Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where is the Vale of Benjamin

Years ago, when I became interested in Genealogy I traced my line back to John Soper; I found references that said he came from England, but there was nothing to indicate where in England or who his parents were. His will established that he was a planter and was seated (lived on) the Vale of Benjamin. His will did not mention his wife but it did have the names of all his children. 

 Wills L 23 f77: John Soper, planter who was seated on VALE OF BENJAMIN will of 11 Apr 1724-29 Nov 1742, Prince George's Co., MD To grandsons John & Robert 100 acres of Batron's Vinyard, (Battson's Vineyard) which he had bought from John Cash to his daughter, Esther Duvall, his dwelling plantation (purchased from Charles & Esther Duvall & a tract of land purchased from Charles Williams, to children John,   Robert, Mary James, Phillice Lowe, Acquilla Shaw & Lucy Lashly, 1 shilling each, to daughters Esther (Hester) Duvall, Priscilla, Leah, & Jamima, residue of estate & appointed his son-in-law, Mareen Duvall Jr. the executor. Wit. Burgess Mitchell, Richard Stone, & Thomas James.

A Benjamin Wells went through a required process of acquiring land. He applied for a Warrant at the Land Office that authorized a piece of land to be surveyed.a patent or deed was issued to Benjamin Wells on the 29thof October 1677. The land was called the Vale of Benjamin. 

Benjamin Wells was transported to Maryland in 1652 by his father Richard Wells along with his mother and 8 siblings. His sister Mary Wells plays a significant part in what happens to the Vale of Benjamin.

What was John's first piece of land called? Benjamin Wells owned the Vale of Benjamin, so another name was needed.At this time his first piece of land is unknown.

The Vale of Benjamin changed hands many times. By the end of his life, John Soper owned some part of the original Vale of Benjamin.

The Vale of Benjamin is an important piece to the puzzle. There are many other plantations that use the Vale of Benjamin as a reference point in determining their locations.

The following are land records that are associated with the Vale of Benjamin, 

Vale of Benjamin               ,
Good Luck                       
Little Land                 
Battson's Vineyard
HuckleBerry patch       
Turkeycock Branch    
Poplar Ridge                
Beall's Benevolence

During my research, as I found the names of the different plantations, I wondered if I could find where they would be on a current map. It wasn't until I received the book, "Early Landowners of Maryland, volume 2: Prince George's County 1650 - 1710, by Robert W Hall" that I found what the author calls a cluster map. As you can see it contains many of the plantations referenced. Not all plantations that are mentioned as surrounding the Vale of Benjamin are in the list. Perhaps they were created as parts of the plantations were sold off.

Cluster Map 

I found this survey in the Maryland State Archives,  Provincial Court Land Records, 1676-1700 that describes the Vale of Benjamin in 1677. It tells how it was surveyed, its dimensions, location and acreage; 1030 acres.

All that parcell of land called the VALE OF BENJAMIN lying in Calvert County on the West side of the maine branch of the dividing Creek of Petuxent & beginning att a bounded white oak standing in a line of the land of Alexander Macgrowther called Alexandria bounded on the South by the said land & runing West for foure hundred perches to a bounded white oak of the said land & from the said oak continuing West for one hundred ninety six perches to another bounded white oak from thence runing North for three hundred & tenn perches to a bounded white oak & from the said oak runing East five hundred & ninety five perches to a bounded swamp wood tree in the maine branch aforesaid & thence to the first bounded tree Containing & laid out for one thousand & thirty acres more or lesse 

Now all we have to do is find the bounded white oak. With the help of other land records I believe I found where the Vale of Benjamin is located on current maps.

To see exactly where this is and find the starting point of the Vale of Benjamin bring up Google Maps and locate
"2506 Ritchie Marlboro rd, Upper Marlboro, Maryland"
This is the address of the James Marr House, located on the Vale of Benjamin.
Maryland Historical Trust State Historic Sites Inventory Form, James Marr House, 2506 Ritchie-Marlboro Road, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772

Zoom out until you see hwy, Hwy 202, Largo road, top right, where Largo road crosses the river.  At that point zoom in until you can see the name of the river, "Western Branch Patuxent River". There is a branch running to the west called the "Southwest Branch Western Branch Patuxent River".
 Where the river branches to the west is the point where the bounded white oak is found and its relationship to the plantation Alexandria. Now you go west 400 perches. A perche is 16.5 feet. If you do all the calculations you will find the dimensions of the Vale of Benjamin is approx. 2 miles by 1 mile.  Note that the James Marr house falls within these boundaries. The dimensions are based on Google Map's measuring tool.
If you zoom out on the map you will see where The Vale of Benjamin is in relation to Washington D.C.
Driving today from the White House in Washington D.C. to the town called Largo is 18.7 miles. Largo is the town just north of the northern border of the Vale of Benjamin.
Below is a picture of the starting point of the Vale of Benjamin.

