Hollingsworth Estates

ImageZebulon Hollingsworth, Jr., the son of Captain Zebulon Hollingsworth, Senior of Revolutionary War fame; the husband of Mary Hollingsworth, and the father of several children, departed this earth in 1812, leaving his family and quite a sizable estate.  Two years later, that estate was finally probated and a distribution of cash began.  That cash amounted to over $7200!  This distribution does not include land and other holdings.  Some of those went to his wife, Mary, who died later in 1814.  Her estate papers are also in the position of the Historic Elk Landing Foundation and they give us a glimpse into some of the possessions of the matriarch of an early 19th century plantation. 

First Zeb’s cash distribution on March 7th, 1814.Mrs. Hollingsworth received over $3300, the largest of the distribution.  Next was son William who was also the executor of his father’s estate.  William received over $1300.

The rest of the money went, in equal payments of $621.57 to: son Levi, a daughter, Margaret and her husband William Cooch; Robert, John, and another William, all Hollingsworths.   This Margaret is the same daughter to whom her father left a former slave woman, and now indentured servant, named Jenny, some 8 years earlier.

 Mary’s estate sale, on October 17th, 1814, is not nearly as glamorous or valuable as her husband’s cash distribution.  The sum total of her sale brought in only $720, just ten percent of her husband’s value earlier that same year.

 Estate sale items included: tea trays, tea pots, bed sheets, a total of 11 chairs, one square walnut table, blankets, and a lone “rag carpet” that was from “the floor of the Stone House.”  That structure, which was used as a house, a warehouse, office, and tavern, was built in the 1780s by her late husband, and it still stands today, nestled along the Little Elk Creek, ready for you to explore. 


 Copies of Zebulon’s estate distribution and his wife, Mary’s estate sale can be reviewed on the Historic Elk Landing web site at www.elklanding.org.  Click on History, Timeline, and the year 1812 for Zeb’s papers and 1814 for Mary’s.

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The Battle of Elk Landing, A Bicentennial Celebration


On April 29th, 1813, a British naval unit attached and burned the wharfs at Frenchtown and two nearby packet boats.  They then went to the plantation of Frisby Henderson seeking directions to Elkton, the county seat.  Their purpose, to burn it to the ground as American forces had done to several Canadian towns the year before. 

Frisby refused to betray Elkton’s location.  The marines then turned to a 20 year old slave woman, Hetty Boulden and told her if she would take them to Elkton, they would give her more money than she could imagine.  This courageous young woman then took the British Marines, not to Elkton, but to the confluence of the Big and Little Elk Creeks where they stared straight into the guns of Forts Hollingsworth and Defiance. Although the British would try at least twice more to take the town, ultimately, they were unsuccessful.  Elkton was saved.

On Friday and Saturday, April 26th and 27th, the Historic Elk Landing Foundation presents, “The Battle of Elk Landing, a Bicentennial Celebration.” That weekend, through the magic of living history theatre, Ms. Boulden will return to us to tell her story on the 200th anniversary of its occurrence.  She will interact with visitors in the very location of Fort Hollingsworth which defended Elkton so well.  She, along with two other living history characters: Mary Hollingsworth, the matriarch of the Hollingsworth family in 1813, and Judge Thomas Jefferson Sample, who gave us so many details of the events 2 centuries ago, will take visitors back in time and tell, in their own words, their stories which impacted Elkton, Cecil County, and the region.

Friday evening will feature 2 candle light tours including the living history theatre and an encampment of Cecil Militia.  The first will begin at 6, the second at 7:30.  Admission is $5 for persons 12 years old and older and $3 for persons under 12 years of age.

The “Battle of Elk Landing, a Bicentennial Celebration” will continue on Saturday at 10 a.m. when the Elk Landing grounds will open for tours of the houses that were on site during the 1813 battle, an explanation and tour of the newly discovered Fort Hollingsworth, a military encampment, examples of life in 1813 presented by the Heritage Troupe, and 2 more performances of the living history presentation: the first at 11 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m.  Admission for the day, including one tour, is $5 for persons 12 years old and older.  Persons under 12 are $3.  Refreshments will be available at cost.

Reservations for the individual living history tours are required as group tour sizes are limited.  Reservations can be made by calling and leaving a voice message at 410-620-6400.  Please include your name, the number of tickets requested by age, the day and time of the tour requested, and a call back phone number.

