At his death in May of 1694, Thomas Purnell was one of the most prominent planters in Somerset County (later day Worcester County), Maryland. He controlled nearly thirty-two hundred acres of land in Mattapony and Bogettenorton [Bogerternorton] Hundreds. At the time of his demise, his inventoried estate was valued at nearly £500.  Purnell owned five slaves, making him one of the largest slave-holders in the county and a member of the socioeconomic elite of the gentry in the Hundred. His sons Thomas Jr. and John continued to increase the wealth and social prestige of the family. During the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, the Purnells continued to be one of the most prominent families in Somerset and Worcester Counties, one which married into other propertied families. The historian must ask the question: How was Thomas Purnell able to rise to such economic and social prominence within twenty years after his immigration into the Province of Maryland? To answer this and other questions, the researcher must focus on immigration documents, land patents, marriage patterns, and other pertinent documents which can be analyzed to create a picture of life on the Eastern Shore during the Colonial era.
It is difficult to identify when Thomas Purnell first emigrated to the new world. Immigration records do not give a clear picture on where Purnell was born, when he first came to America or even which colony was his original home. Several immigrants with the surname of Purnell emigrated into America in the seventeenth-century. Secondary sources such as George C. Greer, Early Virginia Immigrants 1623-1666 list a William Purnell who was transported into James River County, Virginia in 1635 by Captain Thomas Harris. Captain Harris transported another William Purnell to Henrico County, Virginia in 1638. A John Purnell was transported to Lancaster County, Virginia by David Fox in 1652. An unnamed Purnell(or Parnell, there is some question of whether he was Scots-Irish) was transported to Westmorland County, Virginia by a John Drayton in 1654. With the exception of the “unnamed” Purnell, none of these men could have been Thomas, though they might have been his father or another relative who transported him at a later date, a supposition not borne out by documentary evidence.
A more likely scenario of immigration can be found in John C. Hotten, An Original List of Persons of Quality 1600-1700. Hotten reported that a Thomas Purnell, aged sixteen years, was transported into Virginia in 1635. Evidence of this emigration was further substantiated in Michael Tepper’s book, Immigration to Middle Colonies: A Consolidation of Ship’s Passengers Lists From New England Genealogical Registers. Tepper reports that a sixteen-year old called Thomas Purnell was transported into Virginia on the boat George by a Captain Joseph Severn. This could conceivably be the Thomas Purnell in question. If Thomas Purnell was sixteen in 1635, he would have been seventy-three in 1694 when he died. Such an advanced age was not unheard of at the time. People enjoyed a somewhat longer life-span than one might think in the seventeenth century. One other possibility was mentioned in Peter Wilson Coldham, The Complete Book of Immigrants 1607-1660. Coldham reports that in 1657, a Thomas Purnell was indentured to a William Major in Virginia for six years. Many early settlers in colonial America began as indentured servants. It is conceivable that Thomas Purnell began his life in America in legal servitude, but it is more likely that the Thomas Purnell mentioned in Hotten’s and Tepper’s works was the Thomas in question.
We do not have a concrete immigration record that proves conclusively when Thomas Purnell emigrated to America. When researching this topic, the author uncovered a copy purported to be a page from the Purnell family Bible. According to this document: “Thomas Purnell of Thomas came from England about the year 1635 and landed in Northampton Virginia and then married a Miss Elizabeth Dorman and about the year 1646 he moved to Maryland and lived there”. Two important points can be gleaned from this document. Firstly, the Bible entry reiterates the 1635 date as the year of entry into Virginia. Secondly, later primary documents support the statement that Purnell was married to a woman called Elizabeth. This document does present information that is problematic for the researcher. It asserts that Purnell came to Northampton (County?) Virginia in 1635. None of the Purnells transported to America went directly to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Thomas Purnell conceivably could have landed at another location and moved to Northampton County, but a search of land records, court records, and tithable lists for that jurisdiction do not indicate that Purnell ever lived there. In fact the only Purnells mentioned in Northampton County were Mary Purnell, who was transported in October 1652, and Margaret Purnell, who entered Virginia in September 1661. It is unlikely that Thomas Purnell could have lived in Northampton County, Virginia without appearing in land records or court documents. The fact that he does not appear in the tithables for Northampton County 1635-1673 supports this contention. If he lived in the county, he possessed no land; he was not responsible for any taxes and he was not listed as being an indentured servant of any planter.
Research does show that Purnell did reside for a time in Accomack County, Virginia. A court order issued on 18 December 1666 stated that:
“Certificate this day granted unto Thomas Purnell for 500 acres
of land due per rights under written viz:
Thomas Reynell John Martin
Jno. Stowell John Frey
Thomas Harris Jean Prestwood
Thomas Wood Susan Fly
John Kelly Sarah Heath
18 December 1666
This document confirms that Thomas Purnell did claim land in Accomack County, Virginia before he entered the Province of Maryland. It was a common practice in the seventeenth-century to transport or claim transport of people into a colony to acquire land. The various colonies promoted this custom to attract residents during the early period settlement. If a planter could demonstrate to the county court that he was residing in the county and had brought people into the colony, that planter could claim headright to a certain amount of land. In this instance Purnell transported or claimed to have transported (fraud being quite common) eleven people into Accomack County from some other jurisdiction. There is, however, little documentation to prove that Purnell lived in Accomack County proper. His name does not appear on the tithable lists for the county from 1663 to 1675. His name does not appear in court records or orders during the same period. There is, however, a mention of Purnell holding land in Accomack. A John Smale “patented 500 acres of land at Mattapony (Accomack) in 1666 near Thomas Purnell on the north side of his property”. This document indicates possession of a land patent but does not necessarily prove domicile in Virginia.
What can we assume about Thomas Purnell from immigration records, family Bible entries and land documents? Purnell probably emigrated to Virginia in 1635. He may have come directly to the Eastern Shore; however, it is more likely that he lived across the Chesapeake Bay and moved to the Eastern Shore in the 1660’s. He did hold land in Accomack County, but there was no record showing how he disposed of the property when he moved to Maryland. Purnell was married to a woman named Elizabeth, but records of the nuptials could not be located in Virginia or Maryland documents. One explanation for this lack of extant documentation is that it is likely that Purnell was not an Anglican, a member of the established church in Virginia. The question of personal religion is a difficult one to prove conclusively when discussing individuals from the seventeenth-century. In some cases, religious records are not extant and secondary sources can be confusing. A good example of the latter is that two excellent sources in the early history of Somerset/Worcester County disagree on Purnell’s religious affiliation. Clayton Torrence, author of Old Somerset on The Eastern Shore, lists the Purnell family as being Anglican. Truitt and LesCallette, in Worcester County Maryland’s Arcadia, state that Thomas Purnell was a Quaker, one of the “friends” driven into the Maryland Colony by repression in Virginia. When respected sources are diametrically opposed on fundamental issues such as religion, it makes it difficult for the historian to prove important, relevant facts, necessary to recreate a person’s life.
What, therefore, can the historian state about Thomas Purnell’s religion? It is likely that Purnell was a Presbyterian. This can be surmised through his identification with William Stevens of Somerset County, a moving force in the establishment of Buckingham Presbyterian Church in Bogettenorton Hundred. Purnell was mentioned several times in land transactions with Stevens, and Purnell’s name cannot be found in Anglican Parish records of Coventry or Somerset Parishes. This omission from parish records could also indicate that the records are not extant. The early church records for Somerset County are not complete. There was an Anglican mission in the area of Snow Hill, but it was not established during Purnell’s lifetime. He may not have been willing to travel miles from the seaside of Somerset to regularly attend Anglican worship in the hinterlands of the county. If Purnell were married in an Anglican service, it most likely was not on the Eastern Shore of Maryland or Virginia, but rather was more likely to have occurred across the Chesapeake Bay in other parts of Virginia.
The Purnell family Bible entry does present the researcher with another problem. It states that: “... about the year 1646 he moved to Maryland and lived there”. There is no concrete evidence showing that Thomas Purnell emigrated to Maryland that early. The first document showing that Purnell and his family were claiming residence in Maryland was a warrant issued by Proprietary Government giving Purnell the right to claim land. It stated:
Eodem Dei (November 20, 1673)
Thomas Purnell proves his right to 300 acres of land for transporting
Himself Elizabeth his wife Nathaniell Veezey Rowland Savage
James Hulling and Robert Jenkins into this province inhabit.
