Old Wills

Thomas Dorsey’s 1790 Will Found In Hardin County Kentucky and Anne Arundel County Maryland

I’m sure the first question I will be asked – why is Thomas Dorsey’s will found in the Hardin County Will Book, since he lived and died in Anne Arundel County, Maryland?  My guess would be that part of Thomas’ land grant from his Revolutionary War service gave him land in Kentucky, specifically in Hardin County.  I honestly do not know.  But this makes for a very interesting situation since in his will he mentions ‘as it pleased God heretofore to bestow on me a liberal fortune which I have lately lost by my indiscretion and ill-judged confidences’.  Were these losses a consequence of the war?  He does say in the will he ‘passed bonds to the state at the rate of three of the said paper dollars for one silver dollar.’  Was this due to the war and turmoil afterwards?

Col. Thomas Dorsey lived in the oldest home in Howard County, Maryland, Troy Hill, and was a member of the Maryland Convention in July 1775.  He was appointed a field officer and later, the colonel of the Elk Ridge Battalion in February 1776.

Thomas was born March 15, 1738, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the son of Henry Dorsey and Elizabeth Worthington.  He married Elizabeth Ridgely, the daughter of Nicholas Greenberry Ridgely and Mary Middleton.

In the 1790 census for Anne Arundel County, Thomas is listed as head of household, with one son older than sixteen years – probably Theodore or Nicholas.  There are four females, his wife Elizabeth, and daughters Mary, Harriet and Matilda, possibly.  Thomas Dorsey owns nine slaves.

The Baltimore Sun, Anne Arundel County, Maryland

Sunday, April 16, 2000

Inside the green, wooded cocoon at the top of a hill, legend has it that Revolutionary War plotters once gathered on Col. Thomas Dorsey’s family homestead, where the empty shell of an imposing stone house now sits.  The site has been occupied since earliest colonial times in 1695, but the modern world is closing in, fast.

Plans are to restore the old house and build a $5 million public park with a new entrance through the Troy Hill Corporate Center next door, said senior park planner Clara L. Gouin.

‘If the stones could talk, we’d learn a lot,’ Gouin said.  Although the house has been vacant since 1968, the unpaved carriage road leading to it remains, along with a few of the large trees that used to line the wooded lane.

Officials aren’t sure exactly when the stone house was built.  Some accounts say it was in 1820, on or near the foundation of the older 17th century house.  But a 1975 book called Landmarks of Howard County speculates that the current building is – at least in part – the original house.

The 1991 fire, set by intruders who used to come from I-95 looking for shelter, destroyed the interior.  The county paid for a new roof, stabilization of the building’s exterior walls with steel poles and beams outside, and new floor trusses inside.  The only inhabitants are occasional turkey vultures.

Gone are the white wooden porch and columns that adorned the front.  Most windows are bricked in, and a partially collapsed fence surrounds the building.  Ruins of stone walls from old outbuildings are visible, as are two newer cinder block buildings that are also in partial ruin.

No archaeological work has been done on the property, Gouin said, and historical accounts indicate a small graveyard might be near the house.  Some say a large underground pit or root cellar in the basement, known as ‘the dungeon,’ was used by Revolutionary War soldiers under Dorsey.

Dorsey commanded a battalion of the Elk Ridge militia.  He was the great-grandson of John Dorsey, who obtained the 652 acres that included Troy Hill in a land grant in the late 1600s.  After Thomas Dorsey’s death in 1790, his widow sold the land.  The area nearby is still called Dorsey, and the name is common in Howard County, from Dorsey Hall in Columbia to Dorsey Road.

‘It’s a house of legend and lore,’ Gouin said.

Will of Thomas Dorsey

Hardin County, Kentucky, Will Book A, Pages 13-16, and Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Will Book 36, Pages 192-194

In the name of God, amen.  I, Thomas Dorsey, of Ann Arundel County, do make my last will and testament as follows.  To wit.

First and principally, I recommend my soul into the hands of my creator in certain hope of the resurrection of my body and in humble and awful expectation of pardon and forgiveness of my sins and offenses which I honorably and sincerely beseech God to grant me in the name of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior.

Secondly.  I commit my body to the Earth which I request to be decently and privately interred, my near relations and a few friends only being invited to attend my funeral and which I desire to be read the funeral services of the protestant Episcopal church of which I am a member and it is my desire that no morning be worn by dear children other than black ribbons, handkerchiefs and gloves.

