Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thomas Cresap, Maryland Frontiersman, Pathfinder and Patriot (52 Ancestors #52)

This is the final article for the series "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks", a challenge by Amy Johnson Crow on No Story Too Small.  I made it!

Thomas Cresap was not a large man; he was stockily built, his muscles were hard, and his great strength was a byword on the frontier.[1] He was born about 1694 in Skipton, Yorkshire, England and emigrated to America when about 15 years old. [2]

Thomas Cresap was my 7th great-grandfather.

Google map showing Skipton in relation to London
[click images to enlarge]

Not much is known about him until he married Hannah Johnson on 30 Apr 1727.  She was the daughter of Daniel Johnson and Frances who also emigrated from England to Maryland as early as 1698.  Daniel and Frances and their six daughters lived on a 100 acre plantation in Lapidum, Harford County, Maryland. [3] 

Thomas and Hannah's children included sons Daniel, Thomas, Robert and Michael, and daughters Sarah and Elizabeth.[4] 

Among his diverse occupations were those of land speculator, French and Indian fighter, army commissary, guide and explorer, Indian agent, cartographer, road builder, politician, fur-trader, planter, and colonial traveler.[5]

Stood His Ground
His infamous tenacity was revealed during one of his many land disputes.  In 1730, Thomas, Hannah and young son Daniel settled on land deeded by Lord Baltimore on the Susquehanna, [possibly  current day Havre de Grace], land that the Pennsylvanians claimed as their own although they had not conducted a survey to determine the actual boundaries between Pennsylvania and Maryland.   He mightily defended the land but to no avail as the house was burned causing his family to seek shelter in a nearby friendly Indian village.  The Penns captured and imprisoned him for a year in Philadelphia.   His captors offered to release him earlier because of his vile behavior but he demanded a trial believing his was a just cause.  Upon order of the King to free prisoners on both sides of the boundary dispute, he agreed to the release.  It was during this period, when he was hauled to jail in chains through the streets of Philadelphia, that the crowd shouted “Maryland Monster”.  The boundary dispute continued for several years and was eventually settled legally in 1750.[6] 

Titles
Lord Baltimore commissioned Thomas Cresap a justice of the peace in the early 1730s.[7]  By 1734, he was made a captain in the Maryland militia.  He was referred to as “Colonel” in court records of 1747 but no official record of appointment has been found.[8]

Cresap’s Fort
His frontier post in Oldtown exemplified Thomas’s keen ability to strategically locate his base of operations.  In 1741 at age 47, he established Skipton, a frontier post at the site of the abandoned Indian village of Shawanese Old Town.  The shortened name Oldtown stuck though and stills exists today.[9]  Here, Col. Cresap built and lived in a stone house, situated on a high hill about one-half of a mile southeast of the town, and within four hundred yards of the Potomac River.  The house had very thick stone walls, and only two rooms, each about twenty feet square.  The building was known in early times as “Cresap’s Fort” and often afforded shelter to the inhabitants of the country for miles around during the forays of the Indians….”  The house also served as a rendezvous for settlers in more peaceful times. [10]  Due to the post’s strategic location near frequently traveled trails, Cresap kept it fully supplied for visitors and traders.

Indians as well stopped on their travels and partook of Thomas’s hospitality with the kettle for which they nicknamed him “Big Spoon”.   He waged war against some Indians yet befriended others.  It was the Indians who sheltered his wife and son after his house was burned and he was imprisoned.  An Indian named Nemacolin became attached to Cresap, took his sons hunting and when migrating south with his tribe, he left his young son with Thomas to raise and educate.[11] 

The treaty between the chiefs of the Six Nations and the Maryland commissioners of 30 Jun 1744 set forth geographic boundaries which included Col. Cresap’s “hunting or trading cabin”.  From the fact that this treaty embraced Cresap’s settlement, and did not include that portion where Fort Cumberland was afterwards located, and that there were no other settlements nearer than the Conococheague, it is evident that Cresap was the first actual settler of Allegany County [Maryland].[12]  

George Washington (yes, that George)
The first meeting of Thomas Cresap and 15 year old George Washington, who was surveying Lord Fairfax’s western lands, was in March 1747.  Washington sheltered at Cresap’s inn for five days due to inclement weather.[13]  Over the years, Washington’s journal cited other visits to Cresap’s establishment in Oldtown. [14]

