Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John R. Plater (b. 1767 - d. 1832)
MSA SC 5496-050630
War of 1812 Claimant, St. Mary's County, Maryland, 1828


    John Rousby Plater was born October 15, 1767 at Sotterly Plantation in St. Mary's County, MD to Governor George Plater and his wife, Ann Elizabeth Rousby Plater.1 The Platers were Episcopalians and attended service at St. Andrews Church in St. Mary's County, MD.2 John Plater married Elizabeth Anne Tuttle (Tootell) of Annapolis, Maryland, in 1790.3 The Platers were the parents of four children: Elizabeth, William, Sophia, and John Jr. Plater also assumed the role of guardian of his brother George Plater IV's two children, George V (5) and Ann (3), upon his death.4 George Plater V became the heir to Sotterly Plantation in 1802 when his father died.5

    John Rousby Plater was heavily involved in the local St. Mary's County government. He was a chosen Presidential Elector in 1797, representing St. Mary's County.6 During Plater's time, the electors met in Annapolis and cast the electoral vote that elected John Adams as President and Thomas Jefferson as vice-president.7 Plater was a member of the Maryland Legislature acting as a representative in the House of Delegates in various years 1805-1819.  In 1815, John Rousby Plater retired as a Judge of the Orphans Court and was appointed Associate Judge for St. Mary's, Charles, and Prince George's County.8

    During the War of 1812, Judge Plater lost forty-eight slaves who left and went on board the British ships.9 The British fleets blockaded the whole of Plater's estate, which was situated on the Patuxent, and coerced his slaves to board the frigate Severn. In addition to slaves, Plater suffered the loss of his crops, which the British destroyed. At this time, Plater was selected to be a member of a committee that represented the citizens of St. Mary's County.10 The committee presented a ten point grievance to the State Legislature on behalf of the citizens.11 Three of Plater's slaves, Stephen Coursey, Jack Leales, and Lewis Munroe, settled on land that was conveyed to them by William Cogswell at the Head of the North West Arm of Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia.12 The transaction took place in 1815 and a census was taken of the three men and their families.13

    After the war, Plater continued to be active in the St. Mary's County community. He was selected as a member of a nine man commission called Commissioners of the School Fund for St. Mary's County.14 The commission handled the county's share of the State Free School Fund. Plater was also one of the first in his community to serve as Commissioner of the Tax for St. Mary's County, determining the value of slaves.15

   In 1828, John R. Plater made a claim for his forty-eight slaves that were carried off during the war.16 Sarah Martin, the widow of Norman Martin (Plater's overseer and manager of his slaves), made a deposition that her husband was at the home of John Plater when the British came onto his property. She also stated that her late husband had seen Plater's slave Cornelius Wildman leave the plantation with Mathew Reeder, a slave of Cornelius Manning. According to Sarah Martin, the two slaves were never seen or heard from again. The Martin's daughter Janet Martin Abell, along with Joseph Mattingly, Thomas Gough, and Elizabeth Dellehay, also made similar depositions in support of John Plater's claim.

    In 1830, Plater purchased a parcel of land called Bloomsbury from Benjamin Jones.17 The land was situated near the property of his mother, Ann Elizabeth Rousby Plater. Plater lived here until his death on April 4, 1832.18 In his will, Plater left all of his real and personal property, which included Bloomsbury and all of his slaves, to his wife Elizabeth.19

1.    St. Andrews Church, St. Andrews Parish Collection [MSA SC 2500, M 253-1].

2.    ibid.

3.    ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Marriage Licenses) 1777-1851 [MSA C113-2], pg. 41.

4.    Claim of John Rousby Plater, St. Mary's County, Case #310, Case Files Ca. 1814-28, 3.5 ft., entry 190, Record Group 76, National Archives, College Park.

5.    J.D. Warfield, The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, MD, (Baltimore: Kohn and Pollock Publishers, Inc. 1913), 245.

6.    James Walter Thomas, Chronicles of Colonial Maryland, (Cumberland, MD: The Eddy Press Corporation, 1913), 360.

7.    Thomas Scharf. History of Western Maryland, (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1882), 172.

8.    Regina Hammet, History of St. Mary's County, Maryland (Washington, DC: The Kirby Lithograph Company, 1977), 440.

9.    Claim of John Rousby Plater, St. Mary's County, Case #310, Case Files Ca. 1814-28, 3.5 ft., entry 190, Record Group 76, National Archives, College Park.

10.    Hammet, 97.

11.    ibid, 96.

12.    Commissioner of Public Records NSARM RG 1 vol. 420 no. 93 (microfilm no. 15464).

13.    ibid.

14.    Hammett, 254.

15.    ST. MARY'S COUNTY COMMISSIONER OF THE TAX (Alienations and Transfers) 1786-1829 [CM 899-1 or CR 11701-1].

16.    Claim of John Rousby Plater, St. Mary's County, Case #310, Case Files Ca. 1814-28, 3.5 ft., entry 190.

17.    ST. MARY'S COUNTY COURT (Land Records), 1827-1830, John R. Plater, Liber JH 8, folio 480-482 [MSA CE 121-2]

18.    Thomas, 359.

19.    St. Mary's County Register of Wills (Wills), 1826-1840, Liber EJM 1, Folio 205, [MSA CM926-8].

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