Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

David Newlin (1769-1852)
MSA SC 3520-15896

Biography:

Born on January 7, 1769. Married to Jane Newlin. Four Children: Artemas Newlin (1802-1872); Eliza Newlin (d. 1823); Ann Newlin; Rebecca Newlin. Died on July 3, 1852. 

David Newlin was a miller who built and operated a large and diversified milling business in Brookeville, Maryland from about 1800 until his eventual financial ruin around 1827.

Newlin's early life is unknown. It is possible that he was descended from the prominent Newlin family of the Newlin Mill Complex in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Some time before 1798, Newlin obtained three acres of land in Montgomery County, Maryland.1 He began to build a mill there shortly thereafter, and by 1800, a mill dam and race had been constructed along the Reedy Branch of the Hawlings River.2 At the same time, his neighbor, Richard Thomas Jr. laid out a small town on an adjacent tract, which he named Brookeville. Soon after, the town's population and infrastructure expanded and Newlin's mill grew along with, and contributed to, the development of this major outpost of commerce in an otherwise agrarian community.  

Although the nature of Newlin's mill prior to 1800 is unknown, he evidently wished to expand because he purchased another four acres of adjacent land in that year from his neighbor, Thomas Moore. This land provided better access to the tributaries of the Reedy Branch, and their value as a source of water power for a mill was obvious. Moore was a prominent member of the community and the brother-in-law of Brookeville's founder, Richard Thomas Jr., who operated a grist mill on the other side of the town. To protect his brother-in-law's local monopoly on milling grain, Moore stipulated in the deed that Newlin could erect no mill that processed wheat, rye, Indian corn, or buckwheat on that land.3 Although Moore would nullify his condition ten years later, this proviso had a powerful impact on Newlin's business.

Unable to build a grist mill, Newlin sought several other avenues of production. By 1804, he had constructed a saw mill, a plaster mill and an oil mill capable of producing linseed oil and castor oil. In the short time between 1800 and 1804, Newlin had increased the value of his personal property by over 100 percent and the value of his land jumped by over 2,300 percent with the addition of his mills.4 For the next two years, until 1806, Newlin produced over 1,000 bottles of castor oil and, according to a contemporary writer, the oil was praised by physicians as being "of a superior quality to that which is generally imported."5

At the same time, Newlin raised a family and participated in community life. His son and heir, Artemas Newlin was born in 1802 and three daughters, Eliza, Ann, and Rebecca, soon followed. By 1810, there were nine members of his household, indicating that he might have had two servants or extended family members living in his house.6 Newlin was a Quaker and a member of the Sandy Spring Meeting, into which he and his family were received on October 23, 1812.7 In 1811, he became one of the five original trustees of the Brookeville Academy, a private boys school that gained a reputation for excellence and was governed by many of the local prestigious Quaker families.8

In the following years, Newlin sought to further expand his business and neighborhood presence by purchasing more land in the surrounding area, and seeking opportunities elsewhere in the region. In 1810, he purchased two more acres from Moore and 30 acres from another neighbor, John Hammond Riggs.9 The same year, Newlin partnered with Moore on a building contract with the City Council of Georgetown.10 Moore proposed a plan to remove a shoal in the Potomac River by building a pair of wing dams along the river. If the plan worked, the two men stood to earn $10,000, a tremendous amount at the time. While Moore drew up the plans, Newlin could provide cheap building materials, particularly plaster and lumber, from his mills. As an act of good faith, Moore revoked his earlier proviso against building a grist mill and Newlin built one 
soon after.11

Unfortunately, the building project fell through the following year when the Washington Bridge Company won a court injunction against the plan out of fear that it would damage their bridge. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, designer of the U.S. Capital, was called in as an expert witness and testified against the project. The debate went to a Congressional hearing in 1812 and the plan was forever shot down, again by Latrobe, who strongly doubted the success of the endeavor.12

Having lost his contract, Newlin started making other plans for the future. In 1812, Newlin purchased another thirteen acres located about a mile northeast of Brookeville and favorably situated along the Hawlings River.13 He must have had some early plans for this parcel because the deed made special mention of the buyer's rights to water access. It was on this land that Newlin undertook the most significant project of his career: the construction of a large textile mill.

