Lisa Oakley and the saga of John Plant

On June 26, I received a voicemail message from Lisa Oakley, a family eldercare coach in California, about her Maryland ancestor, John Plant, a member of the Maryland 400. [1] This blog aims to address her email, adding new information to John Plant’s story. I begin by using content from existing blogposts: “The post-war lives of Maryland’s revolutionary soldiers“; ““Ready to march Southward”: The story of the Maryland Extra Regiment”; “The story of the Extra Regiment’s ordinary soldiers: From McCay to Patton“;  and ““…the new Regiment now raising”: Continuing the story of the Extra Regiment.” All copyrighted material used falls under the fair use exception to U.S. copyright law as it is used for educational purposes here.

John Plant was a Charles County man who had fought in the Maryland Line, specifically part of Captain John Hoskins Stone’s First Company of the First Maryland Regiment, enlisting in Port Tobacco, Maryland. In 1781, as an experienced soldier, he served as an ensign, then lieutenant in the new Maryland Extra Regiment. He likely resigned in January 1782 as he could not retain this rank in the new unit. Still he returned as a “supernumerary” to Annapolis, beginning to receive payments after his military service eventually resulting in a pension years later.

After the war, he lived in Charles County, becoming a “well-off small farmer and slaveowner who owned two horses, one cattle, and one enslaved black child.” On June 15, 1788 he married an eighteen-year-old woman named Mary Ann Davis, with some recalling his military service in later years.Later on, Plant and Mary lived in Washington, D.C., which was then a “largely rural and sparsely populated area which had thriving ports at Georgetown and Alexanders, in addition to the federal town of Washington City, which had about 8,200 inhabitants,” with slavemasters and over 7,900 enslaved blacks being an important part of society. Plant died in DC on November 14, 1808. Many years after his death, his widow, Mary, tried to get John’s pension payments but had trouble doing so, leading her to almost be “deprived of a pension.”

What new information does Ms. Oakley add to this story? Well, John Plant’s bio managed by the Maryland State Archives, which I originally wrote back in 2016, reflects some changes, but not all. She says that he went to Prince William County, Virginia after the war as a “tenant farmer,” with a witness to his will being a “tavern owner just to the south side of the Occoquan River.” The will she attached is transcribed below, which was  tough due to the quality of the image she sent of the will (likely because it was taken on a cell phone). However, by  happenstance, someone else had transcribed this already (which I stumbled upon), so I’ll reprint their transcription, with bolding being my  emphasis:

JOHN PLANT Will

Prince William County Will Book I, pg. 3414 [sic, 414?]

10 Nov 1808; proved 5 Dec 1808

In the name of God Amen I JOHN PLANT of County of Prince William and State of Virginia being sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory knowing it is appointed for all men once to die do make and ordain this my last will and testament that is to say principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hand of Almighty God that gave it and my body I recommend to the Earth to buried in decent Christian bureal at the discretion of my Executrix nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God and as touching such worldly estate wharewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life.  I devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form.  First I give and bequeath to MARY PLANT my loving wife al my estate real and personal for and during her life and at her death to be equally divided between my two daughters GRAYSON and SARAH to them and their heirs forever.  I constitute my loving wife MARY PLANT my sole Exetrix of this my last will and testament.  In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this tenth day of November in the year 1808.

JOHN PLANT {seal}

Witness

ZACH WARD

DAVID JOHNSTON

At a Court held for Prince William County Decemr. 5th 1808

This last will and testament of JOHN PLANT decd was presented to the Court by MARY PLANT the Executrix therein named who made oath to the same according to law and being proved by the oaths of ZACHARIAH WARD and DAVID JOHNSTON is ordered to be recorded and the said Executrix having performed what is usual in such cases certificate is granted her for obtaining a probate thereof in due form.

Teste

J.WILLIAMS  Ct. Cur.

I tried to look for another version of this on Family Search and Ancestry, but was sadly unsuccessful.We do know from this that he died between November 10 and December 5th. According to his pension, we know he died on November 14. Finding his cemetery may be extremely hard, as there are no results for the name Plant in Prince William County, Virginia and Find A Grave lists 279 cemeteries in that county! We know that Prince William County sits right on the Potomac and is 36 miles away from the heart of D.C. Still, possible candidates  for where he could be buried includes Woodbridge, Sudley Springs, or elsewhere. Yet, the family narrative, noted at the end of this post claims he is buried in Charles County, Maryland. But no results come up for Plant in that county either. Some sources seemed to say he had land in the county.I looked at MDLandRec to see if I could find anything. I found a listing for Horatio Plant in 1814, interestingly enough:

He is listed on Liber 213, no. 10, p. 519

I looked further, finding a James Plant in 1755 (Liber A, no. 1 1/2, p. 345) and 1757 (Liber G, no. 3, pp 129, 157). On the next page there were no listings for any individuals with the Plant surname at all! Looking at it in another indice gave me the same exact result:

Should be IB, not JB

I tried to look for Liber A, no. 1 1/2, p. 345 but no results came up. The link to it in the Guide to Government Records did not work when I tried it. I looked at pages 129 and 157 of Liber G, no.  3. It shows James Plant owning a piece of land called St. Michaels, which was 100 acres in 1757. Other records that year show Plant buying even more land, related to the Saint Michaels tract, from Richard Coffer. The next set of records are in 1814. Its between George Bradley Stewart of D.C., Horatio Plant and his wife Mary Cassandra Plant of Montgomery County, MD, Mary Eleanor Stewart of Montgomery County, MD, and William Dement of Charles County, MD. George, Horatio, Mary, and Mary paid William Dement $500 for a tract of land called South Hampton which is between tracts owned by John Thurman Stoddert (later a congressmember who would introduce Mary Ann’s pension claim), and Mary  Truman Fendall. And that’s it!

