month's feature article:
Murder of Christopher Rousby:Part II
Part I of this article, we discussed the events surrounding the
controversy between Lord Baltimore and Christopher Rousby. This
controversy eventually led to King James becoming involved
would have thought that the dispute might have ended here, but
it did not. In a letter to Sir Lionel Jenkins dated May 31, 1682,
just three months after King James had already issued, what can
only be construed as a strong admonishment of Lord Baltimore,
Baltimore persisted and wrote that, "Badcock was never called
before my Council about that difference with me which he affirmed
he was (as it appears by His Sacred Majesty's letter of the 8th
day of February 1681/2.)".
documents were also provided including an extract which had been
prepared of a letter from Christopher Rousby to Robert Ridgely
dated December 6, 1681 "so that I would not trouble you with
a copy of the whole"; the latter part of which he seems to
resolve to follow his old practice of taking an easy penny, as
he terms it, by which his Majesty must be indemnified in his customs,
for if Rousby did not compound with (ship) masters, all the tobacco
exported from here would certainly be carried directly to England,
of this I am certain. I humbly beg that when His Majesty's Collector
shall come, he may be commanded to give me (a) copy of his instructions,
and of all orders from time to time which may anyway relate to
His Majesty's interest and service, and then I shall not doubt
but to approve myself a faithful observer of all commands as well
as a dutiful subject to my king. I beg you will please to present
my humble petition to His most sacred Majesty ".
time went on and Christopher Rousby continued to stop and sometimes
seize ships to ensure payment of the King’s customs while Lord
Baltimore continued to complain. Rousby wasn’t an angel either.
Arrogant and insolent were the terms most often used to describe
October 31, 1684, Christopher Rousby was murdered while aboard
the "Quaker Ketch" commanded by Capt. Thomas Allen.
The perpetrator was George Talbot, a first cousin of Lord Baltimore
(son of Helen Calvert and James Talbot) who Lord Baltimore had
appointed as Surveyor General of Maryland in 1683.
all accounts, Christopher Rousby had been aboard the "Quaker
Ketch" with Capt. Allen when George Talbot arrived. An argument
ensued which ended in the death of Rousby. Unfortunately, there
is not much information available about the murder itself.
indictment presented by the Grand Jury stated that Rousby was
unarmed and that Talbot "with a certain dagger made of iron
and steel of the value of one shilling" stabbed Rousby in
the right breast". Rousby died instantly.
Allen immediately placed Talbot in irons, but refused to surrender
him to the Maryland authorities, stating that he would carry him
to Virginia for trial. Despite the protests of the Marylanders,
Governor Effingham of Virginia also refused to surrender Talbot.
In the meantime, Lord Baltimore was attempting, through the Privy
Council, to have Talbot sent to England for trial.
Talbot took matters into her own hands and managed to free her
husband the following February. Talbot went into hiding near his
home on the Susquehanna River, but finally surrendered to the
Maryland authorities the following April. Governor Effingham immediately
demanded that he be turned over to Virginia authorities. In October,
1685, a year after the crime, Lord Baltimore, who was still in
England, directed the Marylanders to turn Talbot over to the Virginia
authorities who had been directed to return Talbot to England
the following April, the King directed that the trial of Talbot
be held in Virginia. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced
to death. Before the death sentence was carried out, however,
Talbot was released on his own recognizance and soon thereafter,
the King pardoned him!
Rousby was buried at his home, coincidentally called "Susquehanna"
in St. Mary’s County. His tombstone, marked with a skull and crossbones
was inscribed as follows:
lyeth the Body of Xpher Rousbie Esquire Who was taken out of this
world by a violent death received on Board his Majesty’s Ship
the Quaker Ketch, Cap’ Thos. Allen commander the last day of Oct’r
1684. And alsoe of Mr. John Rousbie, his Brother, who departed
this Natural Life on Board the Ship Baltimore. Being arrived in
Patuxon River the first day of February 1685 ‘memento mori’."
Christopher Rousby out of the way, one would have thought that
Lord Baltimore would be satisfied, but that was not the case,
probably because he was still unable to have one of his kinsmen
appointed as King’s Collector.
James named Nicholas Blackistone to take over Rousby’s duties,
presumably until a replacement could be found. On April 20, 1685,
Blackistone felt compelled to write a "letter of complaint
against Lord Baltimore’s officers." His letter states:
hope my letter of the 10th of November last sent via Virginia
and my duplicate of the same in another ship is come safe to
your hands since which I met with divers testimoniesand experience
of the truth of what intelligence I therein gave to your Honors.
