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Weston Wagons West - Ep. J5 - James and Keith Weston grew closer to Richard Brightwell and his friends through the 1670s

Updated on May 19, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

Where Maryland got its name

Henrietta Maria of France - for whom Maryland was named
Henrietta Maria of France - for whom Maryland was named | Source

Women played a vital role

Among the members of the planter and merchant classes in Colonial Maryland of the 1670s, life was not all work and no play. Women played a vital role in social circles and might have even been considered the "glue" that held civilized society together in America. Who married whom was an integral part of growing the colony in the "proper ways." James Weston, and his wife, Katy, were well integrated into the social scene of Charles County. Their first son, Keith, had been introduced in all the right places, so by 1675, when he turned 25, he had established himself and was courting the appropriate young ladies around the Poplar Hill and nearby Compass Hills plantations.

Keith had determined to locate his personal business interests to the north and west of the villages of Benedict and Leonardtown on the upper navigable portion of the Pautuxent River, near the Poplar Hill and Compass Hills plantations of Thomas Trueman and Thomas Greenfield. Friends, family and companions of Mary Boage Truman provided a most congenial social environment for Keith close to his most active and beneficial business clients. He managed to obtain a modest 130 acres plantation nearby where he could raise his horses, plant some tobacco and grow his business interests. He continued to be involved with this father's businesses at Weston Ridge, of course.

Mary and sisters integrated into colonial society

Mary Boage Truman had brought Poplar Hill into the family, of course, with the will the Captain Boage. Her sister, as Katharine Bradmore, was also mentioned in that will as having received some personal property. By 1676, her husband had passed away, and she was being courted by Captain Richard Bridewell. Meanwhile, her sister Elizabeth had married Philip Cooksey. Sister Ann, was married to Richard Southerne before they came from England, where they had their first two children, a son, John, and a daughter. Two more sons, Samuel and Richard had been born here. Her fourth sister, Grace, married a Virginian, Griffin Pond.

Keith Weston found a Cooksey cousin, Rebecca Walen, especially attractive, and made her the target of his highest affections.

Other notables in this social circle included Robert Skinner, who married the widow of James Trueman. His plantation, The Reserve, was originally known as Trueman's Reserve. His daughter, Mary was the wife of Joseph Letchworth and his other daughter was the wife of Thomas Greenfield. His four sons were Robert, Clark, William and Anderson. Dr. William Skinner, a practicing physician of Calvert County, had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Joseph Wilkinson. [Historically, she was the mother of General James Wilkinson, and General Joseph Wilkinson.]

Another early associate of John Boage, who came into prominence in the 1680s was Ninian Beall. He served as an executor of the will of Robert Lashley in 1680 and was a recipient of property. He also received property and other considerations in the will of Lashley's wife, Elizabeth, in 1681. We will come back to these wills a little later.

Captain Richard Brightwell led Rangers on Maryland frontier

In the May-June 1676 Maryland Assembly session, Richard Brightwell was paid 600 pound of tobacco, along with others, for "ranging" - that is, leading men on horseback through the back country of Maryland on the lookout for Indian activities that might interfere with colonial activities. (Historical note: This is the first of many mentions of Richard Brightwell in the minutes of the Maryland Assembly recorded in the Maryland Archives on-line. Also note that "pounds of tobacco" was a normal medium of exchange in the colony, a form of currency in Maryland, because hard currency (Pounds Sterling) was only exchanged on a very limited basis.)

Tobacco was used as currency in the colonies

Tobacco cultivation in the colonies about 1670
Tobacco cultivation in the colonies about 1670 | Source

Keith and Richard each marry amid their active career lives

After months of planning, Richard Brightwell and his betrothed, Katherine Bradmore, set their marriage ceremony for New Year's Eve, December 31, 1678, at Poplar Hills. It was to be the highlight of the social set in the area, and the celebration was expected to continue for several days. So as to be able to join the celebration as a married couple, Keith Weston and Rebecca Walen were married at his plantation, now known as Weston Trace, on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1678, among a small group of family and friends. His father and mother, James and Katy, were in attendance but each was in poor health. They were each so happy to be able to participate in this grand family event.

The Brightwell wedding of Richard and Katherine was, indeed, the highlight of season, talked about in the area for many years. All of the notables, mentioned above, were in attendance in their finest accoutrements, and each attempted, from time to time, to outshine the other on some level. Keith and Rebecca enjoyed their place on the fringes of these festivities by simply enjoying the fact that these were among his many clients and counted many, if not most, of them as close friends.

A colonial wedding of the late 1600s

A colonial wedding, the marriage of Dr. Francis Le Baron and Mary Wilder, Plymouth, 1695
A colonial wedding, the marriage of Dr. Francis Le Baron and Mary Wilder, Plymouth, 1695 | Source

James died and left his property interests to Keith

Katy did not recover from the illness she had contracted early in the winter, and died on February 3rd of 1679. James was in ill-health, as well, but was being cared for by his oldest daughter.