Thirdly, as it pleased God heretofore to bestow on me a liberal fortune which I have lately lost by my indiscretion and ill judged confidences and as the small remnant that can be saved out of the wreck of my fortune cannot be place in the hands of any person more truly prudent and frugal than my beloved wife and who as she divides her affections among her children will, I have no doubt, distribute equally among them anything that can be saved.  I do give, devise and bequeath unto my dear wife and her heirs, executors and administrations forever after payment and satisfaction of all my just debts, all my estate, real and personal and mixed of every kind

or nature whatsoever or wheresoever and the equity of redemption of all mortgages made by me of lands or slaves or other property to any of my creditors and every kind right title and claim that I have in land or equity to any property debts or any other thing in the world I do hereby constitute my said wife sole Executrix of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking any former will by me made.

Thirdly.  I desire my wife to apply to the Honourable General Assembly respecting the debt I owe the state in paper money called state and continental state money and depreciated at the time I passed bonds to the state at the rate of three of the said paper dollars for one silver dollar and pray the said assembly to liquidate the said debt to compromise the same with her which I hope their Justice and compassion and humanity will induce them to do and as the best and almost only means of payment I would wish her to offer to give to the state the property purchased from the state by Samuel Chase, Esquire, and conveyed by him to me in December last in payment and due share of my debt to the state.  In witness whereof I, the said Thomas Dorsey, have hereunto set my hand and seal this fourteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety.

Thomas Dorsey

Signed, sealed and delivered and published by the above-named Thomas Dorsey to be his last will and testament in our presence who have hereunto subscribed our names hereto in the presence of the testator and at his request

and in the presence of each other.  Joseph Dorsey, John Henry Dorsey, William Squire, D. Griffith

On the back of the foregoing will was thus written, viz.

Anne Arundel County, Then came Elizabeth Dorsey, this 20th of October 1790, the Executrix appointed in the within will and made oath in the holy Evangelical of Almighty God that this instrument of writing is the true and whole will and testament of Thomas Dorsey, late of Ann Arundel County, deceased, that hath come to her hands or possession and she oath doth not know of any other, sworn before John Gassaway, A.A.

Anne Arundel County the 8th day of October 1790

Then came Joshua Dorsey, John Henry Dorsey and Dennis Griffith, three of the subscribers to witness to the within last will and testament of Thomas Dorsey, late of Anne Arundel County, deceased and made oath on the holy Evangelical of Almighty God that they did see the testator therein named sign and seal this will and that they heard him publish, pronounce and design the same to be his last will and testament, that at the time of his signing he was to the best of their apprehensions of sound mind, memory and understanding and that they together, with William Squire, respectively

subscribed their names as witnesses to this will in the presence and at the request of the testator and in the presence of each other.

Sworn before John Gassaway, Reg of Wills A.A.C.

In testimony that the within and foregoing a trice copy from one of the records of the register of wills and offices for Ann Arundel, I have hereto set my hand and affixed my seal of office this 30th day of October 1794

John Gassaway, Reg Wills A.A.C.

State of Kentucky, Hardin County

I, Samuel Haycraft, Clerk of the Hardin County Court for the county aforesaid, do certify that upon examining the Minute Book of said County Court I find an entry or order made in said Book at October term, 1795, bearing the date the 7th day of October in these words, “The last will and testament of Thomas Dorsey exhibited in court duly authorized and was ordered to record” which fact I hereby certify in the will book of said county immediately after the terms of the copy of the will of Thomas Dorsey, now in my office which record appears to have been made in the time that John Paul was clerk of said court, given under my hand this 21st day of May 1842.

Samuel Haycraft, Clerk, Hardin County Court

1 reply »

  1. My husband’s mother Mildred Warfield Beall (1917-2007) descended from several of the Maryland Dorseys. There are also Worthingtons in her line. She used to talk about the Warfields and how wonderful they were. And I once asked her about her Dorseys, and she said, “Oh, I don’t talk about them. They were a bunch of horse thieves!” 🙂 Be that as it may, the Dorseys and the Worthingtons, etc. intermarried cousins over and over and over again. And they used the same names over and over and over again. I found your article so interesting.

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