The Nottingham Lots and the Early Quaker Families
A Paper Presented by
Robert Warwick Day, Ph.D.
Spartanburg, South Carolina
September 29, 2001
East Nottingham Monthly Meeting
Calvert, Cecil Co., Maryland
In celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding in 1701 of the Nottingham Lots by William Penn and early Quaker settlers of Chester County, PA.
Good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your program. I'd like to commend the outstanding work of the Oxford, PA Friends for planning and organizing this very special tercentenary anniversary celebration of the Nottingham Lots. Over a year's planning and many volunteer hours have gone into carrying out this special historical event. Congratulations to the members of the planning committee and to the many volunteers who had a role.
This weekend, you are part of a growing American pastime called "cultural history," in which people seek to learn more about how their ancestors lived and what happened in their lifetimes. Cultural history is now a reason for the growth of travel and tourism in America. I commend you for being here today whether you've come from across the road or from across the country to learn more about the origins of this wonderful area.
I have visited here at least six times over the past 25 years in undertaking my family genealogy. However, before preparing this talk, I decided to review Cecil County websites to see what local people are talking about and find out what's on their minds.
I discovered on a county chat room this spring a very profound entry in which a resident stated that "the past is what actually happened; history is only what the officials wrote down." There's probably much truth in this observation.
I've been asked to speak today on the historic founding of the Nottingham Lots and the early families that settled this area 300 years ago. I'd like to share today how the establishment of this area was motivated by a combination of land acquisition, religion and politics.
The history of the Nottingham Lots has been told and published at different times by historians, genealogists, Quakers, and families. Over these past 300 years, there has probably been both much fact and, yes, some folklore in describing what actually occurred on this historic land.
What I'd like to do this afternoon is use my interpretation of historical sources to describe the forces which gave rise to this area. I'll touch on the founding of this historic Quaker meetinghouse called East Nottingham Monthly Meeting, also known as The Brick Meetinghouse or "The Brick." Then, I'll also address the families and culture of the early Quaker families that settled Nottingham Lots. I may take a few liberties in interpreting certain events, but I'll attempt to be as historically accurate as possible. And please forgive me if I continue to perpetuate folklore after 300 years.
Lest we forget, this comer of Maryland was mostly part of southwestern Chester County, PA, one of William Penn's original counties after his founding of Pennsylvania in 1682. This area of the county represented the western frontier of Pennsylvania at that time, and the lands west of here were primarily tribal and unsettled by Europeans.
Native Americans, particularly descendants of the Susquehannocks and other tribes that had been displaced by the growth of colonizing settlers, once used the heavily forested lands here for their hunting and fishing grounds. William Penn's several treaties with the Indians, including one in 1705, probably helped minimize major outbreaks between the Colonists and the Native Americans living here.
Historically, the Nottingham Lots were "ground zero" for a multi-generational land dispute between the several Lords Baltimore and William Penn, his sons and grandsons over border rights. Unlike other English colonies in America, both Maryland and Pennsylvania were originally grants or gifts to Lord Baltimore and William Penn, respectively. Each had autonomy in governing his colony without the direct control of the English government.
It is apparent from the records that Maryland had its toehold in this area before Pennsylvania. The Maryland Charter of 1632 placed that colony's northern boundary near 40 degrees latitude, closer to Philadelphia. However, this border was never firmly established.
Fifty (50) years later, in 1682, William Penn received a grant of land from James 11 of England on the west side of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. Penn appointed his cousin, William Markham, governor of Pennsylvania and appointed three commissioners to lay out the city of Philadelphia. Penn continued to amass great land holdings in the new colony, as he had in England.
The primary dispute was over Lord Baltimore's claim to the northern border of Maryland and William Penn's claim to the southern border of Pennsylvania. This land dispute continued for another fifty years after Penn's death in 1718. It was not until the late 1760's that the boundary was drawn through the work of two eminent English mathematicians and astronomers, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
The Nottingham Lots grew out of William Penn's tenacity in establishing his border rights. The second Lord Baltimore, Cecil Calvert, became more preoccupied with settling his border rights with the colony of Virginia to the south. At the same time, Penn was successful in attracting Quaker families primarily from the Philadelphia area and West Jersey as a means of fortifying his title to it.
