More on Settlement of Jacobs Complex Estate

Settlement of Jacob’s Maryland Estate

Five years after the father’s death, Jacob Brumbaugh, Jr. filed his petition in the Washington County court regarding the death of his father Jacob “Brumbach.” In granting the commission, the court reviewed the Maryland properties that Jacob Sr. had owned, and appointed five “discreet sensible men” to examine the real estate. The judge then instructed this group to determine whether his Jacob Sr.‘s real estate “would admit to being divided [among multiple heirs] without injury, or loss to all parties entitled, and to ascertain the value of said Estate in Current Money according to law.”  Through the hand of “O. H. Williams, Cl[er]k,” the court’s chief justice William Clagett, Esquire, issued such a commission to Walter Boyd, John Schnebly, Jacob Zeller, Ludwick Young, and George Cellars who all affirmed an oath to “well and truly, and without favor, partiality, or prejudice” judge what the estate was worth and whether it could be so divided or whether it needed to be sold intact.[1]

More than a year and a half later, in November 1805, daughter Mary Brumbaugh Ulery and John Brumbaugh agreed to allow eldest son, Jacob, Jr. to take the whole of the Washington County real estate at the valuation of £4,100. Taking this property as his personal share, he then paid the other heirs for that privilege.[2] To do so, Jacob, Jr. paid each of his six siblings their 1/7th of £4,100, which was quite a large sum for that time.

Just a year later in 1806, however, son Henry bought[3] Clalands Contrivance from his brother, Jacob, Jr. who had originally taken that land as his share of the estate[4] Henry thus acquired full title to Jacob Sr.’s original 1753 farm) until 1846. Henry in 1846 sold the farm to his son Andrew.[5] Andrew died in 1859 and the farm passed on to his wife Margaret and their children[6] until his son Upton S. Brumbaugh inherited it. Then Clalands Contrivance lost Brumbaugh ownership after 130 years in the 1880s transferred to persons outside the family. 

Thus was the Maryland estate of Jacob Brumbaugh Sr. settled six years after his death. What about the dozen farms in Bedford County? The Maryland court had no jurisdiction over real estate outside of Maryland. 

                                    Settlement of Jacob’s Pennsylvania Estate

Next, the heirs had to settle the Pennsylvania estate. The administrators of Jacob Sr.’s estate petitioned the Bedford County court June 3, 1806, through attorney William Raynolds for the sale of real estate. On August 4, Jacob, Jr. affirmed in open court that he had given notice to all the other heirs about the petition; therefore, the judge approved his advertising of the estate.[7] In October 1806, this notice appeared in The Maryland Herald:

Application of Jacob Brumbaugh [Jr.] for the sale of real estate of Jacob Brumbaugh, dec’d. Rule that Jacob Brumbaugh, John Brumbaugh, Mary intermarried with Samuel Ulry, David, Henry, Samuel [sic- Daniel] and George, heirs of Jacob      Brumbaugh dec’d to show cause at the court at Bedford [County, Pennsylvania]         why estate should not be sold.[8]

This was a typically worded official notice Pennsylvania courts required to alert all heirs in Maryland that they had a deadline when settling estates. If they could not do so then they had to show cause why, thus putting the matter before the court.  The Brumbaugh family settled the matter amicably outside of court. They showed up with deeds and money to divide the Pennsylvania real estate among one another. They also had to compensate those siblings who took less real estate with money of equivalent value.  

It was not until March 1807, shortly before the eighth anniversary of Jacob’s death, that Indentures (contracts) were filed in the Bedford County court, reciting the non-residency of the deceased and laying out in several deeds the privately reached overall settlement among the heirs by conveying the several tracts to the various heirs in return for monetary payments to the other heirs. Land tracts named Albania and Rich Barrens, for instance, were sold to Jacob, Jr. and Daniel Brumbaugh in return for payment by them of current money to the other heirs, with over thirteen land tracts, on and on it went as they passed deeds and IOUs across the tables.[9]