Land records thus indicate that Purnell emigrated into Maryland around the year 1673. He could conceivably have moved into the province from Virginia at an earlier date and gone through the process of claiming domicile in the state. Research has proven that many of the early settlers on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland moved up the seaside road from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This scenario is most likely to have been true of Thomas Purnell.
As stated, Thomas Purnell claimed the right to 300 acres of land in Maryland colony in November of 1673. It would be beneficial to discuss the procedure for claiming land and the various documents that were issued to confer land use rights by the Proprietary Government of Maryland.
In order for a planter to claim headright for land in Maryland, three separate documents were necessary. Firstly, the planter needed a warrant. A warrant was a legal document submitted by the Colonial government which instructed the Deputy Surveyor of the county in which the land was to be granted to lay out a specific number of acres for the person named in the order. Secondly, a certificate of survey was required. After the execution of the warrant, the Deputy Surveyor would file a certificate of survey in the Provincial land office which stated the exact location and boundaries of recently granted land. Finally, a patent was issued by the Provincial land office. The patent was a highly formalized legal document by which The Lord Proprietor granted the land to the planter, stipulated the obligations of the planter to keep the land, specified payments and reiterated the boundaries of said property. Examples of these documents pertaining to Thomas Purnell can be found in Appendix 1.
Soon after arriving in Somerset County, Purnell began to acquire land. Much of his early land acquisitions were through the auspices of Col. William Stevens, the most prominent planter in the county. A patent was issued by the Lord Proprietor in 1679 giving Stevens claim to a parcel of land known as “Timber Quarter” and “Deep Branch”. Col. Stevens then granted the land to Thomas Purnell. This was a common practice. The great planters would patent the land and grant/sell the right to use the land to another for specific considerations. The certificate of survey for Timber Quarter issued in 1679 stated that: “Col. Wm. Stevens for a good and valuable consideration _____ ahead received of and from Thomas Purnell of the County of Somerset. Set over unto the said Thomas Purnell all rights... of said parcel of land called Timber Quarters,”18 Stevens received the land from the Proprietary government and then assigned part of the land to Thomas Purnell for unspecified remuneration. This was a profitable enterprise and a common practice in the seventeenth-century. Stevens and Purnell would maintain a business relationship throughout their lifetimes and it is interesting to note that during the period when Thomas Purnell was living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Col. William Stevens was also patenting land in Accomack County. There is no prima fascia evidence to prove that Purnell was an agent for Stevens, but one can assume that their business and personal relationship might have started then.
After receiving land from William Stevens, Thomas Purnell, like all other planters began the process of patenting other lands. A search of land records for Somerset County, Somerset County Rent Rolls, and Thomas Purnell’s last will and testament indicated that he was able to acquire title to a great deal of land. Rent Rolls indicate that he held and paid quitrents on the following properties:
Rent Rolls for Mattapony
Surveyed 25th of July 1679 for William Stevens and assigned Thomas
Purnell on the seaboard side near Mattapony 50 acres to Afradozi Johnson
150 acres to John Purnell was the possessors
Surveyed 7th of April 1674 for Thomas Purnell near Mattapony creek
in possession of John Purnell
Surveyed June 25 1683 for Thomas Purnell two hundred and fifty acres
possessed by Afradozi Johnson and a Parcel by John Purnell
Surveyed 27 December for Thomas Purnell in possession of John
Rent Rolls for Poquadenorten Hundred
Surveyed November 1676 for William Stevens and assigned to Thomas
Purnell on the seaboard side near the east boundary of Edward Smith
possessed by Thomas Purnell of Thomas Purnell
Surveyed 20 December 1683 for Thomas Purnell in the possession of
Thomas Purnell son of Thomas Purnell
Surveyed November 1685 for Thomas Purnell possessed by Ditto
What does this information from the Rent Rolls for Somerset County tell us about Thomas Purnell? Purnell had the right to use 2,330 acres of land in Somerset County, 1,000 acres in Mattapony Hundred and 1,330 acres in Bogettenorton on the seaside are of the county. Purnell was not the largest landowner in the county, but he was in possession of a substantial tract of land, a fact that would make him, at the time of his death, the most prosperous planter on the seaboard side of Somerset County.
The Rent Rolls also give the historian an insight into the amount of taxes on land during the seventeenth-century and the division of property among family members. The total tax on all twenty-three-hundred acres was less than £3 per annum., which was not a large sum of money for a planter of Purnell’s stature. With only a moderate harvest of tobacco, sale of timber and pork, or the production of cider, all major pursuits of early Maryland planters, Thomas Purnell could easily afford the quitrent on his property and accumulate usable wealth and eventually purchase slaves.
The Rent Rolls also indicate that before he died, Purnell subdivided his land among his two sons Thomas Jr. and John and his son-in-law Afradozi Johnson, a Quaker. Thomas Jr. was assigned the rights to “Fairfield”, “New Fairfield”, and “Farmhill”, over 1,300 acres of land all in Bogettenorton Hundred. John received portions of “Timber Quarter”, “Parnell’s Adventure”, “Cold Harbor”, and “Mattapony Marsh”, roughly 700 acres of land, all of it in Mattapony Hundred. What can we infer from this? Like many Somerset planters, Purnell did not practice primogeniture. It is true that the oldest son received the largest portion of land for his use while his father was still alive, but the younger son did receive a substantial tract. What is interesting is that the division of land was by Hundred. Thomas Junior received the right to land in Bogettenorten and John in Mattapony. We have no information on why this was done, but assumptions can be made. Perhaps there were two houses, one in each Hundred which the sons utilized as their domicile. Difficulty in travel because of the poor road conditions of this time made it practical to have one brother work one part of the estate in Mattapony and the other in Bogettenorton. This division could also indicate a desire by Thomas Senior to separate the sons holdings to prevent a rift after he died or represented a rivalry between the brothers. It could merely represent a desire to promote an equitable distribution of land among his sons. We do not know the reason for this decision. Common sense dictates that it was simply a means to provide support for his progeny while he was still alive and in his will this division of land was confirmed.
Afradozi Johnson, a known Quaker, was married to Purnell’s oldest daughter Sarah. The Rent Rolls indicate that Johnson was assigned 250 acres in “Cold Harbor” and 50 acres in “Timber Quarter”. This assignment was undoubtedly for the maintenance of Sarah and her family. In her father’s will, she would receive this land as part of her inheritance.
Purnell, according to secondary sources patented other parcels of land. According to Coldham, Settlers of Maryland 1679-1700, Thomas Purnell patented “Purnell’s Lot”, a 500-acre tract in 1675, “No (New) Timber Quarter”, a 250- acre plot in 1689, and “The Key”, a 100- acre tract near the Pocomoke River. These tracts were located in Mattapony and Bogettenorton Hundreds, but the author was unable to locate survey and patent documents. These tracts were not listed in Somerset County Rent Rolls for the period. Perhaps Purnell assigned them to other family members or deeded them to other planters.
There is very little documentation reporting the day-to-day life of Thomas Purnell, Somerset County planter. We do not know what he thought about the important political and religious matters of his day, but we do have an insight into his standing in the community. A search of the court records for Somerset County, between 1673 and 1694, did not uncover any instances where Thomas Purnell was indicted for criminal conduct; he was rarely brought to court for non-payment of debts, and he brought suit against his neighbors on only two occasions. What follows are transcriptions of court orders from Somerset County referring to cases involving Thomas Purnell:
Entries Returned the Second Tuesday in the Annoq Dom 1683
Capt Against Thomas Ley Trader answer unto Thomas Purnell of a plea
of Debt, Matthew Scarbrough, John Jones, John Williams and Elizabeth
his wife subpd on part of the plte.
Capt Against Thomas Purnell to answer unto Lawrence Gere in an accon of the
case upon account
Capt against Matthew Scarbrough to answer unto Thomas Purnell of a plea of
debt Thomas Roger and Hanah the wife of Matthew Scarbrough Supb on the
part of the plte.
Purnell, apparently brought action against Ley, Scarbrough, and the others over non-payments of debts, which might indicate that Thomas Sr. was a factor. More on this supposition later.
