Ole Larson's Folks

Michael Myers (1768-1815)

Philip’s Brother Michael

Here is a photo I took in 2013. As proven below, it is indeed my fourth great grand-uncle, Michael Myers.

Michael inscription

Its location is Mt. Olivet cemetery, Frederick, MD, in which also lies the grave of Francis Scott Key, writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Michael Myers (brother of Philip) is the great-great grandfather of Dr. Charles Myers, author of  “A Connecticut Yankee in Penn’s Woods: the Life and Times of Thomas Bennet.” Michael Myers is not my direct ancestor, but I studied him closely, in hopes it would lead to his (and Philip’s) parents, who purportedly immigrated from Germany, and settled in Frederick, MD in the 1760′s, but who are otherwise a total mystery, including even their names.

My late cousin Paula Howell also worked on this puzzle, including engaging a professional genealogist in Frederick. He gathered a lot of documents on Michael, including his will. My early finds took me to some newspaper abstracts.

Myers’ in the news (c. 1800)

TitleUnfortunately, that is a misprint; the beginning date of volume 1 is actually 1786. Volume 2 covers 1799-1805. Unfortunate, because the years just after 1768 may have contained references to Philip and Lawrence, who by 1786 were already war veterans living in Pennsylvania. Of course, it is likely that newspapers did not exist in western Maryland prior to that year, or that no earlier copies have survived.

Nov. 22, 1797: “Michael Myers, 2 miles from Creager’s Town, Hunting Creek, Fred. co., selling waggons [sic] of all dimensions.”  A rough location of Michael’s property.

Jul. 24, 1802: “Levy Court of Fred co. ‘turned out of office’ a long list of officials appointed the previous year; new appointments in their stead: Supervisors: … Michael Myers …” Michael had a role as a county official. There are several other official appointments of this or another Michael Myers.

Jan. 21, 1803: “Appointments … Justice of the Peace: … Michael Myer” [one of 22 names]

May 27, 1803: “Supervisors of Roads appointed for Fred. co. … Mich. Myers” [one of 47 names]

Jan. 4, 1804: “Appointed Justices of the Peace … Michael Meyer” [one of 33 names]

May 4, 1804: “Commissioners have laid out county into nine election districts (boundaries described) – … Michael Myers …” [one of 4 names – names of commissioners??]

Nov. 15, 1805 : “Michael Myers adm. of Frederick Kahrn, Fred co.” [‘adm:’ administrator of estate]

While there is no evidence that all these are the same person, the various spellings of the name do not necessarily indicate they were different people either, given the absence of any spelling uniformity in those days.

There are only a couple of references to Henry Myers, but the first one is definitely a “skeleton in the closet:”

Aug. 2, 1796: “Henry Myers, Fred Town, cautions persons from trusting his wife, Catherine Myers, on his account, as he is determined not to pay any debts of her contracting.” Oooo – domestic strife. And  in the very next issue:

Aug. 10, 1796: “Kitty Myers, Fred Town, answers aspersions cast on her conduct by recent item by Mr. Myers.” Those two articles may not be likely to contain more clues for me, but I would like to read them, just for the scandal value. Finally,

Dec. 30, 1801: “Names of persons, not residents of said co, who are chargeable for 1801 tax on land in Allegany co. (names of tracts and numbers on lots given): … Henry Myers …” That could be another potential land record to search for.

Michael Myers of Frederick County, part 1

Several documents on MDLandrec.net for Frederick County name Michael Myers; examining them together proves that the land Michael owned, except for the first parcel, was in the location described in his 1796  newspaper notice as a wagonmaker.

The earliest transaction is dated 1 Mar. 1790, when Michael Myers purchased a lot in Woods Town from the original grantee of the entire area, Col. Joseph Wood. Woods Town is now known as Woodboro, a village several miles north of Frederick, and just east of Creagerstown. The price for this lot was six pounds, plus an annual rent of 7 shillings 6 pence to be paid Col. Wood “forever.” It seems that it was a common practice to charge a purchase price plus an annual rent for a town lot.

The next transaction is the only one so far discovered in which Michael Myers sold any land. After only a year, in 5 Oct. 1791, Michael “flipped” his lot in Woods Town, selling it for 18 pounds and change (plus the same rent to Col. Wood). Presumably, he built a house or made other improvements to treble its value. The buyer’s name was Philip Henry Myers. Most likely, this was Michael’s brother Henry. Perhaps their brother Philip helped with the financing, and the record actually meant Philip and Henry Myers.

There is an interesting detail in this 1791 transaction, one that is not included in the few other documents I have studied so far. Here, Michael Myers’ occupation is given, as “Blacksmitti” [sic].  This will assume some importance in connecting him with the next documents, even though his occupation is not stated in them.

