Jacob’s Status as farmer and father by 1783 when the Revolution Ended

Although Jacob owned a successful farm, surviving records do not indicate that Jacob owned slaves; grain did not require year around labor unlike tobacco. A tax assessment from 1783 included a column for slaves, and he was listed as having none.[1] “The economically rational antebellum wheat farmer almost always employed wage labor,” concluded historical geographer Carville V. Earle, because the crop’s seasonal labor requirements made hired farmhands “decidedly cheaper and more efficient than slaves.”[2]

Jacob had as many as three to six sons at home working his fields from the late 1770s to the late 1790s, along with a wife and one daughter who did necessary harvesting, spun wool and prepared meals and drinks.  They fulfilled traditional female roles within this household. Jacob gave or sold his son John a piece of the big farm to cultivate as his own in 1780, after turning twenty.  He also gave or sold his eldest son Jacob, Jr. a 140-acre tract named Good Luck in Antietam Hundred at about the same time.

The 1783 Washington County Tax Assessment indicated that Jacob Sr. owned 431-½ acres on Clalands Contrivance and Timber Bottom. Although incorrectly listed to Jacob, Jr., documents revealed that Jacob Sr. owned them at death. His son John was listed in the same tax assessment for Salisbury and Conococheague Hundreds.  “Jacob, Jr.” — his father’s real listing— owned 332 acres of woods, nine acres of meadow, ninety acres of arable land, nine horses, and twenty black cattle, according to this document. His son John had at the time 34 acres of woods, three acres of meadow, 35 acres of arable land, four horses and ten black cattle. Neither of the Brumbaugh property owners paid a tax on slaves, although some neighbors did so.[3]

A farmer such as Jacob could look out on his surroundings before the Revolution, and sense the bustling activity, the mounting population, and men and women of about four ethnic strains and diverse religious beliefs. The population of Maryland had swelled rapidly during the eighteenth century. While at the beginning of the century in 1700 there were about 34,000 people, of whom twelve percent were slaves, by 1782 there were over 250,000 of which thirty-three percent were slaves. In 1770, Eddis sent this account of his view of Maryland back to England: “the inhabitants are enterprising and industrious, commerce and agriculture are encouraged; and every circumstance clearly evinces that this colony is making a rapid Progress to wealth, Power and population.”[4]

By the 1770s, however, Hagerstown, or Hagerstaun as the German language printer Adam Gruber called it in his later almanacs, no longer sat on the Maryland frontier where people could find inexpensive, unoccupied land. For that, one would have to look further west. In 1770, Maryland’s populace included about five percent planters and merchant elite at the top, twenty-five percent middling farmers and townspeople such as Jacob. 


[1] Assessment of 1783, Index, MSA S1437, MSA, A. Online at http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/stagser/s1400/s1437/html/ssi1437e.html (accessed 2012).

[2] Max L. Grivno, Gleanings of Freedom, Free and Slave Labor along the Mason-Dixon Line, 1790-1860 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2011), 92. He cited Carville V. Earle, “A Staple Interpretation of Slavery and Free Labor,” Geographical Review 68 (January 1978), 51-65.

[3] ____________________.

[4] Eddis, Letters, 8 June 1770, 32. 

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