Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thomas Howe Ridgate

It seems that Port Tobacco certainly had its ups and downs through time. The economy prior to and following the American Revolution saw many prosperous merchants lose everything as a result of the War. Thomas Howe Ridgate was one such merchant. Ridgate lived at what we now call the Chimney House, one of only three surviving 18th century buildings left at Port Tobacco.

We have learned that there was a big push to move Port Tobacco to LaPlata in the late 19th century. There was also talk of moving the County Seat to Chapel Point at one time. Ridgate and others like Thomas Stone started a petition in 1783 to keep the Seat where it was and were successful...this time.

Ridgate was a partner in the firm Barnes and Ridgate whose function was the tobacco trade. Before the Revolution, the colonies traded almost exclusively with Great Britain and since the colonies revolted, the British developed a bit of an attitude toward fair trade with their insolent children. Ridgate (and others) developed heavy debts to sustain their lifestyle in the hopes that the war's end would bring them prosperity again. It was not to be. When Ridgate died in 1789, his estate was inventoried and included many personal belongings, some slave holdings, and property. His poor widow was entitled to little of it and was only able to retain her "dower amount", equivelent to 1/8th of the estate value.

The burial marker of Thomas Howe Ridgate at Betty's Delight in Port Tobacco.

The Chimney House spent much of the 19th century in need of repair and by the 20th century it was nearly lost. Fortuntely, it was saved and is an historic jewel today.

The Chimney House restored

The Chimney House in the 1970's. (Note in the foreground the foundation of the Brawner Hotel.)

1 comment:

Connie Alexander said...

My ancestor is Thomas Ridgate. I have a framed silhouette of him with a letter tucked behind the frame. I also have a very large cameo of him that has engraving about him on the back - Once someone contacts me I will be glad to come and show you the silhouette, letter and cameo. I was told that he owned Rose Hill, so it is interesting to find out about Chimney House. I have a dining table that reportedly belonged to him as well. I live in Howard Co., MD.

Thank you,

C. Alexander