Looking Back: Local family claimed partial ownership of Baltimore

This photo is a painting done by Guy Francis. It shows the Jones Falls in Baltimore.

The Daily Times proclaimed on Nov. 1, 1890, “Cumberland Family Made Rich.” Col. Henry D. Carleton, Jacob Brengle and Levi Wickard were listed among the heirs of a $50 million fortune (worth close to $2.6 billion today) because they owned a piece of Baltimore City.

The claims to ownership date back to the founding of the city and William Richardson, a Quaker and a friend of William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania. Richardson was a major landowner in Maryland. He received land grants for bringing colonists to Maryland.

“The Land Warrants at Annapolis bear record that between the years 1636 and 1695, patents for many thousand acres of land were issued from that office to the various Richardsons who arrived between those years,” according to GenealogyTrails.com.

Among Richardson’s Maryland landholdings was 750 acres on either side of the Jones Falls. By 1880, the land was home to a large portion of Baltimore’s business district. It ranged from the Jones Falls to Calvert and Light streets in the west and Exeter Street in the east, according to the Nappanee (Ohio) News.

“The land was leased at several times in several parcels for a uniform term of ninety-nine years, the expressed stipulation being that the title was not fully vested in the leasee,” the Cumberland Daily Times reported.

Richardson’s descendants knew they owned the land but proving it was a problem. They began an investigation in 1830, hiring a Winchester, Va., lawyer to research their claim. The lawyer found that the records needed to prove the family’s claim had been destroyed in the War of 1812.

The property leases expired in the 1870s, the oldest in 1873 and the latest in 1877. One branch of the family, the Booghers of St. Louis, Missouri, wasn’t ready to give up. They continued investigating and believed “they are entitled to all this property and have made arrangements to prosecute their claims in the Maryland courts,” according to the Daily Times.

At stake was land and property estimated to be worth $50 million. According to the Nappannee News, the property included a $2.5-million marble City Hall completed in 1876, Front Street Theatre, the Sun iron building, a new American building, part of the Carrollton Hotel, the site for the new government buildings, the United States courthouse, the custom house, the Merchants’ Exchange, about a dozen banks, blocks of fine warehouses, dwellings and business houses and the Northern Central Railroad depot.

William F. Boogher of the L. Bauman & Co. Jewelry Company pursued the claim on behalf of the family, which included Col. Henry D. Carleton, Jacob Brengle and Levi Wickard. They were all well-known men in Cumberland and active in politics and business.

Boogher said he had all evidence needed except a record of lease. He had visited Baltimore in 1878 and found records had been tampered with “The pages of the book, containing the record, are missing, but the index clearly refers to the lease, and, as all the property must be traced back to the original grant, he feels confident the existence of the ninety-nine years’ lease will be fully established,” the Daily News reported.

Despite the fact that the newspapers reported the story as if it was a foregone conclusion that Richardson’s descendants would own a part of Baltimore, nothing seems to have come of the case. No reports show whether the case went to court, but when Boogher died a few years later, he did so without a fortune or without mention of one in his obituary. The same is true for Carleton, Brengle and Wickard.

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