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Home: Surnames: Penniman Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: More on the Penniman family in Maryland
Posted by: Mary Bahr (ID *****3206) Date: April 20, 2011 at 09:41:59
In Reply to: Re: More on the Penniman family in Maryland by Samantha Patterson of 119


Thank you for replying to the Penniman history. I need to touch base with you. I tried calling a Baltimore Penniman family several years ago, and got a maid. She told me that the only Penniman there was an elderly woman who did not want to speak to me. The maid said she would pass on my tele. message to her children or grandchildren, but I never heard back. Please tell me, how are you related?

I have researched Penniman history because of my interest in my local Elkridge history and my experiences on Dutchship Island. Because of this queries, I was contacted by a Penniman relative (John Cleeve) in England, who gave me more facts about the historical Pennimans coming from England.

1) I grew up in Elkridge, on Old Lawyers Hill Road, up the street from the long driveway to the old Penniman estate. Do you know of the house and slave quarters which were there? As a curious kid with my friends, we would walk along the drive and see the foundations of the wooden slave quarters and the boarded up house, with its rose gardens. The white house was so beautiful in the sunset, I could never understand why no one lived there anymore. Then, in the early 1960's, the highway commission was putting through Interstate 95, cutting through the large residential summer homes, tearing properties in half and removing everything that was in its developmental path. On a summer night in 1965, the beautiful Penniman home burned to the ground. I must have remained asleep, but all the Old Lawyers Hill residents got out of their beds and watched it. My mother even made a watercolor sketch of it. I don't know if the fire dept. came or not - certainly not soon enough to save it. BUT, all residents speculated very plausibly, that the highway commission set fire to it, because they couldn't be caught bulldozing it in the daylight. They have always done underhanded things. It is my belief that the home should have been under historical protection. What did the Penniman family do in regards to the property? It was a very very sad day when that home burned.

Because Maryland was south of the M&D line, it was considered a Confederate state. There were slave quarters all over Elkridge. During the Civil War, Lawyers Hill and Old Lawyers Hill residents were both Southern and Northern sympathizers, who stood up for protecting one another's properties no matter what side they politically took, thereby neutralizing themselves when they met for community festivities.

2) Dutchship Island was part of my life. My parents had a canoe and took me (in the late 1950's) out to Dutchship every summer, many times, when they paddled the Magothy; teaching me how to appreciate the environment. My dad said that there used to be a caretaker's cottage on top of the island, with goats to keep the grasses down. So my dad would have been referring to the early 1950's if not the 1940's when this was. He said that thugs beat up the caretaker, killed the goats and burned the cottage down.

When I was a teenager in the mid-1960's, I dated a guy with a speed boat, and made him take me to Dutchship so I could clean up the trash. People would picnic and throw their trash in the water from their boats and from the beach. I came along with huge trash bags and went up to them and made them deposit whatever. Some waited til I passed and then threw stuff behind me. I spent many hours cleaning up what I could, and my boyfriend was not happy with carting the trash on his boat, but that was his problem. I even tried to post signs on the beach to not litter, but rebellious ignorance still happened.

Several years ago, I saw on the internet, Dutchship was in a huge broil over developers building on it, and one man who did and the controversy surrounding what he built and who owns what. I think it is the Magothy River Improvement Association and/or some other agency which is trying to protect the island. Can you tell me more about that? What is going on now? It's narrow sides were eroding even when I went there as a kid.

Samantha, please clarify your description of Dutchship, the house that burned in the 1960's (that I didn't see when I went there many times). Also, please tell me what facts do you have that supports it as a civil rights issue? I cannot imagine that, in the 1960's, anyone would know Penniman history and personalize it enough to take a boat and the time and trouble to start a fire on a house on Dutchship Island -- I mean, this was not the inner city. Also, how did slaves get across the Magothy River to use it as an underground railroad safety house? Where are these written logs? In the Maryland Historical Soc'y? I would love to read them. Please clarify my lack of understanding.

3) I have a photo of a painting created by the late Helen A. Fraser (wife of Nicholas Griffith Penniman Jr.), who also an alumni of the Peabody Conservatory. She was also an author (whose book, The Proud Thistle, I tried to buy on eBay but didn't succeed), and posed in a Camel cigarette advertisement (also on eBay). She was hugely connected to Baltimore theater and has been written about regarding her work at the Vagabond Theater (internet July, 2010). Also, she is in Luckett's study of Maryland Women, 1937. Because we have an historical, pre-Civil War Assembly Hall at the corner of Lawyers and Old Lawyers Hill Roads, it is surmised that she might have done the stage scenery for some of the plays. We know she created some posters for the plays.

4) I also have obits for Abbott Penniman, Nicholas G. Penniman III, George Dobbin* Penniman, and Laura Penniman.

* As you are well aware, the Penniman and Dobbins families intermarried. Historically, the Dobbins also lived in a huge summer home next door to the Pennimans, both down the street from the cottage where I grew up.

Enough for now -- I look forward to your response.

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