The most horrid murder of His Majesty’s Collector here hath
been and is daily seconded with very apparent tokens of approvement
both from Talbot, the bloody malefactor, and all his adherents
who are busy in extenuating his crime and have conspired and
procured his escape from prison in Virginia and from thence
transported him to Maryland where he remains publicly known
at his own house.
is little hope of his being brought to justice that he may receive
condign punishment, there being a literal intercourse and correspondence
between him and some principal magistrates of this Province,
and no effectual course taken for apprehending him which I humbly
conceive may be a strong argument and signal taken to your Honors
of the ill and wicked carriage of things here.
Mr Rousby's murder, I have been continually discountenanced
and obstructed in my proceedings in his Majesty's Service by
the chief persons left and deputed for the Government of this
Province. They have condemned and disowned my commission, torn
and burnt my certificates to masters of ships and have diverted
and dissuaded masters of ships from applying themselves any
ways to me and so have entered clear and dispatched ships without
my notice or privity by which means I am certain several transgressors
have escaped and many frauds pass undetected.
Lord Baltimore's Council have also assumed a power to themselves
to depute another to be Collector in several rivers to levy
and receive all His Majesties rates, duties and impositions
payable by the Act of 25th year of the reign of our Sovereign
Lord, the King and for my disowning and not complying with those
appointed (and I hope your Honors will not blame me for saying
spuriously empowered) Collectors and for my dissenting from
their proceedings, I have been served with warrants to appear
before some of them and they threatened me with bringing me
to the Provincial Court and with infliction of several punishments,
banishments and utter ruin of me and my family.
of them especially, by name Col. William Diggs, domineers and
tells me I shall not maintain my commission here unless by great
guns as Captain Allen does, whom he and the rest try to calumniate
and ignominiously term him a pirate and endeavor to throw all
such like base, scurilous aspersions against him me and both
our commissions, but notwithstanding threatenings and difficulties,
I shall proceed to the best of my knowledge and endeavors to
execute the duties of my place and commission especially in
what I see may (be) most conduce (conducive) to His Majesty's
interest and service in the present circumstances and exigency
of affairs here.
humbly beg your Honors mediation for his Majesty's true information
that a course may be taken to repel and remedy those growing
and intolerable insolences and illegal doings under which His
Majesties officers heretofore have ever been sufferers and now,
after them, I expect the same or as bad usage to complete the
hard measure I met with alreadyunless speedy care be had for
prevention of the dangers and mischiefs that certainly impend
(impede) me in (the) prosecution of His Majesty's service in
I am confident his Majesty is prejudiced several thousand pounds
by the obstruction andconfusion that's caused in His Majesty's
Affairs and concerns here and I doubt his revenue from the duties
of the penny per pound for tobacco will prove but small this
year by reason many masters and merchants bound for other of
His Majesties plantations would have carried tobacco, but have
been threatened by the aforesaid Col. (Diggs), to seize their
ships and be sued if they paid any duties but to themselves.
being discouraged and frightened, (and) have declined carrying
any tobacco. I know as yet but of two entries made with me or
my deputies for tobacco to pay the duties in the whole Province.
I hear (that) some of the said (Baltimore’s) collectors have
lately clandestinely cleared and received His Majesties duties
of some tobacco and as to that I shall make (a) thorough inspection.
Nicholas Sewall, one of the aforesaid Council and Collectors
at Patuxent, entered some Irish and some other ships which,
upon my suspicion of their being transgressors of the Laws of
Trade, I told him of the irregularity of such proceedings in
giving entries and permits of trade without the knowledge and
assent of the Chief Officer of His Majesty's Customs for the
time being and demanded the certificates to be brought in by
the masters of those ships but the said Sewall deferred delivery
thereof and suspecting that either I or Capt. Allen by my order
would seize on them immediately sent notice to those masters
of their dangers and promised them all favor upon their submitting
their ships to their seizures, which was complied with and accordingly
prosecuted, and the ship brought to condemnation by a private
court appointed for that purpose and all this is done as appears
and can be fully proved to prevent our proceedings and just
executions of our commissions in behalf of His Majesty.
