What’s Left Behind: A Harford County, Maryland Probate Inventory

George Harrison Bowman, child of John Bowman and Ann Baker

Both of my great great great grandparents died in 1857, leaving my fifteen year old great great grandfather  (at right) an orphan. Interestingly, he never appears in the census until after his marriage in 1880 when he was nearly forty years old. Where he lived and how he supported himself up until his service in the Civil War and before his marriage to Harriet Evans of Webster (outside Havre de Grace) has yet to be discovered. While the grand era of probate inventories ended mostly by the early 19th century, my 3rd great grandparents were ill prepared for death in their early 50s. If you died with no will, your neighbors would inventory the contents of your house in order to determine your estate’s worth and satisfy your creditors. The Bowmans’ farm was likely near Rock Run, in Harford County, where Bowman descendants still live today. Rock Run is a formerly bustling industrial site and the former location of the longest covered bridge in Maryland history, which crossed the Susquehanna. Here is a transcription from the microfilm of the inventory chronicling the contents of their house after their passing. The original document was damaged prior to microfilm photography, and is lost to time.

John Bowman Inventory
d. 1857

State of Maryland to George W. Hopkins and Benjamin [damaged line] to appraise the goods, chattels, and Personal Estate of John Bowman late of Harford County, deceased so far as the same shall come to your sight and knowledge, each of you having first taken the oath of affirmation hereto annexed, a certificate whereof you are to return under and and seal annexed an Inventory of said Goods, chattels and personal Estate by you appraised in Dollars and cents; and in said Inventory you are to set down in a column or column opposite each article the value thereof. Witness John K. Sappington Esq Chief Justice of the Orphans’ Court of Harford County
(seal) Issued this day _ of August 1857.

(missing page?)
? or prejudice, value and appraise the goods chattels and personal Estate of John Bowman Deceased so far as the same shall come to our sight and knowledge, and ? in all respects perform one duty as appraisers to the best of our skill and judgement.

An Inventory of the Goods and chattels of John Bowman late of Harford county deceased appraised of the subscribers this 3rd day of August 1857.

1 Lot of old iron 1.30
8 lbs “ “ .85
1 Lot carpet rags .45
2 Ax bows (?) 1.25
1 half bus. & peck measure .37
2 Axes 1.50
1 Lot hay forks .75
1 Rake & Shovel .20
1 Mattock & hoe .75
1 Crow bar .50
1 Lot Plough gears 2.00
1 Grind Stone 1.50
1 Lot Guano & plaster 1.75
2 Corn basket .75
1 Drawing knife .75
Lot coopers tools 2.25
1 Wheel barrow 1.25
2 Stone & poker 5.00
2 Tubs & ? 2.25
1 Lot of bags 3.94
1 “ Stone and ? ware 7.50
1 “ tin ware & wood ware 1.50
1 “ Pots & kettles 6.75
1 Shovel tongs & andirons .75
2 Saddles & bridle 7.00
1 ? & spinning wheel (damaged)
1 (illg) Loom (damaged)
1 Chisel “. 57
5 lbs (Rolls?) 2.00
Rocking cradle .50
Case of Drawers 4.00
1 ?atch (watch???) 5.00
5 Bedsteads 6.00
2 Beds and (illg) 50.05
1 Clock 2.00
2 Lounges 3.00
1 Candlestand and cover .75
1 Dozen chairs 1.00
3 M(illg) 3.37

(from here is what I can read of the missing page)
1 Lot garden tools
1 Gun & appar
1 Lot window
1 “ Books
2 bottom dowl
1 Lot bee hives
1 “ Peach tree
1 mowing
1 Lot hay
“ which
1 Plough
1 Lot corn supp
1” Corn in sh
1 Lead pole & ch
1 Lot barrow
Hair? & cut
Lot potatoes
Coopers tool
1 Ox cart
1 pr Oxen & yoke
1 Horse
1 Lot milk pan
1 “ ash boards
2 Hogs
1 Cow
1 Lot black ra?
1 Spittoon
1 (illg) cask

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.