Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Aquila Nelson (b. 1765 - d. 1826)
MSA SC 5496-050755
War of 1812 Claimant, Harford County, Maryland


Aquila Nelson was born on December 26, 1765,1 and at the age of ten, he was living with thirty-nine-year-old Sarah Henderson in the Lower Hundred of Harford County.2 He and his wife, Frances, (1776-1847), had at least six children: Garrett Vansickle (b. 1796), Henry (b. 1798), George (b. 1802), Louisa Garretson (b. 1803), Bennett Vansickle (b. 1807), and Adaline Catharine (b. 1809).3 Nelson and his family were members of the St. George's Episcopal Church.4

He made numerous land purchases throughout his life. In 1805, he purchased 300 acres "in Bush river neck in the east side of Bush river," part of a tract called "Hunting Neck." Nelson purchased twenty-two acres from Paca Smith the following year, this time from the tract "Brown's Chance."5 The Nelson farm stood on Bush River Neck, near shore of the Chesapeake Bay.6 In 1824, he purchased seventy-three acres from "Cohen's Lot." He acquired the land by making the highest bid, $918.50, at a Harford County Court auction.7

In 1800, Nelson owned eleven slaves, although then number had increased to sixteen by 1810.8 This growth occurred despite the 1804 sale of "Negro Shadrack & woman Sall" to James Taylor, who paid 200 pounds for the pair, along with other chattel animals and farming equipment.9 In September 1814, the slaves Peter, George, Mark, and Primus escaped to the British ship Menelaus in the Chesapeake Bay.10 The 1820 census showed that Nelson still owned twelve slaves.11 Two years later he would sell 19 year old Abram and 20 year old Jacob to notorious Baltimore slave dealer, Richard T. Woolfolk. He and his brother Austin had paid $850 for the two men, who they quickly shipped to New Orleans aboard the Susan Miller in October of 1822.12 

Aquila Nelson died on October 10, 1826. He was buried at the Spesutia Church Cemetery, part of St. George's Episcopal Church, in Harford County.13 Nelson's will divided his land among his sons Garrett, Henry, George, and Bennett.14 An "H. Nelson," likely Henry Nelson, later appeared on the Bush River Neck on an 1858 map of Harford County, with several other Nelsons living nearby.15 This was likely the land originally patended as Coheirs Lot, in 1763.16

Geographic representation of Nelson property, and overview of slavery in Harford County, on historical map available here (Google Earth required to open file).


1.     "Spesutia [St. George's] Church Cemetery," Perryman, Harford County, Maryland, Find a Grave, Inc.,

2.     COUNCIL OF SAFETY, (Census of 1776), 1776, Harford County, Harford Lower Hundred, [MSA Citation: MSA S961-16]. Aquila Nelson, age 10.
        COUNCIL OF SAFETY, (Census of 1776), 1776, Harford County, Harford Lower Hundred, [MSA Citation: MSA S961-16]. Sarah Henderson, age 39.

3.     BALTIMORE CITY, HEALTH DEPARTMENT BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS, (Death Record), 07/1889-12/1889, Film Reel: CR 48081, [MSA CM1132-37]. Adaline C. Peters, August 8, 1889, Certificate Number A19657.
        HARFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, (Land Records), 1854-1854, Liber ALJ 4, Folio 295, [MSA CE 54-4]. Henry Nelson, et al, to Aquila Bordley, February 1, 1854.
        HARFORD COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS, (Wills), 1811, 1814-1832, Liber SR 1, Film Reel: CR 44758-3, [MSA CM599-4]. Aquila Nelson, September 7, 1826. Probated March 13, 1827.
        Henry C. Peden, Jr., St. John's and St. George's Parish Registers, 1696-1851 (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 2006) 180, 182, and 192.
        Lewis Palmer, A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of John & Mary Palmer of Concord, Chester (Now Delaware) Co. Pa (Chester, PA: Chester Times, 1910) 759-760.
        "Spesutia Church Cemetery."

4.     Peden 180.

5.    HARFORD COUNTY COURT, (Land Records), 1805-1807, Liber HD S, Folio 254, [MSA CE 113-18]. Joseph Husband to Aquila Nelson, December 13, 1805.
        HARFORD COUNTY COURT, (Land Records), 1805-1807, Liber HD S, Folio 249, [MSA CE 113-18]. Paca Smith to Aquila Nelson, March 12, 1806. 

6.    "St. George's Chapel of Ease (Trappe Church, St. James Chapel of Ease)," H-166, Maryland Historical Trust, Inventory of Historic Properties,

7.    HARFORD COUNTY COURT, (Land Records), 1825-1826, Liber HD 9, Folio 227, [MSA CE 113-34]. Samuel Bradford, Sheriff, to Aquila Nelson, June 13, 1826.

8.    U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Aquilla Nelson, 1800, Harford County, District 2, Page 8b, Line 3 [MSA SM61-32, M 2056-2].
       U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Aquila Nelson, 1810, Harford County, Havre de Grace, Page 20, Line 7 [MSA SM61-51, M 2059-3].

9.    Carolyn Greenfield Adams. Hunter Sutherland's Slave Manumissions and Sales in Harford County, Maryland, 1775-1865. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1999, pp. 62, 76,         80. 

10.     Claim of Aquila Nelson, Case 803, Case Files, compiled ca. 1827 - ca. 1828, documenting the period ca. 1814 - ca. 1828, *ARC Identifier 1174160 / MLR Number PI 177 190,* National Archives, College Park.

11.     U.S. Census Bureau (Census Record, MD) for Aquila Nelson, 1820, Harford County, District 2, Page 7b, Line 5 [MSA SM61-71, M 2066-1].

12.     Ralph Clayton. Cash for Blood: The Baltimore to New Orleans Domestic Slave Trade. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc. 2002, pp. 69-70.

13.   "Spesutia Church Cemetery."

14.   HARFORD COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS, (Wills), 1811, 1814-1832, Liber SR 1, Film Reel: CR 44758-3, [MSA CM599-4]. Aquila Nelson,  Folio 387390, [MSA CM599-4]. 

15.   Harford County District 2, Jennings and Herrick, Map of Harford County, 1858, Library of Congress, [MSA SC 1213-1]. 

16.   LAND OFFICE (Certificates, Patented, BA) #1115 Coheirs Lot Revised Survey for Humphrey Stokes [MSA S 1190].
        LAND OFFICE (Patent Record) BC & GS 17, pp. 622-5  John Hall, 1763 [MSA S11-115, MDHR 17,428].

Return to Aquila Nelson's Introductory Page

This web site is presented for reference purposes under the doctrine of fair use. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: The site may contain material from other sources which may be under copyright. Rights assessment, and full originating source citation, is the responsibility of the user.

Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!

Copyright September 20, 2017 Maryland State Archives