Benjamin Murdoch’s life after the war

1865 map of Frederick County by Simon J. Martenet. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives‘ now-defunct Legacy of Slavery project.

Benjamin Murdoch/Murdock, born (and lived most of his life) in Frederick County, was a young man, twenty-one years old in 1780. In previous posts we have noted how Benjamin Murdoch was described by Mountjoy Bayly as an officer in the Maryland Line, the same year that Bayly’s first wife, Elizabeth, would die from a form of cancer. Beyond that, we have written about how he commanded the First Company of the Extra Regiment, with Theodore Middleton within the same unit, was promoted in September 1780, and is one of the 19 people in the unit with a pension. There is much more than these titillating tidbits suggest.

The final years of the war

Throughout the war, Benjamin held many military positions and was recruited from Frederick County. He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Maryland Regiment, commanded by Col. John Gunby, in April 1777 and continued in this position until May 1779. He returned home after “some difference arose respecting my Rank” which was settled and he returned home. In 1780, after the state created the Extra Regiment, he was appointed as a captain, “one of the oldest…in said Regiment,” which implies that the other captains were younger than 21 years, hence they were born after 1759. Other than describing officers such as Alexander Lawson Smith and Edward Giles, he goes on to describe the movement of the regiment to Philadelphia to report to Washington, then once equipped, they marched south to join Nathanial Greene. He adds, still within his federal veterans pension application, that he “left the service in the Spring of 1781 in consequence of the Maryland Line consisting of Eight Regiments being consolidated into Four” and that the officers of the Extra Regiment “were all sent home as supernumaries.” He also notes that he was at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown where he was “wounded,” and the battle of Monmouth. Within the same document, Mountjoy Bayly certifies that Murdoch was a captain as noted previously on this blog.

Existing records confirm his account of service. Apart from the question of whether it was him who marched out to Washington County “with all deliberate speed” there is no doubt that he served as a Lieutenant in the Maryland Line and later as a captain. [1] Dr. David B. Boles, the founder of Bolesbooks, who has been publishing family ancestries since the 1980s also mentions Benjamin, writing:

“…A Capt. Benjamin Murdock was also mentioned. Of these the only one who completely checks out was Benjamin Murdock, who was a Lt. of the first Maryland Regiment of Continental troops in Mar 1779, and a Capt. in July 1780. Isaac said that in early 1779, Continental officer Capt. Benjamin Murdock performed enlistment duty in Fredericktown”

After the end of his war service, on December 22, 1781, he married a woman named Mary Ann Magruder in Seneca, Montgomery County, MD. [2] He would eventually have three children with her, named Richard, Eliza, and Anitta. The Magruder family, which were Royalists from Scotland back in the 1650s, had settled in Prince George’s County, amassing thousands of acres of land, and became prominent across Southern Maryland.

Little else is known about Benjamin’s life in the 1780s. However, it is clear that in 1787, Benjamin sold over 200 acres which had been given to him by his father, Reverend George, when he was only thirteen, in 1772. The above link claims he patented a tract called The Garden two years before. Searching available resources, it shows this is correct. He did patent it, but no more information is known currently as the record has not been scanned in:

Courtesy of plats.net. This was the same source the above link cited.

Looking through the same site, I found a number of tracts named Discovery. They range from 89 to over 173 acres. [3] It is not known which of these Benjamin owned later on in his life. Regardless, he later settled some of his deeds in Montgomery County in the Orphans Court with his relatives there reportedly. There is no doubt, however, that in 1778, a William Murdoch bought a part of a tract named Discovery from Moses Ouno. [4] This would be the land Benjamin would own in later years.  It is known also how Henry Baggerty and Charles Philips paid Benjamin, described as a planter, for Beall and Edmondson’s Discovery. [5] This could be found that this tract was 894 acres but no other information has been found:

Courtesy of Plats.net

Into the 1790s

Like the 1780s, little information is known about Benjamin and his family during this time period. While he is not mentioned in the 1790 federal census, a man named George Murdock Esquire was living in Frederick, Maryland with 19 enslaved Blacks, two men with the last name Murdock living in Montgomery, Maryland, and another man, named William Murdock living in Frederick, Maryland. [6] It is not known if any of these men are related to Benjamin. The following year a man named named John Murdock had a plat to a land tract called Friendship. This is the same man, who in 1783, owned over 2,000 acres of land in Montgomery County alone.

This was the time period, as briefly mentioned in his federal veterans pension application, he had a “few years residence in Montgomery County.” In June 1794, he was undoubtedly living in the county. The Maryland Gazette proves this by showing that he was made a major in the Montgomery County grouping of the Maryland militia, along with five other individuals:

From Maryland Gazette. Used photo editing software to add category titles from top of newspaper page to just include this county.

This was a far cry from his ancestors who were the first settlers of Western Maryland in 1730 and his father (possibly) who was committed and loyal to the British Crown. [7] Instead, Benjamin was loyal to the United States and the county he lived in, which at that time was Montgomery.

Moving onto the 19th century

For many years, the life of Benjamin is hazy. In 1800, a man named “George Mindock” (supposed to be Murdock) is listed as living in Frederick, Frederick, Maryland with nine enslaved people and another named William Murdock living in Emmitsburg, Frederick, Maryland with one enslaved person. It is not known whether these men are related to Benjamin.

However, there is concrete evidence he was living in the county. When George Fraser Magruder died on January 27, 1801, Benjamin, his son-in-law, became the executor of his estate. [8] Five years later, his sister, Eleanor died in the District of Columbia sometime before June 25, 1805. Within her will, she called Benjamin a “kind brother and friend”:

Source: “Wills.” The Washington Post (1923-1954): 1. Sep 01 1935. ProQuest. Web. 31 May 2017 .

There are other records that attest to his residency. In July 1800, Benjamin, Thomas Taylor of Pennsylvania, and Benjamin Huff Canby of Virginia, the latter two executors of the will of another individual, made an agreement. [9] Not only does this note that Benjamin was living in Frederick County, but that he paid Taylor and Canby six hundred pounds for a 200 acre land tract known as “Joseph’s Advance.” Two years later, in August 1803, Benjamin bought another tract of land. He paid a man named Abraham Plummer two thousand dollars for a tract of land known as Hickory Plains which was 454 acres. [10]

Sadly on Plats no image of the certificate or other information is available, but it is evident that the Hickory Plains tract was patented in 1752 by a man by the name of Samuel Plummer. The same is the case for the Joseph’s Advance tract. That piece of land was patented the same year by a man named Joseph Waters. Nothing else is known.

Coming into the 1810s

Benjamin petitions the House of Delegates about his military service. This is discussed later in this section.

In 1810, a man named C[harles?] Murdock was living in Frederick, Maryland with seven enslaved people. A W[illiam?] Murdock in living the same location with two enslaved people. It is not known if either of these men is related to Benjamin. There are also two tracts called Murdoch’s Mount Resurvey but it is not known if this is his tract or not. There, is, however, strong evidence, once again, that he was living in Frederick county.

In June 1811, Benjamin was paid $3,120 by Allen and Sarah Farguhar (if I have that spelling right) for the resurveyed Hickory Plains tract which is still 454 acres. As readers may recall, he paid Abraham Plummer $2,000 for this tract back in 1803, eight years earlier. [11] While the relative value of the $2,000 he had paid had decreased to $1,490 due to inflation and other factors by 1811, he still had gained a $1,120 above from the original amount, and $1,630 above the amount adjusted to values that year. Hence, he garnered an almost 200% profit from this transactions, using the adjusted figure, so he was more than willing to sell the land to the Farguhars.

Three years later, in 1814, he was appointed as commissioner, along with Edward Owings, Jesse Wright, Samuel Hobbs, and Ed Brashears, to “assess the damages” to Nicholas Hall’s land, which sat in Frederick County. The act specified the following aspects of this situation:

…[the] appointed commissioners…are hereby authorised and empowered to view and assess the damages if any, which in their judgment the said Nicholas Hull shall have sustained by the locating and making of a road through his lands…a road from near the old glass Works called New Bremen in Frederick county, to intersect the Baltimore and Frederick-Town turnpike road, at the town of New-Market in the said county, and…the said commissioners or a majority of them shall make out…a fair valuation of the damages

Nicholas was a man who was allowed by the Maryland General Assembly to raise money for a lottery for $2,000 dollars and noted that he owned land in New Market, Frederick County. Hence, it is possible that Benjamin knew this individual. It is also clear that this was not payment for “devaluation” of his land due to the British campaign in the military operations from 1812 to 1814 in the Chesapeake Bay but was rather a consequence of the changing nature of US society from an agrarian one to a more urban one, with “internal improvements.” Benjamin’s role as a commissioner could also imply that he was a Federalist since such individuals pushed forward this idea, and was later picked up by Henry Clay of the Whig Party.

A couple of years later, the Murdoch family gained additional land. More land was patented under the name of “Murdoch’s Fancy” which was not unusual as land had been patented under the names of “Murdoch’s Mountain Resurvey” and “Murdock’s Inheritance” years later. There is no record that Benjamin was involved in any of these land agreements, although it is possible he was somehow tied in.

In 1817, Benjamin petitioned the Maryland General Assembly to be paid for his war service, and the legislature agreed with him. Hence, he was to be paid the half-pay of a lieutenant until his death:

“That the treasurer of the western shore be and he is hereby authorised and directed, to pay, annually, in quarterly payments, to Benjamin Murdock, a lieutenant in the Maryland line during the revolutionary war, the half pay of a lieutenant during life.”

Almost a year later, Benjamin petitioned the Maryland House of Delegates over the same issue. His petition was reported favorably by Mr. Hawkins in the Maryland House of Delegates as the Maryland Gazette noted later that month.

And his petition related to his military payments as the journal of the House of Delegates makes abundantly clear:

It should be no surprise that it turns out that Mr. Hawkins, or Thomas Hawkins, was one of the four delegates representing Frederick County that year in the House of Delegates. The other delegates were Joshua Cockey, Thomas C. Worthington, and John H.M. Smith.

