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Maryland Vanderfords

Michael Paul Vanderford moved his family from New York to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1660. Most of the journey was probably by boat, stopping at New Castle (then New Amstel), Delaware, then crossing the 15 miles of land that separates the Delaware River and the Elk River and continuing by boat down the Elk to Chesapeake Bay. The earliest settlement on the eastern shore was on Kent Island. Michael and his family settled on a branch of the Chester River just northeast of Kent Island.

From the Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, 1608-1908

Maryland was encouraging settlement by offering 50 acres of land per person transported into the colony. Michael was entitled to 550 acres for himself, his wife, 7 children and two others. This land and the additional 450 acres he purchased was at the head of Coursey's Creek in Talbot County (now Queen Annes County), near the present town of Centreville. Michael following the British custom, named his parcels of land. His various properties were:

  • St. Pauls 200 acres
  • Paulsfort 200 acres
  • Carman's Neck 150 acres
  • Vanderford's Agreement100 acres
  • Vanderfort 350 acres

Michael paid annual taxes of one shilling per each 50 acres. These taxes were due twice a year on the feast of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and on the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel.

The life of the typical Maryland planter was not easy and everyone worked very hard. Building a house combined carpentry skills with the abundance of wood and the rule of simplicity. In New England most domestic functions were drawn under one roof, into the home. In the Chesapeake region the houses were surrounded with various outbuildings such as summer kitchens and storage sheds. One visitor to the province offered this assessment of the houses:

"The Dwellings are so wretchedly constructed that if you are not so close to the fire as almost to burn yourself, you cannot keep warm, for the wind blows through them everywhere."5

And, it was no wonder, the homes were built of green wood which shrank as it dried requiring that the walls constantly be daubed with clay. Bricks, like hardware and window glass, awaited good tobacco crops and high prices; most planters got along without them.

The entire economy of Maryland's eastern shore revolved around tobacco. The Maryland Eastern Shore planters, living so close to salt water, found the bay and its navigable rivers an open invitation to trade. Everyone grew tobacco for market and was committed to tobacco exports. By law, tobacco was money and even public taxes were collected in tobacco. Warehouse certificates attesting to the storage of tobacco in the public warehouses were also used as currency, the value, of course, depending upon the market price of tobacco at the time. In 1670 Michael bought a cow for 650 pounds of tobacco. His son George (18) was paid 300 pounds of tobacco in 1678 for taking part in an expedition against the Nanticoke Indians and in 1687 bought 150 acres of land for 6000 pounds of tobacco.

When Michael died in 1692, he instructed that his estate be divided equally amongst his children. At the time of his death Michael still owned 550 acres. His daughter Susannah Jackson received part of St. Pauls while George (18) and his sister Catherine (19) jointly received the 350 acres of the remainder of St. Pauls, Carman's Neck and Vanderfords Agreement. The money he was owed in New York went to his wife. In 1715 Charles (104), George's eldest son, went through the lengthy process of resurveying and title clarification to settle his father's estate. In 1729 he divided the property with his three younger brothers: Thomas (106), George (107) and William (108).

Charles (104) was very active in church activities. From 1694 until the Revolution no religion other than that of the Church of England was recognized in Maryland. All the taxable inhabitants were assessed to support the Church and for the maintenance of clergymen, at 40 pounds of tobacco per annum. Charles served as vestryman for the Old Chester Church from 1720 to 1723 and again from 1732 to 1735. He was commissioned at various times to inspect construction and repairs of churches within the Parish.

By the mid 1700s people were living longer, families were larger and wealth was becoming concentrated. In 1733 2% of the population in Talbot County held more than 45% of all the property. The price of tobacco was more often than not in a decline and there was little new acreage available for purchase and cultivation. George's sons, Thomas (106) and George (107), and Charles' son, Vincent (220), moved to Delaware and settled in Murderkill Hundred near Dover. The next generation of Vanderfords, looking for new lands to settle, moved into the Carolinas.

While in Delaware the Vanderford name became confused with the Vandever name. The Vandevers were an old and numerous family in New Castle County, Delaware. Many of the Vanderfords who settled in Delaware, and later moved on to the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana became Vandivers or Vandeveers.

Maryland countryside

Life on the eastern shore in the late 1700s was very basic, as described by a writer in the Chestertown Transcript:

Farm implements were of the rudest kind. We used wooden plows, with an old saw for the land side, and the mold board covered with a gar skin. Corn was worked with the fluke harrow and hoe. ... The smaller products of the farm were taken to town every Wednesday and Saturday, where they were exposed in the market for sale until 9 A.M. If not disposed of by that time, they were exchanged with the merchants for their goods.
Clothing was of the simplest kind, and very often homespun, though there were at the time several woolen mills in Kent. Shoes were made at the farmers' houses by an itinerant shoemaker, whose avocation was called by the euphonious name of "whipping the cat." Roads were generally very poor, and laid out without regard to straight lines. If a mudhole was in the middle of the road, they drove around it and made a new road. Horseback was the favorite method of traveling. On Sunday the families would generally pile in an ox-cart and go that way to church. There were a few gigs, but they, like coaches, were costly, and were only used by the very rich.
There were several kinds of amusements indulged in by the men, one of which was horse racing. The distance run was generally a quarter of a mile, and the stakes a gallon of whiskey. The very best whiskey cost fifty cents per gallon. Husking matches were common in the winter. The husking was generally done by the negroes, while the white folks had a good time in the house. The huskers were always provided with a good supper; plenty of roast pig, corn-bread and whiskey.
Once a year there was a day appointed for a squirrel hunt, generally in June, when the young squirrels were tender and eating fit for the Gods.6