In addition to the political differences between Lord Baltimore and William Penn, there were also differences in their religious backgrounds. Maryland was a Catholic-friendly colony and the Calverts were Catholic. There were strongly held feelings between them and the Protestant King William and Queen Mary of England. The late 1600's and early 1700's represented a turbulent time in the religious history of England. Lord Baltimore could not assume an adversarial role toward William Penn due to Lord Baltimore's complex relationships with the Crown of England at that time.
In the late 1600's, the second Lord Baltimore, Cecil Calvert, had a relative named George Talbot. Talbot, an Irishman who became Surveyor General of Maryland, was granted a patent for a huge tract of land of 32,000 acres known as the Susquehanna Manor to help settle English and Irish immigrants in Maryland. Talbot was an adventurous man who became embroiled in. a series of turbulent events, including a murder that resulted in his forfeiture of the Manor. William Penn used his dominant position to carve out over half of the former Susquehanna Manor for the new Nottingham settlement at the turn of the century.
In 1701, William Penn granted a warrant for 18,000 acres for the Nottingham Lots as one tract. The lots extended east to west about 1.0 mile across, from the present-day town of Rising Sun to the west to about 2 1/2 miles to the east of Brick Meetinghouse. The lots extended north to south at a maximum width of 3 miles.
In 1701, all 18,000 acres lay in Chester County, PA. However, after the settlement of the Mason-Dixon Line in the late 1,760's, only 1,300 acres of the original Nottingham Lots remained in Chester County and the other 16,700 acres became part of Cecil County, Maryland.
Penn's original tract was divided into lots running north and south, resulting in 37 lots. Each lot averaged approximately 500 acres and each was numbered between 1 and 37. It is generally believed that prospective owners made selections by the drawing of lots - hence, the use of the term "Lots."
The name "Nottingham" most likely came from William Penn's home in Nottinghamshire, England. The local township became known as East Nottingham and the meetinghouse became East Nottingham. Quakers and Scots-Irish Presbyterians settled the area to the west, known as West Nottingham.
According to the Pennsylvania Commissions of Property in 1701, the original families interested in purchasing one or more of the Nottingham Lots were to pay "8 pounds for every 100 acres within one year of date hereof, and one shilling for a yearly quitrent, for every 100 acres forever after, or in case of nonpayment, that they shall hold the land under the yearly rent of 2 bushels of good winter wheat for every 100 acres..."
So this became the purchase price and quitrent per 100 acres for each of the original owners. The average landowner of 500 acres of land would have paid 40 pounds sterling for his property at that time (or about $65 at the current exchange rate).
Subsequent to the establishment of the area, the Friends laid out a road through the center of the Nottingham Lots. This road was a continuation of the old road from Philadelphia to Darby, Chester, Kennett Square, New London, and then Nottingham. This was also the major road for Quaker migration from Philadelphia to the southwest, as a number of Quaker villages sprung up along this route in the late 1600's.
The Nottingham area at that time has been described as rich in natural resources, with heavily forested lands and trees that included hickory, chestnut, walnut, and oak. The land was fertile and the streams were said to be clear and vibrant. New economic opportunities were plentiful for new settlers to this area.
It is believed that two pioneer brothers, James and William Brown, both Quaker ministers, were among the first settlers here. They were sons of Richard and Mary Brown, members of Wellingborough Monthly Meeting in Northamptonshire, England, and apparently had become Friends before they came to America. Tradition has it that the Brown brothers were likely accompanied by several other founding members, including Andrew Job, John Churchman, and Henry Reynolds.
It is said that William Penn accompanied the Brown brothers and others to the area in 1701. On their last day, Penn is believed to have set apart and dedicated 40 acres of land, which is the land that we stand on today. Penn is quoted as saying that this land is "to them and their successors forever, for the combined purpose of public worship, the right of burial, and the privilege of education."
Over the next 50 years, all of these purposes were fulfilled with the establishment of the Meetinghouse, the burial yard, and a Quaker grade school which followed.
Several historical sources, however, imply that William Penn may not have been present at the surveying of the Lots. Penn had experienced financial setbacks both in Pennsylvania and England and was busy straightening out his financial affairs. Penn had returned from England in November 1699, after a long absence from the colony. He spent much of his time at his home in Pennsbury on the Delaware River and at his home in Philadelphia. Penn returned to England in October 1701, only to return to America very briefly between 1701 and his death in 1718.