The blur of the 1820s

In 1820 there is a person Elemer Murdock living in Frederick, Frederick, Maryland, with eight enslaved people. It is not known if he is related to Benjamin. Some say he was in the 1820 Census for Frederick County. A search of the Census for District 2 within the county does not pull up any results other than the person mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. It is possible he is within a different district of the county or that this person is mistaken in their records. The reality is not clear. Even looking it up on Family Search only brings up one result, the 1830 census.

Other records of Benjamin this decade are scattered. In the 1820s, he is described as part of Zion Parish in Frederick County, reportedly. [12] And in 1824, he is mentioned in the will of William Murdoch. This may was Benjamin’s brother, as he laid out very clearly:

I desire to be buried in such Protestant burying ground as may be most convenient to the place of my decease and that my funeral may be conducted with the smallest intention”. I give and bequeath to: my brother, Benjamin MURDOCH of Frederick County, State of Maryland. my niece Eleanor POTTS, widow of Richard Potts late of Frederick Town in the State of Maryland and daughter of my late brother George MURDOCH, deceased. my niece Ann POTTS (wife of Richard Potts [Junior] of Frederick Town and sister of the said Eleanor Potts)”

Nothing else is known about this will or Benjamin, although this could be found by looking at the records of the Maryland State Archives.

In November 1825, Benjamin paid $5,475 dollars to Levi Phillips for land called Hope or Resurvey of Hope. [13] Eleanor, Levi’s wife, agrees with the transaction. The land tract has an interesting story. It originally was within Prince George’s County but with changing borderlines, it became part of Frederick County, with a 1797 agreement between varying individuals confirming the ownership by the Darnell family. [14] Within the said agreement, which spelled out the specific contours of the land, was a map of the land, which had been divided between numerous men of the Darnell family:

This map was reconstructed using images of the property on pages 43, 43a, and 43b. It is not perfect, but it does show the contour of the property. Map made using photo editing software to bring the pieces together into a coherent image.A gray background was added, as one can tell, to match with the map itself.

That same month, Benjamin paid Charles Fenton Mercer, of London County, Virginia, $4,410 dollars for his estate and tract within “The Hope.” [15] This could indicate that he started building a plantation there. Such purchases in the same month may indicate a certain level of wealth for Benjamin, since he made another purchase of land within the tract later that month from Robert Darnell, of the Darnell family mentioned earlier. [16]

The last four years

In 1830, Benjamin finally appeared in the Federal Census. He was living in Frederick County’s District 1 and was running a plantation with 27 enslaved Blacks and six “free white” individuals. [17] For the latter, one White male was aged 20-29 [Richard?], one White male was aged 40-49 [his son?], one was between ages 70 and 79 (himself). The other three were his daughter Anitta (under age 5), his wife Mary (between ages 20 and 29), and his daughter Eliza between ages 20 and 29. As for the enslaved blacks, the following chart suffices:

Made with Chartgo.

This means that the number of enslaved men and women were almost equally divided, with a simple majority for the women. The fact that only two were above age 36 shows that these enslaved individuals could have been from recent transactions, or show that he had a “changing” work force.

Two years later, he would apply for a pension from the federal government. [18] Within it he would say he was a resident of the county, born in the county in 1759, and was about 73 years old. On August 14, his pension money would begin flowing, with $1,200 received, with $400 each given annually, as noted in the Maryland Pension Roll of 1835. He would be described as a former “Lieutenant – Captain” who had served in the Maryland militia and said to be age 75.

From 1832 to 1833 he would engage in varied land agreements with individuals across Frederick County. On May 15, 1832, Benjamin made an agreement with Charles Johnson (executor), John H (or is it F?). Simmons, John Montgomery, Sebastian Sraff, Congo Doddoner, Elisha Beall, Plummer Simmes, and another Charles Johnson, a vestryman of a Protestant Episcopal Church. [19] In this agreement, lots 10 and 14 were granted by Charles Johnson (executor), in carrying out the will of William Johnson (presumably his father), to Benjamin, and all the others. Seemingly this was done to help with the Zion Parish, of which Benjamin and all others except the executor, were part of at the time. This means that Benjamin was an Episcopalian in faith. It also confirms the early listing of him in the 1820s as part of this parish. He likely was a worshipper at this church which has since been reconstructed since the original was burned down:

Courtesy of the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. Used in accordance with fair use guidelines under existing copyright law.

Later that year, Benjamin was part of an agreement with the same individuals of the Zion Parish, agreeing to buy more lots for use of the church. [20] This would help with his standing in the county.  The following year, on April 20, he would again help expand the church’s land. [21] These transactions show how dedicated he was to the church and his faith.

The following year, he died reportedly (also see here) in Urbana, Maryland, a census designated place, probably a small to medium-sized town at the time. It is not known if he was alive in May 1834 when someone cited him as a character reference to support their claim for a federal pension

In his will, Benjamin granted his daughter Harretta 300 acres of  “the Resurvey on the Hope” which he had finished buying in nine years earlier, who had married a man named John F. Simmons, possibly the same man who mad made the agreement about the Zion Parish years before. This area would become the John F. Simmons farmstead or “High Hope” with a house in Greek Revival style built around 1835, with the house still standing:

The years after his death

In 1840, a man named Richard Murdoch, called “Richd Mardock” in the census, had eight enslaved individuals, and was living with nine White people in Buckeye, Frederick, Maryland. [22] This was Benjamin’s son.

Ten years later, in 1850, Richard, a farmer was living in Buckeystown, Frederick, Maryland. [23] He was age 58 (meaning he was born in 1792), with 11 other Whites, including his sister, Eliza, with Anitta not in the same household:

 

Anitta was likely living in Frederick, Frederick, Maryland with a man named John A Simmons, listed in the 1840 Federal Census. That same year, multiracial and Black individuals named “Harriet Murdock,” “Matilda Murdock,” and Rachael Murdock” were living in Frederick County. It is possible these individuals were former enslaved people owned by Benjamin.

Two years later, Richard B. Murdoch assigned power of attorney named William Peugh to obtain an increase in the pension or of bounty land for the service of his father. He claimed that he was the only son and that he had two surviving sisters: Eliza Murdoch and Anitta Simmons. Looking at the actual pension implies that Benjamin and Mary Ann, his wife, had more than three children:

Fast forward to 1887. That year, Eliza Murdoch, who was noted as born Jan. 1, 1800, and the youngest child of Benjamin and Mary Ann, implying that others were born before 1800, died. She died “near Sykesville” in northern Baltimore County, at the residence of her niece:

Source for image: “Obituary,” The Sun (1837-1991): 4. May 27 1887. ProQuest. Web. 31 May 2017. Obit also in this Westminster, MD paper, The Democratic advocate the same year.

Despite the fact it says that Benjamin served on the staff of Horatio Gates, no evidence suggests this to the knowledge of this researcher, even though he could have been a major. It is interesting to note that she was native to Frederick County and related to William Murdoch, a London merchant, suggesting some familial connection between Benjamin and this individual. I think they may confusing this person with the other Benjamin Murdock in Vermont, a private in a Massachusetts Regiment, this individual seemingly who died in Oct. 1833:

 

In 1908, a descendant of the same name as Benjamin died, showing that the family lineage still lived on:

Concluding words

While there are many gaps in the story of Benjamin, many can be filled by looking at land records. There many questions about how a person named Mary Magruder Tarr Willard, Marie Benjamin Murdock Brown, and Richard Bruce Murdock are related to Benjamin. Regardless, there are still questions to be answered about his life, but this is a good start to the topic and hopefully opens doors for many in terms of different areas of Maryland history. [24]

Notes

[1] Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1779-1780, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 43, 234; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1781-1784, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 48, 144, 385, 387, 388, 494; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, April 1, 1778 through October 26, 1779, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 21, 321; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 16, 308.

[2] Genealogies of Virginia Families: From Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007 reprint), 596, 599; Roberta Julia (Magruder) Bukey, “The Magruder Family In Its Religious Affiliations” within Yearbook of the American Clan Society (ed. Egbert Watson Magruder, Richmond, VA: Appeals Press, Inc., 1916), 50-51; George Brick Smith, “Some Descendants of George Fraser Magruder” within Year Book of the American Clan Society (ed. John Bowie Ferneyhough, Richmond, VA, 1937), 60, 65. Mary may have been another daughter.

[3] One 89-acre tract patented by Thomas Beall in 1796 (Patent Record IC G, p. 707; Patent Record IC O, p. 85), a 119 acre tract patented by John Bradford in 1724 (Patent Record PL 5, p. 632; Patent Record IL A, p. 324), a 100 acre tract patented by James Halmeard, Jr. in 1748 (Patent Record PT 2, p. 293; Patent Record LG E, p. 564), a 100 acre tract patented by John Eason in 1752 (Patent Record Y and S 6, p. 244; Patent Record GS 1, p. 99), a 173 1/4 acre tract patented by Elizabeth Lashley in 1836 and similar by Arnold Lashley (Patent Record GGB 1, p. 616; Patent Record GGB 2, p. 630). There’s also a tract called “A Discovery” (36 1/4 acres which was patented by David Mitchell in 1784 (Patent Record IC A, p. 364; Patent Record IC B, p. 303) and this of which I’m not sure of the relevance to the land. There’s also a tract called Addition to Discovery but clearly Murdoch is not related to it.

[4] Deed between William Murdoch and Moses Ouno, Montgomery County Court, Land Records,July 13, 1778, Liber A, p. 195, 196 [MSA CE 148-1]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net. Not sure how pages of Liber D, 166 and 167 [MSA CE 148-4] relate to this topic as one source suggests.

[5] Deed between Benjamin Murdoch, Henry Baggerty and Charles Philips, Oct. 19, 1786, Montgomery County Court, Land Records, Liber C, p. 407, 408, 409 [MSA CE 148-3]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[6] This has been double checked, but NO person with the name of Benjamin Murdoch/Murdock, of any kind, is listed on the page with William Murdock and the same is the case for George Murdock, Esq. A look through the 61 pages of the census still turned up no results, even with the listing of two Magruders on one page (Samuel and William). The same was done for the 1800

[7] Folger McKinsey, History of Frederick County, Maryland: From the Earliest Settlements to the Beginning of the War Between the States, Vol.  2 (L.R. Titsworth & Co., 1910), 1278; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1758-1761, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 56, 74; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1757-1758, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 55, 219; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1764-1765, Archives of Maryland Online, Vol. 59, 180.

