Somerset County MDGenWeb
The End Comes for Matthew
This is another article written by David G. Nutter and donated to the Somerset County MD USGenWeb Project. David has been a generous contributor to the Somerset History Articles, and his knowledge and enthusiasm are well appreciated.
Emalu Simpson has uncovered some drama at the Maryland Archives. Death often came swiftly and unexpectedly in the early 18th century. Perhaps some exposure, infection, high fever, raging quickly, grief and mourning, then survivors going on with their lives. Like Death and Taxes, the English Common Law had to be dealt with. So too the roles of women and men.
Anne Huett was the daughter of the prominent Anglican minister the Rev. John Huett, founder of Stepney Parish on the Eastern Shore. Her grandfather, the first Rev. John Huett, had been beheaded by the Cromwellians in the Tower of London in 1658. Anne probably had had a very good education relative to the standards of the time. She married Matthew, third son of Christopher (the colony's Indian Interpreter) and Mary Nutter, in about 1704.
Of the five sons of Christopher and Mary Nutter, it was Matthew and Christopher (the 2nd) who inherited old Christopher's lands at Nutter's Neck. They divided the Neck along a "line of division" which is still used as a property line today. Christopher 2nd headed the household living on the site we are calling the "Old House Cut" on Manumsco Creek. Matthew and Anne lived on the east side of the Neck.
As we can see from the following, Christopher 2nd could write. We know from his Inventory that when he died in 1728, he had many more books in his house than the Indian Interpreter had.
Death came for Matthew, apparently quickly, in November of 1718.
Emalu's following letter to Jeff Hatfield and her transcriptions of the attempted will and the associated letters, give us a fascinating glimpse of what happened next.
Life goes on.
Mr. Jeffrey Hatfield
Rt 2, Box 1286
Millsboro, DE 19966
Missed seeing you last month when Dave was here. Enclosed are some copies I had prepared to give you--my report of the 1798 Federal Tax and an index of the Nutter probate records at the State Archives. The latter record was the source for a very interesting find!
It seems that the Archives has an original will for Matthew Nutter (d.1718). Since all previous accounts state that Matthew died intestate, I was very curious about this reference. I finally had a chance to visit the Archives last Wednesday to get to the bottom of it all.
Sure enough, there was an original will; however, it was never entered into probate. Apparently, it was written by Christopher Nutter, Matthew's brother, at the direction of Matthew's wife, Ann Huitt Nutter. The will was written within hours of his death and Matthew was "out of his senses". Ann claimed to know her husband's desires and convinced her brother-in-law, Christopher2 to sign Matthew's name when he proved too ill to sign for himself. Christopher apparently regretted his actions and later gave an affidavit refuting that the document was in fact the will of his deceased brother, Matthew. Enclosed is a copy of the Archive records and my transcriptions.
I'm not sure whether the land divisions directed in the will were actually followed in the final distribution, but it does provide another clue. It also answers the question whether Matthew and Ann lived at Nutter's Neck or at Contention. I believe she lived in Nutter's Neck until Matthew's death and then moved to Contention where she lived when she died. It appears that Matthew and Ann lived on the northern half of the tract closer to Manumsco than Quantico. Dave says he knows about where the dwelling was located.
It is also interesting to see that they spelled Huitt with an "i" and two "t's". I only hope that Christopher's spelling of proper names was more accurate than his spelling in general. I was impressed that the legal form of the document, while not perfect, had most of the elements required except, of course, for the forged signature. I have often suspected that educated colonials may have sometimes drawn up their own legal documents because of the inconvenience of locating a legal solicitor. Travel was always an obstacle and I suspect that many sought a minimal education in matters of law in order to be of service to themselves and their neighbors. The later will of Matthew Nutter, Jr., son of Matthew and Ann, appears to me to have been composed by his own hand and something in the style makes me conclude that he was educated not only in the law, but also in theology.
The will also gives the approximate date of Matthew's death, November 11, 1718. The will was witnessed by Rachel Evans (was this Ann's mother or perhaps her half-sister) and Oliver Such, perhaps a servant or neighbor. Rachel Evans signed her name and Oliver Such made his mark.
It was thrilling to hold the same papers which were touched by Christopher and Ann. It was also nice to see such a large sample of Christopher's own handwriting. Most probate records are merely clerk's copies. It is not hard to conjure up an image of the distressed family keeping a death vigil over the fevered and delirious Matthew; a brother-in-law cooperating with the soon to be widow so as not to cause her even more upset; Ann's mother or one of her sisters having been summoned to help her cope; a trusted servant or neighbor called away from his usual duties to attend the family.
As you can see, I have had great fun with my discovery! Hope you enjoy it as much.
Emalu Myer Simpson
cc: Dave Nutter
(transcription of the will of Matthew Nutter, son of Christopher and Mary [Dorman] Nutter, deceased 1718)
Honoured Thomas Bordley
Esquire at ye City of Annappolis
Thy Humbly present
who is hereby Humbly Intreated
to take Notice of ye Enclosed
October 10, 1719
Mr. Martin Sir,
Whereas I am certainely informed ye Matthew Nutter deceased knew nothing of ye will that was made for the dispos of his Estate, we think proper to refer ye probate will further. Advise if you pleas propose ye matter to ? Bordley & know his mind in ye matter in behalfe of ? your Oblidged Sert:to? Command SR Hopkins
To Mr. Robert Martin ?
