Baltimore County

Descendant of My Lady's Manor makes signs marking historical tract

Nearly 54 years after John Pearce Jr. was involved in a project to make and install 16 cast-iron markers delineating the boundaries of My Lady's Manor, his son, Bill Pearce, has assumed his late father's task.

Over the years, speeding trucks or accidents took out some of the original signs the elder Pearce placed along Manor roads and vandals took some others, leaving only six of the 60-pound signs in place.

Bill Pearce had replacement markers made at a foundry in Pennsylvania and will place them along roads leading into My Lady's Manor, the name given to 10,000 acres in northern Baltimore and Harford counties that Charles Calvert, third Lord Baltimore, gave to his fourth wife in 1713.

 "I've been working on this for the past year and a half, retracing my father's steps," said Pearce, who lives in Monkton. "He was a surveyor in his younger days, and he loved genealogy, too. I have all his original notes when he researched the boundaries of the Manor."

The Manor land, which Lord Baltimore's wife never saw before her death, was carved into 100 parcels in the mid-1700s that were leased to local families. The lands were confiscated after the Revolutionary War and auctioned off. Many of the original renters, or patent holders, bought the land they had previously leased and farmed.

Pearce said his father studied those patents in Annapolis during the 1950s and pieced together the boundaries of the original Manor. While John Pearce did the research, his cousin by marriage, Anna Pearce, also of Monkton, spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to raise funds for markers.

She sent out 125 letters asking for money and received $500 from 75 people, noted a Baltimore Sun story in 1959.

The cast iron signs read: "My Lady's Manor 'Lord Baltemore's Guift.' Deeded 1713." The unique spelling is said to have come from Lady Baltimore's will.

Anna Pearce's daughter, Sally Pearce Cocks, said she was just 15 when her mother asked her to sketch the lettering that would appear on the original signs. She wrote three lines on a piece of paper that was given to Jim Turner, who lived in Monkton and worked at a Baltimore foundry.

"I remember my mother was concerned the name (My Lady's Manor) was going away," said Cocks, who lives on the family farm in Monkton.

She said letters back then were simply addressed to a resident at "My Lady's Manor, Monkton" with no street address.

As more people moved to the area, Cocks said the post office began demanding street addresses, then eventually house numbers. Just when "My Lady's Manor" disappeared from envelopes, "My Lady's Manor" markers appeared on the Manor's roadways.

Harriet Iglehart, who moved to a farm on Carroll Road in Monkton in 1958, recalls finding a sign on the road by her house on day in 1959.

"I thought it was odd that one just showed up, but then I saw them all over and they seemed to be in strange places," Iglehart said. "When I heard who was behind them, I knew it had been well-researched. I think it's a good idea Bill is replacing the lost ones. I'm glad the Pearce family is back on duty."

Pearce said his family can be traced back to Maryland around 1650 and can be found on the Manor in the early 1700s. The Pearce family was one of the original patent owners and Pearce still has a patent written on parchment, complete with black seals.

In fact, there are many families living on My Lady's Manor today that can trace their beginnings in Maryland back to those first patents. And many North County roads bear those families' names.

An application that was successful in naming My Lady's Manor as a National Registry Historic District in 1978, listed some of the those first families: Howard, Pearce, Cockey, Hutchins, Holmes, Sparks, Bacon, Bosley, Slade and Shepperd.  

The original patents used stones as boundary markers. Three centuries ago, they were carved with the initials "LBG" for Lord Baltemore's Guift.

Bill Pearce has spent much of the past 18 months trying to track down the locations of those stone markers.

"I believe there are three or four still standing. Unfortunately, farming practices or clearing land for houses may have done away with the others," he said.

He found several photos of stone markers in his father's files, but their locations are not listed, so he continues to try to locate more.

Just as his father teamed up with Anna Pearce to get the first cast- iron markers made and installed, Bill Pearce joined forces with Anna Pearce's granddaughter, Liz McKnight, his fourth cousin, on this project.

She helped Pearce research the Manor in Annapolis and was one of six people who helped raise $1,600 for the new markers.

"I think this is a great project," said McKnight, who said her late grandmother would have been "heartbroken that so many were missing. She'd think this was wonderful."

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