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Greed, Revenge or Religion, Jones vs. Burns
Catherine Burns was the only
daughter of Patrick Burns who died in St. Mary’s County in 1737. A few years before her father’s
death, Catherine married Solomon Jones, son of William Jones and Mary
Thomas. These families lived in St.
Michael’s Hundred, in St. Mary’s County near present day Ridge,
St. Inigoes, and
Obviously it was not a problem for Patrick Burns since his will dated December 13, 1737, devised 4,500 pounds of tobacco to his son-in-law, Solomon Jones directing that he buy a slave for his son (and Patrick’s grandson), James Jones.
We’ll never know if this had been a problem for William Jones as we don’t know if Solomon was married at the time of his father’s will in 1735, but we do know that William devised half of his dwelling plantation, “Scotland”, to Solomon.
Mary (Thomas) Jones made her will in 1746 naming only her children Susanna Biscoe, Joseph Jones, and John Jones. Had Solomon been left out of the will, one could surmise that his mother disapproved of his marriage, but his brother, William wasn’t named either.
Solomon Jones died shortly after making his own will on March 6, 1749. He devised to his wife, Catherine, 1/3 of his lands and to his son, James he left a horse, saddle, and bridle. The remainder of his estate was to be divided among his other children, Margaret, Monica, Solomon, and Walter stipulating that if his wife was then with child, the new baby was to have a share as well.
Unfortunately, Catherine died in February of the following year. Her will, dated February 3, 1749/1750, was probated just a little over three weeks later on February 28. Catherine’s will did not name her son, James and it can be concluded that he had died after his father. Catherine devised to her son Solomon a horse, saddle, and bridle (presumably the same bequest made to James in the will of Solomon) at the age of 18. The remainder of her estate was to be divided among her other children, Margaret, Monica, Walter, and Bridgett (the unborn child alluded to in the will of Solomon Jones).
Catherine specifically requested that her children and their estates remain in the care of her brothers, Dennis and James Burns until her sons arrived at age 21 and her daughters at age 16 or marriage.
That should have been the end of this story, but it wasn’t. A few months after Catherine’s death, William Jones (brother of Solomon), filed suit to have the children and their estates put under his control. The following is a part of the official record:
At a Council held in the Council Chamber on Thursday the 29th Day of May in the 37th year of his Lordships Dominion Anno Domini 1751. Present: His Excellency Samuel
Ogle, Esqr., Governor, Benjamin Tasker, Esqr., Col. Charles Hammond, Col. George Plater, Daniel Dulany, Esqr., Edmund Jenings, Esqr., Richard Lee, Esqr., Benedict Calvert, Esqr.
William Cuming, Esqr., produces to this Board a transcript of a record from St. Mary’s County Court, which follows in these words.
Saint Mary’s County ss. At a County Court of the Right Honourable Charles Absolute Lord and Proprietary of the
Provinces of Maryland Avalon Lord Baron of Baltimore &c. held at Leonard
Town for the County afsd. On the first Tuesday and
sixth day of November in the 36h year of our Dominion &c. Annon Domini 1750, before the Worshipful Thomas Aisquith, Captain Zachariah Bond, Mr. James Mills, Mr.
Philip Clarke, Captain James Biscoe, Mr. George Bowles, Mr. John Cartwright,
and Captain Gilbert Ireland, Gentlemen, Justices by his Lordship’s
Commission of the Peace in and for the County aforesaid lawfully authorized
and assigned. Richard Ward Key, Clk., Robert Chesley,
All of the men named above were Protestants. Further, keep in mind that Catholics were not allowed to hold public office, nor had they been since 1696 when the Puritans seized power and suspended religious toleration.
On the Motion of William Jones to this Worshipful Court. Command was given to the Sheriff of St. Mary’s County that he Summon Dennis Burne and James Burne of this County that all excuses and delays set apart they be and appear before the Justices of our County Court to be held at Leonard Town in the County aforesaid on the first Tuesday in November then next and bring with them the children of Solomon Jones, late of the County aforesaid deceased thereof they were not to fail &c.
