The post-war lives of Maryland’s revolutionary soldiers

First Maryland Regiment Retaking British Field Artillery at Guilford Court House, North Carolina. Courtesy of Art.com.

An Irish-born man named Robert Ratliff, a Baltimorean named William Marr, a Marylander likely born in Cecil County named George Lashley, a Charles County man named John Plant, another man from the same county named John Neal, another Marylander likely born in Cecil County named John Lowry, and one Marylander likely born in the same county named William Dawson all have one thing in common: they had fought in the Maryland Line. While Ratliff was a five foot, eight inch tall man who was part of the Seventh Independent Company, which recruited from the Eastern Shore, just like Dawson, Marr and Lashley were part of the Col. Nathaniel Ramsey’s Fifth Company, mustered at Whetstone Point (present-day Fort McHenry), part of the First Maryland Regiment. [1] As for the other Marylanders, Plant and Neal were part of Captain John Hoskins Stone‘s First Company of the First Maryland Regiment, enlisted in Port Tobacco, Maryland, while Lowry was part of  Captain Peter Adams‘s Sixth Company of the First Maryland Regiment. [2] Even with arguably shared military experience, their lives after the revolutionary war were different and tell us about the lives of Maryland soldiers in later years.

After the war, Dawson returned to Cecil County. On December 29, 1780, he married a woman named Elizabeth Graves, with the matrimony affirmed by minister William Thomson of an Episcopal Church in Elkton, Maryland. [3]The same year, on February 27, Neal stayed in  Somerset County, where he had been discharged, marrying a local woman named Margaret Miller in Boundbrook, New Jersey. [4] They had two children named Benjamin (b. 1781) and Theodocia (b. 1802).

As for Lowry, in 1783, he was living as a single man in Harford County’s Spesutia Upper Hundred. [5] The same year, Dawson was in a similar predicament. He was described as a pauper, living on the land, which was likely rented, with nine other inhabitants. [6] While Dawson was granted 50 acres of bounty land in Western Maryland after the war, it sat vacant. He may have felt with fellow veteran Mark McPherson who said the land, located in a remote mountainous area of Western Maryland, was “absolutely good for nothing . . . unfit for Cultivation.” [7] Plant was also settling down after the war. Living in Charles County, he became a well-off small farmer and slaveowner who owned two horses, one cattle, and one enslaved black child. [8] The same was also the case with Ratliff, who settled down in Cecil County. In 1783, he lived with his relative, James, who owned four horses and 150 acres of land. [9]

Three years after Marr ended his war service, he settled down and his life changed. On June 14, 1784, Airey Owings married Marr in Baltimore County at St. Paul’s Parish, with the ceremony conducted by Reverend William West. [10] Marr and Airey lived in Baltimore County, raised “a family of children,” including a son named William, and he worked as a reputable farmer. [11] It is possible that Marr’s farm was among the 45.6% of Maryland dwellings that we not taxed, explaining its absence from the 1783 tax assessments. [12] At this time, Baltimore County had a varied economy with ” furnaces, forges, cotton mills, and wollen factories,” even by the early 19th century, while Baltimore was gaining importance as a commercial center. [13] One “William Marr” is listed in the 1810 US Census as the head of household along with his wife and three children: one male child under 10, one male under 16, and one female under age 10. [14]

Coming back to Neal, while he was living in New Jersey, he served in the militia in Somerset County, which fought off British incursions in New Jersey until the end of the war, serving at least one four-month term. [15] In the county, called the “crossroads of the revolution” by some, the destruction of the war had dissipated by the 1780s, with industry and commerce thriving in the final years of the war even as militiamen decried depreciation of Continental currency. [16]

On October 13, 1787, Ratliff married Mary Kirk. [17] A few years later, on December 23, 1800, he married another woman named Anne Husler. [18] The reason he remarried is that his wife died. At some point, Anne died and he married a third time to woman named Elizabeth, who survived him. [19] He had two children named James and Elizabeth, but the mother’s name is not known.

As for Plant, on June 15, 1788, he married an eighteen-year-old woman named Mary Ann Davis. [20] He later reminisced about his revolutionary service with his cousin, William Stewart, who said that Plant had “strict integrity” and good character. [21] Sadly, more recounts on his memories on his war service other than a few pages of his pension cannot be found.

