Monday, November 23, 2009

Friends and Family at Poplar Grove

Hello readers,

You may have noticed the absence of a blog entry last Friday. This was due to the significant amount of work that Nathan and I were doing in preparation for the digitization of the Poplar Grove materials. The good news is that this made many new images available to share with you on the blog. The bad news is that this work has carried over into the new week, and I still have little time to provide one entry before we leave for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the interest of the gathering of families and friends over the coming week, I have decided to provide you with several photographs of people coming together in the past.

We have, first, several photos from a curiosity found in Series 18 of Poplar Grove. This is a photo album depicting friends of E. B. Emory from Virginia. The date is especially interesting, as the album seems to have been compiled in 1866. With the Civil War having concluded in the recent past, friendship was needed to begin healing a wounded nation. As with so many of these items, we don't yet have a strong sense of context in which to place this album, but I hope you will enjoy it simply for the photos from a semi-distant past in which friends, as today, kept in touch over significant distances. The images to the left and right are one such example, as a person who seems to have been a friend from University of Virginia wrote E. B. Emory some kind words about friendship. Regular readers will be reminded of the warm friendship between Emory and Mary Holladay, discussed in an earlier post.

I also have some other images, these of family life in the early twentieth century. Above, one finds a young couple in front of a house, and below is an elderly man watching over a young boy in a yard. These images of family life in America remain timeless, except perhaps for the old man's hat, which certainly speaks of an earlier era.Unfortunately, we cannot yet identify the people in these photographs. Even so, they stand out as distinct reminders of the real emotions and relationships enjoyed by those in the past. These photos provide a visual insight into some of the figures, admittedly unknown, that passed through the lives of those living at Poplar Grove. I hope you have enjoyed this brief entry, and I look forward to giving you many more posts after I return from the Thanksgiving holiday.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Around the World in Six Photographs

Good afternoon,

Friday has come around again, and that means I have some new images for you. I'll leave this post somewhat slim on description, and focus on the images. The last two posts have been fairly heavy on information, so I will allow these photos some breathing room, providing only what limited context I have available.

As a bit of context before presenting the images, these items were found in a series of Poplar Grove concerning the early twentieth century. They are primarily photos and postcards from the wanderings of one or another member of the family. In the case of postcards from Europe, it is not immediately clear who the buyer or intended recipient was, as they do not have any information written on them. They are fascinating, however, in their documentation of a place now foreign to us.

This is a picture, as indicated by an inscription, of Jacob Martenis and his wife "around 1900," in Wilmington, Delaware. Their facial expressions are somewhat mysterious. The woman in the photograph wore an amused visage, while her husband looked down, expressionless.

To the right is a photograph from Barcelona in 1929. It depicts a street scene in a bustling metropolis. Barcelona, in 1929, was hosting the International Exposition, and populated streets like this would be unsurprising. What is somewhat chilling about the pleasant quality of this image, however, is the looming shadow of the Spanish Civil War, which would erupt in the following decade. On a more amusing note, click on the image to the lower-left to find a building being constructed. This church, the Sagrada Familia, was begun in 1882 and remains unfinished. It actually looks quite similar today, since much of this work was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, and has proceeded under several different architects since then. Feel free to type the name into google and find more recent photos in which the surrounding area has changed but the facade has remained very similar.

The next photo, to the right, is an admittedly context-free addition. I find it simply evocative of an early twentieth-century American landscape. Train tracks run by a row of shops with hills rising in the distance. This is likely an image of a potential boom-town, but any information beyond that is elusive. The dog left at the store-front seems a particularly personal touch, and one wonders if the dog belonged to the photographer or some patron of the store.

The final two images are documents from Lloyd T. Emory's South American expedition. Emory was searching for resources that might be exploited by the United States, and took any number of photos of a modernizing Brazil. One of the most evocative pictures of the difference between the country's past and its future was this photo of what appears to be a nineteenth century sailing vessel.

To the right is an image very similar to the second one, found above. This scene is probably from a Brazilian town at the beginning of the twentieth century, suggested by the labeled photos that bookend it. This picture was, of course, far less populous than the photograph from Barcelona, but again juxtaposed the old and the new. Men and women in twentieth century clothing walked past nineteenth century buildings set against a much older fortress in the background. The photo captured the scenery of a moment in time that has since disappeared.