One of the farms in Pennsylvania, Springfield farm, originally in Bedford County, was now located in Huntingdon County). In 1805 the heirs petitioned for a valuation by what the Pennsylvania court called an “Inquisition” of twelve , one of them, a John Brumbaugh, likely Johannes Henrich Brumbaugh’s son Johannes, “the stocking weaver,” valued the property at £1493, thus the court ordered the property to be sold. However, it never found a buyer and apparently languished unsold. Twenty years later in 1826, son George petitioned the court again and the property was re-valued, though now 437 acres, at $2,348 again by an Inquisition of the High Sheriff and twelve men, this time including a Jacob Brumbaugh among them; no comment made as to his relationship to the decedent, but probably he was the son of Johannes Henrich’s son by that date the late Jacob called “Jockel” who had died in 1816. 

These transactions bring the total value to $13,567. Whoever led the family through the extended eight-year settlement of Jacob, Sr.’s complex estate with its many administrative challenges, was surely something of a hero. Mostly that credit fell to the court-appointed administrators and, after Mary’s death, to Jacob, Jr.[10]

To Jacob, Jr. fell the often-thankless position of serving as administrator of his father’s estate. This responsibility included the task of working through the cash flow problem the estate had, with nearly £1,000 owed to Henry Drinker for Dorfans Barn. Jacob had to notify Henry Drinker of the death of his father, telling him that he and Mary assumed legal authority. Three letters from Jacob, Jr. survive from this time, one dated January 20, 1800, one from May 1802, and one from April 1803. These letters, the only written words left from Jacob, Jr., reveal interesting facts about this family. 

As it happened, Henry Drinker found out first of Jacob, Sr.’s death before his family notified him of it— his local agent in Huntingdon, John Canan, then a state Senator, likely wrote him of the death. In December of 1799, eight months after Jacob’s death, Drinker wrote to Jacob, Jr., “It is not long since I heard of the decease of your father.” Drinker merely told him he would have the deed conveying Corunna ready once he got instructions to whom to convey it. He also asked Jacob, Jr. to the pay the past due balance on Dorfans Barn, which came to £988.[11] Jacob, Jr. wrote back the next month addressing Drinker as “Dear Friend,” telling Drinker that, as the eldest son, he served as administrator of the estate, along with his mother. The letter in part read like a word-for-word dictation composed by the estate’s lawyer to Drinker as the chief creditor of the estate. It is a formal notice detailing the facts and legal requirements. It also reminded Drinker that the court required Drinker to prove his claim to the land formally. 

Jacob, Jr. reintroduced the complaints his father had made about the lessee Stouder’s destroying the timber on the land, and also added that due to costs relating to his youngest brother George’s accident (“a white swelling on one of his legs…a considerable time under the hands of physicians….[costing] above fifty pounds”), he would be unable to pay the balance. He ended by asking Drinker to appoint someone in nearby Chambersburg to act for Drinker if Jacob, Jr. came in to pay installments or settle the matters.[12]  

Drinker advised Jacob, Jr. by letter the next month that he had instead arranged for lawyer Richard Potts, Esq. of Frederick, Maryland, to hold the deed for Corunna, and receive payments on Dorfans Barn.[13] Jacob, Jr.’s next letter of May 1802 advised Drinker of the alarming news that the Dorfans Barn tract was “sold…by the Marshal of Pennsylvania for Taxes on account of a Mortgage from Samuel Wallis,” and asked Drinker to advise him by return post what this surprising development meant.[14] With only a four-day delay, Henry responded with the details of his legitimate title to the property and added that he hoped to convince the Marshal that an error had occurred.[15]

In the second letter, Jacob, Jr. has to make excuses again for not sending money as previously agreed, which proved difficult. Jacob wrote in his own hand:

[W]hatsoever was in My Power to Do I expect to pay the Ballance before next harvest[.] I wold have paid the Ballance long before this time but on account of misfortune it was not in my power. I will give you a memorandum of it[;] viz, the widow my mother Mary Brumbaugh keep a grate part of the Personal Estate in Money and Goods and will not give me any assitons in paying the Debts of the Estate[.] I wold tank you kindly for to send a few lines onto him [sic- her] with Sharp Notice for making pay to you as she is one of the Administrators[.] plus not Mention in the letter it hath been my Desien [.] this moment there is a neighbor of mine in Hagerstown gaol [jail] owing father’s Estate about £173-0-0[.] he went on that account to clean him self by the law of Maryland as an in Sol vent [insolvent] Debtor. the Plantation father bought last of you [the land tract Corunna] I Rented out for three years for £60-0-0 in the whole to a certen George Replogle his son of in the Middle of this last winder the Rent be kame due Spring and perhaps I never git one cent of it. the £25-0-0 I had to pay John Stouder[.] Shold bin yours as part of pay[ment]s.[16]

