Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

James Brice (1746-1801)
MSA SC 3520-146


Born in Annapolis, August 26, 1746.  Son of John Brice (1705-1766) and Sarah Frisby Brice (1714-1782).  Studied law.  Admitted to the bar, 1765.  Married Julianna Jennings (c. 1764-1837) on May 24, 1781; children Julianna (b. 1782), Sarah Ann (1783-84), Anne Carroll (b. 1785), James Frisby, Thomas Jennings, John.  Died July 11, 1801.

James Brice was a planter and a lawyer admitted to practice in Baltimore, Frederick, and Prince George's counties in 1765.  At the death of his father in 1766, Brice inherited plantations in Cecil and Kent counties as well as two lots in Annapolis on which he was instructed by his father's will to build a house.  He built the Georgian mansion that exists today at 42 East Street as the "Brice House" between 1766 and 1773.   In 1771 Brice purchased an additional 700 acres of land in Anne Arundel County.  In 1772 he managed a lottery to build a new dock at Annapolis.  In 1777 he was elected to the Executive Council and served until 1799.  He was appointed county lieutenant for Anne Arundel County in 1777, and from 1777 to 1779 he also served as commissioner of tax in Anne Arundel County.  He served during the Revolutionary War in 1779 as a colonel in the Maryland militia.  He was Annapolis alderman from 1780 to 1782 and again from 1784 to 1787 and 1789 to 1792.  He was mayor of Annapolis from 1782 to 1783 and again from 1787 to 1788.  Brice was an Anglican and a member of St. Anne's Parish Vestry from 1783 to 1787.  He was treasurer of Annapolis from 1784 to 1801, and was a Maryland Senate elector in 1786 and 1791.  He was a member of the committee to supervise the building of St. John's College in Annapolis, and the hiring of a professor there in 1789.  In 1790 he managed another lottery to finance the completion of St. Anne's Church in Annapolis.  Brice served as acting governor of Maryland from February 10 to April 5, 1792, between the death of George Plater and the election of Thomas Sim Lee.  He was also an Annapolis common councilman from 1793 to 1801.

Brice was a wealthy man, owning as much as 1,700 acres of land and 28 slaves.   He died on July 11, 1801, after which much of his land was sold to pay debts.  The Brice House remained in the family until 1873 when it was sold to William Martin of Baltimore.  In 1913, Carvel Hall Hotel bought the house and used it as an annex.  St. John's College purchased the house in 1923 and used it as a boarding house for faculty members.  In 1953, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley and Helen Wohl purchased the house and used it as a private residence while investing several hundred thousand dollars of their own money to restore it.  In 1970 it became a registered National Historic Landmark and since 1999 had been used as a private library for the International Masonry Institute. Historic Annapolis acquired the home in 2014.

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