Samuel Magruder’s Patuxent Tobacco Ship

Duncan McGruther sent a message a few days ago:

Alexander the Immigrant left an eighth share of the ‘Patuxent Tobacco ship’ in his Will. Has anyone come across this vessel? Or details of where it berthed, or the other shareholders? I assume it was not seagoing and confined its activities to collecting and accumulating tobacco from growers on the Patuxent, but if so where was its home port and where did it deliver to for onward transmission across the Atlantic.

I don’t know of any record pertaining to the tobacco ship, which appears in the 1810/1811 will of Samuel Magruder, Alexander’s oldest known son. He appears to have owned a one-fourth interest in the ship, as he bequeathed one-eighth each to his sons Alexander and Nathaniel. We know Alexander the Immigrant owned the tobacco landing (shipping point) for which this website is named, and it’s likely that business accounted for much of his prosperity, as he made money there even when the (notoriously unstable) price of tobacco was down. That business-sense seems to have passed to his wealthy oldest son, who owned town lots in Marlborough as well as numerous plantations.

The Patuxent is silted in & shallow these days, but in the 17th c. was both wider & deeper, navigable for ocean-going vessels. They anchored mid-channel & sent smaller boats to the landings to take on hogsheads of tobacco. I have not read much detail about those operations, but always assumed the ships used their own small boats. It could have been the opposite, I suppose, with each landing sending out its own boat. However, since his shares of the “Pertuxson Merchant ship” were named & bequeathed as an item in Samuel’s will, separate from any real estate, my assumption would be that he owned it jointly with other growers/shippers & that it collected tobacco up & down the Patuxent for transport to Magruder’s or other landings. It is also possible the ship transported other commercial goods.

A tobacco warehouse stood at the Magruder site until it was burned down by the British in 1814, during what we Americans, for some reason, persist in calling The War of 1812. Was the Patuxent already silting up Samuel’s time, so this river-going ship was needed to transport tobacco and other produce down to the river mouth?

Can you answer that question, or do you have other detail about the operations of the tobacco landings and transatlantic ships? If so, please get in touch via the Contact tab on any page of this site.

[This post was corrected after I checked the wills of Alexander & his son Samuel, confirming my recollection that it was Samuel, not his father, who owned shares in the ship.]

A call-out to descendants

I’ve been trying to think of ways this site can do more to help people find each other–those who share ancestors, those who can share stories. I get a lot of interesting comments, but comments at the foot of a web page are often a dead-end, no follow-up. So let’s generate conversation in a different way.

If you are descended from people enslaved by white Magruders/McGruders & would be willing to share what you’ve learned, please get in touch by using the Contact page (which sends me an email). I would like to run some small features on your families & your research journey. You can write it, I can write it, or we can write it together.

I am particularly interested in Maryland and Washington DC stories, because that’s my area & I might be able to connect some dots; but I’m open to all. It was common for ties between families linked by slavery to endure after Emancipation, sometimes for generations. So even if your genealogical search hasn’t broken through the barrier into slavery times, please share what you know.

If you are descended from white Magruders/McGruders & have information about those your ancestors enslaved–from family sources or your own research–please join in. I can feature your work, as well, or perhaps you can connect some info from your family to someone else’s search.

I probably won’t be featuring families from the Sawyerville, Alabama, line, since those descendants are doing such outstanding work of their own, but as the new book takes shape I’ll try to post some teasers, so you know what to look forward to.

Once again, if you want to take part please use the Contact function (also linked at the top of every page). I can’t wait to hear from you!

Alabama Black McGruders of Sawyerville-anthology

The Alabama Black McGruders of Sawyerville, Alabama–i.e. the descendants of Ned (1795-1853) and Moriah (1800-1880)–are putting together an anthology of the family history. The book will be published in 2021 & marketed on Amazon & elsewhere. All descendants of this family are welcome to submit obituaries, family biographies, or other information. Here is a draft outline, still a work in progress. This book builds on the work done by JR Rothstein & other family members in The Alabama Black McGruders, which can be downloaded from this site. Also see the African-American Magruder/McGruders Facebook page, which is for ALL black Magruders/McGruders (& related surnames), not just this lineage. If you want to contribute to the book, please contact JR & Yehuda Rothstein at jrr483(at)gmail.com, or Message them through the FB group.

Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, a ship reached Galveston Bay, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. If you’re thinking, Wait a minute, didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation take effect in January 1863? And didn’t the war end in April of 1865? you are correct. After the Proclamation some enslavers had fled to the remote Southern stronghold of Texas, where they held out with thousands of captive slaves until the arrival of 2,000 Union soldiers put an end to their fantasy of some frontier survival of the Confederacy. That’s why we celebrate the final end of slavery on this day, and why it has also become a celebration of blackness, of culture, and of the true complexity of African American history.

In observance of this Juneteenth, I want to call out the names of the last people I know to have been enslaved by my direct Magruder ancestors in Maryland.

John, a man. Rachel, a woman. Kitty, a woman, & Kitty’s infant child. Christy, a woman. Henry, William, George, Elias, & Lemuel, boys. Louisa, Dorothy, Martha, & Caroline, girls.

These people are named in the inventory of the estate of my third great-grandfather, Edward Magruder, who died in Prince George’s County in 1842. I have not been able to trace them further. With the exception of Kitty’s unnamed infant they are not grouped by family, and no ages are given.

It is possible John was the husband of Rachel, Kitty, or Christy. In the 1840 census, the household also included a free man or boy of color, aged 10-23. If a man, he could have been the husband of one of the women and father of some of the children. If a boy, he could have been the son of Edward Magruder.