At some point before 1788, while living in Harford County, Lowry married a woman named Hannah Finney. [22] In the spring of 1788, Finney’s mother, Manassah, died, and willed ten acres of her farm to Finney and Lowry to use until 1789. [23] This bequest reaffirmed a lease Lowry and Manassah made in 1783 that the farm was near Welles Swamp, and was given under certain conditions. [24] Likely the farm was on one of the two tracts owned by Manassah in Harford County’s Deer Creek Middle Hundred, named Giles and Webster’s Discovery, a tract of land that spanned 70 acres in total. [25] While Lowry was called to testify against his brother-in-law, James Barnett, who was the executor of her estate, in 1791, he later received money, along with his wife, when assets of the estate were distributed in 1809. [26]

By 1790, John Lowry was living with his wife, and possibly two children, in Cecil County’s Elk Neck. [27] They were possibly living on a 100-acre land tract, which he had leased to a wealthy Cecil County man named Samuel Redgrave in February 1781. [28] The tract was called Tedart and sat on the west side of the Elk River. The tract had been owned by his father, James, before his death.

In the late 1790s, Ratliff and his wife were living in Kent County, Maryland. [29] In 1802, still living in Kent County, he bought land in New Castle County, Delaware, preparing for the next stage of his life. [30]

Years later, in 1805, he was living in Harford County and received compensation for his revolutionary war service. [31] However, in the early nineteenth century, Lowry bought land in Fells Point, Baltimore, called Leasehold, some of which he leased, and lived in Baltimore County until his death. [32] At that time, he was staying with his second wife, Elizabeth Maidwell, who he had married on October 22, 1801. [33] In the fall of 1804, she leased him land in the town of Baltimore, for the next 99 years, which had part of the estate of her former husband, Alexander Maidwell. [34] The fate of Lowry’s first wife, Hannah, is not known.

In later years, Plant and his wife moved to what became Washington, D.C. At the time, it was a largely rural and sparsely populated area which had thriving ports at Georgetown and Alexanders, in addition to the federal town of Washington City, which had about 8,200 inhabitants. [35] Slavemasters and over 7,900 enslaved blacks living in the area were an important part of D.C.’s society. [36] Plant died there on November 14, 1808. [37]

As for Dawson, in later years, he lived in the Bohemia Manor area of Cecil County, Maryland, staying there until 1810, with his wife Elizabeth and one child whose name is not currently known. [38] In 1808, he petitioned the Maryland House of Delegates saying he had served in the Revolutionary War and prayed “to be placed on the pension list.” [39] The House of Delegates endorsed his plea and in 1810, Dawson, a “meritorious soldier in the revolutionary war,” in an “indigent situation” because of his old age, was paid the half pay of a private. [40] He was paid a state pension for years to come. Sometime in the fall of 1815, before September 6, John Lowry died in Baltimore County without a will, and his estate was administered by Cornelius Willis. [41]

In 1810, Ratliff was living in St. George’s Hundred, in the same county of Delaware, with his wife, children, and two enslaved blacks. [42] A few years later, in 1813, he was a farmer in Delaware’s Appoquinimink Hundred, on a plot of land with his wife. [43] He was well-off, owning a walnut dining table, small looking glass, 3 cows, 7 sheep, and a few horses. [44] Being very “weak in body,” Ratliff wrote his will on April 5, 1813, making his “beloved wife” Elizabeth his executor, manumitted an black enslaved woman, named Jane, and distributed his land to his children. [45] He died sometime between the writing of his will and collection of testimony on November 3, 1814.

Dawson moved from state to state. In 1810, he was living in Glasgow, New Castle County, Delaware, with his wife and a young child. [46] Eight years later, he was living in New Castle’s Pencader Hundred, in Delaware, just over the Maryland line. [47] Two years later, he moved back to Cecil County and settled in Elkton, Maryland. [48]

Neal, like Dawson, also had moved out of the state. By 1810, he and his family had moved to Ovid, New York, in the northern part of the state near the Finger Lakes, where they lived. Once there, he filed for his Federal veterans pension in 1818. [49] Two years later, he lived in the adjoining town of Covert, New York on a half-acre of land, with a wooden clock, a chest, and some cookery, a shabby wagon, small pigs, one cow, and eight sheep. [50] In his pension application, he claimed to be in “reduced circumstances” and that he had lost his discharge papers or any other paper records proving his service in the First Maryland Line, an appeal that was successful.

