On October 8, 1779, William Smith purchased 170 acres along the Herring Run from Valentine Larsh. Larsh constructed a grist mill and large farm house on the property during his tenure, but by 1779 was looking to retire and divest himself of his country estate and mill seat. On June 8, 1779, Larsh advertised the sale of the property in the Maryland Journal (Figure 19).
The newspaper advertisement provides the first genuine account of the house and other improvements made by Valentine Larsh on Broad’s Improvement. According to the newspaper account, William Smith’s future property contained a stone mill with a pair of mill stones (Maryland Journal 1779). Larsh also indicated that there exists another location for a mill on the property, but has yet to be improved. As for the house, Larsh describes the home as a large dwelling house with two fire places. He goes on to describe a series of outbuildings on the property, which include a stone spring house and store house. As for the property itself, Larsh described it as about 180 acres, 50 of which were in good meadow. He also describes the property as possessing young and bearing orchards, likely established by Larsh in only the last few years. Clearly, Valentine Larsh painted an attractive picture for someone wishing to acquire a move-in-ready plantation only a comfortable half-day carriage ride outside of Baltimore. As it turns out, William Smith was that someone.
According to the October 8, 1779, deed of sale, Smith and a business partner, William Neill, purchased Larsh’s mill and 170-acre estate for the tidy sum of £25,000 which today would equate to approximately £3,000,000 or $4,500,000 (MSA 1779). Like Smith, Neill was also a prominent shipping merchant and patriot during the American Revolution. In regards to Larsh’s mill and Herring Run estate, it appears Neill’s interest was entirely financial, perhaps seeing the purchase of a grist mill as a sound investment. The partnership did not last long. On June 2, 1781, Smith paid £1,200 for William Neill’s interest in the property (MSA 1781).
Soon after the purchase, William Smith turned Larsh’s former dwelling house into his personal country retreat, eventually renaming the property Eutaw Farm. The grist mill, which was formerly known as Larsh’s Mill, eventually became known in local newspapers or other contemporary accounts as Smith’s Mill and in time, as Eutaw Mill.
So why did William Smith name his country estate and mill after a Revolutionary War Battle he didn’t even serve in and after he retired from service in the Continental Congress? The reason for the name is entirely tied to the one person, General Otho Holland Williams. The Battle of Eutaw Springs was fought on September 8, 1781, in Orangeburg County, South Carolina between the Continental Army, under Maj. General Nathanael Greene, and British forces, under the command of Col. Alexander Stewart. Under Greene’s command was a young colonel named Otho Holland Williams who during the battle commanded two Maryland battalions. The battle largely resulted in what many historians agree was tactical victory for the British, but a strategic victory for the Americans. The inability to stop Greene’s operations forced the British to abandon most of their efforts to “pacify” the South and left them with only small enclaves of control in Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. Four years after the Battle of Eutaw Springs, William Smith celebrated the marriage of his second-born daughter, Mary “Polly” Smith, and her new husband, General Otho Holland Williams. Although a direct correlation could not be verified through historical documentation, it appears Smith renamed his country estate, Eutaw Farm, in honor of his new son-in-law and Revolutionary War hero.
The first glimpse of William Smith’s Eutaw Farm comes in the 1783 Tax Assessment of Baltimore County. At that time, the county was organized into Hundreds (an administrative division which was geographically part of a larger region) and Eutaw Farm was located in Back River Lower Hundred. The 1783 Maryland tax assessment was made under “An Act to Raise Supplies for the Year 1783.” Passed by the Maryland General Assembly at the November 1782 session, it was needed to raise money for supplies during the Revolutionary War and was set at the rate of 25 shillings per 100 pounds worth of both real and personal property (Cook 1997). According to the tax list, William Smith’s Eutaw (listed as part of Broad’s Improvement) consisted of 170 acres with a value of £255 (Figure 20).
The 1783 Assessment further lists two improvements on the property, a mill and house, with the value of £600. Also included in the assessment are two enslaved men, between the ages of 14 and 45, who may have worked in Smith’s house as servants or possibly as field hands managing the production of Smith’s agricultural fields and orchards. According to the assessment, the two enslaved people on Smith’s estate had a combined value of £140, or £70 each. The assessment indicates no other enslaved individuals were resident on Eutaw Farm at the time of enumeration, but the historical document does not include William Smith’s home on Calvert Street, where several enslaved house servants likely resided. Other items of value comprised in the assessment include four horses and eight cows with a combined value of £46. The presence of the livestock suggests Smith also possessed a stable and likely a barn on the property. Although not individually mentioned in the assessment, the document includes the assessed value of £31 for “other property” in which these improvements likely fell, as well as other items of value including wagons, equipment, books, guns, and china and linen. Two columns on the far right end of the assessment indicate the number of free males residing on the property as well as the total number of white inhabitants. According to the document, two free white inhabitants were in residence with one of those being a white male. In 1783, Elizabeth Buchanan Smith was still alive suggesting that William Smith and his wife are the two individuals alluded to in the assessment. It was common for these columns to remain blank if a landowner resided elsewhere, either in the county or in another state. Given the presence of the couple in the assessment of Eutaw, it appears that at least in 1783, William Smith considered his county seat his primary residence over his other home in Baltimore.
It is also largely thanks to Williams and his relationship with his father-in-law that we have additional information about William Smith’s Eutaw Farm. In 1788, Otho Holland Williams commissioned a portrait of his father-in-law by renowned American painter, Charles Willson Peale (Figure 21). The portrait depicts William Smith with his grandson, Robert Smith Williams, in the foreground with a tidy farm and mill in the background. It is thanks to Charles Willson Peale’s diaries that we now know the farm is actually Eutaw and the house on the hill is Smith’s manor house.
According to Peale’s diary dated October 11, 1788, he began work on the portrait at William Smith’s home on Baltimore Street. That morning, Smith sat for the portrait and during the session, he requested that Peale also include his grandson in the same piece. The following day, Peale wrote that he and General Williams rode to Smith’s “country seat,” Eutaw, to complete sketches of the farm for the portrait’s background. There, Peale made three drawings with his perspective machine (Fortune 1992). Over the following weeks, sittings with Smith and young Robert continued and on October 24th, “the view of Eutaw” was painted into the portrait. By November 4, 1788, the double portrait was finished and paid for.
As a tool for archaeologists, the portrait is extremely useful given the real life depiction of Eutaw Farm in the painting’s background. From close inspection of the painting, it appears Peale is viewing the northwest façade of the house. From that perspective, Peale was able to include several additional improvements from the farm into the painting such as the Eutaw Mill, farm road, service yard, and two outbuildings. The outbuildings flank either side of the manor and are situated between the manor house and mill. Given the position of those auxiliary buildings relative to the house, it appears the northwest façade was in fact the rear of Smith Eutaw Manor. Peale’s depiction of the Eutaw Manor house is also extremely detailed and appears to resemble a simple, yet large, vernacular farmhouse. With its gambrel roof, double chimneys, and wrap-around porches, Smith’s manor resembles other contemporary farmhouses typical in Maryland’s tidewater during the period (Fortune 1992) (Figure 22). As a research tool, Peale’s depiction of Eutaw provides important insights into how Smith organized the landscape around his “country seat” and as excavations progress, it will continue to serve as a means to provide context about the objects and features we uncover.
The portrait, however, is more than just a handsome painting that happens to include useful clues for archaeologists and historians. Both at the time of its creation and today, Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of William Smith and his grandson means to tell a particular story about the subject. At its origin, it was story with potential political motivation, but today understanding that story provides a unique insight into the personality and character of the artist’s subject.
Peale’s commission to paint William Smith’s portrait came just three months before his subject would contend for a seat in the first Congress of the United States of America. The 60-year old William Smith had been a resident of Baltimore for more than 25 years, and in that time had amassed a considerable fortune and reputation as one of the more prominent merchants in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. At the same time, Smith and his cousins were members of an extended family who equally held considerable influence over the affairs governing the city in the years following the American Revolution.
As one would expect, the Smith family and William Smith, in particular, was not universally adored by all of the city’s residents. In fact, a considerable number of citizens felt that William Smith was little more than a self-interested merchant and his family had held power in Baltimore for long enough. One group in particular, known as the Antismithites, distributed a series of broadsides across the city ahead of the election that detailed the many grievances they held against Smith and his family (Figure 23). Many of the Antismithites objections to a Congressman William Smith dealt with his past business dealings and general occupation as a city merchant. Some such criticisms included his alleged choice during the Revolutionary War to supply French troops, rather than American soldiers. At the same time, the Antismithites’ broadsides accused Smith, along with Robert Morris of Philadelphia, of privateering during the war years.
Given the supposed general sentiment against William Smith the merchant, and the subject’s clear political aspirations, it is unsurprising that Charles Willson Peale chose to depict Smith in a different light. All the fictive objects and painted settings in Smith’s portrait create a deliberate image of a man that omits the primary fact of his life, that is his profession as a leading flour merchant of Baltimore. While at the same time, they have their basis in the same ultimately inescapable truth of Smith’s commercial and public life (Fortune 1992). Noticeably absent in the painting are attributes and objects that might identify or remind viewers that Smith was a merchant, such as ledger books or ships in the distance. Instead, Peale fills the void with painted views of his country estate and objects that refer to him as a gentleman farmer, such as gardening manuals, pruning knife, and peaches. Every element of Smith’s portrait works to associate him with the virtues and solace of retirement to rural life (Fortune 1992). They all represent keys to the meaning of the painting.
The choice to depict Smith as farmer rather than merchant was certainly deliberate, but it may not have been entirely politically motivated or disingenuous. Certainly, the motivation was in some part to counter the notion by some member of the public that William Smith was a heartless merchant profiting from the misfortune of the poor. Rather, the painting depicts him as a retiring gentleman farmer enjoying an afternoon with his grandson. At the same time, William Smith actually was a retiring gentleman farmer who enjoyed spending time at his “country seat,” Eutaw Farm. By the time Otho Holland Williams commissioned Peale, William Smith had owned Eutaw Farm for nine years and made improvements on several other nearby rural farm properties he owned. While Smith was certainly still involved in the operation of his shipping and wholesale business, it seems clear that Smith took a newfound joy in the operation and improvement of his rural retreat.
While many elements in Smith’s portrait seem to diminish the past and emphasis his present position, other fictive objects Peale placed in the painting serve to honor his former accomplishments while foreshadowing those to come. One of the most striking elements of the portrait of William Smith and his grandson is the odd juxtaposition of the large fictive columns and grand, public edifice with the view of Eutaw Farm. In fact, there was nothing of this grandeur built or planned in Baltimore in 1788, let alone situated on Eutaw Farm. The marble edifice and columns have more in common with other fictive structures in Peale’s paintings, including his 1787 double portrait of Thomas McKean and his son where the painted building clearly refers to McKean’s political life as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania and the former President of the Continental Congress (Fortune 1992) (Figure 24).
In one respect, the inclusion of the columns and stone edifice serve as a reminder of William Smith’s former dedication to public service when he served as one of Maryland’s delegates to the Continental Congress and as a member of the Committees of Correspondence and Observation during the tumultuous years of the American Revolution. At the same time, the inclusion of the columns and marble edifice in Smith’s portrait also serves as a visual clue that Smith’s rural retirement has a public end with peculiar relevance in post-revolutionary America—to demonstrate his disinterested virtue and readiness to return to public life (Fortune 1992). In fact, the fictive formal columns and edifice included in the painting compliment rather than contradict the otherwise rural setting of Eutaw Farm. Eighteenth century writers often drew a connection between agriculture and civic virtue. American republicans promoted the idea that agriculture was the basis of national wealth and happiness and the notions of rural retreat often contained a public, social element whereas the simple virtues of the farmer represented emblems of order (Fortune 1992). As Henry Home Kames (1798) noted in his volume, The Gentleman Farmer:
“those who possessed well-cultivated farms were best qualified to be the leaders of government, for no other occupation rivals agriculture, in connecting private interests with that of the public … every gentlemen farmer must of course be a patriot.”
Therefore, the posture of retirement, as depicted in Smith’s portrait, was an indicator of republican disinterestedness and desire for the public good rather than personal ambition (of which Smith was often accused). There is no greater example of this very notation than George Washington, who contemporaries admired for his desire to return to his Mount Vernon at the conclusion of the war, only to be willing to leave his rural repose when called to serve his country once again.
