Subject: Bouldin Anecdote #6

A while back, a cousin sent me an article which appeared in a magazine concerning Maryland history. The subject of the article was a plantation known as "Bristole," and was currently owned and occupied by a descendant of the early settler. The author of the article was Will Stubbs, and he is the descendant in question as well. I have tried to faithfully reproduce the article as it was written, however, there is an error that I must correct; the year 1774 shown in the article is actually 1744. This article was written in 1967, I don't know what changes may have occurred since then, but the ownership is the same.

by Will Stubbs

One of the least known river areas of Cecil County is Back Creek Neck, bounded by Perch Creek on the north and Back Creek on the south as they make their way separately to Elk River. It is better known today as the location of such shore developments as Locust Point, Blair Shore, and Elk Forest.

Historically Back Creek Neck saw the genesis in Cecil County of two now widespread families by the name Boulden and Biddle. There the remains of their land grants and plantations are still to be found despite undergone various boundary changes from the early 18th century to the present.. Some of the names are "Richard's Chance," "Boulden's Rest," "Bristole," and "Upper Plantation." Most of the houses still exist. One of them, "Bristole," continues to stand in 18th century isolation at the head of St. Thomas' Branch, close by an ancient sycamore tree with a girth of more than twenty-five feet and a spread of more than seventy feet. The house at Bristole is of a style sometimes called the Lankford Bay type which is a one room deep dwelling two stories in height with end chimneys and a one story kitchen also at the end. This style has been termed the Transitional by Henry Chandlee Forman, an authority on old Maryland houses, if it has the tall narrow shape, the proper age, and other pre-Georgian features.

The house is constructed of clapboard covered logs, the main wing measuring 18 X 45 feet with seven foot ceilings and foot thick walls. Much of the woodwork and the mantles are original. Floors are largely random planks and doors are for the most part the thumb latch batten type. The floor plan is classic early Southern Colonial having an entrance hall from front to back opening on either side to a room with a large fireplace. This layout is duplicated upstairs, except that the wide center are becomes another room into which the narrow enclosed stairway raised from the lower hall. From this room on either side extend end bedrooms with fireplaces.

The dwelling seems to have been two single story of unbarked logs separated by an open space, the whole enclosed under one roof. This open space, or as such colonial breezeways were unromantically called, the "dogtrot," later became the center hall presumably when the upstairs of squared logs was added.

Much original plaster still exists. Repair work showed it to have been applied to hand-split oak laths. Under it was an older plaster applied directly to the logs. The chimney bottoms were found to be stone to a height of six feet or more with a sort of adobe mortar between. A few excavations for foundation repairs brought to light heavy pottery shards of red and black, a flask of iridescent brown glass, and a small hand blown bottle of green glass.

The name Bristole originated in 1683 when Nicholas Painter, probably the same man to whom much of Elkton was originally patented, received from Lord Baltimore a long narrow hundred acre grant on the Elk River in the vicinity of what is now Blair Shores. Whether it extended as far as the present house is not certain. In 1717 Bristole came into the possession of William Boulden whose grant, Boulden's Rest adjoined it. His ancestors had settled over a century earlier at Jamestown in Virginia. They had later moved to Kent Island in Chesapeake, then a part of Virginia and the site of a trading post founded by the intrepid William Claiborne. Some of Clairborne's people came farther up the bay into what is now Cecil County to Palmer's Island in the Susquehanna River (over which crosses Route 40.) William Boulden eventually got to Back Creek Neck.

In 1774 (sic) Bristole was enlarged by a grant from the Calverts to include four hundred additional acres of unclaimed land and named"Bristole Plantation." Three individuals, two Bouldens and a Biddle (who must be described somewhat to clarify the story), were the recipients. They were son, son-in-law-and grandson of William Boulden. All three were named Thomas. The two Bouldens, uncle and nephew were known as Thomas Senior and Thomas Junior. Thomas Biddle was the nephew of the now famous family of Philadelphia Biddles. He had married Thomas Senior's sister Elizabeth.

Thomas Bouldin Senior (who eventually settled on the "in" spelling instead of the "en," both of which were used in the County at the time)moved in that same year of 1774 (sic) to the Virginia piedmont country after selling his part of Bristole. He took a Damask Rose with him to plant at his new home. He moved into unsettled frontier country as the King's agent and received from him a new grant in Charlotte County where he established a plantation. There he planted the Damask Rose. It has prevailed for over two centuries and four years ago a piece was brought back to Bristole where it now grows. The plantation, Golden Hills on Drakes Branch is home today to his descendants. Among them, two have been members of the United States House of Representatives, many have been judges, lawyers, and school teachers, and a son, Major Wood Bouldin, married Joanna Tyler, daughter of the governor and aunt of John Tyler, later to become the tenth President of the United State. Thomas Biddle's son Noble came into possession of his father's share of Bristole and after increasing its size to over two hundred acres, had it resurveyed. It was then regranted by the new state of Maryland as Noble's Industry. His descendants were to live, die, and be buried there for nearly a century.

The present owners who have reverted to the original name Bristole, are direct descendants of William Bouldin and maintain a keen interest in the history and tradition of the area. William's numerous sons and daughters were the progenitors of branches of the family in Maryland known as the Back Creek Bouldens, in Delaware known as the Welsh Tract Bouldens, in Virginia where they are sometimes known as the Drakes Branch Bouldins, and later in many other states. One of William's grandsons, Richard, was the founder of a thousand acre plantation adjoining Bristole. His son was a major in the War of 1812, a descendant was a State Senator at Annapolis, and others were active in local affairs for generations. One branch of this line, now on the female side, still reside there after two centuries, but I am getting into another story.

John Bouldin

(Many fortunate cousins will be participating in the "Maryland Pilgrimage" in October 1998 and will be visiting "Bristole." I hope they will share their adventures with us.)