See our web site at http://www.elklanding.org for more information on the War of 1812 at Elk Landing and directions.  Like us on Facebook for updates in April. 

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“That Old Mud Fort at Elk Landing”

Ezekiel F. Chambers was born on February 28th, 1788 in Chestertown, Maryland. Unless you are a Maryland history buff, that name probably doesn’t mean much.  But, according to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Chambers was a veteran of the War of 1812 and attained the rank of Brigadier General of the Militia.  Later, Chambers served in the Maryland State Senate, the United States Senate, and finally, as governor of Maryland. But Governor Chambers career almost never happen as the result of an occurrence in 1815 at Elk Landing.

The incident was described by Judge Thomas Jefferson Sample in a letter to the editor of the Cecil Whig that he penned in July of 1880.  It was one of a dozen editorials Judge Sample scribed from his retirement home in Indiana that the paper titled “Reminiscences” and published over several years. According to the Judge it all started when word reached Elkton in February of 1815 that the War of 1812 had ended. Judge Sample notes an impromptu party to celebrate took place at Elk Landing’s Fort Hollingsworth.

“As soon as the news came, court adjourned in a hurry and everybody hurried to the Landing to fire a salute,” Judge Sample wrote. “The river was solid ice.  A barrel was located some distance down the river on the ice.  The guns were loaded.  The 12 pounder at the north port-hole of the battery was managed by (Ezekiel F.) Chambers”

Judge Sample then described what happened when the gun was fired involving Chambers and the Stone House that still stands at Elk Landing.

“About a hundred feet from the gun was the old stone house.  There were in the gable two windows, in the garret small apertures.  In each of these windows was a little girl,” Judge Sample reports, “looking down the river to see the ball strike.  I stood upon the parapet, looking down the river.  The two men, who had loaded the gun, had stuck into its muzzle a frozen clod.  When the gun was fired by Chambers, it bursted.”  But that’s not the worst of it, according to Judge Sample.  “A large piece of the gun, I suppose weighing fifty pounds,” Sample guesses, “was driven through one of those gable windows where the little girls stood.  Not a person was killed or even badly hurt.  Chambers was bruised a little.  The hand of God was plainly manifested then.”  The hand of God indeed! 

Judge Sample goes on to describe Chambers as a lawyer “from one of the lower counties.”  “Many years afterwards,” Judge Sample continues, “I met Col. Chambers at Newport, Rhode Island.  He was a gentleman, but a high-toned Southerner.”  He died in 1867.

Judge Sample, who was about 14 years old at the time of the near tragedy, was lucky that February day too.  He writes that he was “on the bank not ten feed from where Chambers stood” and the canon exploded into pieces. 

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“I’m About Crazy!”

“Baltimore, Feb. 15, 1848


My Dearest Mother,


Yesterday I received a letter from Uncle John informing me of the accident which

happened from fire on Friday night. I was very much frightened as you may imagine.

Glad it was no work. I am about crazy to know all the particulars – none of which Uncle



It’s February, 1848, just a few days since fire gutted what was called the “HollingsworthMansion” at Elk Landing.  Margaret Hollingsworth, known here as “J”, is attending school in Baltimore.  She is frantic for news of the catastrophe which beset her widowed mother, Mary. 

“I find it very difficult indeed to fix my attention on my studies. I don’t pretend to recite them perfectly. I find myself so often conjecturing what in the world you did when you found the fire out – being I believe by yourself.”

A news account from the Cecil Whig of February 19th, 1848, credits Elkton fire fighters with saving some of the house while describing the extent of the damage.

“The efforts of our citizens with the engine (fire department), although the whole roof had fallen in when they reached the place and got to work, having saved the lower story, and the cellar and its contents.”

The structure that burned that cold winter day, while occupying the same foot print, looked nothing like the Hollingsworth House of today.  It was only two stories high.  Its windows were arranged differently, as was the front door.  Historic architects tell us that even the first floor fire places were different.  Instead of being centered on the walls of the front and back parlors, for example, they were nestled, back to back, in the center, along a wall that divided the parlors.  We also know from paint chips found in the basement beneath the fire boxes, that at least parts of those fire places were painted blue!  As it turned out, the fire left only the walls standing of the two story edifice.  The entire east wing, which today houses the dining room and kitchen, did not exist pre fire.  But what did exist? 