I checked on Plats to see if there was anything on Saint Michaels. It turns out there was an entry, but it was back in 1664. But, it doesn’t seem to be on Plats. I did find South Hampton however. It was unpatented in 1799. There is a long history, with the specifics of the land. The land itself is basically a set of rectangles and squares, nothing to write home about:

Courtesy of plats.net

The family trees on Ancestry aren’t very reliable on this subject, claiming that John was born in England in 1755,  with debate on whether he died in  Charles, Maryland or Prince William County, Virginia. I seem to think that he died in the latter place. [2] One Ancestry user and high school social studies teacher, named Adam Parry (who also commented below this post, vouching for the accuracy of his information, but I’ll still keep this comment here), writes that “John lived for a time in Northern Virginia in Prince William County based upon his will and my ability to locate one of the witnesses to the will.” Both of these trees cite the U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 database, which is notoriously unreliable, having no source for their information put reprints, some pages from his pension:

Through Ancestry’s Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files database, I  was able to find the whole pension, which I have uploaded as a PDF onto this website (I eliminated the pages with little or no content, as they are irrelevant).

But, saying he lived in Washington, D.C., as my old bio said, was not totally wrong, as it says now: “By 1808, the family had settled in Prince William County, Virginia, not far from Washington, DC.” [3] This connects to the fact that 6 months before he died (in November 1808), ” he apprenticed his sons Nathaniel and John to business people in DC.” The records are shown below:

In her third point, she writes that “John Plant had a sister Sarah Ann Plant Stewart Jones” with her obituary she was “able to determine that she attended St. Ignatius Parish prior to moving to DC in 1795. It states that she was born in Charles County.” That record, from page 3 of the National Journal on September 26, 1829, is shown below:

On her fourth point, she says that “Mary Ann Davis, [as] 2nd wife to John Plant,” living out “the rest of her life in DC with her youngest daughter Sarah Ann Plant Hay and son in law.” She adds that Mary Ann died in 1841 with a “burial location is the now- abandoned St. Patricks Church cemetery in DC” (as also evidenced by the Find A Grave she put up) with “notes written up by Agnes Plant who was the great-granddaughter of John Plant of Revolutionary War.” Mary’s obit is shown below, and after it is from the notes written by Agnes Plant.

Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Interestingly, we find (abstracted from John’s pension) that “William Stewart, age about 62, deposes that when he was about 12 years old, he recollects hearing of the marriage of the said Mary Ann and John Plant in Charles County, Maryland that the said John Plant was his mother’s brother and this deponent lived near them.” This being the case, it means that William is a grandson of John, with William’s mother being a sibling of John. William’s mother is Sarah, who was talked about earlier in this post.


Notes

[1] In 2017, she had emailed me in saying that she believed that “Horatio Plant d. 1840 (son of Ann Shepard) was also the son of John Plant. I believe that Ann was his first wife and may have died in childbirth,” going onto say that “Ann is the sister of the famous Francis Shepard, their family has been written about at Port Tobacco and the property there that was handed down from their father John Shepard”  and that she has “a copy of John Plant’s Will, however, he only names his two daughters Grace and Sarah.” She was, at the time, looking for anything that named “Horatio Plant, or have some advice to give on finding it.” Later that year, she appreciated my transfer of John Plant’s virtual grave to her, and said that connecting to Owen Lourie helped, adding that “both Horatio, and John Plants other known son Nathaniel were in the same regiment for the war of 1812. Nathaniel is the one who took/picked up the pension paperwork for May Ann Davis.”

[3] The last paragraphs of the bio now read: “Plant settled in Charles County after his military service, at least for a few years. He was a modest farmer, who probably did not own any land, although he did have one slave. On June 5, 1788, he married Mary Ann Davis (b. ca. 1770) in Charles County. They had four children together: Grace (sometimes called Grayson), Sarah, John, and Nathaniel. [5] By 1808, the family had settled in Prince William County, Virginia, not far from Washington, DC. Plant apprenticed his sons to masters in the city that spring. John was indentured to William Worthington, a cabinetmaker, and Nathaniel to a cordwainer, or shoemaker, in Georgetown. Only six months later, in November or December, John Plant died. In 1835, Mary Ann applied for a Federal veteran’s pension as the widow of a Revolutionary War soldier, and she eventually was awarded $95 per year. She died in 1841. [6]” I posted  the older version on academia.edu.