Mordecai Price was born in 1660 in Ann Arundell, Maryland, to Thomas Price and Elizabeth Johnson. Thomas was 24 when Mordecai was born, and his mother was 19 years old. Mordecai and Thomas descended from Andrew Price, who was born in Wales and came to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1610, on The Ark or The Dove ships. Mordecai was also a Quaker, owned slaves, sired at least 13 documented children, and is the ancestor or President Richard Nixon, my mother-in-law, and myself.
Mordecai married his first wife, Mary Holland about 1683, but she died, likely in childbirth, less than a year later. In 1684/6, Mordecai married Mary Parsons, also from an established family, in West River, Ann Arundell, Maryland. About 1693, Mordecai petitioned the Council of Maryland:
“To His Excellency, the Governor & the Honorable Council
“The humble Petitioner being lawfully Vested in a Certain tract or Parcel of Land called Cumbers Ridge lying in Ann Arundell County formerly taken up by one John Cumber and now in the Possession of your Petitioner humbly prays that Warrant of Resurvey my issue from this Board to Resurvey the same to be made in the Presence of the Sheriff of the said County and a Jury by him Summoned impaneled and Sworne and according to the known Bounds and Courses thereof and not running into the Lines of an antienter survey then itself or Land reserved for the Lord Baltemores use and that the Surveyor may have Power to Examine upon oath such Evidences as originally bounded and marked the said Land at the first taking up.
“And your Petitioner shall pray”
His petition was answered affirmatively in 1693. The Court issued a re-survey to take place with the Sheriff watching. After which, the Court received a Certificate of Resurvey for Mordecai Price on February 14, 1693. Then, in 1707, Mordecai pops up again: in the Rent Rolls. In the first Rent Roll, he is listed as the possessor of 170 tract known as Cumber’s Ridge (the same land which he had re-surveyed). At this time, the rent was 3 shillings and 5 pence, and this land was located at the head of the branch of Deep Creek near the three islands in the swamp. In the next Rent Roll, Mordecai is listed as the owner of a 116 acre parcel known as Locust Neck. This must have been a little better than swampland, though, because the rent raised from 4 shillings and 7-3/4 pence to over 8 shillings by 1711.
In September of 1709, Mordecai, then a planter, bought more land. This time it was 100 acres on Britton Ridge, in Baltimore City, Maryland, for 16 English pounds. He purchased 93 acres more on Sater Hill, in Baltimore County, Maryland, in 1711 for another 16 pounds. Later, at his death, he owned 116 acres himself, and was in charge of another 18 acres for the orphaned daughter of his friend, and former father-in-law Anthony Holland. This estate of Anthony was valued at over 400 English pounds. Sometime between 1703 and 1711, undated Rent Rolls show Mordecai as the possessor of 50 acres which was part of a 155-acre tract known as Papa Ridge (the remaining portion of the Ridge was owned by Widow Hurst). Papa Ridge was located in the Herring Creek Swamp in Ann Arudell County, Maryland.
Enough of where he lived… How did he live? I already mentioned he was a Quaker. The first Quaker to visit Maryland was a traveling Friend as Quaker missionaries were called. Her name was Elizabeth Harris and it is thought that she visited around 1655. By 1700, it is estimated that there were approximately three thousand Quakers in Maryland, enough to support two yearly meetings. Along with Catholics, this made Quakers a significant minority in the Colony. In 1649, the freeman of Maryland enacted an Act Concerning Religion which is more familiarly called the Toleration Act. The usual explanation for this Act is that the current Lord Baltimore was trying to protect the Catholics in the province who had become a minority in the province established as a haven for them. Usually, the Quakers are mentioned as the second beneficiary to the Act; however, theirs is a much more complicated case. In fact, the history of Quakers in Maryland seems to be one of those threads which parallels and reflect the development of Maryland society in General.
