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 Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson

Birth
Charles County, Maryland, USA
Death 1847 (aged 92–93)
Lincoln County, Kentucky, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 181494572 · View Source
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Biography originally written by Jeffrey Truitt of the Finding the Maryland 400 project in 2014 (http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/016700/016776/html/16776bio.html). It has been reprinted here in hopes of connecting with his ancestors. If they find this bio, I am more then happy to turn it over to them.

Mark McPherson was born in 1754 in Charles County, Maryland. The son of a planter, McPherson likely lived on a small plantation that provided income for the family. His father, Alexander McPherson, was a man of modest wealth who owned several tracts of farm land in the county; he died while Mark was still young, leaving his son a plot of land that contained seventy-five acres. Another plot containing eighty acres was split between Mark and his brothers (William, Alexander, and John). The McPherson brothers received this land when their mother, Elizabeth, died a short time after their father.[1]

Mark's inheritance, totaling about ninety-five acres of Charles County land, placed Mark McPherson within the great majority of the county’s free, landowning population. Though he was one of the ninety-five percent of free white males in Charles County that owned more than fifty acres of land, McPherson fell just short of the 100 acre mark that three quarters of this group surpassed. He likely continued to farm the land that he had acquired from his family, dealing tobacco and grains at Port Tobacco, the main center of trade in the county.[2] Despite the size of his landholdings and his familial connections in the area, Mark McPherson did not settle down on his property or attempt to start a family of his own. Instead, he decided to take up arms for the cause of the colonies against Britain.

Charles County was not a center of radical patriotic attitudes in the years leading up to the Revolution, making the motive behind McPherson’s service more intriguing. While a number of governing bodies, several in Maryland, were established in the colonies and spoke out against British policies and taxes, the residents of Charles County seemed to be most reactionary against taxes collected to pay the administrators and clergy of the Anglican Church in the county. The Stamp Act was not supported by the county’s inhabitants, but they met it with an attitude of avoidance more so than rebellion, as they did to most of the other oppressive laws. This seeming indifference to the major events that sparked the American Revolution was likely due to the fact that Charles, being a rural county, did not have as much to lose as the urban centers did, nor did it have as easy of a way to mobilize its residents for action. It was not until the beginning of the war that the revolutionary movement took hold in the county and its inhabitants offered support to the patriot cause.[3]

Lacking a strong and unified patriotic influence around him, Mark McPherson probably went to war as a result of the economic conditions he faced. Land was the currency of Charles County, and, though he owned some, he was not one of the wealthy elites with large landholdings who were influential in the county. McPherson was young when he inherited the land that his father left behind, and, around that time, Charles County was entering a period of economic difficulty. Port Tobacco had boomed as a market for importing and exporting goods, but, as happened elsewhere in the colony, a depression took hold in the early 1770s. Prices dropped, and talk of non-exportation legislation threatened the transatlantic trade profits that had steadily been coming in from Britain. There was also a problem of growth, for Charles County’s population had greatly increased throughout the course of the eighteenth century. Most of the inhabitants were native-born rather than immigrants by the mid-1770s; these growing numbers meant less land was available and that there were fewer economic opportunities in the county, realities that McPherson would have felt as a young planter at the time.[4]

Whatever his reasons, McPherson enlisted into the Continental Army at Port Tobacco, the town where he had previously traded and exported his goods, in March of 1776. He joined as a Private in Capt. John Hoskins Stone's company of the First Maryland Battalion, possibly with his brother, John.[5] He marched to New York with the Battalion and participated in the Battle of Brooklyn (Long Island) as a part of the Maryland Line. When the Continental Army was reformed later that year, McPherson enlisted into the First Maryland Regiment as a sergeant. After his second term of enlistment expired, he reenlisted into Col. Peter Adams' Regiment and was commissioned as a Lieutenant. McPherson fought in the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth, as well as at the storming of Stony Point, the siege of Yorktown, and the taking of Cornwallis during his military career. He also followed his regiment to the southern theater and fought with them there, and he remained in the army until the end of the Revolutionary War.[6]

