Monday, December 31, 2018

Carroll of Duddington vs. Jenkins of the Hill

A Carroll throws down the gauntlet

There are various ways to meet the minor characters in history. We know them from what they signed, their correspondence, what others wrote about them, and then there are those who were lucky enough to have something named after them. Such a person was Jenkins. In the spring of 1791 after he surveyed the site prior to making his plan of the future nation's capital, L'Enfant wrote to Secretary of State Jefferson lauding “Jenkins heights which stand as a pedestal waiting for a monument.” Two years later construction of the Capitol began and ever since histories and guide books have said the Capitol was build on Jenkins Hill. Yet no one is quite sure who Jenkins was and many think L'Enfant coined the name passing it on to the secretary of state and president and thus into history.

Meanwhile Daniel Carroll of Duddington joined 16 proprietors deeding some 5000 acres of land to the federal government in an agreement that they thought would make them wealthy men. They would get $67 an acre for their land used for public buildings or parks and half of the remaining land was to be returned to them divided by streets into squares and those squares into building lots. Carroll deeded the most land, 1400 acres, including the site of the Capitol. Obviously any houses he built near it would be among the most valuable in the city. Carroll expected to become a very wealthy man.

 Carroll's property

He didn't, and he scarcely got credit for his sacrifice. The Capitol was built on Carroll's hill, land owned by the Carroll family since 1727. So how can historians keep repeating that the Capitol was built on Jenkins Hill? It is not fair to say that we owe the handsome volume Creating Capitol Hill: Place, Proprietors and People because of that question, but Charles Carroll Carter spends about a third of his introductory essay on how Jenkins got credit that rightfully belonged to his Carroll family.

In searching for an answer Carter enlisted the help of archivists and scholars and came up with this: between October 1790 and June 1791 a man named Thomas Jenkins had title to a 54 acre tract on the first high point on the ridge overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. That tract was on the only road to the hill where the Capitol was built, so most likely L'Enfant bumped into Jenkins and learned from him or someone else in the vicinity that he was on Jenkins' Hill.

D. Carroll's 54 acre purchase relation to site of Capitol

Here is how Carter's source John Michael Vlach puts it in his Spring 2004 Capitol Dome magazine article: “In the federal census of 1800, the household of Thomas Jenkins was recorded as consisting of a white male and four enslaved men, a workforce sufficient to turn a quick profit on a fifty-four acre plot. The presence of such a work crew is important to the naming of Capitol Hill because the path of the ferry road mentioned by L’Enfant in his letters to Washington ran right through Jenkins’s parcel. Given that there was no other way, at that time, to travel across the hill, L’Enfant almost certainly encountered Jenkins or one or more of his slaves. While such a meeting can only be conjectured, it does suggest why, of all the possible labels he might have assigned to a relatively untamed wooded plateau, L’Enfant would fasten on the name Jenkins.” (In his book Carter does not allude to the possibility of slaves influencing L'Enfant. Daniel Carroll of Duddington had 13 slaves in 1800. His mother and her second husband, who lived nearby, had 25 slaves.)

Farmer Jenkins lurches into the public record in 1804. On February 18 Thomas Monroe, superintendent of the city, wrote to President Jefferson that “a man by the name of Jenkins” had permission of his landlord Samuel Davidson, to enclose a corn field despite knowing that lots there had been sold and streets on the city plan crossed it. Worse still “the cattle, horses and hogs of the Citizens get into this field, and, it is said, Jenkins frequently kills them.” Sounds just like the ignorant overbearing sort that would “fasten” his name on a naive Frenchman and take credit for a hill that belonged to somebody else!

Seriously, the problem with Vlach's theory is that the Jefferson and Washington clearly knew what L'Enfant meant when he referred to Jenkins Hill. Jefferson had inspected the area in September 1790 going along the shore of the Potomac from Notley Young's mansion to Little Falls. It is unlikely that he too bumped into Jenkins or his slaves cutting wood. 

President Washington also knew of Jenkins Hill or Heights. In describing his view of the extent of the new city in an April 4, 1791, letter to L'Enfant, Washington uses seven geographical names: Rock Creek, Potowmac river, Eastern branch (or Anacostia River), Evans’ point, George Town, Bladensburgh and “the flat back of Jenkin’s height.” The use of the name in his sure description of the geography of the area was not born of L'Enfant's bumping into a farmer or one of his slaves a few days before. In his many trips between Philadelphia and Mount Vernon Washington knew what he saw off to the east as angled toward Georgetown: Jenkins Hill.