It is possible that Penn left his agent James Logan of Philadelphia in charge of many of the proprietary affairs of Pennsylvania, including the surveying of and founding of the Nottingham Lots. Logan was the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Land Office, which represented William Penn's extensive land holdings. Penn had become overextended in his landholdings and financial obligations in both America and England and no doubt was distracted by these difficulties. It is conceivable that he was preparing to return to England, as he did in October, 1701, and that he never came to Nottingham.
Whether Penn was present or not, however, he undoubtedly approved this location for the settlement. It is believed that his verbal declaration, made in 1701, was for 64 years the only title by which Friends held ownership of the land of the Brick Meetinghouse. In 1765, John and Thomas Penn, heirs of William Penn, made a deed to the Nottingham Quakers that gave them final title of ownership.
Nottingham was a frontier village for its first 30 years, while settlers cleared the land and built roads, shops, dwellings, and the Meetinghouse. The Lots were populated by "simple, frugal, and industrious people" who combined farming with one or more of the occupations of that time including milling, blacksmithing, carpentry, clock making, tanning. They raised extensive crops of wheat, corn, and vegetables. Tobacco was not grown here since the soil would not support it.
The community became highly self-sufficient by the sharing of services, such as home-building, relying very little on outside resources other than perhaps support from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends.
The religious and cultural heart of the Nottingham Lots was clearly the East Nottingham Monthly Meeting (or Brick Meetinghouse), which was part of William Penn's original plan. In either 1707 or 1709, a log cabin was built to serve as the first Nottingham Meetinghouse. In 1715, the East Nottingham Monthly Meeting was organizationally affiliated with the Newark Monthly Meeting. In 1718, Brick Meetinghouse was put under the care of New Garden Monthly Meeting after New Garden separated from Newark.
In 1724, the 2 1/2 story structure was built and in 1730, the East Nottingham Monthly Meeting (or Brick Meetinghouse) was organized as a separate Monthly Meeting. There were two separate sides, one of brick and one of stone, one side for the men and the other side for the women. It is thought to have been the largest Quaker meetinghouse south of Philadelphia, within the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, for the next few decades.
The social traditions of the early Nottingham founders were closely aligned to their conservative religious beliefs. The Friends addressed themselves as "thee" and "thou." They dressed very conservatively and were simple in their daily lives. Their household possessions were few, but land ownership appeared to be a high priority.
They were also very human, according to meeting records. Some Friends were "disowned" from Quaker meetings for a variety of reasons, including marrying out of unity, excessive drinking, fornication, taking an oath, assaulting another person, and others. The Quaker faith and moral conscience in this small community was apparently strong, conservative, and rigid.
The role of Quaker women was quite broad, as they frequently became the "spiritual force" of the community and assumed significant roles in managing the affairs of the women's Quaker meetings and caring for neighbors in need. Quaker women were known for their revolutionary child rearing practices, which were considered advanced for the times. Women also pursued other household tasks such as candle making, gardening, and the making of clothing.
Children were very much a part of the family work unit, as their roles were defined by religious tenets. The Nottingham Quakers apparently supported a basic education. A Friends school built of logs was erected here about 1730 and served the community for the next 65 years. It reflected their basic religious beliefs about education and learning. Education much beyond the elementary level was virtually unknown and unavailable, since Friends viewed advanced formal education with suspicion for many years.
The first homes in the village, called "bee hives," were very small, stone houses built on two levels. As wealth amassed in the community by the 1730's, somewhat larger, but modest, four-room houses of brick and/or stone were built. They often had a "keeping room" with a cooking fireplace and had very simple, narrow staircases to the second floor. They were occasionally built with the help of neighboring Friends. To this day, several homes built in the 1700's, such as the Messer Brown home, have the names of the builders inscribed in the exterior brick.
One of the greatest challenges the Nottingham Lots landowners and their descendants confronted was gaining title to their property after the death of William Penn in 1718. This particularly caused difficulty when property was to be resold to subsequent purchasers and the lots were subdivided.
Another challenge was that many Nottingham landowners apparently failed to pay their quitrents, since for years, it was uncertain whether they were to be paid to Philadelphia or to Annapolis. So many landowners just didn't pay at all.
