An American Family History

Henry Bonner

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves,
and, under a just God cannot retain it."
― Abraham Lincoln

Charles County is in south central Maryland and was created in 1658. The first settlers were mainly English tobacco planters, their indentured servants and enslaved people. Many of of the settlers were Roman Catholic. The county, as originally laid out, also included parts of present day Calvert, Prince George's and St. Mary's Counties.

Maryland was established with religious freedom for Catholics. The colonial economy was based on tobacco cultivated by Africans who had been enslaved.
Guardianship is when a court gives an adult custody of a child and/or the responsibility of managing the child's property. Before women could own property, guardians were appointed for their minor children if their husband died.

Henry Bonner lived in 17th and 18th century Colonial Maryland. He was near kin to Sarah Bonner. He was described as a gentleman.

Great Bonnerton (100 acres) was surveyed on November 11, 1659 for James Bonner.

In 1669 Henry was the clerk of Charles County, Maryland.

The first public record of him was a 1670 land patent for 50 acres in Charles County which he called None Such.

Henry married Elizabeth on November 15, 1665. Elizabeth was born about 1642 and had been married three time before Henry. She had been married to William Wilkes (Weeks), John Taylor, and Walter Story, Sr.

In January, 1676/77, Elizabeth Bonner was appointed as the guardian of Elizabeth Smoot, the daughter of Richard Smoot until she was 16 or married. Elizabeth was to teach her to read and write and she was not to work around the house.

Henry served as Clerk in Charles County from 1670 until 1672.

Henry became the guardian of Elizabeth's son Walter Story, Jr.

Henry and Elizabeth were sued by Mr. John Long of London for Walter Story's debts for goods shipped from England. Elizabeth claimed that Walter had not had any dealings with Mr. Long, but other witnesses disputed that.

In 1772 the court ordered Henry and Elizabeth, as Walter Story's executors, to pay John Long 248£ 8s 7d for the 11,200 pounds of tobacco paid them by Thomas Notley. The court granted Mr. Long a 14 year lease of the 175 acre of the parcel called Walter Story's Land to pay part of the debt. Apparently Henry and Elizabeth were jailed because of the debt.

The lease was made when Walter Story, Jr. was 7 years old and would expire when he was of age at 21. In 1774 he was almost old enough to choose his own guardian and threatened to do so and challenge the lease in order for Henry and Elizabeth to be released from prison where they were to remain until he was of age.

In 1674 Henry and Elizabeth gave her sons from her prior marriage, John and Thomas Taylor, 450 acres that had been surveyed for their father, John Taylor that had been granted to Elizabeth on August 21, 1658.

In 1677 he witnessed an indenture between Peter Carr and John Gray.

In 1678 he witnessed the will of Colonel John Douglas and that year he received a patent for 200 acres in Charles County which he called Bonner's Retirement.

In 1680 he witnessed an indenture between Thomas Harris and Ralph Smith in Charles County, Maryland.

In 1681 Henry and Elizabeth sold Bonner's Retirement.

Henry served as Clerk of Anne Arundel County in 1685. In February of that year a dispute arose as to who was the official Clerk. Francis Downs was appointed Clerk and given the official seal, but Bonner kept the documents in his possession. The Council of Maryland declared that Downs was the Clerk.

In 1686 he received a patent for 500 acres in what is now Harford County named Bonner's Purchase.

In 1692 he was removed from the office of Clerk of the Council of Maryland. Henry told the Legislature that Secretary Lawrence had offered him half the Clerk's salary to resign so he could appoint his relative, Thomas Briscoe. Henry refused and Lawrence dismissed him and appointed Briscoe. Some of the colonists petitioned to have him continue in office, but were not successful.

In 1699 he sold Bonnor's Purchase to Thomas Beale.

He served as clerk in Prince George's County from November 28, 1699 until his death in October, 1702.

He left his estate to his wife and making her sole executrix of his will. She received his land in Baltimore/Harford County including Bonner's Camp and Bonner's Interest.

The inventory of his estate included a six year old mixed race boy who had 26 more years of service, a large pewter service set, some silver, two "very old" horses, and many pieces of furniture.  The total value of his personal estate was 34£ 12s 3d. 

On June 9, 1705 Elizabeth Bonner testified that her former servant, Catherine Worly, gave birth to a boy, William Worly, whose father was an African American who was enslaved. The child belonged to Henry Haule who sold him to Henry Bonner until he reached age 21. Henry bound him to Benjamin Warren who sold him to William Penn.

A land patent is an exclusive land grant made by the government. The certificate that grants the land rights is also called first-title deed and final certificate. In the United States, all land can be traced back to the original land patent.