After the war, Lashley continued to live in the state of Maryland. On April 25, 1816, Lashley married Jane Bashford, a 41-year-old woman, in Cecil County. [51]

In 1819, one year after Marr began collecting his pension and one day before July 4, he died in Baltimore at the age of 66. [52] He died without making a will and left Airey a widow, who never remarried, allowing her to receive pension money at his death. [53] She lived to April 1843, aged 79, working to collect some of the pension in the 1830s and 1840s given due to her late husband’s military service. [54] At his death, while he may not have been well honored by people within the military and different levels of government, his story is still one worth telling.

In September 1820, when Lashley began receiving his federal pension, despite losing his discharge papers, he was living in the same county with his wife and had no children or heirs. [55] Since his memory was failing him, he originally said he was part of the Second Maryland Regiment, but later corrected himself and two long-time residents recalled seeing him march “away with the said [Ramsey’s] Company.” [56]

In Dawson’s 1820 application for his Federal veterans pension, he said that his wife was sixty years old and “infirm,” just like himself. [57] Additionally, he noted that a young grandchild living with him whom also had to support. He also owned three dollars worth of farm animals (a cow and a calf) and was living in “reduced circumstances” with twenty dollars of debt. His “infirmities of old age,” which had “disabled him in “his left arm and leg,” led him to be classified as an “invalid.” [58] Despite the fact that his discharge papers had been lost, his pension was granted in the fall of 1820. [59]

Dawson’s life after this point is unclear. While final payment vouchers say that payments to him ended in 1820, he did not die that year. [60] Instead, he died on July 11, 1824, and his state pension payments were sent to his administrator, Jane Dawson, possibly his second wife. [61] The following year, another soldier passed away. On July 22, Neal died in New York State. [62]

In November 1823, members of Ratliff’s family agreed that Ratliff’s son, James, should own his father’s estate in Delaware. [63] A few years later, James negotiated to buy his father’s land in Delaware. [64] By the 1850s, the Ratliff family was still living in Appoquinimink Hundred. [65]

As for Lashley, in 1827, he received payment from the State of Maryland equal to half pay of a private as a result of his service in the Revolutionary War. [66] He continued to receive payments quartetly until his death on March 4, 1831 at the age of 76. [67] Five years later, his declared legal representatives, Mary Sproul and Nancy Lashley, received the money that was due to him before his death in 1831. [68]

Mary Ann, the wife of Plant, fought to receive her husband’s pension payments. In February 1835, she asked for “remuneration” for her husband’s military service from the U.S. House of Representatives, and following year asked the same from the U.S. Senate. [69] By 1838, at sixty-eight-years-old, she petitioned the federal government for pension benefits. However, because Plant either had no official discharge papers or had lost them, Mary Ann had trouble receiving money. [70] Her fate is not known.

Notes

[1] Lashley enlisted in the company at a public house called Battle Swamp tavern, near present-day Woodlawn, Maryland.

[2] Pay Role of Prisoners taken on Long Island from 27th August to the 10th Dec. 1776, Maryland State Papers, Revolutionary Papers, MdHR 19970-19-02 [MSA S997-19-2 01/07/03/15]; Journal of the House of Representatives of the United StatesAt the Second Session of the Eighth Congress, in the Twenty-ninth Year of the Independence of the United States (Washington City: Samuel Harrison Smith, 1805), 242; Henry C. Peden, Abstracts of the Orphans Court Proceedings 1778-1800: Harford County Maryland (Westminster: Family Line Publications, 1990), 38-39. Lowry was grievously injured in the groin and was taken prisoner by the British after the Battle of Brooklyn, then released from British custody in December 1776.

[3] Marriage of William Dawson and Elizabeth Graves, 1780, Cecil County Court, Marriage Licenses, MdHR 9435, p. 23 [MSA C632-1, 1/11/6/38]; Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: John Pennington and Henry C. Baird, 1853), 338-389.

[4] Pension of John Neal; Ronald V. Jackson, Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp. New Jersey Census, 1643-1890. Courtesy of Ancestry.com. It is likely that he knew Miller before he married her in 1780, possibly from his militia service.

[5] Record of John Lowry, 1783, General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, p. 54 [MSA S1161-67, 1/4/5/49].

[6] William Dawson record, 1783, Cecil County Fourth District, General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, p. 6 [MSA S1161-39, 1/4/5/47].

