Monday, November 12, 2018

Hidden History - Elizabeth Lamy

Historians have, and still do today, overlook the stories and accomplishments of women. While doing research into my family history, I have come across documents relating to numerous colonial-era women whose stories have not been told, but should be.

Elizabeth Lamy appears in only a handful of records, but when you piece them together, she begins to emerge as a fascinating figure, an unconventional woman for her time. Digging into her story gives more dimension to the stories of better-known people she interacted with, and challenges some of our notions about the time period.

Mauduit Family

Elizabeth Lamy appears to have been the daughter of William and Mary "Mercy" Mauduit of Bladensburg, Prince George's County, Maryland. The Mauduits were prominent and wealthy members of society, despite living in the back country. William Mauduit had the distinction of being referred to as a Gentleman, an indication of his standing in society (The Maryland Gazette, 21 Feb 1750, p. 3).

The Mauduits were descended from French Protestants who fled to England during the 1600s. William Mauduit's father, Isaac, was a dissenting minister at Bermondsey (now part of London) in England. William was born in England and moved to Maryland at an unknown date, possibly during the 1720s. He patented a 250 acre tract of land, Tryall, in 1732. (Robert W. Barnes, British Roots of Maryland Families, pp. 309-310 and Peter W. Coldham, Settlers of Maryland, 1679-1783, Consolidated Edition, p. 449)

William and Mercy Mauduit lived near Garrison's Landing on the Anacostia River. The area was also home to the Beall family, of whom much has been written. The Mauduits ran a small plantation, and William Mauduit was also a merchant, operating a dry goods and apothecary store (Prince George's County Inventory Accounts, Liber DD, folios 171-174).

In 1742, William was one of a small group of men appointed by the colony to establish a new town on the Anacostia River near Garrison Landing. Bladensburg, named in honor of Maryland's Governor Bladen, became a commercial center for the region. (Maryland Archives, An Act for Laying Out and Erecting a Town...., Volume 42, p. 413)

William Mauduit died in 1749. In his probate records, his children are listed as Jasper Mauduit, Elizabeth Lamy, Deborah Jackson, Anne Ruth Mauduit, and William Isaac John Mauduit, a minor whose guardian was Thomas Wright (Peter W. Coldham, American Wills and Administrations, p. 207).

William's estate inventory lists the trappings of upper class life in colonial Maryland. He owned three wigs, two pairs of silk stockings, coats in different colors, porcelain from China, two silver watches, and a set of silver knee and shoe buckles. His library included dozens of books, including books on navigation and astronomy. He owned a French dictionary and a book on French grammar. His religious books included a copy of his father's Sermons, published in London in 1704.

William Mauduit was a slave owner. His estate inventory listed six "Stock Negroes" (his "Stock Cattle" were listed next) who may have been a single family: Harry, about 40 years old; Bess, about 16 years old; Ned, about 11 years old; Lucy, about 8 years old; Sam, about 4 years old; and Sarah, "a sickly child," about 2 years old. The inventory also includes Thomas Richards, "a White Servant about 5 [years old] to Serve an old worn out Negroe Man quite useless and of no service." No value was listed for Thomas Richards, as he was not considered property. (Prince George's County Inventory Accounts, Liber DD, folio 169)

William and Mercy's daughter Deborah married Alexander Beall Jackson, a member of Maryland's powerful Beall family.

Jasper Mauduit, Elizabeth and Deborah's brother, patented two small tracts of land during the 1760s, Mauduit's Discovery and Makeshift. He died in 1775 at the age of 42 and was buried at Bladensburg, MD.

Elizabeth Mauduit Lamy

Elizabeth Mauduit may have been born sometime around 1728. The earliest reference to her that I have found is from 1749, when the vestry and church wardens of All Saints Parish in Frederick, Maryland filed a complaint with the County Court.

Prior to 1749, Elizabeth Mauduit would have been raised to be a member of upper class society, but presumably also to be a woman capable of running a farm or plantation, to be able to handle the challenges associated with living on the Maryland frontier. The daughter of an immigrant who came here to build wealth for himself and his family, Elizabeth may well have been as ambitious and enterprising as her father.

I have found no references to her husband. Her married name, Lamy, was also spelled Lamme or Lammy. I have searched using all three spellings without success.

By 1749, Elizabeth Lamy was not living with her husband. He may very well have been deceased. I have not come across any information to indicate what happened to him.

Lamy and Cresap

What I have found indicates that Elizabeth Lamy was having an affair with a married man, Thomas Cresap. The complaint filed by All Saints Parish accused Cresap of "unlawfully cohabiting" with Lamy; i.e., living together and regularly having sexual relations with one another. The case was dropped two years later, in June 1751, because the Attorney General decided to stop pursuing the charges.

