More on Jacob’s Farm

One can tell a great deal from closely examining the tax assessment in Salisbury Hundred for 1803-04, four short years after Jacob’s death. In that document, ‘Contrivence’ [sic] farm of  “Jacob Brumbaugh (dec’d)” was listed at 400 acres and valued at £37 per acre or £740.[1]

The average size of the 38 farms listed in his area’s tax return was 170 acres. His farm, which at one time stood at nearly 800 acres, remained at 394 acres, more than twice the size of the average farm.[2] Even in neighboring Elizabeth Hundred where the average size of the 32 farms on the first page of the tax collector’s return was 263 acres, only four farms were larger than Jacob’s and only eleven were assessed at a higher rate per acre. 

Of those 46 taxable persons on Jacob’s page in the 1803-04 tax assessment list, 19 of them or 41 percent owned enslaved persons. Other than one individual who owned eight, none owned more than five slaves. Brumbaugh’s sons sat among the slaveholders; David owned three, Henry two, and Daniel five. This finding is surprising. Jacob had left no indication that he ever owned slaves, and none were listed on his estate inventory or estate accountings. Now, suddenly, with father gone, a switch had been flicked. Even the 1800 federal census indicated that Mary, Jacob’s widow, now owned three slaves![3]

The three Brumbaugh men had 23 horses on the tract, more than anyone else in the immediate neighborhood, but not by much. Both Daniel and David owned stills. 

In other matters, the Brumbaugh family earned at the very least two dozen mentions for deaths, marriages, business matters, or general news in the local newspapers (The Maryland Herald, the Hagerstown Gazette, and the Torchlight) between 1799 and 1824, averaging at least one mention a year. While they were not elite businessmen, heirs of old planter families, prominent men of affairs, neither were they unknown or lost in the crowd. Their stability became an asset, having owned the same main farm for nearly fifty years. They had paid their dues, during the war, which made them a relatively well-known family in the community. 


[1] Washington County, Maryland, Tax Assessment of 1803-04, Western Maryland Regional Library website, www.whilbr.org (viewed Feb. 2013). 

[2] 1803 tax list; for comparison’s sake, the average size of a farm in Lancaster and Chester counties in Pennsylvania during the 1760s-1780s was 130 acres, according to Lemon, Best Poor Man’s Country, 108. 

[3] Listed as “widow Broombaugh” owning three slaves in Elizabeth Hundred next to Jacob “Broombaugh” (Jr.) in “The 1800 Federal Census for Maryland,” Ronald Vern Jackson, ed., (Accelerated Indexing Systems, 1973), 154. MSA. 

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