These administrators had to ensure that the bills were paid, income collected, and goods sold to raise money. Widow Mary exercised her option to claim some of the personal and household goods, thereby reducing the cash flow that a sale of goods would have otherwise provided. It was therefore up to Jacob, Jr. to explain his way out of this financial crunch. A debtor of their father, as previously stated, went to jail claiming bankruptcy in order to cleanse his own account of the £173 debt.[17] Also, Jacob, Jr. rented out a property to a lessee who perhaps did not pay his rent.  The estate had to pay one of Henry Drinker’s lessees, who evidently cleared trees, which required Jacob, Jr. to pay him £25. This money otherwise would have been used to pay down the estate’s debt. Jacob, Jr. even asked Drinker to intercede and send Mary, his mother and co-administrator, a letter telling her that payments must be made to him in a timely manner. He even pleaded with Drinker to “ not mention in the Letter that it hath been my [Jacob, Jr.’s] desien [design].” It is not likely Henry was foolish enough to intervene between a widow and her son. 

Jacob, Jr. then explained how much he had paid and where he had made payments. He had paid Richard Potts at three different places: “his house Frederick Town . . . at Ragan Tavern, Hagers Town . . .  in Lower Shosshouse in Annapolis.” In this last letter, Jacob Jr. admitted, “this is my own hand writing the former letters I have sent was the handwriting of school masters of Hagers Town he lately Deaset [deceased] by so Doing you will much oblige your friend . . . Jacob Brombaugh.”[18]

The success of the estate administration with that many assets in two jurisdictions was a remarkable achievement. He had to work with multiple lawyers, as well as his mother to ensure that his father’s estate was properly settled. Once in August 1803 he personally traveled to Philadelphia to deliver money to Henry Drinker in order to close the Dorfans Barn deal. There he “breakfasted” with wealthy and prominent Quakers Henry and Elizabeth Drinker, as recorded in her diary, paid the balance due, and took away the deed. The estate settlement was both amicable and orderly.[19]

By the time the children had completely divided both the Maryland and Pennsylvania estates, the estate amounted to nearly 3,500 acres of land in two states, plus tangible personal property, worth in the aggregate approximately the following:

            Maryland: Personal Property

                        Inventory of personal property           £  937

                        Amount by which vendue proceeds

                                    exceeded inventory value           139

                        Debts owed to Jacob by others               335

                                                                                   £ 1411

                        Dollar value at £1411=                                   $  3,763           

            Clalands Contrivance valued at £4,100, dollar value   10,933

            Pennsylvania: 11 farms, Bedford Co., valued at           13,567

                                    Springfield farm, valued £ 1493              3,981

                                    Grand Total Estate Value                   $ 32,244 (= £12,091)

In an apparent oversight, tangible and intangible personal property located in Pennsylvania was never appraised or recorded. Half of his jointly-held real estate in Pennsylvania was never valued because the joint holder who survived (with Samuel Ulery, Daniel Brumbaugh, and with John Snyder) owned it. Thus, the above calculation is a conservative valuation of Jacob’s entire estate. 

Each child had inherited in excess of 400 acres of good farmland, and cash of about $1,000.[20] If Mary needed £35 (or $93.33) per year for her widow’s allowance or maintenance money, one child’s cash inheritance of $1,000 would be equal to enough money to maintain ten persons for a year. Jacob’s wealth evidently made him the equivalent, for his time and place, of a fairly well-to-do farmer.

