William Coulbourn — Somerset County Leader
By Timothy Robinson
Who exactly was William Coulbourn? He was a man who lived in Somerset County on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore over three hundred years ago. Even though he died over three centuries ago, he left behind proof of his existence. It was through court, land and probate records that Coulbourn’s life can be pieced together. What kind of man was William Coulbourn? Was he rich or poor, important or insignificant? From where did he come and why did he end up in Somerset County? All of these questions and more could easily be answered by research on this ancient ancestor of Maryland.
William Coulbourn was many things. He was a planter, a nonconformist, a founding father, a sheriff, a justice of
the peace, a county leader and a military officer. He arrived in Virginia from England in search of a new life. His
rather normal existence changed dramatically, especially involving a concern for freedom and tolerance, and Coulbourn
would experience much recognition as a resident and leader and “troublemaker” in this New World environment.
It is speculated that William Coulbourn was born on January 19, 1629/30, in London, England. However, this is unconfirmed.  It is unclear when Coulbourn arrived in Virginia as his name did not appear on any passenger lists. We do know that he was in Virginia in the early 1650s when he was recorded in 1651 in Northampton County, Virginia. In that year, Coulbourn signed the Tricesimo Die Marty 1651. The signing of that document is crucial to an early understanding of Coulbourn the man and where he stood politically. The Tricesimo Die Marty 1651 was a controversial document. In it the signers pledged loyalty to England, to the House of Commons, and to their leader, Oliver Cromwell, as it stood without the King and the House of Lords. Signed during the English Civil War, the document was tantamount to treason against the King and the House of Lords.  From the beginning, Coulbourn established himself as a nonconformist and as someone willing to publicly stand up for his beliefs. The English Civil War or differences with the King may have prompted Coulbourn to come to the American Colonies. Many later prominent residents of Somerset County who resided in Northampton County prior to coming to Maryland also signed the document. Among these were Randall Revell, Ambrose Dixon and Stephen Horsey.
After establishing himself as a nonconformist, Coulbourn next appeared in the court records in 1652. He had paid for the transportation of seven individuals from England to Virginia: Howard Glading, John Jones, Margret Tillet, Joan Parrott, Thomas Pilcher, Owen Williams and Edmond Sermoner. Coulbourn requested compensation for the transport of these individuals in the form of land. A land patent of three hundred and fifty acres in Northampton County was awarded to him on March 4, 1652, and the land awarded was located at the head of the Naswattucks Creek between the creek and the land of Nicholas Waddilow. The same patent was renewed on January 28, 1662, reaffirming that the initial patent and land belonged to Coulbourn. Coulbourn’s Virginian estate grew on December 29, 1652, when he received an additional four hundred acres from Argoll Yardley, a prominent Eastern Shore resident.
After acquiring his land, Coulbourn then met his first wife, Anne, and they married in July 1656 in Northampton County. After a little more than two years, the couple started their family with the birth of their first child, William, Jr., on September 8, 1658.
On October 25, 1658, John Ellis, an associate of Coulbourn’s, wrote his will. Ellis asked Coulbourn to witness his will along with John Berrymore and John Dixon. This is significant because demonstrates with whom Coulbourn associated on a social level, and that he was prominent enough to witness a will. This request was a sign of trust because the deceased required that the will stand up in open court and that its terms be carried out. That request was taken care of in court on November 29, 1658, after Ellis’ death, when Coulbourn attested to the will’s authenticity and ensured its proper execution.
Coulbourn appeared to have maintained an average existence in Northampton County, Virginia, during the 1650s until he had a direct run-in with the Virginian law. In March 1660, the Colony of Virginia passed its anti-Quaker laws. Apparently much animosity existed between the Virginian leaders and the Quakers. The Virginian law itself referred to the Quakers as “an unreasonable and turbulent sort of people” whose goal is to “destroy religion, laws, communities and all bounds of civil society.” The Virginian leaders believed that whenever and wherever the Quakers assembled in great numbers, they could only “endanger its public peace and safety” and very strict laws were passed which prohibited both the existence of the Quakers and the facilitation of their religious order by non-Quakers. The law demanded that Quakers were to be immediately apprehended “wheresoever they shall be found.” After a Quaker’s arrest, bail was denied until the individual agreed to leave Virginia, never to return. If the accused Quaker decided to return to Virginia and was caught again, swift punishment awaited. For a third occurrence of being caught in Virginia, the law treated the offender as a felon. Not only were the laws against the Quakers, but swift penalties also awaited those ship captains who transported a Quaker to Virginia and any Virginian citizen who entertained a Quaker or held a Quaker ceremony in his residence. It is the latter that would cause problems for Coulbourn in Virginia and ultimately lead to his departure for Maryland.
