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Captain John Dent article in The Maryland Dents

Last Update: August 1999

[Excerpt from Harry Wright Newman, The Maryland Dents, The Dietz Press: Richmond VA, Copyright 1963 by Magruder Dent, pp. 107-113]

16-- 1712

      The relationship of Captain John Dent to Judge Thomas Dent has puzzled the family historian as well as professional antiquarians.  It has been stated often in print without documentation that he was a younger brother of Thomas, but it can definitely be disregarded, inasmuch as a John Dent was not listed as a son of Peter Dent, of Gisborough, Yorks, in the 1684 Visitation of Cambridgeshire.  That he was a kinsman, there is no doubt, and a nephew would be the most logical assumption, but even then he may have been a cousin as used in the modern sense.

      After an analysis of all factors with the Christian names of his children as the best criterion for inference, it is most likely that he was a nephew and the son of George Dent, of Gisborough, brother to Judge Thomas Dent, both being sons of Peter Dent, of Gisborough, and Margaret Nicholson his wife.  The only alternative for being a nephew to Judge Thomas Dent would be a son to William, of Gisborough, but George was given as a Christian name to one of John's sons, whereas William was not.

      John Dent came into Maryland about 1658 with Thomas Dent who claimed land rights in 1663 for his transportation, and in that year John Dent witnessed a conveyance of William Hatton to Thomas Dent.  The year previous or 1662 he witnessed the last will and testament of William Hewes who bequeathed his entire estate to William Hatton of William and William Dent of Thomas.  In 1695 he employed William Dent of Thomas his attorney to institute legal action against on Lemaister.  In those years it is therefore evident that he was in close association with Thomas Dent and was a freeholder of age.

      In 1663 he witnessed the conveyance of 100 acres by John Hatch, of Hatch's Neck, who became his father-in-law.  He was well established as a planter by September 1666, when he entered his cattle marks at court in Charles County.  At court in June 1667, he sued Gerard Brown, the administrator of the estate of John Brown, for a debt of 400 lbs. tob.  The same year he witnessed a deed of conveyance between Thomas Baker and Thomas Pope.

      In 1669 he presented at court his servant, Robert Kent, whose age was adjudged as 12 years.  That the colonists enslaved some of the Indians as bond servants is a well-established fact and in 1690 we have the case of James Boareman, an Indian servant of Captain John Dent, absenting himself from his master's service.

      In 1670 he was appointed by the court to appraise the estate of Walter Beane, of Charles County.  The next year he paid an alienation fee for his purchase of "Cumberston" from Francis Pope.  The declaration was made by him in March 1679, at which time Francis Pope was deceased.

      His early days in the Province were spent in Charles County near his kinsman, but he eventually resided in the northern portion of St. Mary's County near present Charlotte Hall where his reputed house is still standing.

      On March 20, 1672, as John Dent, of St. Mary's County, he proved land rights for 50 acres for his time of service performed in the Province and 50 acres by assignment from George gunnell.  Thomas Dent was a witness.  The latter could be none other than Judge Thomas Dent and again it implied close association in that year.  The nature of the service performed was not disclosed.  Thomas Dent did not declare him as a redemptioner in 1663, but it is possible that he was, and then it is also possible that he apprenticed himself to some planter for a limited time and thus was entitled to land rights at the termination of his indentureship.

      To add to the intricacies of his status, Thomas Dent entered land rights the second time for a John Dent in 1673.  The question is therefore whether the two applications for land rights by Thomas Dent were for the one and the same or rather two John Dents entered the Province.  It is also possible and consistent with the times that he left the Province for a brief period and returned with his passage covered by Thomas Dent and thus only one John Dent to be accounted for.

      Whether there were two John Dents and the one who was transported by Judge Thomas Dent in 1658 died young and without issue is an unsolved question, but it is certain that John Dent who later figured prominently in military affairs of the Province and two insurrections against the Proprietary Party was the freeholder in 1669.

      As early as 1681, he was involved with Josias Fendall, former Governor of the Province, and Captain John Coode in their attempt to overthrow the rule of Lord Baltimore.  They failed at that time but were successful in 1689.

      For the 50 acres due for his service, and an assignment of 50 acres from George Gunnell, he was granted in 1674 "Barnaby", of 60 acres, which adjoined his plantation of "Cumberston".  The 40 odd acres were applied to another patent and with an added 100 acres were surveyed into "Promise".

      Some 20 years after his arrival in the Province or in 1679 he was commissioned a Justice of the Peace for St. Mary's County.  There are records of his serving in that capacity in 1680, 1684-85 and 1689.  In 1694 he was a Justice of the Quorum.  On June 6, 1692, he served on a special commission of "Oyer and Terminer".

