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Weston Wagons West - Ep. J6 - Keith Weston and Richard Brightwell raised their families, grew their careers in the 1680s

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.

Children in colonial costumes

Children dressed in colonial costumes with basket of flowers
Children dressed in colonial costumes with basket of flowers | Source

Sons arrived in each home

Like his father, Keith and his wife, Rebecca, had two daughters before his first son, Delton, was born in July of 1685. He was followed by two more daughters, in 1687 and 1690.

Richard and Katherine's first surviving child was a son, named Richard, Jr., born in 1687. He was followed by their first daughter, Elizabeth, in 1689. The second Brightwell son, Peter, was born in 1691. A third son, John, was born in 1694 followed by a second daughter, Angela, born in 1697.

Prince George of Denmark

Prince George's County, Maryland, was named after Prince George of Denmark; he was married to Anne, Queen of Great Britain
Prince George's County, Maryland, was named after Prince George of Denmark; he was married to Anne, Queen of Great Britain | Source

They are involved in community activities

On 3 Jun 1693, Captain Richard Brightwell donated 2.7 acres of land and timber for a chapel to the vestry of St. Paul's. This land was part of Poplar Hill, and a church still stands on the land.

The Oct 1693 will of Robert Kent said that he died at the house of William Watson, near the falls of the Potomac in (what was then still part of) Charles County. Among the bequests of Robert Kent were: 1) To Elizabeth Brightwell - 1 cow calf, 2) To Peter Brightwell - 1 cow calf, 3) To Richard Brightwell, Jr., son & heir of Capt. Richard Brightwell all remainder of my Estate Real & Personal, excepting that already bequeathed. William Watson and James Waple, who witnessed the will, approached Capt. Richard Brightwell and said he "should take all the Estate into his hands & manage it to the best advantage for his said son till he comes of age."

In April of 1696, the area of Poplar Hill and north and west from there over to the Potomac River was formed as Prince George's County. It was named after Prince George of Denmark, husband of Princess Anne, heir to the throne of England. About the same time, Richard Brightwell was appointed Capt. of the Horse Soldiers - Rangers along the Potomac, for Prince George's County. He headed the western rangers while another Captain headed the eastern rangers. Six to eight men and horses were activated and equipped by the actions of the General Assembly. Thomas Greenfield was appointed first sheriff of the new Prince George's County.

Learn more about Prince George's County, Maryland

Businesses and lands continue to grow

In 1696, when Prince George's County was established, the population of the county was between 1600 and 1700 people. There were 658 taxables (defined as free males, 16 years and over, all male servants 16 years and over, and all slaves, both male and female, 16 years and over, with the exception of clergymen and those receiving alms). For comparison purposes, the population of Charles County, now lying south of Prince George's County, was about 2,800 people.

Keith continued to grow his own businesses at Weston Trace which, in 1696, became part of Prince George's County. As the years went by, he had sold his interest in the partnership (now residing in Charles County) with Bruce in the manufacture of wood products and had purchased full ownership of Weston Freight Lines from Hiram. Keith continued his partnership with Gerald in the agricultural pursuits, at Weston Ridge, and they had expanded them to additional lands.

Richard also added land as his career progressed rapidly. Specifically, he added Brightwell's Landing, Spinum, and Thatham in February 1694 and Brightwell's Hunting Quarter in August 1695. Whereas the first three were located relatively nearby, Brightwell's Hunting Quarter was located in the far northwest portion of the county, along the Potomac River. [History would record in later years that a portion of this land would become Georgetown and the District of Columbia.] From his appointment as Ranger in Prince George's County, he used this Hunting Quarter land as his headquarters.

In April of 1695, Thomas Greenfield, Gentleman (and neighbor), obtained a grant of 500 acres in Zachia Manor which he conveyed to Richard Brightwell in July of 1695. Also in July of 1695, John Edwards obtained 580 acres called Sugar Land located 20 miles above the falls of the Potomac at the end of a great island. [The historic records of John Bradford's quit claim deed for 1,086 acres of these lands, in February of 1718, provided the identification of Richard's children and their spouses for later researchers.] Zachia Manor was located in along the border between the new Prince George's County and what remained as Charles County.

Great Falls on the Potomac River

Great Falls on the Potomac River - Maryland is to the right in the photo
Great Falls on the Potomac River - Maryland is to the right in the photo | Source

Death of Richard Brightwell and his wife Elizabeth

Elizabeth died in 1697, shortly after the birth of her second daughter. The will of Richard Brightwell was written 21 Aug 1698. He died two days later. The will was probated 29 August 1698. The executors of the will were Thomas Greenfield and William Watson. They were named to hold the estate in trust until the majority of the eldest son, Richard, in 1708. At the time of Richard's death, young Richard was 11 years old. Peter was 7 and the youngest son, John, was just 4. Elizabeth was 9 and Angela, less than one.

Aunts and uncles continuing to live at Poplar Hill took charge of raising the orphaned children. Sheriff Thomas Greenfield and neighbor William Watson, of course, carried out their fiduciary responsibilities through 1708 when the son, Richard, became of age, at 21. These times were not without conflicts and concerns about conflicts of interest, but these were signs of times. These sorts of arrangements were very common in the Maryland colony and across colonial America. The Weston and the Brightwell families worked, grew, and socialized together along with the Greenfield families and others in the area.

English colonists in the Chesapeake (Maryland and Virginia at this time) tended to die sooner that did their counterparts in England, due to diseases and living and working conditions in the colonies. Their heirs, born in America, seemed to have higher levels of immunities and were better adapted from their birth to the local conditions. Keep this in mind as we move forward into later colonial life.

Learn more about the Great Falls of the Potomac River

Historical note by the author

The Weston family is fictional. The name Angela is fictitious, although she was a historical person, given name unknown. All the Brightwell's, Robert Kent, William Watson, James Waple, Thomas Greenfield, John Edwards and John Bradford were historical figures, used here fictitiously. They each played key roles in the life of Richard Brightwell, the 7th great-grandfather of the author. His daughter, Elizabeth was the author's 6th great-grandmother. Each of the relationships within which these historical figures appear in these episodes are totally consistent with known historical facts for each such person in the official records of Maryland.

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.

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