Abraham Lemaistre 98
- Born: Between 1639 and 1645, St. Maries Parish, Isle Of Jersey, Channel Islands England
- Marriage: Unknown about 1660
- Died: 6 Dec 1722, Charles Co., Maryland about age 82
Abraham LeMaistre was said to be born in the parish of Derval, a small village located in the province of Brittany, France, about 1639, by the book Lemasters, USA> By the request of his son John, court records say Abraham was born in St. Maries Parish in old Jersey, to John and Sarah Lemaistre. Perhaps the following statements applied to his ancestors:
"The Lemaitre family has a documented existence in Brittany which extends back to the 13th Century. The LeMaitre family early came under the influence of the reform doctrines of John Calvin and the Swiss political reformer Bezanson Hugues, whose followers were called Huguenots. As Huguenots, the LeMaitres undoubtedly suffered thorough many of the political and religious purges which swept France throughout the 16th Century."
In the late 1650's, Abraham LeMaitre left Brittany and emigrated to England. Once there Abraham anglicized his surname to "Lemasters", an unusual translite4ration since the name retains the French article and combines it with the English noun. Abraham's surname was spelled in America with many variants, including Le Master, Lemastr (s), Lemaitre, and de la Maitre. Lemaster or Lemasters is the most commonly used among his descendants.
Abraham Lemaistre arrived aboard ship in St Mary's County, Maryland, about 1661, with his wife, and perhaps one daughter. He had barely recovered his land legs when he signed an indenture with one John Smith to serve him for the next seven years as a carpenter. We see that being an indentured servant did not exclude on from civic affairs, as Benjamin witnessed a will in 1662, and in 1665 was listed as a witness in a court action. At least three children were born during this time.
The privations of colonial life took a heavy toll on early Marylanders. Nearly 35,000 people immigrated to the colony between 1634 and 1680, yet only 20,000 lived in Maryland in 1680. Met with new diseases of the swampy Chesapeake Bay, and poor shelter, many immigrants perished during their first year.
Maryland's greatest need in its formative years was a sturdy, reliable work force. The immediate answer to this problem was the indentured servant system. The contract offered those willing to sell their labor and broad shoulders for a chance to start a new life in America. Most indentures called for a period of bound servitude lasting seven years. When the term of service was complete the former servants received what was known as "freedom dues", which included a grant of 50 acres.
After assigning his freedom dues land grant to Roger Snell, Abraham Lemasters became a tenant on a plantation of two hundred acres known locally as "Betty's Delight". Abraham and his wife farmed this land for several years, until he bought it from Edward Evans, in 1685. It was on the western edge of Zekiah Swamp, which at that time was in St Mary's Co., MD. An adjustment of the line between St. Mary's Co. and Charles Co., in the 1680's placed "Betty's Delight" in Charles Co., MD. Zekiah Swamp was then the "Western Frontier", which those in later generations thought of as Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, or Oregon, depending in which generation they lived.
The typical plantation of early Maryland included the dwelling house; perhaps slave quarters; some outbuildings used for milkhouses, kitchens, workshops and/or storehouses. There might be corrals, a hog house and a hen house. Further from the dwelling would be cleared fields in which stands of tobacco and corn were cultivated. The plantation, by necessity, almost always contained on or more tobacco barns.
Their houses were rough clapboard, which were small, dark, and drafty. They had packed dirt floors, and no glass windows. Most of these homes were uniformly dreary, unpainted, weathered gray structures. The interior was equally uninspiring, with open beams and unpainted wood or lath and plaster walls. The open fireplace was the focal point, sole sources of heat and of cooking. A person's bedding usually consisted of a mattress stuffed with cattails. However, the crude conditions in which early Maryland families lived were not out of step with the rest of the western world.
Most adult males made their living wholly or partially form tobacco production. The broadleafed plant dominated every aspect of early Charles County life. Nearly all daily efforts were directed toward growing it, storing it and marketing it. In 1699 a Maryland resident noted that "tobacco is our meat, drinke, cloathing and monies… the standard for trade, not only with the merchants but also among ourselves."
Abraham secured the granting of a 50 acre property named "Toombett", for his son Richard, when the latter was only five years old. Apparently this was considered Richard's birthright, as he was not named in Abraham's will. "Toombett" was near "Betty's Delight".
Abraham Lemaster lived to be in his 80's., at a time when life expectancy of an immigrant was 49 years. His will was probated in Charles Co., MD in 1722. He left "Betty's Delight" to his son John, and son Isaac received title to a 100 acre farm adjoining. He left equal shares of another plantation know as "Berry's" to his daughters Sarah and Mary. Abraham's bequest to his daughter Anne was less definite. He willed her the right tot live on his land, "during her husband's absence." Anne's husband was Stephen Noe, and it is not known where he was in 1722 that Abraham should remark on it in his will.
Abraham also left property to be used by his wife during her lifetime. Her children sold this property in 1727, so it can be presumed she died before then. In 1736, "Betty's Delight" was sold by son John for 11,000 pounds of Tobacco.
Although a few Lemasters lived in Zekiah Swamp in the next 100 years, many lost no time in getting away. In the 20th century, much of Zekiah Swamp had been a wilderness for many years, and was being considered for a Wildlife Preserve in 1965, because it is used by migrating wildlife.
Abraham married Unknown about 1660. (Unknown was born about 1639 and died in 1727 in Charles Co., Maryland.)