[7] Westward of Fort CumberlandMilitary Lots Set Off for Maryland’s Revolutionary Soldiers (ed. Mary K. Meyer, Westminister: Heritage Books, 2008), 21, 103; William Dawson’s lot in Western Maryland, Land Office, Lots Westward of Fort Cumberland, MdHR 17302, p. 27 [SE1-1]; Pension of Mark McPherson and Widow’s Pension of Mary McPherson. The National Archives. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, W 2144. 1-73. From Fold3.com. His lot was number 273.

[8] John Plant assessment record, 1783, General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, CH, Seventh District, General, p. 9 [MSA S1161-52, 1/4/5/48]. The child was male and under age eight.

[9] Record of James Ratliff and Robert Ratliff, 1783, General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, p. 7 [MSA S1161-37, 1/4/5/46].

[10] National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1631, William Marr, Pension number W. 3838. courtesy of fold3.com; Marriage of William Marr and Arrey Owings; “Part IV: Marriages proved through Maryland pension applications,” Maryland Revolutionary Records, pp. 118; Bill and Martha Reamy, Records of St. Paul’s Parish Vol. 1, xi, 39, 150.

[11] National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1631, William Marr, Pension number W. 3838. courtesy of fold3.com.

[12] Shammas, “The Housing Stock of the Early United States: Refinement Meets Migration,” 557, 559, 563.

[13] McGrain, From Pig Iron to Cotton Duck: A History of Manufacturing Villages in Baltimore County; Vol. I, 2; Hall, Baltimore: Its History and Its People; Vol. 1, 39, 56; Hollander, The Financial History of Baltimore; Vol. 20, 17.

[14] Third Census of the United States, 1810. (NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls). Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[15] Pension of John Van Tuyl, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 2451, pension number W.22483. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Service Card of John Sebring, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, National Archives, NARA M881, Record Group 93, Roll 0641. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Folkerd Sebring, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 2147, pension number W. 24926. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Abraham Sebring, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 2147, pension number S. 22972. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of John Van Tuyl; Pension of John Haas, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1150, pension number S. 1,012. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Isaac Manning, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1624, pension number W. 7400. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of David King, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1428, pension number S. 13655. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Jacob Mesler, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1717, pension number R. 7143. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of John Swaim, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 2326, pension number W. 2486. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of Abraham Sebring; 2nd Battalion of Somerset rolls, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, National Archives, Record Group 93, NARA M846, Roll 0063, folder 60. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Pension of William Durham, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 0874, pension number R. 3160. Courtesy of Fold3.com; James P. Snell and Franklin Ellis, History of Hunterdon and Somerset counties, New Jersey, with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881), 83, 98. Census records show a “John Neale” living in Burlington County in 1790 and 1800, but it cannot be confirmed this is the same person as John Neal.

[16] William A. Schleicher and Susan J. Winter, Somerset County: Crossroads of the American Revolution (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 1999), 7-8, 17-18, 22, 24-25, 34; Multiple authors, Somerset County Historical Quarterly Vol. VII (Somerville, NJ: Somerset County Historical Society, 1919), 18-20, 31, 79, 104, 170-172; Abraham Messler, Centennial History of Somerset County (Somerville: C.M. Jameson Publishers, 1878), 69-71, 74, 77-78, 81, 101, 109-110, 112-113; Richard A. Harrison, Princetonians, 1769-1775: A Biographical Dictionary (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 28-29, 80-81. It may have been called the crossroads because competing Continental and British armies maneuvered in the county and Morristown was also located there.

[17] Marriage of Mary Kirk and Robert Ratliff, 1787, Cecil County Court, Marriage Licenses, MdHR 9435, p. 45 [MSA C632-1, 1/11/6/38].

[18] Marriage of Anne Husler and Robert Ratliff, 1800, Cecil County Court, Marriage Licenses, MdHR 9435, p. 127 [MSA C632-1, 1/11/6/38].

[19] Will of Robert Ratliff, 1813, New Castle County Court House, Wilmington, Delaware, Register of Wills, Book R 1813-1823, p. 40-41. Courtesy of Ancestry.com; Probate of Robert Ratliff, 1814-1815, New Castle, Register of Wills, Delaware State Archives, New Castle County Probates, Record Group 2545. Courtesy of Ancestry.com; Indenture between Robert Ratliff, Elizabeth, and Sarah Baird, June 13, 1799, Kent County Court, Land Records, Liber TW 1, p. 214-216 [MSA CE 118-31].