It is interesting that there was no record of Purnell having served on the Somerset County Grand Jury, unlike most of the prominent planters in that jurisdiction. The Grand Jury would be called periodically to hear evidence against an individual and to submit an indictment if the evidence against him or her warranted such an action. The court normally appointed men in good standing, those who were thought to be honest, prominent individuals. If Purnell was truly a Quaker, he would not have served on a jury because Quakers would not take public oaths. Since it is unlikely that Purnell was really Quaker, other explanations are more likely. When he first moved to Somerset, he did not possess the social and political standing enjoyed by other more established planters. It appears that Purnell may have been considered “of the middling sort”, or one step lower than the planter elite by the political power-brokers of Somerset. For example, unlike William Stevens, Daniel Selby and others, a search of the records indicates that Thomas Purnell was never accorded the title of “Col.” or Mister, or even Gentleman. Furthermore, he was never appointed as a Court Commissioner, a position which was at the political apex in Colonial Maryland. This is an indication that Purnell may have enjoyed great wealth and economic prestige, but he was not considered to be politically equal to Stevens and Selby. More research is necessary to ascertain Purnell’s position in Somerset County, vis a vie, the top one-percent of the planter aristocracy.
Further research into the court records of Somerset County is also warranted to ascertain whether Thomas Purnell ever served on the criminal jury. He did serve on several commissions appointed by the courts. It is obvious therefore, that the residents of Mattapony Hundred considered Thomas Purnell to be an honest, upstanding individual, one who could be counted on to perform the responsibilities of a person of his social class.
The standing enjoyed by Purnell in the local community can be realized by viewing other documents. On the ninth of November 1675, only two years after emigrating into the Province of Maryland, Thomas Purnell was appointed Press Master for Bogettenorton Hundred by the Somerset County Court:
In pursuance of an act of assembly for appointing press masters and providers
of provisions in each respective hundred of every County within this Province
This Court orders that Stephen Carman and John Lyon be Press masters for
Nanicoke Hundred William Elate Senior and Benjamin Cottman for Wicomico
hundred John Bossman and John Shipmay for Manokin hundred Levin Dishroon
and John Panther for Mony hundred Stephen Horsey and Charles Hall for
Annamessex hundred Edward Wale and John Williams for Pocomoke hundred
Thomas Purnell and Thomas Pointer for Boquetenorten hundred and Further itt
is ordered ye sherriffe give note of their names to ye Government of this
The Press Master was a provincial official responsible for providing naval stores to His Majesty’s Fleet and for maintaining certain victuals for the militia. There is no reason to doubt that Thomas Purnell carried out this appointment with utmost dependability.
Purnell was also appointed by the Somerset County Courts to sit on a commission empaneled for the purpose of creating parish boundary-lines after the Establishment of the Church of England following the Glorious Revolution:
Persons appointed by Court to appear to assist ye Justices in laying out and dividing
ye County into Parishes as followeth viz-upon 22th of this month November 1692.
For Mattapony, Thomas Purnell: Henry Hall: William Stevens: Richard Holland
For Pocomoke, John Cornish: John Barnett: Alexander Maddox: William Noble
For Annamessex, Capt. We. Colborne: Mr. William Planner: Mr. Thomas
Dixon: and Charles Hall
For Manokin, Arnold Elzey: Richard Chambers: Capt. Richard Whitty:
For Mony, George Betts: John Laws: John Renshaw: John White
For Wicomico, Daniel Hass: William Elgate: We. Alexander: Matthew Wallis
For Nanicoke, Robt. Collier: James Weatherly: John Round: Capt. We. Piper
This is an important document. It reflects the standing that Purnell held in Mattapony Hundred. The court appointed him, along with William Stevens, to a commission which was to draw up Parish lines for the newly established Anglican Church in Maryland. Only the “better” people in society would be appointed to such an important commission. This appointment does create a problem for the researcher. It indicates that Purnell was theoretically an Anglican in 1692. This appointment might be the basis for Torrence’s claim that the Purnells were Anglicans. One could argue that the court would not have appointed a Presbyterian to serve on a commission to create boundaries for the Established Church. Or would they? William Stevens was appointed to this commission from Mattapony Hundred. As we have already argued, Stevens, who some historians list as an Anglican, was responsible for inviting Francis Makemie to establish Presbyterianism on the lower Shore. Perhaps Purnell was viewed as an Anglican by County officials, or as we will discuss later in the paper, perhaps Thomas Senior adopted the Church of England late in his life for political and economic reasons.
In 1683, The Maryland Assembly appointed Thomas Purnell to another important commission. He was appointed to a special commission to assist in the creation of towns in Somerset County. The Proprietary Government realized that the establishment of towns would lead to economic growth by increasing the level of imports and exports, as well as providing greater tax revenues for the province. Commissioners were appointed for every county in the colony:
An Act For Advancement of Trade
Bee itt enacted by the Right Honorable the Lord Proprietary of this Province by &
with the advice & Consent of the vpper & Lower houses of this prsent General
Assembly & the authority of the same that from & after the Last day of August
one Thousand six hundred Eighty and five the Townes and Ports & places
hereafter menconed in the several and Respective Countys within the Province
shall bee the Ports & places where all Ships and vessels tradeing into this Province
shall unlade & putt on shore & sell barter & Trafficke away all goods wares &
Comoditys that shall be imported into this Province & Likewise that all Tobaccos
goods wares & Merchandizes of the growth Produccon or manufacture of this Province
inserted to bee sold here or transported out of this Province shall bee for that end
& intent brought to the said Ports & places. That is to Say.............And in Somersett County in Wiccomomico River on the South side on the Land of the Orphants of Charles
Bollard & And on the Land on the North side of Winford Creeke, (vizt) Smiths &
Glannills Land & on the Horsey Land in Annimessex & on Morgans Land formerly
called Barrowes towards the head of the Pokamoake, & on the Land betweene Mr
Jenkins Plantacon & Mr Howards Plantacon on the North side of the Pokamoake,
.......And be it further enacted by the Authority Aforesaid that from & after the
proclaiming this act all & every the psons hereafter named shall be Comissrs of &
for theire aforesaid severall & Respective Countys & that they & every of them
shall execute the powers & Authoritys hereby given according to the rules &
direccons hereafter in this act menconed & prescribed as well for the buying &
purchaseing of the aforesaid Towne Lands Ports & places of the now owners
& possessors of the same, as for the surveying & Laying our of the said Ports
Townes & Places aforesaid, & makeing & staking out the several Lotts in every
Towne to bee laid out in the said Townes to the end the Length breadth & extent
of every Towne & the severall Lotts in every Towne Port & place may be better
knowne & observed. That is to say for........And for the Covnty of Somersett Coll
We Stephens Capt Henry Smith Capt John Osborne, Coll We Coleborne , Capt
We Coleborne, Capt David Browne, Capt John Winder, Mr James Dasheele, Mr Edwd
Day, Mr Robt King, Mr Edmond Beauchamp. Mr Thomas James, Mr Charles Ratliffe
Mr Thomas Purall(Purnell), Mr. Francis Jenkins, Mr Levin Dennard, Mr John King,
Mr Charles Hall, Mr We Planner, Mr. Thomas Price, Mr John Williams Senjor
Mr Thomas Newball, Mr John Walton Mr Roger Woolford. And be it Enacted
by the authority advise & Consent aforesaid that the sd Commrs herein nominated
for each Respective Covnty, or the major part of them are Impowered... to
buy & purchase.......One hundred acres of Convenient Land... & after purchase
thereof shall Cavse the same to be surveyed, & after the survey so made of the
sd One hundred acres of Land shall Cavse the same to be Marccked staked out
and divided into Convenient streets, Laines & allies, with Open Space places to
be left On which may be Erected Church or Chapell & Marckett Hovse or other
The appointment of Thomas Purnell Senior to this Commission indicates that government officials on the Provincial and County level considered him to be a prominent, upstanding citizen. The other individuals on the Commission were members of the socioeconomic elite of Somerset County. Purnell and the other members of the Commission would create the towns of Snow Hill and Princess Anne, which would serve as residential and economic centers for the region.
