Friday, May 15, 2020

The Women Who Owned Sotterley Part II

                      Elizabeth Ann Plater (Plater), Lydia Billingsley (Barber),                       Emeline Briscoe (Wellmore), Elizabeth Cashner (Briscoe)

Elizabeth Ann Plater was the daughter of George Plater and his second wife, Elizabeth Ann Somerville.  Her half-brother was George Plater, born in 1796.  Elizabeth was an infant when both her mother and father died in 1802 of disease, leaving herself and her brother orphaned and in the guardianship of their uncle, John Rousby Plater. Elizabeth inherited Sotterley land from her father. As minor children, all their assets were managed by their guardian.

In November 1818, when Elizabeth Ann was about 16 years-old, she married her cousin, John Rousby Plater, Jr.  Upon her untimely death in 1820, her land was inherited by her brother, George. Elizabeth Ann Plater had a short and seemingly tragic life.  Landed women brought wealth and status to their male relatives. In 1822, her brother, George, sold Sotterley’s remaining 3,500 acres to William C. Somerville, his step-uncle. Somerville quickly divided up the estate and sold off parcels of the land.[1]

Margaret Dallam, born in 1775, was the daughter of John Dallam and Susannah Coale of Harford County, Maryland. Margaret married Peter G. Wellmore of Baltimore on August 30, 1799.[2] Their daughter, Emeline, was born on July 12, 1809.[3] The early Dallam family were of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), as such, by 1781, slavery was prohibited.  Some branches of the Dallam family continued in the Society, some did not.  Margaret also had relatives in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Her husband, Peter, owned a dry goods business in Baltimore. He sold his business in 1814 because of “ill health.”[4] He died on April 5, 1815, at 41 years of age. Emeline, their daughter, was 5 years old.   

Thomas Barber also owned a business in Baltimore during the same period as Peter Wellmore. Barber is listed in the city directory at 13 Baltimore St., Baltimore, Maryland.[5] Thomas had lost two wives in death already by 1810 and had three children, Mary, Lydia, and Caesar. Margaret Dallam Wellmore became his third wife on February 20, 1819.[6] Her daughter, Emeline, was nine years old.

In 1823, Thomas Barber bought 1,000 acres of Sotterley land from William C. Somerville.[7] This parcel contained Sotterley’s manor house. Margaret died sometime in 1823. Thomas Barber was married to Ellen MacCubben of Baltimore by that November. Emeline’s family now consisted of Thomas Barber and his children, although she still had many prominent Dallam extended family members in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. By all accounts, Emeline had a good relationship with the Barber children. In fact, Lydia Barber was her life-long, close friend. They were the same age, both born in 1809.

Emeline Dallam Wellmore married Walter Hanson Stone Briscoe in August 1826.[8] Thomas Barber died that December, just months after Emeline’s marriage. In the Will of Thomas Barber, it stipulated that Emeline would split her inheritance from her mother with her stepsister Lydia, or Emeline would get nothing.  He also made mandatory that his grandson, by his daughter, Mary, must change his last name to Barber to inherit. He did leave his 1,000 acres (Sotterley) jointly to Lydia and Emeline.[9] Lydia married Chapman Billingsley and their husbands went to court to legally divide the land between the two families.  Lydia and Chapman received 600 acres. Emeline and Walter received 400 acres that included the manor house, beginning what is called the Briscoe period in Sotterley’s history.[10] But the complex story really began with an orphaned girl named Emeline and her stepsister, Lydia.

Walter Briscoe and Emeline had 13 children together. At the end of their lives, they expected to leave Sotterley to one of their sons. Walter passed, then Emeline. Their first choice for inheritance was their youngest son, Walter, Jr., but he declined and inherited land acquired by his father after 1826.  To save Sotterley from auction, their sons, James and David Briscoe, were named trustees.  At James’ death, James, Jr. and his sister, Elizabeth, inherited Sotterley. Elizabeth Briscoe Cashner bought out her brother’s ownership of the estate and became the last Briscoe owner of Sotterley in 1905.[11]  

When wealthy New Yorker’s, Herbert Satterlee and his wife Louisa, visited Sotterley for the first time in 1906, they wanted to be informed if Elizabeth and her husband ever wanted to sell. Unfortunately, as a few years passed, Sotterley had become run down, and Elizabeth found herself in ill health. She sold Sotterley to Herbert and Louisa Satterlee in 1910 and then died of heart disease that October.[12]

A lesser known theme that runs through Sotterley's long history, is that male owners acquired land, wealth, and status through their marriages.  It is a common theme in American history as a whole. A certain family in Arlington, Virginia quickly comes to mind.  Who interprets the history is important. History seen through the lens of multiple and diverse perspectives, enriches and deepens the story and reminds us of our common reliance on one another.

J. Pirtle

Emeline W. Briscoe
Historic Sotterley Collections
Elizabeth Briscoe Cashner
Historic Sotterley Collections

[1] 6 Jul 1822 Deed: George Plater [V] to William C. Somerville “All the track which were willed to him by his father, : also Half Pone, also all those unsold tracts inherited by the death of his sister containing in the whole 3500-acres.” DA:TH29:335
[2] Maryland Marriages, 1666-1970,” database, FamilySearch ( ; 11 February 2018), Peter Wellmore and Margaret Dallam, 30 Aug 1799; citing Baltimore, Maryland, reference; FJL microfilm 13,693.
[3] Note:  The only elusive record of birth discovered so far, comes from Emeline’s tombstone, Emeline W. Briscoe. It also records that she was born in Philadelphia, PA. This is feasible as Margaret Dallam Wellmore, Emeline's mother, had close relatives there. The Briscoe family grave site is located at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
[4] July 12, 1814. American and Commercial Daily Advertiser. Volume XXX, Issue 4711, pg. 3.
[5] The Baltimore Directory. Compiled by Samuel Jackson., 1819, JACKSON, Samuel, Baltimore. Printed by Richard J. Matchett.
[6]U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930., 2013.   
[7]Deed William C. Somerville to Thomas Barber. Sotterley, 1000-acres. DA TH39-080 MSA. Sotterley Chronology, Peter Himmelheber, 2011, pg. 13.
[8] Maryland, Compiled Marriages, 1655-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
[9] 12 Oct 1826 Will of Thomas Barber: WB: EJM01:001 MSA. Sotterley Chronology, Peter Himmelheber, 2011. Pg. 14.
[10] 12 Oct 1826 Will of Thomas Barber: EQ:JH01:614 MSA. Sotterley Chronology, Peter Himmelheber, 2011. Pg. 4.
[11] 24 Apr 1905 Deed: Sotterley, 400 acres. James Jr. and his wife to Elizabeth Cashner, wife of J. Douglas Cashner. LR-E04:347 MSA. Sotterley Chronology, Peter Himmelheber, 2011. Pg. 16.
[12] 22 Oct 1910. Baltimore Sun, pg. 7. Obituary, Elizabeth Cashner. Accessed Mar 23, 2010.