[20] Pension of John Plant.

[21] Ibid. Sadly, the specifics of what Plant told his cousin are not known.

[22] Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 18, 661; Will of Manassah Finney, 1788, Harford County Register of Wills, Wills, Liber AJ 2, p. 206-207 [MSA CM599-2, CR 44758-2]. Sometimes her last name is spelled Phinney or Finny.

[23] Will of Manassah Finney.

[24] Lease of John Lowry and Manassah Finney, 1788, Harford County Court, Land Records, Liber JLG H, p. 435 [MSA CE 113-8].

[25] Record of Manasseth Finney, 1783, General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, p. 90 [MSA S1161-67, 1/4/5/49]; Patent for Manassah Finney, 1774, Land Office, Patent Record, MdHR 17455, Liber BC & GS 44, p. 395-396 [MSA S11-145, 1/23/4/9]; Patent for Manassah Finney, 1772, Land Office, Patent Record, MdHR 17461, Liber BC & GS 50, p. 70 [MSA S11-151, 1/23/4/18]. This assessment record lists Finney as owning two tracts of land: Giles and Webster’s Discovery (75 acres) and Renshaws Last Purchase (50 acres). Other records show that Renshaws Last Purchase was considered part of Baltimore County at one point, so it is unlikely the farm was on this land.

[26] Peden Jr., 42; Distribution of Manassah Finney’s Estate by James Barnett, June 27, 1809, Harford Register of Wills, Distributions, Liber TSB 1, p. 88-89 [MSA CM557-1, CR 10960-1].

[27] Census for Elk Neck, Cecil, Maryland, First Census of the United States, 1790, National Archives, NARA M637, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll 3, page 323, image 553. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

[28] Lease of John Lowrey and Samuel Readgrave, February 3, 1781, Cecil County, Land Records, Liber 15, p. 88-89 [MSA CE 133-17]; Record of Samuel Redgrave, 1783, General Assembly House of Delegates, Assessment Record, Cecil County Fourth District, p. 1, 10 [MSA S 1161-4-2, 1/4/5/47].

[29] Indenture between Robert Ratliff, Elizabeth, and Sarah Baird.

[30] Record of Robert Ratliff, June 1802, Delaware, Land Records, 1677–1947, Delaware Public Archives, Recorder of Deeds, New Castle County, RG 2555, Subgroup 000, Series 011, p. 440, 442. Courtesy of Ancestry.com; Session Laws, 1824, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 629, 44. Ratliff owned land near John Zillefro/Zilerfrow. This man was the first husband of Rachel Ozier, who was living with her second husband, Maryland 400 veteran Andrew Meloan, and their children, in Montgomery County, Kentucky at the time.

[31] Journal of the House of Representatives of the United StatesAt the Second Session of the Eighth Congress, in the Twenty-ninth Year of the Independence of the United States (Washington City: Samuel Harrison Smith, 1805), 242.

[32] Purchase of land by John Lowry from Elizabeth Mains, October 10, 1803, Baltimore County Court, Land Records, Liber WG 78, p. 363-365 [MSA CE 66-128]; Deed and Gift of land to John Lowrey from Joseph Lambert, December 1803, Baltimore County Court, Land Records, Liber WG 78, p. 365-366 [MSA CE 66-128]; John Lowry lease to John Griffith, April 11, 1805, Baltimore County Court, Land Records, Liber WG 84, p. 412-413 [MSA CE 66-134]; List of Letters Remaining at the Post-Office, Baltimore, June 6, 1800, Federal Gazette, Baltimore, June 7, 1800, Vol. XII, issue 2040, p. 2. Two men named John Lowry are recorded as living in Baltimore in 1800.

[33] Marriage of John Lowry and Elizabeth Maidwell, October 22, 1801, Baltimore County Court, Marriage Licenses, MdHR 9122, p. 59 [MSA C376-2, 2/14/14/12].

[34] Elizabeth Maidwell lease to John Lowrey, November 1, 1804, Baltimore County Court, Land Records, Liber WG 84, p. 410-412 [MSA CE 66-134]; Marriage of Alexander Maidwell and Elizabeth Winnick, April 27, 1795, Baltimore County Court, Marriage Licenses, MdHR 9121, p. 143 [MSA C376-1, 2/14/14/11]. Elizabeth Maidwell, whose maiden name was Winnick, had only married Alexander Maidwell, her first husband, in April 1795.