I hope these images provide a brief and interesting glimpse into the past. Typically, we present written documents for you to observe, but this week I thought some photos might bring you closer to the experiences of those living at Poplar Grove. This international character is one that we have not covered significantly so far, and we hope to explore it further in the future. Hundreds of other photos are being scanned at the moment, and all will be accessible once the collection is online. Thanks for reading, and please do add any insights you can to these somewhat mysterious documents by posting in the comments section below.


Friday, November 6, 2009

E. B. Emory's "Holladay" - Correspondence from 1897

Good afternoon readers,

This letter, written by Mary Holladay, was addressed to E. B. Emory and provides a brief look into the life of a young woman recently relocated from the Eastern Shore to Annapolis. The year was 1897, and that provides a context for some of the more intriguing pieces of this document. On the first page, displayed above, Mary recounted a recent fox-hunt in which a Tilghman and some others participated, at Annapolis. This was a relief from the apparent boredom felt by the author.

One wonders about that boredom, however, when "Experimental Psychology" is discussed several pages later. Mary was enjoying a series of lectures being given by Professor Alfred Dumm. The humor of the lecturer's name was not lost on Mary, who asserted that E. B. Emory "must not judge him by his name, for he is far from dumb." Besides the amusement associated with Professor Dumm's name, this situation intrigues me. American psychology had hardly become a common subject by 1897, and Mary was on the cutting edge of psychological research. The topics being covered by the lectures immediately preceding and following the letter were "The Dermal Sense" and "Kinaesthetic and Static Sense," respectively. Perhaps most curious, Alfred Dumm was referred to as a native of Kansas City; research methods and principles must therefore have been disseminated somewhat rapidly to the Midwest during the 1890s. Sadly I can find no more information on this professor, so we are left to wonder to what extent he represents the academic world of Kansas City. Regardless, it is fascinating to read the admittedly brief observations of a student of this now-common discipline from the era when it was in its infancy.

The letter also touched upon local politics, discussing Governor Lowndes (1896 - 1899). He was "playing politics very hard," Mary wrote. She added the personal touch that the governor was attempting to make Annapolis his legal residence because of "his inclination of not going back to Cumberland," the town from which he had come. His wife was helping him as well, because "she is also anxious to go back to Washington," where Lowndes had been a State Senator earlier in the century. Sadly, they did not succeed in this venture; Lowndes returned to Cumberland and died there in 1905.*

Perhaps there are more observations in other letters from Mary Holladay to E. B. Emory, found in Poplar Grove Series 17. We are working hard to render these papers accessible to our readers in their entirety; this task will ideally be accomplished by the end of the year. Until then, these fragments of personal correspondence must suffice to whet the appetite.


* Much of this biographical data was obtained from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, available at

Friday, October 30, 2009

Running a Horse Farm in the 1890s - E. B. Emory

Good afternoon,

I hope Nathan's update on the status of the Poplar Grove Project was well-received. If you've not yet had the chance to read it, please scroll down and gain some insight into the progress of this project.

My own post today will be on a subject heretofore absent from the blog, but one that is conspicuously present in the collection. I am writing, of course, about E. B. Emory's stock farm at Poplar Grove. This was big business in the 1890s, and the papers collected in Series 11 reflect that fact.

Several documents reveal the different aspects of E. B. Emory's presence in the horse industry. The first is almost certainly the most prosaic. It is a list of prices one might pay to board an animal at the Poplar Grove farm. There are many duplicates of this item in the series, and one wonders why so many remained at the farm rather than being passed into the hands of potential clients. One finds, perhaps surprisingly, that horses were not the only kind of livestock able to be boarded at the farm. Pigs, lambs and calves were all welcome at Poplar Grove for a price. The most expensive, however, were horses. This seems reasonable, taking into consideration the prices associated with well-bred horses in the 1890s.

We know from this document on the left, for example, that E. B. Emory spent quite a bit of money on his horses. Advertising space did not come cheap, as Emory paid sixty-three dollars for advertising space, according to these two letters. Another, to the right, gives an example of a similar advertisement; it is a Baltimore Sun ad for Happy Russell, the sire of Happy Bee, a prize-winning Emory horse.

These ads would be meaningless, however, without success on the racetrack. Emory had needed to develop a reputation in order to fulfill hopes of money-making success at Poplar Grove. The above reference to Happy Bee is critical here, as we find from another document in this series that Happy Bee was a prize-winning horse on the racing circuit. In the letter presented, one Robert Hough congratulated E. B. Emory on his horse's success in Buffalo and Rochester, mentioning plans to race the horse again in Hartford. With Happy Bee's apparent success in racing, Emory could expect to receive more offers to board animals at Poplar Grove and offers on his other horses.