On January 29, 1660, William Coulbourn stood before the court in Northampton County charged with a violation of the law against entertaining Quakers. Individuals who could have been Coulbourn’s neighbors testified against him in this proceeding. Anthony Hodgkins stated he was present at the Coulbourn residence during the alleged Quaker visit along with Robert Hutchinson. Coulbourn did not deny the accusations; in fact, he told the court that he would continue to associate with the outlaw religion. The accused made this insubordinate statement in the presence of Stephen Horsey according to Hodgkins, who obviously was trying to link Coulbourn with the troublemaker Horsey. The court passed judgment against the radical Coulbourn and fined him a hundred pounds sterling, which was a normal fine for this type of violation. The court had even set up a meeting whereupon Coulbourn and his wife could publicly renounce their errors, but they refused to do it. It is interesting how unmoved Coulbourn was to the charges, especially because of this devastating fine. The fine was substantial, especially when one considers that the amount was equal to the value of five slaves, and it does not appear that Coulbourn was a wealthy man during this time period. The theory that he was not wealthy was also supported by the taxable sheep list. The county constable recorded the number of sheep owned by all men in Northampton County for tax purposes. In the list Coulbourn had only two sheep. When compared to the fact that the average sheep ownership was sixteen, Coulbourn was not wealthy by this standard.
Coulbourn kept a low profile for the next few years before deciding to relocate on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to the domain of the Calvert family. The flap over his association with the Quakers probably was the impetus for the move. It was widely known that Calvert’s Maryland allowed more religious freedom and practiced more tolerance than Coulbourn’s current home of Virginia. What appeared to be a move to get away from the oppressive anti-Quaker laws would become the best move of Coulbourn’s life.
There is no definitive date for when Coulbourn left Virginia. Apparently he still resided in Virginia in January 1661 when the Reverend Teackle complained to the Northampton County Court about Coulbourn failing to pay his required church tithes. He probably had not taken up residence in Maryland when Colonel Scarborough’s “invasion” occurred in October 1663 as he is not mentioned anywhere in Scarborough’s account to the Governor of Virginia. Coulbourn is definitely residing in Somerset County by January 27, 1664/5 as his third child, Solomon, was born in Somerset County on that date.
Coulbourn officially applied to the leadership of the Province of Maryland for a tract of land in what was about to become Somerset County. On March 8, 1663, Cecil Calvert awarded Coulbourn a tract of land consisting of one thousand acres called Pomfret which was located on the southernmost side of the Annemessex River near by present day Marion. Calvert wrote in the deed of the land to Coulbourn that the land “together with all the rights, profits and benefits thereunto belonging” clearly was Coulbourn’s. Additionally, to ensure that there was no question as to the rightful ownership of the land, Calvert added that Coulbourn was to have Pomfret “to have and to hold the same unto him the said William Coulbourn his heirs and assignees forever. On July 20, 1663, John Elzey officially surveyed Pomfret for Coulbourn by marking off the boundaries of his land.
By this time the Coulbourn family really started to grow. A second child, a daughter named Mary, was born on November 8, 1661, while the Coulbourn’s were still residing in Virginia. After relocating to Annemessex, Solomon was born on January 27, 1664/65. Barely nine months later another daughter, Anne, was born on October 9, 1665.
On March 26, 1664, Coulbourn realized an important first milestone when Charles Calvert, Governor of Maryland, recognized Coulbourn for his “fidelity, circumspection, courage and good conduct” and appointed him to the Colonial Militia for Somerset County. Coulbourn did not just receive a position; he became an officer and a leader, receiving a commission as a lieutenant in the foot company to protect the Lower Shore south of the Choptank River to Watkins Point. Coulbourn’s company commander was Captain William Thorne. Governor Calvert gave Coulbourn broad authority to “muster, exercise, train in the art of war and discipline” and fight against “the resistance of all enemies, suppression of all mutinies, insolences, and rebellions whatsoever.” Calvert appointed Lieutenant Coulbourn to his position indefinitely allowing him to serve at the pleasure of the provincial leaders. An order was issued by Calvert strictly requiring the residents of the soon-to-be-formed county in Somerset to “yield all due obedience” to Coulbourn.
Having acquired his one thousand acres of land and started his family in earnest, Coulbourn began concentrating on his livelihood-that of a planter. He both grew crops and raised livestock. On January 11, 1665, Coulbourn registered his own cattle mark with the Somerset County Court. That mark consisted basically of a notch cut out of the right ear and he had the left ear held and over bitten. Coulbourn’s eldest son, seven-year-old William, Jr., also had his own cattle mark recorded on February 12, 1665, which consisted of a cropping of the right ear and the left ear halfed on the upper part.
On January 10, 1666, William and Anne Coulbourn sold their property in Northampton County to William Fisher of Stafford County, Virginia, and cut their ties to Virginia.