In his March 26 memorandum to the president describing his survey L'Enfant mentions Jenkins Hill twice. (This memorandum is indescribably illegible.) He first mentions Jenkins Hill as the terminal point for a ridge: “all round were it decen’d but most particularly on that part terminating in a ridge to Jenkins’ Hill....” Then the hill rears up again as the backstop of the non-governmental part of the city east of Georgetown: “as far as were it end on Jenkins Hill would place the City Central to the ground left open to its agrandisement which most undoubtly would be rapide...”

His language is confusing but Jenkins Hill is the one sure point in it, a landmark that he knew everyone could picture without second guessing – “oh, does he mean Carroll's hill?” The Carroll family likely called it Jenkins Hill. Vlach notes that on July 5, 1791, the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, reported: “It appears that the buildings of the Legislature are to be placed on Jenkin’s Hill on the land of Daniel Carroll, esq. of Duddington.”

George Walker, the principal publicist among the proprietors, was likely the source of that item. He had just bought 358 acres east of Carroll's holdings for $27,000. He was unlikely to jeopardize his investment with some slight of his new neighbor. He described the situation so everybody from Georgetown to Baltimore including all the Carroll clan stretched in between would understand it. By the way, Creating Capitol Hill is shy about dollars, cents and Maryland pounds. In the notes I took while preparing my Through a Fiery Trail: Building Washington 1790-1800, I have Carroll paying 300 pounds roughly $800 for the 54 acres he bought from Jenkins.

Creating Capitol Hill is a bit of a hodge-podge and in the mix I think there are clues suggesting why Capitol Hill was called Jenkins Hill. While Carter zeroes in on Jenkins in the front of the book, in an appendix reprinting Priscilla McNeil's 1991 article on the original land owners, you get the impression that when Thomas Jenkins popped up in that sale to Carroll in June 1791 it was a ploy to clear title to the land: “On June 1, 1791, Thomas Jenkins purchased 54 acres of the Houpyard from William Pearce of Frederick County and on the same day conveyed them to Daniel Carroll....” In her long essay which forms most of the book Pam Scott says Carroll purchased the land on October 1, 1790. Then Jenkins conveyed the land to Carroll in February 15, 1791, but by a "faulty deed" which was cleared up on June 1. (She also claims that Carroll made the deal “to become a major player in developing the new capital.” As if 1400 acres were not enough.)

In another section of the book map maker Don Hawkins lays a visual clue. In a map showing the placement of houses in the rural landscape in 1791, he has the names Jenkins and Pierce in what was to become northwest Washington. A Enoch Jenkins owned a 61 acre tract named Escape that he patented in the 1772. The Pierce or Pearce family was connected by marriage to the Jenkins family.

Don Hawkin's colorful map with Ferry Road roughly in the middle

McNeil notes that connection between the Pearces and Jenkins. In 1735 John Pearce gave 50 acres of Port Royal, just north of the site of the White House, to his daughter Ruth and her husband Daniel Jenkins. The two families are paired in the 1791 land transaction that gave Carroll 54 acres in southeast Washington. Draw a line connecting the disparate tracts owned by Pearces and the Jenkins family and you roughly trace the route of the Ferry Road that crosses what would become Capitol Hill.

So in his analysis of the situation, Vlach is spot on when he relates the Ferry Road to the Jenkins Hill quandary. He just misses the important point. All the farms on Carroll lands were convenient to the Eastern Branch, Potomac, James Creek and Tiber Creek. If the latter was really a serviceable waterway the Pearce and Jenkins families would have made much of it. But take it from someone who rows and sails, tides make it difficult to navigate shallow creeks without running aground. A horse cart taking the Ferry Road over what would become Capitol Hill was much more convenient. (Georgetown was founded in 1751 so back then all crops weren't marketed there.)