The business of running a stock farm was a multifaceted one, clearly, and E. B. Emory took part in all aspects. Whether he was boarding animals, selling horses through newspapers, or sending other horses to race throughout the country, Emory was quite involved in the 1890s horse industry. You can expect to see his name more often as we present other parts of the collection, upon which he was a significant influence. As always, comments and questions are appreciated.


Progress Report

Good morning,

I figured that it was time to give our loyal readers a progress report on the Poplar Grove Collection. Christian and I have been hard at work completing the scanning portion of this project, and we are within days of finishing. Series 10; the series from which our recent finds have been coming is already completed.

At the moment we are scanning the last two boxes from Series 11, which was found to be only partially complete. This is the series that deals with records relating to farm and plantation administration, and is dominated by documents dealing with horses. Once Series 11 is completed in the next day or two, scanning for the Poplar Grove Collection should be all but complete. Our next step in this project will be to render all of the Poplar Grove documents accessible online through the E-Books format. E-Books, for those that may not know, are electronic books where vast amounts of information can be assembled and made conveniently searchable through links. Our exact timetable for this project is not yet fully known, but we should be starting it in the near future.

Besides finishing up scanning, Christian and I have been also working on the organizational aspect of this collection. We have been doing this by editing the online series descriptions, and in some cases providing descriptions for the specific contents of each folder. This is all found in the Poplar Grove Collection entry at the Maryland State Archives Special Collections website. Also we have made sure our scan counts match up with what we have documented for each box and folder. With any collection, organization is key, and we especially want to make sure this collection is in top organizational shape before it is available online in its entirety.

Lastly, we are in the early stages of brainstorming ideas for a handbook about how to organize and deliver a collection, using the Poplar Grove Collection as a model. We are both very excited to work on E-Books for this project, as well as create a helpful handbook for future projects.

We hope everyone is as excited by the progress being made with this collection as we are; questions, comments and discussions are encouraged. Also don’t forget to return later this afternoon to see Christian’s weekly post.


Friday, October 23, 2009

An Anomalous Receipt

As a relief from the more serious and complex recent posts, I have decided to provide a distinctly brief update this week. The subject is a curious, albeit simple, one. While Poplar Grove Series 10 has provided us with numerous receipts signed by John Tilghman, few if any are as peculiar as the one I will highlight today.

In the midst of the several thousand receipts and accounts, Nathan and I found one paid for in shillings and pence. To those unfamiliar, the shilling is a British monetary value used until 1971, at which point it was phased out. The penny (plural: pence) remains in use today. The receipt was for payment of John Tilghman to one Thomas Kent, with the name Thomas Buchanan written beside the two financially bound parties. The document appears to date from 1820. We know nothing more than this, and any information our readers could provide as to the significance of an otherwise mysterious transaction paid for in foreign currency would be appreciated. I look forward to providing a more detailed post next week, but I hope that this curiosity will keep you satisfied until then.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

V. I. P. Sighting

Good afternoon all,

I hope everyone has enjoyed our posts about Benjamin Chew and the Estate of William Tilghman. That was a topic we felt was very important in Series 10, despite the series’ focus on John Tilghman’s receipts. There is more to Series 10 than William Tilghman’s Estate and John Tilghman business receipts, however, and that is where today’s topic comes into play.

Today I would like to share a few documents that we have come across, dealing with an important Maryland figure: Ezekiel Forman Chambers. These documents may not be groundbreaking, but I find them interesting, and believe that this shows the caliber of characters that can be found in the Poplar Grove Collection.

Ezekiel F. Chambers (1788-1867), a person familiar to our readers with a knowledge of 19th Century Maryland politics, was born and lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He was commended for bravery at the Battle of Caulks Field in 1814 and was a lawyer in private practice in Chestertown, Md. He served as a member of the Maryland State Senate, Eastern Shore, from 1821-25, acted as a U.S. Senator for Maryland from 1826-34, was a judge for the Maryland Court of Appeals and chief judge for the 2nd district of Maryland from 1834-51, served as a delegate to the Maryland State constitutional convention in 1850 and 1864, and was a Washington College alum (1805).* He was a man of importance throughout his career, and worth highlighting as a person in this series.