It did not take long for Coulbourn to continue his rise to prominence in Somerset County, especially considering that many of his fellow settlers possibly also left Northampton County for the same reason of religious freedom. In 1667, after Somerset County was only a year old, it came time to nominate some county residents for the office of sheriff as the one year term of Somerset’s first Sheriff, Stephen Horsey, was coming to an end. In the seventeenth century, the sheriff was not elected, he was an official appointed directly by the colonial governor. The sheriff was the county’s chief law enforcement officer and the conservator of the peace. The office of the sheriff in England dated back to before the Norman Conquest. The word sheriff actually came from a term known as the Shire’s Reeve, in other words “the King’s man”. English tradition required that the county leaders submit three names of county residents to the Crown from which to select the new sheriff. The leaders of Maryland continued that tradition when they re-nominated Stephen Horsey to a second term and also sent the names of Captain William Thorne and Mr. William Coulbourn, the two county militia leaders for consideration. Charles Calvert selected Horsey to serve a second term. Not only is it significant that Coulbourn was considered for perhaps the most powerful position in the county, but that he was now referred to as “Mister”. The county leaders obviously already held Mr. Coulbourn in high regard.
In 1668, Coulbourn apparently was the victim of a crime when John Kirke allegedly killed hogs that belonged to Coulbourn and Robert Hart. The victims brought their case against Kirke and subpoenaed John Johnson, John Walker, George Hasfurt, Richard Miles and Benjamin Sumbler to testify against the alleged perpetrator. The case was heard in March 1668; however, there is no record of any of the witnesses’ testimony. The only adjudication that is mentioned is that the case was referred to arbitration after a debate.
Court appearances continued for Coulbourn when he appeared in the county court on June 18, 1668, in a case where an indentured servant, Thomas Moolson, sued his master, Henry Boston, arguing that his period of servitude had expired. William Coulbourn along with Stephen Horsey appeared as evidentiary witnesses in this case. Again there is no record of their individual testimony, but the court ruled in favor of Moolson and ordered him released from his servitude. The court also ordered Boston to pay Moolson his required corn and clothes, which was due upon the completion of an indenture. There is no record as to the extent of Coulbourn’s formal education, but the same year saw Coulbourn hired as an attorney representing James Powell of Bristol in a civil case over the collection of debts.
By 1669 the political and military careers of William Coulbourn reached greater heights beginning with his appointment to serve as one of ten county commissioners for the recently-formed Somerset County on February 9th. Coulbourn served with other prominent leaders such as Stephen Horsey, John Winder and George Johnson. Secondly, the governor promoted Lieutenant Coulbourn to captain. This was really remarkable for a man who at the beginning of the decade was arrested by his fellow residents of Virginia. In approximately six years, Coulbourn had become a respected county and militia leader. After completing a one-year term, Calvert reappointed Coulbourn to the County Commission in 1670.
In 1671, Coulbourn had a confrontation with an individual known as Thomas Hues who had a sexual relationship with one of Coulbourn’s female servants. The female servant became pregnant as a result of this relationship and Coulbourn attributed the responsibility for the loss of the pregnant servant’s labor directly to Hues. Since Hues engaged in “carnall copulation” and used the female servant to fulfill Hues’ “lustful desires,” Coulbourn lost the use of his servant for several months due to the pregnancy. Coulbourn sued Hues in County Court which ordered that Hues pay Coulbourn five hundred pounds of tobacco for the loss of the servant’s labor. The court gave the servant, Helena Johnson, the option of receiving twenty-five lashes on her bare back or paying Coulbourn five hundred pounds of tobacco for bearing a bastard child. This case is paramount to getting an insight on the moral attitudes of Coulbourn. By his statements, it leads to believe that Coulbourn disapproved of pre-marital sexual relations as well as intercourse for non-procreation reasons.
The prominence of Coulbourn continued to rise. Charles Calvert appointed him as a commissioner for Somerset County and a justice of the peace on February 22, 1672. On October 25, 1673, Coulbourn was promoted in the militia by Calvert to become the “Captain and Commander of a troop of horse under me in the said county of Somerset.” The authority of Captain Coulbourn became broader in scope. Now Governor Calvert gave Captain Coulbourn the “full power and authority…to destroy, kill, burn and take all such enemy Indians or others that shall by any tumult insurrection or murder of any of the inhabitants of this province,” and, if necessary, “put to death by martial law” any offenders.
The year 1673 saw Coulbourn add the role of lawman to his repertoire with his appointment by Governor Calvert as the Sheriff of Somerset County. One of Calvert’s first orders to Sheriff Coulbourn was to authorize him to “make entry of all undecked vessels, open sloops and boats that shall come at any time to trade in Somerset County” in order to make them post a bond and acquire a license for trade in Maryland. Little activity took place during Sheriff Coulbourn’s tenure, but he made a name for himself nonetheless. In the seventeenth century, the practice of “amercing” the sheriff’s was established, partly with the hope of keeping the sheriffs efficient. Amercing took place when the sheriff stated he had subpoenaed an individual to court, but that individual failed to show. In effect, it was a monetary fine against the sheriff. It was believed that if the sheriff had this fine to worry about, he would ensure the appearance of the person subpoenaed. Unfortunately for Sheriff Coulbourn, many of the witnesses or defendants subpoenaed by him did not appear as instructed. There is documentation of Sheriff Coulbourn being amerced three different times for the non-appearance of the same individual.
