My search for the origins of my Loyalist ancestor, James Anderson, originally of Baltimore, has brought me some new information, mostly in the form of pictures. My previous posts on James Anderson cover his timeline and Loyalist claim, including sources, and his privateer activities.
Recently, I was able to visit Baltimore and see the spot where, we believe, James Anderson built a brick house, on Thames Street by the water in Fells Point. I was surprised to learn that Fells Point has a long history of privateers, and privateers of the War of 1812 era are celebrated in an annual Privateer Festival. So whatever attracted James to Baltimore (I don’t believe he was born there, but we don’t know where he was born) may have included the kind of marine activities he was interested in. I believe the 1770’s were early days for Fells Point privateers, so he was part of that.
James Anderson purchased the property from John Bond in 1772 as Lot #22 on Thames Street, Fell’s Point. My cousin who has been searching for James Anderson’s roots much longer than me, Pat Hagan, had advised me that the spot was roughly at the intersection of Bond and Thames. We knew it was on the water side because of a 1777 ad in the Maryland Journal describing the auction of the Brigantine Mary-Ann and contents in James’ backyard. While we are still trying to locate a copy of the map of those original Fells Point lots, he had been told on his own visit to Baltimore that this was the spot, and so that is where I visited.
From home, I prepared many maps and visited all the streets in advance on Google maps.
A visit to Baltimore
During a recent visit to Baltimore I took a cab over to Bond and Thames and the cab driver obligingly waited while I wandered around snapping photos. The spot I was there to visit actually consisted of a long, wide dock, with a very old brick warehouse running along one side, now in use as shops and restaurants.
My first impression was that 235 years had not completely changed the setting. There were wharves and ships, brick buildings, shops and restaurants and, just inland, old two- and three-story buildings obviously still used as homes. The water itself was timeless and beautiful. Baltimore, then and now, could be seen across the way.
I noticed the cobblestone streets and charming brick buildings. One across the way was serving as a shop.
I was charmed by the setting and found myself picturing sloops anchored offshore and the busy streets filled with sailors, ship owners, and their families.
I’m always afraid, when I visit somewhere, that my ancestor’s stomping ground will now be a convenience store. But in this case, I did get a sense of the sailors and captains walking through cobbled streets (legend has it the streets are made from ship’s ballast) amidst homes, gardens, taverns, children, women running shops, and every kind of sea-craft along shore.
A picture of James Anderson’s son
Prior to my visit to Baltimore this winter, my wonderful cousin Pat Hagan also managed to send me something I have long heard about, and never seen, the photographs of James’ Anderson’s son (my 4th great grandfather) John Secomb Anderson and his wife (my fourth great grandmother) Elizabeth Hardacker Anderson. They are property of the Nova Scotia descendants, and those kind folks have given permission for these copies to be placed here.
These are the first pictures I have seen of direct ancestors born in the 1700’s. Exciting! The picture of John Secomb Anderson (named, I believe, for a popular local minister in Nova Scotia) is the only idea we have of James’ appearance. I can’t help but imagine that the adventurous James Anderson’s expression was never so severe. But John lost his father early in life, and perhaps was not greatly influenced by him.
In addition to sources I’ve mentioned in my first and second posts on James Anderson, I am trying to learn more about his dealings with the American and British navies. The series “Naval Documents of the American Revolution” is what I am exploring right now. Each of the 11 volumes can be downloaded from the website of the American Naval Records Society and contains an index. The stories in the books are descriptive and fascinating, although it is challenging to know which refer to this James Anderson.
Did seeing Thames Street help my research? I actually think it did. Being in Fells Point alerted me to the early days of Fells Point privateers. Since there is no evidence yet that James came from an early Baltimore family, the privateering gives me an idea of what might have drawn him to Fells Point from somewhere else. All in all, it helps to picture what I’m researching.
Lately, my cousins and I have been learning more about other Andersons in the counties surrounding Baltimore. There is another cousin, Bonnie, also working on this, and other relatives cheering us on. A 1729 deed was sent to me by Pat Hagan for 100 acres of “Sunken Islands” property sold to a James Anderson of Anne Arundell County, Maryland by Philip Jones, Junr. Could that James be a father or grandfather? A historian that I mentioned in my second post, Richard D. Pougher, sent us a story from the 1750’s about Captain John Anderson and the Brigantine Betsey. Other sources also refer to various early seafaring Andersons. Somehow, I feel like we are compiling so many clues, that we will manage someday to put them together to tell the story of where James Anderson came from.
Last but not least, a direct male descendant of James Anderson in Canada has agreed to supply DNA for a Y-DNA test. This is our first foray into DNA testing, and we will see if it helps at all.
The post you are reading is located at: