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Documenting a Legacy:
Governor Thomas Sim Lee

Needwood, the Lee family estate, was purchased in 1783 by Thomas Sim Lee. Near the end of his life, he moved his residence there permanently, overseeing the operations of his farm. As his children grew and married, a number of them established their own farms nearby.

Typical of most large plantations in Maryland, farming and other labor at Needwood was carried out by slaves. Slaveholding and manumission at the Needwood properties often crossed generations. In 1806, four slaves from Needwood, Robert, Joan, and her children, Dick and Betsy, were sold by Lee to his daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth brought these slaves, along with all her other property, into her marriage with Outerbridge Horsey, a state politician and United States Congressman from Delaware. Because Elizabeth owned no land and lived with her father prior to her marriage, it is likely that these slaves were her personal attendants. 

On November 11, 1812, seven months after their marriage, Horsey filed the deed of manumission seen below. It  manumitted fourteen slaves, among them Robert and his wife, Eleanor; Joan, her son, Richard, and her daughter, Betsy.

Click on images to enlarge
Left: Sale of four slaves from Thomas Sim Lee to Elizabeth D. Lee, October 25, 1806, MSA C814
Center: Manumission of fourteen slaves by Outerbridge Horsey, November 11, 1812, courtesy of Peter J. DePuydt
Right: Manumission of Nelly by Thomas Sim Lee, June 5, 1818, MSA C814

Patent for Forest of Needwood
June 3, 1776
MSA S1197

This manumission, shown above right, for a slave named Nelly,  was filed in Frederick County in 1818 by Thomas Sim Lee. The record does not explain why he chose to manumit Nelly, but it notes that she  was married to a man named Benjamin, the property of Anne Key of Washington, D.C. Although a manumission did not always mean immediate freedom, Nelly did not have to continue to serve. However, for the slaves that Horsey manumitted in 1812, freedom was to come gradually; each had to complete a term of service, which ranged from five to eighteen years.

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