MSA CE 65-23]. Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1759, Liber PP, p. 0093, 0144, 0321-2 [MSA CE65-17]. Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1772, Liber BB 3, p. 0068, 0085 [MSA CE65-22]. Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1765, Liber TT, p. 0338-9 [MSA CE65-19]; Will of Thomas Lucas, 1765, Prerogative Court, Wills, Liber BT2, pp. 114, MdHR 1308-1 [MSA S538-44, 1/11/01/038]; Inventories of Precilla Lucas and Col. Barton Lucas, Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Inventories, Liber ST, pp. 337-40, MdHR 9799 [MSA C1228-9, 1/25/09/001].The slaveowning was basically a family affair as shown in the will of his father, Thomas Lucas, which gives his sons (Basil and Thomas) and daughters (Margaret and Sarah) a number of slaves named Amy, Hamilton, and James.

[5] Also see this report titled “Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War.” It is worth also noting the existence of Sotterley Plantation in Southern Maryland as well.

[6] Such Maryland towns included Baltimore, Fredericksburg, Frederick, and a number of towns in Virginia (Richmond, Norfolk, Alexandria, and Lynchburg). Lorena Walsh. “Slave Life, Society, and Tobacco Production in the Tidewater Chesapeake.” Cultivation and Culture: Labor and the Shaping of Slave Life in the Americas (ed. Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan). London: University Press of Virginia, 1993, 191.

[7] As Jean B. Lee notes on page 173 of The Price of Nationhood, during the Revolutionary War, cowhide was used in shoes.

[8] Ernest M. Eller. “Chesapeake in the American Revolution.” Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution (ed. Ernest M. Eller. Centreville, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1981), 5. Myron J. Smith and John G. Earle. “Maryland State Navy.” Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution (ed. Ernest M. Eller. Centreville, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1981), 212, 215, 219.

[9] Jean B. Lee, The Price of Nationhood: The American Revolution in Charles County (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994), 176-8. 180.

[10] Other possessions include “iron dogs” for holding firewood and feather beds, as noted in his will (Inventory of Col. Barton Lucas, Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Inventories, Liber ST, pp. 338-40, MdHR 9799 [MSA C1228-9, 1/25/09/001]). In Prince George’s County, numerous plantation houses were constructed mostly in Georgian style and had a style of “strict symmetry” as noted by the Prince George’s County Planning Department report. Also see this set of reports by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

[11] Will of Barton Lucas, 1784, Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber T1, p. 216, MdHR 9725-1 [MSA C1326-3, 1/25/07/004]; Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1759, Liber PP, p. 0093, 0144, 0321-2 [MSA CE65-17]; Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1775, Liber CC 2, p. 0135 [MSA CE65-23]; Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1772, Liber BB 3, p. 0068, 0085 [MSA CE65-22]; Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, 1765, Liber TT, p. 0338-9 [MSA CE65-19]; Will of Barton Lucas, Prince George’s County, Register of Wills, Administration Bonds, October 1785, MdHR 9791 [MSA C1146-4, 1/25/08/003]; Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Administration Accounts, 1791, Liber ST 1, p. 376, MdHR 9805 [MSA C1144-4, 1/25/10/015]; Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Administration Accounts, Liber ST 2, p. 6, MdHR 18865 [MSA C1144-6, 1/25/10/017]; Inventories of Precilla Lucas and Col. Barton Lucas, Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Inventories, Liber ST, pp. 337-40, MdHR 9799 [MSA C1228-9, 1/25/09/001]; Will of Thomas Lucas, 1765, Prerogative Court, Wills, Liber BT2, p. 114, MdHR 1308-1. [MSA S538-44, 1/11/01/038]. In his final will, Lucas gave real and personal estate to his wife Prisey for “many considerations” and said that his estate would be administered by her.

[12] Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Administration Accounts, Liber ST 2, p. 6, MdHR 18865 [MSA C1144-6, 1/25/10/017]; Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson. “Sprigg, Osborn.” A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789. Vol. 2: I-Z (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1985), 764. The administrative account only says that Osborn Sprigg is an executor and accountant for the estate, not if he inherited the land.

[13] Will of Osborn Sprigg, 1815, Prince George’s County Register of Wills, Estate Papers [C2119-81, 00/50/07/040]; Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber HH, p. 0058-9 [MSA CE65-26]. His 1815 will, which says Sprigg passed down tracts of land to family members, may mention Hopeyard.

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