Mister ( Mr.) was derived from master and Mrs. and Miss were derived from mistress. They indicated people of superior social status in colonial America.
Old Style Calendar
Before 1752 the year began on Lady Day, March 25th,. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are used to indicate whether the year has been adjusted. Often both dates are used.

American colonists continued to use British monetary units, namely the pound, shilling and pence for which £1 (or li) equalled 20s and 1s equalled 12d. In 1792 the dollar was established as the basic unit of currency.
The first European settlements in Maryland were made in 1634 when English settlers created a permanent colony.
Anne Arundel County, Maryland was established in 1650.

Baltimore County, Maryland was founded in 1659 and included most of northeastern Maryland. The original county included parts of Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Carroll, and Baltimore Counties.




from Baltimore County Families

Henry Bonner in Balto. Co. by Oct. 1684 when he surv. 1000 a. Bonner's Camp
d. test. by 21 Oct. 1702 in P.G. Co., leaving land in Balto. Co. to widow Eliza; may be the Henry Boner of Charles Co. Who imm. C 1669


Prince George's County, Maryland was created in 1696 from portions of Charles, and Calvert Counties. It was divided into six districts called hundreds: Mattapany, Patuxant, Collington, Mount Calvert, Piscattoway, and New Scotland. A part the county became Frederick County in 1748.
Slavery is an immoral system of forced labor where people are treated as property to be bought and sold. It was legal in the American Colonies and the United States until the Civil War.

from the Achives of Maryland

The exact date and place of Henry Bonner's birth is not known, but the first public record mentioning him was a patent record for land in Charles County in 1670. His county of residency is also uncertain. He was issued patents for land in Charles County, Baltimore County, and in what is now Harford County. In his will, Bonner declared himself a resident of Prince George's County, but the inventory of his estate described him as "Henry Bonner in Charles County." 

Bonner married a woman named Elizabeth who was formerly married to Walter Story who died in 1667. As a result of this marriage, Bonner became the guardian of Elizabeth's son Walter. Most likely Henry and Elizabeth did not have any children together, for there is no mention of offspring in any documents found. 

Soon after their marriage, the Bonners came into some legal troubles. Suit was brought against them by Mr. John Long of London, England for debts owed to him by Elizabeth's former husband. Elizabeth, as executrix of her late husband's will, was responsible for paying his debts. Long charged that he had not been paid for goods shipped to Bonner from England and that he was due payment. Elizabeth claimed  that her husband had not had any dealings with Mr. Long, thus she did not need to pay him.  Other witnesses, however, acknowledged that there had been such an arrangement between the two men. The case was heard before the Chancery Court.

Bonner served as Clerk of Anne Arundel County in 1685, but the exact dates are not known. In February of that year a dispute arose as to who was the official Clerk of Anne Arundel County. Francis Downs was appointed Clerk and given the official seal of the county, but Bonner kept the documents in his possession because Downs was not able to maintain them in a timely fashion.  The Anne Arundel County Commissioners appealed to the Council of Maryland to have them declare an official Clerk. Downs was declared the Clerk of Anne Arundel County, and was subsequently given the county documents to keep in his possession.

Bonner became Clerk of the Council of Maryland on April 10, 1685. Bonner was appointed Clerk again in 1689, but was removed in 1692 which lead to another dispute. Many felt that Bonner was unjustly released from his position as Clerk by Sir Lawrence and they petitioned to have him continue in office.  Bonner told the Legislature about Secretary Lawrence's proposal in which Lawrence offered Bonner half the salary of the Clerk's position if he would simply resign. This way, Lawrence could appoint his relative Thomas Briscoe. When Bonner refused, Lawrence dismissed him and appointed Briscoe anyway. Those who petitioned to reinstate Bonner called Briscoe a "stranger" and praised Bonner for his accomplishments as Clerk. Briscoe continued to serve as Clerk, however, until 1694. Bonner was never reinstated. Bonner also served as Clerk in Charles County from 1670 until 1672 and also as Clerk in Prince George's County from November 28, 1699 until his death in October 1702.

Bonner was issued five patents for land: 
50 acres in Charles County (None Such, 1670),
200 acres in Charles County (Bonners Retirement, 1678),
1000 acres in now Harford County (Bonners Camp, 1685),
500 acres in Baltimore County (Bonners Interest, 1685),
500 acres in now Harford County (Bonners Purchase, 1686). 

His inventory included one mulatto six-year-old boy with 26 years of service remaining, a large pewter service set, some silver, two "very old" horses, and many pieces of furniture. The total value of his personal estate was 34£, 12, 3.  He left his estate to his wife and making her sole executrix of his will. The cause of his death is not known, but in his will he does mention his "sick and weak body."