There is one other document from the seventeenth-century which gives the historian information about the life of Thomas Purnell. Purnell, as did other planters of this era, registered a cattle mark with the Provincial government:
Tho: Purnell his mark vizt cropt on both ears two slitts on the right ear
and underbitten on the left ear recorded on the 8th of March 1669
Purnell subsequently registered a brand with the Provincial government as follows:
Thomas Purnell his brande Marke vizt T:P: The mares on the left Buttock
the mares(sic) on the right Recorded the 24th May 1680
What do these cattle marks tell us about eighteenth-century economics and animal husbandry? Thomas Purnell, like all planters of his day, raised cattle, hogs, and horses for personal use and for export. It was imperative for farmers to be able to establish ownership of livestock as most planters did not fence-in their land. The animals were allowed to wander freely, thus unmarked animals could lead to disputes over ownership. Purnell, as his inventory and accounts indicated, owned many animals and exported salted meat as part of his livelihood. (See inventory in appendix II.)
Thus far, this paper has focused on the extant documents which make it possible for the historian to recreate the life of Thomas Purnell. We have looked at immigration documents, land records, Bible records, court records, and civic appointments. Each of these documents makes it possible to create a picture of the life of a long-dead planter. What is interesting is that we can further enhance our knowledge of the world of Thomas Purnell by now focusing on instances where his name was not listed in documents as well as on mortuary documents, records that were created after his demise.
Thomas Purnell’s name was not found on military documents of the era. As all men aged sixteen to sixty were required to serve in the county militia, Purnell should have been recorded on a militia roll (unless he was in fact a Quaker). Militia lists for the seventeenth-century are not complete for the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, thus we cannot prove that Purnell served as a militiaman. He presumably would have mustered with other males in Mattapony and Bogettenorton Hundred if he was under sixty years of age. If the age of immigration was correct as presented earlier in this paper, Thomas Purnell would have been fifty-four years old when he established residency on the Eastern Shore, still within the age requirements for militia service. He was, however, appointed Press Master, a position which provided supplies to the County militia.
Another interesting omission in the records involves the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In 1688, the British Parliament forced the Catholic Sovereign James II to abdicate his throne in favor of his Protestant son-in-law and daughter William and Mary. As with every political upheaval in Great Britain, this event affected the American colonies. Rebellions took place in the colonies in support of the new monarchs. Once the succession had been finalized, the British crown required citizens of the colonies to swear oaths of allegiance to the monarchy. In 1689, residents of Maryland signed a Loyalty Oath to William and Mary and many of these self-professed faithful servants took out bonds supporting their oaths. What is interesting is that Thomas Purnell’s name does not appear in the 1689 Loyalty Oath of Somerset County. This is a curious omission. Purnell was a wealthy, prominent planter. His failure to sign this loyalty oath could have had serious political, legal, and economic ramifications for the Purnell family. Why did he not sign this document when most of his peer group had done so? Was Thomas Purnell a Jacobite who supported the Catholic claim to the throne? Probably not; Purnell was most likely a Presbyterian. He certainly was not a papist; for if Scottish, this ancestry was several generations in the past. He probably had no particular political loyalty to the Catholic Stuarts or animus against William III and Mary II. Was Thomas Purnell in fact a Quaker, as was his son-in-law, Affradozi Johnson? Quakers would not sign any document that required a public declaration or oath as it was offensive to God. Despite the contentions of Truitt and LesCallette, Purnell was most likely not a member of The Society of Friends. There are no records that indicate that Thomas Purnell was a Quaker; in fact, his will was devoid of all the phraseology that normally was evident if the deceased was a Friend. There was no discussion of the “inner light”, the “light of Christ” or “entering into the light.” If Purnell was not presumably a Jacobite, a Catholic, or a Quaker, why did he fail to sign this document? The truth is that we do not know. He may have been ill when the document was publically signed by the property owners of Somerset. He might not have seen the necessity to sign this document as he apparently had no major political aspirations. Documentation does not indicate any desire for political office; sheriff, member of the Maryland Assembly, justice of the peace, etc. If Purnell was not a political creature, or if he felt that his demise was imminent, he may not have had a reason to swear allegiance to sovereigns three-thousand miles distant.
Purnell may not have signed The 1689 Loyalty Oath to William and Mary, but after his death his sons, Thomas Jr. and John did so. The Administrative Bonds for Somerset County indicate that the brothers, as well as other individuals took out a bond swearing fealty to the King and Queen:
Maryland Be known to All Men by these Presents that we John and Thomas
Purnell and Samuel Hopkins Senior are held and firmly bound unto our
Sovereign Lord and Lady King William and Queen Mary in full and just
Sum 20,100 of Tobacco 1600 lb of Pork and nine hundred and forty pound
Stirling to be paid to their Majesties their heirs and Successors to the which
payments will and truly made by ourselves and Either of Us or and either or
our heirs, executors and Administrators in the whole and for the whole family
and firmly by these presents Sealed with our Seals and dated this last day of
may in the sixth year if their Majesties Reign Anno que Domini 1694
The condition of the above obligation is such that if the above bound John
and Thomas Purnell Administrators of all and singular goods and chattels
and credits of Thomas Purnell late of Somerset County deceased appraised
in money and the Same to be made do exist or cause to be exhibited unto the
office for probate wills the at or before the last day of June now next ensuing
and the said goods chattels and credits doo well and truly administer viz doo
pay the debts of the said deceased which he did owe at the time of his decease
so far as the said goods chattels and credits will extend and the Law will change
and further do make or cause to be made a true and trust account of and there upon
said administration within twelve months this day of their admittance such
administration and such part or portion of the said goods shall be found remaining
upon the said account examined and adjusted by the Judge appointed for the
time being for probate of wills shall distribute and disposed as by the Said
Judge shall be limited and appointed and lastly (illegible on microfilm) and
every time and times here after clearly adequate directed and some (illegible
on microfilm) said Majesty their judge and all officers their office and
administrators from all persons having or presuming to have any rights title
or interests of the Said goods chattels and credits then present obligations to
be void and of noe effect otherwise to stand remain and be in full power and
virtue in Law
Sealed and Delivered
In the presence of us
John Purnell Seal
Thomas Purnell Seal
Samuel Hopkins Seal
The question remains: why did Thomas Purnell Jr. and John Purnell see the necessity of taking out an Administrative Bond proclaiming their allegiance to William and Mary when their father had not? Certainly, the taking of such an oath was the politically astute thing to do. By 1694 the chance that James II would regain the throne had been dashed at the Battle of the Boyne and future prospects of a Catholic restoration were unlikely. For Thomas Jr. and John, the decision to take out an Administrative Bond made good political and economic sense. As it was likely that William and Mary, or their heirs presumptive, would retain the throne, intelligent subjects would take action to prove their loyalty and to maintain their property and social standing. One should also remember that during the Glorious Revolution, The Protestant Association, led by John Coode, had ousted the Lord Proprietor, making Maryland effectively a Royal Province until the ascension of the Hanoverian Kings. The Purnells realized that the change in government warranted by the overthrow of the Calverts could have serious ramifications for those colonists deemed disloyal to the crown or the new Provincial authorities. Since colonists held their land indirectly through quitrents and did not own the land, it was possible that the government could confiscate the land of planters deemed disloyal because they had not sworn fealty to the new sovereigns. It is highly probable that Thomas and John had this in mind when they, along with Samuel Hopkins, took out the Administrative Bond. A large portion of this document outlined that the brothers were the legal heirs and representatives of the late Thomas Purnell. They assumed responsibility for their father’s debts, both public and private, and reiterated that they now possessed all his “goods, chattels, and credits”. The reader could interpret this proclamation as an attempt to swear allegiance to the crown and by the act of doing so, legitimize their claim to their father’s possessions in case of future disputes. They were loyal subjects of the crown, therefore loyal subjects of the government of Maryland Colony and the rightful stewards of their father’s legacy.
An interesting aspect of the effects of the Glorious Revolution on the Purnell family is in the area of religion. Earlier in the paper, it was theorized that Thomas Sr. was a Presbyterian because of his association with William Stevens and the lack of extant Anglican parish records. It appears that the second and third generations of the Purnell family became Anglicans. This assertion can be proven by direct evidence. There is no documentation that states that Thomas Jr. and John decided to forsake another religion and become confirmed Anglican communicants. But, parish records from Old St. Martin’s, Worcester Parish indicate that the Purnells were members of the established Church decades before the Revolutionary War. Furthermore, in John Purnell’s inventory, recorded in 1742, a Prayer Book is listed as a possession of the deceased. What prompted this conversion?