In fact, this operation was composed of two different mills. The first was known as a fulling mill and provided a service to local farmers who could bring their wool to be cleaned and readied for carding. The other half was known as a "wool manufactory" and functioned as a factory, processing raw wool into finished textiles to be sold.14

The construction of textile mills like Newlin's was very common in the United States in the period preceding and during the War of 1812. Beginning with the Embargo Act of 1807, America sought to reduce its dependency on Great Britain and encouraged investment in domestic factories. This trend continued as political relations deteriorated with Great Britain leading up to the war. Many mills continued to open throughout the country during the war years as the British blockade on American ports necessitated economic independence.15

It was in this economic climate that Newlin sought to start his own textile mill, although the exact date is unknown. The 1820 census notes his mill was one year old, but it seems likely that Newlin began construction earlier. In 1813, for example, he started to borrow large amounts of money, presumably for some investment purpose. Furthermore, Newlin began advertising the sale of his textiles in the local newspapers as early as 1816.16 By 1820, Newlin had a staggering capital investment of $6,000 in these mills alone. The wool factory employed seventeen people and produced an annual output of 7,500 yards of various styles of cloth. The equipment to produce this material included three carding machines, one picker, four spinning machines with four hundred spindles, one warping machine, three wide looms, three narrow looms, one fulling machine, two dressing machines, one braking machine, a press, and a tenter. Newlin declared the prospects of his mills to be good, with "demand rather on the increase" in 1820, even though his goods were sold "for the use of the neighboring customers," a troubling prospect given the community's small size.17

After the Treaty of Ghent reopened trade with Great Britain in 1815, British-made goods flooded the American markets. The more expensive American-made goods could not compete and many of the fledgling mills failed. This was compounded shortly after by the Panic of 1819, the worst economic depression that the country had yet seen. In spite of these challenges, Maryland was unique in that its textile mills continued to open and operate during the depression. Their survival was, in part, due to the cheap labor afforded by the growing city of Baltimore. Nevertheless, these mills still struggled to survive and by 1820, few were operating at above fifty percent capacity.18

Despite Newlin's investment and Maryland's relative success in manufacturing during this period, the Brookeville mill simply could not overcome the poor national economy. Nor does it ever appear to have been very profitable. Newlin's
personal property remained stagnant throughout the entire period. He owned very little silver plate (a status symbol) compared to his neighbors, and he purchased many of his household items and furniture second-hand.19 Therefore, it seems likely that his profit margin was negligible at best, and negative at worst. The overhead cost of building and maintaining his mills was enormous and the local demand for his manufactured goods could not have been high in a town of only fourteen homes. Transporting these textiles to markets was another added expense in this landlocked area. While mills in the Baltimore environs could rely on inexpensive urban labor and easy access to waterways, Brookeville provided none of these sorely needed advantages.

It did not take long for his debts to catch up with him. Newlin's $6,000 investment was almost entirely made up of loans from his neighbor, the Brookeville Postmaster and fellow trustee of the Brookeville Academy, Caleb Bentley. In the years from 1813 to 1815, Bentley loaned Newlin over $4,300. Another $1,283 followed from 1816 to 1820.20 When, by 1821, Newlin had failed to repay any part of this massive loan and was struggling to pay the annual interest, Bentley took action. As collateral, he forced Newlin into a mortgage of all his land on November 12, 1821 whereby it would become Bentley's property in the event that the loans could not be repaid. However, with Bentley's consent, Newlin sold three of his four parcels between 1821 and 1826 to different buyers and forfeited the profit to Bentley to repay part of his loans.21 One of these sales included the textile mill, which was sold to Jehu Price. However, the factory was so unprofitable that by 1832, Price himself was insolvent and all of his property (including the factory) was transferred to a trustee to be sold and divided among his creditors.22