The History of the Vale of Benjamin

This sketch of the four Mareen Duvall’s ending with Mareen Duvall who Married Esther Soper has been transcribed from the several books. This outline traces the history of the Vale of Benjamin, the tract of land owned by John Soper at his death.

Because there are four Mareen Duvall’s, I have given each a number where necessary to avoid confusion over which Mareen is being described.
From the book “Mareen Duvall of Middle Plantation” by Harry Wright Newman we find:

Mareen Duvall (1)
Mareen Duvall,   Emigrant and Huguenot transported by William Burgess in 1659 and served a period of indenture ship under John Covell. 
“By July 25 1659, however, Mareen Duvall had completed his period of service and as a freeholder applied for his rights to 50 acres of land”
“Marin Du Vall demands fifty acres of land having performed his time of service with John Covell and brought in by William Burgess. Warrant issued for fifty acres 25 December next.” 

Mareen Duvall  as a Huguenot was born in France many years after the persecution and eventually massacres of the Huguenots by the Catholic Church. According to the entry in the book “Leading Families …” referenced below, he was one of the “150 adventurers” brought over by William Burgess. Referencing Joshua Dorsey Warfields’s book, “The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties”, Burgess had the ships and must have found others that were willing to pay the passage for the “150 adventurers”. In Mareen Duvall’s case a John Covall paid for Mareen’s passage and in return, Mareen was bound to him in indentured servitude for several years. 

John Covall credited as paying the passage got fifty acres, and as soon as Mareen paid his passage debt he received 50 acres. Historically, William Burgess is credited with having brought over the “150 adventurers”, but did he pay for their passage or just a broker matching paying customers, like John Covall to Mareen Duvall. Whatever the circumstances, William Burgess filled his ships with “150 Adventurers”. 

In the book “Leading Families of Baltimore & Baltimore County” pg. 104, we read:
Maureen Duvall, The Huguenot
No more striking figure in colonial history is found that the personal achievements of this fleeing immigrant from Nantes, about 1650.
He came as one of the hundred and fifty adventurers, brought over by Colonel William M Burgess. He settled near Colonel Burgess, in Anne Arundel County, on the south side of South River and became one of the most successful merchants and planters of that favored section.

From: "Colonial Families of The United States Of America"; Edited By George Norbury Mackenzie, Ll.B.; Volume I; Page # 142

Maureen Duvall, merchant and planter, a Huguenot refugee, came to Anne Arundel County, Maryland, about the year 1655, and settled on the south side of the South River,

The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland: By Joshua Dorsey Warfield.

On page 12, under South River Hundred it states, In 1650 Colonel William Burgess, the merchant whose vessels brought 150 settlers, was the central figure around whom settled a band of large land-holds. Mareen Duval, the Huguenot immigrant from Nantes, France held a large estate around the South River. (Middle Plantation). He came with Colonel William Burgess.

In these accounts it would appear that William Burgess and Mareen Duvall (1) were friends. I don’t think so, as William Burgess was Catholic and Mareen Duvall a Huguenot (Protestant) exiled from France by the Catholics. Later on we find Mareen (2) marrying a Catholic and he is promptly disinherited. 

Mareen Duvall married Mary Bouth had five children. One of their children was Mareen born 1661, and was referred to as Mareen Duvall (2) the Elder.

Mareen (1) had a second wife, Susannah Brashear, they had seven children one also called Mareen Duvall the Younger born in 1680. This Mareen is not important to the story.

At the time of Mareen Duvall (1) death his personal estate was valued at 947/5/8 pounds plus 81,302 lbs. of tob (tobacco) “beside the tob hanging at the plantation and 135 hogsheads ship (sic) for England.  This was considered a very affluent estate.
947/5/8 translated is 947 pounds, 5 shillings and 8 pence.

Mareen Duvall (2) the Elder

From the book “Mareen Duvall of Middle Plantation” by Harry Wright Newman
Before 1688 Mareen Duvall (2) married into one of the most fashionable and aristocratic families in Anne Arundel County. He took as his bride Frances Stockett, daughter of Captain Thomas Stockett. Mary, the wife of Captain Thomas Stockett, was the daughter of Richard Wells, one of the ruling deputies of Maryland during the commonwealth. Richard Well’s wife Frances White was the daughter of staunch Royalist. There was consequently a Montague falling in love with and marrying a Capulet or Royalist and High Churchman marrying a daughter of a Puritan and non-conformist

Newman’s Shakespeare reference confuses the problem with the Duvall - Stockett marriage. It was not the staunch Catholic Stockett family that complained about the marriage. It was Mareen Duvall, the protestant who would not put up with it. 