Nicholas Sewall, the brother-in-law of William Diggs, was also
involved in the murder of John Paine, Christopher Rousby’s successor,
like manner, there were some prohibited goods put on shore near
St. Mary’s from a ship that fled from me out of the Patuxent
River. The said goods, with all speed, were seized by the said
Maj. Sewall and Colonel Darnall who appointed a trial for the
same in which business they might have had witnesses enough
besides there was the depositions of some persons who are still
resident in the Province whose proof could have effected the
condemnation of the said goods, but the said goods notwithstanding,
all this which they well knew were cleared and acquitted and
those material witnesses (were) never summoned in the business.
ship which imported these goods and commodities was soon, after
the landing of them, met with and seized by Captain Allen to
whom I sent directions to that purpose and when the ship was
so seized and a trial demanded in His Majesties behalf, which
was denied him by one of the principal ministers and officers
of this government, Captain Allen then carried the said ship
to his Majesties court in Virginia where I was forced todismiss
(dismiss in this case meaning to proceed with) my prosecutions
against her and took the master’s bond in His Majesty's behalf".
copy of Blackistone’s letter must have been provided to Lord Baltimore,
as his response to that letter is dated the same day.His response:
plainly appears, by a letter from the Governor of Virginia to
the Deputies of Maryland that the escape made by George Talbot
out of prison, was occasioned by the corruption of the guard,
and not procured by any persons of Maryland as is falsely suggested
in the letter of the said Blackistone, and that as soon as the
Governor of Virginia had given notice to the Deputies of Maryland
of the said Talbot's escape, special care was taken immediately
by them for his apprehension as appears by the hue and cry sent
out into all parts of the Province, besides what other ways
and means could be used for the speedy beginning (apprehension)
of the said Talbot, who never was publicly seen at his own plantation
(though the contrary is affirmed by the said Blackistone, but
always kept himself out in the mountains to the northward, until
at last he resolved to surrenderhimself to the Deputies of Maryland
where now he is under a strong guard to be disposed of as His
Majesty shall think fit.
Lordship is very confident Mr. Blackistone has no just cause
to complain of his being discountenanced in the execution of
his place, for that he (Baltimore) very well knows his officers
dare not presume to offer any contempt nor show the least disrespect
either to his person or commission nor would they presume to
dissuade masters of vessels from presenting themselves and their
certificates to His Majesty's Officers, his Lordship having
long since ordered that they should apply themselves to the
King's Collector as well as to his own and such was the practice
while Mr. Christopher Rousby was living and the truth of this
may be easily known from several masters of ships and others
now in town, after Mr. Christopher Rousby was so unfortunately
killed by George Talbot.
Deputies of Maryland did presume to appoint Col. Wm Diggs and
Maj. Nicholas Sewall (both of them persons of good repute and
estates) to officiate as collectors for His Majesties duties,
until another person could be appointed by the Commissioners
of His Majesty's Customs, and this they thought their duty to
take care to do, that His Majesties Officers might receive the
less prejudice by that wicked act of the said Talbot and hisLordship
doubts not, but the said persons so appointed will give a just
account of their proceedings to the Commissioners of His Majesty's
Lordship cannot believe that Mr. Blackistone has been served
(as he alleges in his said letter) with any warrant or has been
threatened in that manner as he has written and therefore humbly
begs that enquiry may be made of such persons as are lately
come from those parts of whom the truth of all this may be easily
known, though it may very possibly be that he has been arrested
at the suits of his many creditors, it being known to many he
is much in debt and has been so for many years.
Wm Diggs, one of his Lordships Collectors, is known by several
eminent merchants here to be a person of so much loyalty as
that he would not be guilty of those foul things laid to his
charge in the said letter, and it were to be wished that Mr.
Blackistone had at all times expressed his loyalty to the King
as amply as the said Diggs has always done both in Virginia
not possible for any person that understands the trade of Maryland
to believe his Majesty should be prejudiced several thousand
pounds, if his Lordship’s Officers should be as malicious and
as wicked as the said Blackistone doth endeavor to represent
them for while Christopher Rousby lived, who understood the
office well and knew as much as any person, how to make the
most of it, there never was much above 100 pounds in one year
received by him, for so he often declared to his Lordship.
strange therefore to his Lordship, as also to all dealers and
traders thither, that MrBlackistone should find out that it
is possible for his Lordship’s Officers by any obstruction which
he says is given by them to prejudice his Majesty in so high
a measure, were they so undutiful and impudent as to do it in
any matter whatsoever. But Mr. Blackistone takes care to signify
that he doubts he shall receive little tobacco this year, and
gives this as a reason that his Lordship’s Officers threaten
the masters of vessels that in case they pay not the penny per
pound duty to them, they shall be sued and their vessels seized,
and yet notwithstanding this complaint, His Lordship is ready
to make it appear that the said Blackistone had received several
thousand pounds of tobacco, even before he had written that
letter, and (with) the same had paid away to his creditors,
who never had any hopes of being satisfied by him until he had
obtained His Majesty's commission.
will be proved if required, so that Mr. Blackistone had no other
way this year to make up his accounts with the Commissioners
of His Majesty’s Customs but by pretending great obstructions
from his Lordship’s Officers.
Mr. Blackistone has mentioned concerning Maj. Sewall is as untrue
as the rest of his letter, for when the said Sewall had given
him notice of several Irish vessels he intended to seize, the
said Blackistone neglected to assist him in it and so the said
Sewall was forced to proceed without him and after those vessels
were seized, the said Blackistone persuaded Capt. Allen to send
boats and men to secure them, who finding his Lordship’s Officers
on board were disappointed which gave great trouble to them
both and is the cause of his writing that he was prevented in
the discharge of his office, some of the said vessels were condemned
at a special court and the rest more likely to receive the same
condemnation as his Lordship has been informed and a faithful
account will begiven suddenly by his Lordship’s Officers to
the Commissioners of His Majesty's Customs and his Lordship
is assured they will be also ready and able to clear themselves
in all particulars when they shall know and understand what
Mr. Blackistone hascharged them with, for his Lordship doth
not doubt but it will, in the end, appear some prejudice and
ill will the said Blackistone has been guilty of in his office
and of which his Lordship has given notice to the Commissioners
of his Majesties Customs.
his Lordship humbly begs that the said Blackiston may be required
to prosecute his great charge contained in his said letter that
in case Col. Diggs and the rest of the officers in Maryland
be found guilty they may suffer, but if innocent as his Lordship
hopes and believes they are, that then they may be cleared."
following quote comes directly from the Maryland Archives:
murder of Christopher Rousby, and, in 1691, the subsequent murder
of John Paine, his successor, tended to "represent the Province
(of Maryland) as the seat of lawlessness and disaffection, and
the insinuating (William) Penn was ever at the King's ear. Breaking
charters was congenial work to James, and he took steps to have
that of Maryland revoked; but before the case could come to trial,
an indignant and disgusted people had hurled the worst of the
Stuarts from the throne."
Lord Baltimore falling out of favor with the King and with William
Penn having the King’s ear, Maryland would eventually lose all
property south of the 40th parallel which includes
present day Delaware and that part of Pennsylvania south of Philadelphia.
Maryland wasn’t finished losing yet. In 1942, when the U.S. Navy
took over the land which encompassed "Susquehanna",
the Rousby property, Henry Ford bought the house located on that
site (called by the same name), had it dismantled, and moved it
to Dearborn, Michigan where it is now on display in Greenfield
Village, a part of the Henry Ford Museum. I guess, to complete
the deal, it was thought necessary for him to have the Rousby
graves moved as well. St. Mary’s County has not always done such
a fine job of protecting its treasures.
is a another bizarre twist to the Christopher Rousby story. There
are some who believe that none other than Captain Kidd, who was
supposed to have been hung for piracy, actually escaped and assumed
the name of Christopher Rousby, and lived out his days in New
Jersey. But that’s another story…..
by: Linda Reno, 3/20/2002
you know that...
Athanasius Fenwick of St. Mary’s County (1780-1824) had a son named
James Athanasius Fenwick (1818-1882), who, after being orphaned
by both parents in 1824, moved to Philadelphia to live with members
of his mother’s family? He bought property in Burlington Co., NJ
in 1844 and named it “Fenwick Manor”.
--James Fenwick cultivated his land for cranberries and by 1912,
“Fenwick Manor” was the largest cranberry operation in New Jersey.
White, granddaughter of James Fenwick, is credited with the cultivation
of blueberries in the U.S. or anywhere else for that matter. Prior
to 1916, blueberries could only be found growing wild.
--James Fenwick and his sisters had the body of their father moved
from his home in St. Mary’s County to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. His tombstone reads: Col. Athanasius Fenwick.
A soldier of the War of 1812. Born in St. Mary’s County, MD, A.D.
1780. Died A.D. 1824. These remains were removed from Cherryfields,
St. Mary’s County, MD, their original burial place, by his surviving
children, A.D. 1874.
--“Fenwick Manor” is still owned by descendants of Col. Athanasius