In April 1675, the Provincial Court in St. Mary’s ordered Sheriff Coulbourn to take Randall Revell into custody and produce Revell at the Provincial Court to answer a civil suit over almost thirteen thousand pounds of tobacco. The sheriff reported back to the Provincial Court that he arrested Revell on May 4, 1675; yet for some reason the sheriff released Revell from custody and Revell failed to show in St. Mary’s for trial. It can be speculated that either the sheriff never arrested Revell or intentionally released him due to the prominence of Revell.  Also in the spring of 1675, the Provincial Court ordered Sheriff Coulbourn to locate a county resident by the name of Leonard Jones and to place Jones into custody pending a trial for non-payment of a debt. On May 5, 1675, the sheriff reported back to the Provincial Court that he could not locate Jones anywhere in his county. One does not know how hard the sheriff looked for these individuals, but the records showed that Coulbourn was not always successful as a sheriff.
During his tenure, Sheriff Coulbourn concerned himself mostly with the serving of subpoenas. In 1673, forty-four cases appeared on the court docket; the majority being civil in nature with the collection of debts or issues such as slander. Coulbourn’s court duties also included the serving of writs and warrants, as well as empanelling juries and serving financial attachments. The sheriff also had the responsibility of police duties. If there was a disturber of the law and order in the county, the sheriff was required to take that subject into his custody and present him at the next session of court. When situations warranted it and the sheriff needed assistance, he gave the “hue and cry” and activated the “Posse Comitatus.” The “hue and cry” meant alerting the citizenry of any volatile situation that could possibly get out of hand while the “Posse Comitatus” or “Power of the County” gave the sheriff the legal authority to deputize all the assistants necessary to quell any situation or pursue a perpetrator. The sheriff also had the role of executioner, which meant that he was responsible for hanging all those condemned to death for a crime against society. Interestingly, Somerset County constructed their first jail during Coulbourn’s tenure.
There was not much documentation of the activity of the Somerset militia until 1677. By then, Captain Coulbourn had been promoted to the rank of colonel and was in charge of the entire Somerset County militia. On February 17, 1677, Sheriff Thomas Walker of Somerset informed Governor Calvert of particularly heinous and brutal murders that occurred in Somerset County. Allegedly some Indians went to the house of David Williams and killed Williams and his entire family. As a result of this crime, Calvert ordered that the militia of Somerset County be activated and prepared to deploy with only an hour’s notice. The governor was very adamant that the citizens be protected by the militia from further attack and he informed Colonel Coulbourn that if more men or ammunition were necessary, all Coulbourn had to do was request more and they would be on their way. Colonel Coulbourn and Sheriff Walker were instructed to work together to both protect their residents and arrest the perpetrators of these murders.
The murders of the Williams family so outraged the entire province, that the province made a “no holds barred” attempt at capturing the guilty parties. Colonel William Burges raised a militia party from St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles Counties and sailed across the Chesapeake Bay to the Nanticoke River where Burges rendezvoused with Colonel Coulbourn and the militia of Somerset and Dorcester Counties. An investigation had already discovered the involvement of three Indians in the murders-one from the Assateagues and two from the Nanticokes. The kings of the respective tribes turned the suspects over to the authorities; the threat of facing the large militia groups that stalked them was probably a prime motivator. One of the Indians who was allegedly guilty of the Williams family murders supposedly fled Maryland after escaping custody and took up residence among the Rappahannock Indians of Virginia. No record exists of the apprehension of the escaped Indian. On December 13, 1678, Charles Calvert signed a treaty with the Nanticoke Indians that included a provision that any Indian with information about the perpetrators should come forward.
Colonel Coulbourn continued his service to the citizens of the county as a commissioner. The governor reappointed him in 1676. In 1678, the colonel received an additional responsibility- that of the justice of the peace for a year. The years 1679 and 1680 both saw Coulbourn reappointed as a county commissioner. One of the duties and responsibilities of the justice of the peace was to perform marriages. Coulbourn exercised this authority and married several people during his tenure in the 1670s and 1680s.
In the early 1680s there developed a controversy over the rights of Protestants in a province ruled by Roman Catholics. Many Protestants believed they were not treated on the same level as Catholics. Charles Calvert and his leaders of the Province of Maryland wanted to dispel those notions. On December 15, 1681, Calvert released a list of the county colonels of the Militia, which revealed that the majority were Protestants appointed by Calvert along with a large number of county commissioners and justices of the peace. This list included the Protestant Colonel William Coulbourn as Somerset’s militia leader. As a Protestant, this proved that the Catholic Calverts believed in religious tolerance and freedom. The records did not indicate whether Coulbourn was Anglican or Quaker. After examining the previously-mentioned Virginian laws of the 1650s, it appeared that had he remained in Virginia under the cloud of being an accused Quaker, Coulbourn never would have reached this level of prominence in Virginia.