The following three documents are letters written by Mr. Chambers. The first two letters were written to John Tilghman. The last letter was written to Lloyd Tilghman, who I believe was the son of John Tilghman.

Our first letter (right) is dated January 31, 1838 at the time that Mr. Chambers was a Maryland Court of Appeals judge. The letter concerned an old judgment Mr. Chambers made that was brought to light again. Mr. Chambers wrote, “On my way through Balto. (Baltimore) a short time since Mr. G. W. Williamson spoke to me on the subject of the claim he had against you and which I thought we lettered.”Mr. Chambers went on to discuss his conversation with Mr. Williamson and the claim, which was apparently over a payment of $ 91.07 in 1925, for what is unclear.

The second letter (front left, back right), from Mr. Chambers to John Tilghman, was written eight days later on February 8, 1838, discussing how the claim was to be settled and payment done. I find these two letters fascinating because they connect a person from Poplar Grove with someone as prominent as Ezekiel Chambers, who could have been John’s lawyer since he was an attorney. Also, one notices a sense of camaraderie between the two while reading the letters, which I recommend, though it may take some practice.

Our third letter (left) dates from March 5, 1858; it was between Mr. Chambers and Lloyd Tilghman. In this letter Mr. Chambers thanked Lloyd for his, “very acceptable favor,” which was, “covering a check for $140.11 in part of my fee in the case of the late Col. N. Goldsborough against General Tench Tilghman.” This letter again suggests that the Tilghman’s, or at least John and Lloyd Tilghman, not only dealt with Ezekiel Chambers professionally, but were friends as well.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post concerning Ezekiel F. Chambers. Comments and discussions are welcome and questions are encouraged. Keep a look out for Christian’s weekly post on Friday.


* Information is from the Archives of Maryland, Biographical Series, Ezekiel F. Chambers biography page at the Maryland State Archives.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some Final Notes on the Struggle Over the Estate of William Tilghman

Good afternoon,

Perhaps spending one more post on William Tilghman's Estate may seem excessive, but I cannot help feeling as though further details require discussion. In approaching the legal battle between John Tilghman and William Tilghman a second time, I uncovered biographical material about both William Tilghman and Benjamin Chew, the executor of his estate.

Nathan and I had both been wondering what connection exactly drew John Tilghman and William Tilghman together, as their closest family relation was that their fathers were cousins. In fact, the reason why so much of this correspondence bears the name of John Tilghman, and indeed the reason why we are privy to so many of the documents, is that John was the agent of Benjamin Chew in Maryland. This is indicated by the document to the left. Chew was a Pennsylvania resident, and therefore John agreed to help dispose of William Tilghman's Estate in Maryland, with the provision that all funds raised went to Benjamin Chew.

With that mystery solved, I turned to speculating upon why William Tilghman had left so much money to Benjamin Chew's son, and why John Tilghman was suing Benjamin Chew within months of Chew's appointment as executor. The reply to John and Ann Tilghman's claim (provided in my post on October 9) laid out the reasons why William Tilghman's death and the subsequent sale of his estate were so contentious; an intriguing family drama played out from there.

John and Ann Tilghman claimed that they should be inheriting "one fifth part" of William Tilghman's Estate, as described in his will. They argued that his funeral expenses and debts could be fully paid for, still leaving them with their allotted fifth part. In his rebuttal, which begins in the image to the left, Benjamin Chew did not disagree that Ann Tilghman was named in the will as an inheritor of one fifth of the Estate. He did dispute their claim, however, on other grounds. His explanation took ten pages, and in this post I have selected several of those pages to highlight the issues raised.

The primary reason for the appropriation of funds raised by sale of William's Estate, as stated on the above page, was that William owed a heavy debt at the time of his death in 1827. He had married his daughter, Elizabeth Margeret, to Benjamin Chew, in 1816. This had come with a price, however, as it seems that the Chews were of a higher social rank than was William Tilghman. William, therefore, offered to sell a piece of land in his daughter's name in order to raise money towards the $20,000 he promised Benjamin Chew as a dowry.

Unfortunately, however, he did not pay anything more than $2500 to Benjamin Chew. The land remained in his hands, and he refused to sell it prior to his daughter coming of age; once she had come of age and been married to Benjamin Chew, William Tilghman continued to hold the land, going against the contract as stated in the image to the left.

It would seem that, according to Benjamin Chew's defense at the right, William Tilghman actually sold a large amount of real estate that was in his daughter's name throughout the early 1800s. The money went into his own possession, rather than to his daughter, who was left with little upon reaching maturity.