By 1826, all of Newlin's land except his original mill and house had been sold, and his debt was not close to being paid off. In February 1827, Newlin absconded from Brookeville and, in desperation, relocated to Harford County, Maryland where he ceased his interest payments. Perhaps, he hoped to escape his debts and maintain ownership of his final mill; however, this was wishful thinking. In June of the following year, Bentley petitioned the Chancery Court of Maryland to force a sale of Newlin's last property. When the Chancellor agreed, Newlin was hunted down and acquiesced to the terms. In October, when the land was put up for auction, Bentley kept the property himself at no cost by outbidding everyone else.23

In 1835, Newlin's troubles all came to a head when he was apprehended by the county sheriff and imprisoned for his debts. In March of that year, and with the help of his son, Artemas, David Newlin petitioned the courts for insolvency relief. Artemas was appointed a trustee of the estate and had all his father's property transferred to him under the direction of the court. While Newlin's declared personal property was a mere saddle and bridle, his debts totaled a tremendous $4,177. His most outstanding debt was to Caleb Bentley for a remaining sum of $1,600 dollars. The following year, the court reached a verdict and Newlin was absolved of his debts under the condition that any further property he might acquire was to go directly to the state for further payment.24

Having been stripped of his property and dignity at the age of 67, Newlin was forever ruined. Although his son Artemas would eventually regain his father's grist, saw, and oil mills, Newlin did not return to Brookeville. Newlin and his wife Jane continued to live in Harford County until at least 1840.25 By 1850, Jane had died and Newlin migrated to Baltimore City where he was a dependent of his grandchildren until his death on July 3, 1852. His remains were brought back to Brookeville (presumably by his son) and interred in the cemetery of the local Methodist church.
26

Jackson Gilman-Forlini, DAR Research Fellow, 2012.

Notes:

  1. The Newlin family of Pennsylvania was also of Irish Quaker descent and built a profitable milling enterprise (now on the National Register of Historic Places) in Delaware County, which they operated for four generations by the time David Newlin was born. Furthermore, a family inheritance dispute among the Pennsylvania Newlins occurred around the same time that David Newlin appeared in Maryland, suggesting a possible reason why David Newlin might have relocated and why no record of him exists in Maryland prior to adulthood. For more information see Nicholas Sellers, "Short History of Newlin Grist Mill," Place, Memory and Time, Essays Commemorating The Tricentennial of the Nathaniel Newlin Grist Mill, 1704–2004 (Nicholas Newlin Press 2004) p. 27-28. See also: Nicholas Newlin Foundation Website, http://www.newlingristmill.org; MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record) 1798 Assessment District 4, MdHR 20,115-2-1 [MSA C1110-2, 01/18/14/018].
  2. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, Thomas Moore to David Newlin, January 7, 1801, 4 acre lot on the west side of Brookeville, Maryland, Liber I, p. 336 [MSA CE 148-10]. 
  3. Ibid.
  4. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record) 1813, Assessment Districts 1 and 4, MdHR 20,115-3-1 [MSA C1110-3, 01/18/14/019].
  5. Joseph Scott, A Geographical Description of the States of Maryland and Delaware (Philadelphia: Kimber, Conrad and Co., 1807), p. 147.
  6. Third Census of the United States, 1810, Population Schedule, Montgomery County, Maryland, Roll 14, p. 939.
  7. Indian Spring Monthly Meeting; Minutes (Sandy Spring), 1772-1817, 23 Oct. 1812 [MSA SC 2978 SCM 638-1]. See also: Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting Church Records, Membership, p. 73 [MSA SCM 2250-2]. Interestingly, Newlin and his family were not accepted into the Meeting until fourteen years after their arrival to the community. Perhaps this was Newlin's choice but more likely it was a deliberate decision on the part of his fellow Quakers. At this time, Meetings often excluded potential members for perceived infractions of Quaker belief, such as military service or slave ownership. While Newlin was not known to have overstepped his boundaries in any way, his late entry into the Meeting might be an indication that he was not very devout in his faith. It is also possible that Newlin's delayed acceptance was a result of the fact that, unlike almost all of his neighbors, he was not related to the other residents either by blood or marriage, making him somewhat of an outsider.
  8. Laws of 1814, Chapt. 12, Sect. 1. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 633, p. 10.
  9. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, Thomas Moore to David Newlin, July 26, 1810, two acres in "Addition to Brooke Grove," Liber O, p. 526 [MSA CE 148-15]; MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, John Hammond Riggs to David Newlin, 1810, Liber O, p. 528 [MSA CE 148-15].
  10. "Ship Channel to Georgetown," Agricultural Museum Vol. 1, no. 6 (12 September 1810) p. 96.
  11. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, Thomas Moore to David Newlin, July 26, 1810, Removal of restrictions on the types of products that Newlin was allowed to process at his mill on the west end of Brookeville, Liber P, p. 1 [MSA CE 148-16].
  12. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Opinion on a Project for Removing the Obstruction to a Ship Navigation to Georgetown (Washington, D.C., 1812).
  13. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, Aquila Taylor to David Newlin, 12.75 acres of "Leeke's Lot," December 9, 1812, Liber Q, p. 179 [MSA CE 148-17].
  14. Fourth Census of the United States, 1820, Manufactures (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1965) p. 199, 22, 239. 
  15. Lynda Fuller Clendenning, "The Early Textile Industry in Maryland," Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 87, no. 3 (Fall 1992), p. 250-266.
  16. Advertisement, "Brookeville Woolen Factory," The Georgetown Messenger, June 15, 1816.
  17. Fourth Census of the United States, 1820, Manufactures (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1965) pp. 199, 22, 239
  18. Lynda Fuller Clendenning, "The Early Textile Industry in Maryland," p.  253. 
  19. For examples of personal property valuations see MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record) 1813 and 1820 Assessments, Districts 1 and 4, MdHR 20,115-3-1 [MSA C1110-3, 01/18/14/019]; Newlin purchased many household items between 1803 and 1819, which are documented in bills of sale stored with the Montgomery County land records. These items were taken from the private estates of his neighbors and were presumably for personal use. One such purchase, made in November 1819, was from a free African-American man named Cesar Williams who sold to Newlin, among other things: " A black horse and a bay horse, one white cow, one waggon [sic] and geers [sic]... one chest, one table, two dutch ovens, one iron pot, one saddle" See MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Bill of Sale, Cesar Williams to David Newlin, November 15, 1819, various household items, Liber V, p. 20 [MSA CE 148-23].
  20. CHANCERY COURT (Chancery Papers) Caleb Bentley vs. David Newlin, 1828, Mortgage foreclosure on Addition to Brooke Grove, MdHR 17,898-6328 [MSA S512-6392, 1/37/3/21].
  21. Ibid.
  22. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, Jehu Price to Amos Farquar, surrender of the woolen mill in order to repay various debts, August 24, 1832, Liber BS 5, p. 279 [MSA CE 148-31].
  23. Although Bentley seemed to have gained a mill, the mortgage trustee died shortly after and the transfer of the property was not formally made until 1841. See Chancery Papers, Bentley vs. Newlin. 
  24. MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Insolvency Record) 1827-1835. p. 357 [MSA T939-101/13/09/034].  
  25. Sixth Census of the United States, 1840, Population Schedule, Harford County, Maryland; Roll 167, p. 106. 
  26. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850, Population Schedule, District 1, BaltimoreMaryland; Roll: M432_280; p. 265A; Burial Site of David Newlin, Salem United Methodist Church, Brookeville, Maryland. Accessed at findagrave.com.

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