Nothing, however, represented the values so crucial to the common planter in Maryland better than racing horses over a quarter-mile stretch. These events, accompanied by heavy wagering, often took place at country crossroads, ordinaries or taverns, and near the tobacco-loading points where planters rubbed shoulders and competed for the best prices. Violent affairs with few rules, these races placed a premium on the skills and derring-do that marked real life. They also demonstrated a man's willingness to defend his reputation and his honor through his quickness in accepting challenges, the speed of his horse, the size of his bet, and prompt payment of his gambling debts.7

Horses figured prominently in Vanderford Bills of Sale. Over a 20 year period following the Revolution the following horses were bought or sold by Vanderfords: one gray mare called Cato, one bay horse called Fox, 4 horses named, Figure, Tobo, Tanner and Bull, one stud horse by the name of Pallisae, one bay horse, one black horse about 14 hands, and a mare worth 15 pounds. It is likely that at least some of the Vanderfords indulged in the local horse races. It is known that Charles (104), George (107) and William (108) took part in the Squirrel Hunt of 1729, starting a family tradition of marksmanship.

Bringing in a crop of tobacco required a lot of labor and in the early years most of this labor was done by slaves. The medium and small landholders, who only owned a few slaves for domestic and day-to-day work, would contract most of the farm labor from the larger land and slave owners. During the 1700s many farmers had turned away from tobacco and were growing grain crops, especially in the more inland areas. Slaves were too expensive for most people to purchase. In 1790 all the Vanderfords together owned 20 slaves and by 1800 that number had dropped to only 11. It was also becoming fairly common to grant freedom to slaves. In 1788 Charles (1026) bequeathed freedom to two slaves after 8 more years of service. In 1811 William granted freedom to Ben for his honest and good behavior. In 1814 William (2022) freed Peter. In 1817 John (2020) bequeathed freedom to Ben, Nancy and any children they might have when they reached 21. By 1840 Henry (3044) had three free colored people working for him.

By the 1800s the Vanderfords remaining on the Eastern Shore were turning away from agriculture. They were blacksmiths, merchants, printers and even undertakers. William Vanderford (2017), a blacksmith, seemed to have had difficulties with his apprentice boys, probably of his own making. On August 14, 1810 in the Republican Star he "offers reward for apprentice boy to the blacksmiths business, James Mason, about 16, tall and slender made, had on country linen jacket and trowsers and wool hat."8 On May 24, 1814 William put a notice in the Republican Star "runaway apprentice boy, William Larrimore about 13 years."9 And again on February 18, 1817 he "offers reward for boy named William Larrimore, apprentice to blacksmith business, about 15, 4 feet 5-6 inches, fair complexion."10

Henry Vanderford (3044) at the age of 14 entered the printing trade. In 1835, at 24, he bought the Caroline Advocate at Denton, Maryland. In 1837 he moved the press to Centreville, Queen Annes County and founded the Sentinel. In February of 1848 Henry bought the Cecil Democrat published at Elkton, Maryland and quadrupled its circulation in the seventeen years he owned it. The paper was an active party journal and was opposed to secession, but opposed to the administration also, and hence was classified as a secessionist journal by the Union men. Three times the paper was threatened with destruction by returned soldiers, but Henry let it be known that he had engaged "some of the most determined men around him to defend his property."11 Many of the Democratic papers in Maryland were suspended and their editors sent South, but Henry managed to continue uninterrupted publication of the Cecil Democrat. At the close of the war in 1865 he sold the paper and retired to farming.

Henry was, however, a diehard newspaper man and it was not long before he was back in that business with two of his sons, William (4071) and Charles (4072). They published the Democratic Advocate in Westminster, Maryland, one of the largest and most widely circulated journals in Maryland outside of the city of Baltimore.

Democratic Advocate Building

As the paper continued to prosper more room was needed and in October 1877 the new building at Main and Centre Streets was completed. "The building is of very substantial character, well lighted and admirably adapted for the printing business. The first floor front is occupied as a business office and the back room, fifty-six by eighteen feet, as a press and job room. In the second story is the editorial room, nicely carpeted and furnished and containing a library. It is connected with the office below by a dumb-waiter and speaking-tube. Back of the editorial room is a composing room, the same size as the press and job room. Under the latter room is a large cistern, from which, by means of a pump running up into the printing-office, water is obtained for the uses of the establishment. The four presses - two new Universals, a Washington, and a Cottrell and Babcock - are run by steam, and the four rooms of the office are heated by steam."12

The subscription price for the Advocate was $2.00 per year. When Henry assumed editorial control of the paper he told his readers "that no effort will be spared to make the Advocate an ever-welcome visitor in every family circle, and the editors hope to have the hearty co-operation of its friends in all parts of the county to extend the circulation and widen the influence of this journal."13 A special feature of the Democratic Advocate was the semi-weekly column, "The Farmer." Included in its instructive format were tips on crop growing procedures, reports from county and state officials on agriculture, information on implements and fertilizer usage and suggestions for the care of livestock.

Henry was also active in politics and twice served as a secretary to the State Democratic Convention. In 1873 he was elected to the House of Delegates from Carroll County and was elected to the State Senate from the same county for the 1878-1882 term.


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