The transcript of the court proceeding is as follows:

Lord Proprietary against Col. Thomas Cresap for unlawfully Cohabiting with Elizabeth Lammy
Nollo Prosequi [a legal term indicating that the case will no longer be prosecuted]

Frederick County 1st. Memorandum that at a County Court of the Right Honorable Charles [Calvert] held at Frederick Town in the County aforesaid on the third Tuesday in November in the thirty fifth Year of his said Lordships Dominion ... the Vestry and Church Wardens of All Saints Parish in the County aforesaid Returned to the Justices of the same Court Col. Thomas Cresap for Cohabiting with Elizabeth Lamme having refused or Neglected to appear before the aforesaid Vestry after being legally summoned thereto.
And now at this day to wit the third Tuesday in June in the thirty Seventh Year of his said Lordships Dominion ... to which time the Information aforesaid was Continued Henry Darnall Gentleman Attorney General of the Province of Maryland and prosecutor of his Lordships Pleas in the Court here in his proper person says that he will not further prosecute against the said Thomas Cresap off and upon the Premises.
It is therefore Considered by the Court here that the said Thomas Cresap of the Premises to him above Imposed be Acquit and discharged by the Court here adjudged And the said Thomas Cresap is dismissed.
(Frederick County, MD Judgment Records, June 1751, p. 388)

The exact nature of Lamy and Cresap's relationship is impossible to determine. It may well have been amorous; certainly the church wardens saw it as such. It's interesting that the suit was filed against Cresap, not Lamy. This may indicate that she was widowed and therefore free to share her home with a new man, whereas Cresap should have been home with his wife. On the other hand, it is possible that their relationship may not have been sexual; Cresap had plenty of enemies who might have lied about his relationship with Lamy to cause him trouble. Either way, it is safe to say that Lamy and Cresap had a close and affectionate relationship.

Col. Thomas Cresap (c. 1702 - c. 1790) was a controversial figure, dubbed the "Maryland monster" by Pennsylvanians during a border dispute during the 1730s. I haven't quite figured out how to accurately characterize him yet, other than to say that he was a ruthless, violent opportunist living on the frontier. Although he interacted regularly with Native Americans, trading with them and hosting them at his property, he never earned their respect. In a 1743 report to the Council of Maryland, it was claimed that "they look upon him as a Man that either wants Wit or Honesty." Cresap was often dragged into court for assault, but he usually avoided any penalties for his behavior.

Cresap, despite his frequent run-ins with the law, was highly valued by Maryland. He could be counted on to do the colony's dirty work, such as wreaking havoc on the border with Pennsylvania, and was utterly fearless. He aspired to be a gentleman landowner, accumulating property all over Maryland's western frontier, and he served in various official capacities, even serving as an elected representative in the Maryland legislature.

Cresap was married with five children. His wife Hannah ran their home and farm. All Saints Parish was their church; their children were all baptized at All Saints. It's hard to imagine what Hannah Cresap would have thought of Elizabeth Lamy. Hannah was not a docile woman: there are several historical accounts in which she dives headfirst into battle (literal battle, leading a militia on horseback). During the border dispute with Pennsylvania, Hannah is said to have been carrying a rifle, two pistols, a tomahawk, a scalping knife, and a small dagger in her boot when she was arrested by the Lancaster County sheriff in 1736. The story is apocryphal, shared in 1950 by the Pennsylvania Folk Lore Society president, but it does a good job of conveying what she was probably like. ("Col. Cresap 'Bully' In East Half of State, Hero In West," The Indiana (PA) Gazette, 27 Apr 1950, p. 22)

Thomas Cresap's relationship with Elizabeth Lamy lasted at least six years and can't be called secretive. If Hannah ever feuded with Elizabeth or her husband, it did not appear in the records.

The Ohio Company

Founded in 1747, the Ohio Company was created by a group of Virginia planters (including George Washington's brothers) and Marylanders who sought to make money off of the new Ohio territory, which encompassed what is now West Virginia, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland. The company secured a land grant of 200,000 acres from the British Crown and hired Christopher Gist to survey their new claim and negotiate a treaty with the Native Americans who lived there. The Ohio Company was eventually dissolved in 1779. (University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, Guide to the Ohio Company Papers)

Thomas Cresap is credited by some as having initiated the formation of the Ohio Company: "...Richard Peters said in july, 1748, that it was 'that vile fellow Cresap who had suggested a scheme to Col. Lee and other great men in Virginia to make trading houses at Alleghenny.'" (Kenneth P. Baily, The Ohio Company of Virginia and The Westward Movement, 1912, p. 25)

Cresap and his son, Daniel, were the only members of the Ohio Company who were not wealthy Virginians. During the 1720s, Cresap briefly lived in Virginia (allegedly to avoid debtors' prison in Maryland). While in Virginia, he became associated with the Washingtons. He would later host a teenage George Washington at the Cresap home in Maryland.