[8] Thomas Settles, John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal (Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2009), 450; George Brick Smith, “Some Descendants of George Fraser Magruder,” 65.

[9] Agreement between Benjamin Murdoch, Thomas Taylor of Pennsylvania, and Benjamin Huff Canby, July 4, 1800, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber WR 20, p. 52, 53, 54 [MSA CE 108-40]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[10] Benjamin Murdoch purchases land from Abraham Plummer, Aug. 31, 1803, , Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber WR 24, p. 702, 703, 704 [MSA CE 108-44]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[11] Deed between Benjamin Murdock, Allen and Sarah Farguhar, June 11, 1811, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber WR 40, p. 77, 78, 79 [MSA CE 108-60]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[12] Journal of A Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Held in St. Paul’s Baltimore (Baltimore: J. Robinson, 1821), 103, 112, 114.

[13] Benjamin Murdoch purchases land from Levi Phillips, Nov. 2, 1825, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber JS 23, p. 401, 402, 403, 404 [MSA CE 108-91]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[14] Agreement between William Pott, William Ballinger, Joseph Sweauinger, James Murphy, and Jesse Hughes concerning “The Hope” land tract and more, Nov. 27, 1797, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber WR 16, p. 40, 41, 42, 43, 43a, 43b, [MSA CE 108-36]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net. Considering it was originally in Prince George’s County, this (and this) is NOT the same land. There is a land in Prince George’s County named Hope, but no details can be provided.

[15] Benjamin Murdoch purchases land from Charles Fenton Mercer, Nov. 11, 1825, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber JS 23, p. 447, 448, 449, 450, 451 [MSA CE 108-91]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[16] Benjamin Murdoch purchases land from Robert Darnell, Nov. 28, 1825, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber JS 23, p. 555, 556, 557, 558 [MSA CE 108-91]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[17] Fifth Census of the United States, District 1, Frederick, Maryland, 1830, National Archives, NARA M19, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, Roll 57, Page 15. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest. He is called “Benjamin Murdock” in this census.

[18] Pension of Benjamin Murdoch, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, S.9046. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.

[19] Agreement between Benjamin Murdock, Charles Johnson (executor), John H. Simmons, John Montgomery, Sebastian Sraff, Congo Doddoner, Elisha Beall, Plummer Simmes, and Charles Johnson, May 15, 1832, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber JS 40, p. 114, 115 [MSA CE 108-108]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[20] Agreement between Benjamin Murdock, et al, Dec. 1, 1832, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber JS 41, p. 3, 4 [MSA CE 108-109]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[21] Agreement between Benjamin Murdoch, et al, and Lloyd Keith, Dec. 1, 1832, Frederick County Court, Land Records, Liber JS 42, p. 263, 264, 265 [MSA CE 108-110]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[22] Sixth Census of the United States, Buckeye, Frederick, Maryland, 1840, National Archives, NARA M704, . Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, Roll 166, Page 159. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.

[23] Sixth Census of the United States, Buckeystown, Frederick, Maryland, USA, 1850, National Archives, NARA M432, . Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, Roll M432_293, Page 461-462. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.

[24] See here, here, and here for others who have tried to explore his story.

 

“A character for probity and honor”: the story of Theodore Middleton

A focus on Maryland, from John Churchman’s 1786 “…map of the peninsula between Delaware & Chesopeak bays.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Theodore Middleton was different than Alexander Lawson Smith and Archibald Golder (link when published on June 7). By 1781, he was a 23-year-old man, born in Charles County, Maryland, the son of Mary Hawkins and Smith Middleton. He had been, like the others mentioned, an officer in the Extra Regiment, but, different from them, a mid-level officer, who was promoted while others resigned their ranks.

Theodore was, when he joined the Extra Regiment, living in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where he would live until at least the 1830s. While the record of his age was lost or destroyed, he remembered when applying for his federal veterans pension, that he was a “commissioned Officer” who performed “three Tours of survice” and was acquainted with Col Luke Marbury, also from the same county, commanding a “Regiment at the battle of Jermons town” or Germantown in Pennsylvania where he was taken prisoner. He also recalled that he was acquainted with Col. John Hoskins Stone and Col. Uriah Forrest, both of whom were wounded in the battle just mentioned, along with a person named General Francis Nash, who was killed at the same battle.He also remembered that he did receive a “commission from the Governor and Council of Maryland,” but it had been “lost or mislaid” by the 1830s. [1]

As one of the 19 within the Extra Regiment with a pension, what he has to say is further worth noting. In applying for his pension in February 1833, he noted that he entered the Maryland Line in April 1779 as a Lieutenant and later served in the Extra Regiment with Captain Mountjoy Bayly, Major Edward Giles [link when published on June 21], Alexander Smith, and Nathanael Greene. He also recalled that he marched with the regiment

from Annapolis to Philad’a where he remained two months. From there a short time he took shipping at the head of Elk River and came to Annapolis in the State of Maryland where he staid for some considerable time. This tour of service embraced fourteen months. He then marched from Annapolis to Alexandria, Fredg. [Fredericksburg] Richmond and Petersburg Virginia, Crossed over into the State of North Carolina, and was at the battle of Guilford C. H. in said state, March 1781 [Guilford Courthouse, 15 Mar 1781]

He then said that after that point, with the end of a “Southern tour of sixteen months” he returned to Maryland in October 1781 “as a Supermerary
officer by General Green” during which time he was commissioned immediately as a Captain. At that point hewas commanded by Col. Uriah Forrest to go to Annapolis, where he stayed a recruiting officer for nine months, until he was “discharged by Col. U. Forest.” While this story has some truth to it, the fact is that he started as a Second Lieutenant, would help organize the specifics of a company within the Extra Regiment. He would later be paid as part of the “late Extra Regiment” in March and April of 1781, and be appointed “Capt. Lieutt of a Company of Foot to serve in this State for one year” the same month. He would write Governor Thomas Sim Lee in September 1781, noting about gathering infantry to organize a defense of the Chesapeake Bay region:

As a considerable time has elapsed since I had the Honor of hearing from you, concerning the raising the compy of infantry for the defence of the Bay, I should be glad to know if you still propose that corps to be raised, If not, I must Sollicit your Excellency In an apointment in the first com.[company] that may be recruited.

While the information on Theodore is not as wide-spread as other officers, there is still a story worth telling.

Beyond the pension

Focus on Prince George’s County from J. Wallace’s 1795 map “of the State of Maryland laid down from an actual survey…” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Scattered sources about Theodore do tell some parts of a story. On November 20, 1789, in Upper Marlborough, he married a woman named Julia/Juliana Huxton, and the following year he headed a household with two males under age 16, one female (Julia), and seven enslaved blacks. [2] With Julia he would have, ultimately, eight children. They would be named Sarah, Henry O., Theodore, Walter, Chloe Ann, Mary H. Charles S, and Susan.

Also in 1789, he was named as executor of Dr. Edward Semmes estate, possibly because of the close relationship between the two men. By April 1791 he was cited for not passing a final account on the estate but was allowed to sell a portion of the estate to meet the debts of Dr. Semmes. [3]

In later years, Theodore would still own enslaved blacks. In December 26, 1799, a woman named Ann would be described as  “natural daughter of Margis, slave,property of Theodore Middleton living in Prince George’s County.”

By 1800, would be living in “formerly part of Prince Georges MD, Washington, District of Columbia, United States,” but possibly didn’t move into the district, but rather where he was living became part of the federal capital. Three white males under age 10, one white male over age 45 (himself), two white females under age 10, and one white female under age 45 (his wife) would be living in the household. Of course, he would also own 15 enslaved blacks, more than anyone on either one of the corresponding census pages. The latter implies that he had a plantation of some type, although the location of this land is not known. Despite this mention of living in Washington, D.C., he would be noted as a resident in Prince George’s County through a number of land records, perhaps indicating that the area he lived was near the border line.

Twelve years later, in August 1812, Theodore would mortgage three enslaved black men to a man named Robert Bench. They would be: Joe, age 23, Daniel, age 21, Leonard, age 40, and Jim, age 15. [4] This business of mortgaging enslaved blacks, a “rent-a-slave industry” was a moneymaker for slaveowners, not only showing that “the legal treatment of slaves as property in the South” (the same goes for deeds of enslaved black people) but was, at the time, used to “solve” issues of ownership over such peoples. Furthermore, the acquisition of more enslaved blacks could be “financed by mortgages” with bonds sold to investors based on “value of those mortgages” leading to securities. The latter were “based on enslaved human beings” to create a “bubble” of such assets, leading to speculation which was like that on “home mortgage derivatives that helped cause the financial crisis of 2008” as some writers have pointed out. Even Thomas Jefferson (as did others) mortgaged his enslaved blacks, which was one of “rescues” the Jefferson family had “from a bad harvest,” keeping the “family afloat while a new and grander version of Monticello took shape” as Henry Wiencek writes in Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves.

