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.
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.
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