“J’s” letter implies that there may have been a stand alone kitchen next to the house when she writes, “I want to know if the kitchen was burnt to the ground?”  If so, where was it? What did it look like?  Was it a single story?  Did it contain living quarters?  We don’t know.  We do know that Mary had “servants” because “J” inquires for them;  “Where are the servants?”  We also know where Mary Hollingsworth relocated after the blaze. “Uncle John said Mr. McIntire had taken you to his house & insisted on your staying til the house was repaired.”  “How long you will remain at Mr. & Mrs. McIntires?”

“J” ends her letter with yet another inquiry, one about, of all things, her grades.  “I have been told Mr. Archer has sent my report home. I want to know if it is good. I must stop now. Write soon & relieve me. Yours affectionately, J. Hollingsworth.”

Not only would the widow Mary Hollingsworth return to Elk Landing, but she would rebuild the mansion from the fire that roared through her home on February 11th, 1848.

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“Being This Day Manumitted”

This edition of the Elk Landing Appeal marks the beginning of a series of essays on events in the lives of the Hollingsworths of Elk Landing leading up to the War of 1812.  Some of these entries will relate directly to the Hollingsworth family. Some will relate to the coming war.  Others will be a combination of the two.  Either way, we hope that these short entries will illuminate, however briefly, the era in which they lived and the war was fought.

This entry goes back to February 8, 1806 when, 6 years prior to his death, Zebulon Hollingsworth Jr. both manumitted and apprenticed a former slave to his daughter and son in law. “Jane” or “Jenny” is the only identity her owner gives his manumitted property.  She will be referred to as “Jane” for the purposes of this discussion.  According to the manumission and indenture documents, Jane will be apprenticed to Hollingsworth’s daughter, Margaret until Jane turns 28 years old, 15 years later on February 8th, 1821.  That could mean Jane’s birthday is February 8th, 1793.  Since Margaret was married to William Couch of Delaware, the apprenticeship belongs to William. The document goes on to state that Jane will be “taught the art mystery and business of housewifery.”  In return, Jane will “in all things lawfully well and faithfully serve her said master and do the same to the utmost of her power, his lawful commands readily obey, his secrets keep.” In addition, Jane will not run away. “She shall not absent herself from the service of her said master, but in all things and at all times she shall behave herself during the whole term of her apprenticeship as a good and faithful apprentice should.”

William and Margaret Couch have the added responsibility of providing “sufficient meat, drink, washing, lodging and apparel fitting for such an apprentice.”  When Jane’s apprenticeship ends, the Couchs will “beside the common wearing apparel, give one new suit of clothes.”

The document is witnessed by two persons.  One of those witnesses may be Mary Hollingsworth, Zebulon’s wife.  However, the handwriting is not easily read.  It also bears the signature of Zebulon Hollingsworth and Jane’s “X” mark. 

It is not known how many slaves Zebulon Hollingsworth owned in 1806, however, the United States Census for 1800 lists 11 slaves belonging to Zebulon.  The census also indicates that Mary Hollingsworth owned 2 slaves of her own bringing the total for the household to at least 13.

“Jane” was not the first slave manumitted by Zebulon.  Indexed Land Records from Cecil County record Zebulon manumitted a male slave named “Peter” in 1789 and “Dick” in 1803.  Following Zebulon’s death in 1812, his son, William, freed several slaves that he had inherited from his father: a family of four in 1816, an unnamed male in 1831, and a four year old boy in 1832.  The manumission notes that the unnamed child’s mother was purchased by William Hollingsworth on July 13, 1824 from a Lewis Gale. 

As we observe the bicentennial of our “Second War of Independence” and celebrate Black History Month, we realize that, unfortunately, many of those who bravely fought or spoke out for freedom during our nation’s infancy, refused freedom to the human beings they owned. It is worth knowing, not to be proud of it, but to acknowledge it and eventually celebrate its end at the close of another war  two generations later.