By 1817, Elizabeth Margaret Tilghman, who had become Elizabeth Margaret Chew through her marriage to Benjamin, had died. This did not free William Tilghman from his debt to Benjamin Chew, however. Chew did not press charges, ostensibly because he was so affectionate toward his father-in-law, but the rebuttal maintained that he never relinquished his claims to the $20,000, which had eventually ballooned to $27,500. William told him, when pressed throughout the 1820s, that to "pay the debt, he would have to sell the house over his head" (see left). This may have seemed true at the time, but the vast inventory William left behind at his death suggests otherwise.

According to Benjamin Chew's defense, it was an unwillingness to pay rather than an inability. William Tilghman took responsibility for the estates of his daughter and grandson, worth roughly $50,000, and refused to use any of this property to pay off the marriage contract. This is explained in the document to the right. It was for these reasons that Benjamin Chew thought it fair to appropriate funds raised from the sale of William Tilghman's property to pay off the outstanding debt owed him. Sadly we do not know the outcome of this court case, but Benjamin Chew's detailed ten-page rebuttal, if not fabricated, certainly made a strong case for his position. Despite William Tilghman's intent that parts of his Estate go to his grandson, William Tilghman Chew (son of Elizabeth Margaret and Benjamin), Benjamin Chew was still owed a significant debt that had existed before the will was made in 1819. Perhaps the first document presented here offers a clue: John Tilghman was Benjamin Chew's agent in 1833. Whatever the outcome of the court case, it seems to have been a somewhat amicable one.

I hope this lengthy interpretation of the evidence has shone a light onto a somewhat bizarre legal struggle of 1830. Some of the questions raised in our last two posts (i.e. Why was John Tilghman involved? What was the perceived wrongdoing committed by Benjamin Chew?) have been answered sufficiently, and we will be moving on to other topics next week. Undoubtedly William Tilghman, Benjamin Chew, and John Tilghman will reappear in this blog, but next week we will be presenting some other people who figured prominently in the papers of Series 10. Thank you for reading, and feel free to comment in the space below. After all, if you have a particular interest in this collection and you would like it addressed, we would be happy to oblige.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Penal bonds concerning the Estate of William Tilghman

Hello again readers,

I, like my colleague Christian, am determined to spread the word about the kind of historically important and interesting finds we come across while working with the Poplar Grove Collection. For this reason, we will both post regularly and encourage comments and discussions about this collection. We both feel that this collection deserves attention since it is rich with Maryland history.

Today, I would like to share with you some penal bonds that relate to Christian’s post about the estate of William Tilghman.

As a note for those unfamiliar with the concept of a penal bond, this was a bond made to secure a fine payment as penalty if an obligation or promise is not upheld; ideally this ensured that the deal would not be broken.

While processing Series 10 of the Poplar Grove collection, three penal bonds were found concerning slaves from William Tilghman’s estate. Our first penal bond was between Benjamin Chew, the primary executor of William Tilghman’s Estate, and Joseph Hoffecker. The other two penal bonds dealt with business between Chew and Jacob Raymond.

Benjamin Chew, was in charge of selling William’s property, which included his slaves.* Chew sold Hoffecker a slave named Samuel for two years of service. The penal bond (on right) stated "Samuel shall not be removed from the state of Delaware during his time of service, than this obligation shall be null and void." Hoffecker would then have to pay a one thousand dollar penal sum, which was mentioned at the beginning of this document. Penal bonds made against transporting slaves from one state to another, like this one, were probably used as one way to control and track the slave trade.

The next penal bond (front side left, back side right) was between Chew and Jacob Raymond of Delaware on March 17, 1830; the penal sum was one thousand dollars if either of the two slaves bought, Abraham for 13 years and Charlotte for 15 years, were removed from Delaware.

Along with this bond was a letter( on left), which is the last document that I am going to share with you. This letter was written by Jacob Raymond concerning his problems with the above penal bond, and was written to John Tilghman. John was most likely contacted because had contact with Benjamin Chew and was familiar with the court system. Raymond, in the letter, complained about the penal bond that Benjamin Chew made, as well as the stiff 500 dollar fine and imprisonment penalty that. Delaware enforced for selling a slave outside of the state. Raymond wrote,"Had I been appraised of this previous to my having brought my two blacks home they might have remained in Maryland, the laws in our own state inflict a very severe penalty for selling blacks out of it." In other words, Raymond was not happy that the penal bond did not allow him to move his slaves out of Delaware, and that if he did move them he would face punishment by both the penal bond and the state of Delaware. I found it both interesting and informative to find a man’s penal bond and a letter expressing his problems with it.