The Ohio Company was an opportunity for Cresap to make money. He had established trading posts and relationships with Native Americans and was more familiar with at least some of the territory than the Virginians were. Cresap and Gist became the primary scouting agents for the company.

Cresap was put in charge of developing a route into the frontier for the Ohio Company. He in turn hired Nemacolin, a chief of the Delaware Nation. Nemacolin's Trail, as the route is now known, was mapped out of a network of pre-colonial trails that had been in use for centuries. It became the main route to Pittsburgh (Fort Duquesne) during the French & Indian War.

Elizabeth Lamy was peripherally involved with the Ohio Company. On February 9, 1750/51, Lamy was a witness to a contract between the Ohio Company and Neal Ogullion [O'Gullion] (Frederick County, MD Land Records, Liber B, Folios 347-348).

Oguillon sold a quantity of livestock to the Ohio Company, including several cows, steers, horses, sheep and lambs, as well as four hundred weight of bacon. Ogullion also sold his rights to a bond for the tract of land called Sugar Bottom, on which he lived, and eleven acres of wheat and rye.

It is unusual for a woman to be one of the two witnesses on a contract or deed. Witnesses were typically county officials, unless the document was executed in a remote location where no officials could be accessed, or if there was a particular reason for a family member to be involved.

The other witness on the contract was Jarvis Hougham (sometimes spelled Huffman), who lived at Oldtown on the Potomac, a small frontier town started by Cresap on the remains of a former Shawnee village. In order to be a witness to the deed, Hougham would have been well known and trusted by Cresap.

I have not finished researching Cresap, but everything I have read suggests that he was often a ringleader of men and women who preferred the rough and tumble frontier life to the safe conformity of established towns and cities. Cresap had loyal followers, men and women who put themselves at risk to help him in his endeavors. In return, Cresap looked out for them, helped them out of jams, and aided them as needed.

So why was Elizabeth Lamy a witness to the contract between Ogullion and the Ohio Company? Cresap was referenced in the contract and was an agent for the company, so perhaps that meant he couldn't be a witness. It seems overly simplistic to say that Lamy was "hanging out" with Cresap and his gang, but I think it is fair to say that she was actively involved with Cresap and his associates.

Indian Field

During the winter of 1755, Cresap gave Lamy a 50 acre tract of land called Indian Field, along with the "Houses Buildings Improvements Conveniencys & Advantages" associated with it. The deed, signed on February 22 and recorded on March 18, 1755, stated that Cresap was giving her the land "for the better Maintenance and Support of her Elizabeth Lamy." Although Lamy paid Cresap 5 shillings sterling for the property, that was a token gesture for legal purposes (Frederick County, MD Land Records, Liber E, Folios 667-668).

Lamy was not the permanent owner of Indian Field. The arrangement was temporary, as the deed stated that it was to be her property "so long as She the said Elizabeth Lamy shall Dwell Continue & live on the said Tract." Normally, a land deed would state that the new owner's heirs had a claim to the property. The language of this deed ensured that Lamy's relatives would have no right to take ownership after her death and may also have prevented her from selling it.

The deed was witnessed by David Lynn, Elizabeth Jackson, and John Rawlins. David Lynn and John Rawlins were, at times, Justices of the Peace. They were likely asked to be witnesses because they were county officials. The third witness, Elizabeth Jackson, may have been a Mauduit family member whose signature would have been useful, as they would not be allowed to inherit the land from Lamy's estate. Lamy had a niece named Elizabeth Jackson, the daughter of Deborah Mauduit and Alexander Beall Jackson; she may very well be the witness on the document.

The deed was an arrangement by which Lamy was ensured a place to live and, presumably, an income from the land, whether through collecting rent from tenants or simply from operating a small farm.

The deed may have signaled an end to Lamy's relationship with Cresap, an end in which he made sure that her basic needs would be met. It also strengthens the theory that they were romantically involved, which again raises questions about how Elizabeth Lamy and Hannah Cresap would have interacted.

I have not yet found any other documents bearing Elizabeth Mauduit Lamy's name. As one of Thomas Cresap's associates, and as a woman who flouted social conventions, Elizabeth Lamy may well have chosen to live away from the upper class colonial society in which she was raised. We may never know anything more about her, but hopefully someday more information will emerge.

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