Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John McPherson (1760-1829)
MSA SC 3520-898

Born: 1760 in Adams County, Pennsylvania.
Died: December 2, 1829; will probated in Frederick County. Buried in All Saint's church-yard, Frederick Town.
Immigrated: in 1781 from Pennsylvania. His immigrated to Adams County, Pennsylvania from northern Ireland.
Resided: in Frederick Town, Frederick County, 1781-1829.

Family Background
Mother: Janet (1689-1748)
Father: Robert (1687-1767)
Sister: (first name unknown) Russell.
Married: on September 11, 1783, Sarah Smith of Frederick County.

Sons: Horatio (b. 1836), who married Mary; James; William S., a physician, called the "third son," who married Catherine C. Davis, and father of William S. (b. 1824); Col. John (1796-1874), called the "fourth son," who married on December 23, 1823, Fanny, granddaughter of Gov. Thomas Johnson (1732-1819), and who was owner of the Catoctin Furnaces for a number of years, a manager of the Branch Bank (now Central National Bank), and an active promoter of the national turnpike from Washington, D.C., to Wheeling, West Virginia; Robert G. (1787-1824); and Edward.
Daughter: Harriet, who married John Brien (d. 1835).

Private Career
Education: literate.
Religious Affiliation: Anglican; All Saint's Parish, Frederick County.
Social Status and Activities: Esq., by 1790.
Occupational Profile:  probably planter; owned half of the Antietam Iron Works, which is said to have made him the largest iron manufacturer and real estate owner in western Maryland; involved in numerous Washington County suits and injunctions charging him with wasting or destroying timber on other people's property.

Public Career
Legislative Service:  Lower House, Frederick County, 1788, 1790.
Local Offices:  justice, Frederick County, 1795, 1797, 1798, 1801; Maryland Senate Elector, 1796; appointed commissioner to value lands in Frederick County, 1801.
Military Service: commissioned a lieutenant in Pennsylvania, ca. 1781, but never saw active field duty; was sent to Frederick County as an agent for the supply of prisoners quartered there.
Stands on Public/Private Issues: Federalist, 1796. Manumitted a 22-year-old male slave in 1791, who worked on McPherson's farm in Pennsylvania. McPherson wanted to bring the slave into Maryland, but Maryland laws would not permit the transport from Pennsylvania into Maryland. To circumvent this, McPherson manumitted the slave who then entered into articles of agreement indenturing
himself to McPherson for seventeen years, after which he was to have his freedom.

Wealth During Lifetime
Personal Property: 6 slaves, 1790; assessed value $3,040.00, including 17 slaves and 225 oz. silver plate, 1825.
Land at First Election: no evidence of land ownership in Maryland.
Significant Changes in Land Between First Election and Death: purchased ca. 2,000 acres in Frederick County, which included 2 lots in Frederick Town, ca. 1789-1825. During this same time period he acquired 1 lot in Allegany County, plus 16,000 acres in Washington County, which encompassed one-half of the Antietam Iron Works as well as the land connected with the iron  works. As part of the Antietam property, he acquired an interest in an ore bank adjacent to the Potomac River on the Virginia side. McPherson also owned a farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania, near Gettysburg, and lots in Gettysburg (probably all inherited). He owned a large number of acres in Kentucky as well, the exact amount of which is unknown.

Wealth at Death
Personal Property: requested no appraisal of estate (an auditor's statement filed in the Chancery Court in 1841 affirmed that no report on personal assets had been issued). Creditors claimed $65,287.40, and in 1842, at the termination of a long court case, the chancellor ordered that sufficient real estate be sold to pay the debts of the estate. Although McPherson's personal estate was said to have been large and valuable, his executor had allegedly disposed of it all.
Land: owned substantial valuable real estate in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania: Maryland, 16,000 acres in Washington County, ca. 2,000 acres in Frederick County, plus 2 lots in  Frederick Town, Frederick County; Pennsylvania, a farm and lots in Adams County; Virginia, an interest in a valuable ore bank adjacent to the Potomac River; Kentucky, a large, but unspecified amount, of acreage.

Source: "McPherson, John." Edward C. Papenfuse, et al., eds. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789. Vol II. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985, p. 591-592; additional research by Owen Lourie.

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