This mortgage between Theodore and Bench was a bit ahead of the curve since widespread mortgaging would not occur until the 1830s. Historical scholar Edward Baptist explains this and how US finance grew on the back on enslaved labor in increasing intensity in the 19th century:

In the 1830s, powerful Southern slaveowners wanted to import capital into their states so they could buy more slaves. They came up with a new, two-part idea: mortgaging slaves; and then turning the mortgages into bonds that could be marketed all over the world. First, American planters organized new banks, usually in new states like Mississippi and Louisiana. Drawing up lists of slaves for collateral, the planters then mortgaged them to the banks they had created, enabling themselves to buy additional slaves to expand cotton production. To provide capital for those loans, the banks sold bonds to investors from around the globe — London, New York, Amsterdam, Paris. The bond buyers, many of whom lived in countries where slavery was illegal, didn’t own individual slaves — just bonds backed by their value. Planters’ mortgage payments paid the interest and the principle on these bond payments. Enslaved human beings had been, in modern financial lingo, “securitized.” As slave-backed mortgages became paper bonds, everybody profited — except, obviously, enslaved African Americans whose forced labor repaid owners’ mortgages. But investors owed a piece of slave-earned income. Older slave states such as Maryland and Virginia sold slaves to the new cotton states, at securitization-inflated prices, resulting in slave asset bubble. Cotton factor firms like the now-defunct Lehman Brothers — founded in Alabama — became wildly successful. Lehman moved to Wall Street, and for all these firms, every transaction in slave-earned money flowing in and out of the U.S. earned Wall Street firms a fee. The infant American financial industry nourished itself on profits taken from financing slave traders, cotton brokers and underwriting slave-backed bonds. But though slavery ended in 1865, in the years after the Civil War, black entrepreneurs would find themselves excluded from a financial system originally built on their bodies.

While what Baptist is saying is admittedly controversial to some, he helps put the mortgage between Theodore and Bench into context.

In later years, he would give away land for almost nothing. In 1814, two years after the previously mentioned mortgage, he would be one of five commissioners (the others named Josiah Moore, Thomas Bunch, James Beall Senior, and James Bealle Junior) who had gained lands after the death of Ignatius Handy in 1811. However, the courts said the lands should be divided without loss and injury to all parties, and the son of Ignatius, in 1812, received land, but not the commissioners so they advertised the real estate for sale and it was bought by Mordecai Ridgeway. [5] Perhaps due to legal wrangling they sold all of the estate to him, including numerous parcels of land such as Friendship’s Addition, Crichet Bat, and Lanhams Delight. By almost nothing I mean that they only received $5.00 from Ridgeway. This could be because all of the commissioners were good friends of his or that they wanted to be rid of the land and didn’t care what it sold for. Whatever the reason, Middleton was involved in the middle of it.

The mid-1810s and into the 1820s

Focus on Prince George’s County within T.l. Powman’s 1814 “…map of Virginia with Maryland, Delaware.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By 1815, Theodore was buying and selling land with relatively large price tags, possibly showing his wealth. That year, he paid a man named Stanislaus Hoxton $2,176 dollars for two tracts which were named “Triall” and “Deer Pond Enlarged.” [6] This wasn’t the end of the story for those land tracts. In 1820, his son, Henry O. paid him $50 dollars for “10 parcels” of a land, which were part of the two above mentioned tracts. [7] The same year, George Semmes would pay him for these two tracts. He would pay $2,000. [8] Six years later, the tracts were sold again. Likely because of his role as an administrator of Semmes estate, he had regained ownership over the land, and sold it for $2,000 to a woman named  Sarah Folson of the same county. [9]

Some may say that Theodore lost money in these land dealings. After all, there was a negative 3.93% average inflation rate between 1815 and 1826, as noted by Measuring Worth, meaning that the relative value of the $2,176, which had had paid for the land, was now $1,400. Hence, you could take from this, he had a money loss, with his land worth less. However, he still gained, even when you factor in the lower relative value, he brought in $3,690 for the varied land sales in 1820 and 1826. [10] Hence, he garnered, approximately, a 69.6% profit from the transaction as a whole. This land dealing was noting new. Some his ancestors within the county had sold numerous tracts of land to willing buyers. [11]

In 1820, two men, Francis John Lobson and George Semmes, would buy $3,000 dollars worth of “goods” from Theodore. [12] He would grant them 12 enslaved blacks named Daniel, Phil, George, Lewis, John, Sam, Grace, Betty, Celey, Eliza, Grispey?, and Margarett. He would also give them the following:

“five head of horses, nine head of cattle, twelve head of hogs, thirty two head of sheep, and all the household and kitchen furniture which at this time belongs to me the said Theodore Middleton”

While the average price of enslaved blacks was definitely not $900.00 (if it was, they would have been paying $10,800 dollars) as it was in New Orleans at this time, they undoubtedly figured into his transactions. [13] Those involved in the transaction probably did not consider the dehumanizing effects of enslaved blacks being sold alongside livestock, only considering them another form of “property” as part of their wheeling and dealings.

Selling and buying of enslaved people ran in the Middleton family. His son, called Theodore Middleton, Jr. in land records, while he is called Theodore Middleton, Sr.,would pay General Semmes and Francis Tolson for a “young negro man named Sandy.” [14] One of his ancestors, Thomas Middleton Sr. of Piscataway, Prince George’s County, was a major player in the business as well. In February 1743, he sold an enslaved black woman named Lucy to John Lawrence for several thousand pounds, while the following year he would be paid four thousand pounds of tobacco for two enslaved blacks by James Gibbs. The first individual, a woman named Judith, he would pay three thousand pounds of tobacco, while the second was a man named Henry for which he would pay 1,000 pounds of tobacco. [15] Such tobacco not only determined a “man’s wealth” but it was a principal source of revenue for the colonial governments of Virginia and Maryland. After 1730, Marylanders became aware that Virginia’s inspection system gave the state “a great advantage over Maryland by raising the quality and reputation of its’ tobacco” so in 1747 the Maryland General Assembly “passed the Maryland Inspection Acts which remained a permanent feature of the trade in Maryland.” By the time Thomas engaged in this transaction, the price of tobacco has stabilized, avoiding wild price fluctuations that has been a feature in the past within the Chesapeake Bay region.

Jumping forward to the 1830s

By the 1830s, Theodore was bringing in $320 a year as the annual allowance of his federal pension, but it was noted that he was paid in the District of Columbia, which indicated where he lived.

In 1832, a Virginia man named Erasmus Gantt noted he served with Middleton in the spring of 1782, including on the Potomac River, ending his military service in Annapolis. [16] All that is known beyond this is that he was part of the defense of the Chesapeake Bay, and would appointed a Lieutenant.

The same year as Erasmus submitted his pension, another man named John Boone, of Charles County, a Lieutenant in the First Maryland Regiment would also mention Theodore. [17] In the pension, which would continue after his death, sometime before 1853, by his wife Mary Laud, it would note he served from May 1776 to October 1781, fought at the battle of Yorktown, still had his discharge certificate. Even with all of that, Theodore is mentioned only in passing, deep inside the pension:

The second paragraph is where Middleton is mentioned.

The same would seem, from a simple search, to be the case in the pension Henry Hill filed by Hester Hill, his wife. Apart from being a captain, Henry, who lived in D.C. in the 1830s, he would serve from 1777-1782, throughout the Revolutionary war, and be a native of Prince George’s County. [18] Unlike Boone’s pension, in 1841, Theodore would personally attest that Henry was a captain, commanding a company of Maryland militia at the Battle of Germantown (1777):

In 1838, five years after Captain Bayly, in Washington City attested to the fact that he and Benjamin Murdoch were part of the Extra Regiment, he would petition the US House of Representatives for relief. [19] In his petition, he would note his service as a lieutenant in the Extra Regiment, wanting five years pay for his service, and he would receive such pay accordingly.

Into the 1840s

By 1840, Theodore would still be living in D.C. while his son lived in Baltimore. Within the household would be two white males, one under age 5, the other between ages 30 and 40, and two white females, one between ages 5 and 10, the other between ages 20 and 30. With these individuals were undoubtedly his children, would be two enslaved blacks, one whom was a male between ages 5-10 and the other also a male but between ages 20 and 30. There would also be one “free” black woman living in the household between ages 10 and 24.

There a few other facts which are known about his life. [20] The Theodore’s wife, Julia, owned varying enslaved blacks and was well-off, to an extent, before her death in November 1842. When she died, eight children were left with only Theodore living until his death.

In terms of Theodore’s death, some sources seem to indicate that he died 85 years of age on January 28, 1844, Theodore died in Prince George’s County, but still within the bounds of Washington, D.C. seemingly. Others seem to think that he died in 1845 for some reason. [21] As it turns out, those that said he died in 1844 would be correct, as proved by the short death notice in the Baltimore Sun:

Source: “DIED.” The Sun (1837-1991): 2. Feb 06 1844. ProQuest. Web. 30 May 2017 .

It would be at this point that the Baltimore Republican & Daily Argus would call him “a character for probity and honor” from what we know. Other requests of the exact copy of the newspaper would be required to verify this quote, specifically from these institutions.

After his death

Hence, after his death, his heirs began to collect his pension benefits from the Federal government. Many of his descendants, including his son, had the same name, owning property in Prince George’s County which included a house of some kind. Also there are reports that his son Theodore served as a traveling agent in Baltimore for the Maryland State Colonization Society and possible mentions of him in within Daniel Boone Lloyd’s genealogy titled The Middletons and kindred families of southern Maryland. [22] Later, one of his descendants, James Middleton, would serve as a Confederate soldier while another would be sheriff in Harlon County, Kentucky in the early 20th century as numerous newspapers, ranging from the New York Times to Washington Post would attest.

In all, he would be honored by his family and part of the annals of Maryland history for years to come.

Notes

[1] He also said that in his present living area he was “personally acquainted with the Rev. Spencer Mitchell, George Semmes, Henry A. Callis, Henry Gantt, John Addison, Bazil Hatten, Notley Maddox…Henry Tolson Esqrs…Judge Key, and the Hon’le B. J. Semmes.”

[2] Henry Wright Newman, “Captain Theodore Middleton” within The Maryland Semmes and Kindred Families (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1956), 282. Later one of the Middleton family would marry into the Boone family.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Mortgage between Theodore Middleton and Robert Bench, Aug 12, 1812, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber JRM 15, p. 283, 284 [MSA CE 65-44]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[5] Deed between Theodore Middleton, Josiah Moore, Thomas Bunch, and Mordecai Ridgeway, Oct. 5, 1814, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber JRM 16, p. 208, 209, 210211 [MSA CE 65-45]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[6] Deed between Theodore Middleton and Stanislaus Hoxton, May 22, 1815, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber JRM 16, p. 362363 [MSA CE 65-45]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[7] Deed between Theodore Middleton and Henry O. Middleton, Mar. 14, 1820, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber AB 1, p. 412, 413 [MSA CE 65-48]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[8] Deed between Theodore Middleton and George Semmes, Aug. 29, 1820, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber AB 1, p. 413, 414 [MSA CE 65-48]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[9] Deed between Theodore Middleton and Sarah Folson, Sept. 13, 1826,  Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber AB 4, p. 342, 343 [MSA CE 65-51]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[10] Originally he was paid $2,050 for such land in 1820, and $2,000 in 1826.