Mareen (2) was the second son and set to receive inheritance. Mareen (1) devised his will and gave Mareen’s (2) inheritance to his brother Lewis his third son. Mareen (2) was allowed to live of south end of Mareen(1) property.

According to the will of his Father in 1694 Mareen Duvall (2) the Elder was living on “Middle Plantation” but as a tenant only, for the will devised Lewis, (Son of Mareen (1) the Emigrant) all that my 300 acres of land and plantation, where on my son Mareen Duvall (2) now dwelleth on the south end  of the land called Middle Plantation.
In addition to the reversion in certain land upon contingency, his only bequest from his father’s will was 5 shilling.

Mareen (2) was virtually disinherited, no land and only 5 Shillings.
Fortunately, Mareen’s (2) wife Frances had inherited a portion of the Vale of Benjamin. Mareen (2) suffered financial losses and his creditors obtained a judgment of 500 pounds. In order to protect the inheritance of their son he deeded Mareen Duvall (3), 1000 acres of the Vale of Benjamin.

After the death of his father in law, Thomas Stockett, in 1671, Mareen Duvall’s (2) mother in law or the widow of Captain Stockett, married secondly George Yate, Esq., who succeeded Stockett as Deputy Surveyor for Anne Arundel County.

This statement is important because it was Mary Wells who married Thomas Stockett and after he died who married George Yate. Mary Yate is very important to this story.

Financial problems persisted and in 1718 court records reported that Duvall was not in a position to pay, and stated in his petition that he was “very willing to part with all that he hath in the world towards the payment, if they would grant him liberty”.

He apparently died before August 22 1735, for on this day his son and heir, Mareen Duvall (3) , was accorded the title “Senior”. No will has been found and no formal administration was made to the Prerogative Court, so consequently the estate was settled privately among their heirs.
In about 1707 the Vale of Benjamin was held by: Mareen Duvall 200 acres; Samuel Magruder Sr. 193 acres; John Soper 50 acres; Charles Williams 150; John Cash 100; Thomas James 130; John Barrett 148; John and George Yates 59 acres. The original Vale of Benjamin as surveyed by Benjamin Wells in 1670 was 1030 acres.  John Soper held 50 acres of the Vale of Benjamin.

Mareen Duvall (3) born: 24 Oct 1687.
On May 11, 1734, he instituted a resurvey of 212 acres of Vale Of Benjamin and with 115 acres of surplus, he received a certificate for 237 acres under the name of Poplar Ridge , as follows:

"By vitue of a Special Warrant of Resurvey granted out of his Lordship's Land Office the 3 instant unto Mareen DuVall Jr. of the afsd County, to resurvey for and in the name of him the said Mareen DuVall part of the tract of Land Called the VALE OF BENJAMIN Originally on the 10th of June 1671 granted unto a certain Benjamin Wells for the quanity of 1030 under now rent who by his Deed of Gift gave the said tract unto a Certain Mary Yates the afsd Mareen DuVall's grandmother who in like manner gave 212 acres of the same unto Mareen DuVall Sr and Frances DuVall the aforesaid Mareen DuVall Jr. father and mother under certain meets and bounds which said France is since dead and by a Deed of Gift from his father the said 212 acres became the right of the said Mareen DuVall Jr.....

115 acres of the above resurvey are deeded his son Mareen Duvall (4).

Mareen Duvall (4) 

Mareen Duvall (4) was born 22 June 1714. In 1741 he married Esther Soper, daughter of John Soper and widow of John Lowe.

On November 27 1741, Mareen Duvall (4) filed papers at the court, reporting a balance of 25/3/7 pounds.

John Soper whose seat was likewise on “Vale of Benjamin” died testate and by his will of November 29 1742, devised his daughter, Hester Duvall, an unnamed tract of land, purchased from Charles Williams and appointed his son in law Mareen Duvall (4) executor.

On May 25 1744, he, Mareen Duvall (4)  rendered an account upon the state of his father in law, John Soper, showing a balance of 104/2/8 pounds  with specific disbursements to Robert Soper, Robert Lashley, John James, Phillis Lowe and James Shaw.An additional account on November 21 1746, reported legacies to the following heirs: William Ellis who married the deceased daughter Priscilla, daughter Leah Soper who died during her minority therefore her part descended to her several representative, that is, brothers John Soper and Robert Soper and sisters Mary James, Phillis Lowe and Robert Lashley who married her sister Lucy, John Shaw who married her sister Acqilla, and this accountant who married her sister Esther.