      In 1689 he was Captain of the Foot for Chaptico Hundred, the year in which the insurgents suppressed Proprietary rule under the Calverts and ushered in a period of Royal Government direct from the Crown.  On May 7, 1694, Benjamin Hall, of St. Mary's, read a petition before the General Assembly for the return of some guns and ammunition taken from Captain Bowling, late of St. Mary's County, in the time of the Revolution by Captain John Dent with whose widow (Bowling's) Hall had since intermarried.

      It is not known whether by his own inner convictions or whether he was converted by his Puritan father-in-law, John Hatch, who had passed on by the 1689 Revolution, but John Dent and his family in their public life espoused the cause of liberalism.  He sent his son, Peter, back to England to study at Jesus College, Cambridge, always know for its liberal teachings, and when his son, Michael, was admitted to the bar in Maryland, he refused to take the Royal Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy but subscribed only to the Oath of Parliament.

      His liberalism aligned him with the Anti-Proprietary Party and as mentioned previously participated in the overthrow of Lord Baltimore's Government by the ultra-liberals in 1689.  His honours were therefore mostly during the Royal Regime in the reign of William and Mary.  In 1696 he was among those planters who signed an address to "His Sacred Majesty" upon the arrival of the news of "his escape from assassination".

      By June 1678, John Dent had acquired nuptial status, but circumstances would place his marriage much earlier.  On that date he and Mary his wife conveyed "Promise", of 140 acres, to Richard Ashman.  The deed of conveyance was acknowledged by Richard Edelen, Gent., as attorney for the grantors.  His wife was the daughter and heiress of Captain John Hatch who had been transported by Clobery & Co., for their trading post on the Isle of Kent under the supervision of the indominable William Claiborne.  After the expulsion of Claiborne from Maryland, Hatch settled in St. Mary's County, served in the Lower House, and was active with Fendall and Coode in their unsuccessful insurrection.  He died presumably early in 1681, anyhow, he was deceased by November of that year, when the Provincial Court of Maryland investigated the treason of Fendall and Coode.

      John Dent was summoned to appear before the Court and deposed that he had been at Mr. Hatch's house to attend his funeral, when on his way home in the road in the woods near John Gooches, he met Captain Josiah Fendall.  Fendall asked him the news, to which Dent replied that he lived in the forest, where they had little or no news.  Fendall questioned him as to the confederation between the Roman Catholics and the Indians.

      Thomas Perry, of St. Mary's, also made a deposition stating that he had heard Mr. John Dent say that he and Captain Fendall had a meeting.  Fendall asked him whether he had heard any news, but Dent replied, "Captain Fendall I have often heard you talk in this manner, but I should like you better if you said less and did more.  If there be occasion do but send me word, for most part of the forest where I live will be at my command to do what I would have them".

      Fendall replied "If we could secure [meaning perhaps capture] His Lordship, the Chancelor, the Secretary and Colonel Darnall, the rest would fall of course.  As to Esq. Talbott, I know not what to make of him".

      Dent furthermore stated that when he came to St. Mary's His Lordship tendered him the Bible to take his oath at which he was much startled and unwilling to declare anything, whereupon His Lordship "huffed and Flurted his periwig and seemed very much dissatisfied".

      Dent was afraid to talk, for fear of Fendall should impeach him, but "that night considering with himself that Fendall was a prisoner and could do him no hurt, he might freely speak".  Dent then replied that if he had declared all that he knew about Fendall and which he heard Fendall say "at his father-in-law Hatch's burial he could hang him".

      Before his death John Dent had acquired a landed estate of some proportion.  His seat was in the woods, as he stated, meaning in that day that it was away from a water course.  It was in the vicinity of present Charlotte Hall School for Boys on which was later discovered a medicinal spring.  An old house, known as the Dent House, is alleged to have been built by him.

      Apparently Captain Dent discovered the healing qualities of his spring and word soon circulated that it had miraculous powers to cure lameness and other diseases.  At a session of the General Assembly of April 1698, it was recorded "as to Captn Dents Ls about the Coole Spring, it is looked upon as an Idle Letter not worth any answer".  At a subsequent Assembly, however, more serious consideration was given to its healing powers.

      The Lower House on November 1, 1698, ordered that a committee be formed to purchase 50 acres for the use of Coole Spring and if the owner objected, then to exercise the rights of eminent domain.  Ten days later it was recorded in the minutes of the Lower House "for the support of poor Diseased and lame persons, if it shall please God that the Coole Springs do continue to make the like Cures as lately that the house would appropriate 100 that is in Bancke (besides the 800 now allotted toward the Discharge of the Levy) for the building of small Tenements at the said Coole Spring for the Entertainment of such lame diseased persons as shall restore thither for Cure of their Lameness & Diseases".