[11] [Deed involving Thomas Middleton and Catherine Plajay, Mar. 13, 1743, Prince George’s County, Land Records, Liber BB 1, p. 103, 104, 105 [MSA CE 65-12]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[12] Bill of sale by Theodore Middleton to Francis John Lobson, April 3, 1820, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber AB 1, p. 264 [MSA CE 65-48]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[13] “Average Price of Slaves, New Orleans, 1804-1862” within Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 174, citing the New Orleans Sale Sample, 1805-1862, which was compiled by Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman.

[14] Bill of Sale from Gen. Semmes and Francis Tolson to Theodore Middleton, November 12, 1821, Prince George’s County Court, Land Records, Liber AB 2, p. 33 [MSA CE 65-49]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[15] Bill of sale involving Thomas Middleton and John Lawrence, Feb. 24, 1743, Prince George’s County, Land Records, Liber BB 1, p. 85, 86 [MSA CE 65-12]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net; Bill of sale involving Thomas Middleton and James Gibbs, May 17, 1744, Prince George’s County, Land Records, Liber BB 1, p. 130131 [MSA CE 65-12]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net; Bill of sale involving Thomas Middleton and James Gibbs, May 17, 1744, Prince George’s County, Land Records, Liber BB 1, p. 131, [MSA CE 65-12]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[16] Pension of Erasmus Gantt, 1832, Survivor’s Pension Application File, S.10.727, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.

[17] Pension of John Boone, 1832, Pension Application File, S. 8076, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.

[18] Pension of Hester Hill for benefits of Henry Hill her husband, 1856, Pension Application File, W. 14,907, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.

[19] Middleton’s pension “includes a certificate by Mountjoy Bayly of the District of Columbia dated 27 Feb 1833, signed as shown, certifying Middleton’s service in words almost identical to those in the above application. On 11 March 1833 Theodore Middleton applied to have his pension payable in Washington, DC. A note by W. H. Middleton dated 25 Oct 1855 asks that the Commissioner of Pensions allow examination of the papers pertaining to his father, Theodore Middleton.”

[20] Reportedly there is information about him within this article and this newspaper although that cannot be confirmed.

[21] Newman, “Captain Theodore Middleton,” 283.

[22] “Reports of Traveling Agents,” Maryland Colonization Journal, Baltimore, Dec. 1856, Vol. 8, no. 19, 304. He is reportedly mentioned on pages 97 and 376 at least of Daniel Boone Lloyd’s The Middletons and kindred families of southern Maryland.

The post-war life of Alexander Lawson Smith, a “Harford Man”

Parts of a 1878 map of Harford County with specific emphasis on the areas of Alexander’s lands along Swan Creek (left), near Rumney Creek (middle), and on Gunpowder Neck (right). Map is courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Where we left off, the specifics of the Maryland’s Extra Regiment were outlined, with some focus on Alexander Lawson Smith, the commander of this regiment who had served in the Maryland Line since 1776. He had fought at the Battle of Fort Washington but did not proceed to Fort Pitt with riflemen in 1779, staying behind with the 4th Maryland Regiment until his resignation as a captain, was accepted by Continental Congress the same year.

In the 1790s

In the post-war period, Alexander became a co-founder of the Society of the Cincinnati. In 1792, he married Martha Griffith. Martha came from a family that descended from Wales, owning hundreds of acres and numerous enslaved Blacks and living across the state, but with strong roots in Anne Arundel County, and contributed more soldiers to revolutionary cause than any other family in the state of Maryland. [1] This is confirmed by the Assessment of 1783 showing those within the Griffith family owning over two thousand acres within Harford County, including an area named “Rumney Royal,” which would be kept in the Griffith family, a land which, would, in the coming years, be part of the story of Alexander Smith, a “Harford Man.” Reportedly, Alexander and Martha would have three children, Samuel (b. 1794), Francina Francis (1797-1860), and Martia Matilida (1799-1860)

As Alexander was settling in Harford County after the war, he began to acquire land. In February 1795, he paid a man named Michael Allen, living in the town of “William Michael,” 45 pounds to buy a parcel of land named “Duch Point,” which sat on Swan Creek, which is near present-day Havre De Grace. [2] As part of the agreement, Alexander had to defend the “tract and premises” against all claiming a part of the land. Later that month, the wife of Michael, named Elizabeth, appeared before local Justices of the Peace, with both Michael and Alexander present, relinquishing her right to the land and premises, saying that she was not coerced to do so, but did so “freely and willingly” since Michael had no “displeasure” in parting with the land, it seemed.. This is is interesting because it implies that some women were coerced, but also may indicate that Elizabeth had a degree of autonomy.

The location of “Duch Point” cannot be currently found within Harford County. Since this parcel of land sat on Swan Creek, which has a few “points” (High Point, Cedar Point, Plum Point, and Swan Creek Point), it cannot be the same as historical Dutch Island. Even with the exact location unknown, the contours of this story can be filled out. For one, Swan Creek, a “branch of Chesapeake Bay, mouth (2) miles north of Cole,” with a village of the same name less than a two miles northeast of Aberdeen, with warehouses there, and a place of much activity during the revolutionary war, to not be confused with other areas named Swan Creek across the state.

In later years, Marta, Alexander, and the rest of the family lived in Swansbury at the house of her widowed mother, a frame dwelling of some type. It is also worth mentioning that George Washington saw Alexander as a “personal friend,” making him an original member of the Society of Cincinnati.

In 1798, he would own 463 acres in Harford Lower & Spesutia Lower Hundreds which was worth almost $2,500 dollars on first valuation, and over $2,800 as analyzed by the commissioner. Additionally he would own 2 acres which contained six out houses and one dwelling house worth a total of $500. This specific land would be described in more detail on the page for the specific hundred, which would say the following:

Another page lists Smith as owning 370 acres in Gunpowder Lower Hundred called Tapley’s Neck. There he had one dwelling house, one mory, one 16 x 16 kitchen, one 14 x 12 x 11 house, and other specifications which cannot be read due to the nature of the original record. For all this land, he only paid $16.63 in tax, a small amount. This means that minus taxes, he would have $3283.37 worth of property, the relative value of which would be $65,300 in current U.S. dollars.

Into the 1800s

Five years later, in 1800, Alexander headed a household in Harford County’s District 2 or Halls Cross Roads. Apart from his son under age 10, daughter aged 16-25, his two daughters ages 16-25, and his wife, Martha, he owned twenty-one enslaved Blacks. [3] This made him a well-off slaveowner and part of the region’s politics, with the Chesapeake Bay a major region for slavery, even into the 19th century, as slavery began to expand into indigenous homelands and other areas in the Deep South. This undoubtedly reinforced his standing as a “gentleman” among the Maryland social elite, which he had gained not only as a clerk of the Harford County court but through his military career, famous from the battle at Fort Washington in 1776. Even so, the “respectability” he gained should not mask the brutalities inherent to slavery in the Americas and elsewhere.

The same year, Alexander, and Martha, his wife, along with two of her sisters, Frances and Sarah, sold a tract of land in the same county. For 1,060 pounds, they sold a tract of 370 acres named Tapley/Tapley’s Neck, that sat along Gunpowder (River) Neck, to a Baltimore City revolutionary war veteran and slaveowner named George Presbury, later a local political figure in Harford County. [4] This region of the county consists of an area south of Edgewood, Maryland. By August, the transaction was complete, making the Smith-Griffith families much wealthier. To find the equivalent in today’s money requires some calculations. [5] After going through many calculations, it is clear they would be garnering $134,489 in US dollars from George, which by today’s standards would put them (and likely George) within the top ten percent of income earners. Back then they still would have been well-off landowners, but in a different way as only select people owned land rather than a vast majority.

The 1941 Gazetteer of Maryland describes Gunpowder Neck as a neck “in Harford County; lying between Bush River, Chesapeake Bay and Gunpowder River.” While the area, but the 1830s, would have road-building to and from “Belle Air” (present-day Belair, Maryland), in the time that Tapley Neck was sold, there was a “small plantation” in the region, possibly one that sat on the land that was sold to George, with Maryland militiamen stationed on the neck during the Revolutionary War. The region, includes a 19-mile long tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, Bush River, has a “lower end” near the bay and an “upper end” and is still south of Edgewood. Currently, this whole region is part of Aberdeen Proving Ground, a 75,000 acre military base which was created in 1917, where chemical (and biological) weapons and agents have been tested, meaning that people who “accidentally ingest or come in direct contact with contaminated ground water, surface water, soil, or sediments may be at risk.”

One year later, in June 1801, Alexander, Elijah Davis, Samuel Griffith, and  Frances Garretson (likely related to Aquila Nelson), all were executors of the will of Samuel Griffith, the father of Alexander’s wife, Martha, agreed on an indenture with other members of the Griffith family (Lewis Griffith and Avarella Maria Hynson of Kent County). In this agreement, the executors of Samuel Griffith’s gave the Griffith family 100 acres of land called “Rummy Royal”/Rumney Royal which sat in the county at the head of Rummy Creek between Williams Swamp and “long Bridge,” while being bound by other lands, such as Spring Garden. [6] This land is along Little Romney Creek, which sits within the county to this day, or “Romney Creek,” to be more broad. Furthermore, there is an area named “Romney Royal,” where a farm used to exist, so this use of words is clearly just another spelling of something that already exists. [7] He would die very shortly, so this property was likely distributed after his death to related family members and claimants to his estate.