While the condition of Quakers in Maryland as a minority is far better than it is for them in almost every other colony, it is no cake walk. While it is true that the Toleration Act of 1649 allowed dissenters to practice their religion, it does not always protect them fully from discrimination and acrimony. It is true that the Toleration Act made Maryland appear to be more welcoming but it is also true that Lord Baltimore needed to solidify his hold on the Eastern shore over which he was in dispute with Virginia. The Act encouraged Quakers to escape Virginian persecution by moving to territory claimed by Maryland on the Eastern Shore. Those immigrants then became loyal to the proprietor. Once Maryland’s jurisdiction over the territory solidified, there was a shift in attitude from viewing Quakers as model citizens to viewing them as obstinate shirkers. Of course, by that time immigrants from England reflected the more orthodox religious views from that island. While the atmosphere in Maryland will never reach the extremes of discrimination and persecution that Quakers experienced in other colonies, it was far from idyllic. One constant theme during this period of time seems to be perseverance. While they will chafe under the requirement to support the Anglican church through forced tithing as well as their ouster from public office because of their refusal to swear oaths, they do not give up but develop new methods to influence the political process.
Hidden behind the story reflected in the written records of the provincial government, is a history of a group who were struggling to define the basic tenets of their faith as well as solidifying a supporting consensus. Today, we associate Quakers with non-violence and conscientious objectors. We also portray them as ardent abolitionists and activists for women’s suffrage. At one point, they were leaders in education. Their efforts to purchase land from Native Americans, rather than just appropriate fits very well with modern-day attitudes. However, these characteristics that we associate with Quakers today were not fully developed in colonial Maryland. Just as colonial society was developing and maturing, so was that of the Quakers. While in most cases their course has been the proven course, it was not always a straightforward move ahead – it sometimes required dissent from within. In this way, their struggles can be seen as a more universal struggle.
In about 1700, the Friends were no longer persecuted in Maryland, and in 1705 Esther Palmer, a Quaker missionary, visited Ann Arundell County. She said she found the Quakers there had “planted the theory of the Inward Light deeply and intensively.” However, it took until 1777 for the Quakers to outlaw slavery. It may seem strange to us to think of Quakers as slaveholders instead of abolitionists, but at this time, slavery was so ingrained in the New World. Some Quakers were converted slaveholders, and some coming into the colony from elsewhere adopted the practice when the settled in Maryland. Looking at the wills left from Maryland Quakers between 1669 and 1750, we can see at least 42% of them owned slaves. Not only are the Maryland records of the Society of Friends silent on the practice for the first 100 years, on occasion the Quaker meeting itself benefited from the institution of slavery. Mordecai, being a large land owner in the area, was one of these Quaker slave-owners.
There are two records regarding Mardecai’s slave-ownership in the Ann Arundell County Judgement Records, 1703-1765. This first is on page 4, and it describes the results of an affair of an indentured White woman, Sarah, and Mordecai’s slave, Daniel. At this time white men simply did not mention if they had urges for women other than those they were married to, like Benjamin Franklin. He notoriously told a young man seeking advice, to leave his fiance at he altar and bed as many elderly women as possible. Ben also liked to party in France with very pretty young, but “low” women. However, while men were able to brush these things aside, even if with a slave, women were still to be chaste always. Think of Hester, and her scarlet A, and now imagine if this had been earned with a African-American man. Unfortunately for Sarah, she could not hide the product of her affair quite like a man could in her day.
“2 January 1703
Her Majesty vs Sarah Dyamond
… presented a Mallato Bastard … declaring that one Daniel, a Negro belonging to Mordecai Price, was the begetter of the said Mallato Child … this 13 January 1702 that said Sarah Dyamond … fifteen lashes … master delivered her up to the Court after expiration of her term to serve as the law directs.”
