The Archivist's Bulldog

Vol. 12 No. 14, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives, July 27, 1998

by Pat Melville

With the establishment of a statewide public education system in 1865 comes the beginning of a long series of annual reports from the state agency or official in charge of education matters. The reports include statistical information for each county and Baltimore City concerning the number of students and teachers, subjects taught, types and numbers of school houses, funding from various sources, and expenditures for various categories. Most of the county reports contain a list of schools and the principal or teacher assigned to each one. The first two annual reports, compiled in 1866 and 1868 provide insights into the local education systems prior to 1865 and the efforts to implement a centralized state system. The county boards of school commissioners described a litany of problems resulting from the previous system and offered high hopes for improvement with the new program, despite reservations about some of its facets.

Before 1865 each county school system operated under a separate set of laws, even though several were similar in nature. Some counties ran a successful education program, others languished. The Allegany County school commissioners characterized the old system as "extremely defective" and by 1865 "worse than none at all." Supervision was nonexistent, and some school directors were illiterate and paid scant attention to the schools. Schoolhouses were poorly constructed, and some teachers were not competent. The Dorchester County school commissioners described the same problems, noting that some schools were open only three months during the year because of the lack of funds.

The Anne Arundel County commissioners commented on the uneven quality of the old district school trustees some of whom were conscientious about performing their duties. Others selected unqualified teachers and failed to review and evaluate the teaching efforts. It was pointed out that the trustees served unpaid positions and "could not be expected to neglect their own business in order to serve the community in which they lived." In Harford County accountability was also missing. District school boards hired teachers, but paid no attention after that. Thus, "each Teacher was the sole judge of his or her own work." The Howard County school commissioners criticized the trustees for not examining the schools, but felt parents should have shared the responsibility to visit the facilities.

In its report the Montgomery County school commissioners described its system as successful for only one year, 1860, as a result of revisions in the law. After that the effort was crippled by an amendment that eliminated the funding. The old Washington County schools were deemed unsatisfactory due to the lack of a system and the unfortunate influence of politics. The school commissioners had derived their powers from the county commissioners, and the district trustees were elected by the voters. The law failed to clearly define the duties of either body, leading to frequent conflicts of authority. These conditions led to variations in the school terms and hours, lack of uniformity in methods of instruction, and unequal salaries paid the teachers.

Annual reports of government agencies are seldom noteworthy for creative writing. The 1866 report compiled by the Calvert County school commissioners, whose president was J.A. Ellis, is a delightful exception. The county contained nineteen buildings used for schools. "The frame tenements, though substantial, were diminutive, and destitute of all pretension to good taste in their appearance. The log buildings were of the rudest construction. In one case a log barn had been purchased by the County at a cost of $130, and devoted, without alterations, to the imprisonment of children." Furniture in the schools was sparse, "in perfect keeping with the exterior. It consisted of a single desk, extending along each sidewall, and a few rough benches, without backs." "Blackboards had indeed been introduced, but their untarnished surface evinced little use." Many schoolhouses were situated next to roadways. "If a triangular lot of barren land, bounded on each side by a public road could be found, it was selected par-excellence as a suitable site."

Efforts of the state Board of Education to implement the education law of 1865 faced several hurdles. During consideration of the bill the Baltimore City delegation and school officials tried diligently, but unsuccessfully, to get the city exempted from the law. Afterwards the city refused to recognize the authority of the state board and chose to select their own textbooks. The State Superintendent decided to avoid a direct confrontation with municipal officials and to wait for cooler heads to prevail in the future. At the same time he criticized Baltimore for having "a congregation of schools regulated in external matters by a system of by-laws, many highly competent and zealous teachers, but no Educational System."

One major drawback to the 1865 legislation concerned the lack of funds for building and furnishing schoolhouses. Every county report mentioned the high incidence of inadequate facilities. In addition, many citizens resented the imposition of a centralized school system. Opposition from Calvert County residents, according to the commissioners' report, stemmed from the "prejudices of Partizanship, Sectionalism and Caste." "The Demagogue dreads Free Schools, which engender free thought and render the masses less subservient to their leaders. The Sectionalist recognizes in Free Schools the odor of 'Yankeedom,' the advocate of Caste declaims against Free Schools as detrimental to the contentment of the poor." The Somerset County school commissioners mentioned a lack of zeal for the new education system, but attributed these sentiments to the divisive nature of the recent Civil War. According to this argument, it was too soon to expect people to forget the past and unite to support a new state institution.

The last report prepared before the reorganization in 1868 outlined the major objections to the 1865 education law. Citizens viewed the state Board of Education as too far removed from the people, having too much authority, and being too political. The expense of the system was deemed too high. Many counties objected to the distribution of the school tax whereby it seemed that wealthier parts of the state were supporting the poorer sections, an argument not necessarily diminished over time.

Sources: (1) State Superintendent of Public Instruction (Report with Appendix of Reports of Presidents of Boards of School Commissioners) House Journal and Documents 1866 E [MSA PD1267, MdHR 812489]; (2) State Superintendent of Public Instruction (Annual Report) House and Senate Documents 1868 [MSA PD971; MdHR 812600]

by Pat Melville

During the last quarter of FY98 researchers continued to challenge the expertise of the archivists. Women's studies included loss of citizenship of the Chinese in Baltimore, Margaret Brent, and Margaret Mackall Taylor, wife of President Zachary Taylor. African American topics encompassed the slave trade in Maryland, slavery during the Civil War, and slavery in Baltimore. One researcher was seeking information about the Piscataway and Nanticoke Indians.

