University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Ridgely Family Papers

1679 - 1884

Manuscript Collection Number: 234
Accessioned: Purchase, 1990.
Extent: .3 linear ft. (28 items)
Content: Autograph documents, deeds, and maps.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: June 2000, by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents


Selected Family History

The Ridgely family first came to Delaware from Anne Arundel County, Maryland, in 1723, when Nicholas Ridgely (1694-1755) moved near Newcastle, Delaware. Nicholas eventually settled in Dover, Delaware, in 1736. In Dover, Ridgely served first as a magistrate of the court before he became one of the provincial justices of the Delaware Supreme Court in 1740. In 1745, he was selected by Caesar Rodney, then a minor, to be his guardian.

According to the documents in this collection Nicholas Ridgely purchased a tract of land called "Hillyard's Adventure" in 1734 (F1). The family became wealthy farmers with a house in Dover, a farm outside of Dover called "Eden Hill," and various other properties in Kent County.

Nicholas Ridgely married Sarah Worthington in 1711, Ann French (Gordon) in 1723, and Mary Middleton (Vining) in 1736. He fathered ten children, several of whom are mentioned in the documents in F2.

Nicholas Ridgely's son, Dr. Charles Greenberry Ridgely (1737/38-1785), purchased a home in Dover in 1769. Charles married Mary Wyncoop and later Ann Moore, producing ten children, including Nicholas (1762) and Abraham (1765) and Mary (1777), who are mentioned among the documents.

Ann Moore Ridgely, Charles's second wife, was also involved in land transactions related to "Hillyard's Adventure." Charles Ridgely died in 1785 when his eldest child, Nicholas, was 23, and the youngest, Ann, was almost 2. Ann decided to move the family back to the Dover farm "Eden Hill." In 1790, she purchased property from her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Dorsey, and the heirs of Mary Martin signed over their inherited land to Ann Ridgely.

Williamina Ridgely deeded her share of the plantation to her mother, Ann Moore Ridgely, in 1807 and died in 1808. Mary Ridgely deeded her part in 1807 and died in 1855. Abraham Ridgely sold his share for $400 in 1810 and died in 1811.

Ann Moore Ridgely died in 1810, and her stepson Nicholas inherited the property. Nicholas Ridgely was elected the second Chancellor of Delaware in 1801. Before his death in 1830, Nicholas Ridgely, having no children, made Henry, the son of his brother Henry Moore Ridgely, his heir.

Nicholas Ridgely's brother, Henry Moore Ridgely (1779-1847), was a lawyer who was severely wounded in a duel in April of 1803. After he recovered, he married Sarah Banning in November 1803 and had eight children, including Nicholas (b. 1820) and Henry (b. 1817).

Henry Moore Ridgely had an illustrious political career, beginning in 1811 with his election as a Federalist representative to Congress. He was re-elected to Congress in 1813, but declined to run in 1815. In 1817 and 1824 he was elected Delaware Secretary of State and in 1827 was elected to U.S. Senate. In 1832 he retired to farming.

Henry Ridgely, heir to Nicholas Ridgely and son of Nicholas and Sarah, served as the President of the Farmers' Bank of Dover for over forty years.

Sources:

Fox, Susanne Hening Neale. Gentry Family Dynamics: The Ridgelys of Kent County, Delaware, 1774-1810. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware, 1991.

Ridgely, Mabel Lloyd (ed.) What Them Befell: The Ridgelys of Delaware & Their Circle in Colonial & Federal Times: Letters 1751-1890. Portland, Maine: The Anthoensen Press, 1949.

Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Delaware: 1609-1888. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1888.


Scope and Content Note

The Ridgely Family Papers is a collection of twenty-eight holograph documents tracing ownership of a tract of land in Duck Creek Hundred, Kent County, Delaware, referred to as "Hillyard's Adventure."

Originally belonging to John Hillyard, the land was purchased by Nicholas Ridgely on December 5, 1734. Documents in the collection include maps of the property, descriptions of the boundaries of the tract, records of the successive owners in the Ridgely family, and the eventual sale of the land to John M. Voshell in 1848.

Among the documents are remnants of different hand-drawn surveys and maps of the area dating from the 18th century. There are also documents signed by noted Delawareans, such as Thomas Clayton, Willard Hall, James Sykes, William Saulsbury, Robert Pennewill, Benjamin Anderson, Joseph Comegys, William Killen, Elisha Warfield, Thomas Dorsey, as well as various Ridgelys family members.

A summary of the content of each document is included in the the folder description. The documents are arranged in chronological order by the date, with undated material located in F13.


Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

F1   1679 Nov 27         Autograph document       1p
     Description of the boundaries of a tract of land owned by John Hillyard.

     1734 Dec 5          Autograph document       1p
     Nicholas Ridgely's original purchase of the land in Duck Creek Hundred, Kent County,
     Delaware, called "Hillyard's Adventure."  Document is incomplete.

F2   1784 Jan 23         Autograph document       2p
     "Case for Consideration."     Proposal that the land belonging to Mary Martin (daughter
     of Nicholas Ridgely) should be divided among the heirs of her half brothers and sister.

