“All and singular the goods, chattels and personal estate of col. Henry Neale”

Henry Neale, lieutenant during the Battle of Brooklyn and lieutenant Colonel of the Forty Fifth Regiment of the Maryland militia, died in late 1815. When someone died an inventory of the deceased’s personal property was made for government records, a practice which continues today. These documents only cover personal property and do not include land. Neale’s inventory was conducted on January 30, 1816. As Henry Neale did not have a Will, this inventory is the best record of his property. All of the items listed likely want to his wife Elenor, who is listed as the executrix to Neale’s Estate.

Inventory of Henry Neale, 1816
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The time when Neale died was a transitional period for Maryland’s monetary policy. Maryland at the time was transitioning from Maryland pounds to American dollars, with inventories being appraised in either currency. Neale’s was appraised in dollars, but it can be noted that the inventory before his, a list of debts owed to a Richard Clarke Williams dated July 20, 1815, was appraised in Maryland pounds (the rate of conversion at the time was 2.66 Maryland pounds for every dollar).What was listed first was often considered the most important property: slaves. At the time of his death Neale owned forty two slaves, about the average of someone of his social status. Neale was a political leader and office holder in the local court and Maryland House of Delegates as a Federalist. He owned about 700 acres around the time of his death and considerably more at the turn of the nineteenth century, when he was considered the eleventh wealthiest man in Saint Mary’s County. The slaves’ ages and worth are listed, as well as notes for specific slaves listing occupations and if they were infirm. All together the slaves make up about eighty percent of the worth of Henry Neale’s estate.

A lot of information can be learned from an inventory. Certain items can give much insight into people’s lives. For example, one item in the inventory is listed as “1 large print [of] Arch Bishop Carroll.” Because he owed a large print of John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore and the first Archbishop in the United States, this we can infer that Henry Neale was Catholic. Another example is education. Neale owned a collection of books, including Virgil, History of the Greeks, Laws of the United States, and five volumes of Life of Washington (likely written by Chief Justice John Marshall), as well as a dictionary and some obsolete law books. These books show off knowledge of law and Greco-Roman classics normally only available to the well off.

While the inventory does not have a description of his house, we can infer that it was rather large, as nine beds are listed and are even individually numbered. He also owned a coach, which few people owned and was quite a status symbol at the time. It is the single most valuable non slave item on the list. Other symbols of status include one hundred ounces of silver plate (silverware) valued “@ $1” (yes, the ‘@’ symbol is that old) and 1800 pounds of bacon.

A final indication of Neale’s financial standing is a comparison to the inventory that follows his in the record, of Jane Lee of Saint Mary’s County, dated five months later. Lee owned 10 slaves, two beds and a work horse, as well as a variety of other items valued under thirty dollars individually, making Lee rather well off. Lee’s inventory in total value adds up to $2,532.45, which comes out to about 24% of the value of Neale’s inventory, with a worth of $10,565.72.

You can read Henry Neale’s full biography here.

-Nick Couto

Sources

Inventory of Henry Neale, 1816, Saint Mary’s County Register of Wills, Inventories,1814-1818, p. 371-380, MdHR 9946-1 [MSA C1611-6; 1/60/11/10]

Saint Mary’s County Commissioners of the Tax, Assessors Returns, 1813, Third Election District, p. 10, MdHR 20389-11/12 [MSA C1530-10, 1/60/10/27]

Steven Sarson, “Landlessness and Tenancy in Early National Prince George’s County, Maryland,” The William and Mary Quarterly (2000): 569-598.

Whitman H. Ridgway, Community Leadership in Maryland, 1790-1840: A Comparative Analysis of Power in Society. (Chapel Hill, N.C, 1979) 23

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5 Responses to “All and singular the goods, chattels and personal estate of col. Henry Neale”

  1. Mary Margaret Revell Goodwin, County Historian, Queen Anne's County says:

    I am wondering if in fact he died without a will. That is usually when goods and chattels were inventoried and listed for sale. There is often a second document that shows how much the goods were sold for. I am very, very familiar with the situation here in QA County and this is absolutely the case. Otherwise the will itself deals with at least the majority of the primary items being given to specific individuals. Our own Register of Wills William Nicholson who led the troops at Slippery Hill in 1813 here in Queenstown himself died without a will and thus I have the entire inventory of what he left behind a few years later. Given his preciseness in all his affairs, it was stunning that he died without a will, ESPECIALLY as he was the Register of Wills and knew the situations of so many!

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    • Thanks, Mary Margaret! Henry Neale in fact did not have a will, although in theory everyone’s estate was supposed to be inventoried, whether they had a will or not (although some particularly wealthy people would direct in their wills that no inventory be made). Since there is no will, it’s especially nice that Neale’s inventory is so lengthy and detailed, and tells such a nice story.

      I agree that it’s surprising the Register of Wills didn’t have a will–but also not surprising at all. So many wills seem to have been written shortly while the author was sick and near death. If Nicholson had written his will before he went into battle, he would have been joining at least five members of the Maryland 400 who wrote wills in preparation for war. Four of them are mentioned in this post, and you can read about the fifth, Cpl. Andrew Ferguson, here.

      Owen

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  2. Allison Seyler says:

    This is a really neat way to break down an inventory to create a narrative about someone’s life! Well done, Nick!

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  3. Pingback: A Common Soldier’s Inventory, and His Career | Finding the Maryland 400

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