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Thomas Family papers


Thomas Family papers
Thomas Family
Collection number:
17 items
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

The Thomas Family Papers include eleven letters and six documents from three generations of the Philip Thomas family of Cecil County, Maryland. All but one of the letters were received by Philip Thomas, Jr.; the additional documents consist of a bond, a bill of sale, a land indenture, two wills, and a military certificate. Major topics include family concerns, the Napoleonic wars, social life in the early nineteenth century, the Society of Friends, and business concerns in Maryland and Holland.

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Preferred citation:

Thomas Family papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Historical Note

The Thomas Family Papers include letters and documents from three generations of the Philip Thomas family of Cecil County, Maryland. The Thomas family was originally from Wales and traces its lineage in Maryland back to Philip and Sarah Harrison Thomas, who arrived in the colony from Bristol, England, in 1651. Three of the couple's children were born in England, and two others arrived after their settlement in Maryland. The Thomas family settled in Anne Arundel County, where Philip Thomas was granted a tract of five hundred acres of land called Beakely or Beckly in April 1651. His will, probated in 1675, lists several tracts of land in Anne Arundel County and homes in Bristol as part of his estate. Initially a leader of the Puritan party within the colony of Maryland, Thomas later became a Quaker. His wife Sarah was also an active member of the Society of Friends.

Their son Samuel Thomas was born in Maryland in 1655 and married Mary Hutchins in a Quaker ceremony in 1688. Samuel and Mary had eight children together, one of whom was born in 1694 and named Philip Thomas. This Philip Thomas married twice, secondly to Anne Chew in 1724. Philip sired at least seven children with his two wives, and one of his sons was also named Philip Thomas. The younger Philip was born sometime in the 1720s, married Anne Harris Galloway in 1754, and sired one child, a son named Philip. He inherited one-half of his father's estate, "Mount Ararat," at the Susquehanna Ferry in Cecil County. At least some members of the Thomas family had remained in Anne Arundel County since the arrival of the first Philip Thomas in 1651. It is possible that the Philip Thomas born in 1694 moved his family to the northeastern section of Maryland, near the Susquehanna River. Another son of Philip and Anne Chew Thomas named Samuel lived at Perry Point on the Susquehanna River across from Havre de Grace; Samuel owned the ferry rights to both sides of the river.

Most of the materials in the Thomas Family Papers concern the son of Philip and Anne Harris Galloway Thomas named Philip Thomas [Philip Thomas Esquire in the records]. He married Sarah Margaret Weems in 1783, and together the couple had seven children: Philip [Philip Thomas Junior in the records], Mary, John Weems, George, Catherine (Kitty), James, and Ann Weems. Sarah Weems was originally from Crumpton Hall in Elkridge, Maryland. Her husband Philip died circa 1809 at their Rockland estate in Cecil County. The Thomas family, especially this generation, appears to have been wealthy. Philip Thomas Esquire often wrote about his lands, crops, and business dealings, which were extensive. The federal census for 1790 lists Philip Thomas, Esquire of the North Susquehannah Hundred as head of a household that included ten free whites and forty-three slaves. Ten years later, his household had increased to sixty-nine people, including forty-five slaves. The extant records also indicate that the Thomas family remained members of the Society of Friends into the early nineteenth century. In an 1806 document, the word "oath" was crossed out and replaced with the word "affirmation"; Quakers refused to take oaths.

Please see the family tree to alleviate some of the confusion caused by the repetitious use of the name Philip Thomas throughout the different generations.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Thomas Family Papers consist of eleven letters and six documents which span the period 1793 to 1816; the bulk of the materials fall between 1804 and 1810. All but one of the letters were written to or received by Philip Thomas Junior. The other letter was received by his father, Philip Thomas Esquire. The six additional documents in the collection are a bond, a bill of sale, a land indenture, a military certificate, and two wills. Major topics include family concerns, the Napoleonic wars, social life in the early nineteenth century, and business concerns in Maryland and Holland.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Philip Thomas Family Papers from Charles Apfelbaum in 1990.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by: Pamela Alsop, February 1997.

Processing note:

All materials have been flattened, encapsulated, and placed into an oversized acid-free box.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Jennie A. Levine, June 2006.

Arrangement of Collection

The Thomas Family Papers have been organized as two series:

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1804-1811 (11 items)

This series consists of eleven letters and one envelope written between 1804 and 1811. Ten of the letters were written to or received by Philip Thomas Junior, and another was received by his father Philip Thomas Esquire.

The first letter in this series was written 20 October 1807 by Charles Wharton to Philip Thomas Esquire. Wharton, apparently a close family friend and a minister, discusses the social and political climate of the United States. He insists that the nation is too irreligious:

The base selfishness wh[ich] has ruined the European Continent, appears to be daily gaining ground among us, & in the choice of our rulers, the administration of public Justice, & the adoption of maxims for public & private Conduct, rectitude of Principle seems totally out of question.

Wharton also mentions the "claim set up against you [Philip Thomas Esquire] by the Pembertons" over Thomas's mother's estate. Ann Pemberton was the sister or step-sister of Philip Thomas Esquire and apparently challenged Thomas's control of their mother's estate. A copy of Ann Thomas's 1793 will is located in Series II of this collection.

Nine letters and an envelope in this series were received by Philip Thomas Junior between 1804 and 1810. Four of the letters were written by his father, Philip Thomas Esquire, and the others by five different correspondents. One letter was written by Philip Junior in 1811 to an unknown recipient.

Six of the letters were sent to Philip Thomas Junior while he was living in Amsterdam as supercargo for the family's business; a supercargo traveled with a ship as a merchant's agent and handled business transactions while the ship was in port. The first of these letters was written by J. L. Webster on 29 March 1804. Webster seems to have been involved in the family business overseas, and the document is a letter of instruction on how the young man should conduct himself while in Holland. Webster warns Philip Junior to be careful about the company he keeps and specifically warns him away from "American Captains and Supercargoes, and English clerks and agents that come over to Holland." Webster explains that the young man has been sent overseas for two years [1804 to 1806] to improve himself and to make himself "acquainted with the Commerce of Holland and the commercial world as much as possible." Three letters were written to Philip Thomas Junior by his father. The letters, dated 24 May 1804, 10 June 1805, and 2 July 1805, discuss family social visits in Maryland, Philip Senior's fears that his son will be captured in the ongoing Napoleonic wars, the status of the family, and the excellent prospects for crops. A letter written by Lewis Philips on 23 August 1805 describes Philip's trip to Rome and Genoa and the impact the Napoleonic war is having on business. Philip Junior also received a letter dated 25 November 1805 from Captain Kerr that warns there are rumors that "Holland is likely to become the Theatre of war ere long."

Three other letters were received by Philip Thomas Junior after his return to Maryland. The first was written by his father at Cedar Dale on 2 February 1809. Philip Senior discusses his travels and visits and the illness of one of his daughters. He complains that "this part of the world is a month behind H. D. Grace [Havre de Grace] in News." The next letter was written 20 March 1809 by his god-father John Weems and discusses Weems's health and his desire to visit Philip Junior on Easter Sunday. A third letter to Philip Thomas Junior was written by Charles Wharton on 28 December 1810. Wharton writes that Thomas's sister Mary had come under the influence of religious zealots who "believing themselves to be exclusively in the way of Salvation, must consistently with their opinions, cherish above everything, a spirit of proselytizing all Persons to their communion." Apparently Philip Junior had written to Wharton at an earlier date, asking him to place his sister in a school near his home. Wharton responded that his wife was ill and that there was no school for girls in his region. Wharton concluded that Mary should be placed in another school, stating that "proper books and kind conversation [would] keep her mind from being duped by the idle dreams of superstition."

The final letter in this series appears to have been written by Philip Thomas Junior. Dated 1 January 1811 from Rockland, the letter sends holiday greetings to its unknown recipient and states that Mrs. Thomas gave birth to a daughter ten days earlier. The letter was primarily a business transaction regarding a family of slaves: "Respecting the Family of Negroes. I am willing to Keep them for you till such time as you can arrive with convenience between now and the first of April."

The letters in this series have been divided into three folders by recipient or author, and then arranged chronologically.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Charles Wharton to Philip Thomas Esquire, 1807 series 1box 1folder 1
Correspondence received by Philip Thomas Junior, 1804-1810 series 1box 1folder 2
Philip Thomas Junior to anonymous recipient, 1811 series 1box 1folder 3

Series 2: Legal and Financial Records, 1793-1816 (6 items)

This series consists of six documents covering the years 1793 to 1816 relating to various members of the Thomas family.

The first document is a letter dated 1806 containing a copy of the 17 May 1793 will between Ann Thomas (mother of Philip Thomas Esquire) and her daughter Ann Pemberton. The will appears to be the primary issue discussed in the 1807 letter by Charles Wharton to Philip Thomas Senior that mentions the "claim set up against you [Philip Thomas Senior] by the Pembertons" over Thomas's mother's estate. The records to not indicate how the matter was resolved. The attached letter written in 1806 declared that the 1793 will did not specify an executor and that the position was assigned to Philip Thomas by Cecil County.

The five additional documents in this series include a bond between Philip Thomas Senior and his mother Ann Thomas for 3000 Pounds Sterling dated July 1794; the will of Philip Thomas Esquire dated April 1809; an 1808 land indenture between Philip and his wife Frances Mary with Jeremiah Millar for lands in New London, Connecticut; and an 1816 document from the state of Maryland appointing Philip Thomas [Junior] as Brigade Major and Brigade Inspector of the first brigade of the Maryland Militia. In addition there is an 1808 Bill of Sale in which Philip Thomas Senior sold all slaves, goods, and chattels on "Claybourns Island commonly known by the name of Sharps Island in Talbot County" to his son Philip Junior.

Arrangement is chronological.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Legal and financial records, 1793-1816 series 2box 1folder 4

Related Material

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