In 1686, Coulbourn was involved in an event that several historians claim as his legacy. Because of the ongoing problems with the Indians, especially the dominant tribe of the Nanticokes, both sides wanted to establish a lasting peace between them. On May 11, 1686, Coulbourn joined a commission to “set out and ascertain the Indian lands and inquire into and redress their grievances.” One of the chief complaints the Indians provided Coulbourn was over the encroachment by the English on the lands of the Nanticokes. The Nanticokes informed Coulbourn that they were tired of moving, and that the English harrassed them almost daily by molesting their cattle, horses and hogs and destroying their corn fields. The Provincial Council of Maryland instructed Coulbourn and his commission to find land that was suitable to the Indians and that would not displace any English. If necessary they were to lay out markers establishing it as Indian land and inform the English that it was Indian land. Because of Colonel Coulbourne and his commission, peaceful co-existence became possible between the English and the Indians. During the negotiations between the two sides, Colonel Coulbourn traveled across the Chesapeake Bay to St. Mary’s in order to obtain an agreement on the treaty.
The conflict over religion led to a pivotal moment in Maryland’s history with the Glorious Revolution. In 1688, the Stuart King, James II, was overthrown in England by William and Mary of the House of Orange. The Stuarts had been the original backers of the Maryland Colony and the benefactors to Lord Baltimore. The hostility shown by the new monarchs towards the Stuarts crossed the Altlantic to Maryland. After the revolution, King James II fled to France to be with the Catholic Louis XIV. It did not help Maryland’s relationship with the new monarchs when the Maryland leaders continued to voice support for the exiled king. Fearful of a revolt in Maryland or any Popish plot against Protestant rule, a Protestant group seized power from the Calverts in 1689. To help ensure a good relationship with England on November 28, 1689, the male residents of Somerset County signed a loyalty oath to William and Mary in which they pledged to defend the Protestant religion and the King and Queen against the Catholics. Both William Coulbourn and his son William, Jr., signed this loyalty oath.
In addition to examining the political, military and judicial career of Coulbourn, it is important to also examine his family. As previously mentioned, he met his first wife, Anne, in Northampton County and they married in July 1656 when Coulbourn was twenty-six years old. A little over two years later their first son, William, Jr., was born on September 8, 1658. The second child, a daughter named Mary, was born November 8, 1661. Four years went by before the third child was born, which also coincided with the family’s move to Somerset County from Virginia. Once settled, the third child, Solomon, was born on January 27, 1664/65. A fourth child, a daughter named Anne, was born on October 9, 1665, scarcely nine months after Solomon. A fifth child, Robert, was born in 1667. Sadly, tragedy struck the family as Anne, the mother, died in 1670. The forty-year-old William then met and married the twenty-seven-year-old Margaret Cooper  and they had a daughter, Penelope.
Two of the sons, William, Jr., and Robert both married into the prominent family of Randall Revell. William, Jr., married Revell’s daughter Anne in 1678 while Robert married his grandaughter Rebecca. Coulbourn’s daughter Anne married John Taylor and Penelope married Michael Holland. There are records for five children of William, Jr., and four daughters of Anne and John Taylor which gave Coulbourn at least nine grandchildren. Conspicuously, daughter Mary and son Solomon are not mentioned in Somerset IKL except for their births. Since neither Mary nor Solomon were referred to in the will or inventory of William Coulbourn, it leads one to speculate that they were deceased, although there is no record of their deaths.
Soon after he established a peaceful co-existence with the Indians, Colonel Coulbourn found himself ill and at death’s door in January 1689/90 at the age of sixty. On January 12, 1689/90 the colonel wrote his will, believing death to be imminent. At the beginning of the will, Coulbourn praised God and acknowledged the human destiny that required the death of the body and the assumption of the soul into God’s kingdom. The militia colonel, county commissioner and former sheriff left his earthly existence and died on January 22, 1689/90 at the age of about sixty years.
In his will, Coulbourn made his son William, Jr., his executor as well as his primary beneficiary. William, Jr., received his father’s entire estate, his horse and tack, six oxen, some furniture and three slaves. Coulbourn also gave his other son Robert and daughter Ann parcels of land that he owned along with a slave each. In the will, gifts were left also for each of his four granddaughters. The will provided more than just information about the disposition of Coulbourn’s property. By making no mention of his second wife, Margaret and two children, Solomon and Mary, again one has to assume that they pre-deceased Coulbourn.
Robert and John King performed an inventory on the personal estate of the goods and chattels of Colonel William Coulbourn after his death. After examining the inventory, insight can be gained into the life of Coulbourn. For instance, one can conclude that he was literate because he possessed six books. Also, he was religious as the preface of his will implied and because one of the books was a Bible. He also had a desk in his house that would presumably be used for writing. For part of his life he was afflicted with vision problems because he owned three pairs of spectacles. He also accepted slavery as he had five slaves in 1689.
The militia colonel had the necessary accouterments coinciding with his position. He had three swords, a pair of pistols and holsters, two guns and a looking glass. The farmer had enough stock for a good farm. He had six oxen, eight cows and calves, three old cows, four heifers, three bulls, seven steers, a sorrel horse, a bay horse, two sows, six hogs, twelve ewes and thirteen lambs. Not only did he have the livestock, but he also had plenty of farming equipment such as a plow and five hoes. 