At which said first Tuesday in November that is to say now here at this day to wit the sixth day of the same month Anno Domini 1750 being the day of the said summons. Comes, as well, the said William Jones, by Thomas Clark, his attorney, as the said Sheriff of St. Mary’s County to whom the same was directed who makes return thereof endorsed, summoned by Robert Chesley, Sheriff, and the said Dennis Burne and James Burne, by Jeremiah Chase, their attorney, came and defended the force and injury when and so forth and produce to the court here the copies of the two following wills.
In the name of God. I Solomon Jones of St. Mary’s County in the Province of Maryland, being weak but of sound and perfect memory thanks be to God, and being willing to settle what worldly estate it hath pleased God to bestow upon me, do make and ordain this my last will and testament. First, I give my soul to almighty God who gave it, hoping by the merits of my blessed Saviour, to obtain full remission of my sins, and my body to be buried at the discretion of my Executors hereafter named.
First, I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife, Catherine one-third part of all my lands during her natural life and one-third part of all my personal estate as her proper right forever. I give and bequeath unto my son James, one horse, saddle, and bridle; the horse to be a likely horse of four years old and the saddle and bridle of fifty shillings price and that to be his full part of my personal estate.
My desire is that all the remainder of my personal estate to be equally divided amongst my other children, Margaret, Monica, Solomon, Walter, and if my wife is now with child, that to have an equal part with them and my will and desire is that my wife have the care and tuition of all of my children till they arrive to the following years, viz., the boys to the age of twenty and one years and the girls to the age of sixteen years, and they to be brought up at her discretion and she to have the several parts of my estate in her care until they arrive at the ages above.
I do hereby revoke and make void all wills by me formerly made and ordain this to be my last will and testament and do hereby constitute and appoint my beloved wife Catherine my full Executrix in execution thereof. In witness whereof I have hereunto put my hand and seal this 6th day of March, Anno Domini 1748/9. Signed by Solomon Jones.
Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of James Egerton, Robert Holton, John Jones, James Burne. On the back of the foregoing will was thus written viz., St. Mary’s County ss. April the 24th 1739 Then James Egerton, John Jones, and James Burn, three of the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing will be duly and solemnly sworn on the Holy Evangels of Almighty God depose and say that they saw the testator, Solomon Jones, sign the foregoing will and heard him publish and declare the same to be his last will and testament. That at the same time of his so doing, he was, to the best of their apprehension, of sound and disposing mind and memory and that they subscribed their respective names as witnesses to the said will in the presence of the said testator and at his request. Sworn to before me Tho: Asquith, Depty Comry of St. Mary’s County.
In testimony that the aforegoing
is a true copy from Liber DD, No. 5, folio 16. The seal of the Prerogative office at the
In the name of God, Amen. I Catherine Jones of St. Mary’s County in the Province of Maryland, being weak but of sound and perfect memory, thanks be to God, and being willing to settle what worldly estate it hath pleased God to bestow upon me, do make and ordain this my last will and testament. First I give my Soul to Almighty God who gave it hoping by the merits of my blessed Savior to obtain full remission of my sins, and my body to be buried at the discretion of my Executors hereafter named.
I give and bequeath unto my son, Solomon Jones a young horse, saddle and bridle to the worth of five pounds to be delivered him when he arrives to the age of eighteen years.
Secondly, it is my will and desire that the remainder of my estate be equally divided among my four children, Margaret, Monocy, Walter and Bridgett at the discretion of my Executors hereafter named.
Thirdly, it is my will and desire that all my children and estate be and remain in the care and tuition of my two brothers, Dennis Burne and James Burne until they shall arrive to full age; that is my sons to the age of twenty one years and my daughters to the age of sixteen years or the day of marriage which shall first happen.
Fourthly, it is my will and desire that my two brothers before mentioned shall settle my deceased husband’s estate with the Commissary in behalf of my children and it is my true intent and meaning that if the court should see fit to move my children out of the care of my two brothers that their estates shall still be and remain in their possession to keep for the good and safety of said children.
It is obvious from this part of Catherine’s will that she already knew that William Jones would make an attempt to take her children and their estates from her brothers at her death. How sad it is to think that this poor woman, who knew she was going to die, would go to her grave anticipating that her wishes would be disregarded and agonizing over the thought that her children would not have an estate to inherit.
