By Francis Ramsey-Proctor
One of the special and unique aspects of Hammond-Harwood House Museum is that we get the chance to see a family and the home they inhabited. While the home was built for Matthias Hammond to entertain guests during his political career, it is truly the Loockerman and Harwood family that made this house a home. We at Hammond-Harwood are very fortunate to have this amazing opportunity.
This seems to be very poignant: considering how so many of us are now quarantined with our families and even if we are going a little stir crazy, it’s still a treat to see how a family can create such an enduring legacy and perhaps even see how we can affect our own family.
Throughout history there have been references to how the actions of a father or mother can have effects lasting for generations. This is seen in almost every culture, and we at Hammond-Harwood benefit from what we can observe in the Townley-Chase-Loockerman family — a family that shows patience, love, frugality, and a good bit of stubbornness.
Margaret Townley Chase (fig 1) the Heraldic Heiress of the Townley family begins our journey. We do not know the exact year of her birth but sources say it is around 1690. Margaret would inherit wealth in an unusual set of circumstances. She was the only issue of her father and as a result she was allowed to retain the Townley Coat of Arms of her family even in marriage and keep it for male descendants.
Raised by her grandfather and step-grandmother, she was a member of the landed gentry. Her parents would leave her a fortune and her grandfather took steps to leave her a small amount of wealth that would be a bone of contention and mystery in the Townley family.
However, what we’re going to be focusing on with Margaret is her choice of husband. Having been raised in the British nobility she had a wide choice of suitors, those that were of the same standing, some that were of better, and yet she chose to marry Richard Chase. A man of the cloth and of a middle social station, he seems to be an unlikely choice for a young woman of the gentry. Being able to choose her own husband she chose to marry for love!
Paintings by London-based artist William Hogarth depict society in early 18th century London (fig 2). The disparity between the rich and poor was stark. The couple decided to move across the Atlantic to Maryland. Moving to the American colony was a dramatic lifestyle difference. No longer would Margaret have the luxuries her life of nobility gave her with large estates, servants, and an abundance of fancy clothes; however, for her minister husband this land presented opportunity. His older brother, Reverend Thomas Chase, had already settled in Maryland and the couple joined him there in the 1730’s.
In Maryland they had three sons. The couple’s son Richard Chase married Catherine Chase and they had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy was Jeremiah Townley Chase. Sadly, Jeremiah’s parents perished early in his life leaving him in the care of his grandfather’s brother, his great uncle Thomas, to be raised alongside Thomas’s son, Samuel Chase, who was only seven years older.
Jeremiah and Samuel grew up as brothers more than cousins. They took similar paths in life. Both would pursue careers in law. Samuel would be a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Maryland, serve as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and serve in the Continental Congress. Samuel took great pride in his Aunt Margaret’s noble heritage and used the Townley coat of arms instead of the Chase arms on his decorative items (fig 4). This would have been unacceptable by British standards; however, Americans claimed a coat of arms more freely, often using their highest ranking family’s members or inventing one if none existed. Jeremiah (fig 5) did have a right to the arms since he was a direct descendant. Like his cousin he chose a career path of public service, serving as mayor of Annapolis, a delegate to the Continental Congress, and Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals.
However, these two were not just similar in their career path, but even their approach to romance! Like Margaret, Jeremiah took his time in deciding to marry Hester Baldwin Chase (fig 6) in 1779, but what stands out perhaps most of all is that two men raised as brothers would marry a set of sisters — Samuel marrying Ann Baldwin and Jeremiah marrying Hester Baldwin! Unfortunately, Ann died in 1767, before Jeremiah married her sister.
The Baldwin girls’ father was a tavern keeper. So, while they may not have been the wealthiest family, they were very much a well-established and respected family in Anne Arundel County.
Jeremiah and Hester would have a loving and fruitful marriage as evidenced by their pet names– Jerry and Hessy – and the birth of six children. We can see the care Jeremiah had for his family in one of his letters to Matilda in which he encourages her to persist in prayer and good habits. We can see this care especially in the steps he took to protect his daughter Frances.
In most marriages of the time any property a woman had would become her husband’s by law. As a lawyer Jeremiah Chase would circumvent this by purchasing the Hammond house for his daughter Frances (fig 7), holding it in his name until his death when it would go into his son Richard’s possession. This may have been due to some dislike that Jeremiah had for Frances’ husband Richard Loockerman (fig 8). It would seem that Richard due to his lack of financial responsibility owed Jeremiah a significant debt of $1,300 ($30,000 in current value) and this caused a certain amount of animosity and distrust between the two men. Jeremiah sought to protect his daughter by ensuring that she always had a place to call home, one that could not fall into the unreliable hands of her chosen husband.
This is where we see frugality in the Chase family. Another instance of this trait can be seen in a notice he posted in the newspaper warning hunters and other pedestrians to keep off his properties or the force of law would be applied.
We see this trait of frugality present in Jeremiah’s son Richard as well. In a letter he demands that his business partner Randle Moale, pay back $21 owed him I’d hazard a guess that a penny saved was a penny earned in Richard Chase’s opinion.
If Richard inherited his father’s sense of frugality, well, Frances seems to have inherited his ability to love deeply and devoutly.
Frances Townley Chase Loockerman, much like her parents and great grandmother before her, was able to choose the man she wished to marry. That man was Richard Loockerman. He may not have had the best time getting on with her family, but for any faults he may have had she most assuredly loved him, as we can see by her actions.
If you have ever had the opportunity to visit our gardens you may have noticed the boxwood plants in the middle of the yard. Boxwoods represent longevity and immortality, perhaps a symbol of Frances’ love for Richard. Frances, as an act of love and affection for Richard, had a number of boxwoods (fig 9) planted and arranged in the shape of a heart in the back garden! If he ever doubted his wife’s affections Richard Loockerman need only step out his back door!
While relations were strained between her husband and the other men of her family, Frances always stood by Richard’s side. While she didn’t break her own family ties she clearly stood up for her husband, especially when she supported him in his legal battle with her brother over her father’s will. This in no way could have been an easy feat for Frances, but she stood by him nonetheless even when it must have been extremely difficult. Frances clearly shows that she meant her vows of for better or worse, and she quite clearly loved her husband. A letter concerning Richard’s death points out this aspect of her character “thus my dear, has closed the temporary career of one of the handsomest, most sensible and well informed men of our age__ distressing indeed to his poor devoted wife and children.”
The Townley-Chase-Loockerman family were quite honestly like any other family. They loved, they argued, and everything in between. While they shared many similarities there were also differences, but nonetheless they were a family. Recognizing that allows us as visitors and students of the Hammond-Harwood House’s history to gain a new insight and appreciation for our own families.
Francis Ramsey-Proctor is a work-study student from St. John’s College of Annapolis and has been working with Hammond-Harwood House for the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 Semester. This is his last presentation after the completion of the 2020 Spring Semester.