This is the ultimate message of William Smith’s portrait with his grandson. Peale used the device of large columns and edifice, usually seen in state portraits of public men, in conjunction with the view of Eutaw in the background for a particular purpose. It is to signify that this is not only an image of a country gentleman in rural pursuits and his concern for the proper education of his grandchild, but also a statement of Smith’s fitness to serve the republic. The painting portrays Smith as a man enjoying the fruits of his farm and his family during the autumn of his life, but also a virtuous public man who is prepared through retirement for a return to public life, if called upon to do so (Fortune 1992). In essence, Peale’s portrait of William Smith serves, in modern terms, as a form of positive campaign advertisement to counter the negative campaign ads of the Antismithites and show a suspicious world that he was indeed a man of honest character.
Whether or not Peale’s portrait truly had any effect upon the electorate in 1789 is uncertain. The Maryland elections for the United States House of Representatives were held January 7 – 11, 1789. In the Maryland 4th District, William Smith represented the “anti-Administration party,” which was an informal faction led by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Smith’s opponent in the contest was Samuel Sterrett, also an “anti-administration” candidate and by odd coincidence was actually the son of William Smith’s first business partner, James Sterrett.
The election was hotly contested between the two candidates and their supporters. At the end of the day, it appears Samuel Sterrett and the campaign of the Antismithites were unable to defeat William Smith, his extensive family, and political connections. Following the four-day election, William Smith won with a majority of seven votes over his competitor, Samuel Sterrett. Two days after the election the Maryland Journal published an editorial describing the results of the recent contest as well as a description of the town’s first representative to the United States Congress (Figure 25).
On March 4, 1789, William Smith took his seat as Maryland’s 4th District representative to the United State Congress when it convened at Federal Hall in New York City. Over the following two years, Smith divided his time between attending the three sessions of Congress, first in New York and subsequently in Philadelphia, and at his home in Baltimore. Between session of Congress, Smith spent considerable time at his country retreat, Eutaw Farm, making improvements to the property and managing the cultivation of its fields and orchards. Much of what is known about Smith’s pursuits at Eutaw Farm are known through his correspondence with his son-in-law, Otho Holland Williams.
Over his lifetime, Otho Holland Williams corresponded regularly with William Smith. While Smith’s copies of those letters do not survive, the majority of Williams’ are curated with others of the general’s papers at the Maryland Historical Society. The majority of the correspondence date between 1789 and 1791 when Smith was a legislator in the United States Congress, and concern the business of governing or general discussion of politics during the early republic. However, several of the letters, particularly after 1791, focus on the matters of the family. Other letters in the collection include correspondence between Otho Holland Williams and various other friends and relatives, including his wife, Mary Smith Williams. On occasion, the letters discuss several visits to Baltimore, specifically to William Smith’s Eutaw Farm.
The first in the collection of letters to mention Eutaw relates to Smith’s desire for his other son-in-law, Josias Carvel Hall, to remain at the country estate with his wife and family. In the letter, dated January 31, 1791, Smith tells Williams:
William Smith’s daughter, Janet, married Colonel Josias Carvel Hall on March 14, 1780. The couple’s home was located at Hall’s Park near Havre de Grace in Harford County. The rest of Smith’ daughters and their families had homes in Baltimore. It appears Janet [Jenny] and her husband would often stay at Eutaw for extended periods before returning to their home on the Chesapeake Bay. From this and other letters, it seems Josias took his father-in-law’s advice and increasingly he, Jenny, and their family took to making Eutaw their second home.
Jenny and Josias Carvel Hall were not the only family members to make use of Eutaw. In fact, it appears William Smith often enjoyed having all his children and grandchildren regularly use the estate. In a letter between Otho Holland Williams and his wife, Mary “Polly” Williams writes:
and the following week:
Several letters also exist which refer to improvements and repairs Smith has made at Eutaw. In the late summer or early fall there was an apparent strong storm that caused the Herring Run to flood and washed out the dam for Smith’s Eutaw Mill. In a letter to Otho Holland Williams, Smith wrote:
The last of the Williams’ collection of correspondence to discuss Eutaw Farm was in an interesting letter from Otho Holland Williams to Dr. Philip Thomas. The letter concerns a recent trip Williams’ took to Eutaw in the hopes of visiting his father-in-law. In it, Williams’ writes:
Although the letter only makes cursory mention of Eutaw, this account from Williams is interesting on several accounts. First, it is written by the hand of a very sick man and is a first-hand account of the toll that sickness had taken on him. Otho Holland Williams battled illness for years and many of the letters in his collection often refer to the General’s failing health and the family’s hopes for recovery. Williams’ failing health stemmed back to the fifteen months he spent as a British prisoner after the Battle of Fort Washington in 1776. By the 1790s, his illness became so severe that he declined President Washington’s appointment as Brigadier General of the American Army. His health deteriorating, Williams eventually journeyed to Barbados in 1793 in the hopes that “sea airs” would relieve his affliction. According to some of the letters, the treatment appeared to benefit him and by 1794, Williams returned to Maryland. However, it seems his comfort was short lived. Nearly four months after writing of his search for William Smith at Eutaw, General Otho Holland Williams died on July 15, 1794. Mary, Williams’ wife and William Smith’s daughter, died a little over a year later at the age of 34. Mary Smith Williams would be the ninth child William Smith would lose before his own death 19 years later. With both parents gone in just over a year, the care and support for Mary and Otho Holland Williams’ children became the responsibility of their grandfather, William Smith.