Ohio Land Company
Thomas Cresap was one of the charter members of the Ohio Land Company.  A land grant from the British government was given in 1749 to a group of Virginians and Marylanders.  They so-named it because their task was to explore and settle a portion of that vast territory draining into the Ohio River.  They were given a grant of five hundred thousand acres of land on the Ohio between the Monongahela and the Kanawha Rivers, of which number two hundred thousand were to be settled immediately.  The grant was made free from quit rent or tax to the Crown on the condition that one hundred families were settled there within seven years.[15]  Cresap’s role in the Ohio Company was to lay out and mark a road from Will’s Creek to the mouth of the Monongahela, the present site of Pittsburg.   He was assisted by a friendly Indian named Nemacolin.[16]  The road has had several names over the years including Gist’s Trace, Nemocolin’s Path, Washington’s Road, [General] Braddock’s Road, and the National Pike.[17] 

Cresap’s Land Holdings
Of all of Thomas’s occupations mentioned earlier, land speculator and surveyor likely brought him his wealth.   Records indicate that he acquired 760 acres from 1739-1743 for Long Meadow; 155 acres in 1742 for Linton; and 160 acres in 1752 for Leeds.[18]

American Revolution 1775-1783
His formation of the Maryland Sons of Liberty in 1765 to suppress the Stamp Act showed his separation from England.  Then, in 1774, he firmly planted himself on the side of the Patriot’s efforts against the British stronghold over the Colonies.  He was 81 at the beginning of the American Revolution.   Not surprisingly, he wasn’t a participant in field operations as was his son Michael Cresap, but became an elected delegate from Frederick County to the Maryland Provincial Convention.  Thomas was named as one of the Committee of Observation and Committee of Safety.  Maryland needed supplies and he was tasked to raise money for arms and ammunition.  And, once again, the Maryland Sons of Liberty organization was activated with Cresap as a prominent promoter.

At the close of the American Revolution, Thomas was about 90.  In his journal entry of 17 May 1785, Major Andrew Endicott, a civil engineer, wrote of his visit with him at Oldtown “…This evening I spent with the celebrated Col. Cresap. He is now more than 100 years old. He lost his eyesight about 18 months past, but his other faculties are yet unimpaired, his sense strong and manly, and his ideas flow with ease."[19]  His will, dated 17 Jan 1784, was 'signed' with his mark instead of his signature which may support the report of blindness.

Frontiersman to be Reckoned With
He had his detractors, mostly Pennsylvanians, who disdained him as profane, incendiary, and a rattlesnake.   His admirers pointed to his achievements and cite circumstances where any man would act likewise to defend life and property.  And again, Indians called him Big Spoon.[20]  Nobody described him as blood-thirsty but more as ambitious for land and settling the west.  His intimate knowledge of the landscape made him more often than not the go-to guy for surveying the vast wilderness.   

Late Life
Hannah died before 1774 according to the Cresap Society.  Thomas may have married a second time, at age 80, to the widow Mrs. Margaret Milburn, but no record of the marriage exists other than the writings of Michael Cresap’s biographer, John J. Jacob.  Thomas died in 1790.

Grave of Thomas Cresap at Oldtown, Allegany, Maryland
Source: Find-a-Grave.com

Thomas Cresap lived in a time of remarkable history of colonial America.  He arrived in America poor but amassed wealth through strategic land purchases.  He became a chief agent for land speculation for the British yet turned his allegiance to America when tightening British rule intruded on his own ambitions.

My Lineage[21]
My Grandma Ethel joined the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Should I?

