Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Layman (c. 1753-1842)
MSA SC 3520-16875


Born c. 1753 to Christopher Layman (d. 1766) and Rachel Layman Forrey (d. 1785). Stepfather: Jacob Forrey (d. 1771). Siblings: John Christopher Layman (often known as Christopher Layman); Catherine Layman; Mary Forrey (half-sister); Samuel Forrey (half-brother). Never married. No children. Died in Montgomery County, Maryland, February 12, 1842.

William Layman was a carpenter and a Revolutionary War veteran who spent the later years of his life in Brookeville, Maryland. Layman's father was from Georgetown, at that time part of Frederick County and where Layman likely spent the earliest part of his youth.1 Layman's father died when he was only thirteen years old, and the family soon relocated to Charles County, Maryland after his mother re-married.2 In 1776, as a young man just twenty-three years old and still living in Charles County, Layman enlisted in Captain Belain Posey's Company in the Third Battalion of the Flying Camp, an organization of militiamen who fought during the earliest years of the American Revolution. When his six-month term in the Flying Camp ended, Layman returned to his home in Port Tobacco in Charles County.3

In the Spring of 1777, Layman joined the army once again as an ensign in the Seventh Company of the First Maryland Regiment under Captain James Peale.4 Ensigns were the most-junior commissioned officers and were responsible for maintaining the dress and cleanliness of their companies and, importantly, bearing the regiment's colors, a dangerous job which often resulted in higher mortality rates for ensigns. Ensigns who managed to survive on the battlefield were quickly promoted. Even Layman, who served for only two years, was promoted to Lieutenant sometime during his time in the army.5 The First Maryland Regiment, in which Layman served, was distinguished as the State's oldest and most reliable regiment in the Maryland Line. As a member of Peale's company, Layman was likely present at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in the fall of 1777 and the battle of Monmouth in the spring of 1778, all disappointing engagements for the patriots' cause.6 Like most soldiers, Layman's career in the Continental Army did not last the duration of the war. In 1779, he received permission to return to Port Tobacco to visit with his mother. While at home, "he was prevailed upon to... stay with and attend to [his mother's] business," and permanently resigned his commission in the Continental Army to take care of his mother, by then a widow once more and a struggling debtor.7

After leaving the army, Layman continued to live in Port Tobacco, where he owned a lot of land in town.8 By 1780, he began recruiting local men from Charles County to join the Continental Army, a job which would have earned him $16 for every man he convinced to join the army.9 Layman's mother died in 1785 and by 1790 he lived alone in Port Tobacco.10 Layman never married or had children. He was trained as a carpenter and probably supported himself after the end of the war by building and repairing wooden structures around Port Tobacco.11 Sometime after 1790, he relocated to Montgomery County and the area around Brookeville. By 1803, Layman was working as a carpenter in Brookeville. In that year he spent some time making repairs to Isaac Briggs' house.12 In 1806, he purchased two lots of land in the town. Those lots, numbers 53 and 54, remained unimproved during Layman's lifetime.13 In 1818, Layman sold each of his lots, still without any buildings or improvements, to his niece and nephew, Elizabeth Layman and John C. Layman of Charles County.14

Because there were no buildings on Layman's lots in town, it is unlikely that he lived or ran a carpentry business on them. Instead, he was probably renting a room in other households in the area. In 1840, as an elderly man, Layman split his time staying with at least two different families who lived close by Brookeville: in that year he is listed as a resident both of Edmund Lazenby's household and of the household of Washington Bowie.15 Though he may not have resided directly in town, Layman was a member of the Brookeville community. Dr. Henry Howard and Robert H. Garrigues, both residents of the town, knew Layman well enough to attest to his good character and support his testimony in his pension application. And, like many other residents of Brookeville, Layman lent money- between $200 and $300- to struggling Brookeville miller David Newlin.16

Unlike Brookeville's better-known residents, Layman did not gain great wealth over the course of his life. In 1826, at the age of 73, his only possessions included a chest of carpenter's tools, a trunk, and the two lots in Brookeville, altogether worth only $74. To help support him in his old age, Layman received an annual pension of $160 from the State of Maryland for his service during the revolution and was eventually granted a veteran's pension of $20 a month from the Federal Government.17

Layman lived to be quite old. He prepared his last will and testament in February of 1842 and died one week later on February 12, 1842.18 His final requests demonstrate the simplicity of his lifestyle. All that Layman asked was that he be buried and that the land he inherited from his father be divided equally among the children of the late James Lazenby, a family with whom he must have been very close.19

Megan O'Hern, 2014.