Fourthly, I do hereby revoke and make void all wills by me made and ordain this to be my last will and testament and do hereby constitute and appoint my two brothers, Dennis Burne and James Burne my full and joint Executors in executing thereof and it is my full desire that my son, Solomon and my daughter Bridgett do live with my brother James Burne, and my daughters Margaret and Monocy and my son, Walter with my brother Dennis Burn.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand seal this the 3d day of February 1749. Catherine x Jones (her mark).
Signed and sealed in the presence of Mary Martin, Sarah Hopkins, John Conally (all made their marks).
At the foot of the aforegoing will was thus written: St. Mary’s County, February 28th 1749. Then (came) Mary Martin and John Conally, two of the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing will being duly and solemnly sworn on the Holy Evangels of Almighty God depose and say that they saw the testator, Catherine Jones sign the foregoing will and heard her publish and declare (this) to be her last will and testatment. That at the time of
her so doing, she was, to the best of their apprehension, of sound and disposing mind and memory and that they saw Sarah Hopkins sign the same as witness to the said will in the presence of the testatrix.
Sworn to before me Tho: Asquith Depty Comry of St Marys County. In testimony that the aforegoing is a True Lib. C.B. [Seal] Copy from Liber DD No 6, folio 191. The seal of the Prerogative Office at the City of Annapolis is hereunto affixed this 1st day of November 1750. Richard Dorsey Regr Cur. Prer.
Which being seen, heard and fully understood, mature deliberation being thereupon also had, it is ordered by the Court that the children of Solomon Jones, who died a Protestant, be removed from the care of Dennis Burne and James Burne who are deemed Papists unto the custody and care of William Jones to be brought up and educated in the Protestant religion and that the interest of the estate be paid to the said William Jones for the support of the orphans, and that they continue with the said William Jones until such time as some other Protestant relation, whom the Court shall approve of, will take and bring them up in the Protestant religion.
Whereupon the said Dennis and James, by their attorney aforesaid, pray an appeal from the said judgement of the Court to the Honorable Governor and Council which was granted.
In testimony that the aforegoing is a true [Seal] copy taken from the records of St. Mary’s County Court. The Publick Seal of the said County is hereunto Athxed this 8th day of April 1751. Richard Ward Key, Clk Com. Predt.
Upon reading and considering the aforesaid transcript, it is the opinion of this Board and ruled accordingly, that the judgment of the County Court be affirmed unless cause be shewn to the contrary by Tuesday the eleventh day of June next.
William Cumming, Esqr. Of Council with James Burne on behalf of Solomon Jones’ orphans, exhibits to this Board the following reasons for the reversal of a judgment of the Justices of St. Mary’s County Court, copy of which judgment was preferred to this Board
on the 29th of May last.
James Burne on behalf of Solomon Jones’ orphans before the Governor and Council at suit (of) William Jones. Reasons for the reversal of a judgment given in favor of the Plaintiff in St. Mary’s County Court.
1st: That Solomon Jones, the father of these orphans, by his will in writing duly executed, gave the tuition and guardianship of three (these) children to his wife, Catherine Jones and sometime thereafter departed this life.
2nd: That Catherine Jones, the wife of the said Solomon and mother of the said children by her Will in writing duly executed, gave and left the tuition and guardianship of the said children to her two brothers, James and Dennis Burne, which said Dennis is since dead.
3rd: That sundry people, well and intimately acquainted with the above named Solomon Jones and William Jones, upon oath declare that they, at sundry times, have heard the said Solomon Jones, as well in his last sickness at the making his last will and testament as at other times say, his brother William Jones should never have the care or management of, or anything to do with his children, there having been for several years a violent and strong enmity, variance and lawsuits depending and subsisting between the said Solomon and the said William Jones.
But though the matters did appear as aforesaid before the Justices of St. Mary’s County, yet they ordered the care and tuition of the aforesaid three (?) children to the said William Jones, their uncle, from which order your Petitioner hath appealed to your Excellency and Honors and humbly prays that the said William Jones may have a short day to answer the same and that the order made by the said Justices may be reversed and your petitions shall ever pray & c. William Cumming.