The Nottingham Quakers were very traditional about their rites of burial. The graveyard partially surrounded the Meetinghouse. Initially, there were no grave markers or stones to identify the deceased. Later, there were small stones used with no markings, and then subsequently, small stones with inscriptions were added. The larger headstones were a later addition and seemed to be out of form with Quaker simplicity.
The geographical identity of the Nottingham Lots had always been somewhat confusing. The people seemed to have very strong alliances to Pennsylvania and Delaware. The name "Nottingham Lots" appeared on the early surveys and maps. The town name of "Brick Meetinghouse" appears on Maryland maps of the 1800's. The town was renamed "Calvert" about 1880, since the postal service felt the name of Brick Meetinghouse was too long. "Nottingham" became the name of the relocated town now several miles north of here in Chester County on US Highway # 1.
The original Nottingham Lots were settled by 15 families, some of whom held more than one lot. Five owners never lived on their land here but were instead, absentee owners who lived mostly in the Philadelphia area. William Penn apparently retained 3,000 acres for his personal use, known as the "proprietary lots."
The original purchasers of lots included the following individuals: Joel Baily, John Bales or Beals, Edward Beeson, James Brown, William Brown, John Churchman, James Cooper, Robert Dutton, Cornelious Empson, Ebeneser Empson, Randal Janney, Andrew Job, Samuel Littler, Henry Reynolds, and John Richardson.
A review of genealogical records reveals that most of these first purchasers were middle-class yeomen born in England during the middle 1600's and died in the Nottingham area in the early 1700's. Their roots were mostly in the northern England counties of Cheshire, Durham, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, although some other English counties were represented.
Nearly all of the original Nottingham families came from within a 50-mile radius of Philadelphia before settling here. All were Quakers, and most of them transferred their certificate of membership from other Quaker meetings to the Brick Meetinghouse after its establishment. It can be surmised that William Penn or his agents knew at least some of the families in England or Pennsylvania and encouraged them to relocate to Nottingham.
Among the original owners, certainly the Brown brothers (James and William) represented the strong religious values of the community. They are believed to have held the first Quaker meetings in their homes about 1704 prior to the building of the Meetinghouse. By 175 1, six members of the Brown family, four men and two women, were ministers here in Nottingham.
Andrew Job was a carpenter and the sheriff of Chester County between 1697 and 1701. He along with John Churchman and their families were first to present certificates of transfer from the Chester Monthly Meeting to East Nottingham Monthly Meeting in 1706.
Andrew Job also established the historic Blue Ball Tavern on Lot 35 of the Nottingham Lots in about 1710. This roadside tavern provided shelter for travelers for the next 100 years. Andrew Job was apparently a close friend of William Penn and was influential in attracting new families to the Nottingham Lots.
John Churchman came to Nottingham with his parents about 1705 and became a minister. He was legendary for his religious travels throughout the colonies, Great Britain and Europe and kept a journal that was later published. He also became quite wealthy and built a home which was almost considered pretentious for this small Quaker village.
The Nottingham Friends were also visited occasionally by traveling male and female Quaker ministers from other parts. Many were on their way by horseback to other parts of Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas to spread the faith to relocated families. Local families here would take the traveling missionaries into their homes for the night. The connections between the Friends in PA, MD, VA and the Carolinas were strong through the 1700's, as Quaker ministers and missionaries traveled about the colonies.
After about 1710, there were other Quakers who came to the Nottingham Lots in search of land and a new life. Most of this second wave of settlers had their early roots throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
One of the more prominent families in this second wave was the England family. England's have lived in this area until the present time, and a nearby road in the village is named for this historic family. Other prominent families that came very early were the families of Chandlee, Coppock, Gatchell, Haines, Hollingsworth, Kirk, Preston, Pugh, Sidwell, White, and Wright.
All told, there were more than 70 family surnames represented in the early records of Brick Meetinghouse. Many of these settlers and their descendants intermarried with neighboring families and many were married in Brick Meetinghouse.
It's important to know that the original Quaker families of the Nottingham Lots were virtually a self-contained community and separate from other religious and ethnic groups in the region. Welsh Baptists had settled the Welsh Tract to the north. Scots-Irish Presbyterians had settled in western Cecil County and York County, PA. German Reformed and Lutherans had settled to the northwest in Lancaster and northern York Counties in Pennsylvania.