[35] J. D. Dickey, Empire of Mud: The Secret History of Washington, DC (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), ix, xiv, xvii, 1, 3, 4, 7-9, 12, 14-15, 17, 19-22, 24-25, 28, 31; Tom Lewis, Washington: A History of Our National City (New York: Basic Books, 2015), xx, 1, 10, 14, 20, 24. The estimate of population comes from data assembled by Social Explorer for the 1810 census.

[36] According to data assembled by Social Explorer for the 1810 census, the rural Washington County, a jurisdiction within D.C., had only about 2,300 residents, a county Plant may have lived in. This data also shows 7,944 non-white persons, excluding Indians, living in D.C. in 1810.

[37] Pension of John Plant.

[38] Census for Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, 1790, First Census of the United States, 1790, NARA M637, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll 3, page 320. Courtesy of Ancestry.com; Census for Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, 1800, Second Census of the United States, 1800, NARA M32, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll 10, page 53. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

[39] Journal of the House of Delegates, 1808, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 556, 16, 31, 73.

[40] Session Laws, 1810, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 599, 100.

[41] Bond of Cornelius Willis, Edward Vernon and William H. Lenox, September 6, 1815, Baltimore County Register of Wills, Administration Bonds, MdHR 11644, Liber 11, p. 76 [MSA C264-11, 2/28/12/35]; Administration Docket of John Lowry, 1815, Baltimore County Register of Wills, Administration Docket, Liber 6, p. 171 [MSA CM130-6, CR 10674-2]. This means none of the three invalid pensioners named John Lowry listed on the 1835 pension rolls are him.

[42] Census of St. Georges Hundred, New Castle, Delaware, 1810, Third Census of the United States, 1810, National Archives, NARA M252, Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, Roll 4, Pagw 287. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

[43] “Ratliff’s land,” 1813, Delaware, Land Records, 1677–1947, Delaware Public Archives, Recorder of Deeds, New Castle County, RG 2555, Subgroup 000, Series 011, p. 435. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

[44] Probate of Robert Ratliff. He also owned a young enslaved black male who was only two years old.

[45] Will of Robert Ratliff.

[46] Census for Glasgow, New Castle, Delaware, 1810, Third Census of the United States, 1810, NARA M252, Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll 4, page 261. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

[47] Pension of William Dawson.

[48] Pension of William Dawson; Census for Elkton, Cecil County, 1820, Fourth Census of the United States, 1820, NARA M33, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, roll M33_40, page 135. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

[49] Pension of John Neal; Tacyn, 318; Pension of Abraham Sebring; Third Census of the United States, 1810, Ovid, Seneca, New York; NARA M252; Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives; p. 252; Image: 00160; Family History Library Film: 0181390. Courtesy of Ancestry.com. Ovid included a town and village of the same name which was still small even in 1850 and to the present-day. A number of men named “John Niles” were living in the town of Oneida, as recorded by the 1800 census, which is about 81 to 96 miles away from Ovid, but it cannot be confirmed this is the same man as John Neal.

[50] Fourth Census of the United States, 1820, Covert, Seneca, New York; NARA M33; Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, p. 298, Image: 61. Courtesy of Ancestry.com. Covert was a town formed from part of Ovid.

[51] Marriage of George Leslie and Jane Bashford, 1816, Marriage Licenses, Cecil County Court, MdHR 9435, p. 247 [MSA C632-1, 1/11/6/38].

[52] Index to Selected Final Payment Vouchers, compiled 1818 – 1864, Record Group 217, roll box06_00007, pensioner William Marr, July 3, 1819. courtesy of fold3.com; National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1631, William Marr, Pension number W. 3838. courtesy of fold3.com; United States Senate.The Pension Roll of 1835. 4 vols. 1968 Reprint, with index. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992; “Persons on the Pension Roll Under the Law of the 18th of March, 1818, Maryland,” Pension List of 1820, pp. 547.

[53] National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, Record Group 15, Roll 1631, William Marr, Pension number W. 3838. courtesy of fold3.com; Adminstration Docket of William Marr.

[54] Ibid; Archives of Maryland, vol. 214, page 717.

[55] George Lashley Pension; Marriage of George Leslie and Jane Bashford, 1816, Marriage Licenses, Cecil County Court, MdHR 9435, p. 247 [MSA C632-1, 1/11/6/38].

[56] George Lashley Pension.

