Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Dr. John W. Anderson (b. 1805 - d. 1867)
MSA SC 5496-036252
Property Owner, Rockville District, Montgomery County, Maryland


Like his father, Dr. James Anderson, Dr. John Wallace Anderson practiced medicine in the family office on the southeast corner of Jefferson and South Washington streets in Rockville. Anderson began his career in the early 1830s, around the same time that the Maryland Colonization Society was attempting to relocate free African Americans to Liberia. Anderson seems to have supported these efforts, as suggested in a letter from John H.B. Latrobe of Baltimore to Dr. John Ridout.1

Anderson married his wife, Mira C. Magruder (b. 1815), on February 15, 1831. Their six children were Anne Elizabeth (b. 1835), Joan (b. 1838), Julia (b. 1840), Rosa or Rose (b. 1841), Mary Louise (b. 1842), James W. (b. 1847), Fanny T. (b. 1849), William (b. 1852), and Ada (b. 1858).2 Although his office was in Rockville, his farm and residence stood just northwest of the city and south of Vallombrosa. Vallambrosa was the farm and short-lived Chinese sugar cane plantation of the lawyer James W. Anderson,3 one of John W. Anderson' five brothers.

As a slaveholder, Anderson owned thirty-five slaves in 1840.4 However, his slaves decreased to fourteen by 1850, and to eight by 1860.5 The Underground Railroad contributed to the loss of at least one of these slaves, with twenty-two-year-old Alfred Homer escaping his enslavement on May 31, 1856. Despite Anderson's advertisement in the Montgomery County Sentinel, Homer succeeded in reaching the Vigilance Committee in Pennsylvania that summer.

Anderson's decreased slaveholdings may have also have resulted from the devastating weather that afflicted many Montgomery County farmers in the spring of 1856. Many lost their crops repeatedly, with some replanting up to three times.6 However, the Andersons were already facing financial problems. Three years earlier, John and Mira Anderson had mortgaged 360 acres of the land that Mira had inherited from her parents, Thomas and Mary Ann Magruder. The land included parts of tracts called "Magruder's Discovery" and "Resurvey on Part of Hensley & Addition to Hensley," which Mira Anderson had inherited from her father, plus portions of "Rocky Spring" and "Boone's Good Luck Again," which she had inherited from her mother.7

Dr. Anderson also owned several acres of farmland, called "Crawford's Lodge," along the Great Falls of the Potomac at Maryland's border.8 The Falls Road allowed Anderson to travel directly from Rockville to his property ten miles away. In the 1850s and 60s, Anderson's holdings at the Great Falls became a crucial area for canal and mining companies. In August of 1853, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal paid Anderson 200 dollars in order to build the canal through part of his property.9 He also gave the company permission for a waste weir, a guard bank and a stop lock on his property between lockhouses 16 and 17, in order to control the flow of water. A month later, the Baltimore Sun reported that the "jury of condemnation of the property of Dr. John W. Anderson" had awarded him another $1,875.10 In June of 1866, a gold mining operation leased 125 acres of Anderson's land, believing that the "richest specimens" were in Dr. Anderson's land.11 By the turn of the century, the United States Geological Survey described the "Anderson property" as a seven-vein mine with "much coarse gold"12 neighboring Maryland Mining Company's land. Neither mine found prolonged success.13

While reaping the monetary benefits of his land near the Great Falls, Anderson was contributing to Rockville's political and educational spheres. In 1857, Dr. Anderson was appointed a judge for the Orphan's Court, a position he held until his death. In 1859, he began serving as the physician for the Montgomery County Jail.14 He also served as treasurer and trustee for the Rockville Academy, for which his brother James served as president.15 The classical school, founded in 1809,16 stood on Jefferson Street only a block away from Anderson's practice.

Dr. John W. Anderson died on July 8, 1867, after an onset of paralysis on July 3rd.17 At the time of his death, he owed John H. Higgins 100 dollars, Mary A. Almoney 500 dollars plus interest, and Samuel Riggs of R 200 dollars. In January 1868, the three men, all residents of Montgomery County, sued for the sale of Dr. Anderson's land as payment for his debts.18

Mira Anderson participated in the 1867 Slave Statistics for Montgomery County, listing seven former slaves.19 Through these Slave Statistics, ex-slaveholders listed their former slaves in hopes of receiving reimbursement from the Federal government. None of Mira Anderson's remaining slaves shared the Homer surname. In 1875 John W. Anderson's estate received $670 in reimbursement for property "taken by the quartermaster general and the commissary general" during the Civil War, according to a bill passed by the House of Representatives that year in order to reimburse those loyal to the Union.20

However, according to the diary of his son-in-law, Richard M. Williams, Anderson had strongly sympathized with the South during the Civil War. Williams, a Union supporter, wrote that "while I respected her [Rose's] father personally as much as a man could, and honored him highly for the calmness and liberality with which he was wont to advance his political belief, it was plain that I could not harmonize my views with his."21

1.     Letter from John H.B. Latrobe, Baltimore, to Dr. John Ridout, regarding "the cause of African Colonization." April 10, 1830. Ridout Papers, [MSA SC 910].