A good sampling of furniture occupied the Coulbourn household. There were five feather beds with two blankets, five pairs of sheets and three pillows. By the ages of the children and their marriages, and the fact there were only two blankets, it is guessed that most of the children, if not all, were gone from the house. The house contained five tables, three chests of drawers, three other chests, ten chairs and two sets of curtains for the windows. Because of the amount of furniture, the size of the family and his social and political prominence, the Coulbourn house probably was of a fairly good size for seventeenth-century Somerset County. The house apparently included two stories because the inventory referred to upper and lower rooms.
For someone as wealthy as Coulbourn, he did not possess a wide variety of clothing. He had three old shirts, three pairs of drawers and two pairs of britches. His feet were covered by three pairs of stockings, one pair of slippers or one pair of boots. He had a jacket to keep warm along with two caps and a hat that could have been used for formal occasions or to keep the sun out of his eyes.
Even though Coulbourn might not have had much clothing, he still ranked as one of the richest men in the county. An example of Coulbourn’s wealth was obtained from the 1678 Tobacco List. In that year, the Assembly of the Province passed an act to reimburse the various residents of Maryland for tobacco provided to finance the military expedition against the Nanticoke Indians. In Somerset County hundreds of residents were reimbursed and the average reimbursement appeared to be about a two hundred pounds of tobacco. The province gave Coulbourn back a huge sum of 2,049 pounds of tobacco. Out of the hundreds of contributors to the militia effort in Somerset County, only six gave more than Coulbourn.
Upon his death, Coulbourn’s rank among the wealthiest men of the county was supported by his inventory. The document completed by John and Robert King listed Coulbourn’s wealth at 255 pounds sterling. Comparing inventories of other deceased county residents from 1688 to 1695, only two had more wealth- Ambrose Dixon and William Stevens. In fact most inventory amounts did not come close to the worth of Colonel Coulbourn. Out of twenty-three other inventories examined, only three listed values in excess of one hundred pounds sterling. Most inventories were valued below fifty pounds sterling with some at five pounds or less.
This paper cannot be considered complete without addressing Col. William Coulbourn and his association with the Quakers. Even though he took a stand to support the Quakers in 1660, it appeared that he had forsaken the idea of embracing the Quaker doctrine as his lifestyle stood in opposition to it. One of the major premises of Quakerism is pacifism. Quakers traditionally refuse to serve in the military, especially avoiding any combat roles. They objected to engaging in military conflicts because they felt it was impossible to both love their enemies and at the same time try to kill them. Taking into account his military service, it could be assumed that Coulbourn no longer subscribed to the Quaker ideology. Another area where Coulbourn differed was with slavery. The Colonel owned four slaves; this action conflicted with the Quaker position against slavery.
The Coulbourn line grew over the years. Unfortunately William, Jr., died in 1701, only eleven years after his father’s death. Another William, the third in line and the colonel’s grandson was born in 1682. Nearly every male heir in almost every generation since has had a son who was named William. Coulbourn’s memory is also evident today, in the geography of the area with Coulbourn Creek, which bounded Pomfret and is still called by the same name, and Coulbourn Mill Road in Salisbury, Md.
1 Many variations existed in the seventeenth century for the spelling of Coulbourn such as Coulbourne, Colborne, Colbourne, Colebourne and Colebourn.
2 There is currently still speculation as to where from Coulbourn hailed. Matthew Wise made no mention of Coulbourn’s roots in the Boston Family Book, and historian and genealogist Leslie Dryden also made no mention of Coulbourn’s parents or hometown. Some speculated, such as Clayton Torrence, after some research, that Coulbourn came from Somersetshire in England. Sonia Coulbourn, Coulbourn Heritage, published July 18 1999, listed Coulbourn’s date of birth as January 19, 1629/30. Leslie Dryden believed Coulbourn’s year of birth to be 1630.
3 This writer has searched available passenger lists of the seventeenth century and has been unable to locate William Coulbourn’s name under that spelling or any of the alternate spellings, so there is no definite idea when Coulbourn arrived in Virginia. He just appeared in the Virginia records in 1650 when signing the Loyalty oath to Oliver Cromwell and Parliament during the English Civil War.
4 William Coulbourn, Loyalty Oath 1651, Northampton County Courthouse, Eastville, VA (microfilm Reel 3, Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) 188-89
6 Nell Marion Nugent. Cavaliers and Pioneers Abstracts of Virginia Land Grants 1623-1666. Patent Book No. 3 Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company Inc., 1979. p. 242
7 ibid., Patent Book No. 5 p. 485
8 Northampton County Court Records, Reel 3 (microfilm Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) p. 137
9 Somerset IKL Births, Deaths, and Marriages 1649-1720, (microfilm CR 50078 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.) p. 24
10 Dr. Howard Mackey and Candy McMahon Perry, eds. Northampton County Virginia – Deeds, Wills and Etc. 1657-1666 Book VII. Rockport, ME: Picton Press, 2002., pp.36-37
11 March 1659-60 – 11th of Commonwealth, transcribed by William Waller Henry, The Statutes at large: Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, Vol. 1 New York, R.W.G. Barlow, 1823. p. 532
12 ibid. p. 533
14 Northampton County Court Orders Vol. 8, 1657-1664, (microfilm Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) p. 88, fol. 88, p. 93
15 When examining the inventories of slave owners during the time period, a normal value assessed to a slave was twenty pounds sterling.
