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.

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