Magruder-Hamilton slaves

Elizabeth Magruder, a sister of John S. Magruder, died unmarried in 1827. Elizabeth inherited part of Dunblane from their father, Nathaniel Magruder (d.1786). Earlier researchers tracking this family believed she died intestate because no will was found in the Maryland records; but in fact she made her will in Washington, D.C. She was buried in the Magruder-McGregor Family Graveyard at Dunblane (or Westphalia), PG Co.

By her will, Elizabeth manumitted four slaves immediately. She left all her property, including the rest of her slaves, to her two nieces, Maria Watterston and Eliza Hamilton (daughters of Elizabeth’s sister Margaret Magruder Shanley) and to two of Maria’s children, David Watterston and Eliza H. Watterston. (Eliza and her husband, Charles Beale Hamilton, had no children.) The slaves were to serve for terms of 5 to 32 years, and then be freed.

Charles B. Hamilton (a surgeon in the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812) was executor for John S. Magruder’s will, also for the will of Eleanor Magruder (Eliza’s cousin, a d/o John S’s brother, Francis). From Eleanor Magruder he inherited a number of slaves, and some of those people or their children are doubtless among those detailed in Eliza Hamilton’s will. Charles Hamilton made his will in 1851, leaving all his property and affairs to his widow, Eliza, “confiding in her sense of justice to make such disposition of what may remain of it, at her own demise.”

Eliza’s 1860 will manumitted all of her slaves, left real property and cash to several, and created a trust that benefitted many.

Maria’s husband, George Watterston, was Librarian of Congress from 1815 to 1829, a writer and poet, and (according to C.C. Magruder, Jr.) “sometime editor of the The Washington Reporter and Washington City Chronicle” newspapers. He served in a number of public offices and was Secretary of the Washington Monument Commission at the time of his death in 1854. Surprisingly for a man of these talents, both he and Maria appear to have died intestate. I will explore the wills of their children in future.

For now, these pages concentrate on the wills of Elizabeth Magruder and her niece Eliza Hamilton, and the people named therein.

According to C.C. Magruder, Jr., the Watterstons and Hamiltons share a family vault in D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery.

* * * *

For the discovery of Elizabeth Magruder’s will, I thank Letitia Woods Brown’s Free Negroes in the District of Columbia, 1790-1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972) p83.

Caleb Clarke Magruder, Jr., “Nathaniel Magruder of Dunblane,” American Clan Gregor Society Yearbook, 1917 (annual gathering of 1916), pp 20-46.

  • Belief that Elizabeth died intestate, p41
  • Hamilton’s will quoted p32.
  • Details from Watterston’s bio p28
  • Burials p46
  • All ACGS yearbooks are available digitally from the University of Baltimore, Lansdale Library, Special Collections, ACGS Series VIII, Publications, Digital Publications, ACGS Yearbooks   (accessed 3 Dec 2011).

2 comments on “Magruder-Hamilton slaves

  1. Donald Newcomb says:

    Have you seen the papers filed with the DC commission in 1862 regarding the slaves of David & Maria Watterston? They are quite detailed. David’s was Dudly Nelson and Maria had a family of Clarks. Also, Eliza is the only Hamilton is listed as being in the Watterston/Hamilton Vault in Congressional Cemetery. Charles is listed in the Public Vault. It seems that the Watterston Vault must have been constructed between 1851, when Charles Hamilton died and 1854 when George Watterston died.

    • susantichy says:

      Thank you, Donald. I hadn’t seen those records. Folks, to access them, go to and search in non-military records, Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862-1863. The Clarks are listed as Virginia Clark, 29, with her five children: Charles (9), Edmond (8), Jannet (5), Alexander (4), and Washington (1). Physical descriptions are also provided. You can see the images without registering, will have to register to download or print them. This class of records are offered free. In her petition, Maria Watterston states that she obtained Virginia’s mother by deed of gift from Louisa Magruder of Prince George’s County, and that Virginia was born during her mother’s term of service. She does not provide the name of Virginia’s mother. I was working on the inventory of Louisa Magruder’s estate during the summer but hadn’t quite finished my notes — I’ll try to post them soon. Note that the final “K” in “Clark” is often written with a terminal loop that looks like an “e”, so distinguishing “Clark” from “Clarke” in 19th c. records is difficult and in some cases not significant.

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