16 Northampton County Court Orders, Vol. 8, No. 8 1657-1664, (microfilm Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) fol. 89
17 Patent of Pomfret, found in Maryland Land Office Patent Record 1663-1664, (microfilm SR 7348 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) fol. 219-21.
18 Survey of Pomfret, found in Maryland Land Office patent Record 1663-1664, (microfilm SR 7348 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) fol. 219
19 Somerset IKL Births Deaths and Marriages 1649-1720 (microfilm CR 50,078 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.) p. 24
20 William Hand Browne, ed. Proceedings of the Council of Maryland 1661-1676, Archives of Maryland, III, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1885. p. 491. After the end of the English Civil War and the conflict between supporters of the King and Parliament subsided, the Colonial Militia of Maryland had the primary duty of protecting against Indian raids, which in the 1660s were few. For more information about the Colonial Militia of Maryland, see Joseph M. Balkoski, The Maryland National Guard – A History of Maryland’s Military Forces 1634-1991. Baltimore, MD: Maryland National Guard, 1991.
22 J. Hall Pleasants, ed. Somerset County Court Proceedings 1665-1668, Archives of Maryland, LIV,Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1937. p. 741
23 ibid. p. 743
24 Northampton County Court Records 1654-1725, Deeds, Wills, etc. No. 7, No. 8 (microfilm Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) p. 10
25 Somerset Deeds, Liber O1,(microfilm 34,360 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) fol. 54; J. Hall Pleasants, ed., Somerset County Court Proceedings 1665-1668, Archives of Maryland LIV, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1937.p. 660; William Hande Browne, ed., Proceedings of the Council of Maryland 1667-1675, Archives of Maryland V, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1887. p.4; Karraker, Cyrus H., The Seventeenth Century Sheriff, (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of NC Press, 1930) pp.3-7, 21-30.; Gladwin, Irene, The Sheriff: The Man and His Office, (London: Victor Gollancz, LTD, 1974) p. 301, p. 393.
26 J. Hall Pleasants, ed., Somerset County Court Proceedings 1665-1668, Archives of Maryland LIV,Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1937. pp. 707, 712.
27 J. Hall Pleaseants, ed., Somerset County Court Proceedings 1665-1668, Archives of Maryland, LIV, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1937. p. 710
28 ibid., pp. 709-10.
29 William Hande Browne, ed. Proceedings of the Council of Maryland 1667-1675, Archives of Maryland, V, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1887. p.61; both Stephen Horsey (1666-1668) and George Johnson (1668-1669) served as the first two Sheriffs of Somerset County.
30 William Hande Browne, ed.,Somerset County Judicial Records 1670-1671, Archives of Maryland III, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1885. pp.167-8
31 Somerset Judicial Record 1670-1671, Somerset County Courthouse, Princess Anne (microfilm CR 44,861, Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.) pp. 177-181
32 ibid. pp. 220-1
33 William Hand Browne., ed. Proceedings of the Council of Maryland 1667-1675, Archives of Maryland V, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1887. pp. 120-1
34 ibid. p. 121
36 Elizabeth Merritt, ed. Proceedings of the Provincial Court 1670-1675, Archives of Maryland LXV, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1952. pp.327, 381, 461
37 ibid., pp. 564-5; Randall Revell was a fellow large land owner and the future in-law of Coulbourn as well as probably a friend for at least twenty-five years.
38 Somerset County Judicial Records 1671-1675, Maryland State Archives, CR 45,669., Cyrus H.Karraker, The Seventeenth Century Sheriff, Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1930. pp. 17-22.
39 William Hand Browne, ed. Proceedings of the Council of Maryland 1676-1678, Archives of Maryland, XV, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1896. pp. 162-3.
40 Ibid., pp. 142-148.
41 Ibid. p. 190
42 ibid., pp. 213-4
43 ibid. pp.77, 216-7, 275, 328.
44 IKL Births, Deaths, and Marriages 1649-1720 (microfilm CR 50078 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University), pp. 20, 152. (Marriage recorded between Anthony Bell and Abigail Roctik and between Thomas Walston and Ruth Landon. There were more marriages referred to in the transcribed version of the Somerset IKL, but they are unreadable on the microfilm.)
45 William Hand Browne, ed. Proceedings of the Council of Maryland 1667-1675, Archives of Maryland V, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1887. pp. 309, 353-5; Also included Lord Baltimore’s Declaration of May 13, 1682.
46 Ibid., pp. 479-484.
47 Ibid. pp. 554-6.
48 William Hand Browne. Ed, Archives of Maryland VII, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1889. pp. 139-41., Donald M. Dozer, Portrait of the Free State – A History of Maryland, Cambridge, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1976., pp.137-40.