Local history subjects concerned Londontown, Fort Meade, architectural designs in downtown Annapolis, and Fells Point. Religious studies involved Mount Zion Apostolic Church, Quakers in Howard County, St. Mary's Church in Annapolis, St. Philip's Protestant Episcopal Church, St. Michael's Parish in Talbot County, Catholics in Montgomery County, St. Leo's Church in Baltimore City, and St. Martin's Lutheran Church.

Research related to seafood included oyster licenses and oysters. Transportation topics pertained to the history of highways in Maryland and the Baltimore subway system. Political subjects involved voting behaviors, Maryland Democratic platform in 1879, and mobilization during the Civil War. Business studies concerned the Yacht Basin in Eastport and Maryland Inn in Annapolis.

Military research included the naval militia, 5th Regiment in the National Guard, a Civil War jacket, prisoner of war camps, and Hessians in the Revolution. Miscellaneous topics concerned soil conservation techniques, 18th century settlements in Western Maryland, early Maryland medical history, and Washington, DC.

by Robert Barnes

Russell R. Menard in "British Migration to the Chesapeake Colonies in the Seventeenth Century," Colonial Chesapeake Society, Edited by Lois Green Carr et al., p. 99-132, stated that the chances of a male indentured servant achieving a satisfactory life style were pretty high until 1660, and then declined, especially after 1680. After this time former servants often left the region in search of better prospects elsewhere. What constitutes a "satisfactory life?" Dr. R.J. Rockefeller suggests that some indicators of this satisfactory life may be: a) surviving servitude; b) achieving economic independence; c) attaining some status in the community - church, office, or reputation; and /or d) marrying and establishing a family.

Research is identifying a growing number of servants who came after 1680, remained in Maryland, and attained in some degree one or more of the indicators of satisfactory life. Anthony Chamness, Francis Clarvo, Miles Hennis, Thomas Knightsmith, Benjamin Lego, Joseph Peregoy, Amos Pilgrim, William Winchester, to name a few, all arrived in Maryland as servants. They all survived, acquired property, married, and established families, and except for Chamness and Pilgrim, stayed in Maryland.

Richard Burdus was a servant who survived his term of service and went on to become the Clerk of the Provincial Court. A bookkeeper of Newcastle Upon Tyne on 24 Dec 1734, age 20, he signed his indenture, agreeing to serve William Burge of London, chapman, for 5 years in Maryland (List of Emigrants from England to America, 1718-1759, by Jack and Marion Kaminkow, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1989, p. 33). He was almost certainly the son of Richard Burdus of All Saints, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, who married Mary Rewcastle on 26 Oct 1698 at All Saints. Richard, Sr. and Mary had four children (The International Genealogy Index, compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints): Tho[mas], baptized 19 September 1700; Rich[ard], baptized 20 November 1702 (and probably died young); Henry, baptized 30 November 1707; and Richard, baptized 22 May 1714.

Soon after completing his service, Richard Burdus began to make a place for himself in society. He married Mary Thorpe on 21 March 1741/2 in St. Anne's Parish, Anne Arundel County (AnneArundel County Church Records of the 17th and 18th Centuries, by F. Edward Wright, Westminster: Family Line Publications, n.d., p. 99). On Easter Monday (4 April) 1743 Burdus was elected Church Warden of St. Anne's Parish, succeeding Asbury Sutton ("Vestry Proceedings, St. Anne's Parish," Maryland Historical Magazine, VIII (1913), 364-365). Mary Burdus served as godmother to Mary Green, daughter of Jonas and Ann Catherine Green, at the child's baptism in St. Anne's Parish on 31 January 1745/6 (Anne Arundel Church Records, op. cit., p. 101).

Richard Burdus placed several ads in the Maryland Gazette. On 16 December 1746 he was asking the person who borrowed his Statute Book to return it. With William Chapman, Jr. on 30 March 1748 he advertised the sale of the tract What You Will, at the head of the South River. In May 1749 Burdus advertised that he had lost a long green purse at Annapolis, and that he had a house for rent. In October 1750 Burdus advertised the sale of a tract in Dorchester County, called Nancy's Lot, and he wanted a sell a negro woman and her three children.

By February 1752 Burdus had become Clerk of the Provincial Court, when he gave notice to the Sheriffs. The following week, as Clerk of the City of Annapolis, he advertised that the old market house would be sold, and a new one erected (Maryland Gazette, 13 February and 20 February 1752). A notice in the Maryland Gazette of 11 September 1755 stated that household furniture at the house where Burdus "now lives" was to be sold.

Burdus died in May 1756 in Frederick County, Maryland. He had been a resident of Annapolis for many years, and clerk of the Provincial Court, but had resigned in 1755 due to ill health. Mary Burdus, Richard's widow, living on Green Street in Annapolis, advertised she would take in boarders (Maryland Gazette, 15 July 1756).


Because of vacation schedules, the next issue of the Bulldog will appear on Monday, August 24.

Founded 1987

Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
Patricia V. Melville, Editor
Mimi Calver, Assistant Editor
Lynne MacAdam, Web Editor
Rita Molter, Circulation

The Maryland State Archives is an independent agency in the Office of Governor Parris N. Glendening and is advised by the Hall of Records Commission. The Acting Chairman of the Hall of Records Commission is the Honorable Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The Archivists' Bulldog is issued bi-monthly to publicize records collections, finding aids, and other activities of the Archives and its staff. Subscription cost is $25 per year, and the proceeds go to the State Archives Fund. To subscribe, please send your name, address, and remittance to: the Maryland State Archives, 350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1686. Phone: MD toll free: (800) 235 4045; or (410) 260-6400. FAX: (410) 974 3895. E-mail: The Editor welcomes editorial comments and contributions from the public.

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