The date of his death is of some dispute. Some sources claim he was buried on January 26, 1802, while his gravestone seems to say he died on Jan. 24, 1801. In this case, the gravestone should be believed over the other claims. Numerous issues of the Maryland Gazette in late January and early February 1801 and in 1802 turned up no results on Alexander. All that we have is an inscription on his tombstone as noted by one site

In memory of Col. Alexander Lawson Smith, who departed this life on the 24th of Jan. 1801, in the 48th year of his age.

While this pegs his birth in 1753, it is strange that he had no obituary within the Maryland Gazette considering his role in the war, not even in the January 29th issue. No other information is known.

After his death

In 1801, the House of Delegates reported that Alexander had been part of a petition to reopen a case between his wife and other petitioners in the Maryland Court of Appeals. It was first considered (as noted at the top of the page) and then later read and order to “lie on the table” (bottom of page). Hence, one could say that this law did not pass. Martha, his wife, was a part of numerous cases after that point, but it not known if any of them involved him, since he cannot be found within this page.

Thirty five years later, in 1836, Martha, who had remarried to a man named Samuel Jay, would petition the Maryland General Assembly for redress, and would be paid the half-pay of a captain “during her widowhood,” a time period which was not defined in the legislation:

Many years later, Alexander’s heirs would petition the US House of Representatives for additional redress, asking for pension payments.

Other than this, some would mention Alexander in their petition to public officials such as Henry Clay, and within the pension of William Elkins.

In later years, the Griffith family would go on to live in Arkansas. To this day, they are buried in Perryman’s Spesutia churchyard, within Harford County. [8] As for Alexander’s ancestors, they would later be living in Illinois, reportedly.

More information would have been added to this article but online searchings only brought up the above information, as did some other searches on the topic. Regardless, this a good start to future historical research on the topic.

Notes

[1] R. R. Griffith, Genealogy of the Griffith family: the descendants of William and Sarah Maccubbin Griffith (Baltimore, William K. Boyle, 1892), 282, 286, 288-290,  292. In Anne Arundel County there is a Griffith Family Cemetery. The claim about contributions of soldiers comes from William Neal Hurley’s The Griffith Families. The Griffith Family is also mentioned on numerous pages within Thomas Joseph Peterman‘s Catholics in Colonial Delmarva along with mentions in the Harford Historical Bulletin Subject Index. The Maryland Genealogical Society also reports that in Vol. 18, no. 3 there is a “Griffith Family Register” by Nettie Leitsch Major.

[2] Deed sold to Alexander Lawson Smith by Michael Allen, 1795, Harford County Court, Land Records, Liber JLG L, p. 365-366 [MSA CE113-11]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net.

[3] Second Census of the United States, 1800, District 2, Harford, Maryland, National Archives, NARA M32, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, Roll 11, Page 46. Courtesy of Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.

[4] Mariana L.R. Dantas, Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century Americas (New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 2008), 176; Walter Wilkes Preston, History of Harford County, Maryland (Baltimore: Press of Sun Book Office, 1901), 89, 106, 271; Laws Made And Passed By The General Assembly of the State of Maryland in 1816 (Annapolis: Jonas Green, 1817), 94, 159; Harford County Court, Certificates of Freedom, 1806-1811 and 1818-1842, Archives of Maryland Online vol. 857, 46; Laying out vacant land for George Presbury of William, December 22, 1803, Harford County Circuit Court, Certificates, Unpatented, HA, Unpatented Certificate 111 [MSA S1222-111]. Courtesy of Plats.Net; Deed sold to George Presbury by Alexander L. Smith, Martha Smith, Frances Griffith, and Sarah Griffith, 1800, Harford County Court, Land Records, Liber JLG P, p. 104-105 [MSA CE113-15]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net. The land deed confirms that Martha’s father was Samuel Griffith, but was dead by this time, and that Martha’s last name was Griffith. As for the plat, it shows that Mr. Presbury owned a two-acre tract of land in Gunpowder Neck called Hugh’s Fortune, which just happened to border Tapley’s Neck, which he had owned after 1760. He may have also had royal ancestry while his family would have deep roots in Harford County for years to come as noted in William B. Marye’s “Place Names of Baltimore and Harford Counties” within Vol. 53, No. 3 of Maryland Historical Magazine, specifically focusing on pages 246-247, 249-252.

[5] If we are to take this conversion seriously, with 1.333 Maryland Pounds (pcm) equaling one pound sterling, then that would be about 795 pounds sterling. Using Measuring Worth, the relative real price is £58,910.00 in pounds, as of 2016. If you multiple this times the inflation rate of 2016-2017, 1.76, you get 103,681.6. In order to make a more even number, let’s round this to 103,682. Using XE Currency Converter, converting British pounds sterling into US dollars, it shows that this amount of British Pounds equals 134,489.42 or to round to a more even number, 134,489.

[6] Preston, History of Harford County, Maryland, 203; Richard D. Sears, Ancestors of Rev. John Gregg Fee, Matilda (Hamilton) Fee, and John Gregg Hanson (US: Lulu.com, 2007), 143. Indenture of executors of Samuel Griffith’s will to members of the Griffith family, Harford County Court, Land Records, Liber JLG P, p. 457-460 [MSA CE113-15]. Courtesy of mdlandrec.net. More information about the Smith family can likely be found from resources available from FamilySearch. While only a snippet of Sears’s book can be found on Google Books, one phrase from that section shows that Mr. Smith, Ms. Griffith, and Ms. Garretson are connected: “…Alexander Lawson Smith, his wife Martha Griffith, and his sister-in-law Frances Garretson

[7] William Bose Marye, “The Place Names of Baltimore and Harford Counties,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 25, No. 4, Dec. 1930, p. 338, 358. Also, in the Archives Vertical Files Documents of the Harford County Historical Society, there is a cross-reference to Romney Royal within the “Aberdeen Proving Ground – Michaelsville & various tracts” folder as noted in page 221 of this PDF.

[8] Helen West Ridgely, Historic Graves of Maryland and the District of Columbia (New York: The Grafton Press, 1908), 95-97, 180-181. This book lists a number of Griffiths: Martha, Alexander L., Cordelia, John H., Hannah Emily, Emily, and Samuel. Even Col. Alexander Lawson Smith is buried there, described as dying on Jan 24, 1801 at 48 years old! two others are buried in Montgomery County: Capt. Samuel Griffith (May 7, 1752-May 12, 1833), H. Griffith (d. 1794, aged 73 years), E. Griffith (d. Oct. 1797, aged 33 years), Ruth Griffith (died 49 years old), and many others not listed here.

Persecuted in Revolutionary Baltimore: The Sufferings of Quakers

Reposted from Academia.edu. I originally wrote this when I was working for the Maryland State Archives on the Finding the Maryland 400 project.

“Quaker Lady detaining the English General.” This engraving refers to Mary Lindley Murray who, as legend has it, delayed Sir Henry Clinton and his officers by treating them to food and drink, tempting them with her charms, while the Americans under the command of Israel Putnam escaped after the disastrous Battle of Kip’s Bay in September 1776. This cartoon counters the feelings of some revolutionaries by making Quakers seem favorable to the revolutionary cause.

In March 1777, revolutionary leader John Adams wrote an angry letter to his wife, Abigail. He declared that Baltimore was a “dull place” where many of the town’s remaining inhabitants were Quakers, who he described as “dull as Beetles” and a “kind of neutral Tribe, or the Race of the insipids.” [1] This article continues the series about Baltimore Town by focusing on the Baltimorean Quakers, also called the Society of Friends. These Quakers were living in a town where religious beliefs interlinked with political events. You can read our other posts about Baltimore during the Revolutionary War period here.

Adams clearly misrepresented the role of Quakers in Baltimore Town. [2] The Quakers were controversial in the public arena because of their dedication to pacifism resulting in refusal to pay war taxes, assert loyalty to the colonies, or lend supplies to the Continental Army.

Even though some Maryland Quakers raised money to feed the people of Boston in 1775, revolutionaries still saw them as supporting the Crown, rather than taking a neutral position. [3] Revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine, the son of a Quaker, even declared that “were the Quakers…influenced by the quiet principles they profess to hold, they would…be the first of all men to approve of independence” because it gives the opportunity of “carrying their favourite principle of peace into general practice, by establishing governments that shall hereafter exist without wars.” [4] Others thought that the Quakers engaged in espionage for the British, were treasonous to the revolutionary cause or partook in illegalities. [5]

The negative perception of Quakers by revolutionaries led to fines, looting of their property, imprisonment, and numerous other forms of discrimination. [6] However, they didn’t stay silent. One letter to the Maryland Journal, in 1777, by a presumed Quaker named ‘Pacifius’ defended neutrals, like Quakers, saying “let us remember our duty, as Christians, to love our enemies” and that the Maryland legislature should repeal “acts, which create disqualifications, or impose a tax on…neutrals.” [7]

The Maryland Committee of Sufferings recorded acts of Quaker persecution in the turbulent revolutionary environment. This committee, similar to Meetings for Sufferings created in the Northern colonies in the early 1770s, petitioned the state government of Maryland about discrimination against them, pushed for exemptions to military service, and generally advocated on behalf of Quakers. [8]

In October 1778, the Committee of Sufferings in Kent County, the first of its kind in Maryland, told fellow brethren that Quakers experienced long terms of imprisonment and banishment. [9] They endured the consequences of not wanting to comply with “human injunctions and institutions.” [10] Their reasoning was laid out in detail in an appeal to the Maryland General Assembly in October 1778 by this committee. In the letter they declared that they were resolute in their principles and opposed their Revolutionary War:

“…we behold…the devastation occasioned by the present war…we believe it to be our indispensable duty to abstain from all wars & combat which have the tendency to destroy the lives of men….we cannot, consistent with our religious principles, join with either of the contending parties….constrained from entering into solemn engagements of allegiance with either….in consequence thereof, we have been brought under great sufferings…[the state] government will not derive any advantage from…continuing our sufferings…we charitably hope the Legislature of Maryland would…avoid…the imputation of persecution…we…desire to live peace with all men, and should of any of our members now deviate from our…principles by joining in war, entering into plots…against the government…the guilt of such will most assuredly be on themselves” [11]

The war caused divisions in the Quakers community. Some Quakers wanted to give their oaths of allegiance or otherwise join the revolutionary cause. [12] This concerned those on the committee because this action went against established principles since it constituted participating directly in the war’s bloodshed. Other “concerned Quakers” made munitions for the Continental Army, worked for the Army, or gave starving soldiers food and supplies. [13] Later in the war, in Philadelphia, some joined the “Free Quakers,” and took up weapons against the British.