[57] Pension of William Dawson. Dawson had been applying for pension benefits since 1818.

[58] Pension of William Dawson.

[59] Dawson specifically accused Lieutenant John Sears of losing his discharge, saying that “this despondent cannot produce the said discharge, having sent by Lieutenant John Sears to Annapolis” after he was discharged.

[60] Final Payment Voucher for William Dawson, 1820, Final Revolutionary War Pension Payment Vouchers: Delaware, National Archives, NARA M2079, Record Group 217, Roll 0001. Courtesy of Fold3.com; Final Payment Voucher for William Dawson from General Accounting Office, 1820, Index to Selected Final Payment Vouchers, 1818-1864, National Archives, Record Group 217, box05_00005. Courtesy of Fold3.com. It is clear that William Dawson is not the same as a Justice of the Peace in Talbot County.

[61] Record of pension payment to William Dawson, Treasurer of the Western Shore, Military Pension Roll, MdHR 4534-4, p. 31 [MSA S613-1, 2/63/10/33]; “Sheriff’s Sale,” American Watchman, Wilmington, Delaware, June 5, 1827, page 3. He may have died in Delaware but this cannot be confirmed. By 1827, his heirs may have been living in Delaware, as a sale by a local sheriff in Wilmington, Delaware, mentions “heirs of William Dawson.” However, it is not known if this the same as Dawson, who may have moved back to Delaware before his death.

[62] Pension of John Neal; Letter about John Neal, September 18, 1895. New York County, District and Probate Courts. Administration, Vol C-D, 1815-1883, p. 136. Courtesy of Ancestry.com; Seventh Census of the United States, 1850, Hector, Tompkins, New York, NARA M432; Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives; p. 420A, Image: 441. Courtesy of Ancestry.com. His wife, Margaret, was the administrator of Neal’s estate after his death. Years after his death, his wife re-married to a man named John Benjamin Smith. She continued to fight for Neal’s pension payments until at least 1850, living in the small town of Hector, New York, only about 16 miles away from Ovid, with another family. She died in the 1850s, the exact date not known.

[63] Indenture between James Ratliff and Hannah, Thomas Ratliff and Mary, and Henry Webb and Elizabeth, November 23, 1823, Delaware, Land Records, 1677–1947, Delaware Public Archives, Recorder of Deeds, New Castle County, RG 2555, Subgroup 000, Series 011, p. 4-6. Courtesy of Ancestry.com; Session Laws, 1824, Archives of Maryland Online Vol. 629, 44; Indenture between James Ratliff and Jacob Hornes (Colored Man), May 26, 1826, Delaware, Land Records, 1677–1947, Delaware Public Archives, Recorder of Deeds, New Castle County, RG 2555, Subgroup 000, Series 011, p. 300-301. Courtesy of Ancestry.com. These members of his family included his son James and his wife Hannah in Cecil County, Thomas Ratliff and his wife Mary in Butler County, Ohio, and Elizabeth Webb, his daughter, and Henry Webb. They all received some part of the estate.

[64] Indenture between James Ratliff and Jacob Hornes (Colored Man).

[65] Indenture between Thomas Ratliff and Ann Ratliff, October 9, 1854, Delaware, Land Records, 1677–1947, Delaware Public Archives, Recorder of Deeds, New Castle County, RG 2555, Subgroup 000, Series 011, p. 59-62. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

[66] Session Laws, 1826 Session. Archives of Maryland Online vol. 437, 253.

[67] George Lashley Pension; State Pension of George Lashley, Treasurer of the Western Shore, Pension Roll, MdHR 4534-4, p. 36, 48 [MSA S613-1, 2/63/10/33].

[68] Session Laws, 1835 Session. Archives of Maryland Online vol. 214, 754. While his pension says he has no heirs, this legislation says “the heirs and legal representatives of George Lashly.” It is possible that this language is just a formality, but there is no explanation as to why Lashley had heirs by his death or if the legal representatives are his children.

[69] Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States: Being the Second Session of the Twenty-Third Congress, Begun and Held at the City of Washington, and in the Fifty-Ninth Year of the Independence of the United States (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1835), 390; “Twenty-Fourth Congress First Session,” Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C., April 26, 1836, Vol. XXIV, issue 7240, p. 3.

[70] Pension of John Plant. As one ancestor put it years later, this situation led to Mary Ann almost being “deprived of a pension.”

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.