Which reasons being read and upon hearing, the arguments of the Council and upon mature deliberation thereupon had, it is by this Board ordered and adjudged that the judgment given in the aforesaid cause by the Justices of St. Mary’s County Court be affirmed and it is hereby affirmed accordingly. 30th Septemr 1751.
So why did William Jones pursue taking the children of his brother, Solomon? Was it greed, revenge, or was it religion?
I have to believe it was greed and revenge. Religion was the only weapon he had to use. His own friends and neighbors had testified that Solomon Jones had told them he wanted his brother William to have nothing to do with his children and that should have been testimony enough, but the “religion card” was played and he won, or at least he partly won.
If you take a closer look at the decision, you’ll note that William Jones did not receive the estates of the children. He received only the interest for their support.
Why don’t I think it was religion? Mary Jones, William’s daughter, married none other than Dennis Burns, Jr., the nephew of Catherine Burns. William Jones did not disinherit his daughter. The will of William Jones in 1759 devised to his daughter, Mary Burns, a mulatto woman named Eleanor.
Children of Solomon Jones and Catherine Burns:
James Jones (born before 1737) died in 1749 or early 1750.
Margaret Jones (born 1738) married Thomas Weatherington before 1763.
Monica Jones (born 1742)
Solomon Jones, Jr. (1743-1794) married Ann Fenwick (daughter of John Fenwick and Monica Ford) prior to 1766. Solomon did receive his share of “Scotland” and devised it to his son, Solomon Jones III by his will in 1794.
Solomon Jones, Jr. remained a Catholic; married a Catholic girl; and at least one of his children was baptized at St. Ignatius Catholic Church at St. Inigoes. Solomon and Ann also named a son Solomon and a daughter, Catherine in memory of his parents.
Walter Jones (born 1748)
Bridget Jones (born 1749)
The 1763 administration accounts of William Jones, shown below, only refer to four of the children of Solomon Jones, therefore we have to assume that either Monica, Walter, or Bridget had died between 1751 and 1763. I have no record of either of these children after 1752, but we know that at least two of them were still living in 1763.
7/1/1763: Admin. accts. of William Jones, SMC. Received from: Horn Roberts, John Squires, Jos. Bennett, Edw. Abell, John Connelly, John Beal, Chas. Smith, Wm. Hall, Thos. Richardson, Wm. Bailey, Eliz. Hudnell, Eliz. Thomas, James Kirk, Thomas James, Wm. Hayney, Jos. Fitzjeffry, Lazarus Fletcher, Wm. Cope, Anthony Underwood, John Smith, James Egerton, Mary Martin, Thos. Biscoe, James Barn, Thomas Witherinton, James Griffin, John Thomas, Jr., Mark Bailey, Robert Clark, James Lee, John Langley, Sr., Joseph Beall, Jonathan Thomas, Charles Batts, Philip Mahoney, Ann Bean, John Langley, Jr., Joshua Green, Patrick Burn, Richard Taylor. Payments to: Wm. Holton, John Corser, Hugh Hopewell, James Jarboe, Mev. Lock, Abraham Barnes, Basil Biscoe, John White, John Arthurs, Thomas Chesley, Timothy Barnhouse, John Biscoe, Andrew Masters, Wm. Harrison & usor (execs. of John Langley), Joshua Bean, John Payne & Pain, Geo. Biscoe, John Eden, Daniel Dulany, Esq., John Eden for Thomas Aisquith, two orphans of Solomon Jones (paid to their guardian, John Jones), 1 other orphan of Solomon Jones (paid to its guardian, James Biscoe), Thomas Witherington who married a daughter of Solomon Jones, Joseph Green (orphan of John Green), Thomas Green (orphan of John Green). Execs.: William Williams and his wife, Ann Williams, Matthias Jones. (Admin. accts. of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, Libers, 46-51, 1760-1764 by V. L. Skinner, Jr.). NOTE: This record is not on CD #206.
Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, Archives of Maryland, Vol. 28, p. 507-511
Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, Archives of MD, Vol. 28, p. 515-516.
Prepared by: Linda Reno, March 15, 2006
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