[1814-1829]. A group of 21 letters, a total of 42 pp., and approx. 7800 words, directed to Clotworthy Birnie at his home on Bear Branch, near Taney Town in Frederick County, Maryland. The letters involve Birnie's various real estate dealings, purchase or sale of livestock, cultivation of plants for hedging, cuttings for roses, etc. His correspondents include: James Leander Cathcart who was negotiating for property in Annapolis (4), Richard Shaw who was moving his family west to Indiana and reporting on the business prospects he found there (5), Henry Maynadier acting on Birnie's behalf in some land negotiations (3), Charles Sower, editor and publisher of the "Star of Federalism" newspaper regarding Birnie's subscription (1), Caleb Kirk discussing hedging for use as fencing (1), T. Tilghman forwarding rose cuttings (1), Henry Spaulding reporting on Birnie's attempt to sell a slave (1), etc. The one printed document completed in manuscript concerns Birnie's debt for a subscription to the "Federal Gazette" in Baltimore for the year 1823-24. All of the documents are in very good condition, loss to a word or two where seals were broken. Item #61553
Clotworthy Birnie (1765-1845) was a native of Belfast, Ireland who had immigrated to Maryland to manage property belonging to his uncle Upton Scott in and around Taneytown in 1810. He had a large farm, raising sheep and growing grapes for wine in Frederick County. Scott (1724-1814) was a wealthy, well-connected resident of Annapolis, physician to the last colonial governor of Maryland before the war. Through his uncle Birnie was introduced to many of the influential citizens of Annapolis, including Col. Henry Maynadier (c.1759-1849).
The letters in this group from Maynadier show he was active in trying to rent or sell property Birnie had inherited in Annapolis to James Leander Cathcart (1767-1843) a diplomat, Consul to Tunis and Tripoli, and later Consul General to Cadiz. According to Maynadier's letters Cathcart was living in Washington and looking for a location in Annapolis: “I understand that he comes to live here in consequence of a Naval Rendezvous being about to be established here for our public ships coming in from the Mediterranean to take their provisions here….” Maynadier believed property values in Annapolis were therefore likely to rise. Cathcart, for his part, mentioned that he owned several properties in Washington DC he would be willing to trade for an Annapolis location with waterfront access which would allow for a store and wharf to be built on the river allowing vessels to access them. His Washington lots were on square 185 "all of which front either on 17th or K Streets" directly opposite the President's house. He was also waiting for a settlement of a consdierable claim he had on the Spanish government which would be distributed by the government once the Treaty with Spain for the cession of the Floridas to the United States was ratified. A resourceful character, Cathcart was a veteran of the American Revolution and had spent years as a captive of Barbary pirates in Algiers.
The group of letters from Richard Shaw, a fellow Irishman, report more on the prospects for commerce in Ohio and Indiana. His letters are full of details of crop prices, land prices, dealings with the locals, etc. As he and his family made their way west, Shaw relayed to Birnie his search for business opportunities in stores, tanyards, breweries, distilleries and vineyards. In Ohio he noted that "[t]he country is covered with grape vines & I understand they grow in great abundance on the plain... The people here know nothing of making wine." Town lots in Dunlapsville [Union Co.] Indiana could be had for $1 each. He eventually settled in Abbington [Abington], Indiana, purchasing Coxes Mill, land and an orchard, intending to put in grape vines the following spring. For reasons that are unclear, he informed Birnie that he was changing his name to 'Ralph Shawmbourie.' [A man of this name is found in the records of Wayne County, Indiana as being the postmaster in Abington pre-1837.].