I hope you have enjoyed this quick glimpse into one of the many subjects that the Poplar Grove Collection holds. More posts are to come, until then…


* See previous post for more details.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Struggles Over the Estate of William Tilghman

Hello again,

It has been a week since my previous post, and I am happy to have, for the moment, made good on my promise of a weekly update. Let us hope this good fortune continues.

The topic of this week's discussion is one that I find both quite interesting and also somewhat baffling. In some ways, I am putting out a challenge to my readers, which will be made explicit at the end of this post. I will be offering a selection of documents pertaining to the battle over William Tilghman, the "Late Chief Justice of the State of Pennsylvania." At the moment, my biographical details on this figure are admittedly slim. I hope to have more time to delve into his story in coming weeks, but I have been somewhat caught up in a variety of other tasks. The important details for our discussion are to be found in a selection of papers from Poplar Grove, Series 10.

We know that William Tilghman
died in 1827, as is apparent in a Bill of Complaint filed by John Tilghman and his wife Ann found to the right. We also know that he drafted a will in 1819. Unfortunately, that will had apparently not been updated since 1819, and this caused some tension between those who expected to inherit some of his wealth (see the image to the upper-left). Clearly, John and Ann Tilghman were among those who wanted a piece of the pie, so to speak.

Perhaps the greatest issue causing contention over inheritance, however, was a sad event that had transpired in the decade between the writing and the execution of William Tilghman's will. According to the image to the left, he had intended to leave virtually all of his estate to his grandson, William Tilghman Chew. We learn from the same document that the grandson predeceased William Tilghman. This left the issue of inheritance in a nebulous area, without a clear heir. Clouding the issue was the fact that William's grandson was the son of Benjamin Chew, a prominent lawyer, who seems to have gone completely unmentioned in the will (which we do not posess). Benjamin became one of two executors of William Tilghman's estate upon the latter's death, and it is not hard to see why other family members may have seen Benjamin's involvement as somewhat dubious.

Two final pieces of information make this case even more bizarre. The first is that William Tilghman resided in Philadelphia at the time of his death, and had lived there for some time. The previous document to the upper left reveals this fact, and refers to the troublesome legal status of William Tilghman's large Maryland land-holdings. Much of the land was sold to a Mr. Cummins for a large sum, but this matter of the legal nuances of inter-state real estate surely complicated an already complicated subject. My final document of the day, however, makes obvious one of the especially troubling aspects of this situation. There were, in 1827, a large body of slaves owned by William Tilghman, living on the said Maryland property. These are referred to by name in the inventory to the right. In 1830, when Benjamin Chew and various members of the Tilghman family were muddling through this legal battle, Maryland was still a slave state. There were distinct abolitionist sympathies in the states on Maryland's northern border, and informed parties were almost certainly concerned about what would become of slaves caught in the awkward legal position of living in Maryland on a property owned by a deceased master residing in Pennsylvania.

One can certainly understand why William Tilghman's Estate is of interest to me; I hope it is of similar interest to the readers of this blog. There is much more information to be scanned and discovered in the William Tilghman file, and I hope to present that information in the coming weeks. Look for a post in the near future by my colleague Nathan discussing several penal bonds we found that were also tied to Benjamin Chew and reveal in more depth the situation facing these slaves following the death of William Tilghman. Please continue to check in weekly, and expect another post by next Friday as we further explore Series 10 of the Poplar Grove Collection. Until then, feel free to post comments and even start a discussion on this subject. I would love to read what you have to say regarding the somewhat confusing estate of William Tilghman.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

A New Contributor

Hello readers,

I am the newest member of the Poplar Grove team, and consider it a privilege to begin adding my contributions and observations to this blog. I hope the time that has passed since the original discovery of this material has not diminished interest in the project; many of the most intriguing finds are still going on, and I hope to make this apparent throughout my work with the Poplar Grove Collection this Fall.

First, however, I should provide some information about myself. I am Christian Skipper, a recent graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland. I graduated with honors, majoring in English and History; this program culminated in a lengthy Senior Project that took me a year to complete. I am no stranger to long-term projects, and I think this will serve me well in my time working with the Poplar Grove papers.