The Tidewater area of southern Cecil County in the late 1600's and early 1700's was a curious combination of two religious groups. Early Quaker families who had escaped religious persecution in Virginia lived amongst the Church of England loyalist planters who grew tobacco and supported a slave-based economy.
The early Nottingham Quakers were set apart from these other groups, both geographically and socially, but apparently were on good terms with them.
After 1730, some of the Nottingham descendants began to move to other regions. Cheaper land prices, better economic opportunities, plus overcrowding caused by the influx of settlers who had purchased land near Nottingham, were factors that caused some of the descendant families to migrate south and west.
Some of these families moved to Prince George's County, MD, Northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, central and southside Virginia, the central Carolinas and Georgia. They were among the first generation of pioneer families of the uplands region of the South. Hopewell Monthly Meeting near Winchester, VA, for example, had a good representation of Nottingham Friends who followed Alexander Ross to the Shenandoah Valley to settle 100,000 acres in the 1730's.
This migration to the South continued until late in the 18th century. The Friends followed a similar migratory path down the Valley of Virginia as the Scots-Irish and Germans of Pennsylvania.
However, for many of the Friends, who were accustomed to religious freedom in Pennsylvania, the issues of religious persecution and slavery arose in these new lands and were foreign to their beliefs. Some affluent Quakers in both Pennsylvania and the South were slave owners themselves but were often admonished by their own members.
The western lands in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and western Pennsylvania were opened up to settlers after 1790. Some Nottingham Quakers and southern Quakers with early roots in Nottingham saw fit to relocate their families to the west to pursue new economic opportunities.
Quaker migration in the 19th and 20th century continued all the way to the West Coast and to Canada. The path of migration through the mid-western states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa and on to the West Coast was particularly common between 1800 and 1890. Another common migratory path was from Alabama to Texas and westward. Some of the early Anglo-American settlers in Southern California in the 1880's were Friends descended from Nottingham.
And then, of course, there are many descendants of the early Nottingham families who remained in this area or relocated to the Philadelphia or Baltimore areas and intermarried and raised their families. Migration to these nearby urban areas accelerated through the last century, as employment and educational opportunities attracted large numbers of area youth.
... which brings us up to present times...
Some of you here today, whether you know it or not, are descendants of one or more of the original Nottingham families. Nearly 12 generations later, some of you live very close to your Nottingham roots.
Many of us here today share a common early experience that has allowed us to share a common thread of history. Three hundred years later, Nottingham Quaker descendants are now represented across the road and around the world.
I participate in an Internet chat room and communicate with other Nottingham descendants across the nation. Some of you are here today, and I've spoken with some of you already.
Finally, I believe that the early Nottingham families and their descendants have enriched and blessed this country many times over through their many contributions to our nation and its people. I'm honored today to call you "friend" and to be part of your program to share with you this legacy that began over 300 years ago. Thank you.
Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989)
At the Head of the Bay - A Cultural and Architectural History of Cecil County, Maryland (Baltimore: Cecil Historical Trust, Inc. and Maryland Historical Trust Press, 1996)
Births, Deaths and Marriages of the Nottingham Quakers, 1680-1889 by Alice Beard (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1989)
Communication with Herbert L. Standing of Earlham, Iowa, former Clerk of Wilmington (Del.) Monthly Meeting, 1964-69 and Quaker historian and genealogist, March, 2001
"Early Settlers of the Nottingham Lots," by A. Day Bradley, Ph.D. National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 70 (1982), pp. 282-294.
History of Cecil County, Maryland by George Johnston (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1989) (reprint)
History of Chester County, Pennsylvania by J. Smith Furthey and Gilbert Cope (Philadelphia, 188 1)
Quakers and the American Family - British Settlements in the Delaware Valley by Barry Levy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988)
Quaker Biographies, A Series of Sketches Ch Biographical, Concerning Members of the Society of Friends, from the Seventeenth Century to More Recent Times, Vol. III (Philadelphia: Friends Book Store, 1909)
Southern Quakers and Slavery by Stephen B. Weeks (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1896)
The True William Penn by Sydney George Fisher (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1900)
William Penn's Legacy - Politics and Social Structure in Provincial Pennsylvania, 1726-1755 by Alan Tully (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977)