2.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for John W. Anderson, 1850, Montgomery County, Rockville District, Page 6, Line 32 [MSA SM61-142, M 1499-1].
        U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for John Anderson, 1860, Montgomery County, District 4, Page 7, Line 16 [MSA SM61-213, M 7223-1].
        George M. Anderson. "'Premature Matrimony': The Hasty Marriage of Bettie Anderson and Philemon Crabb Griffith." Maryland Historical Society. Maryland Historical Magazine. 83.4 (1988): 369.

3.     Anderson. "Growing Sugar Cane in Montgomery County: A Mid-Nineteenth-Century Experiment by James W. Anderson."Maryland Historical Magazine 79:2 (Summer 1984): 139.
        Eugene Fauntleroy Cordell. University of Maryland, 1807-1907. Vol. 2 (New York, NY: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907) 360.

4.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for John W. Anderson, 1840, Montgomery County, Rockville, Page 15, Line 10 [MSA SM61-113, M 4722]. Continued on Page 16, Line 10.

5.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for John W. Anderson, Slaves, 1850, Montgomery County, Rockville District, Page 2, Line 25 [MSA SM61-168, M 1505-5].
        U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for John W. Anderson, Slaves, 1860, Montgomery County, District 4, Page 16, Line 30 [MSA SM61-239, M 7230-2].

6.     "Harvest and Crops." Baltimore Sun 2 July 1856: 4. The Baltimore Sun Historical Archives. Enoch Pratt Free Library.

7.     MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Land Records), Liber JGH 2, Folio 198, 1853-1853, [MSA CE 63-2]. John W. Anderson and Mira Anderson to Otho Magruder, October 19, 1852.

8.     "The Great Falls of the Potomac Water Works." Baltimore Sun 21 September 1853: 4. The Baltimore Sun Historical Archives. Enoch Pratt Free Library.

9.     MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Land Records), Liber JGH 2, Folio 384, 1853-1853, [MSA CE 63-2]. John W. Anderson to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Co, August 6, 1853.

10.   "The Great Falls of the Potomac Water Works." Baltimore Sun 21 September 1853: 4. The Baltimore Sun Historical Archives. Enoch Pratt Free Library.

11.   "The Potomac Gold Mines." Baltimore Sun 25 December 1856: 1. The Baltimore Sun Historical Archives. Enoch Pratt Free Library.
         MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Land Records), Liber EBP 3, Folio 74, 1866-1867, [MSA CE 63-13]. John W. Anderson to Nicholas D. Offutt, June 25, 1866.

12.   United States Geological Survey. Contributions to Economic Geology, 1904 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1905) 129-130.

13.   Maryland Geneological Survey. Report. Vol. 8. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1909.

14.   J. Thomas Scharf. History of Western Maryland: Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day. Vol. 1 (Philadelphia, PA: Louis H. Everts, 1882) 69.

15.   George M. Anderson. "The Civil War Courtship of Richard Mortimer Williams and Rose Anderson of Rockville." Maryland Historical Magazine 80:2 (Summer 1985). 135-136.

16.   John D. Bowman. Guide to Selections from the Montgomery County Sentinel, Maryland. January 1, 1856 - December 31, 1875 (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2005) 44, 57.

17.   "Affairs in Montgomery County: Deceased." Baltimore Sun 17 July 1867: 2. The Baltimore Sun Historical Archives. Enoch Pratt Free Library.

18.   MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, (Marriage Licenses), 1867-1899, [MSA T2490-1]. Nicholas D. Offutt and Mary Louise Anderson, September 24, 1867.

19.   MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONER OF SLAVE STATISTICS (Slave Statistics), [MSA CM750-1]. Mira Anderson, May 8, 1867. Page 12.

20.   "Letter from Washington: Maryland Claims for Property Taken During War." Baltimore Sun 3 March 1875: 4. The Baltimore Sun Historical Archives. Enoch Pratt Free Library.

21.   Qtd. in Anderson 132.

Researched and written by Rachel Frazier, 2010.

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