April 25, 2008

"I must say your Geography is very bad and ... I presume you'll readily agree to some other Boundary..."

Sorting through some folders of (mostly) Benjamin Jr's legal papers, I came across a random folder of material dealing with the Pennsylvania-Maryland boundary dispute. In it was an 18 page letter addressed to "Countryman Hickinbotham". The letter is unsigned, but after reading through it, I found the letter it was answering, which was addressed to "Mr. John Ross". The letter, from Charles Higinbotham, discusses an attack on some of his countrymen who were encamped along the Susquehanna River. In this attack, a Captain Croasap's house was burned and some of his men were injured.

Higinbotham writes "Lett me modestly putt this Querie, Who gave the first Blowe or fired the first House? We feel the Stroke you Rejoice in the Glory and Conquest. A Controversy between the Proprietors ought never to Spirit up the people to a Rebellion against their Sovereign. Now Sr, As Several have been Accomplices in this late Conspiracy, and a vast number, Abettors and incendiaries in the fomenting and Carrying on the Said Villainous and traitorous Felony, We ... are ... under the speciall Protection of his Majesty ... to take, apprehend & Seize as many of the Late Conspirators ... as we shall be able to detect and them will deliver up to the Law.---" ( Baltimore: January 4, 1736)

Ross' response is fiery and excited, as he first criticizes Higinbotham's ideas about the placement of the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, writing, "But to put you in the Right and me in the Wrong, there is one principle Point to be made out, And that is that the Place of your present Rendezvous is within the Province of Maryland and not in Pennsylvania .... Now if you mean that the River Susquahannah which lies near North and South is the Boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, ... I must say your Geography is very bad and upon a little Recollection I presume you'll readily agree to some other Boundary, And that I expect to hear will be the 40th Degree...." (Lancaster County: January 11th, 1736/7)

Eight pages later, he lays out the reasons for the attack on Croasap, and provides a detailed account of the burning of Captain Croasap's house:

April 14, 2008

You could put an eye out with that...

In this letter, John Chew provides a rather cheerful account the results of a gruesome fight between two slaves. Beware the details in this one.

April 11, 2008

People Different from Us

Cathleen pointed out the salutation for this letter dated Nov 1, 1788.
"Most valued and almost adored Friend" -

Hmmm . . .

April 10, 2008

"Bad Ben's" schoolboy days

While we certainly can't read everything, we do skim documents for a general idea of their content in order to categorize them. Discovering interesting tidbits about the individuals represented in a collection is one of the joys of processing. Benjamin Chew, Jr.'s voluminous correspondence has provided many such discoveries.

In the letter below, John Eager Howard, Benjamin Jr.'s brother-in-law, wrote to tell him how his sons Samuel and Benjamin III (later known as "Bad Ben") were getting on in their studies at St. Mary's College of Baltimore, a boarding school near the Howards' home. Samuel was apparently an astute student, while Benjamin III struggled to focus on his studies. Independent and strong-willed, Benjamin clashed with his teachers and other students. Later letters indicate that he was able to curtail his problematic behavior enough to succeed in his classes. However, John Eager Howard still reported to Benjamin Jr. in a letter written several months after the one below that Benjamin III had been in another fight: "I admire much Ben's spirit and many good qualities, but the truth is, he is too quick, which at times will lead him into scrapes of this kind" (John Eager Howard to Benjamin Chew, Jr., Baltimore, November 2, 1806). Benjamin's uncle proved correct, as conflict followed "Bad Ben" into adulthood.

April 9, 2008

"Mischievious Machinations"

Today, I uncovered this flier amongst papers relating to the executorship of Benjamin Chew's estate. This tells a little bit of the story of "Bad Ben" (Benjamin Chew, III), who contested the sale of Cliveden, the Chew's family home in Germantown, and was at the heart of a massive family dispute regarding the estate.

On the back of one of the summaries of court proceedings was written in faint pencil "mischevious machinations"; the document discussed forfeiture of property. "Bad Ben" was removed from his role in the execution of his father's estate, but contested all of the decisions made by the remaining executors, thereby dissolving the family fortune in legal costs.

This is just one piece of a family drama that consumes many linear feet of material. These materials comprise the next large portion of our processing work.