… first home in America, that is, according to the sworn statement of Philip Myers (1759-1835).
Thursday, May 23
After boarding Amtrak’s Capitol Express around 3 AM in Cleveland, I disembarked at noon in the tiny tourist town of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The route through the Appalachians is quite spectacular.A telephoto view of Harper’s Ferry from a mile or two downriver:Although there is a tremendous amount of American history at this National Historic Monument, I know of no connection to my family, and I didn’t spend much time there. I rented a car in nearby Charles Town, and drove the 30 miles to my destination, Frederick, Maryland. This turned out to be a big logistical advantage over the alternative, continuing by train to Washington DC, where car rentals are plentiful, but big-city traffic unattractive. I got enough of that in Chicago.
As you may recall, I missed my planned meeting in Frederick with cousin Paula Howell. She briefed me by phone on her work at the courthouse the previous day or two, which was apparently not fruitful. We have still found no information on the parents of Philip Myers, who by his own statement, settled here in 1766 as a boy of about seven years.
Our most promising stepping stone (pardon the pun) seems to be Philip’s brother, Michael Myers (1768-1815). Click on Michael’s dates to see his profile in my family tree; click on his name to see a page assembled from several blog articles on him. The stone is located in Mount Olivet Cemetery, near downtown Frederick. The inscription on Michael’s stone was familiar from the image I found on findagrave.com, as was the general appearance of the monument.
I found many more relatives at the cemetery, but will save that for another post. The relationships are complicated and need a little more research. My first stop was the historical society’s library, where I searched their collection of church and civil records for Michael Myers’ birth. I had seen many of these records before, in Salt Lake City and on microfilms borrowed from there. Although I had found birth records for several of his children, Michael himself eluded me yet again.
Later, I drove out to the countryside north of Frederick, where I had mapped the farm where Michael and his family lived from approx. 1793 to 1850 (Michael himself died in 1815).
I could not get near the site of Myers Ford. The road now ends a half-mile short, and the route is so overgrown that even walking it was not feasible. Driving the area, looking for ancient structures or features, I found only modern suburban homes and “gentleman’s farms,” until stumbling upon an extremely old farm compound. The owner, Glen Burriss, happened to be working outside when I drove up.When Mr. Burriss bought the farm 15 years ago, he did some research on its history. He found that this house (where he and his wife still live) was built in 1826, as was a stone “bank-barn” just a few yards away.This was a very exciting discovery. At first, I thought that it may actually be the Myers farmstead. Although built a decade after Michael’s death, his widow still lived on their farm with her teenage children, and such structures could have been built by hired help, and the family’s several slaves.
However, closer study of the map showed that the Burriss compound is about a quarter-mile outside the area outlined on my map. You can see the buildings just above the words “Google earth.” Also, it is a half-mile south (a full mile as the river winds) from the spot marked as Myers Ford. On the other hand, there is an overgrown, long-abandoned roadbed leading directly from the Burriss’ house to the river, and a similar abandoned road on the other side. The river is very shallow at that point, all suggesting there was once a ford at this location, as well as “Myers Ford” upstream.
In conclusion, I have decided that this farm, named “Resolution,” was most likely a next-door neighbor to Michael Myers. I am working on finding the name of its owner in those days. No doubt the families knew each other well, and perhaps even intermarried. We will see the names of several such marriages on grave markers in the next post.