Taking a slant on Priscilla McNeil's map showing a Jenkins' view of the land from Port Royal to the Eastern Branch

The Carrolls never had a reason to use the road. The Pearces and Jenkins had every reason to use it. They were probably using it before the first Carroll came to the shores of the Potomac. The 1735 gift to Ruth and Daniel Jenkins came eight years after Notley Rozier gave land to his daughter Ann and her husband the first Daniel Carroll of Duddington, the future federal city proprietor's grandfather. But that first Carroll was 20 years old when he got his land. Daniel Jenkins was 40 years old and had probably worked that land or land near it for a decade or more. So when Daniel Carroll first rode a horse up into the northern reaches of his land taking what might have just been an Indian trail over the hill, he might have bumped into a Jenkins or one of their slaves.

Plats and tracts do fret we historians of early Washington. The irony is that George Washington freed us from paying any heed to them. In a neat bit of work that took just a few months he gave the federal government clear title to all the land it needed for its capital city. That excused my dwelling on the making of the proprietors in my book. I had enough trouble figuring out the 1793 to 1798 land deals of Greenleaf, Morris and Nicholson. I hope to write more posts about Creating Capitol Hill sharing what I learned in my researches to correct mistakes and highlighting aspects of Daniel Carroll's career and character that are not so flattering. (Nothing wrong with mistakes. I should write blog posts correcting mistakes in my own 700 page book but I fear that I would wind up writing a completely different 1000 page book.)

But back to fretting: genealogists on-line have shared the will of Enoch Jenkins who was the son of Ruth Pearce and Daniel Jenkins who died in 1771. The will suggests Enoch had already made a mark in the future city when he died in 1734 at the age of 39. He gave the plantation "God's Gift", which was in Piscataway rather far away down the Potomac near Fort Washington, to his wife and eldest son Francis. To his second son John, he gave “Rome.” (see below) 

I have no expertise in interpreting wills and deeds but if that Rome was the same as or part of Francis Pope's Rome (Google that and try to get info on land records!) then that puts the Jenkins either on or rather close to where the Capitol would be built several decades before L'Enfant may have bumped into a Jenkins. Even it wasn't the Pope track it was yet another bit of land the Jenkins family owned on the road from Port Royal to the Eastern Branch.

The centuries differ on where Rome was. The 19th century pictured Pope looking down from Capitol Hill and renaming Goose Creek the Tiber. But the 1663 patent for New Troy which became part of the Carrolls' landholdings and which quite covers Capitol Hill and which is as old as Pope's 1663 patent for Rome, forced the 20th century to picture Pope peering at the Tiber through the fogs of Swampdoodle as if the hills of Rome meant nothing to him. 

In either case, it is easy to see how the Ferry Road to the deeper more open waters of the Eastern Branch was more important to the Jenkins than the Carrolls. It is easy to see how the hill the Jenkins crossed to get to the Eastern Branch became Jenkins Hill long before L'Enfant arrived on the scene.

Bob Arnebeck

Enoch Jenkins will
Maryland Calendar of Wills: Volume 7 page 71 Enoch Jenkins will; Prince George Co.; 19th Feb., 1733-4; 23rd Mar., 1733-4 "To wife Ann, extx., part of dwelling plantation, God's Gift, during widowhood; and personalty. To eld. son Francis and hrs. residue of afsd. plantation at age of 16 and entire plantation at death or marriage of his mother; and personalty. To second son John and hrs., Rome; and personalty. To sons Daniel and Bartholomew, dau. Ann and Henry Whitnall Priest, personalty. To son Zachariah and hrs., half of 121 A. Pearsimmon Tree Branch, other half to Richard Lanham and hrs.; and personalty. To son Josias, money in Great Britain. After wife's thirds are deducted, residue of estate to child. afsd. [p.71]"
Developer/Owner: Jenkins, Enoch 1730 Patent Record PL 7, p. 593 0 0 MSA S 1596-3545
Rome, 43 Acres; Certificate
Developer/Owner: Jenkins, Enoch 1732 Patent Record AM 1, p. 46 0 0 MSA S 1596-3736
Rome, 43 Acres; Patent
Developer/Owner: Jenkins, Enoch 1732 Patent Record PL 8, p. 676 0 0 MSA S 1596-3737
Rome, Enoch Jenkins, 43 Acres 1732/09/02 Patented Certificate 1889 3 0 MSA S 1203-1985

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