I paid no attention to the Maryland Historic Marker telling passers-by that Daniel of St Thomas Jenifer was born just down the street from the home we had just purchased. I went by its tree-lined gravel drive every day on my neighborhood run for years but never ventured closer. Then one day we went to a holiday open house at Ellerslie; other visits followed. Eventually this painting joined others in my Port Tobacco River series.
In this painting Dr Daniel Jenifer greets a neighbor at the door. The year is 1793. The neighbor needs help. “Please come” he says. “I will” replies Dr Jennifer. It will be a cold ride tonight, but at least the moon is full. Dr Jenifer and his wife Sarah, and their young family have just completed an extensive addition to the home he inherited from his father, Daniel Jenifer. We do not know exactly when the addition was built, so I have exercised my prerogative as an artist and picked 1793. Dr Jenifer and Sarah Craik had married in 1785. By 1793 their family included four young children. Sarah was the daughter of Dr James Craik, the Physician General of the United States Army and a good friend and personal physician of George Washington. Dr. Craik lived about four miles to the east at La Grange. In 1793 the Jenifer home was sited on 500 acres originally acquired by Bartholomew Coates in 1666 on land that had been a part of Goose Creek Manor. Although the Coates family no longer owned it, the property was still known by its original name, Coates Retirement. Dr Jenifer’s grandfather, also a Dr Daniel Jenifer, had acquired the land in 1720.
At some point early on the right half of the two-story structure and the single floor portion were built and it is likely that is where Dr Jenifer’s parents and grandparents lived and where Dr Jenifer’s illustrious uncle, Daniel of St Thomas Jennifer, was born. Sadly, Sarah dies in 1800 leaving five young children ages 2-12. Dr Jenifer never remarries and dies intestate in 1809. The property remains in the Jenifer family until 1835 when it was sold to Henry Brawner. Brawner renamed it Ellerslie. Walter H. J. Mitchell, who lived nearby at Linden, acquired the property from the estate of Henry Brawner’s widow. At that point Ellerslie contained about 700 acres. It remained in Mitchell family until 1957 when Howard N Bowie purchased the property and divided into smaller parcels. We live in one of those parcels. Fifty acres of mostly mature forest remain with the home now owned by Kevin and Denise Grote who have brought a new spirit of life to their stewardship of Ellerslie and its history. Oil on canvas 24x36 inches