Another interesting detail contained in Otho Holland William’s letter to Dr. Thomas is Williams’ discussion of leaving Eutaw to look for William Smith at his other property, Orange. Orange was a large estate formerly owned by the Carroll family and located west and adjacent to William Smith’s Eutaw Farm (Figure 26). In 1792, Smith purchased eight lots comprising 450 acres of the former 2,708-acre property, for which he paid the Carroll family approximately £3,023 in Maryland currency. Orange would become Smith’s working farm, as opposed to Eutaw, which served as his country manor and retreat. While some fields and orchards were cultivated on Eutaw, they were certainly not producing grains and produce at a scale for commercial sale. Orange, on the other hand, was Smith’s plantation. A manor house, like Eutaw, did not exist on Orange when Smith purchased portions of the estate, nor did he build one in the years that followed. Instead, letters held in the Otho Holland Williams collection indicate that Smith leased portions of the estate to tenant farmers, who in turn paid Smith a fee or a percentage of their crop each season. Also based on Williams’ 1794 letter, it appears Smith also utilized enslaved labor on those portions of the estate not leased to tenants, since it appears Williams rested in one of Smith’s slave cabins after falling ill.
It is not clear how many people were enslaved by William Smith at Orange or Eutaw Farm. Details about the number and conditions of their lives do not appear in those letters or other historical documents associated with Smith. What little information we do have comes in the form of tax assessments, census documents, and the occasional remark included in the 1794 letter between Otho Holland Williams and Dr. Thomas. The first account of William Smith’s slaves appear in the Tax Assessment of 1783 where two men are listed in bondage on Eutaw Farm four years after he acquired the property from Valentine Larsh. Seven years later, the 1790 Census enumerates William Smith in residence at his Calvert Street home. In addition to William his household in 1790 included his son, Campbell, daughter, Margaret, three servants, and five slaves. The census does not specifically indicate where those individuals were enslaved. However, it seems likely the five people enslaved at his Calvert Street House would certainly travel to Eutaw Farm when Smith took seasonal residence there.
The last historical document to contain information regarding those individuals enslaved by William Smith during his tenure as owner of Eutaw Farm is the Tax Assessment Ledger of 1800 (Figure 27). Ordinarily such information would also be contained in the United States Federal Census of 1800 but that document no longer exists. As such, the tax assessments for that year serve as a good substitute. The 1800 tax ledger documents the 72-year-old William Smith as owning, among numerous other properties, two enslaved individuals. The younger of the two was a 19-year-old man named George and the other was a 30-year-old woman named Sarah. The ledger does not indicate their occupations, but one can likely infer that Sarah served as Smith’s housekeeper and was likely responsible preparing her owner’s meals as well as general upkeep and management of the household. George likely served as Smith’s butler with responsibilities that likely included waiting on his master, driving the carriage, and tending his horses.
From the records that exist, it appears William Smith retained a relatively small number of enslaved men and women in his household. The few people he did own over the years likely served as house slaves at either his Calvert Street home or his manor at Eutaw Farm. Their responsibilities at Eutaw were more diverse than in the Baltimore house, as Smith likely required his slave to assist in the general maintenance and upkeep of the 170-acre estate. Smith may have constructed a separate, small quarter at Eutaw for his enslaved household, but given the small number of slaves he owned at any one time it is more likely they resided in the manor house with Smith and his family. Granted, those documents that do exist do not account for the likely numerous enslaved persons toiling at Smith’s Orange Plantation over the years and details concerning the lives of those unnamed individuals may never be known.