49 Archives of Maryland, Vol. 87, p. 304. Margaret Coulbourn is listed as giving a deposition in 1673. In the disposition, Margaret is described as being “aged thirty years or thereabouts.)
50 Somerset IKL Births Deaths and Marriages (microfilm CR 50078 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) pp. 24, 40-41.; Somerset Deeds 1671-1673, (microfilm CR 34,362 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) p. 153 Will of William Coulbourn, Somerset Judicial record 1691-1692 (microfilm CR 45,673 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University, pp. 5-6) In the deed it was mentioned that William Coulbourn was married to Margaret. No original record has been located by this author as to the death of Coulbourn’s first wife. Leslie Dryden made no mention of a second wife. Sonia Coulbourn in her work Coulbourn Heritage mentioned Anne’s death about 1670 and remarriage to Margaret Cooper. Also Sonia Coulbourn’s work provided the information for the birthdates for Robert and Penelope Coulbourn.
51 Ibid., Somerset Deeds 1679-1689, (microfilm CR 31,804 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) pp. 923-4.
52 Somerset IKL Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1649-1720. (microfilm CR50078 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.) p. 40.
53 Will of William Coulbourne, Somerset Judicial Record, 1691 Nov- 1692 June (Microfilm CR 45,673 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University). Fol. 5-6
54 Inventory of William Coulbourn, Somerset Judicial Record, 1691 Nov- 1692 June,(microfilm CR 45,673 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) Fol. 45-7
58 William Hand Browne, ed. Assembly Proceedings October – November 1678, Archives of Maryland VII, Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1889. pp. 87, 97-100.
59 Maryland Prerogative Court Inventories and Accounts Liber 10 (1685-1695) (microfilm MSA-MSM13 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University), pp56-61, listed the worth of William Stevens as 766 pounds sterling, 10 shillings, 5 pence; Somerset County Inventories EB14 1678-1725, (microfilm CR 43743 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University) listed the worth of Ambrose Dixon as 326 pounds, 8 shillings.
60 Ibid. For a complete list of inventories examined see Appendix.
61 J. William Frost. The Quaker Family in Colonial America, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973, pp.191-2
62 ibid., pp. 51, 58, 78, 209.
63 Somerset IKL Births Deaths and Marriages 1649-1720 (microfilm CR 50078 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.) p. 40
64 Ruth T. Dryden, Land Records of Somerset County, 1992.
65 Somerset County Inventories 1678-1725 EB14,(Microfilm CR 43743 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.) fol. 250-259.; Maryland Prerogative Court Inventories and Accounts Libber 10 1685-1695,(Microfilm MSA-MSM13 Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.) pp. 12-13, 13-14, 15, 56-61, 76-77, 97, 100, 104, 133-4, 141, 285, 295, 309.
Somerset Judicial Records (microfilm), Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD.
Births, Deaths and Marriages IKL 1649-1720 (microfilm), Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Prerogative Court Inventories and Accounts (microfilm), Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD. Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Somerset County Inventories (microfilm), Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Somerset Deeds (microfilm), Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Northampton County Court Records (microfilm), Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Maryland Land Office, Land Patent and Survey, (microfilm), Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Northampton County Court Orders (microfilm), Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Balkoski, Joseph M. The Maryland National Guard – A History of Maryland’s Military Forces 1634-1991. Baltimore, MD: Maryland National Guard, 1991.
Browne, William H, et al., eds. Archives of Maryland 1-72 Vols. Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1883- 1972
Coulbourn, Sonia A. Coulbourn Heritage, 1999.
Coldham, Peter Wilson The King’s Passenger to Maryland and Virginia, Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1997.
Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emmigrants 1607-1660, Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1987.
Dozer, Donald M. Portrait of the Free State – A History of Maryland., Cambridge, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1976.
Dyden, Ruth T. Land Records of Somerset County, 1992.
Greer, George Cabell Early Virginia Immigrants 1623-1666, Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1982
Filby, P. William and Meyer, Mary K., ed., Passenger and Immigrant Lists Index, Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1981-1986
Hening, William Waller, ed. The Statutes at Large – Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, Volumes One and Two, New York, NY: R.W.G. Barlow, 1823.
Karraker, Cyrus H. The Seventeenth Century Sheriff. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1930.
Mackey, Dr. Howard, ed., et al, Northampton County Virginia Record Books, Volumes 5-8, Rockport, ME: Picton Press: 1999-2002.
Teppa, Michael, ed. New World Immigrants Vol.1 and Vol. 2, Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1980.
Torrence, Clayton. Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Baltimore, MD: Regional Publishing Company, 1979.
Wise, Jennings Cropper, Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke or the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, Richmond, VA: The Bell Book and Stationary Company, 1911.
Wise, Matthew M. The Boston Family of Maryland, Charlotte, NC: The Demar Company, 1986.
Wright, F. Edward. Maryland Eastern Shore Vital Records 1648-1725, Silver Spring, MD: Family Line Publications, 1982.
Go to Appendices