Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Haunted Heritage Strange Sightings and Sounds at Ancestral Home

My story published Halloween  Genealogy Magazine
The Barnett family made headlines at Dent’s Palace in Dentsville, Maryland. Reports of nebulous sightings and strange tapping sounds were coming from a Continental Army officer, a young woman, a peg-legged Confederate, and one yellow cat.

According to the Barnetts, the ghosts are explainable and have a connection to the home. The Continental Army officer was from the ancestral seat of one of Southern Maryland’s prominent early settlers, John Dent (1709-1791), who built the home. He married Mary Hatch, daughter of Captain John Hatch. The apparition of the young woman is believed to be the Dents’ granddaughter, Ann Dent Bean, the youngest daughter of Captain Hezekiah Dent.

The Confederate soldier, according to local lore, died while he was given refuge at Dent’s Palace. As for the cat, no one was sure, but it was definitely a paranormal stray. Until then, the most celebrated ghost in the neighborhood was known as Blue Dog.

Dent’s Palace hostess Lillian Bowling Middleton Barnett (1918-2011), nicknamed "Cotton Tops" or "Cotton" because of her sparkling taffy hair, was one of Maryland’s biggest socialites. She was the daughter of Arthur Joseph Middleton and Mary Ethel Burch (Swaim).

Lillian was an artist, antique collector, and a history buff. Her mother, Mary, came who came to live with the family, was the daughter of Mary Caroline "Carrie" Gardiner, a descendant of Richard Gardiner of the Charles County militia. The mother-daughter team opened the home for garden parties and occasional historic tours for the Daughters of the American Revolution and other organizations.

Lillian and her husband, Arnold William Barnett, purchased Dent’s Palace in 1958. Their four children either witnessed the specters or felt a presence. Also, a maid who reported sightings was featured in one of the newspaper stories.

The estate was big enough for everyone, even for the spirited whiskers who Lillian told reporters spent most of his time in the dining room. The estate was a beautiful 12-room brick mansion and the grounds had the setting for a good haunt— a burial plot dated before the Revolution. The home was built in 1720 and two additions dating 1730 and 1750 made it a “telescope structure.”

The original locks, doors, and floors were still intact. The Barnetts never made renovations as they did not want to disturb their “housemates.”

In 1972, the family told a reporter that the peg-legged Confederate was the first to make contact and was not shy about it. On the first night in their new home, he made a persistent shuffle, tap, shuffle, tap sound. They assumed the tapping code was the wooden leg. The soldier allegedly died on the third floor from a battle wound.

The tall officer in the Continental Army uniform visited often and was usually hanging around the fire “gazing pensively into the flames.” Which brave Dent hero was feeling a little chilly on the other side? It’s hard to say, but during their lifetime they were hot-tempered patriots and fought in the Revolutionary War.

Captain Hezekiah Dent received his commission in 1777, as First Lieutenant of Captain Isaac McPherson's Company of the Lower Battalion of Charles County Militia. In 1779, he was raised to Captain of the 12th Battalion of Militia.

Hezekiah’s widow, Martha, sold the property to their youngest daughter, Ann, who married Thomas O. Bean. Ann died in childbirth in 1839 at age 28. Her spirit, often spotted near the kitchen, had encounters with Lillian and her mother on more than one occasion.

Lillian noted the spirit’s extensive wardrobe in one interview with reporter Jim Birchfield in the Evening Star Washington in 1960. “She appeared in several different dresses,” Lillian said, “and she always had her hair covered by something resembling a scarf.”

No one in the Barnett home were spooked or wanted to move. Lillian, whose art studio was on the top floor, told the press, “Our ghosts are not poltergeist—they’re nice and friendly!” However, Lillian may have felt more at home communing with dead. Her Burch ancestor married a Dent from the homestead. That would be Captain Hezekiah Dent and Martha Burch, daughter of John Burch and Mary Ann Burch, who married in 1774.

Now are you getting chills?

Notable Kinfolks

Reverend Hatch Dent Jr. was commissioned an Ensign in Smallwood’s battalion. A Third Lieutenant in the Ninth Company (Light Infantry) of the First Maryland Regiment, he fought in the Battle of Long Island and was captured by the enemy. He spent several grueling months in one of the infamous British prison ships in Wallabout Bay. In 1777, he was promoted to captain in the Second Maryland Regiment. After the war, he became an eminent teacher and minister of the Church, having been ordained by Bishop Seabury in 1785.

George Dent served as first lieutenant of militia of Charles and St. Mary's counties under Captain Thomas H. Marshall, and as first lieutenant in the Third Battalion of the Flying Camp Regular Troops of Maryland in 1776. He was also appointed a captain in the Twenty-sixth Battalion of the Maryland Militia in 1778. After the war, he served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate.