When the Proprietary Government was ousted during the Glorious Revolution, legislation was passed by the Maryland Assembly in 1693 establishing the Church of England as the government- supported church in the colony. Before that time, Anglican parishes had existed, but they held no special privileges as they did in Royal Colonies. This changed after 1693; when the assembly ordained that the Church of England was the established Church, all Marylanders were taxed for the maintenance of the church, and Anglican Clergy and vestries assumed legal governmental authority. Dissenting religious groups faced persecution and were barred from holding most offices. If the Purnells did in fact convert to Anglicanism, it was an astute decision. As members of the state-sponsored church, they could maintain their local prominence, hold elected or appointed political office, and intermarry with other wealthy Anglican families. Further research is necessary to establish when the Purnell family became Anglican, but analysis of the benefit of being members of the established church indicate that this was a wise political, economic, and social decision.
In May of 1694, Thomas Purnell Sr. died, presumably of natural causes. We do not know his exact age, but it was likely that he was about seventy years of age. In the Colonial period, when a person died, the local courts ordered appointed representatives to take an inventory of their estate. This was done for the purpose of taxation and inheritance. These inventories were highly detailed and very informative for historians. They list everything from books, to furniture, livestock, and slaves, if the person possessed any. Thomas Purnell’s inventory is quite extensive and provides a great deal of information to the reader. What follows is a general discussion of the contents of the inventory. A full transcription of the inventory can be found in the Appendices.
When he died, Thomas Purnell was a wealthy man by seventeenth-century standards. He was not the wealthiest planter in the County, but he was a member of the highest socioeconomic strata in Somerset. His inventory was valued at £474.2.6, which was an extremely valuable estate for the period. The most valuable possessions in the estate were the livestock. The deceased owned more than 160 cows, calves and steers, valued at nearly £193. The inventory lists 30 sheep valued at £9.15.0 and 13 horses of varied ages and uses listed as being worth roughly £30. Nearly one-half of Thomas Purnell’s estate was invested in livestock. It is obvious that Thomas Purnell was not merely a tobacco planter, as much of his livelihood was derived from animal husbandry and the sale of salted meat. The inventory listed 38 barrels of pork and “To Pork as appears... 2309". An extended family of the size of Thomas Purnell’s could consume large quantities of meat, but one did not need 160 cows and the vast amount of pork listed in the inventory. Purnell, like many planters in the seaside area of Somerset, raised livestock for export. This contention will be discussed later in the paper when the narrative analyzes personal accounts.
What else was found in Thomas Purnell’s inventory? The deceased possessed all the typical accouterments of the day. He owned chairs, tables, chests, plates, and various cooking implements.
One could find various types of cloth and tanned leather. He owned two guns and had a ready supply of powder and shot. As a planter, he possessed tools, plows and other farming implements. Interestingly, Purnell owned three books: “a Bible and another Book of Divinity...to a Book”.
very few inventories for Somerset County list books as possessions, but Purnell owned three, two of which were of the religious variety. Possession of The Holy Bible and a book on divinity infer that Purnell was a religious man who was literate. He, also, was not Catholic, since Catholic doctrine was that man did not need to read the Bible, as the priest was the person who interpreted God’s will.
Does the existence of these books on religion infer anything else? Perhaps. If Purnell was an Anglican, the book on divinity would be described as being a Prayer Book, or a Book of Common Prayer. This book might be a sermon book, or if he was truly a Presbyterian, it might be a Covenanter Book, which outlined Scottish Calvinist doctrine.
Another interesting entry in the inventory was the listing of “5 Negroes old and young”.
Thomas Purnell owned five slaves at a time when most planters in Somerset County did not own any. Those who were able to afford slaves owned one or two. Possession of five slaves, valued at £98 not only increased the value of the estate dramatically, it illustrated the fact that Thomas Purnell was a prominent man, who was a member of the planter elite. If a planter had slaves, his estate was more likely to be worth more than those who had none. Their estates were more likely to be more efficient and they were able to work more land than those who had to depend on family labor or indentured servants. The appraisers did list “one sorry servant” valued at 4 shillings, but it was obvious that Thomas Purnell depended on slaves for the majority of labor on his estate.
The inventory filed for Thomas Purnell gives the historian a wealth of information. We can ascertain that he was a wealthy planter/factor who owned slaves, possessed the consumer goods and creature comforts of his day. He supplemented his income by processing salted meats; in fact most of his cash income was probably derived from the sale of meat, as indicated by the mention of cash monies in his inventory and that 2309 pounds of pork was owed to the estate. What is interesting in this inventory is that there was no mention of tobacco, other than tobacco owed to the estate. Purnell had either sold or traded all of his tobacco, or he did not grow a large crop on his lands. One could speculate that Thomas Junior and John may have grown tobacco on the plantations assigned to them by their father, while Thomas Senior pursued the raising of livestock. At this point it might be germane to relate a family story from the nineteenth-century writings of Dr. George Purnell. Dr. Purnell stated that both Thomas Senior and Thomas Junior were factors for British merchants. This assertion is supported by evidence found in the inventories and accounts of both men. Thomas Junior particularly possessed articles normally associated with the estate of a merchant. He had large quantities of cloth and other materials that infer factor status.
At first glance, Thomas Purnell’s personal possessions might appear to be sparse when compared to a home of today, but for his time, he owned many valuable items. Thomas Purnell undoubtedly worked hard and did not lead an easy life, but he was certainly better off than most of his contemporaries.
Shortly after his death, Thomas Purnell’s will was probated in Somerset County. A transcription of this document is still extant today, providing the researcher with a myriad of information about the life of the deceased. By reviewing the provisions of a person’s will, the researcher can discover information about the dynamic of family relationships, personal possessions, property boundaries, prosopography, and personal friendships which make it possible to recreate a part of the mosaic of life in a historical community. A complete transcription of the last will and testament of Thomas Purnell will be found in Appendix III.
When Thomas Purnell died, he was a widower. There was no mention of his relict, Elizabeth, or bequest of the widow’s portion of the estate. Elizabeth Dorman Purnell must have predeceased her husband by a few years, as divorce was very uncommon in this period. The lack of any mention of a loving wife, or any spouse, also indicates that he did not remarry. He was survived by his two sons and his two daughters.
According to his will, Purnell disposed of his property in the following manner. He left 100 acres, part of “Cold Harbor” to his long-time friend Nathaniel Veazey. Veazey was one of the people Thomas Purnell transported into Maryland in 1673, claiming a headright from the Proprietary Government. The two men were probably neighbors and they must have maintained a good relationship because this land was quite valuable. Purnell bequeathed a total of 1330 acres to his eldest son Thomas Jr. The majority of this land was located in Bogettenorton Hundred, including parts of “Fairfield” and “New Fairfield” plantations. His son John inherited “the residue “ of land not inherited by the other siblings. This would presumably include the 700 acres of land in Mattapony mentioned in the Rent Rolls as being assigned to John Purnell.
Thomas Sr. also provided for his two daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, in his will. Sarah, who was married to Afradozi Johnson, inherited the remaining portion of “Cold Harbor”, approximately 225 acres and a parcel of land referred to as “Paggi”. “Paggi” included approximately two hundred acres of land. Thomas Junior, John, and Sarah all received valuable properties in the will. Elizabeth Purnell Nutter, wife of local planter, John Nutter, directly inherited a mulatto girl called Jane “as part of her portion but a particular gift.” She was not bequeathed any specific parcels of land in the will, but the will infers that Elizabeth may have received part of her inheritance when her father was still alive. Perhaps she received a portion of the other lands held by her father, mentioned in the land records of Somerset County. There is another interpretation possible. Perhaps Elizabeth received only a small part of the estate because her father did not like her husband, or she may have been in disfavor for another reason. On the surface, the other three children received a much larger portion of the estate, perhaps indicating a preference for the two sons and the other daughter, Sarah. This could indicate that John Nutter was quite capable of providing for Elizabeth and their children. Thomas Sr., may have seen little need to leave a large inheritance of property to her as she was entitled by the will to a share of the value of the personal property in the estate. We will never know the rationale for this apparent discrepancy in the will, but three of Thomas Purnell’s children were enriched considerably by his demise.