Then, again, in 1704, page 323 tells us the conclusion of this episode:
“14 March 1704
“Sarah Dimant [Dymond] having had a Mullato bastard girl and being thereby obliged to serve the county seven years in compliance with the act of assembly providing against such unnatural copulations is by her former master Mordecai Price now surrendered to the Court”
We see slavery with 21st Century eyes, and the knowledge of the past to guide our view. However, for Mordecai, this was only a few years after the 1664 law sanctioning slavery and requiring slaves to be so for life. Additionally, while today we see all slavery as wrong, we do not have any records of the thoughts of Mordecai on the institution of slavery. We also do not know how his slaves were treated, although we can see some of his actions. For instance, Sarah could have expected a very harsh treatment for what the Court deemed “such unnatural copulations”. She received 15 lashes and seven years of servitude. Since she was a White woman, and slavery in Maryland was in full-swing, we can assume Sarah was a free woman before her affair. However, we do not know if she was having an affair by our standards at all. It says nothing about her committing adultery, which Quakers would have been sure to also charge her with in a scenario of this nature. Therefore, we can also assume she was a single woman. Daniel may have been a handsome or charming man, and they may have not considered their relationship an affair as much as a marriage, although obviously at the time neither would have spoken of it, and perhaps that is the reason we do not see Daniel punished. The alternative to this is Sarah not being a willing participant, in which case we might expect to see this as a defense, and we would certainly hope not to see her living in the same household as a man who took her virtue against her will.
Then, again, maybe why we don’t see the punishment of Daniel is the same reason we do see Sarah being released from the house of Mordecai Price. I am likely putting on my rose-colored glasses to tell this story, but I like to think Mordecai was trying to follow his faith in a time when the Christian faith was taking many paths which we consider unnerving today. I think what we can read in these documents and the life of Mordecai is a man who did not see slavery and his faith in opposition until later in his life. I would like to think he owned Daniel and allowed him to marry Sarah and live as a family. Then, maybe, when the town saw Sarah’s baby and realized what was going on, he gave her the chance to keep her family together the only way he could: by taking ownership of her as well. I would also like to think Mordecai offered the Court the punishment of 15 lashes to satisfy the people who were so angry at this act, and this couple.
Regardless of Mordecai’s views on slavery, he does not oppose the Friend’s ban on the practice. Sixty-two years before Quakers outlawed slavery, Mordecai died at the age of 55. He died on the 8th of May, 1715, at his home. His wife, Mary took ownership of his estate on December 20, 1715, but she died three years later, in 1718. The estate then passed to their children, and a friend named Edward Parrish, Sir. At this time, they were likely meeting at the Gunpowder Meeting House. It is also likely they were buried there, in Baltimore County, Maryland. The Price family is all over America, and has multiplied from the first few brothers, including my ancestor, Andrew, who came such a long way.
How is Mordecai related to Nixon, my mother-in-law and myself? Well, follow along…
I won’t go through the line of Mordecai to Nixon, but this is available online, at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, in the White House Special Collection Folder (Box 9, Folder 16). It is 88 pages, but I am sure other family trees for him exist online in a more condensed medium. In the Special Collection, Mordecai is ancestor number 432 and Mary is 433 in Nixon’s line.
As for my mother-in-law… Mordecai is my husband’s 8th Great-Grandfather.
Mordecai’s fifth son was Benjamin Price.
Benjamin was the father of Abraham Price.
Abraham was the father of Mariah Mary “Polly” Price.
Mariah married Henry J. Evans. They are the parents of Richard Evans.
Richard was the father of Thomas Boone Evans.
Thomas was the father of Lelia Sarah Evans.
Lelia married Joshua Willard Bogie. They are the parents of Walter Finis Bogie.
Walter is the father of Walter William Bogie.
This Walter is the father of Christine Hurst, who is my mother-in-law.
Lastly, Mordecai is my 8th Great-Grandfather also, but from another son of Mordecai.
Mordecai’s second son was John Price.
John was the father of John B. Price.
John B. was the father of Merriman Price.
Merriman was the father of another John B. Price.
This John B. Price was the father of John Abernathy Price.
John Abernathy was the father of James W. Price.
James was the father of Effie Price.
Effie married Ballard Craddock. They were the parents of my grandmother, Zella Louise Craddock Webb Martin.