  1. Layman's pension application states that in March of 1826, he was 73 years old. His approximate birth date is calculated from this information. William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954. Additionally, Rachel's second husband's will reports that Christopher Layman (Leman) was from Georgetown in Frederick County. See CHARLES COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills), Will of Jacob Forrey, 1771, Liber AE 6, pg. 126 [MSA C681-7].  
  2. PREROGATIVE COURT (Inventories), Inventory of Christopher Laymon [sic.], 1766, Liber 89, p. 199 [MSA S534-90].
  3. William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954.
  4. William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954. See also: Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 18, p. 32.
  5. William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954.
  6. John Dwight Kilbourne, A Short History of the Maryland Line in the Continental Army (Baltimore: The Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, 1992).
  7. William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954. Rachel Forrey, Layman's mother, had monetary problems later in her life and died unable to pay her debts. See CHARLES COUNTY COURT (Land Records), Indenture, Thomas A. Dyson to William Deakins Jr., Folio K4, p. 13, 27 March 1790 [MSA CE 82-39].
  8. CHARLES COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, Charles Goodrich to William Layman, 7 May 1785, Liber Z3, p. 135 [MSA CE 82-37]; CHARLES COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, William Layman to Charles Mankin, 12 April 1786, Liber Z3, p. 245 [MSA CE 82-37].
  9. Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1779-1780. "That the Collector of the Tax for Charles County pay to... William Layman... three thousand Dollars... to be expended in the recruiting Service and Accounted for." 11 January 1780, Liber CB, No. 23, p. 98. Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 43, p. 54.; For information about recruiting officers in Maryland, see: Arthur J. Alexander, "How Maryland Tried to Raise Her Continental Quotas," Maryland Historical Magazine 42, no. 3 (1947): 184-196. 
  10. Layman is in the process of settling his mother's estate in the years after 1785: MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Series A), William Layman to Christopher Richmond, "Requests value of certificate to settle his mother's estate," 2 March 1787, MdHR 6636-49-89/1 [MSA SSI 1004, 1/7/3/58]. See also: First Census of the United States, 1790, Population Schedule, Montgomery County, Maryland, M637, Roll 3, p. 572, household of William Layman.
  11. Mary L. Gardner, ed, The Book of Names: A Genealogical Record of a Community (The Town of Brookeville, 1994), p. 69; Additionally, Layman included an inventory of his property in his pension application. As an old man, he still owned one chest of carpenter's tools. See William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954.
  12. Letter, Thomas Moore to Isaac Briggs, Retreat, 11 December 1803, Sandy Spring Museum, Sandy Spring, MD.
  13. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, Richard Thomas Jr. et ux. to William Layman, 26 July 1806, Liber M, p. 698 [MSA CE 148-13].
  14. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, William Layman to John C. Layman, 20 October 1818, Liber U, p. 298 [MSA CE 148-22]; MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Deed, William Layman to Elizabeth Layman, 20 October 1818, Liber U, p. 299 [MSA CE 148-22].
  15. Sixth Census of the United States, 1840, Population Schedule, District 5, Montgomery County, Maryland, M704, Roll 168, p. 302, household of Edmund Lazenby; Sixth Census of the United States, 1840, Population Schedule, Berry, Montgomery County, Maryland, M704, Roll 168, p. 212, household of Washington Bowie.
  16. William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954.
  17. William Layman, soldier's pension application file S. 34954.
  18. Session Laws, 1841, "Resolution in favor of Francis Valdenar, Executor of William Layman," Resolution No. 26, 1 March 1842, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 593, p. 296. 
  19. The names of the recipients of Layman's land are: Mary, Elizabeth, Ann, Catherine (Soper), Martha, and Cornelia Lazenby. MONTGOMERY COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Estate Record), Will of William Layman, 5 February 1842, Liber X, p. 378 [MSA C1138-26].

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