According to the debt books, Mareen Duvall (4)  remitted quit rents regularly on Vale of Benjamin and Poplar Hill. On August 18 1781, it was reported that paid 1200 pounds of tobacco annually for his of the Vale of Benjamin.

Mareen Duvall (4) died in 1783. His personal estate was inventoried on October 27, 1783, at 580/11/11 pounds.

History of the Vale of Benjamin

How many acres of the Vale of Benjamin did John Soper own at the end of his life? I thought it a worthwhile question. But it is not to be found in this obviously incomplete and confusing history. 

10 Jun 1670     Benjamin Wells is deeded the Vale of Benjamin, 1030 acres.
           1676     John Soper arrives in Maryland.
           1696     Charles Williams purchased land that was a portion of Vale of Benjamin.
           1696     Basil Lee Williams purchased land, it being a part of Vale of Benjamin.
24 Mar 1696    Mary Yate to Samuel Magruder, 192 acres Turkey Cock Branch being part of Vale of Benjamin.
04 Jul 1696      Mary Yate to Charles Williams, for 7000 pounds tobacco, a 200 acre tract called Huckleberry Patch, being part of a tract called Vale of Benjamin.
29 Jun 1698     Mary Yate sold to Thomas James, 100 acres of the Vale of Benjamin.
29 Mar 1699    Mary Yate gives to sons, George and John residue of estate including the Vale of Benjamin.
28 Nov 1698   Thomas James for 1200 pounds tobacco, 30 acres of Vale of Benjamin.
28 Nov 1699   Thomas Stockett to John Barnett for 29 pounds and 12 shilling, a 128 acre part of Vale of Benjamin.
13 Aug 1701   Mareen Duvall Sr. to John Barrett, part of the 1000 acre tract called Vale of Benjamin to son Mareen and wife Frances. (Stockett)
             1703   Samuel Magruder rent rolls 193 acres Vale of Benjamin.
07 Mar 1716    Thomas James Sr. to Thomas James, 50 acres Vale of Benjamin.
14 Jul 1716`    John Soper to John Cash trades 100 acres Vale of Benjamin for Batterson’s Vineyard 112 acres.
22 Nov 1722   John Lewis to Elizabeth Watter, 113 acres Batterson’s Vineyard laid out by John Soper.  ***
11 Apr 1724    John Soper willed Esther Soper Duvall his dwelling plantation, Vale of Benjamin that was purchased from Charles Duvall and his wife Esther.
11 May 1734   Mareen Duvall (3) through a special warrant has the Vale of Benjamin resurveyed.
15 Apr 1738    Mareen Duvall Sr. by deed of gift conveyed 115 acres of the Vale of Benjamin to son Mareen Duvall.
27 Mar 1736    Derby Sweeny to Wife for 20 pounds, tract of land called Vale of Benjamin, 104 acres.
27 Jun 1763     Richard Burgess ourchased from Thomas James 70 acres of the Vale of Benjamin
20 Apr 1765    Basil Burgess, purchased from Thomas Stockett for 20 pounds, portion of Vale of Benjamin.
22 Jul 1765      William Magruder to wife, turkey Cock Branch part of Vale of Benjamin.

27 Jun 1767      Mareen Duvall (4) and Esther his wife with the consent of John Rodgers conveyed  to him (Charles Burgess) for 35 pounds the released entailed land which had had been conveyed by Charles William to John Soper in and by him to his daughter, Esther then Esther Duvall, in tail.
6 Jan  1755  `   Charles Burgess Purchased a portion of Vale of Benjamin and  Baston's Vineyard.

02 Jun 1784     Keziah Duvall and her husband Cornelius Duvall her kinsman disposed of their inheritance were conveyed by James Soper and his wife Anne for 500 pounds their share of Vale of Benjamin.
2 Jun 1784       Cornelius and Keziah Duvall conveyed to Zacharia Merry for 121 pounds sterling Poplar Ridge a portion of Vale of Benjamin containing 166 acres.
11 Nov 1801   Contract to purchase Vale of Benjamin.
             1871   James Marr purchased 237 acres of Vale of Benjamin.

*** In this transaction the words “laid out by”, is the term used to describe the survey of land before a deed is given to the owner. The land called Batterson’s Vineyard is found in several land transaction involving John Soper. Once it is referenced as Bartron’s Vineyard. I am unable to find any reference to a Bartron’s Vineyard and assume it to be a spelling error. There was a Edward Battson (Batson) whose land transaction involved Battson’s Vineyard and Battson’s Vineyard Res. (resurveyed)?