Caroline’s assessed value was but $20, so she was either an infant or unwell. She appears last on the list, so it’s possible to theorize that the children are listed in descending order of age, as was often done. However, their assessed values do not correspondingly decrease; they appear in clusters. So it is possible to use assessed value of each child to theorize three family groups. Henry, Louisa, & William are listed first, with decreasing values from $350 to $150. George, Dorothy, Elias, & Lemuel come next, valued at $175 down to $100. Martha at $150 and Caroline at $20 come last. Dollar values on human beings are repulsive, but useful in the search for patterns and information. If they stoke your anger, good. Let’s stay angry.

John, the only man listed, was valued at $400, Rachel and Christy at $300, and Kitty with her infant together at $350. It is worth noting that Henry, listed as a boy, is valued more highly than the women, which strongly suggests he was near adulthood and/or an apprenticed tradesman.

That’s all I know, and all I can guess at. I have not yet found them in estate records of Edward’s children, but am relatively certain they did not pass to my direct ancestor, who was the youngest child of Edward’s second marriage.

John, Rachel, Kitty, Christy, Henry, Louisa, William, George, Dorothy, Elias, Lemuel, Martha, & Caroline: I am still looking for you. It’s not much, but it’s all I can do for you. To your descendants I owe much greater responsibilities, and like to think some of them are out in the streets right now, 155 years after the original Juneteenth, celebrating you and themselves, and fighting for a meaningful freedom.

The Dodson Family

From Magruder wills, census records, Registrations of Free Negroes, and other sources, I have been trying to construct relationships among various free, enslaved, and newly emancipated Dodsons in Prince George’s County and Washington DC. from the late 18th c to Emancipation. If you are an Af-Am Dodson or descendant and have information, questions, or theories, please get in touch. Even if you just want to say “Hey, I’m a descendant!” I’d like to hear from you. Please use the CONTACT tab or click here to contact me directly. This works much better for me that trying to follow up on comments.

New life at Magruder’s Landing!

As you may have noticed, things have been slow on the landing for a while, as I was going through some major life changes. Behind the scenes, I have been corresponding with some folks looking for their family members, but not much has been happening here on the dock. I think the dust has settled now–I’m retired, I’ve moved, my 6th book has been published and the 7th is underway. Retirement + Covid19 = more time than I ever could have imagined while teaching. So, I think it’s safe to say: I’m back.

If you have requested specific help from me and not received a reply, please resend your request USING THE CONTACT TAB. It is very hard for me to pick up the strands of your search from a comment on the website. I’ll remind you that I am not a genealogist & can’t do your basic research for you, such as searching online records, nor is there a place on this site for ongoing genealogical discussions. What I can offer are general suggestions about the sources you might consult and, once in a while, advice on where and how your search may have gone astray. In addition, if you are African American and think your family has Magruder ties, of blood or history, I will do my best to connect what you have dug up so far with my resources.

‘Wha’s Like Us’ & ‘Magruders in America’ available again

Don McGruther & Sue Emerson have re-released their popular book & CD set, full of information about McGruthers/McGruders/Magruders in Scotland & America. Don attended last spring’s Southern Maryland Genealogy & History Fair, where people got pretty excited to get their hands on this info. Nearly every family represented at the fair had intermarried with Magruders in Maryland–not surprising, since Alexander arrived in the colony about 20 years after its founding. For his book, Wha’s Like Us, Scottish researcher Don McGruther combed historical records for every trace of our family name from its 14th c (& maybe even 13th c) origins up to the 19th c. The book includes Alexander the Immigrant’s antecedents, as well as much more info & context. The book is sold as a package with Sue Emerson’s CD, in searchable PDF format, Magruders In America, a heroic attempt to trace every documented descendant of Alexander down to nearly the present day. The CD has two documents on it, Magruders In America and Updates which amount to about 1,700 pages each, or 3.3 million words. If interested in purchasing the set, please contact Sue Emerson at fossilsue(at)comcast.net.

2nd Annual Southern MD Genealogy & History Fair

Hey Magruders, McGruders, McGruthers, McGrews, & all… On June 29, descendants of perhaps 100 southern Maryland families will converge on the La Plata campus of the University of Southern MD. It looks like a group of us, both African American & white, will be taking part, and we want you to join us. None of us attended last year’s event (at least no one I’ve been in touch with) but we think it could be a great way for some of us to meet face-to-face and see what we can learn from each other. Duncan McGruther plans to fly over from Scotland, with all his research info on Alexander McGruder/Magruder’s origins. Many others will have their family trees, their research, and their questions.

Registration is $25, and your payment and registration must be in by June 1. The chief organizer is Wanda Simmons of the organization Southern Maryland Families. (They do not appear to have a web site.) I don’t want to publish Wanda’s email here, but if you click the Contact tab at the top of this page and send me a message I will either put you in touch with Wanda or just forward the info to you directly. (Wanda has been swamped with correspondence, so the latter might be better.) You can also check out the thread about this on the Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy Group on Facebook.

There are also plans–talked of, but not yet firm–for Magruders/McGruders to have our own informal gathering either the day before or the day after the fair (June 28 or June 30). I’m sure folks will want to visit the site of Magruder’s Landing and tobacco warehouse, and other sites. If you want to seriously explore, plan on at least one extra day.

If you are not a Magruder by name, but are connected through the legacy of slavery, please also consider attending. The more we share, the more we’ll learn.

And: anyone living in southern Maryland, please reach out with advice on hotels, restaurants, meeting places, and all.

More soon, and hope to meet you in June.