  • Collamer, Newton L., ed. “The Dent Family in America.” The Historical Bulletin: Devoted to Genealogy, Patriotism and Historical Research, Volume VII (1905).
  • Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties, Connecticut: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and of many of the Early Settled Families, Volume 1 Chicago: J. H. Beers, 1903.
  • Hamer, Olga S. “Dent’s Place, Part 1.” The Record, Number 23 (1981). 
  • Lloyd, Daniel Boone. The Middletons and Kindred Families of Southern Maryland. Bethesda, Md.: the author, 1975. 
  • Love, Philip. “Three Ghosts, or Is It Four?” Toledo Blade, January 24, 1972. 
  • Newman, Wright Harry. Charles County Gentry: A Genealogical History of Six Emigrants - Thomas Dent, John Dent, Richard Edelen, John Hanson, George Newman, Humphrey Warren. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1940. 
  • Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Ullmann, Helen Schatvet. Colony of Connecticut, Minutes of the Court of Assistants, 1669—1711. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Case of Quaker Elizabeth Richardson and George Washington's Ancestral Lines

In my Quaker research I found this case and will further investigate Elizabeth Richardson and her history in England as a Quaker. 

According to an article published in the Washington Times 17th century Maryland was rich in witchcraft history. There are cases noted in archives and one is a local folk tale that has become Maryland’s most popular witch lore.

These earlier witchcraft cases recorded in the Maryland State Archives* were tragic, some even resulted in executions. The cases were always based on some ridiculous charges of superstition.

However, for Elizabeth Richardson witchcraft was just a convenient cover up to dodge any problems with Puritan authorities. In 1658, the ship Sarah Artch bound for Maryland out of England claimed they a supposive "Sea Witch" on board, but what they really had was a Quaker.   

Edward Prescott, merchant/co-owner and John Greene, ship master ordered the crew to execute Elizabeth Richardson after it was brought to their attention they were ferreting a Quaker.

The laws for any vessel transporting Quakers into the colonies was a 100 pound fine and a major hassle from the Puritan Republic

After "fashioning a hangman's noose slipped around her neck and dropped her from the yardarm"  Prescott and Greene assumed it was smooth sailing

What was not suspected by Prescott and Greene was for passenger John Washington, great grandfather of George Washington, to lodge a complaint for the hanging of Elizabeth Richardson for witchcraft on his ship.
Washington felt it was an outrage, and filed a complaint to Josias Fendall, governor of the Maryland province. Fendall had Prescott arrested and set a court date for October 4 1659 and sent a correspondence to Washington summoning him from Virginia. He desired Washington to bring all witnesses who were present at the execution of Elizabeth. Washington's son was to be baptized that day and requested to have court moved to the next morning and promised to appear. Images from  George Washington Blog

Bottle seal of John Washington found at his original home site in Virginia below
The summons reply from Archives of Maryland Volume 41 Washington to Fendall: Court records from Archives of Maryland Volume 41

Fendall did not change the court date to the following day and followed through with the interrogation of Prescott who claimed although he was the ship owner, Master Greene, along with his crew "were ready to mutiny" and he had no choice. Prescott was acquitted and no further charges were brought against him in this matter.

According to records John Washington came to Virginia as early as July of 1659. He brought a wife and two children, and a son was born in September. It is a pretty straight story that he lodged a complaint against the ship's captain for the execution of a passenger, Elizabeth Richardson, as a witch. Mr. F. A. Winder (London Athenaeum, July 19, 1890) notes that two of the Washingtons had by marriage the name Elizabeth Richardson, one being a grandaunt of the immigrant. 

BUT there is an article "John Washington on a Trading voyage in the East Country," by W. G. Packard

And Next this one

*Other cases of Witchcraft Aboard the Charity bound for Maryland from England hanged an old woman named Mary Lee after she was accused of sorcery. Her supposed crime: summoning a relentless storm that some on board blamed on “the malevolence of witches.” (1654)
Oct. 9, 1685, in Calvert County. Rebecca Fowler was hanged after a jury found her guilty of “certain evil and diabolical arts called witchcrafts, enchantments, charms [and] sorceries.”
Hannah Edwards of Calvert County, was acquitted in 1686 of similar charges.

"17th Century Witches at Sea" William H Cooke
"The Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger Among the Pilgrims" by David Lindsay"Crimes and Punishments in Early Maryland" by Raphael Semmes
"The English Colonization of America During the Seventeenth Century" by Edward Deffield Neill
"The History and Topography of the United States of North America: Brought Down from the Earliest Period"
"Witchcraft A Part of Marylan's Past" Washington Times Sunday, October 10, 2004
Witch Hunts in the DC Area - Older Than You Think
"The Washingtons Of Warton" Tuesday, July 29, 1890 New York Tribune (New York, New York)
"Washington Arms Seen at Warton" Saturday, January 25, 1913 San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California)
"Early Washington's" Sunday, January 4, 1931 Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana)
"Old World Offers us Reminders of Our Heritage" us of Sunday, May 19, 1957 Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)
"Christ Church Files Stars and Stripes" Wednesday, August 11, 1926 Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey)
The Nation Volume 52