On 1 June 1793, Michael Myers purchased from Christian Shriock a small parcel (1.75 acres) of a tract of land called “Lisbon.” Two years later, he purchased an adjoining 94 acres. This land lay along the wagon road between Frederick Town and Creager’s Town, which was also the main road connecting the German settlements in Pennsylvania with those in Virginia and Carolina. Indeed, parties of Germans had been passing through western Maryland long before they began their first settlement there in 1729.

That first German settlement, named Monocacy (same as the nearby river), was razed in an Indian raid during the French-Indian War, and the village of Creager’s Town was platted on an adjacent site afterward. By Revolutionary times, the area was occupied by a great many German-Americans, including the family of young Philip Myers, his parents(?) and siblings.

As for “Lisbon,” of which Michael purchased a large portion, here is a surveyors description and diagram of its boundaries, dated 1761.

1793 diagramI drew the boundaries of Michael’s parcels myself from the surveyor’s descriptions, as no diagrams were provided. The course of the road was not given, except that it touches some or all of the western boundary of Michael’s lots.

Hunting Creek arises in the mountains west of Thurmont, running through that town, then to the south. Just before joining the Monacacy River, it crosses “Old Frederick Road” about two miles south of Creagerstown, the very location where the paper said Michael was selling wagons.  Here is where the Old Frederick Road crosses Hunting Creek. The image is about one mile wide.

FishingCreek

There is one more vital event in this time period: the marriage of Michael Myers and Elizabeth Fout on 06 Oct. 1792. They had ten children, at least four of whom survived to adulthood. One of those, Madison Myers, married his Pennsylvania cousin Harriet Myers, daughter of Philip, thus tying the two family branches closer together.

Myers Ford

Michael Myers continued to purchase land in the Hunting Creek area. He must have been a pretty successful blacksmith and wagon builder. When he purchased the first parcel in Lisbon, he paid about 9-1/2 pounds. Two years later he paid 470 pounds for the adjacent 94 acres. If I am not mistaken, 470 pounds was a lot of money in 1795, especially for a blacksmith. Perhaps there was dowry money?

In 1796, Michael bought about 12 acres on Little Hunting Creek, a tributary that empties into Hunting Creek about three miles from the mouth. Further research shows that this land was actually on the main branch of Hunting Creek, very near his parcels at Lisbon. More significantly, on 26 May 1797, he purchased a 12-acre portion of  “Hampton Plain,” a tract that lies on the west bank of the Monocacy, at the mouth of Hunting Creek.

Now we have a precise location for at least one piece of Michael’s land. Mike Pierce, a Maryland land specialist who has been helping me through “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness,” looked up a topographic map from 1911 at mytopo.com; here is a close-up of the mouth of Hunting Creek:

Topog MapEureka! Just yards from the stream’s mouth is a river crossing named “Myers Ford,” a name that had stuck for at least a century after Michael Myers lived there. It makes sense that a wagon maker would set up shop near a river ford, where wagons would be vulnerable to damage. Perhaps Michael even took part in maintaining the crossing, which may have been a formidable job. As icing on the cake, there is also “Shyrocks Mill,” obviously a variant spelling on the surname of the individual from whom Michael bought those first two parcels, Christian Shriock.

Trouble In Woods Town

The earliest record I found of land purchase by a Michael Myers was in Woods Town (also known as Woodsberry, Woodbury, and today is called Woodsboro). Michael bought lot #4 in 1790, and sold it just a year later, to a “Philip Henry Myers,” whom I believe was Michael’s brother Henry. But on 1 March 1799, Michael Myers bought the same lot again, not from its owner, but from the sheriff of Frederick County!

Deed

The land was seized in a court-issued “writ of Fieri Facias,” which is a seizure of property to satisfy a debt. The writ was issued against not “Philip Henry Myers,” but “Henry Myers,” and Michael along with him. (My mentor, Mike Pierce, thinks that including Michael may have been an error, but there may be more to it.)

Here is what Mike Pierce said about the 1799 transaction:

This is a case of the somewhat unique Maryland system of Ground Rents. When Joseph Wood conveyed the property in 1790, it was not a a real sale. The land was “assigned” to Michael Myers who then had to pay annual “ground rent” of 7 shillings, 6 pence forever. He never really owned the land, only what he built on it. This is the system today in much of Baltimore.

In WR 11:177, 7 May 1792, Joseph Wood transferred all his ground rents in Woodberry Town to Adam Creager, who then had the right to collect them. I suspect that Henry Myers didn’t pay the rent, so Adam Creager took action ( I presume through his lawyer David Lynn). From the deed in WR 10:297, it would seem that Philip Henry Myers was responsible for paying the rent, but the writ maybe incorrectly also names Michael. Anyway, Michael came up with the money to pay the back rent and regained ownership.

Since the current deeds do not mention a ground rent, I presume they were extinguished by being purchased by the property owner some time ago.