Pewter is an alloy composed mainly of tin, but can include lead. It was used for dishes and utensils. Some colonists suffered lead poisoning from using it. It dents easily and lasted about ten years. It was expensive and wooden dishes were used most often.

Seals were used to authenticate documents and men were expected to have a personal die. Records in deed books are copies and signatures are usually in the clerk’s handwriting. The clerk drew a circle around the word “seal” to indicate that the original document was sealed.


The town clerk was one of the first offices in colonial America. The clerk recorded births, marriages, and deaths.

from Archives of Maryland, Volume 60, Preface 17
The next clerk of Charles County of which we have a record was Henry Bonner. A deposition shows that he was twenty-two years old about the time that he became clerk in 1669. He had apparently only very recently arrived in the Province.

Bonner, like Boughton, had a checkered career as clerk. He had apparently taken over the office of clerk, or was acting as deputy clerk, about the time Boughton got into difficulties in the summer of 1669, because, when in June, 1670, he was sued by John Hatch for debt, he sought to evade suit by asking for a "writ of privilege," declaring that Hatch was "not proceeding according to law & privileges allowed the Clearke of the Court," and was granted a "nonsuite."

No record of his formal appointment to the clerkship by the Governor, however, has been found before September 16, 1670, when he was recommissioned. About a year later he no longer held that office, as he is referred to as "late clerk," when at the November, 1671, county court, the grand jury investigated charges made to the Governor against him by John Helme for "mischarging certain Fees." The Grand Jury found that his account was "erroneous," but did not find it "presentable"

The record does not show whether or not he resumed office, but it is unlikely that he did, as on August 1, 1672, Philip Gibbon was appointed clerk. At the November, 1674, court, immediately after the death of Philip Gibbon, who had succeeded him as clerk,

it was ordered that Mr Henry Bonner shall be Clerke to the Comissionrs below for drawing of warrants & hues & Cryes & mitirnus's or any such like businesse.

This looks more like an appointment for special duties than as a formal reappointment to the full county clerkship. His subsequent career has not been traced.

In 1670 Bonner married Elizabeth, the widow of Walter Story, a London merchant, who had settled in Charles County. They became involved in various law suits in connection with their own affairs and the Story estate, and were both apparently in prison for debt in 1672.

Bonner appears to have lived in the upper part of Charles County, which later became Prince George's, as his will, dated and probated in October, 1702, refers to him as of Prince George's, and vests his entire estate, including large land holdings on Bush River, Baltimore County, in his wife, Elizabeth.


from Charles County Court and Land Records, Volume III, Liber Z, Page 210

Recorded at request of William Penn:
9 Jun 1705; Elizabeth Bonner, age 63, made oath that Catherine Worly, formerly her servant, had a bastard child by a Negro in Ann Arundel Co. which by law belongs to Henry Haule, minister of the Parish; Haule sold the mulatto boy to her husband Henry Bonner till he reach age 21; Bonner had him bound in Anne Arundel Co. by name William Worly; deponent gave the boy to Benjamin Warren who sold him to Wm. Penn; sworn before Henry Hardy; recorded by William Penn

A deponent (dept, dpnt) gives testimony under oat.

A gentleman had no title, but descended from an aristocratic family, was of the landed gentry, and had a coat of arms.
Lord Baltimore, Cecil Calvert (1605 -1675), 2nd Baron Baltimore was the first governor of Maryland.
Phillip Calvert (1626–1682), was the 5th governor from 1660 to1665.
Charles Calvert (1637 – 1715), 3rd Baron Baltimore inherited the colony in 1675.

The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay and is about 405 miles long.

Acts made att a Generall Assembly held att the Citty of St Maries the 12th day of ffebruary in the three and fortieth yeare of the Dominion of Csecilius &ca Annoq Domini 1674

The Honble Charles Calvert Governour
To the Right Honble the Lord Proprietary in his two houses of Generall Assembly
The humble Peticōn of John Long of the Citty of London Marchant Humbly Sheweth

That your Peticōner in the year of our Lord 1672 obteined a decree in your Lordships high Court of Chancery against Henry Bonner & Elizabeth his wife the Relict & Administratrix of one Walter Story deceased for two hundred forty Eight pounds eight shillings and seven pence [248£ 8s 7d] Lawfull money of England they the said Henry & Elizabeth in Consideracon of Eleven thousand two hundred [11,200] pounds of Tobacco in hand paid them by ThomasNotley gentleman Attorney of your Peticōner

by way of discount for and towards part of payment of the said Sume of two hundred forty Eight pounds Eight shillings and seven pence did by Indenture of lease duely Executed vnder their hands and Seales bearing date the Thirtieth day of January in the yeare of our Lord one thousand six hundred seventy two demise grant Sett & to farme Lett vnto the said Thomas Notley as Attorney of and in trust for your peticōner all that tract parcell of Land Called by the name of Walter Storyes land lyeing in Charles County in Potomack River Conteyning by Estimacon one hundred seventy five Acres then in the possession of the said Henry Bonner & Elizabeth his wife