Work done by historian Aubrey Land compared the three rungs of wealth among farmers in the Northern Chesapeake part of Maryland, and Dr. Land commented that “The ascent from straitened circumstances to affluence sometimes took place within the lifespan of a single person, the architect of the family fortune.” Dr. Land added to that this assertion, “Such a man, even though in the top bracket of wealth, could not forget his humble origin nor entirely forsake his ways.”[21] In Jacob’s case, this proved to be true. 

In order to draw a more complete picture of Jacob’s standing in wealth, it is instructive to compare Jacob Brumbaugh’s inventory of goods and overall value with the inventory or the overall estate value of the following men that Jacob Brumbaugh was associated with in some way: 

Dr. Henry Schnebely, Jacob Brumbaugh’s neighbor and a post-Revolution Washington County judge, died in 1805 owning 2,800 acres of land in Kentucky, one lot in the District of Columbia, 500 acres in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and a 2,300-acre farm in Washington County, Maryland.[22] This estate may have equaled or exceeded the value of Jacob Brumbaugh’s.

Philadelphia German publisher Christopher Saur II (1721-1784), a Brethren bishop-elder and publisher, died a poor man, but satisfied that he had paid all his creditors, despite his public humiliation for having given the appearance of being a loyalist. All his worldly goods were confiscated; his printing press and all other property was sold for the benefit of Pennsylvania at public auction in August 1778.[23]

* ——— *

Jacob Brumbaugh’s complex and valuable estate, the size of which far exceeded the £50 with which he had arrived as an immigrant, had been settled eight years after his death. Although to do so, required court filings his family had not “gone to law” to litigate or squabble relentlessly. They did not ask the court to decide how to settle the knotty questions of distribution. Such actions would have been frowned upon in the Brethren community. It is fair to suppose that Jacob may have verbally communicated his final wishes regarding his property, but unfortunately, that act cannot be definitively determined. There is, however, a comparative example. Mennonite Samuel Rohrer,who died 1786 in Washington County, gave land to his sons, as Jacob did, and those sons then made annual payments to Samuel’s estate until they paid the full amount. It was also the custom among local Mennonite farmers to provide each of their daughters a share of their estates equal in value to the shares of their sons in land or money.[1] In these respects, it is highly likely that the Brethren and Mennonites followed similar, if not identical, practices.  

What significance does the size of Jacob’s personal estate have? The late Jacob Brumbaugh’s estate, valued for the first time in this study at £12,091, proves that Saur was not the only German immigrant in this era whose estate exceeded that benchmark amount of £10,000.[2] This finding suggests that additional research by scholars might reveal other German immigrants of the era who achieved similar levels of financial success, and perhaps others who did so despite an earlier refusal to bear arms. 

There are caveats to consider when comparing one pile of wealth to another. First, there is the enormous complexity of eighteenth-century colonial monetary equivalents, which carried over into the new republic. Secondly, there is the issue of comparing one figure in 1784 to one in 1799, one form of asset may have fluctuated substantially in value. Thirdly, there is the disparity between English pounds sterling in England and in Pennsylvania. While these are the main caveats, it must be left to other scholars to sort out who was wealthier, and by how much, in more controlled studies than this author has the resources to make.[3]

What significance does Jacob’s wealth have in the larger Brethren narrative? For one, it means that Jacob Brumbaugh’s pacifism: his refusal to either bear arms or associate, and his refusal to take the test oath of allegiance to the new state and national government, did not adversely affect his economic prospects in the post-war world. He was not ostracized in that post-war economy. Nor did others hinder him commercially for his pacifist leanings. 

Secondly, it is a metric by which Jacob Brumbaugh can be compared to other German immigrants whose estates have been valued in similar historical studies of the German immigrant population. This is particularly important since historians have pointed to the Christopher Saur family, or more lately to the Caspar Wistar family, as the wealthiest family of Germans in colonial America. 

