Digging into Land Records: Humor and Clues You Shouldn’t Ignore

If you haven’t explored your local land records, you’re really missing out on some valuable information as well as some entertainment. I’m working on a new house history (shh! it’s a secret!) that a coworker commissioned for a Christmas present. In seeking out the deeds for the house, I’ve found a treasure trove of details about properties that demonstrate the humor of the landowners back in the 1800s.

When settlers and colonists took ownership of land, they often named the tracts and these descriptors are thereafter referenced in future land records (a helpful clue when you’re trying to decipher all those descriptions of acres, perches and degrees). Here’s just a couple examples that made me giggle while I researched:

“Inn Intention”

“Connelly Vexation”

Other place names give clues as to the owner or the purpose of the land:

“Frenchman”

“Ohio” (this is in Maryland)

“Forester’s Hunting Ground”

“The Three Brothers”

How about:

“Everything Needful Corrected”

How does one get started digging into land records? Here’s one of the best-kept secrets in Maryland: currently anyone can use mdlandrec.net to look up property in the state. You do need a login, but it’s simple to request one and I was informed by their help desk that they usually respond to requests within the hour during the business day.

I highly recommend reading the user guide (may require a login to download) before you get started as navigating the search mechanism for the various county land indices can be a bit overwhelming for newbies.

Happy digging!

Tombstone Tuesday: Hambleton House Edition

I knew some of the Hambletons of the Hambleton House (now the Bartlett Pear Inn) are buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Easton, so I ventured over there last week to see who I could find. I happened upon the above tombstone for a Samuel Hambleton but when I got home and examined the photos I took more closely, I realized it wasn’t for the Purser Samuel Hambleton or the Col. Samuel Hambleton who bought the house or his son James’ son Samuel. It’s the grave of a fourth Samuel Hambleton!

This tombstone belongs to one of James’ brothers. The inscription reads:

“SAMUEL

Son of Samuel & Elizabeth Hambleton

Died January 24th, 1861

Aged 11 years.

I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes.

Even so Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

The phrase above is from Luke 10:21 in the King James Bible.

I also found another tombstone for another of James’ brothers:

His inscription:

“ALEXANDER HAMBLETON

Born Dec’r 5, 1839
Died Nov’r 25, 1862

Jesus saith unto her Thy brother shall rise again. St. John XI:23″

Col. Samuel Hambleton, the father of James and the two sons above, also is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, but in a different section. Entries for all three are available on FindAGrave. I hope to go back someday and find more of the former inhabitants of the Hambleton House.

A Real Treasure Chest for Treasure Chest Thursday

The Bartlett Pear Inn at 28 South Harrison Street in Easton, Md., as it looks today. The building dates back to 1790.

Okay, so it’s not mine, nor do I have a photo of it, but I wanted to expand on a part of the Hambleton House story that involves an actual treasure chest! As I mentioned in my blog post about the Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton (formerly the Hambleton House), a small chest was discovered under one of the staircases* in the home after the passing of Nannie Hambleton, the last of the Hambletons to occupy the building. Nannie Hambleton passed away in 1962, 117 years after her father purchased the property.

*The innkeeper took me on a tour of the Bartlett Pear Inn when I started working on this project and there are several staircases in the building under which the chest may have been kept. There’s even a staircase to nowhere that was partially walled off during one of the building’s many renovations. You can still see part of it by looking in one of the closets off the main staircase.

The chest that was discovered once belonged to her great-uncle, War of 1812 Purser Samuel Hambleton (not to be confused with Col. Samuel Hambleton (Nannie’s father) or Samuel Hambleton III (her brother)).

The elder Samuel Hambleton made a name for himself at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 by crafting a banner that read “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” The chest found under the staircase at 28 South Harrison Street in Easton contained his personal papers and his medal for bravery.

Purser Hambleton later built Perry Cabin in St. Michael’s, Md., which is also now an inn. Perry Cabin is named after Commodore Oliver H. Perry, with whom Hambleton served during the Battle of Lake Erie.

Wordless Wednesday: The Hambleton House Over Time

The former Hambleton House (now the Bartlett Pear Inn) at 28 S. Harrison Street in Easton, Md., over time. Click on the images below for larger versions.

Crop of a stereograph, circa 1879, of the Hambleton House. (Original Image: Used with Permission of the Historical Society of Talbot County. File no. FIC2002209)

Photo, circa the 1920s, of the Hambleton House from the same angle. (Original image: Used with Permission of the Historical Society of Talbot County. File no. 2004011000278)

The Bartlett Pear Inn, formerly the Hambleton House, as it looks today. (Photo taken by Missy Corley, May 2010.)

Un-Tombstone Tuesday: A Stone’s Throw from the Bartlett Pear Inn

One interesting bit of Easton (Md.) history is located right across South Lane from the Bartlett Pear Inn (formerly the Hambleton House, built in 1790 by Benjamin Stevens). On the corner of South Lane and Harrison Street is a stone marker with the Roman numerals XXIII carved into it. This marker is from the original survey of the town in 1786 by a group including John Stevens (Benjamin’s father). The marker denotes Lot 23. Benjamin Stevens bought lots 24-26 on which the Bartlett Pear Inn now sits. (Photos by Missy Corley)

Somewhat Wordy Wednesday: Mind the Gap

This is a gap in the fence that separates the Tylor House in Easton from its neighbor to the south. Rumor has it that two sisters once occupied the Tylor House and the residence next door and left the gap in the fence to make it easier to visit one another. The footsteps in the snow in this pic were left by the mailman. These days, he’s the only one to make use of the pass-through.

When Wilson Tylor built the Tylor House, the parcel of land that it sat on was pretty large. That parcel has since been divided into other lots. Did he build a house on the adjacent lot for one of his daughters? Or was it a subsequent owner and her sister that were neighbors? I’ll need to do more digging into the history of both properties to find the answer.

Wordy Wednesday: Genealogy Road Trip

As mentioned in this past weekend’s SNGF and yesterday’s Tombstone Tuesday post, my sister and I visited Elizabethton, Tenn., in the state’s northeast corner, during the holidays. Elizabethton is where my great-grandparents William E. HAYES and Della M. CROW raised my maternal grandmother and her siblings. The last time we were in Elizabethton, I was six years old. I have many memories of that trip and I was excited to revisit my great-grandmother’s home (since sold to a distant relation).

After meeting up with our great-uncle, Ben Hayes, he drove us to the old house on Poplar Branch Road. It was nothing like I remembered. First of all, everything seemed a lot smaller — of course, I was small myself the last time I was there. A creek passes through the front yard. Where once there was a wooden bridge (see below), there is now an asphalt walkway. We had always visited in the summer months, when everything was hot, green and thriving. When we visited last week, it was cold, gloomy and barren.

Sadly, the change in season is not the only reason the property seemed so different. It has fallen into disrepair. It desperately needs a new coat of paint and there was an accumulation of junk and vehicles in the back yard. The front porch, on which I remember playing in the shade during my visits to Grandma Hayes’ house, is blocked with a long piece of corrugated metal. The stone steps leading up to the porch appear to be crumbling. The attic window above the porch is busted.

Here is a photo of what the house looked like last week:

And here is photo taken of the house back in the 1980s:

I’m really sad to see the changes time and neglect have wrought on the property because I do have several fond memories from our visits there. I can still smell the aromas of bacon grease, green beans and biscuits that seemed to be ever-present in Grandma Hayes’ kitchen.

Grandma Grace, Me & (Great) Grandma Hayes (1981)

Back when my mom was working in miniatures, she created two tiny room boxes that were replicas of how Grandma Hayes’ kitchen looked, once upon a time. One is pictured below.

Despite the dilapidated state of the house, I was still glad to revisit Elizabethton and especially to catch up with our Uncle Ben. He drove us all over Carter County in search of good BBQ for lunch and filled us in on the history of the area. He drove us into the older section of downtown and showed us a preserved covered bridge and two of the town’s war memorials, including one where he’d purchased bricks to commemorate the service of some of our family members.

I still have more genealogical work to do in that area — I’d like to find the farm originally owned by William Hayes’ parents and also their grave sites. I’m also still trying to confirm the identities of William’s grandparents.

Luckily the FGS 2010 conference is in August in Knoxville, so I intend to turn that into a genealogy trip too.

Early History of the Tylor House

The Tylor House, Built in 1888

The Tylor House located on South Washington Street in Easton, Md., was completed in 1888 by Wilson Tylor and his wife, Elizabeth Needles Tylor. The alley behind the house is named Tyler’s Lane, most likely after the property. The family name is spelled both Tylor and Tyler in various records.

Wilson Tylor was born in June of 1856 and died in 1941. He was the editor of the Easton Gazette, predecessor of the Easton Star-Democrat, from 1885-1912. In a May 2007 column in the Tidewater Times, Harold W. Hurst called Tylor “a dignified and learned man, he made his paper into one of the most respectable and influential publications on the Shore.”1 Tylor was raised in Denton, Md. He wrote the column “Denton 70 Years Ago” for the Denton Journal.2

After Tylor retired from the Easton Gazette, he operated a small printing press in a meat house on the property on South Washington Street.  He filled in the names of graduating seniors on diplomas for the Board of Education.3 Perhaps the structure in question is the shed that remains on the property today.

Historical marker for the Third Haven Meeting House

Tylor and his wife were Quakers. Wilson Tylor was at one time in charge of the Friends’ School in Easton. He and his wife are buried along with several of their relatives on the grounds of the Third Haven Meeting House, located only a block away from the Tylor House on South Washington Street.

Wilson M. Tylor Headstone

Elizabeth N. Tylor's Headstone

More can be learned about the Tylor family in The Tylors of Talbot and Caroline County, by Laurence G. Claggett. The book is available at the main branch of the Talbot County Free Library in the Maryland Room. Claggett was the Tylors’ grandson. Sadly, he passed away earlier this year.