Once the inventory had been filed and the will probated during the colonial period accounts were taken listing debts owed to the estate as well debts owed to various creditors. A search of the county records for Somerset disclosed an account of the estate of Thomas Purnell taken in 1696:
The estate of Thomas Purnell Deceased appraised
in monie to the amount of £99.00.00
To tobacco then due to estate
Pork then due on book aus 2309 lb
Debts made for said Estate
to John Nutter £99.01.06
To Affradozi Johnson £104.00.11
to Thomas Purnell £106.18.08
to John Purnell £108.09.04
Pork and Lard shipt to
Barbados by the Deceased
appraised in mony} £48.01.05
by executors of inventory (illegible)
had (illegible) of
Goods not divided to value of £11.01.00
To be Paid For account
Afradozi Johnson 9253} 7.14.02
June 26th Anno 1696
Executors John Purnell
That day and year before written are formally
before me the above named John Parnell and
Thomas Parnell Executors of the Last Will and
Testament of Thomas Purnell Deceased and each
made oath of the truth of these accounts above.
Written by my hand.
Samuel Hopkins Dep Commissioner
This account contains important information. By reviewing Thomas Purnell’s account we can discover quite a bit about economic networking and foreign trading patterns. The account indicates that large amounts of tobacco and pork were owed to the deceased’s estate. The chief creditors were Thomas Purnell’s two sons and Afradozi Johnson and John Nutter, his sons-in-law. This indicates that familial relationships influenced the economic pursuits of local planters. They traded with each other, and exchanged goods and services. The account also indicated that Purnell regularly traded meats and other commodities with planters on the island of Barbados. The evidence of this economic intercourse supports the long-held theory that there was substantial trade between the Eastern Shore and British colonies in the Caribbean. The economic intercourse between Maryland and Barbados allowed Thomas Purnell, and his family, to increase their wealth. Thomas Junior and perhaps John continued to act as factors, carrying out trade with the Caribbean and with other planters in Bogettenorton Hundred. This trade, when coupled with farming, allowed the second-generation Purnells to become the most prominent family in what was to become Worcester County. Both of Thomas Senior’s progeny possessed large tracts of land, owned slaves, and held positions of authority within the County government. Both men left substantial estates to their respective heirs.
When Thomas Purnell Junior died in 1723, his estate was valued at over £1003. Included in the inventory was one Indian and seven Negro slaves, 13,400 pounds of salt pork, 1,000 pounds of dried pork, and large amounts of linen, and of Scotch and Irish cloth. The vast amount of pork and cloth in the inventory as well as the large amount of debts in tobacco owed on account to the estate suggests that Thomas Purnell Junior was indeed a factor, a status that no doubt increased the wealth and social standing of the deceased. Thomas’s children Thomas III, Matthew, Benjamin, John, Elisha, Walton, Elizabeth and Anne all shared in the wealth of his estate. Thomas III would be an important planter in his own right. The daughters made important marriages, creating a network of kinship that would be important for the later history of Worcester County.
John Purnell was also a wealthy man at the time of his death. His amended inventoried estate was valued at over £1006, including a total of fifteen slaves and all the accouterments of a wealthy member of the planter elite. The possession of fifteen slaves was atypical for a resident of Worcester County in 1743. Few people had slaves at all and those planters who owned slaves typically owned only one to three slaves on average. John Purnell was the largest slave holder of his time. He undoubtedly used slave labor to grow tobacco as 6,000 pounds of tobacco, valued at £50.05.10 was listed in an addendum to his inventory. Purnell, probably grew cereal grains and other agricultural products on his estate. He did not possess the copious amounts of pork and bolts of cloth as was listed in his brother’s estate, so one could speculate that he was not a factor. Regardless of this assumption of economic status, John Purnell was a wealthy man by the standards of his day. He was one of the pre-eminent planters of Worcester County. His sons John and Hezekial, and his daughters Bathsheba, Sophiah, Mary, Martha, Sarah, Joyce, Tabitha, Elizabeth and Sophia all inherited property from their father and also married into other substantial families.
In conclusion, what can the historian state about the life of Thomas Purnell Senior from research into primary documents from the seventeenth-century? Purnell most likely entered the colonies in 1635, emigrating to Virginia. He probably lived in Henrico or Westmorland Counties before patenting land in Accomack in 1666. In 1673, he received a headright for 300 acres of land from Lord Baltimore for transporting himself, his wife and four men into the province. Purnell established a relationship with Col. William Stevens, who assigned large tracts of land to him. He acquired certificates of survey and patents for more than three-thousand acres of land from the Provincial government, which he eventually sub-divided with his sons, son-in-law, and friend Nathaniel Veazey. Purnell raised livestock on his plantations, slaughtering animals for meat production, which he sold locally, or consigned to Barbados. In fact, Thomas Purnell was a factor for Scottish or English merchants, a status enjoyed by his eldest son, Thomas Junior. In all probability, Thomas Purnell never achieved the political and social prominence of men such as William Stevens, Daniel Selby or Edward Whaley, but through a review of the records we can ascertain that he was held in esteem by other Somerset Planters. He was appointed to serve as Press Master for Bogettenorton Hundred, to sit on a commission to establish towns in Somerset County, and to a commission empowered to create Parish boundaries for the newly Established Anglican Church. He would not have been appointed by Provincial or County Courts to these positions if he had not been considered to be a man of quality and standing in the community.
What can be theorized about his religious affiliation? Despite the difficulty in finding extant religious records of this period and the difference of opinion expressed in secondary sources, it is probable that Thomas Purnell was at first a Presbyterian. We can assume this because he was not listed in the Anglican Parish records of the Eastern Shore of Virginia or Somerset County. His economic association with William Stevens could be attributed to a shared faith. Purnell probably converted to Anglicanism late in life for economic and social reasons. Common sense dictates that he would have to be an avowed Anglican to be appointed to the Provincial commission to establish Parish boundaries. His sons Thomas and John were certainly practicing Anglicans by the early eighteenth-century.
We know that at the time of his death, Thomas Purnell was one of the wealthiest men in Somerset County. No other planter who died in the last decade of the seventeenth-century had an estate as large as Purnell’s, which was valued at nearly £500. Thomas Purnell may not have held the legal or social prominence of Stevens, Selby or Whaley, but he was richer than they were in inventoried wealth. In fact, Thomas Purnell accumulated enough wealth to ensue that his two sons would become the most prominent men in the County by the second decade of the eighteenth-century. Purnell’s hard work created the economic conditions necessary to assist his sons and daughters in entering into the planter elite of Somerset\Worcester County, a position the family would enjoy until the twentieth-century. He truly deserves the accolade of being scion of Worcester County’s greatest family.
3. George C. Greer, Early Virginia Immigrants 1623-1666 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company Inc. 1982) p. 562.
4. John C. Hotten, An Original List of Persons of Quality 1600-1720 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publish Company Inc. 1986) p. 125.
5. Michael Tepper, Immigration To Middle Colonies: A Consolidation of Ships Passenger Lists From New England Historical Genealogical Registers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company Inc. 1977) pp. 330-453.
6. Peter Wilson Codham, The Complete Book Of Immigrants 1607-1660 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company Inc. 1982) p. 63
7. The Howard and Louis Adkins Collection The Edward Nabb Center For Delmarva History And Culture 84.03.32.
8. Nell Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts Of Virginia Land Patents And Grants (Richmond, Virginia: Virginia State Library 1977) p. 7.
9. Accomack County Orders 1666-1670, 220.127.116.11. p. 8. Also See, Statton Nottingham, Accomack County Virginia Certificate and Rights 1663-1709 Tithables 1663-1685 (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books Inc. 1953) p. 33.
10. Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers, p. 10.
11. Clayton Torrence, Old Somerset On The Eastern Shore Of Maryland (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company 1935) p. 468. and Reginald Truitt and Millard Les Callette, Worcester County Maryland’s Arcadia ( Snow Hill, Maryland: Worcester County Historical Society 1977) p. 42.
12. Marshall Page, Old Buckingham By The Sea On The Eastern Shore Of Maryland (Philadelphia: Westminster Press 1936) p.16. This is supported by Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians In The South Vol. I 1607-1861 (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press) p. 21.