I came to the Maryland State Archives in June, 2009 as an intern, and, after taking part in an extensive project to enhance the accessibility of the Brown Books,* I was assigned to assist my coworker Nathan scan several series of the Poplar Grove collection. This has proven a very fruitful task, as I hope to reveal in my upcoming blog postings.

Nathan and I have been given the responsibility of scanning Series 17 and 10, two of the most damaged and disorganized collections. We have built on the foundation created by previous Poplar Grove workers, and in the case of Series 10 extensively organized ten boxes full of material. Much of this material, of course, is of interest primarily to those concerned with financial transactions carried out in the nineteenth century. Receipts abound, for goods as innocuous as empty bottles and transactions as high-profile as land exchanges. We have found documents discussing Tilghman Island in the Chesapeake, as well as the sale of several farms on the Eastern Shore. These could prove very helpful to the large body of historians interested in the development of Maryland's landowning culture. The receipts also shed light on any number of businesses operating in Maryland throughout the 1800s, especially in the Baltimore area. Several receipts suggest the buildup of the Poplar Grove Stock Farm (an important location in the 1890s, as we know from E. B. Emory's high level of financial correspondence during that decade).**

Perhaps most bizarre, though, is the Estate of William Tilghman. We intend to highlight this as one of the prizes of the series, as a lengthy legal and social drama played out around William Tilghman's death. His failure to leave a will necessitated the hire of a third party to negotiate the legal quagmire brought on by residing in Pennsylvania but owning a large amount of land and slaves in Maryland. Social historians should take note of this battle, as the documents that pertain to it dovetail significantly with a body of slave-related papers found in this series. The apparent miscellany and largely financial quality of Series 10 fell away to reveal a bevy of intriguing sources concerning the period immediately preceding the American Civil War.

Please return to this blog regularly; I intend to post updates as I am able, and ideally will provide new looks into our work once a week. This may be naive, given the large amount of work that we have yet to do on Series 10, and the following task of making these documents accessible to the wider public in a digital format. Even so, I hope to provide you with new insights into the remarkable Poplar Grove Collection quite frequently.

-Christian Skipper

* a collection of important Revolutionary-era documents compiled on microfilm in the 1940s.
** this correspondence forms the majority of items in Series 17.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Neat and new finds from Poplar Grove

The Poplar Grove Collection seems to have something about everything and anything that has happened in Maryland’s history. This is what I’ve learned in my short time as a summer intern here at the Maryland State Archives working in special collections here on the Poplar Grove project. The newest find that I have come across is a vast group of records dealing with the Eastern Shore Rail Road­ note that the word railroad was two words back in the 1800’s.

In the first week of my internship I was shone a badly damaged and eaten plat that showed a path proposed for the Eastern Shore Rail Road. This plat is in series 13 of our Poplar Grove special collection and can be found at the Maryland State Archives web page, through special collections. It was determined that this plat was the original of a printed version of this plat at the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, as State Archivist Dr. Edward Papenfuse notes in his online transcription of the plat.

Since this short introduction of what Poplar Grove has concerning the Eastern Shore Rail Road I had not come across anything else concerning the E.S.R.R. until recently.

Thomas Emory’s dream was to see a railroad on the eastern shore of Maryland. He spent part of his life trying to achieve this feat. It would only make sense that I would find a vast collection of documents dealing with the railroad while scanning his papers. While some of the documents are in surprisingly good condition, many are not. For this reason the exact span of time of these documents is not known; however, one could conclude that from the documents that I came across, the earliest date is from the 1830’s spanning until the documented date of 1871 on one fascinating piece, which we will get to later.

My recent finds are not yet up on the MSA webpage since they have only just been scanned, but I hope they will be shortly.

One interesting find is resolution papers of the E.S.R.R. These are from what is believed to be 1836, but this is not documented. These papers tell of resolutions concerning the railroad, ranging from stock selling in an attempt to financially support construction of the railroad, to an agreement on the importance of a railroad on the eastern shore as well as how the people deserved a railroad.

A survey of Maryland’s Eastern

Shore, marking pickets for a

possible rail line from Rice

Creek towards the Green

Swamp was one of my favorite

discoveries while scanning.

The survey marks roads and

rivers on the line as well, should

things cross like“Road to

Sockwood’s folly bridge

and “Middle River”.