As is apparent in the various documents discussed, William Smith’s retirement after one term in the United States Congress led to time spent with family and the management of his estate on the Herring Run. In addition to acquisition of his plantation at Orange, William Smith continued to purchase several dozen properties both in Baltimore and in the surrounding countryside. According to the tax ledger of 1800, William Smith owned over 15 lots in Baltimore, located on Calvert, Harrison, Market, and Bond Streets. Most of the properties listed in the assessment contained rental houses, while others were either vacant or unimproved.
Elsewhere in Baltimore County, Smith acquired dozens of tracts comprising several acres of farmland and pasture. These agricultural properties were largely investments and Smith often sold them quickly for a small profit. Many of the lands Smith purchased in the county were designated “confiscated lands.” Such properties were originally the property of British loyalists and were confiscated by the Maryland government during and following the American Revolution. Some of the lands William Smith purchased were once part of the extensive holdings of the Principio Iron Company. In addition to the actual lands on which the furnace operated, the Principio Company also owned thousands of wooded acres along Back River and its tributaries for the purpose of producing the charcoal necessary for the smelting of iron. One of the majority owners of the Principio Company was Maryland Loyalist, Daniel Dulnay the Younger. Given his British sympathies, the Maryland General Assembly confiscated the company and its properties in 1780 (Parish 1971). In 1786, the Maryland General Assembly began to divest itself of the former Principio holdings, and William Smith and Charles Carroll were among a number of citizens to acquire several sizable properties in eastern Baltimore County.
In November 1799, Smith purchased several tracts of “confiscated land” located northeast and adjacent to his Eutaw Farm. According to the deed, filed on November 15, 1799, the 147-acre property was Lot 10 of the Principo Company. A portion of the tracts Smith purchased was originally part of a 500-acre tract called Maidens Out, patented by Henry King in 1710. Smith’s portion of Maidens Out was located along the west bank of the Herring Run, northwest and adjacent to his Eutaw Farm (Figure 28). In 1810, Smith sold one half interest in the lower 24 acres of the parcel, closest to Eutaw Farm, to Charles Gwinn (MSA 1810). Like William Smith, Charles Gwinn was a local Baltimore City merchant and importer. Unlike Smith, whose business focused on wheat and flour exports, Gwinn’s mercantile enterprise focused on the import of goods from the West Indies. Together, Smith and Gwinn constructed a large cotton mill on the 24-acre tract near Eutaw, which they named the Columbia Mill. Although the mill and parcel were located near Smith’s Eutaw Farm, the tract, given its co-ownership, was never incorporated into Smith’s nearby farm. Rather, Smith and Gwinn operated the Columbia Mill as a separate entity.
The acquisition of that part of Maidens Out was not the only tract William Smith purchased near Eutaw Farm. On September 13, 1791, William Smith purchased a 37-acre tract called Gay’s Mount from Nicholas Ruxton Moore, a gentleman from Anne Arundel County (MSA 1791). Gay’s Mount was located to the north of Smith’s Eutaw Farm and situated between the present-day boundaries of Herring Run Park and the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery (see Figure 28).
While increasing his holdings at Eutaw Farm, William Smith also made the occasional foray back into public life. Following the conclusion of his term in the United State House of Representatives on March 3, 1791, William Smith accepted the position of First Auditor in Alexander Hamilton’s Department of the Treasury. Smith held the position for only a short time, having accepted the post on July 16, 1791, only to resign four months later on November 27th that same year. The final public office William Smith held was that of senator for the City of Baltimore in the Maryland General Assembly. Smith’s term lasted from November 2 to December 31, 1801. During that session, Smith and his fellow senators voted to enact a number of laws largely to do with the construction or improvement of various roads and turnpikes throughout the state. Other acts included resolutions whereas the senate agreed to various debits owed to private individuals who financially or materially aided the state during the American Revolution. Smith and his fellow senators passed other laws including several associated with the collection of taxes, construction of a new jail in Montgomery County, erecting a public school in Frederick County, establish a market in Charles County, and the incorporation of the Baltimore Equitable Society for the purpose of insuring houses and lots in Baltimore City from fire.