Thirdly, one can appreciate the significance of Jacob Brumbaugh’s wealth for a father of seven children. He may have been highly motivated to furnish each with enough resources to begin their pilgrimage into adult life. One can also understand that providing farms for his sons and daughter would have especially motivated the typical Brethren congregant. Nearly all brethren were farmers and the accumulation of such a large acreage in land tracts in Morrison’s Cove could well have been the eighteenth-century equivalent of the ‘American dream’ for the eighteenth century Brethren. This conclusion is buttressed by a similar study of Mennonite farmers in the geographical area of Washington County. It concluded that rather than avarice being the primary motivating force, the German sectarians were rather concerned “with accumulating and distributing enough property to provide their survivors with a good livelihood,” and “the capital necessary to provide a moderate and comfortable life,” which in turn was firmly linked to ensuring “the social and religious stability of the [local] spiritual community.”[4] This animating goal rings true of the Brethren. 

Lastly, the level of wealth may also say something about the value of mutual aid to one’s co-congregants, which was practiced in sectarian religious circles. These plain sect folk illustrated the material value of mutual aid in life’s journey.

                                    A Measure of Jacob’s AchievementJacob’s progress through life can be described roughly as follows—- in his twenties he was likely an educated young man in an overcrowded farmland in Germany. He became, at 24, a lone immigrant to British North America, where he made a living in 1753 as a weaver embarking on farming in the Maryland colony. When the French and Indian War began in his area, he became a scout and quartering party to soldiers. There was also a family tradition he served as a “packman” on the Braddock Campaign. Afterwards, in the 1760s, he returned to life as a subsistence farmer on his way to commercial farmer status, and a budding landowner. He then survived a protracted period where, as a member of an outlier minority religious sect, became a non-associator, non-enroller, and non-juror. Probably despite his religiously principled, apolitical stance, Jacob contributed blankets, sold grains to the Continental Army, and paid his taxes and fines promptly enough to thwart any opprobrium from his neighbors. He became a successful commercial farmer and major local distiller on a 500-acre farm, which operated on a near self-sufficient basis without the aid of slaves. The expansive, and in some years soaring market for wheat and grains following the war’s end, and his personal success at grain farming, enabled him to become a substantial landholder of nearly 3,500 acres across two states who upon his death at age 73 could settle his wife of over 40 years and his 7 children and numerous grandchildren in excellent circumstances on fairly good-sized farms of their own, together with a not inconsiderable cash inheritance. 


[1] Edsel Burdge Jr. and Samuel L. Horst, Building on the Gospel Foundation, The Mennonites of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and Washington County, Maryland, 1730-1970 (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2004), 145-146. 

[2]Dr. Henry Schnebely’s estate may have approached or exceeded this sum. Another German merchant family, an even earlier immigrant, whose wealth exceeded this amount was that of Caspar Wistar (1695-1752), for which see Rosalind J. Beiler, Immigrant and Entrepreneur, The Atlantic World of Caspar Wistar, 1650-1750 (University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania University Press, 2008), 2. He referenced a letter of Govorner James Hamilton to Thomas Penn dated September 24, 1750. He referred to Caspar Wistar as “worth sixty thousand pounds,” even much more than the wealthiest second- or third-generation English merchants of Philadelphia. 

[3] There is a website where these comparisons are being made. Launched in 2010 by the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C., Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present is a new online project focusing on two important themes in American history: immigration and entrepreneurship, specifically listing personal wealth of German immigrants for different historical time periods where that wealth is known. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/overview.php .

[4] Burdge and Horst, Gospel Foundation, 145-147. 



[1] Otho Holland Williams was the nephew of a Revolutionary War general of the same name from Washington County who fought for the entire duration of the war. Of the five men appointed, Schnebely and Young (who had been a late appointment to the Committee of Observation, reportedly married to someone who was Mennonite) were also engaged to appraise all the goods and chattels. Schnebely went on to appraise the goods and chattels of Jacob, Jr. when he died in 1814. Washington County, Maryland, Estate Inventories and Appraisements, Book E, Folio 22-25. Jacob Zeller and George Cellers were likely sons of Capt. John Celler, commanding officer of the militia company in which Jacob, Jr. failed to enroll. 

[2] Land Records of Washington County, Maryland, Deed Book R, 484. 

[3] Ibid, 486. 

[4] Ibid, Deed Book S, 433. 

[5] Ibid, Deed Book I. N. 2, 335. 

[6] Washington County, Maryland, Estate Inventories and Appraisements, Book T, 530 (1859); Washington County, Maryland, Executors and Administrators Accounts, Book 20, 376 (1860). 

