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24 August 1983 - Tracing Carthagena’s owners

(Editor’s note: Following is another in the series "Fact and Fiction about Dorchester County History.")

By Calvin W. Mowbray

In a previous article the myth of "My Lady Sewall Manor" was discussed. It was shown in that first article that Henry Sewell was never the owner of the property where the house is located. Thomas Taylor was the original owner of the tract where it is located. The previous article also disclosed that the property eventually came into the possession of Henry Trippe III. He acquired some additional acreage and in 1740 had it all resurveyed in a 1,250 acre tract called "Carthagena".

Henry Trippe IV apparently met with some financial problems for he sold 500 acres of "Carthagena" to Thomas John Marshall and gave a mortgage to George Maxwell on June 25, 1786, on 640 acres. George Maxwell, merchant of Benedict Town, St. Mary’s County, married Elizabeth Trippe, daughter of Henry Trippe III, and brother of Henry Trippe IV in May 1756. (Maryland Gazette, May 27, 1756). In his will Henry Trippe IV devised "Carthagena" to his nephew, Henry Dickinson. Henry Dickinson was the son of John Dickinson who had married Anne Trippe, daughter of John and Ann (Ennalls) Trippe. John Dickinson was named executor of the will of Henry Trippe IV. Henry Trippe IV never married.

The 500 acres of "Carthagena" which were sold to Thomas John Marshall were devised by him to his two sons, John and Theophilus, and since those 500 acres are not further involved with our subject, they are not further traced in this article.

John paid the outstanding mortgage held by George Maxwell on "Carthagena". Thus he, Col. John Dickinson, became the legal owner of the tract and he was so designated by the 1783 Tax Assessment List which listed the property as follows:

"Carthagena" 640 acres, 240 acres arable, 400 acres marsh

"Anderton’s Desire" 10 acres

1 brick dwelling

1 old framed kitchen

3 old quarters

1 garden

Location – Secretary Creek

After Col. John Dickinson died, his widow Ann and her other children deeded the 640 acres of "Carthagena" to her son, Henry (2 HD 624 of 4 July 1790). Thus the wishes of Henry Trippe IV as expressed in his will were fulfilled.

When Ann (Hooper) Dickinson, widow of Henry Dickinson, died, that part of "Carthagena" which had been devised to her by Henry was made subject to Chancery Proceedings number 9209 and 260 ½ acres of her property were sold by the trustees to Richard Hughlett who assigned his interest to John H. Hodson (2 WJ 535). Since this is the acreage that is involved in the subject of this article, no discussion will be made on the disposition of the remaining acreage which was devised to her by her husband, Henry, nor will any discussion be made on the property that he devised to others.

On February 3, 1857, John H. Hodson and Elizabeth Ann Hodson, his wife, sold 260 ½ acres of "Carthagena" to John T. Houston (3 FJH 555).

John T. Hodson died intestate in 1859 and as a result of the Equity Court (case 500, April 10, 1862) Daniel M. Henry, Trustee, sold 260 ½ acres of "Carthagena" to Elizabeth Houston Staplefort, wife of George F. Staplefort and daughter of John T. Houston (5 FJH 296, January 25, 1866). The 260 ½ acres were shown as being located on Secretary Creek about 1 ½ miles from East New Market and the tract was commonly known as "Cedar Grove". Houston owned other properties which are not involved in the subject of this article.

On August 10, 1867, Elizabeth H. Staplefort sold the 260 ½ acres of "Carthagena", commonly known as "Cedar Grove" to Alward Johnson (7 FJH 82). Alward Johnson died and J.H. Johnson and other trustees transferred the 260 ½ acres to Joseph Cook on January 8, 1877 (11 FJH 425). The "Lake, Griffing, and Stevenson Atlas of 1877" shows only the residence of J. Cook and a warehouse in the fork of Secretary Creek at the site which eventually became the Town of Secretary.

Joseph Cook and his wife Marie on October 22, 1881 by deed 2 CL 465 transferred the 260 ½ acres of "Carthagena" or "Cedar Grove" to Charles O. Page and his wife, Emma. Charles O. Page and his wife, Emma, sold some lots from "Carthagena" for homesites and by deed 8 CL 829 dated September 2, 1886, transferred the remainder of "Carthagena," or "Cedar Grove" located on Secretary Creek to Joseph Cook and Joseph Conkle.

Joseph Cook transferred by deed 21 CL 127 dated March 22, 1897, his remaining portion of "Carthagena" to Joseph H. Conkle. It being a part of the land upon which the Town of Secretary was built. On February 1, 1901, Joseph H. Conkle and his wife, Mary A. Conkle, by deed 25 CL 167 transferred the land and dwelling house occupied by Mary A. Conkle to Myrtle L. Hurst and Mary A. Conkle. Since the remaining ownership of this house is easily accessible, we will not recount it here.

This chronology of the dwelling misnamed "My Lady Sewell Manor" should be sufficient to prove that it is indeed located on the tract of land that was originally patented by Thomas Taylor and that it was never owned by Henry Sewell or his wife, Jane.

It would be most fitting if in this article it was possible to set forth some record which would prove without a doubt just by whom and when the magnificent and historic dwelling was built. As in the case with most old dwellings, there is simply no such record and there are too many improbables to make such a definitive judgment.

When Thomas Taylor transferred the property to his son in 1702, the deed covering the transfer contained a clause which mentioned "houses", but in those times it was a practice to use standard form which contained a similar clause. The first positive information which showed a dwelling place on the property was in 1763 when a reference was made in the first will of Henry Trippe IV (Wills 38, 198 dated May 5, 1763 – he made a later will 38, 312 dated October 29, 1765) when he mentioned "Carthagena" where he and his mother, Elizabeth Trippe, then lived. The Tax Assessment Records 20 years later (1783) showed a brick dwelling on the land. Was it the same structure where the Trippes lived and carrying the subject further, was the 1783 structure the same one from which Mrs. Conkle took the paneling in the early 1900s and sold to the Brooklyn Museum of Art?

The consensus of the experts seems to be that the age of an old house, lacking some specific construction record, can only be placed in a given era. A curator of the Brooklyn Museum of Art has suggested a construction date in the 1720s.