Following his term in the Maryland State Senate, it appears William Smith reconciled himself to a relatively quiet retirement. The few pieces of personal correspondence by Smith from this period indicate he largely concerned himself with matters of the family, particularly the raising of his grandchildren who were orphaned by his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Otho Holland Williams. It appears from several letters that the estate of his deceased daughter and son-in-law was quite large and even by 1808 (13 years after his daughter’s death) William Smith was still in the process of resolving the estate while attempting to retain a healthy inheritance for his grandchildren.
Other documents from the early-nineteenth century also indicate William Smith had since retired, or at the very least no longer managed, his former Baltimore mercantile enterprise. Various land records from that time refer to Smith as both “esquire” and “gentleman” rather than “merchant,” as was common in all of his real estate dealing for the last 40 years. The use of “esquire” in the land records was likely a reflection of his former position as United States Congressman and Maryland State Senator. While the descriptor of “gentleman” signifies a man with income derived from property rather than employment, as was formerly the case for Smith when he operated one of the more successful shipping enterprises in Baltimore. The last deed to reference Smith as a merchant came in 1801 while the first to include the title of “gentleman” was a deed dated June 1, 1803, suggesting he likely retired sometime between those two dates.
In 1804, the 76 year old William Smith decided to give Eutaw Farm to his daughter and son-in-law, Janet and Josias Carvel Hall. Whether Smith simply considered his age too advanced to maintain the large estate or he considered the gift of the farm an attractive enticement to convince his daughter to visit her aged father more is unknown. Over the years, Janet and her husband often visited Eutaw for extended periods and in time, the estate became the couple’s second home. As such, it likely seemed natural that Eutaw Farm should go to Janet and her family. On October 17, 1804, Smith recorded an agreement in the land records of Baltimore County that:
Around the same time William Smith transferred ownership of Eutaw Farm to his daughter, he also divested himself of many of his other large agricultural properties in Baltimore County. The one exception was Orange, his large plantation adjacent to Eutaw. While Smith did sell some small portions of Orange prior to 1800, he retained the majority of the estate for the remainder of his life. At the same time, William Smith continued to purchase dozens of houses and lots in Baltimore City that he either resold for profit or leased out to tenants.
On March 27, 1814, William Smith died at his home in Baltimore City at the age of 85. The Last Will and Testament of William Smith was proved on March 30, 1814 (MSA 1814). In the document, Smith divided much of his estate among his one surviving daughter, Margaret “Peggy” Smith, and several of his grandchildren. Margaret Smith received her father’s 300-acre plantation, Orange, situated along the Philadelphia Road (present-day Pulaski Highway) as well as several houses and lots Smith owned in the City of Baltimore and several shares of stock in the Bank of Maryland. Margaret’s son, Samuel Smith, also received several houses and lots in Baltimore. The children of Mary and Otho Holland Williams also received several lots and houses in Baltimore as well as approximately 1,000 acres of land near Berkley Springs, Virginia (present-day West Virginia). The grandchildren also received shares of stock in the Bank of Maryland, Union Bank of Maryland, the Baltimore Water Company, and the Baltimore & Frederick Road. They also received several thousand dollars in cash from Smith’s private accounts.
In addition to part of the above-mentioned property and stock, Henry Lee Williams also received William Smith’s half interest in the Columbia Mill on the Herring Run. Smith’s Last Will and Testament also provided an assortment of property to another of William Smith’s grandchildren, Benedict William Hall. Benedict was the son of Janet and Josias Carvel Hall and in 1812 he inherited William Smith’s former Eutaw Farm after the untimely death of his mother. Smith’s will indicated that Benedict William Hall would receive those portions of “Maiden’s Out” that were located adjacent to Hall’s Eutaw Farm and along Belair Road as well as a small portion of “Maiden’s Out” located between Hall’s Eutaw Farm and the lot containing the Columbia Mill. That small parcel would eventually become known as the Hall Springs. In addition, Benedict William Hall received several shares in the Union Bank of Maryland, the Bank of Baltimore, the Baltimore Water Company, the Baltimore Library Company, the Susquehanna Canal Company, and $5,000 in cash from Smith’s private accounts.