Serving in the war for this length of time, McPherson saw very different faces of the Revolution. His first experience with combat was at Long Island, a terrible defeat that almost ended the war. By the war’s close, however, the Maryland Line had gained a reputation for being an elite fighting force and a vital part of the Continental Army, which itself had matured greatly since the fighting began. McPherson served with the Maryland troops though their highs and lows; they shined at Long Island and were victorious at Cowpens, but they were blamed for the loss that the army suffered at Guilford Court House. He also served in the battles of Camden and Eutaw Springs.[7]

After he left the service, Mark McPherson could have remained in a Charles County that persisted much the same as it had been before he enlisted. Land and farming were still the most important aspects of Charles, and most of the area’s inhabitants lived on plantations spread throughout the county. The largest town, Port Tobacco, had only ninety-nine residents in 1782, but it remained the county’s marketing center after the war ended. Britain quickly attempted to regain its tobacco trade with the Chesapeake, and a renewed demand from overseas raised prices and boosted the area’s economy. Opportunities were created for the men returned from war, as connections made in the service could be and were exploited to produce business prospects.[8] Even though he did return, these developments were not enough to hold him in his home county permanently.

Tempted by the new opportunities and boom in the tobacco market, McPherson returned to Charles County for a short time after the war ended. However, he likely had to deal with the same struggles he had faced in the county prior to leaving for the Continental Army. The postwar appeal of Charles was deceiving; he knew that, despite its rural appearance, there was little land that could be easily acquired. Much of the soil that was available had been exhausted by years of use, and McPherson had experienced the volatile nature of an economy centered on tobacco during his years as a farmer before the war. He still had brothers and sisters in Charles County and the land that he had inherited from his father, but these anchors were not enough to hold him to his home.

Having served through the end of the war, McPherson was granted bounty land by the state. He was given the rights to 200 acres, an officer's share, in Allegany County, Maryland, near what is now Savage River State Forest in present-day Garrett County.[9] Despite having the opportunity to claim more land than he owned at the time and remain in his home state, McPherson decided to quit Maryland altogether and moved to Lincoln County, Kentucky. He claimed his bounty land was “absolutely good for nothing . . . unfit for Cultivation,” and he sold the land in 1815 at fifty cents per acre. McPherson recorded that selling his land at such a low rate caused him a dear loss, but he got the exact value of the land as it was assessed in 1812.[10]

Although the date in which McPherson relocated to Kentucky is unknown, he was counted in the census of Charles County in 1790. However, he married and was living in Lincoln County, Kentucky, in 1795.[11] This indicates he had been in the area for at least a small amount of time prior, as his wife was from the area and he could not have known her before his arrival. It is likely that McPherson returned to Maryland for a few years after he left the service in an attempt to earn enough money to make a trip west, and he received his bounty land in the late 1780s or early 1790s.[12] Seeing that the land was not profitably workable, he then sold the tracts he had received for his service and began his emigration to Kentucky a short time later.

In the years after the Revolutionary War, Kentucky became a popular destination for settlement. The territory, part of Virginia until 1792, had a population of about 150 inhabitants when the war began due to a lack of exploration and the presence of Native Americans. By 1784 this number had doubled, and the growth continued; the 1790 census recorded a population of over 73,000. Most of these new inhabitants were migrants from eastern states, as was the case with McPherson. The abundance of land and the economic opportunity it could offer made Kentucky attractive to the migrants, for the states that these people were leaving, such as Maryland, were already settled, their lands owned and being worked. The Kentucky territory had vast amounts of acreage that could be claimed by settlers and used for whatever purpose they desired.[13]

