They’re From Where?: John Maddox of Harford County Maryland

If we had the ability to blog back in 1991 when I started this search, you would have seen quite a different starting point.  My family was from Baltimore, just Baltimore.  They got off the ship, walked a few blocks, settled in Baltimore.  There was no other location in family memory, except “Germany” for some branches.  Later, a letter written in the 1960s by a Maddox descendant named “Fauquier County, Virginia” as the starting point for Edward and Rachel Maddox– I’m still uncertain why (and hope to find out).

So, despite what the relatives had to say, this much is certain:  Edward Maddox married Rachel Parsons in Harford County Maryland in 1805, so that was the first place I went to look for the Maddox family.  The Maryland Colonial Census of 1776 lists John Maddox as the head of a household in Harford County’s Bush River Lower Hundred (which includes the town of Bel Air).  He was 31 years old and was married to “Caterine”, age 22.  They had 2 daughters; Martha born in 1774 and Charlotte born in 1776.

Edward Maddox was born in 1780 (according to one of his obituaries and the records of Mt. Olivet Cemetery).  Though it’s impossible for him to be on the 1776 Census, I was encouraged with my findings, because Edward’s second daughter is named Charlotte.  Perhaps he named her after his sister.  How then, to fit him into the John Maddox family? After 1776, we must wait until 1850 before Maryland lists any member of the household (except the head) by name.  I could (and did) play the census numbers game.  This involves finding John Maddox in as many subsequent census as possible and matching the age range of his dependents to Edward’s age.

I also visited the Harford County Historical Society.  At the time of my initial visit, the society did not have their PastPerfect Catalog available online.  Instead, their friendly staff helped me use their card catalog index of original documents where I stumbled across card #32632 a “bill of sale/power of attorney/judgement” involving John Maddox and James, Edward and Thomas Maddox.  Strong circumstantial evidence points to the latter three men being John’s sons.  Edward also had one son named “James T.”

In addition to this bill of sale I was able to see (the originals!):

  • An 1809 Bill of Sale between John Maddox and James Maddox witnessed by James McComas, Justice of the Peace.  This reads more like a will, minus the “bequeathing”.  John sells his personal possessions (from bedding to farm animals) to James for the sum of 100 pounds.
  • a letter from Edward Maddox, written up by a Justice of the Peace from Baltimore County, dated November 1814.  In this letter Edward Maddox designated his “friend” John Wilson to act in his place and pick up money the U.S. government owes him for services rendered during his stint with the 39th Maryland Militia (Fowler’s Regiment) in the Battle of Northpoint.
  •  A court document regarding  an Abner Parsons, who was in Gaol in Harford County for debt—on the list of those he owed money—James Maddox and Edward Maddox (1809).

All these documents are intriguing, including this warrant against Gilbert Jones for an assault on John Maddox in December of 1799.

The Gilbert Jones named in the complaint could be the Gilbert Jones who kept a tavern in Bel Air on the northwest corner of Main Street and Baltimore Pike.  I’ve often wondered what their fight was about.  It was not important enough to rate mention in a local newspaper, but greater news occupied most of the latter part of the month: “Mourn Oh Columbia!  Thy Father and thy protector is no more”  President George Washington had passed away on December 14th.

Mystery at Mt. Olivet, or–How it Began

Over a decade ago, I made my first “leap” backwards, into my family’s past, a past that was beyond my grandfather’s memory.  That was significant, for Pop had quite a memory, and his passion for storytelling had become my passion for finding the “truth” behind the stories.

On that day I found that my great-great-great grandmother had been born Eliza Jane Maddox (in 1813) and her parents were Edward and Rachel Maddox of Baltimore.  I found this out because of all Eliza’s children, her youngest son “Johnny” had spoken her name enough that his housekeeper gave it to the doctor filling out his death certificate.  The spouses of her other children (though all would have known her personally) were unable in their grief to convey that information, which–75 years later–had left me completely stuck.

Thanks to Uncle Johnny, I had a name and a cemetery.  Thanks to John J. Winterbottom’s Caretaker Records of Mt. Olivet Cemetery, I had a plot (14-B) and bunch of bodies–all of whom it turns out, were the children and grandchildren of Edward and Rachel Maddox.  I visited the cemetery on bitterly cold January day and said hello.

It’s been 10 years, and it’s not just a list of names and dates.  It’s our family, and their history, and the history of a city whose beginnings are being forgotten.  It’s a tenant farmer in Harford County and a brawl in bar in Bel Air on Christmas Eve, just after President Washington died.  It’s a woman who could read and write while her husband could not whose signature is on every business license.  It’s the Battle of Northpoint, and taverns on Pratt Street and Fish Market Place; policemen and sailors; Mobtown and ward politics.   It’s a blessing from Lafayette on a little girl who never forgot.