      The Vestry of All Faith's Parish likewise became interested and on November 24, 1698, ordered the parish to purchase for a consideration of 25 fifty acres of land near "a fountain of healing water" from Captain John Dent.

      At the 1698 session it was also recorded "that it had please God to withdraw from us his afflicting hand of sickness and Restoreing health and blessing us with Severall Beneficiall and healing Waters Called the Coole Spring which by his blessing have wrought many wonderfull and Signall Cures".

      The Council also acted and it was ordered that the Governor place ten Bibles for the use of the poor people who came to be healed and some "sober person" read prayers there twice a day and to be given 12 pence a day for his services and also to send "a Book of Homilys, two books of Family Devotions & a Book of Reformed Devotions written by Dr. Theophilus Dorrington of which Books he is read to them on Sundays".  There also to be constructed a reading desk and some benches made in the New House for the reader to read Prayers and the people to sit on.

      At the session of June 1699, Captain John Dent petitioned the Assembly that "in Compensation of his loss att the Cool Springs he and his heirs onely may have liberty to keep Ordinary att the said Springs" without license fees.  It was furthermore suggested at the session of July 3, 1669, that 50 acres had been ordered to be purchased at 25, and that the remaining 75 be used for the construction of the tenements.

      On July 1, 1699, Dent made another appeal to maintain an Ordinary for himself and heirs, but the Lower House declared that it had no power to grant such a license.  However, he "may applye himself to the County Court".

      But on July 2, 1699, Captain Jacob Moreland, a member of the Assembly, reported that he tendered Mr. John Dent the conveyance to act in the presence of two Justices of the Peace which "he Absolutely refused and denyed that he had made any Bargaine with the Country for the Sd Land".  By the spring session of the Assembly for 1700, Captain Dent had not conveyed the land.

      Peter, his son, who was abroad at the writing of his father's will, was undoubtedly the Peter Dent of Maryland who matriculated at Jesus College, Cambridge, on November 13, 1700.  Michael, another son, was of age by January 1696/7, when he was admitted as an attorney of the Province and subscribed to the Oath of Parliament instead of "ye oaths of allegiance and supremacy".  Michael died, however, intestate and unmarried a short time thereafter.  His father refused to administer on his estate, and in August 1697, he wrote to Robert Mason, the greatest creditor, "I have once and again told I will not administer on my son's estate, for I will not be made rich by my son".

                        Children of John and Mary (Hatch) Dent

1. Peter Dent, returned to England.
2. Michael Dent, d.s.p.
3. John Dent married Catherine ------------. q.v.
4. George Dent married Elizabeth Short and Mary ------------. q.v.
5. Mary Dent.
6. Lydia Dent married Samuel Turner.
7. Anne Dent married John Cadle [Caudle].
8. Abigail Dent.
9. Christian Dent married Thomas Suite.

      Captain Dent executed his last will and testament on September 25, 1711, which was duly proved at court in Charles County on May 5, 1712.

To son John he devised "Cumberston", "Barnaby", "Reading", "Evan's Addition",
      the land and house at Newporte, "Providence", "Pearl's Progress", "Harrison's
      Adventure" aggregating 1325 acres and the estate devised the testator by John
      Harrison, but son John was not to pay the Lord's rent until he acquired possession.
To son Peter "if he comes to Maryland to settle" then he was to have the devisees of John.
To daughter Mary "Ashman's Freehold".
To daughter Lydia "St Ann's" of 100 acres.
To daughter Anne "St. Stephen Coleman" of 200 acres and "Evan's Reserve" of 100 acres.
To daughter Abigail "Love's Adventure" of 136 acres.
To daughter Christian "Coldwell's" of 331 acres and tract taken out of "Trentfork" of
      25 acres, "Horse Range" of 200 acres, but if son Peter came into Maryland, then
      "Horse Range" to him.  In the event that Christian died without issue then
      the realty was to revert to testator's family, but if daughter had an heir of her
      body then to her heirs forever.
To his "disobedient son George" "Haphazard" of 50 acres, and "Freestone Point" of
      324 acres, but if son Peter came into Maryland to dwell then one half of
      "Freestone "Point" to him.
Wife to hold all the lands and housing and mill or mills already built or hereafter
      built during life and at her death to dispose of her one-half of personal estate
      as she thought fit.
Residuary estate to wife and son John and they to be executors.

      His personal estate was appraised at 269/10/7, with George Dent and Samuel Turner approving as the kinsmen.  Among the items were one drum, guns, three swords, two canes, books, but there were no slaves or indentured servants.

      His widow, Mary Dent, died in 1725/6.  Her son, John Dent, was granted letters of administration, with his bond dated March 5, 1725/6, assured by George Dent and John Caudle.  Samuel Turner and George Dent approved the valuation of her personal estate on June 2, 1726.

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