These ground rents are continuing to cause trouble when people think they buy a property and don’t know about the rent and then lose their home. The Maryland legislature passed new laws last year to correct this, but the land owners have filed lawsuits to block the new law.

So, this is what it looks like: 200-odd years ago, shoemaker Henry Myers didn’t pay his rent; then blacksmith Michael Myers intervened, to “save” the home. Sure sounds like brothers to me. Here is a section of the topog map showing the close proximity of Woodsboro, Creagerstown, and Michael’s property at Myers Ford. Click on the image to enlarge.

topographic map

After this transaction, Michael continued buying pieces of land at Hunting Creek. Next post, we will see how the pieces all fit together.

Between 1793 and 1810, Michael Myers purchased seven parcels of land, totaling approx. 168 acres, in the vicinity of Hunting creek, where it meets the Monocacy River. From the deeds and plats at MDlandrec.net, I was able to draw crude diagrams of the parcels, and superimpose them at their approximate location, roughly to scale, on the 1911 topographic map shown earlier, thanks to Mike Pierce and mytopo.com. For a larger map with more details, click on the image. I now believe that the dark blue outlines should be further east,  directly across the road from the rest of the land outlined.

Topog

It appears that Michael Myers was very successful as a self-made entrepeneur (blacksmith and wagon-maker) and a farmer. 168 acres is not a huge farm, but not trifling either. As another indicator of prosperity, although not particularly flattering, Michael, and later his widow, owned between one and five slaves between 1800 and 1850.

Other land transactions of note during this period involve Michael Myers as a trustee or administrator of several estates. Here is a list of those I found, with dates and names of deceased:

3 Jul 1808 John Carlin
10 Sep 1811 Peter Stimmel
30 Oct 1812 John Rusher
7 Jan 1814 John Rusher
27 Aug 1814 Barnhart Gilbert
9 Dec 1816* John Devilibis *The deed recorded on this date states that Michael Myers was a trustee on 5 June 1815, but had since died, and another trustee, Jacob Cramer, taken over. As we shall see in a moment, Cramer was also administrator of Michael Myers’ estate. While these dates do not prove anything, they at least suggest that this is the Michael Myers who died in 1815, as indicated on his gravestone.

1850 US Census

In the Creagerstown district of Frederick County, MD, Elizabeth Myers, age 77, was counted as head of a household. This age puts her *close* to the birth date of 1770 given on the gravestone for Elizabeth Fout Myers. Also in the household is Mary Myers, age 48, listed on the stone with birth date of 1803. Only one year off in the case of Mary, three years for elderly Elizabeth. The 1850 census was the first to include names of all household members, instead of only the head of each household. But I tracked the census entries back through 1840, 30, 20, 10, and 1800, and the numbers per age bracket match up pretty well. More on the census data in a moment.

To further cement the connection, Mike found a land sale on MDLandrec.net that ties it all together. As usual, click on the image to enlarge.

1851 land sale

This deed was issued to George Layman, who bought the land from Mary Myers on 30 Aug. 1851, for a price of $468. The description includes exactly the seven parcels that Michael purchased between 1793 and 1810! Mary, you may recall, is included on the aforementioned gravestone. Besides cementing the relationships, the deed is encouraging to me personally; it indicates that I found all of the correct land transactions, and no spurious ones.

The censuses (censi?) also counted the number of slaves with the Myers household: one (plus one “free Negro”) in 1800, two in 1810, three (plus one “free Negro”) in 1820, a high of six in 1830 (remember, the farm and business were now being managed by a widow and adult daughter, who were also apparently supporting an orphan girl), five in 1840 and 1850.

Madison Myers, the Link

This individual is the link connecting the Pennsylvania Myers’ with the Maryland branch.

Madison Stone

courtesy Find a Grave.com

Madison F. Myers was born in Maryland, and removed to the Wyoming Valley (PA), where he married Harriet Myers, daughter of Philip.

Michael and Harriet’s first daughter was named after both her grandmothers.

Children's stoneMartha, the name of Harriet’s mother, and Elisabeth (Madison’s mother). It appears that the rest of the children were named not after ancestors, but prominent public figures, including Jenny Lind, the Swedish opera star who made her famous tour of the U.S. in 1850, the year of the fourth child’s birth. Of course, Thomas Jefferson was also the given name of Madison’s brother, who lived out his life in Maryland.

Besides these four, who all died in early childhood, there were at least two other children, Frederick Benham Myers (also buried at Forty Fort), and William Penn Myers, whose name I found as a co-plaintiff with brother Franklin, in a lawsuit in 1889.Fred Benham compoBy the way, F. Benham Myers, as his tombstone is inscribed, was the grandfather of Dr. Charles E. Myers, author of a relatively recent (1993), popular history of the Wyoming valley, presented as the biography of a leading pioneer there, our common ancestor Thomas Bennet.

FEEDBACK