     1785                Autograph document       8p
     Depositions establishing the boundaries of "Hillyard's Adventure."

F3   1790 Jun 26         Autograph document       4p
     Indenture in which Ann Ridgely purchases "Hillyard's Adventure" from Thomas and
     Elizabeth Dorsey.  Document is signed by John Burgess.

     1790 Jun 29         Autograph document       1p
     Deed in which the heirs of Mary Martin agree to sign over their inherited land (Hillyard's
     Adventure and Barn's Chance or Choice) to Ann Ridgely.

F4   1800 Sep 22         Autograph document       4p
     Indenture in which Benjamin and Martha Noxon and James Noxon sell another part of
     "Hillyard's Adventure" to Ann Ridgely.  Includes a detailed description of the boundaries
     of the property.

     1800 Sep 22         Autograph document       1p
     Deed in which Benjamin and James Noxon promise not to contest the sale of "Hillyard's
     Adventure" to Ann Ridgely.

     1800 Sep 22         Autograph document       1p
     Deed in which Ann Ridgely promises to pay a sum of $1,600 to Benjamin and James
     Noxon for the purchase of "Hillyard's Adventure."

F5   1807                Autograph document       4p
     Deed in which Williamina Ridgely, upon the death of her father, Charles Ridgley,
     releases her share of "Hillyard's Adventure" to her mother, Ann Ridgely.  Deed is not
     dated or signed.

     1807 Nov 4          Autograph document       2p
     Deed in which Mary Ridgely, upon the death of her father, Charles Ridgely, releases her
     share of "Hillyard's Adventure" to her mother, Ann Ridgely.

F6   1810 Mar 29         Autograph document       7p
     Deed in which Abraham Ridgely releases his share of "Hillyard's Adventure" to his
     mother, Ann Ridgely, for a sum of $400.

F7   1812 Oct 17         Autograph document       4p
     Deed in which Jacob Stout is awarded payment from William K. Hillyard.  In addition,
     this document voids an earlier agreement signed by Henry M. Ridgely, Thomas Clayton,
     and Willard Hall concerning the farm in Duck Creek.

     1814 Oct 31         Autograph document       2p
     Indenture in which Nicholas Ridgely, upon the death of his mother, Ann Ridgely, sells
     "Hillyard's Adventure" to Henry Moore Ridgely.

F8   1818 Aug 9          Autograph document       1p
     A note informing Mr. Ridgely that the land belonging to John Anderson has been in
     Anderson's possession for thirty years and was willed to him by his grandfather, John
     Thompson.

     1818 Aug 11         Autograph document       3p
     Indenture in which Henry M. Ridgely purchases land in Duck Creek Hundred from
     Benjamin and Susan Anderson.  Apparently this land is adjacent to Ridgely's tract of
     land, "Hillyard's Adventure."

     1820 Feb 2          Autograph document       1p
     Indenture reconfirming the agreement of August 11, 1818, in which Henry M. Ridgely
     purchased land in Duck Creek Hundred from Benjamin and Susan Anderson.

F9   1824 Feb 20         Autograph document       3p
     Indenture in which William Saulsbury, Sheriff of Kent County, purchases a house and lot
     in Duck Creek Hundred from Presley Spruance, Jr. and Enoch Spruance.

     1824 Nov 9          Autograph document       3p
     Indenture in which James Loomy purchases a home and lot in Duck Creek Hundred from
     Presley Spruance, Jr. and Enoch Spruance and Ann, his wife.

F10  1832 Jan 28         Autograph document       2p
     Indenture in which Henry M. Ridgely and his wife, Sarah, sell a tract of land in Duck
     Creek Hundred to James B. Macomb.

     1832 Feb 7          Autograph document       2p
     Indenture in which Henry M. Ridgely and his wife, Sarah, buy back a tract of land in
     Duck Creek Hundred from James M. Macomb.

F11  1848 Jan 4          Autograph document       3p
     Mortgage of John M. Voshell and his wife, Mary Ann, to Charles I. duPont; Henry,
     Eugene, and Nicholas Ridgely, and Alexander Johnson.  The land, formerly owned by
     Henry M. Ridgely, was sold upon his death.

     1884 Jun 10         Autograph document       1p
     Deed in which John M. Voshell settles the estate of John Cavender.

F12  1679-1832           Autograph document       2p
     Sheet containing apparent abstracts of legal documents, many of which are present in this
     collection.

     [n.d.]              Autograph notations      1p
     Abstract of survey calculations.

     [n.d.]              Autograph document       1p
     Fragment describing the boundaries of a piece of property, in which "Hillyard's Branch"
     is mentioned.

     [n.d.]              Autograph document       1p
     Rental agreement between Ann Ridgely and her tenant, Allen Whiteheart, including
     instructions concerning his work on the farm.

F13  [n.d.]              Autograph map       2 leaves
     Two fragments belonging to a larger map and document which established the boundaries
     of "Hillyard's Adventure."

     [n.d.]              Autograph map       4 leaves
     Four fragments of an autograph map of "Hillyard's Adventure."  The "Main Duck
     Creeke" is visible on the map.

     [n.d.]              Autograph map       2 leaves
     Two fragments of an autograph map of "Hillyard's Adventure."  Some measurements of
     property lines are visible.

     [n.d.]              Autograph map       2 leaves
     Two fragments of an autograph map in which measurements of property lines are visible.


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