Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer 1778 At The Head Of The Elk

While we have some of information about William Miller, precious little is from those highly sought-after primary sources. One item that comes as near to that particular genealogist's nirvana is the record we have of his marriage to Rebecca Bradford on June 13, 1778, in Elkton, Maryland, by Reverend William Thompson. Because this record is copied from the original (thanks to the Jeremiah Baker Chapter of the DAR), it is not technically a primary source, but we won't quibble. [Note: Lori Butler actually visited the Cecil County Historical Society in Elkton this summer and copied the page above for us, so thanks to Lori, too].
So we can be quite certain in declaring that William and Rebecca were in Elkton in June of 1778. We hunger for more details. Where was their residence? How long had they lived in Cecil County? Precisely when did they leave for Fayette County, Pennsylvania? Where were their parents living? But those questions are for another time. Let's enjoy the knowledge that we can at least pinpoint this fascinating couple on one day in history.
So how did that history affect their lives? We can't know for sure, and yet a quick look at the surrounding events is instructive.
According to, "On a hot stormy day, August 27th in the year 1777, three hundred ships with over 15,000 British soldiers, commanded by General [William] Howe, landed on the shores of the Elk River [see map]. They marched to Elkton and made camp. There were more soldiers than citizens in the entire county. In anticipation of the enemy's arrival, people hid their horses, cattle, and valuables in the woods, so that the soldiers couldn't take them. On August 25th, prior to the landing of the British, General George Washington traveled through pouring rain to reach Delaware and then Cecil County. He came to observe their situation, knowing that the British were sailing up the Chesapeake Bay. Washington stayed at Head of Elk [later known as Elkton] in a hotel owned by Jacob Hollingsworth. On August 27th, General Howe slept in the same room and was waited on by the same servant who waited on Washington just two days prior. The British stayed in the County for a few days, planning strategy, stocking up on supplies, and waiting for the storm to pass. When they marched onward, it was to Brandywine and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. No battles took place on Cecil ground that August of 1777, but it was a time that Cecil Countians will never forget."

That December, 75 miles away, Washington and his troops suffered through the winter at Valley Forge. By June 19th of 1778, Washington, still in Pennsylvania, left to join the troops in New Jersey (where the Battle of Monmouth would play out on June 28th just 15 days after their marriage).

The war would rage on for five more years, and as far as we know, Mr. and Mrs. Miller would remain in Elkton during most of that time. Their first two sons would be born, and some time between 1782 and 1783, as the War was ending, they would move their family west to Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

In future posts, we will examine the legends about the first years of their married life in Cecil County, the stories of boat-building, William knowing Rebecca as a baby, and whether or not he owned a mill there in Elkton. As we combine our search efforts, hopefully the fabric of their life will someday be woven into a more complete piece. But for now, even these threads are fascinating.


  1. Thanks son! Glad you're onboard.

  2. David Miller(b.1794 PA - d.1872 MO) and Susanna Warne Miller, both died Springfield Missouri. My GGGgrandparents.
    From a few Ozarkian family documents of this Miller family they suggest the parents of David Miller are William and a very young Rebecca Bradford. I do have a document signed 1870 in David Miller's hand which is a loan agreement between Miller brothers David and older brother Jesse to purchase Missouri real estate for David's daughter Maria who is residing with Jesse on his homestead in current Stone County Missouri. Maria a daughter of 1st unknown wife of David Miller?
    I would very interested in seeing documentation that could help in further research of my David Miller's family, Westmoreland PA and David's parents William and Rebecca from Cecil County MD.


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