An extended family history about the Tylors’ ancestors also was written by Claggett. Two Lives Entwined: Jonathan and Rebecca (2008) is also available at the main branch of the Talbot County Free Library. Tylor claims that his mother, Rebecca Morgan Huyck, was a grand-niece of Betsy Ross (a.k.a. Elizabeth Griscom), who famously sewed the first American flag.4

On page 74 of The Tylors of Talbot and Caroline County, there is a photo of the Tylor home*. It appeared much as it does today, except the front porch extended across the length of the home. The book says:

“In 1887, they bought a tract of land from Brookletts Avenue to the old railroad tracks on which they built the large Victorian… The house cost slightly less than $5,000.”5

After the Tylor children were grown and moved away, the house was divided into two parts. The Tylors occupied one part with, according to Claggett, “the north half being occupied at times by Capt. Frey, the Martin McHales, the Willard Daves, the C. Leslie Hammonds, among others.”6

After the Tylors passed away, their children sold the home to Mary Clough, who divided it into apartments.7 The property was and often still is used by nurses working at the hospital across the street.

Outlines of the house can be found in Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps starting in the year 1919. The lane behind the house was already called Tyler’s Lane according to that year’s map.8 The property has had three different house numbers since then.9

The Tylors are found listed at the property in the 1930 U.S. Census. The house at the time was valued at $20,000.10

Tylor House Front Porch Pillar

*Photos of the home may also appear in Quakerism on the Eastern Shore by Kenneth Lane Carroll and 75 years of caring: a history of the Memorial Hospital at Easton, Md., 1907-1982 by Dickson J. Preston (p. 173). Both of these books are also available at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton.

More details about the Tylors and how I performed this research project can be found here at my blog (use tag: Tylor). Interested in having me research your property? Email me.

All photos and text by Melissa Corley (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Source List

Claggett, Laurence G. The Tylors of Talbot and Caroline County. Easton: Self-published, 1989.

Claggett, Laurence G. Two Lives Entwined: Jonathan and Rebecca. Easton: Self-published, 2008.

Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970. ProQuest. Digitial images. http://auth.esrl.org:2248/ : 2008.

“Eastern Shore Newsmen: 1830-1980.” Transcript by Tidewater Times, at“Tidwater Times,” Tidewater Times. http://www.tidewatertimes.com/HaroldW.Hurst-May2007.htm : 2007.

Maryland. Talbot County. 1930 U.S. census. Digital images. HeritageQuest Online. http://persi.heritagequestonline.com : 2009.

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Reference Notes

  1. “Eastern Shore Newsmen: 1830-1980.” Transcript by Tidewater Times, at “Tidwater Times,” Tidewater Times (http://www.tidewatertimes.com/HaroldW.Hurst-May2007.htm : accessed 10 October 2009); citing original publication in Tidewater Times, May 2007.
  2. Laurence G. Claggett, The Tylors of Talbot and Caroline County (Easton: self-published, 1989), 73.
  3. Ibid, 74.
  4. Laurence G. Claggett. Two Lives Entwined: Jonathan and Rebecca (Easton: self-published, 2008), 80.
  5. Claggett, The Tylors of Talbot and Caroline County, 74.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970. (ProQuest, 2008), 10, “Sanborn Maps of Maryland, Easton, May 1919”; digital images, The Sanborn Company (http://auth.esrl.org:2248/ : accessed 10 October 2009).
  9. Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970. (ProQuest, 2008), 14, “Sanborn Maps of Maryland, Easton, January 1927”; digital images, The Sanborn Company (http://auth.esrl.org:2248/ : accessed 10 October 2009).
  10. 1930 U.S. Census, Talbot County, Maryland, population schedule, Easton City Ward 4, p. 182 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 21, sheet 10-A, dwelling 246, family 282, Wilson M. Tylor; digital image, HeritageQuest Online (http://persi.heritagequestonline.com : accessed 10 October 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 879.

Tombstone Tuesday: The Tylors

On Saturday, I posted about a mini research project that I did about the history of the house where I’m renting. The original owners of the 1880s Victorian mansion were Wilson M. and Elizabeth N. Tylor.

As I detailed, Wilson was the editor of the Easton, Md., newspaper for many years. Both he and his wife had longstanding ties to the region.

Both were Quakers and so were buried on the grounds of the Third Haven Meeting House, here in Easton. Turns out, that cemetery is practically across the street from where the house stands. I took a stroll over there this past Sunday.

Below are photographs of their gravesite:

Historical marker for the Third Haven Meeting House

Historical marker for the Third Haven Meeting House

Wilson M. (left) and Elizabeth N. Tylor's Headstones

Wilson M. (left) and Elizabeth N. Tylor's Headstones

Wilson M. Tylor Headstone

Wilson M. Tylor Headstone

Elizabeth N. Tylor's Headstone

Elizabeth N. Tylor's Headstone

Bessie T. Claggett (Daughter) Headstone

Bessie T. Claggett (Daughter) Headstone

J. Ellwood Tylor (Son) Headstone

J. Ellwood Tylor (Son) Headstone

The Tylors had five children, but I only found two of their graves in the vicinity of the parents at the cemetery.

Sadly, Laurence Claggett, a Tylor relative and historian who wrote the books I found over the weekend about the Tylor family, passed away only last month. The death notice I found online stated his service was to be held at the Third Haven Meeting House. I didn’t see his grave there, but I wasn’t looking for it at the time.