A bill draft for the railroad, possibly from the 1830's, was discovered that appears to have been ripped or cut in half. This bill dealt with a

variety of topics, such as, how the Eastern Shore Rail Road

would be set up and run by directors,how the elections for

directors would be organized and how land owners of land

needed for the railroad should be dealt with.

A short excerpt about director’s elections...

"Sect. 2. And be it enacted, that the elections of Directors, required by the Act, referred to, in the proceeding section, other that State Directors, shall be conducted in the following manner, that is to say; The Directors, for the time being, shall, annually, appoint two of the Stock holders, not being Directors, to the Judge of said elections, and to conduct the same, after having severally taken and subscribed an oath, or affirmation, before a Judge, or Justice of the Peace, well and truly, and according to the Law, to conduct such elections..."

The last two finds I want to note are a Queen Anne’s and Kent Rail Road ticket from 1871 and an Eastern Shore Rail Road Company seal from 1836. I was really excited to see these and was amazed by their wonderful condition.

Thomas Emory’s dream and life’s work towards a railroad for the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is both fascinating and important to the eventual development of the oft- forgotten Eastern Shore. I certainly hope to find more documents concerning this matter, and I’m sure I will. After all, Poplar Grove is Maryland history 101.

Many thanks to Dr. Edward Papenfuse’s helpful transcription and of course Thomas Emory, for saving such a valuable collection of information for future generations to preserve and learn from.

Until next time…

Your trusty intern,

Nathan Miller

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A place where time stands still

Ever just stumble upon someplace?

Now we're not talking about anyplace... It has to be somewhere special. A place that grabs a hold of you — a place that draws all your attention and focus — a place that captures your imagination. Well on November 18, 2008, around 2:30 pm, I just so happened to come across such a place.

Poplar Grove is its name, and fascination is its game.

I'm sure the faithful followers of this blog need no introduction to this sprawling seventeenth century plantation, but I'll give a somewhat cursory description of mine, and how I came to be sitting here at this very computer in the State Archives' Electronic Classroom No. 1, writing for the Poplar Grove Project blog.
Now, I've long been a fan of history. Ever since I can remember, one of my strongest inclinations has been to memorize names, dates, people, and places. More than likely, the reasoning behind this has to do at least partly with the native human desire to discover the unknown. It's a fairly frightening prospect, isn't it? To think that there's so much that we simply don't know. For instance... Where did we come from? How did we get here? Who was instrumental in making those things happen?

Although the answers to these questions vary in length and degree, and some still have yet to be answered, these are the types of questions that help fuel our need for knowledge.

And if knowledge is what you're looking for, then Poplar Grove is an intellectual goldmine. It's simply indescribable how incredible this place is. But it's not just the place, it's what was found here. Hundreds of years worth of family records — hundreds of years worth of history — hundreds of years worth of knowledge.

There was something that made me smile as I stepped through the door frame, and into a world previously unknown. At first I couldn't quite place it... But slowly I began to understand what contributed to its overall importance and intellectual wealth. Poplar Grove is a time warp — a gateway to the past if you will. It's a place that most historians not lucky enough to experience it in person would dream about.

My personal introduction came on a field trip to the site itself. This past fall, I took a class entitled, "1607: Jamestown and All That," which dealt with life in the seventeenth century Chesapeake region. My teacher, one Adam Goodheart, gladly offered our class a unique perspective on the rather adventurous aspects of the Colonial American lifestyle. In talking about such matters and giving Mr. Goodheart's extensive involvement with the project, naturally the topic of Poplar Grove trickled its way into our class discussions.

As luck would have it, on the 18th of November we took it upon ourselves to venture to the very site that we had heard so much about. And let me tell you, it certainly didn't disappoint... Walking through the house and around the surrounding plantation grounds was an experience I won't soon forget. I felt as connected with the past as I ever have! Lest we forget... The fact that such a place still exists in Maryland (let alone anywhere) is truly remarkable.

How did I get involved might you ask?

I applied for the Summer Internship Program at the Maryland State Archives. Every morning, I wake up and come to Annapolis to assist in preserving this priceless collection — this precious piece of history — this invaluable assortment of knowledge.

And the best part is, not only am I getting the opportunity to preserve the past, but I'm getting the opportunity to help those people in the future — the ones hungry for the same quest of knowledge that keeps all of us coming back to this very blog.

Well I sure stumbled upon a place. And what a thrill! I've found a place, where time stands still.

Until then,

Jas. Goldſborough Bigwood