.In August 1760 the Maryland Gazette announced the arrival of the ship Capel from London with goods to be sold at Thomas Contee’s store in Port Tobacco. Its Captain was John Johnstoun. Johnstoun enjoyed a fine reputation among planters as a trusted Captain who delivered what they wanted where they wanted it. Thomas Contee normally operated out of Nottingham, a much larger town on the more heavily traveled Patuxent River. The Capel is pictured here in the midst of loading hogsheads of tobacco for payment of goods sold.
The story of the Capel is one of the relationships that undergirded the tobacco trade. Thomas Contee was married to Sarah, the daughter of Benjamin Fendall of Port Tobacco and granddaughter of Phillip Lee of Blenheim. Contee’s sister, Jane, was married to John Hansen of Mulberry Grove. The ship’s owner, James Russell, came to Maryland as a young man in 1729-30 from Scotland. He married Ann Lee, daughter of Phillip Lee of Blenheim and granddaughter of Richard Lee the scion of the Maryland branch of the Lee’s of Virginia. The family connections that came with his marriage to Ann Lee coupled with his obvious business acumen positioned Russell to become a highly successful merchant. So successful, in fact, that he moved his family to London in the early 1750s, there he would eventually become one of the largest merchants for the Chesapeake. When the Russells moved to London they took with them their four daughters. One daughter, Sarah, married Thomas Clerk, and out of this union came one of the giants of modern physics, James Clerk Maxwell who first linked electricity and magnetism. Russell’s sister married William Molleson, another prominent Chesapeake merchant. Oil on canvas 24x36 inches