Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Lot 17

Brookeville, Montgomery County, Maryland
Owned by Joseph E. Bentley and Caleb Bentley, 1810-1825


Lot 17 lies at the west end of Market Street in Brookeville, Maryland.1 Greenbury Murphy, a brief resident of Brookeville, bought the lot from Caleb Pancoast in 1807 and constructed a two-story brick home on the property. Murphy, a blacksmith, most likely also built a workshop on the property. Joseph E. Bentley and Caleb Bentley purchased the house and lot from Murphy in February of 1810.2 After selling the property to the Bentleys, Murphy moved to Pennsylvania, where he would eventually become involved in local law enforcement.3 In 1813, the lot and house were assessed at $200.4 By 1815, the house had a new occupant, the town's blacksmith John McCauley.5 McCauley owned the house for over a decade until he was unable to repay a number of debts that he owed Caleb and Joseph E. Bentley. In 1824, the county Sheriff seized the lot and the house and sold the property at auction to generate money to pay McCauley's debts. At auction, William Brown placed the highest bidder and purchased the lot and the house for $475, a sale which was finalized early in 1825.6

Kyle Bacon, DAR Research Fellow, 2012; Megan O'Hern, 2014


  1. Plat of Brookeville, likely copy of original by Richard Thomas, c. 1800 [MSA SC 6023-1-2].
  2. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) June 13, 1807, Liber N, p. 263, Deed, Caleb Pancoast to Greenbury Murphy, Lot 17 in Brookeville [MSA CE 148-14]MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record) 1798-1812, 1807 Assessment for District 4, p 321. [MSA C1110-2, 1/18/14/18]MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) February 17, 1810, Liber O, p. 440, Deed, Greenbury Murphy to Caleb and Joseph E. Bentley, lot 17 in Brookeville [MSA CE 148-15]MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record), 1813 Tax Assessment (District 4), Lots and Houses in Brookeville, MdHR 20,115-3-1 [MSA C1110-3, 01/18/14/019]. Murphy constructed his house on lot 17 between 1807 and 1809. In 1807, the tax assessment listed the lot as "unimproved," meaning that there were no structures built upon it. That year, Murphy purchased the lot for $45, which was an average price for an empty lot in Brookeville at the time. By the time Murphy sold the lot in 1810, the value had increased to $500, signifying that a house had been built on the lot.
  3. Peters, Richard, By Authority of Congress: The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846), p. 278; Greenbury H. Murphy, "Sheriffalty," Democratic Republican, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, August 26, 1818, Volume 1, Issue 43, p. 3. In this article, Murphy announced his intention to run for Sheriff of Franklin County, Pennsylvania
  4. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record), 1813 Tax Assessment (District 4), Lots and Houses in Brookeville, MdHR 20,115-3-1 [MSA C1110-3, 01/18/14/019]. The values stated in tax assessments do not necessarily represent true property values, and likely understate values significantly.
  5. According to the county tax assessment from 1815, McCauley paid taxes on the lot and house in Brookeville, suggesting his ownership of the land. See: MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record), 1815 Tax Assessment (District 4), Changes to the Assessment, MdHR 20,115-3-1 [MSA C1110-3, 01/18/14/019]. Though the assessment record and the sheriff's seizure of the property to repay McCauley's debts both suggest that McCauley owned lot 17, no formal land deed conveying the land from the Bentleys to McCauley is recorded in the county land records. Additionally, in a separate deed selling lot 17 from the Bentleys to William Brown, the Bentleys make explicit that they alone are the legal owners of the land, indicating that the ownership of the land was either questioned or contested by McCauley. See: MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) February 19. 1825, Liber X, p. 576, Deed, Caleb and Joseph E. Bentley to William Brown, lot 17 in Brookeville [MSA CE 148-25]. The sheriff may have mistakenly sold the land thinking that McCauley owned it, or McCauley may have claimed to own the land when in actuality it still belonged to the Bentleys.
  6. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) November 23, 1824, Liber X, p. 582, Deed, William Clements (Sheriff) to William Brown, lot 17 in Brookeville [MSA CE 148-25].

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