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Christmas with the Hollingsworths – 1812

How was Christmas celebrated 200 years ago in Cecil County, Maryland?  There would be no Christmas trees, no blinking lights, no Santa Claus, and certainly no electric ice sickles!  There would be no “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” blaring from store front speakers or Christmas TV specials.  And yet, somehow, our ancestors survived!  They did have evergreen wreaths, pinecones, garland, mistletoe, lots of red ribbon, and of course, great food!  There would have been homemade cookies and other sweets, steaming hot wassail, tea, and hot chocolate, although the hot chocolate may have been a little pricy.  And while there was no recorded music, there would have been family and friends gathered around the garland adorned fireplace singing the ancient Christmas hymns and the new carols.

One other thing, Christmas 1812 was war time in the infant United States as the new nation once again was at war with the most powerful army and navy in the world, Great Britain.  Battles had been fought.  Blood had been spilt on both sides.  Still to come was the burning of Washington, DC, the rockets red glare over Fort McHenry, and four months from Christmas 1812, the battle of Elk Landing.

In the midst of this uncertainty, came the Hollingsworths.  They would have gathered in the mansion along the Little Elk Creek, the matriarch of the family, Mary Hollingsworth missing, as she was visiting relatives in Newark, Delaware.  The kids and grandchildren would be there, decorating the house and humming the yuletide tunes.  Those tempting sweets would be next to or in the fire place baking and their fragrance would be mixing with those of the wassail and hot chocolate.

You are invited to relive and share these Christmas times gone by as the Historic Elk Landing Foundation opens the doors to that Hollingsworth mansion and welcomes you to our annual Christmas with the Hollingsworths – 1812.  The house will be decorated with the traditional evergreens, ribbons, fruits, and garland.   We’ll even decorate a Christmas tree, a sign of Christmases yet to come.  The kitchen will be full of home baked cookies, wassail, tea, and hot chocolate.  The Heritage Troupe will be there decorating and leading us in song. And while it’s a little outside our timeline, we’ll have Zebulon Hollingsworth reading “T’was the Night Before Christmas” to the Hollingsworth children. 

Our doors open at 6 on Saturday night, December 15th. Admission is free, although donations are welcome to continue our preservation and presentation efforts at Historic Elk Landing.

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An Eclectic Christmas

Elk Landing has been around for a long time.  Archaeological evidence dug up during this past summer’s Archaeological Field Session, suggests Native Americans were living here at least 35 hundred years ago.  European invaders were celebrating Swedish/Finnish Christmas traditions in the late 17th century. The Hollingsworths could have danced to “The Merry Wassail” during the 18th century.  And during the 19th and 20th centuries traditions changed and broadened yet again as the Christmas tree made its debut along with lights, massive gift exchanges and, who can forget such classics as “Jingle Bell Rock?” 

While both the Hollingsworth House and the Stone Building have not been around nearly as long as the Native Americans or the Swedes, they have been gracing our site for well over 2 centuries and have seen all of these Christmas ways come and go.  If only their walls could talk!  Think of the barrels and crates full of goods that have passed by their walls or been stored between them.  Listen and maybe you can hear the voices of anxious travelers disembarking from schooners at our long lost docks, excitedly discussing reunions with friends and family during the holiday season.  If the Stone Structure really was a tavern in a previous life, might there have been large branches of mistletoe hanging from its rafters, inviting guests to dance and celebrate those joyful times?  Maybe.

The point is, Historic Elk Landing has seen many Christmases and Christmas traditions come and go over the centuries.  And for us to recognize and celebrate just one is nearly impossible.  So, while this year’s “Christmas with the Hollingsworths” party won’t feature “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” it will include some of that wassail noted in song and dance from the 18th century, some music from the 17th and 18th centuries, a Christmas tree, and of course, “T’was the Night Before Christmas,” both from the 19th century.  Perhaps we should call it “An Eclectic Christmas with the Hollingsworths?!”  Whatever you prefer, we hope you will join us, take a load off from holiday shopping, relax, sample some of our hot wassail, tea, hot chocolate, and homemade cookies.  Listen to and perhaps join in song with the Heritage Troupe in a Christmas tune from years gone by.  And of course, hear Zeb Hollingsworth give his now famous reading of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” as the children listen intently.  Who knows, you might just hear those 8 tiny reindeer as they come in for a soft landing on our roof.

Our doors open at 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 15th, for one evening only.  While there is no admission fee, we gladly accept donations to benefit future programming at Historic Elk Landing.

Happy Holidays from the Historic Elk Landing Foundation family to yours!!

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