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Captain Berry's Will
Debauchery, Miscegenation, & Family Strife
Among 18th Century Gentry


Whether or not Archibald Boyd mended his manners, Colonel Beall lived long enough to bury him as well as Captain Berry. Boyd died in the summer of 1792, leaving his widow, Ann, and at least one child, Robert. His personal estate, including six slaves worth £ 130, was appraised at about £ 180. [ 26 ]

Colonel Beall was married again, in 1787 to Elizabeth Waring, widow of Basil Waring. [ 27 ] He died early in 1796. His will names his widow, Elizabeth, a daughter, two granddaughters, a son, and a grandson. [ 28] He left 2000 acres of land and personal property worth £ 1180.1.4. [ 29 ]

John Frederick Augustus Priggs was also married again, to Eleanor (last name unknown). He died in the summer of 1796, leaving about 1000 acres of land and personal property, including ten slaves worth £ 380 and 81 1/2 ounces of plate worth £ 32.19.2, appraised at £ 739.11.8 1/4. [ 30 ]

Dr. John Stewart died in Bladensburg in the summer of 1797, leaving a lot in Bladensburg, 116 acres elsewhere, and personal property, including about twenty slaves, 35 ounces of plate, and a huge library of 581 books and 393 pamphlets, appraised at £ 2641.17.4. [ 31 ]

Henry Brookes moved to Montgomery County, Prince George's County’s neighbor to the north, and died in the spring of 1807. His will names his widow, Martha, seven children, and four grandchildren. [ 32 ] In 1798, when he had already given his son Walter 363 acres in Prince George's County and his daughter Eleanor Magruder an undetermined amount of property, he had 786 3/4 acres of land assessed at £ 753.18.7 and personal property assessed at £ 698 (including sixteen slaves, £ 377, and 60 ounces of plate, £ 25). [ 33]

William Cooke moved to Charles County and died in June 1819. His will names five children and one grandchild. His personal property, including nineteen slaves, was appraised at $6045.33 1/4. [ 34 ]

Of Thomas Marshall nothing further is known.

In 1787 Little Billy reached the age of eighteen and took over his father's estate, which Colonel Beall had been administering as his guardian. [ 35 ] Including Sibb and children and twenty-three other negroes worth £ 1296.05, it was appraised at £ 1860.17.10 [ 36 ]; but it was burdened with debts. Little Billy sold 467 acres of land to pay the debts and the legacies in the will and passed the second account, which had a balance of £ 1291.12.1. [ 37 ] In 1790 he was still single and had ten slaves. [ 38 ] In 1793, when he had a wife, Lucy, he sold 1212 acres on the Eastern Branch to James Greenleaf, one of the original developers of Washington, D.C., for $5757.00. [ 39 ] He must have owed most of this sum, for the highest assessment of his combined real and personal property was about £ 1500. He reached this peak about 1804, by which time he had changed his name from William Berry Warman to William Warman Berry. He had 922 3/4 acres, twenty-six slaves, (two of them smiths), and ten ounces of plate. [ 40 ] In 1802 he was married for the second time, to Margery Belt, [ 41 ] and in 1804 he was elected to the House of Delegates. [ 42 ] Also in 1804, he sired a male illegitmate child by Amelia Wallingford. [ 43 ] In 1807 he was assessed for 529 5/8 acres, twenty-five slaves (one smith), and two ounces of plate;[ 44 ] and he was married to Nancy (Ann) Beall, who was to be his widow. [ 45 ]

In December 1808 William Warman Berry died, leaving Ann and six children by his former marriages. His personal estate was appraised at £ 1979.51; but his debts were much greater than that, and the debts of £ 1615.1.11 1/2 owed to the estate were all judged desperate - that is, hopeless. [ 46 ] In November 1809 the personal estate was sold. Ann bought, on credit, $845.32 worth of things needed for farming. In 1813, when the timber on the lands would not bring enough to pay the rest of the debts, 134 acres of land were sold for $2257.90. In the same year Ann petitioned the Orphans' Court to allow the estate to pay her $587.25 for part of "the support of the family in a decent and, your petitioner hopes, in a respectable manner for upwards of four years." [ 47 ]

In 1815, William Warman Berry's estate, consisting of 400 acres of land, was distributed equally among the seven heirs: the widow, Ann Berry, and the six children, Charles M. Berry (Midshipman, U. S. N.), Lucy Berry, Brooke Magruder Berry, William Berry (Midshipman, U. S. N.), Matilda (Berry) Young, and Eliza Berry. [ 48 ]

William Warman Berry's mother, Ann, as Archibald Boyd might have put it, lived to bury all the other dramatis personae except William Cook. John Vinson, her husband, is in the earliest extant assessment of Montgomery County, 1793, in District 2, Potowmack and Sugarland Hundreds. He has no land but has six slaves and other personal property all together assessed at £ 193. As the last assesssment he appears in is that of 1804, he probably died about then, though the first account of his estate was not proved until 1812. In the assessment of 1810 Mrs. Ann Vinson appears with personal property that seems about the same as what John was assessed for in 1804: he had nine slaves, she had twelve (six under eight years); his total assessment was £ 179, hers £ 176.10. There is no change for her in 1811 or 1812, and she appears in the new list in 1813 with what looks like the same property but is assessed higher. As Ann is not in the next new list, 1820, she probably died in 1818 or l819, the year of the final account of John's estate, which showed a balance of $517.27 3/4.

Sibb and her children, two of whom Captain Berry intended to free but did not, no doubt lived out their lives in slavery.

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© Maryland State Archives, 2000