Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

George Gassaway (b. ca. 1780) 
MSA SC 3520-15897

Biography:

Likely born in 1780 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Married Elizabeth Porter on April 15, 1817.  Probably died in Ohio after 1830.

George Gassaway was a businessman in Maryland during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He was the son of Brice John Gassaway, a wealthy land owner and Revolutionary War soldier in Anne Arundel County.

George was the eldest of Brice John Gassaway and Dinah Warfield's seven children. His siblings included his brother Henry Gassaway, and sisters Ann Gassaway, Catherine Gassaway, Sarah Gassaway, Elizabeth Gassaway, and Mary Gassaway.1 Henry, who was George's closest sibling in age, had a close business relationship with George. By 1807, they were involved the importation of white and brown sugar from Cuba.2

As adults, both George and his brother Henry drove themselves into debt; a problem which would ultimately lead to great losses within their family. In 1809, George's father, Brice, took out a loan from Alexander Fridge and William Morris totaling $8,000 that was intended for George and Henry, who were merchants in Baltimore at the time. In order to complete the loan process, Brice put his home and two parcels of land, "Partnership" and "Snowden's Second Addition to his Manor," up as collateral. George and Henry were expected to make payments of $1,000 every six months in order to repay the loan.3 

Unfortunately, the brothers were unable to keep up with the loan payments. In December of 1811, a law was passed for the financial relief of George Gassaway, who was apparently living in Baltimore City at the time. These laws were often passed for individuals whose debts had exceeded their income, thus rendering them unable to significantly repay debts.4 Several months later, on April 13, 1812, Brice was forced to surrender his home and much of his land to Fridge and Morris.5 George and Henry had lost a large portion of their family's estate through the apparent failure of their business dealings. 

Less than one month later, having lost the majority of his land holdings, but not all of his liquid assets, George's father bought a home on three lots for $850 in the town of Brookeville, located nearby in Montgomery County, and relocated his remaining family, including George, who had caused the forced relocation.6 Shortly after the Gassaway family moved to Brookeville, Brice apparently became a distributor of "Paul's Patent Columbia Oil." The oil was described as a cure-all for a variety of different ailments, including whooping cough, rheumatism, consumption, and a variety of aches and pains. Local legend holds that George Gassaway was running the store on the corner of High and Market Streets in the town by 1814, which may indicate that he had placed his father's name on yet another one of his business plans.7

George Gassaway married fellow Montgomery County resident Elizabeth Porter on April 15th, 1817.8

Although he was living in Brookeville with his father by 1812, George did not own any property in the town until 1816. However, By June of that year, he began buying several lots in the town including the three that his father had purchased in 1812, owning as many as four lots by 1818.9 In 1821, while still living in Montgomery County, George was appointed as a Justice of the Peace.10 By 1824, George had sold all of his property in Montgomery County, eventually settling with his family in Scioto County, Ohio by 1830.11 At the time, many new Quaker settlements were being formed throughout Ohio and, although George himself was not a Quaker, many of his Quaker neighbors in Brookeville, including Joseph E. Bentley and his wife Anna, made the move to Ohio around the same time. It is also possible that George was simply taking advantage of the abundant amount of land that was becoming available throughout the American west at the time. Although the exact date and location are unknown, George Gassaway died some time after 1830.12

Kyle Bacon, DAR Research Fellow, 2012.

Notes:

  1. Warfield, J.D. The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties. (Baltimore: Kohn and Pollock, 1905), p. 381-387.
  2. "Abstract of Merchandise entered at the Custom-House," Baltimore Price-Current, May 21, 1807. Issue 22, p. 3; Ibid., Issue 233, p. 3. These articles advertise the quantities of certain goods being imported into Baltimore, and both articles cite an "H. & G. Gassaway" (Henry and George) as being in charge of importing white and brown sugar.
  3. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Land Records) December 14, 1809, NH, Liber 15, p. 506. Loan of $8,000 from Fridge and Morris to Brice John Gassaway for the use of his sons, George and Henry [MSA CE 76-43].
  4. Laws of 1811, Chapter 51. Archives of Maryland Online, Volume 614, p. 38.
  5. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Land Records) April 13, 1812, WSG, Liber 1, p. 455. Deed, Brice John Gassaway to Alexander Nisbet, surrendering land due to default on $8,000 loan [MSA CE 76-45].
  6. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) May 29, 1812,  Liber P, p. 619. Deed, Samuel Leeke to Brice John Gassaway, lots 44-46 in Brookeville, Maryland [MSA CE 148-16].
  7. "Paul's Patent Columbia Oil," Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, August 15th, 1812, p. 4; MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) June 28, 1816, Deed, George Thompson to George Gassaway, lot 47 in Brookeville. Liber T, pp. 101-102 [MSA CE 148-21].
  8. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Marriage Licenses) April 1817, George Gassaway and Elizabeth Porter [MSA CM724, CR 8920]. 
  9. See plat of Brookeville, likely copy of original by Richard Thomas, c.1800 [MSA SC 6023-1-2]; MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) October 7, 1818, U, p. 284. Deed, Edward Porter to George Gassaway, lots 44-46 in Brookeville, Maryland [MSA CE 148-22].
  10. "Appointments for the Governor and Council for Montgomery County, 1821," Baltimore Patriot and Mercantile Advertiser, February 16, 1821. Volume XVII, Issue 2501, p. 1. 
  11. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) March 10, 1824, Deed, George Gassaway to John Porter, lots 44-46 in Brookeville, Liber X, pp. 250-251 [MSA CE 148-25]; MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) March 10, 1824, Deed, George Gassaway to Thomas S.W. Boyd, lot 47 in Brookeville, Liber X, pp. 251-252 [MSA CE 148-25]; 1830 Unites States Census; Wayne, Scioto, Ohio; p. 52.
  12. Emily Foster, ed., American Grit: A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier. (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2002). This book includes a large collection of letters from Anna Briggs Bentley, who had relocated with her Family to Ohio by 1826, to her family in the Sandy Spring region of Montgomery County, Maryland.
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