At the end of the Last Will and Testament, provisions were made for the nine enslaved men and women William Smith owned at the time of his death. Only one of Smith’s slaves, Sarah, was manumitted directly following Smith’s death. The Sarah mentioned in the will was likely the same 30 year old woman described as part of his household in the 1800 tax assessor’s ledger 14 years earlier. The will also mentions a woman named Chloe who Smith apparently already set free; however, it is clear from the document that her former master retained her children as enslaved laborers at Orange rather than freeing them with their mother. The Last Will and Testament does indicate all of Chloe’s children would eventually be free, but only after they served several more years as property on Smith’s former plantation, Orange. Three of Chloe’s sons, John, Tom, and Leam(?), would be set free when they reached the age of 28. Two of her daughters, Emeline and Caroline, would also be manumitted, but only after each attained the age of 24. The manumission of another son, Richard, would come three years after Smith’s death (1817) while the last two remaining sons, Robert and George, were not provided with a date or a required age before manumission. Rather, Smith’s will indicated that Robert and George would be “free at my promise”.
Whether or not any of Smith’s former slaves ever received their promised manumissions is unknown. Often the former owner would promise to manumit their slaves, but only after the debits of their estates were settled and even then, the heirs of the estate may chose not to free them in the end. It appears William Smith’s estate was solvent enough not to require the sale of the slaves to meet Smith’s debit obligations. However, except for Sarah, the remaining eight enslaved men and women in Smith’s household were given to his daughter, Margaret Smith, in order to serve out the remainder of the terms at Orange. Only after the conditions of the terms were met, would Margaret be inclined to manumit them as promised by her father’s will.
In his lifetime, Smith built a commercial empire in Baltimore, served as a representative of Maryland to the Continental Congress, one of Maryland’s first representatives to the United States Congress, a Maryland senator, and was the father-in-law to two of Maryland’s heroes in the American Revolution. Sadly, his long life saw much tragedy as well, including the death of his wife, Elizabeth, as well as having to witness the burial of 10 of his eleven children. The body of William Smith was interred at the Westminster Burying Ground, the same cemetery he was responsible for establishing in 1786 as one of the founding members of the First Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.
Previous: William Smith: 1774-1779 Next: Janet Smith Hall
1777 The Diary of John Adams No 28. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Accessed online at https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/index
1789 Queries to the voters of Baltimore County. Printed by William Goddard, Baltimore, Maryland.
Cook, Eleanor M.V.
1997 Assessment of 1783: Legal Requirements and their Application in Montgomery County. In the Archivist’s Bulldog, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives 11(4). Accessed online at http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/refserv/bulldog/bull97/html/bul11-4.html
Fortune, Brandon Brame
1992 “From the World Escaped”: Peale’s Portrait of William Smith and His Grandson. In Eighteenth-Century Studies 25(4): 587-615.
Kames, Henry Homes
1798 The Gentleman Farmer. Bell & Bradfute, Edinburgh, Scotland.
1779 To be Sold for Continental Money or Loan Office Certificates. In Maryland Journal, June 8, 1779.
Maryland State Archives (MSA)
1779 Baltimore County Court Land Records Liber WG D folio 439. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1781 Baltimore County Court Land Records Liber WG G folio 56. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1783 Assessment of 1783 for Baltimore County. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1791 Baltimore County Court Land Records Liber WG GG folio 440. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1799 Baltimore County Court Land Records Liber WG 60 folio 290. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1800 Baltimore City Tax Assessor’s Ledger. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1804 Baltimore County Court Land Records Liber WG 84 folio 334. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1810 Baltimore County Court Land Records Liber WG 107 folio 492. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
1814 The Last Will and Testament of William Smith. Baltimore County Court Wills Liber 9 folio 431. On file at the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
Peale, Charles Willson
1787 Portrait of Chief Justice Thomas McKean and His Son, Thomas McKean, Jr. On file at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1788 Portrait of William Smith and His Grandson. On file at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia.
1789 Diaries of Charles Willson Peale, May 30, 1788 – May 5, 1789. On file at the Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C.
1791a January 31, 1791 Letter to Otho Holland Williams. In the Otho Holland Williams Papers. On File at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.
1793 October 11, 1793 Letter to Otho Holland Williams. In the Otho Holland Williams Papers. On File at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.
1791a July 25, 1791 Letter to Otho Holland Williams. In the Otho Holland Williams Papers. On File at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.
1791b August 2, 1791 Letter to Otho Holland Williams. In the Otho Holland Williams Papers. On File at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.
Williams, Otho Holland
1794 March 20, 1794 Letter to Dr. Thomas. In the Otho Holland Williams Papers. On File at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.