Abraham LeMasters homestead in Port Tobacco, Zekiah Swamp, Betty's Delight
Richard Lemaster I+
Abraham Lemaistre 98
Born: Between 1639 and 1645, St. Maries Parish, Isle Of Jersey, Channel Islands England
Marriage: Unknown about 1660
Died: 6 Dec 1722, Charles Co., Maryland about age 82
Abraham LeMaistre was said to be born in the parish of Derval, a small village located in the province of Brittany, France, about 1639, by the book Lemasters, USA> By the request of his son John, court records say Abraham was born in St. Maries Parish in old Jersey, to John and Sarah Lemaistre. Perhaps the following statements applied to his ancestors:
"The Lemaitre family has a documented existence in Brittany which extends back to the 13th Century. The LeMaitre family early came under the influence of the reform doctrines of John Calvin and the Swiss political reformer Bezanson Hugues, whose followers were called Huguenots. As Huguenots, the LeMaitres undoubtedly suffered thorough many of the political and religious purges which swept France throughout the 16th Century."
In the late 1650's, Abraham LeMaitre left Brittany and emigrated to England. Once there Abraham anglicized his surname to "Lemasters", an unusual translite4ration since the name retains the French article and combines it with the English noun. Abraham's surname was spelled in America with many variants, including Le Master, Lemastr (s), Lemaitre, and de la Maitre. Lemaster or Lemasters is the most commonly used among his descendants.
Abraham Lemaistre arrived aboard ship in St Mary's County, Maryland, about 1661, with his wife, and perhaps one daughter. He had barely recovered his land legs when he signed an indenture with one John Smith to serve him for the next seven years as a carpenter. We see that being an indentured servant did not exclude on from civic affairs, as Benjamin witnessed a will in 1662, and in 1665 was listed as a witness in a court action. At least three children were born during this time.
The privations of colonial life took a heavy toll on early Marylanders. Nearly 35,000 people immigrated to the colony between 1634 and 1680, yet only 20,000 lived in Maryland in 1680. Met with new diseases of the swampy Chesapeake Bay, and poor shelter, many immigrants perished during their first year.
Maryland's greatest need in its formative years was a sturdy, reliable work force. The immediate answer to this problem was the indentured servant system. The contract offered those willing to sell their labor and broad shoulders for a chance to start a new life in America. Most indentures called for a period of bound servitude lasting seven years. When the term of service was complete the former servants received what was known as "freedom dues", which included a grant of 50 acres.
After assigning his freedom dues land grant to Roger Snell, Abraham Lemasters became a tenant on a plantation of two hundred acres known locally as "Betty's Delight". Abraham and his wife farmed this land for several years, until he bought it from Edward Evans, in 1685. It was on the western edge of Zekiah Swamp, which at that time was in St Mary's Co., MD. An adjustment of the line between St. Mary's Co. and Charles Co., in the 1680's placed "Betty's Delight" in Charles Co., MD. Zekiah Swamp was then the "Western Frontier", which those in later generations thought of as Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, or Oregon, depending in which generation they lived.
The typical plantation of early Maryland included the dwelling house; perhaps slave quarters; some outbuildings used for milkhouses, kitchens, workshops and/or storehouses. There might be corrals, a hog house and a hen house. Further from the dwelling would be cleared fields in which stands of tobacco and corn were cultivated. The plantation, by necessity, almost always contained on or more tobacco barns.
Their houses were rough clapboard, which were small, dark, and drafty. They had packed dirt floors, and no glass windows. Most of these homes were uniformly dreary, unpainted, weathered gray structures. The interior was equally uninspiring, with open beams and unpainted wood or lath and plaster walls. The open fireplace was the focal point, sole sources of heat and of cooking. A person's bedding usually consisted of a mattress stuffed with cattails. However, the crude conditions in which early Maryland families lived were not out of step with the rest of the western world.
Most adult males made their living wholly or partially form tobacco production. The broadleafed plant dominated every aspect of early Charles County life. Nearly all daily efforts were directed toward growing it, storing it and marketing it. In 1699 a Maryland resident noted that "tobacco is our meat, drinke, cloathing and monies… the standard for trade, not only with the merchants but also among ourselves."
Abraham secured the granting of a 50 acre property named "Toombett", for his son Richard, when the latter was only five years old.
Apparently this was considered Richard's birthright, as he was not named in Abraham's will. "Toombett" was near "Betty's Delight".
