Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Holbrook line: Robert Clarke Surveyor-General to Lord Baltimore

This ancestor doesn't fit the mold of most of the family. He wasn't Puritan, he didn't go to New England, and he apparently died with much less than he had owned earlier in his lifetime.  It's more of a riches to rags story, and much of it has to do with the fact that he wasn't Puritan. In fact, he was a Roman Catholic and narrowly escaped being hanged. 

Let's start at the beginning, which seems to be not as pinpointed as we would like.  He was born either in London or Rotherhithe, County Surrey, England, the son of Robert Clarke and Mary Futter, in either 1610 or 1611.  There is a Robert Clarke, son of Robert Clarke, baptized March 28, 1610 at St Mary, Islington, Middlesex.  Islington is now a part of London, and at the time Robert was born, still had a genteel, affluent feel to it.  I think this is a possible candidate for being our Robert.

We know nothing of his life for the next 27 or so years.  In 1637, he arrived at St Mary's City in Maryland on board the ship Unity.  St Mary's was founded in 1627 as a religious haven for both Catholics and Protestants, and toleration did mark the first years of the colony.  By 1638 he was a freeman and a member of the Privy Council of Maryland, and he was made Surveyor General of Lord Baltimore.  This indicates to me that he was a man with "good connections" if not money.  He seems to have had represented Father Thomas Copley, a Roman Catholic missionary, in dealings with the native Americans, and was on good terms with them. 

He sat in the House of the Assembly in 1649 and frequently thereafter, and several documents from his time as Surveyor-General still exist and bear his signature.  He must have been an educated man, to hold these positions and to be able to sign his name.  At various times, he was a privy councillor, a burgess, and a judge, so he was highly respected.  In 1651, was was a steward of Calverton, which was a 10,000 acre property reserved for a secure "habitation" for the tribes of six Indian nations. 

Maryland was not exempt from the disputes in England that caused the Civil War there, which (to over-simplify) was a religious war between the Catholics and the Protestants.  After England's troubles were settled, Maryland was still at war and the battle of Severn in 1655 is considered the last of the battles of the English civil war. Once again, it was Puritans (who had taken control of Maryland earlier) versus the Catholics, whose leadership had gone to Virginia.  We don't know where Robert was during this time, but we know that when the Catholics attacked to retake "their" land, Robert was one of those captured and sentenced to death.  Some of the prisoners were hanged, but women of the area petitioned to stop the killings and the remaining prisoners basically had to pay a ransom for their freedom. Robert's ransom was 10,000 pounds of tobacco.  He did not have that amount, so he ended up losing his land on Britton's Bay.

Robert had married three times.  His first wife was believed to have been Eleanor, but no further information is available regarding her surname or family.  He is believed to have married about 1640, and to have had two children with Eleanor, John and Mary.  By his second wife, Winifred Seybourne, whom he married in 1651, he had two additional children, Robert and Thomas.  He married again to Jane Hicks in 1661, but had no children from that marriage.  His will lists his children as John, Robert, Thomas and Mary. John had reached his majority but Robert was 12 and Thomas was 10 when the will was written.

Robert died July 21, 1664 in Charles County, Maryland. He mentions giving John all his "lands, tenements and herediments whatsoever" but it doesn't appear that he had title to any remaining property in Maryland.

So, here we have a faithful Catholic, a prominent gentleman, and a public servant for much of his life. There is much to honor here, even if he doesn't quite fit into our family mold.  Here's the line of descent:

Robert Clarke-Eleanor
John Clarke-Ann possibly Dent
Robert Clarke-Selina Smith
Hannah Clarke-James Amos
Robert Amos-Martha McComas
Robert Amos-Elizabeth Amos (yes, they were cousins)
Martha Amos-Peter Black
Elizabeth Black-Isaac Hetrick
Alice Hetrick-Louis Stanard
Etta Stanard-Loren Holbrook
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen
Their descendents