Still, the majority of Quakers adhered to their pacifist principles and disowned such dissident forces, charging them with disobedience. If someone was disowned they would be forcibly renounced or no longer accepted in the Quaker community, which could result in exile.

The story of a Cecil County man, named Jeremiah Brown, shows discrimination that Quakers faced and how the Quaker community stuck together. On March 24, 1778 he admitted his wrong at the Brick Meeting House in Calvert, Cecil County:

“…when my wagon and team came back, which were forcibly taken to carry military stores, [I] did receive wages for the same and was paid for one of the horses which were lost in the journey, which compliance has not been easy to mind, being convinced that the testimony of truth is against such, I do not hereby acknowledge my weakness therein, hoping and desiring for the future to give closer attention to the inward principles which preserve the error.” [14]

This was against Quaker rules because it constituted complicity in the war. While the meeting was unhappy that a member of Brown’s family went to check to see on the care of their impounded horses, Brown could have felt “weak” since he been a loyal Quaker for many years. [15] Interestingly, there is no record that Brown was exiled from the Quakers since he was an active member for years to come. [16]

Actions similar to Brown’s admission either didn’t happen or were downplayed in the Baltimore meeting. This was proven to be the case when in 1781, the Baltimore Yearly Meeting declared to fellow members that “most Friends appear to be careful in maintaining our testimony against war by refusing payment of taxes.” [17]

The Baltimore meeting of Quakers was politicized by slavery. Throughout 1776, they discussed slavery in their quarterly meetings. [18]. By 1777, Maryland Quakers, under the jurisdiction of the Baltimore meeting, were threatened to be disowned if they manumit their enslaved blacks. [19] From February 1776 to November 1777, a report was prepared by Henry Wilson, Benjamin Howard, and other brethren, on those Quakers who kept slaves. The meeting recorded the manumissions of sixty-two enslaved blacks owned by fellow members and continued to assist their fellow brethren in other matters. [20] However, manumissions were not an end to slavery. The use of manumissions in Baltimore Town, for example, sustained and expanded slavery for years to come. [21] Compounding this reality was the vital role the town played in the regional slave trade, which it had largely siphoned off from Philadelphia. [22]

In November 1777, the report, strongly condemning the practice of slavery, was released to the Baltimore quarterly meeting. The committee reported that

“…they have carefully visited nearly all the families of friends that are involv’d in the oppressive practice of Slave-keeping & have with sorrow to observe the backwardness that prevails with too many Elders in society, to do Justice to that oppressed people…Testimony should be maintain’d against this oppressive practice.” [23]

While Quakers were seen by revolutionaries as siding with the British Crown, they took sides when it came to the moral issue of slavery.

In the turbulent revolutionary environment, Quakers in Baltimore Town survived through a war which would change the new United States as the British imperial system was removed and the colonial elite structures remained.

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


Notes

[1] Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 March 1777 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.

[2] It is possible that Adams was factious in this letter.

[3] Indian Spring Monthly Meeting: Minutes (Sandy Spring), 1772-1817, 27 October 1775 [MSA SC 2978 SCM 638-1]. The Indian Spring meeting specifically, as some have noted, “even indirectly contributed to the war effort by raising money in 1775 for the inhabitants of faraway Boston after the start of the Revolution.”

[4] Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis Number III,” Maryland Journal, May 6, 1777, Baltimore, Vol. IV, issue 182, page 2.

[5] Maryland Journal, May 13, 1777, Baltimore, Vol. IV, issue 184, page 1; Maryland Journal, September 16, 1777, Baltimore, Vol. IV, issue 202, page 1-2.

[6] J. Saurin Norris, The early Friends (or Quakers) in Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1862), 25; Camila Townsend, Tales of Two Cities: Race and Economic Culture in Early Republican North and South America: Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Baltimore, Maryland (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 105. In Maryland, the General Assembly, even in 1747, passed a law to condemn public drunkenness outside Quakers houses of worship among other laws in 1718, 17481752, 1757, and 1765. Even so, they continued to meet in a Baltimorean private dwelling, a meeting place since about 1700. Starting in the 1770s, Quaker millers, who lived in Philadelphia, were displaced by the Revolution and settled near Baltimore. It is worth noting that a general meeting of the Quakers for the state of Maryland was not held in Baltimore until 1787.

[7] Pacificus, “To the Public,” Maryland Journal, June 16, 1778, Baltimore, Vol. V, issue 242, page 1. This is not the same as Alexander Hamilton, a man who took the pseudonym ‘Pacificus’ and debated with framers of the Constitution.

[8] Arthur Mekeel, “The American Revolution: New York Divided,” Quaker Crosscurrents: Three Hundred Years of Friends in the New York Yearly Meetings (ed. Hugh Barbour, Christopher Densmore, Elizabeth H. Moger, Nancy C. Sorel, Alson D. Van Wagner, and Arthur J. Worrall, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 51-61; David Cooper, “For the Testimony of Truth,” American Quaker War Tax Resistance (ed. David M. Gross, second edition, ebook: CreateSpace, 2011), 216-217; “Conclusion of the Piece Begun in the Maryland Journal Extraordinary of the 6th of November,” Maryland Journal, December 3, 1782, Vol. IX, issue 483, page 1. Based on the types of persecution that Quakers endured in later years it is possible to infer the conditions that they lived through in that fateful year of independence. Even with their outspoken beliefs, the Quakers were still worshipping in a meeting house in Baltimore by the end of the war, along with the town’s other religious denominations.

[9] Baltimore Yearly Meetings, Meeting for sufferings 1778-1841, October 1778, p. 2-3 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 556-2].

[10] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1776, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 132 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1].

[11] Baltimore Yearly Meetings, October 1778, Meeting for sufferings 1778-1841, p. 4-5 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 556-2].

[12] Baltimore Yearly Meetings, October 1778, Meeting for sufferings 1778-1841,  p. 4-5 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 556-2].

[13] Peter Brock, Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 223, 228; Maryland Journal, November 4, 1777, Vol. v, issue 209, page 4; Maryland Journal, April 21, 1778, Vol. V, issue 233, page 1.

[14] Brock, 39, 223; Bi-centennial of Brick Meeting-House, Calvert, Cecil County, Maryland (Lancaster: Wickersham Printing Company, 1902), 55. This text also notes that Brown was born in Little Britain, Pennsylvania, which had its own meeting of Quakers was associated with the East Nottingham meeting in Maryland, which was in Cecil County’s East Nottingham Hundred.

[15] Brock, 223; Grace L. Tracey and John Philip Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy: The Early Settlement of Frederick County, Maryland 1721-1743 (Baltimore: Genealogical Printing, 1989), 82; Bi-centennial of Brick Meeting-House, 46, 53, 56. It is possible that some of these Jeremiah Browns could have been his father.

[16] Bi-centennial of Brick Meeting-House, 66, 70.

[17] Brock, 212; “The Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; before the House of Commons,” Maryland Journal, November 23, 1779, Baltimore, Vol. VI, issue 322, page 1; “A Further Extract from the Examination of Joseph Galloway, Esq; by a Committee of the British House of Commons,” Maryland Journal, December 7, 1779, Baltimore, Vol. VI, issue 324, page 1. It is likely that Quakers lived under similar conditions in 1776, especially after the Declaration of Independence. During the British occupation of Philadelphia after 1778, the British reported that one-fourth of the population were Quakers and that they refused to carry arms.

[18] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1776-1777, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 131, 133-134 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1]. They also discussed slavery in their yearly meetings, of course.

[19] Herbert Aptheker, “The Quakers and Negro Slavery.” The Journal of Negro History 25, no. 3 (1940): 352; Jennifer H. Doresey, Hirelings: African American Workers and Free Labor in Early Maryland (London: Cornell University Press, 2011), 40; David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 25; David W Jordan, “”Gods Candle” within Government: Quakers and Politics in Early Maryland.” The William and Mary Quarterly 39, no. 4 (1982): 653. In earlier years, Quakers in Baltimore had “participated integrally in the local and provisional life of the colony,” even engaging in acts of civil disobedience.

[20] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1777, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 135-137 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1]; Baltimore Yearly Meetings, Miscellaneous Contents, 1677–1901, Advice (General), p. 6-7 [MSA SC 2400, SCM 551-1].

[21] Stephen Whitman, “Diverse Good Causes: Manumission and the Transformation of Urban Slavery.” Social Science History 19, no. 3 (1995): 334.

[22] Jean R. Soderlund, Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), 57.

[23] Baltimore Quarterly Meeting: Minutes, 1710-1822, 1777, Quarterly Meeting for the Western Shore Collection, Special Collections, p. 137 [MSA SC 3123, SCM 571-1]. In that meeting, the investigation of fellow brethren who held enslaved blacks was continued, with a report scheduled for the next quarterly meeting.