Thomas Cresap, 1694-1790
 Married 1727 to Hannah Johnson 1705-abt 1774
  Son Daniel Cresap, 1728-1798
   Married (second) 1750 to Ruth Swearingen, 1728-
    Daughter Mary Cresap, 1760-1838
     Married 1777 to William Ogle, 1751-1810
      Daughter Rebecca Cresap Ogle, 1786-1860
       Married 1804 to Stephen Clark, 1770-
        Son BenjaminDaniel Clark, 1815-1895
         Married (first) 1836 to Hannah Carrigan, 1815-1854
          Daughter Jane Clark, 1846-1918
           Married 1866 to Thomas Brown, 1843-1927
            Daughter Ida May Brown, 1868-1955
             Married Henry Martin Kendall, 1864-1937
              Daughter Ethel May Kendall, 1899-1988
               Married Alba William Hibsch, 1896-1959
                Son Robert Martin Hibsch, 1923-2014
                 Married 1946 to Betty Evelyn Hutson, 1926=2000
                  Daughter Denise Hibsch Richmond, me

Future Research
  • Profile  my direct line of descendants of Thomas Cresap
  • Read the dozens of biographies and books that include Thomas Cresap 


Sources
[1] Bailey, Kenneth P. Thomas Cresap, Maryland Frontiersman. Boston, Mass: Christopher Pub. House, 1944. Pg 25. Database: WorldCat. Online view: HathiTrust Digital Library. Copyright:  Public Domain, Google-Digitized.
[2] Cresap, Joseph Ord, 1883-1961. The History of the Cresaps. McComb, Miss.: Cresap Society, 1937. Pg 31. Database: WorldCat. Online view: HathiTrust Digital Library. Copyright:  Public Domain, Google-Digitized.
[3] Ibid Pg 19.
[4] Scharf, John Thomas. 2003. History of Western Maryland: Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. Page 76. Genealogical Publishing Com.
[5] Bailey, Kenneth P. Thomas Cresap, Maryland Frontiersman. Boston, Mass: Christopher Pub. House, 1944. Pg 22. Database: WorldCat. Online view: HathiTrust Digital Library. Copyright:  Public Domain, Google-Digitized.
[6] Cresap, Joseph Ord, 1883-1961. The History of the Cresaps. McComb, Miss.: Cresap Society, 1937. Pg 71-73 {Title No. 547866; Book Call No. 929.273 C863c 1987} Digitized by FamilySearch Intl. http://www.familysearch.org/.
[7] Ibid, page 45.
[8] Ibid, page 483.
[9] Scharf, John Thomas. History of Western Maryland: Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. Vol 1. Genealogical Publishing Com, 2003. Pg 1458. Print.
[10] Ibid, page 93.
[11] Cresap, Joseph Ord, 1883-1961. The History of the Cresaps. McComb, Miss.: Cresap Society, 1937. Pg 114. {Title No. 547866; Book Call No. 929.273 C863c 1987} Digitized: FamilySearch Intl.  http://www.familysearch.org/.
[12] Scharf, John Thomas. History of Western Maryland: Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. Vol 1. Genealogical Publishing Com, 2003. Pg 1458. Print.
[13] Cresap, Joseph Ord, 1883-1961. The History of the Cresaps. McComb, Miss.: Cresap Society, 1937. Pg 13; 87. {Title No. 547866; Book Call No. 929.273 C863c 1987} Digitized: FamilySearch Intl. http://www.familysearch.org/.
[14] Bailey, Kenneth P. Thomas Cresap, Maryland Frontiersman. Boston, Mass: Christopher Pub. House, 1944. Pg 67-68. Database: WorldCat. Online view: HathiTrust Digital Library. Google-Digitized.
[15] Cresap, Joseph Ord, 1883-1961. The History of the Cresaps. McComb, Miss.: Cresap Society, 1937. Pg 89. {Title No. 547866; Book Call No. 929.273 C863c 1987} Digitized: FamilySearch Intl.  http://www.familysearch.org/.
[16] Scharf, John Thomas. History of Western Maryland: Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. Vol 1. Genealogical Publishing Com, 2003. Pg 75. Print.
[17] Cresap, Joseph Ord, 1883-1961. The History of the Cresaps. McComb, Miss.: Cresap Society, 1937. Pg 91. {Title No. 547866; Book Call No. 929.273 C863c 1987} Digitized: FamilySearch Intl.  http://www.familysearch.org/.
[18] Ibid, pages 983-985;
[19] Bailey, Kenneth P. Thomas Cresap, Maryland Frontiersman. Boston, Mass: Christopher Pub. House, 1944. Pg 163. Database: WorldCat. Online view: HathiTrust Digital Library. Google-Digitized.
[20] Ibid, pages 178-182.


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