Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Dr. William B. Magruder (b. 1802 - d. 1873)
MSA SC 5496-035187
Slaveholder and property owner, Cracklin District, Montgomery County, Maryland


The wealthy farmer and physician Dr. William Bowie Magruder was born on November 2, 1802, to Dr. Zadok Magruder and Martha Willson Magruder. One of nine children, Magruder followed his father's profession by studying medicine, graduating from the University of Maryland in 1825. The father of thirteen children, Magruder had ten children with his first wife, Mary Ann Hammond:1 Elizabeth Hammond (b. 1833), William Edward (b. 1836), Lavinia (b. 1838), Isabella (b. 1840), Adelaide Virginia (b. 1842), Mary Emma (b. 1844), Bowie (b. 1846), and Martha (b. 1850). Another daughter, also named Martha, was born in 1836 and died at the age of four, while an infant whose name is unknown died in 1852.2 Mary Ann Magruder passed away several years later, and William married Elizabeth Worthington Gaither on June 7, 1854.3 They had three children: Ella Gaither (b. 1857), Sarah Goldsborough (b. 1859), and Robert Pottinger (b. 1861).4

In 1836, Dr. Magruder purchased Oakley, a 308-acre farm, from his father-in-law Ephraim Gaither at twenty-eight dollars per acre.5 Located north of Sandy Spring, Oakley included the historic Oakley Log Cabin, which served as a slave quarter until Maryland emancipation. Magruder added nearly forty more acres in 1840,6 probably as a response to the farm's success as a source of income. By 1850, for instance, Oakley was producing approximately 1,000 bushels of wheat and 1,000 pounds of butter each year, as well as smaller amounts of crops like corn, potatoes, and beans, and other products like wool, hops, and wine.7 Historian Barbara Jeanne Fields noted that wealthy Maryland landowners like Magruder "could afford the cost of fertilizer, high-quality seed and livestock, and a sufficient force of adequately supervised labor," and Magruder's excess of 300 acres would have provided "enough land to rest worn-out fields and engage in scientific rotation."8 Magruder also owned some of the latest farming equipment. According to 1856 advertisements in the Montgomery County Sentinel, he owned a McCormick reaper as well as "Leavitt's Latest Improved Corn and Cob Mill." Dr. Magruder's name also appeared in advertisements encouraging the county's farmers to modernize by using Jesse T. Higgins & Bro.'s reapers9 and William Braddock & Co.'s excelsior mills.10

In 1857, Magruder's wife Elizabeth inherited 113 acres from her father, Ephraim Gaither, as well as a thirty-two-acre wood lot.11 This land seems to have remained solely in her possession, rather than in her husband's. By 1860, Magruder owned 563 acres, which were worth $17,600. Although the value of his other land generally ranged from seven to ten dollars per acre, Oakley stayed at twenty-eight dollars per acre.

Magruder owned nineteen slaves in 1853. The 1853 to 1858 slave assessment records listed the names of twenty-five slaves ranging in age from one to forty-one.12 Magruder's slaves had increased to thirty by 1860.13 In 1864, one of Magruder's slaves, twenty-three-year-old George Dorsey, was drafted into the Union Army.14 Magruder did not participate in the Montgomery County Slave Statistics, which the county took from 1867 to 1868 for slaveholders hoping to receive financial reimbursement for the slaves that they had lost to the Union Army. All of his slaves, except one, were inherited, with the increasing numbers resulting from births. According to his son, Dr. William Edward Magruder, the only time that Dr. William Bowie Magruder purchased a slave was to prevent a relative of his slaves from being sold away from her family. Unlike most slaveholders in Montgomery county, Magruder allegedly prohibited the flogging of his slaves and encouraged them to earn and save money through outside jobs.15 However, William Edward Magruder's natural bias towards his father makes his information worth considering only with caution.