A “little groggy”: the deputy sheriff of Baltimore and his “bowl of toddy”

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

Photograph of two hot toddy drinks
On December 21, 1776, Sergeant John Hardman of the Edward Veazey‘s Seventh Independent Company arrived at a public prison in Baltimore Town with captured British soldiers. [1] He was there escorting the British prisoners from Philadelphia. That night, Hardman ordered a “bowl of toddy” for the prisoners. Toddy, a popular drink originally adopted by the British, consisted of rum, hot water, and sugar.
Two other men, Daniel Curtis, the Baltimore County Sheriff, and John Ross, his deputy, asked for a “bowl of liquor.” [2] Ross, also a keeper of the town’s poor house, engaged in a friendly conversation with the prisoners, amongst whom Hardman was sitting. [3]
What happened next made people uneasy. Ross lifted the bowl of toddy, meant for the prisoners. He offered a toast, drinking to “damnation to General Washington & his army” and success “to Lord Howe & his army,” as well as to Lord Dunmore. [4] It was not unusual that he made a toast. [5] However, guards, likely Continental soldiers, saw his loyalty as antagonistic to the revolutionary cause. Since the Stamp Act in 1765, British royalty were praised less than the American colonists in toasts. This was magnified after independence.
Ross’s toast was particularly inflammatory in Baltimore. In 1775, Dunmore, then Governor of Virginia, declared that enslaved blacks and indentured servants who joined British ranks would become free. While few servants and enslaved blacks responded to his proclamation, the order echoed through the Chesapeake Bay as Dunmore formed the “Ethiopian Regiment.” [6] When Ross toasted to Dunmore, the prison guards were sure he was a sympathizer of the British Crown.
By the second toast, Ross, appearing a “little groggy,” asked the prisoners to drink “the same toast.” [7] The prisoners refused and Ross became belligerent. He drank the toddy, declaring that “they should not drink his toddy,” and that the prisoners should get a bowl for themselves. Then, appearing to “be a little in liquor,” he changed his allegiance. Ross “drank damnation to General or Lord Howe.” [8] Afterward, Hardman “challenged the said Ross,” saying he “would mark him” down for his disturbing conduct. Later, Hardman asked several people about Ross’s identity. [9]
James Calhoun, Chairman of the Committee of Observation for Baltimore Town, a provisional government in Baltimore, compiled depositions about the event in January 1777. [10] Ross was told to attend the next meeting of Maryland Council of Safety. On January 27, Ross appeared before the Council to directly address Hardman’s complaint, but Hardman was not present. [11] This was likely because he had enlisted in the Second Maryland Regiment and was not in the state at the time. The Council told Ross to appear before the Maryland General Assembly the following month on February 10. The resolution of this incident is not known. [12]
Drunken outbursts were common during colonial times. In 1770, every American over age 15, drank an average of about six shot glasses of whiskey, which is about 40 percent alcohol, every day! [13] With drinking alcohol as an important past time, it was viewed as pleasant and useful by fellow colonists. While public drunkenness was illegal, drinking played a central role in social activities, with taverns and public houses serving as places to drink and forums for revolutionary ideas. [14]
The Revolutionary War also changed Americans’ drinking habits. Americans settled on whiskey as a substitute for molasses and rum which were limited by the British naval blockade. [15] During the war, troops of the British and Continental armies were issued rations for alcohol but both armies prohibited drunkenness. [16] After the war, alcohol consumption declined slightly, but increased after 1790. [17] The spike in alcohol consumption ended with the success of the temperance movement in the nineteenth century, with more Americans criticizing alcohol use. [18]

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

Notes

[1] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 4748; Deposition about the statements of John Ross, Sub-Sheriff in Baltimore, December 23, 1776, Maryland State Papers, Red Books, Red Book 13, MdHR 4575-179 [MSA S989-19, 1/6/4/7]; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1766-1768, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 61, 14, 8687, 185299, 308310, 361368, 387, 389390393442, 520; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1769-1770, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 62, 126; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1780-1781, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 45, 7172; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1771 to June-July, 1773, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 63, 37282; Correspondence of Governor Sharpe, 1757-1761, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 9, 421; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, October 1773 to April 1774, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 64, 199, 337; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 374. The British soldiers, recruited in North Carolina, may have been captured at the Battle of White Plains. Hardman was under the command of Levin Winder, who had recently been appointed as a captain.

[2] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 47. When Hardman describes Ross as a “sub-sheriff” this means that Ross is an assistant or deputy sheriff.

[3] Deposition about the statements of John Ross, Sub-Sheriff in Baltimore; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1769-1770, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 62, 387, 403; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 47; Paul Starr, The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The rise of a sovereign profession and making of a vast industry (USA: Basic Books, 1982),105; Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 1, 194-196, 199-200, 203, 205-208, 210-212, 337; Camilla Townsend, Tales of Two Cities: Race and Economic Culture in Early Republican North and South America: Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Baltimore, Maryland (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 37, 39, 122, 283-284; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1766-1768, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 61, 96; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, October 1773 to April 1774, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 64, 23; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1780-1781, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 45, 178, 267, 581; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1789-1793, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 72, 347; Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1781-1784, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 48, 150; Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, October 1773 to April 1774, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 64, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268269. Interestingly, no hard liquors were allowed in the poor house. The poor house, also called an almshouse, on the outskirts of Baltimore Town, was created to serve as “relief” for the poor. It aimed to “reform” the poor to not be disorderly and engage in “meaningful” work.

[4] Deposition about the statements of John Ross, Sub-Sheriff in Baltimore; Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 46. The prison guards may have also been suspicious of him considering that he never praised the Continental Army and George Washington in any of his toasts.

[5] Peter Thompson, “”The Friendly Glass”: Drink and Gentility in Colonial Philadelphia.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 113, no. 4 (1989): 553, 557-558, 560; Richard J. Hooker, “The American Revolution Seen through a Wine Glass.” The William and Mary Quarterly 11, no. 1 (1954): 52-77; Thaddeus Russell, A Renegade History of the United States (New York: Free Press, 2010), 5. Not all of those who are toasted were praised. Hardman suspected Ross as “a Tory.”

[6] Gary B. Nash, Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early North America (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000, fourth edition), 274-275; Ray Raphael, A People’s History of the American Revolution (New York: Perennial, 2002, second edition), 309-311, 316, 320-327, 331-332, 335, 342, 355, 358, 385, 397; Ronald Hoffman, A Spirit of Dissension: Economics, Politics and the Revolution in Maryland (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), 184-185. This regiment fought in the Battle of Great Bridge (1775) near Chesapeake, Virginia before many of those in the regiment succumbed to smallpox. In later years, every time British ships would come down the Chesapeake Bay, runaway slaves would flock to the incoming ships. Enslaved blacks renounced their owners and flocked to British lines, with some fugitives attacking plantations of their former masters on the Eastern Shore. Not surprisingly, desperate slaveowners in Maryland appealed to the state government, originally the Maryland Council of Safety, asking them for assistance.

[7] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 4647.

[8] Deposition about the statements of John Ross, Sub-Sheriff in Baltimore.

[9] Deposition about the statements of John Ross, Sub-Sheriff in Baltimore. This is interesting considering that earlier prisoners had told Ross who Hardman was.

[10] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 4647. These people made depositions: Elizabeth Dewit, wife of prison guard Thomas Dewit, prison guard Constantine O’Donnell, John Hardman, sergeant of Edward Veazey‘s company, Ross’s associate Daniel Curtis, and civil servant William Spencer.

[11] Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 16, 59, 60, 83.

[12] Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, April 1, 1778 through October 26, 1779, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 21, 568. Ross appears again in October 1779 asking for, along with a number of others, a recount in an “unfair” county election of sheriffs, but the Council of Maryland refused to do that, saying that the election was “valid & effectual.”

[13] Jessica Kross, “”If You Will Not Drink with Me, You Must Fight with Me”: The Sociology of Drinking in the Middle Colonies.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 64, no. 1 (1997): 28; W.J. Rorabaugh, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 10; Russell, 6-7; Alcohol and Drugs in North America: A Historical Encyclopedia, Vol 1: A-L (ed. David M. Fahey and Jon S. Miller, Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2013), 84; W. J. Rorabaugh, “Alcohol in America.” OAH Magazine of History 6, no. 2 (1991):17. Americans drank whiskey that “80 proof,” referring to the weight of an average spirit and indicating the drink is 40 percent alcohol. Historian Jessica Kross said that this number “might well understate beer consumption and assumes women drank more than men” which was echoed by other scholars. Americans, of all ages, guzzled three and half gallons of alcohol per year, on average. They drank rum and cider at every meal.

[14] Kross, 43; Peter Thompson, “”The Friendly Glass”: Drink and Gentility in Colonial Philadelphia.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 113, no. 4 (1989): 549; Russell, 20, 26; Christine Sismondo, America Walks Into A Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), xv, 54, 78-79; Peter Thompson, Rum Punch and Revolution: Taverngoing and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 13, 20, 75, 143, 145. Taverns were also places for revolutionary recruiting and organizing. Politicians even fished for votes among inebriated citizens.

[15] Rorabaugh, 17; Mark Edward Lender and James Kirby Martin, Drinking In America: A History (New York: The Free Press, 1987), 31. At the same time, rum consumption declined since rum became associated with Great Britain.

[16] Mark Edward Lender and James Kirby Martin, Drinking In America: A History (New York: The Free Press, 1987), 32; Eric Burns, The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004), 16; Sarah H. Meachan, Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake (Baltimore: JHU Press, 2009), 5, 95. George Washington specifically hated alcohol abuse even though he ordered alcohol for his men, as a morale booster.

[17] Rorabaugh, 10; Korss, 48; Thompson, 549; Russell, 28, 30, 33; Sharon V. Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 246, 252, 282; Rorabaugh, 21, 25, 36, 67, 136, 149-150, 167, 219; Mark Edward Lender and James Kirby Martin, Drinking In America: A History (New York: The Free Press, 1987), 38, 46; The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History (ed., Michael Kazin, Rebecca Edwards, and Adam Rothman, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2011), 405. Americans continued to drink in huge quantities, despite the failed efforts of temperance advocates, like Benjamin Rush, to limit consumption in taverns, inns, and drinking houses.

[18] Peter McCandless, Slavery, Disease, and Suffering in the Southern Lowcountry (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 196, 272; Drugs in America: A Documentary History (ed. David F. Musto, New York: New York University Press, 2002), 3; Scott C. Martin, “Introduction: Toward a Cultural Theory of the Market Revolution,” Cultural Change and the Market Revolution in America, 1789-1860 (ed. Scott C. Martin, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), 3;  Mitchel P. Roth, Crime and Punishment: A History of the Criminal Justice System (Second Edition, United States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010), 112; Marvin Kitman, The Making of the President 1789: The Unauthorized Campaign Biography (New York: Grove Press, 1989), 40.