Not only were settlers from the east interested in moving to Kentucky, but, as it was a part of Virginia’s territory during the Revolution, many Virginian soldiers were promised land in the area for their service. The presence of other veterans may have been an attractive feature to McPherson as he had served, possibly even beside some of the men who settled there. The county he settled in, Lincoln, included land that was reserved for military claims, increasing the likelihood that McPherson settled there because of his military ties. Aaron Spalding, another veteran from Maryland and a man that McPherson served with throughout the war, relocated to nearby Washington County, Kentucky, and they remained close enough for McPherson to testify to his service in pension hearings.[14]

While McPherson had been a small planter in his native Charles County, Maryland, his move to and land ownership in Kentucky placed him in his new state’s wealthy minority. Numbers indicate that over half of the free, white male population of Kentucky did not own land at the turn of the nineteenth century. Another estimate places this total at two-thirds around that time.[15] Inclusion in this minority was a strong contrast to McPherson’s status in Maryland; before, he had been a planter wealthier than only five percent of the rest of his county and poorer than at least three quarters of its remaining population. By 1820, McPherson owned 100 acres of land outright and was paying off another fifty acres in his possession. His 150 acre total was nowhere near that of the largest landholder in the state, who owned over 100,000 acres, but the fact that he owned two tracts placed him above the vast majority of the other landholders who possessed only one (eighty-six percent of Kentucky’s population in 1820). Not only was McPherson a member of the landed minority in his new state, but he was also in the minority of that group as the owner of multiple tracts.[16] His migration transformed him from a small planter with no chance of improvement to a member of an exclusive group at the top of society.

After settling in Kentucky, McPherson remained a planter until age and infirmities prevented him from working. He was likely a popular person in his community, as fifty local men supported him by signing a petition to reinstate his pension after it had been denied. Mary Middleton, the woman he married in 1795, was around twenty at the time of their marriage, and the couple had eight children together: Lydia, Alexander, Samuel, Walter, William, Henry, John Bailey, and Mark Jr. The McPherson family lived out their days in Lincoln County, sustained by the money he had earned through farming and the pension he had been granted in 1818. Mark McPherson died in Lincoln County in 1847.[17]

Notes:

1. CHARLES COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills) 1760-1766, Reverse, [MSA C681-6, 01/08/10/06] MdHR 7286-2, 106.

2. Jean B. Lee, The Price of Nationhood: The American Revolution in Charles County (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994), 23, 34.

3. Lee, The Price of Nationhood, 95-97.

4. Lee, The Price of Nationhood, 22, 34, 104, 110.

5. Archives of Maryland Vol. 18, 7.

6. Pension of Mark McPherson.

7. Pension of Aaron Spalding, The National Archives, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804, S 37441, 15. From Fold3.com.

8. Lee, The Price of Nationhood, 189, 225, 226.

9. LAND OFFICE (Lots Westward of Fort Cumberland) 1793-1903, [MSA S2-1, 01/27/01/033] MdHR 17,302, 224.

11. Pension of Mark McPherson, 68; ALLEGANY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 1815-1816 Liber H [MSA CE 77-8], 73-74; http://aomol.msa.maryland.gov/000001/000192/html/am192--2696.html. The assessments were often known for undervaluing the land, so it is possible that selling the land at the assessed value did not equate to what it was actually worth.

12. Census of 1790; Pension of Mark McPherson, 14.

13. LAND OFFICE (Lots Westward of Fort Cumberland), 224.

14. Lowell H. Harrison and James C. Klotter, A New History of Kentucky (Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 48-49.

15. Pension of Aaron Spalding, 12.

16. Lee Soltow, “Kentucky Wealth at the End of the Eighteenth Century,” The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 43, No. 3 (1983): 620; Harrison and Klotter, New History of Kentucky, 55.

17. Pension of Mark McPherson, 10; Soltow, “Kentucky Wealth,” 622-623. Pension of Mark McPherson, 5-6, 10, 69.


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  • Created by: historyhermann
  • Added: 18 Jul 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 181494572
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Mark McPherson (1754–1847), Find A Grave Memorial no. 181494572, ; Maintained by historyhermann (contributor 49112035) Unknown.