In 1870, seven African American servants and farm laborers lived with the Magruders: the domestic servants Leah Turner, Delilah Green, Jane Brown, and Elizabeth Brown, and the farm laborers Henry Tyler, John Archbishop and Lewis Platt.16 The family of Robert Tyler lived two houses away. Tyler was a former slave of Nathan Cooke Sr., Dr. Magruder's brother-in-law. Oakley remained one of the most productive farms in the Sandy Spring area. In 1870, laborers at Oakley were raising and butchering sheep and swine, churning butter, and cultivating wheat, corn, potatoes, clover seed, and hay. Magruder also owned a productive fruit orchard.17 Although the Agricultural Census did not name the types of fruits, common fruits throughout Montgomery County included peach, apple, and quince—a hard, yellow, Old World fruit resembling a small pear.18

Dr. William Bowie Magruder died on January 21, 1873, and was interred at St. John's Episcopal Church in Mechanicsburg (present-day Olney), of which he had been a member of the vestry.19 Magruder should not be confused with Dr. William Beans Magruder, the mayor of Washington D.C. from 1856 to 1858.

1.     MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT, (Marriage Licenses), 1798-1839, Film Reel: CR 8920, [MSA CM724-1. William B. Magruder and Mary A. Hammond.
        MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT, (Marriage Licenses), 1798-1839, Film Reel: CR 8920, [MSA CM724-1]. William B. Magruder and Mary Ann Hammond, November 19, 1831.

2.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for William B. Magruder, 1850, Montgomery County, Cracklin District, Page 13, Line 35 [MSA SM61-142, M 1499-1].
        U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for William B. Magruder, 1860, Montgomery County, District 1, Page 52, Line 32 [MSA SM61-213, M 7223-1].

3.     Maryland Marriage Record for William B. Magruder and Elizabeth W. Gaither, June 7, 1854, Montgomery County. Jordan Dodd, Liahona Research, comp. Maryland Marriages, 1667-1899. The Generations Network, Inc., 2000.

4.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for William B. Magruder, 1860, Montgomery County, District 1, Page 52, Line 32 [MSA SM61-213, M 7223-1].
        U. S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Elizabeth Magruder, 1870, Montgomery County, District 1, Page 22, Line 1 [MSA SM61-275, M 7256]. Dr. Magruder appears on the preceeding page.

5.     MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records), Liber BS 7, Folio 490, 1834-1836, [MSA CE 148-33]. Ephraim Gaither, Richard B. Dorsey, and Anna Eliza Dorsey to William B. Magruder, March 18, 1836.

6.     MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records), Liber BS 10, Folio 350, 1839-1842, [MSA CE 148-36]. Henry Howard to William B. Magruder,
August 19, 1840.

7.     U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, (Census Record, MD), 1850, Agriculture, [MSA S1184-2]. William B. Magruder, First District, Montgomery County, Page 257, Line 7.

8.     Barbara Jeanne Fields. Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground (London: Yale University Press, 1987) 18.

9.     "McCormick's Combined Reaping and Mowing Machine." Montgomery County Sentinel 23 January 1857: 1. MSA SC 2813, Reel M 475-02. Maryland State Archives.

10.   "Leavitt's Latest Improved Corn and Cob Mill: Young American Excelsior." Montgomery County Sentinel 7 November 1856: 2. MSA SC 2813, Reel: M 475-01. Maryland State Archives.

11.   MONTGOMERY COUNTY, REGISTER OF WILLS, (Wills), 1852-1858, Liber WTR 2, Folio 326, Film Reel: CR 11968-2, [MSA CM756-1]. Ephraim Gaither, May 6, 1857.

12.   MONTGOMERY COUNTY, BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, (Assessment Record, Slaves), 1853-1864, [MSA C1112-1].

13.   U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for W. B. Magruder, Slaves, 1860, Montgomery County, District 1, Page 12, Line 1 [MSA SM61-239, M 7230-2].

14.   "The Draft in Maryland—First Congressional District." Baltimore Sun 24 May 1864: 1. Baltimore Sun Historical Archive. Enoch Pratt Free Library.

15.   Dr. William Edward Magruder. "Dr. William Bowie Magruder." Year Book of the American Clan Gregor Society (Charlottesville, VA: The Michie. Co. Printers, 1912) 24-29.

16.   U. S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Elizabeth Magruder, 1870, Montgomery County, District 1, Page 22, Line 1 [MSA SM61-275, M 7256]. Dr. Magruder appears on the preceeding page.

17.   U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, (Census Record, MD), 1870, Agriculture, [MSA S1184-11]. William B. Magruder, First District, Montgomery County, Page 3, Line 4.

18.   "Quince." Encyclopędia Britannica. Encyclopędia Britannica Online.

19.   "St. John's Cemetery." USGenWeb Archives. The Tombstone Transcription Project: Montgomery County, Maryland. ttp://

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