13. The Established Parishes in Somerset County were Coventry Parish and Stepney Parish. See Arthur Pierce Middleton, Anglican Maryland, 1692-1792 (Virginia Beach, Virginia: the Donning Company Publishers, 1992) pp. 63-102.
14. Adkins Collection NCFDHAC. 84.03.32.
15. Somerset County Land Patent Records 1672-1675 Liber Number 18 Folder 37 Transcript of MM SR 7359. p.18.
16. For a useful explanation of the Maryland system of land patenting see Codham, Settlers of Maryland 1679-1700 pp. viii-ix.
17. Somerset County Land Patent Records 1678-1683 MC 13 Number 24 Liber CW 108-109. pp. 126-133.
19. Somerset County Quit Rents 1633-1765 S RR1 84.13 p.97.
21. Worcester County Wills 1665-1743 MH 3 JW 2, JW 3, JW 4 pp. 33-36. Or see Maryland Prerogative Court Records ZA Part 14 MSA SM16 SR4398 Folio 120.
22. Somerset County Rent Rolls p.97.
23. Coldham, Settlers of Maryland , p. 138.
24. Somerset County Judicial Records November 1675-September 1683 S 73 pp. 28-30.
25. Somerset County Judicial Records 9 November 1675- 11 September 1677 Deed Liber LZ p.45.
27. Somerset County Judicial Records 1692 CR4.674 p. 99.
28. The Archives of Maryland VII Proceedings of the Assembly Of Maryland 1678-1689 Liber W.H. pp. 609-612.
29. The Archives of Maryland LIV Proceedings of the County Courts-Somerset County 1665-1668 p. 755.
30. Ibid., p. 774.
31. Further research into the military records of the Somerset County militia is necessary to ascertain Purnell’s standing in the county military establishment.
32. The Loyalty Oaths of Somerset County November 1689 as found in the NCDHC.
33. Worcester County Administrative Bonds 1667-1742 JW 14 WK 661-662 p. 21.
34. Richard Walsh and William Fox, Maryland a History 1632-1974 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society 1974) pp. 23-24.
35. Worcester County Administrative Bonds p. 91.
36. St. Martin’s Parish Records St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Berlin, Maryland. Used with the permission of the parish vestry.
37. Worcester County Inventories 1688-1742 JW 15 p.130.
38. Middleton, Anglican Maryland pp. 17-30.
40. Worcester County Inventories 1688-1742, p. 2.
42. Scottish Presbyterians often possessed Bibles or other religious tracts.
43. Worcester County Inventories 1688-1742 p.2.
44. Neville and Jones, Slavery in Worcester County Maryland 1688-1742
45. Worcester County Inventories 1688-1742 p. 2.
47. See Torrence, Old Somerset and Truitt and Les Callette, Worcester County Maryland’s Arcadia for further detail on this subject.
48. Worcester County Inventories 1688-1742 pp. 130-131.
49. Worcester County Wills 1665-1743 pp. 33-36.
51. Somerset County Land Records 1672-1675 SR 7359.
52. Worcester County Wills 1665-1742 pp. 33-36.
56. Worcester County Inventories and Accounts 1696 XIII B p.120.
58. Worcester County Inventories 1688-1742 pp. 130-131.
59. Worcester County Wills 1665-1743 p. 91.
60. Worcester County Inventories 1742-1763 JW 8 pp. 11-12.
61. Neville and Jones, Slavery In Worcester County pp. 1-9.
62. Worcester County Inventories 1742-1763 p.15.
63. Worcester County Wills 1665-1743 p. 177.
Land Records Pertaining to Thomas Purnell Found In Land Office Patent Records ML 13
1678-1683 Number 24 and Liber CW 108-109
To That The Hon Charles Lord Baltimore Lord Proprietor of this Province By Virtue
of warrant Bearing date the 8th Day of July in the fourth year of the Dominion of
Charles L Baltimore anno domine 1679 granted out of the secretaries office unto the
honerable Col. Wm Stevens Esq These are to humbly certify that Francis Jenkins
Deputy Surveyor Honorable Vincent (illegible) Provincial Surveyor have laid out
for the same Wm Stevens a Parcel of Land called Timber Quarter situate laying and
being on the Seaboard Side this near Mattapony back in the woods from the Saltwater
of the Seaboard as followeth Begining at a marked white oak lying on the north side
of a branch known by the name of Deep Branch there with a line drawn west by north
half a point seventy perches from the aforesaid Branch there with a line drawn half
a point fifty perches there with a line drawn with west by hundred thirty five perches
with a line drawn eat by north two hundred ninety two perches there with a line drawn
south east seventy two perches from there to the right line drawn to the first boundary
containing two hundred acres more or less
To be holdon of the Manor of Somerset of me Francis Jenkins Dept. Surveyor of the
back of the foregoing certificate thus written & acknowledge by these present that
Col. Wm Stevens for a good and valuable consideration (illegible) ahead received
of and from Thomas Purnell of the County of Somerset set over unto the said Thomas
Purnell all rights and interests of Said parcel of land Called Timber Quarter with
rights for two hundred acres and rights to in by ye survey and to the right in and by
ye survey and to the width mentioned (illegible) meets and does specify the boundaries
there specified in the certificate of survey To The Said Thomas Purnell to have and
to hold the same unto the Said Thomas Purnell his heirs forever all rights as assigned.
In wittness to I have set my hand and Seal the Eighth Day of Aug in the Fourth year of
the Dominion of Charles Lord Baltimore ESQ anno domine one thousand six Hundred
and seventy nine
Wm Stevens Sealed
Charles To all persons to whom these presents Shall Convey greetings our Lord God
Everlasting know ye that where as the Hon Col William Stevens Esq had over unto
him two hundred acres of land within our Said Province part of a warrant for two
thousand one hundred acres granted hin the Eighth Day of July Last past and have
laid out for him a parcel of land called Timber Quarter lying on the Seaboard side
near Mattapony in Somerset County in ye Province of Maryland all rights title and
interest to the Said parcel of land this Wm Stevens hath assigned and set over unto
Thomas Purnell of ye County of Somerset as appears upon and such conditions and
(illegible) as are expressed in the conditions of plantation as of our late Father
Cecilius of Noble (illegible) his greater Seal bearing the date of on the Second Day
of July Anno Domine 1649 with which allocations as therein is said by this declaration
bearing the date the two and twentieth day of Sept Anno Domine 1658 carrying upon
us our Said Province of Maryland We Do Here by grant unto him the Said Thomas
Purnell all that Property called Timber Quarter lying on the Seaboard side near
Mattapony back in the woods from the Saltwater of the Sea beginning at the marked
white oak standing on the north side of the branch known by the name of Deep
Branch there with a line drawn west by north half a point northerly Twenty perches
down the aforementioned there of a line drawn west half a point northerly fifty
perches there with a line drawn north west one hundred and thirty perches there
with a line drawn East by North two hundred and ninety two perches there with a
line drawn South East seventy five perches thence with a right there drawn to the
first boundary point two hundred acres more or less Together with all the rights
with all rights profits and benefits there unto belonging to the Said Thomas Purnell
excepted to have and hold the Same unto the Said Thomas Purnell his heirs and
assigners forever To be Holden of first owner of our Manor of Somerset in free
and so as to obey Fealty only for all manner of service yielding and paying therefore
yearly unto ye owners alone our City of St. Marys at the two most usuale Feasts of
the year be at the Feast of the Annunciations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the
Feast of St Michael the Archangel by even and equall portions the value of being
and gold and of a fie upon ever alienation of the Said land or any part of parcel
thereof one whole year rent in silver and gold or the full value thereof in such
manner as we or our heirs or such officer or officers appointed by us or heirs from
time to time to be collected and receive the same make accept in our charge thereof
at the choice of us and our heirs of such officer or officers appointed provided that
if the Said Thomas Purnell his heirs or assigners make not pay unto us or our heirs
or such officer or officers as aforementioned (illegible) before such an alienation the
renter the aforesaid alienation upon record either in ye Provincial Court or in the
County Court where the Said Parcel of land lyeth within one month (illegible) for
such alienation the Said alienation Shall be void and of no effect. Given at our City
of St. Marys under the Great Seal of our Said Province of Maryland the Fifteenth
Day of December in the Fifth year of our Dominion ye Anno domine one thousand
six hundred seventy and nine Witness Our Self.....