The Enclosed is a will of Matthew Nutters deceased Together with a certificate of Christopher Nutter and Oliver Such Two of the Evidences to the Said Will: Who when they came before me to prove ye same did utterly refute so to doe sayeing that he writ it by ye direction of ye deceased wife, whoe said she knew his mind, which will more fully appear to your Honour by ye said certificate, Therefore doe humbly refer ye same to your Honoured Judgment whither it maye Amount to a will or hoe and by the Earnest Request of the widdow whoe Desireth me to Petition your Honour that you be pleased upon your determination of the matter to quallifie me by your Speatiail Order & Instructions that she maye Administer here in the County without being put to ye trouble of going to ye Prerogative Court which is Certified by Sr: your Hon.rs Ever Oblidged Most Humble Servant
March the 13th: 1719
T R Hopkins
November 11th, 1718
In the name of God Amen I Matthew Nutter being weak of body butt parfictt mind and memory revocking all former wills doo mack this my last will and testamen
I give and beequane untoo my well beloved wife too negros one called ?amb and Darby.
Item I give unto my (note: crossed through and written over - cannot read) Ann Nutter on mallatto woman named Pegg and her encres from hence for ward Those three negros above specified is Ann Nutter proper estat (note: difficult to read).
Item I give untto my sun Huitt Nutter on negro boy called ?ight?
Item I give too my sun Matthew Nutter on negro boy called Dominack
Item I give and beqane untto my too suns all the land which I have in this neck I am now living on and all the land which is my due(?) being fifty acres att the head of Monumcoo called Morises Lott and all the restt of my estate eqall be twext? them all This plantacion land too my sun Matthew Nutter and too my sun Huitt Nutter Land on Quantico and all my lands too be equall derided bettween my too suns
I leave too my wife the third partt of my dwelling planttacion I give untto my daghtr Rachell Nutter on negro garll too be bought by my wife outt of her proper esttatt of thurty pouds wortth too be? huts att sixteen yers oulld and my daghtr Rachell to have hut eqall partt of my esttatt left and my too boys too bee att agge att eighten year oulld and ? to receive their boll estatt I doo leave Niclos Evans and Christopher Nutter overseers of the holl sums above disposed(?). Signed Sealed and dillivered in the presentts of us
There is writting or Will which will apear bee for you Now hear the Subscriber doo give too you the form and way it was pitt dun and actted My brother Matt Nutter art his disseas aboutt on day or the bee for he died was asked too mach his will butt seamed too bee outt of his sences his wife did say shee Naw his Last desire and Will as she directted too the finis of the will and carried it too him butt semed too bee clear outt of his sences. So by his wifes desire I putt his name too the sam and now do think thatt ar ? If Matt Nutter had bin in his sences it wod nott bin nooways after thatt form
from you mostt humble Sarventt
Honorable Thomas Bodley Esquire
November 19th, 1719
Exd April 12
to Grant Letters of Administration
to ye widdow without haveing
any regard to the Will
(note: The back of the will has an unreadable sentence followed by the signatures of Christopher and William Nutter)
(transcribed by Emalu Myer Simpson, September 1997, used with her permission)
Ann Huett went on to remarry, to a Mr. Alexander Leckie in April of 1724. They seem to have moved back to her father's estate, "Contention", which became the site of the 1733 Old Green Hill Church on the Wicomico River. The son "Huitt" referred to in Christopher's handwriting was John Huett Nutter who became a substantial farmer, landowner and businessman at Nutters Neck. Matthew, the younger son of Matthew and Anne, died, at age 27 , in 1737. We suspect, but do not know, that Anne may have wanted her younger son Matthew to become a minister, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and great-grandfather. John Huett Nutter, who appears to have traveled to London in his life, inherited some or all of Anne's inherited estate at "Contention" and also his grandfather's (and great-grandfather's) lands in South Wales in Great Britain. Out of his inheritance at Contention, he contributed to the lands which were assembled for the Old Green Hill Church. John Huett Nutter's son, who was also named Huett (or "Huitt", as the spelling never stabilized, before or after) Nutter also, went to England to live in the 1750's, and the records characterize him as both a "mariner" and an "attorney". He was strongly favored in his grandmother's will. He served as a Lieutenant in the Rewastico Company of the Somerset County Militia in the American Revolution, where he ran into some interesting trouble - apparently about loyalty - with his commanding officer, Colonel George Dashiell, the same George Dashiell who had witnessed his father's will. It appears that this Huett, Anne's grandson, was the one who sold the eastern half of Nutter's Neck.
It also appears, in the naming of John Huett Nutter, her son, and Huett Nutter, her grandson, that we see the signs of Anne, as a mother and grandmother, wanting to keep the memories of her prominent father and grandfather, the two Rev. John Huetts, alive.
One interesting thing - the lands that the two boys, John Huett and Matthew, received at Nutter's Neck were just the opposite of what the attempted will said.
My guess is this. I believe that Anne Huett, daughter of a prominent family, was probably a remarkable and a strong woman of her time, and I sense also (by some Darwinian principle of mutual attraction in marriage) that Matthew may have been in the upper percentile of "intellectual tendency" (relative to the time and place) among the Nutters. Conversely, I imagine Anne's knowledge of farming and farming lands may have just possibly left a little to be desired. Something about Christopher's spelling makes me think he was probably awfully good at farming. Therein, I believe, lay whatever issue there was.
As Emalu Simpson has pointed out in the past, there doesn't seem to be any indication of serious long-term strife within this family. This matter of Matthew's death and will, or lack thereof, was just a crisis that fla red up, caused confusion, and then was gone.
But it always seems to be some trouble or conflict that raises things up into the light of history. I've never found much about joyous weddings or celebrations of other successes.
We'll have to use our imaginations about those.
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Friday, 14-Mar-2008 18:55:25 EDT