With the coming of March, James seemed to be feeling better, but then, he took a turn for the worst and expired on March 7th, 1679. He had prepared his will a couple of weeks following the death of Katy, convinced that he was soon to follow her.

In his will, James left all his land to Keith, subject to existing lease agreements of his business partners. He made generous provisions for his other children as well. James had made Keith aware that he had also left his interests in each of this partnerships to his partners in appreciation for the contributions each had made to his own good life. Of course, where Keith was also a partner in a business interest, he benefited from this as well.

The 1670s turn into the 1680s in Maryland

Lord Baltimore's promise of religious toleration, as well as his promise of land, drew a steady stream of settlers. Among them were Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Puritans, Quakers and many other dissenters. They came from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and even from France. By the 1680's, Maryland was the home of over 25,000 persons, the most diverse and pluralistic population in North America.

Have you read Colonial Era Wills?

Have you read Colonial Era Wills?

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Friends die and leave meaningful wills as well during the 1680s

Wills of other notable colonists in the area who died in the 1680s provide insights into their way of live and the interconnectedness to which we have referred earlier here. During the first two years of the 1680s, for example, both Robert Lashley and his widow, Elizabeth, passed away. Ninian Beall was an executor of the estate of Robert Lashley. Beall also received "personalty" in the will.

A major provision in the will of Elizabeth was "What received of Capt. Ninian Beall more than by third's estate of my late husband Robert Lashley be returned to Capt. Beall." And, "To son, Trueman that he be saved from his engagement to Capt. Beall." Further, she gave her daughter, Mary Trueman best bed & furniture, my wedding ring, a Table Cloth & 10 napkins, 6 new plates, a large bason & biggest pewter dish & 6 Russian Leather Chairs. Can you picture these items? I can.

Elizabeth's will continued: To dau. Katharine Brightwell, clothes; To Philip Cooksey, this ensuing year work of my servant to be employed for the use of my daughter's children; To grandson Henry Cooksey, a heifer & 1 iron pot; To Richard Southerne, a yearling heifer; To dau. Mary Truman, all rest of my estate dispose of by her and my children, grandchildren according to her discretion.

The will of Thomas Truman, probated in December of 1685 included these provisions: To wife, Mary, 1/2 personal estate and home plantation during life; To Thomas Truman Greenfield and hrs, Trent Neck, provided they take the name of Truman; To Richard Brightwell and hrs, 50 acres of Chaptico Branch; To Thomas Truman Greenfield, cousins Mary and Elizabeth Truman, residue of estate, real and personal. The 50 acres to Richard Brightwell was land due him from his early servitude, that he had apparently never claimed. The desire of Truman to have his name carried on, even though he had no prodigy, was another interesting aspect of his will.

The will of Mary Truman was administered by Richard Southerne and Richard Brightwell. Through these various wills and subsequent events, Richard Brighwell became the owner of Poplar Hill plantation among other land possessions.

Historical note:

John Boage, Thomas and Joseph Letchworth, Thomas and James Truman, Mary and four sisters, her mother Elizabeth and Robert Lashley are each actual historical figures, as were Robert Skinner and his relatives, but we will be seeing them in future episodes of this series used fictitiously. They each played key roles in the life of Richard Brightwell, the 7th great-grandfather of the author, who arrived in Maryland as an indentured servant in 1663. Each of the relationships within which these historical figures will appear here will be totally consistent with known historical facts for each such person in the official records of Maryland. Grace is a fictitious name for the fourth sister of Mary; Rebecca Walen is also fictitious. The marriage date of Richard and Katherine is unknown with precision - a fictitious date consistent with known facts was used in this story.

My historical perspective in this hub relied extensively on my published article in the Maryland Society Bulletin, "Richard Brightwell Family in Maryland (1640s through 1740s)," Spring 2003, Vol. 44, No. 2, Compiled by William L. (Bill) Smith For the KINNICK Project, pp. 218-238. Some biographical information on Thomas Trueman relied on Southerne family records in the file of the author, as well.

Thank you for your continued support of this series

Hub readers are a faithful group and I want to thank you in advance for reading this series of stories. I will do my best to make them interesting, to make them plausible, and to make them as historically accurate as I am capable of doing. I look forward to receiving your feedback and meaningful comments on each story. I am using my real name on these stories and will reply to each comment, as I've noticed is common among the more prolific writers on this platform. As a retired university professor, I do have the time for this level of interaction and pledge that I will do so as long as I feel the comments are well intentioned - which I assume will be indefinitely. Thank you, again, for your support! ;-)

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      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Bill. Your approval is very valuable, to me. It helps keep me going! ;-)

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You write these so well.....historical non-fiction that reads like fiction...not an easy thing to do at all. Well done!

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      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you. It is an interesting challenge to merge an ongoing story with recorded historical facts. Thanks for your support! ;-)

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      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      I look forward to the continuation of your family story.