Abraham Lemaster lived to be in his 80's., at a time when life expectancy of an immigrant was 49 years. His will was probated in Charles Co., MD in 1722. He left "Betty's Delight" to his son John, and son Isaac received title to a 100 acre farm adjoining. He left equal shares of another plantation know as "Berry's" to his daughters Sarah and Mary. Abraham's bequest to his daughter Anne was less definite. He willed her the right tot live on his land, "during her husband's absence." Anne's husband was Stephen Noe, and it is not known where he was in 1722 that Abraham should remark on it in his will.
Abraham also left property to be used by his wife during her lifetime. Her children sold this property in 1727, so it can be presumed she died before then. In 1736, "Betty's Delight" was sold by son John for 11,000 pounds of Tobacco.
Although a few Lemasters lived in Zekiah Swamp in the next 100 years, many lost no time in getting away. In the 20th century, much of Zekiah Swamp had been a wilderness for many years, and was being considered for a Wildlife Preserve in 1965, because it is used by migrating wildlife.
Abraham married Unknown about 1660. (Unknown was born about 1639 and died in 1727 in Charles Co., Maryland.)
Richard Lemaster II
John Lemaster I
Willam C. Lemaster
Richard Lemaster I 98
Born: Abt 1670, St Mary's Co., Maryland
Marriage: Martha Dennis about 1694 in St Mary's Co., Maryland
Died: After 1735, St. Charles Co., Maryland
The oldest son of Abraham Lemaistre appears to have been Richard Lemasters. Richard was not mentinoed in Abraham's will, it is assumed, because Richard had been given "Toombett" next to his father's acreage near Zekiah Swamp, when he was five years old, and it was to become his home for fifteen years later. There are precedents in both Maryland and Virginia of fathers securing land grants for underage sons, the purpose behind such practice being to circumvent the British custom of promogeniture. The omission of Richard Lemaster form his father's will, though understandable, is unfortunate for genealogists since no other documentation has been found to prove conclusively that Abraham Lemasters was Richard's father. However, careful scrutiny of records in St. Mary's and Charles counties during the latter 1600's reveals the presence of no other adult Lemaster male except Abraham. It is, therefore, a reasonable conclusion that Richard Lemasters was the son of Abraham Lemasters because there was no other Lemasteres around who could have been his father.
Richard Lemaster married Martha Dennis around 1690. Martha is believed to have been the daugthter of Jean and Lysbet Denys who fled France in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was revoked and settled in Somerset County, Maryland, as John and Elizabeth Dennis. There is no record of the marriage, but on April 11, 1752, Thomas Jameson testified before the Charles County court in a dispute over a corner of Betty's Delight that Richard Lemasters and John Dennis, Jr. were "brothers." (Jameson meant by this statement that Richard and John were Brothers-in-law in modern parlance.) Land records also show that on John Dennis woned a plantation which adjoined Betty's Delight. This John Dennis may have been either the father or John Dennis Jr. The name was called Tennison in land records.
Richard and Martha (Dennis) Lemaster started their married life in St. Mary's co., Maryland, in the area claimed also by Charles Co., Maryland. When the matter was settled, their land was in Charles county. Both counties are at the tip of Maryland which is bounded by Chesapeake Bay.
As a married man, Richard was termed a "Carpenter". He also made several land transactions, some of them were repeated in more than one source.
Martha died between 1713, when her name appeared on a land deed, and 1723, when her name was absent from a land deed of that date.
In the settlement of Virginia, Tobacco was not merely the money crop, but was money, it being the medium of exchange. lt's value in relation to the English pound was fixed by the House of Burgesses, as was it's quality and the amount of production. (Early day crop allotments?)
Richard was able to purchase "Betty's Delight", for 5,000 pounds of Tobacco, in 1727 from his brother John, who had inherited it. Perhaps it was because John had produced no male heirs, that he was willing to sell the land to Richard, who willed the land to his son John. John sold it to one Abraham Hargess in 1747, thus removing Lemaster's ownership of "Betty's Delight" after sixty years of occupancy.
All of the children of Richard and Martha Lemasters remained in the Charles County area during the early part of their lives, but following the French and Indian War (1754-1763) several of them migrated farther west in Maryland and south across the Potomac River into Virginia.
Richard lived until after 1735. His will or grave have not been found.
Richard married Martha Dennis, daughter of Jean Denys and Lisbet, about 1694 in St Mary's Co., Maryland. (Martha Dennis was born about 1670 and died 1713 OR 1723 in Charles Co., Maryland.)