The Will of Thomas Purnell, Late of Somerset County As Found in Somerset County
Register of Wills 1664-1710, Worcester County Wills 1665-1743 MH 3 JW.2, JW.2, JW.4 and
Wills 1680-1694 Prerogative Court of Maryland 2A-Part 1-4 MSA SM 16 SR 4398.
In the Name of God Amen March Sixth Anno Domine 1693/4: I Thomas Purnell of
ye County of Somerset and Province of Maryland Planter being at this present time
sick and weak in body, but of good and perfect memory Thanks be to Ye Almighty
God . And calling and giving to remembrance ye uncertain Estate of this transitory
life and that all flesh must yet go unto Death when it shall please God to Call. I Doe
make, constitute, ordaine , and declare this to be my last will and testaments. Revoking
and annulling By this presence all and Every Testament and Testaments will and wills
here to fore by what is made and declared or inferred either in Word or Writing and
this is to be taken For my last will and testament and make and none other, first being
penitent and sorry from the bottom of my heart for my sins past, most humbly desiring
forgiveness for the Same. I give and Comitt my Soule unto the Almighty God my
Saviour and Redeemer in Whom and by the merits of Jesus Christ I trust and I believe
Assuredly to believe to be the Saved a to have full pardone and remission of all my
sins and that my soul with my body at that great Day of resurrection Shall lie again
with Joy and through the merits of Christ’s Death and Passion possess and inherit ye
Kingdom of heaven prepared for his elect and chosen my body unto ye Earth to be
buried with Decent buriall. And Now for the settling of and ordering of my temporal
estate of what goods chattels and Debts as I hath pleased God for About by Deserts
to bestow upon me. I doo give order and dispense of Ye Same in the manner and
form in the following. That is to say. I will that all the debts which I owe in right or
Custom to any manner or person or persons what so ever shall be well and truly
Contented the said or ordered or ordained conveniently after my Decease by my
executors hereafter named: It is my will and desire I give and bequeath unto Nathaniell
Veazey a parsell of land containing about ninety or an hundred acres it being part of
a grant of land called Could Harbor, In the Said Ninety or hundred acres to be laid
out in the following. To Begin at Nathaniall Veazeys corner tree Standing on the side of
stream running up the Seaside tract unto the first small tract issuing out of the foresaid
(illegible) the small tract unto the head of it thence with line unto Veazeys line
containing ninety or a hundred acres containing. I give or bequeath unto my Daughter
Sarah Purnell and unto her heirs forever the remaining part of the parcell of land called
Could Harbor. I likewise give or bequeath to my daughter Sarah her herself and her heirs
for ever a tract of land called Paggaii possessing two hundred acres of land. I also give
to my daughter the aforesaid Sarah part of a parcell being land which lies both sides
of the (illegible) tract part of ye head of Quarter part of the head of Paggaii with part
on with Said part of the head of Paggaii of Said parcell of land I give unto my daughter
Sarah Purnell herself her Said heirs forever. Item I give and bequeath unto my son
Thomas Purnell him and unto his heirs forever a tract of land called Fairfield
of eight hundred acres. Item I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas
Purnell unto him and his heirs forever a tract of land called New Fairfield of four
hundred acres. Item I likewise give and bequeath unto my son Thomas Purnell
to him and his heirs forever a parcell of land joyning on Fairfield of one hundred
and thirty acres. Item I do give and bequeath unto my son Thomas Purnell unto
him and his heirs forever a parcell of land being between New Fairfield and a
tract of land formerly belonging to Edward Smith which said land was entered
with William Whitington and Surveyed by him.
Item I give and bequeath unto my son John Purnell unto him and his heirs forever
all the rest o my land which I have or come unto. Item my will and desire is that
my daughter Sarah Purnell share if and of land and marsh that I have given my
son John Purnell (microfilm illegible) viz during her life. Item my wish and
desire is that my daughter Elizabeth Nutter Shall have the mullato girl Jane
with as part of her portion but as a particular gift. And the rest of my estate
I desire to be equally divided among my four children and each of them to have
their parts and portions given them as soon after my decease as it can decently
be divided. My daughter Elizabeth Nutter having received part already as
indicated I further appoint my two sons John Purnell and Thomas Purnell to be
joynte Executors of my last will and Testament. In Belief of his truth heroff
I have hear unto sette my hande this day and year above written.
Signed Sealed and delivered This day of
Christian Harmonson Daniel Selby
Thomas Purnell Seal
Chausen German Silas Chapman
That last day of May 1694
Probate of the Will was made By his oath Daniel Selby,
Christiam Harmonson and Parker Selby
The Inventory of Thomas Purnell, May 1694 Worcester County
Inventories JW 15.
Inventory of the goods and chattels of Thomas Purnell late of Somerset
29 Cows and Calves at 35 each .............................. 50.0.0
28 Barren Calves at 28 each................................. 39.4.0
5 Bulls...................................................... 3.0.0
4 young ditto............................................... 0.12.6
12 Steers................................................... 27.0.0
13 Young Steers............................................ 24.14.0
8 ditto..................................................... 12.0.0
8 ditto..................................................... 10.0.0
11 ditto.................................................... 11.0.0
12 ditto..................................................... 9.0.0
4 ditto..................................................... 2.13.3
23 ditto................................................... 11.10.0
30 sheep at £6.10 per score................................. 9.15.0
2 Old working horses......................................... 8.0.0
2 Saddle horses aged......................................... 9.0.0
2 Young saddle horses ditto................................. 5.10.0
3 Younger ditto............................................. 6.15.0
4 Very old Mares and colt.................................... 2.0.0
2 beds and furniture......................................... 4.0.0
1 ditto..................................................... 3.10.0
1 ditto...................................................... 7.5.0
2 ditto...................................................... 6.0.0
6 leather chairs............................................. 1.7.0
6 ditto..................................................... 0.15.0
2 large chests 28 each One small ditto 4/................... 1.12.0
A table...................................................... 1.5.0
2 old chairs................................................. 0.4.0
A coush...................................................... 0.8.0
A linen wheele.............................................. 0.14.0
A pair of an Irons........................................... 1.5.0
Fire Shovell and tonges...................................... 0.7.0
A cross cut saw.............................................. 0.8.0
A smaller ditto.............................................. 0.5.0
A parcel of iron wedges...................................... 0.6.0
To potts and other iron ware................................. 3.0.0
A hand mill................................................. 1.10.0
4 old saddles at 17/........................................ 0.17.0
A brass kettle.............................................. 0.12.0
A small brass skillet........................................ 0.2.6
Another parcel of iron ware.................................. 1.6.6
2 guns....................................................... 1.7.0
2 pairs of stillyards one large ye other small............... 1.5.0
A looking glass.............................................. 0.4.0
A rapier..................................................... 0.5.0
A razor...................................................... 0.1.0
A pair of bellows............................................ 0.2.0
A Bible and another book of Divinity......................... 0.9.0
A parcell of tand leather................................... 4.15.0
To another parcel of leather................................. 4.4.0
To a grinding stone.......................................... 0.3.6
To a parcel of coopers ware.................................. 2.2.0
To 5 negroes old and young.................................. 98.0.0
To 61 duffles at 3/per yard.................................. 9.4.6
To 16 lb of powder at 4 d................................... 0.19.0
To 130 lbs of shott.......................................... 1.1.8
To a parcel of (illegible of microfilm)...................... 4.0.0
To a cart and wheels......................................... 4.0.0
To a plough................................................. 0.16.0
To pine plank 3ct foot....................................... 1.0.0
To a book.................................................... 0.5.0
To 2 drest dear skins........................................ 0.6.0
To a sorry servant 2 years to serve.......................... 0.4.0
To 38 barrels of pork....................................... 47.0.0
To a barrel of hog fatt...................................... 1.5.0
To a small silver baker...................................... 1.1.0
To money due and remaining................................... 3.2.3
To a parcel of furs to be added.............................. 0.4.8
To several debts due in tobacco amounting to 10220 lbs
To pork as appears......................................... 2309 lb
Matthew Scarborough seal
John Pope seal
Memorandum that the above named and subscribed appraisers were
sworn before me the last day of May 1694. Witness my hand Samuell
Hopkins depty. Comsry.