[7] Bedford County Orphans’ Court Abstracts-Docket 2, St. Clair’s Bedford, the History and Genealogy of Bedford County, Pennsylvania  6 (March 1987), 139. 

[8] The Maryland Herald, October 1806 (MHS). 

[9] Land Records of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, Book L, 322 and 329. 

[10] There is in the estate accountings filed with the court a substantial payment (£104..10..00) from Jacob, Sr.’s estate to Jacob, Jr., unexplained like all other payments, which may have been his commission due for serving as administrator. A “John Hager” (men of that name were numerous) is shown being paid in 1799 for “vendue two days.” 

[11] H.D. to J.B., Jr. 14 December 1799. Box 21, DC, HSP.

[12] J.B., Jr. to H.D. 20 January 1800, Box 21, Ibid. 

[13] H.D. to J.B., Jr. 17 March 1800. Box 21, Ibid. 

[14] J. B., Jr. to H.D., 27 May 1802. Box 22, D.C., HSP. Samuel Wallis (1730-1798) was a Quaker surveyor and pioneer entrepreneur, called the “Land King,” who got so caught up in leveraged land tract purchases and schemes that when he died shortly after the speculative land bubble burst, he left his wife and children penniless. It also turned out that, though he was an officer in the militia, he was a traitor to his country, secretly working for the British. This was only discovered in the twentieth century. Carl Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1941), 217-224.

[15] H.D. to J.B., Jr., 31 May 1802, Box 22, D.C., HSP

[16] J.B., Jr. to H.D., 20 April 1803. Box 22, D.C., HSP

[17] See Bruce H. Mann’s, Republic of DebtorsBankruptcy in the Age of American Independence (Cambridge, Mass.: The Harvard University Press, 2009), 78-109. This work addresses this phenomenon of that decade and the need for a new uniform federal law in the new Republic; Ibid, 184-186.  

[18] J.B., Jr. to H.D., 20 April 1803. Box 22, D.C., HSP. Richard Potts was not only Drinker’s local correspondent lawyer in Frederick, but he had been successively a member of the Frederick County Committee of Observation, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the first U.S. Attorney in Maryland (appointed by President Washington in 1789), and the third U.S. Senator for Maryland. He was present at those various places to receive periodic payments delivered to him by Jacob, Jr. on behalf of the estate of Jacob Sr. Footnote to Letter to George Washington from Richard Potts, 12 June 1792, Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-10-02-0299 [last update: 2015-02-20]); source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 10, 1 March 1792-15 August 1792, ed. Robert F. Haggard and Mark A. Mastromarino (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002), 452.

[19] The date was 23 August 1803. Elizabeth Drinker wrote: “We have heard twice from the Valley, since Jab Downing left us, yesterday by Jesse Kersey, and this morning by Jacob Brombaugh [Jr. of course] who breakfasted here—he called their [sic, there—in the valley, probably Downingtown in Chester County] on his way from MaryLand to enquire where he should find our house, — having money to pay to HD.” Mrs. Drinker wrote a diary for nearly fifty years. It is a valuable source for knowledge concerning persons and manners of Philadelphia in the late eighteenth century. Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, 2:1677. The account book of Henry Drinker on “9th month 21st day 1803,” records that on August 23, Jacob, Jr. paid Henry £234..7..6 and Drinker recorded in his account log the statement “which I have agreed shall be in full.” Box 26, Journal 1798-1809, D.C., HSP.

[20] Derived from these monetary equivalents in 1800 Pennsylvania: 1s (shilling) = 90d (pence); 7s (shillings) 6d  (pence) = 90d = $1.00 Pennsylvania dollar 1800. £1 = 20s (shillings) = 240d (pence); £4,100 = 984,000d (pence) divided by 90d (pence) per dollar = $10,933.33. 

[21] Eddis, Letters, xviii (Introduction by Land). 

[22] Archives of Maryland, MSA SC.

[23] This website http://www.johnbryer.com/saur.htm (viewed 2013) is an excellent site for gaining a quick understanding of the Saur family along with a view of some of their printed products and hard assets. 

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