To hold the same to him the said Thomas Notley his Executors administrators or assignes in trust as aforesaid for and dureing the full end & tearme of fourteene yeares from thence next ensueing fully to be Compleat & ended as by the said Indenture may more att large appear

And Your Peticōners further sheweth that the said Walter Story deceased left Issue Walter Story an Infant who att the time of makeing of the said lease about the age of seven yeares and then under the guardianship of the said Henry & Elizabeth and will not arrive to his full age of one and twenty yeares untill such time as the said Lease be Expired

But being now almost arrived to the age as he may be Capable to Choose his own Guardian he threatneth to make Choice of another Guardian and as Heire to his father to Call in question the said Lease & damm the same now forasmuch as the said lease was made towards part of Satisfaccõn of the said debt which was the propper debt of the said Walter Story deceased and for to redeem the bodyes of the said Henry & Elizabeth out of Prison and was but to Continue dureing the Nonage of the said Walter Story the younger

Your Peticōner humbly prayes the same may be by an act of this present Generall Assembly ratifyed and Confirmed to him the said Thomas Notley his Executors administrators or assignes (in trust as aforesaid) dureing the Continuance of the said Terme, And Bee itt therefore Enacted by the Right Honble the Lord Proprietary by and with the advice and Consent of the upper and lower houses of this present Generall Assembly and the Authority thereof that the said Lease be Ratifyed & Confirmed to all intents and purposes according to the Tennor & true meaning thereof And that the said Thomas Notley his Executors administrators or assignes shall and may quiettly & peaceably have hold occupy and possesse & Injoy the said land and premisses dureing the Continuance of the Residue of the said Terme of fourteen Yeares Yett to come & Unexpired against the said Walter Story the Younger or his heires or any Claiming by form or under him them or any of them

Tobacco is a native American herb that is cultivated for its leaves which are prepared for smoking, chewing or snuff. In parts of colonial America, it was used as money. Tobacco plantations in the colonial south fueled the need for enslaving people.

The spelling cõn is the same as tion.


1 Sep 1674
Charles Maryland;
Deed of Gift
from Henry Bonner, Gent, and Elizabeth his wife,
to her natural born sons, John Taylor and Thomas Taylor;
a parcel of land surveyed for John Taylor, father of the sons, and granted by patent to Elizabeth Taylor, relict of John, 21 Aug 1658; lying on the north side of Petit's Creek which flows into the Potomac River, Weeke's Branch, and Taylor's Bite; laid out for 450 acres;
signed Henry Bonner, Elisabeth Bonner;
wit. Robert Doyne, Matthew Stone, Joseph Bullot


from Charles County Court and Land Records, Volume II, Liber I, Page 1

10 May 1681;
Indenture from Henry Bonner, Gent, and Elizabeth his wife, to James Tyer, Gent.;
for 4,000# tobacco a parcel of land called Bonners Retirement;
bounded by Coalchester; laid out for 200 acres;
/s/ Henry Bonner, Elizabeth Bonner;
wit. Jacob Gregory, Tho. Bright (mark)


from the Archives of Maryland

This Indenture made the six and twentieth day of Aprill in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred Ninty & Nine [1699] Between Thomas Beale of Ann Arundel County
Mrchant of the one parte and Henry Bonner of ye said County Gent of other parte

Wittnesseth that Whereas the Right honoble Charles Lord Baron of Baltemore absolute Lord and Proprietary of
the provinces of Maryland and Avalone &c by his Letters pattents beareing date the tenth day of October one thousand six hundred Eighty six [1686] did Grant unto ye Said Henry Bonner a Certaine tract of Land Called Bonners Purchase lying in Baltemore County and surveyed for five hundred . . .

And whereas the sd Henry has heretofore Conveyed unto one Nicholas Water [illegible] hundred Acres out of the eastermost parte of the sd tract. . .

Wittnesseth that ye sd Henry Bonner for and in Consideracon of the quantity of Eight thousand [illegible] of tobacco to him in hand paid by the sd Thomas . . .As by these presents he doth Give Grant Bargain Sell Allien enfeof and Confirme unto him ye sd Thomas Beale all that the remaining parte of the sd tract of land . . .To Hold the remaining part of the tract of land with all the dwelling houses out houses tobacco houses fences and all their apurtenances whatsoever. . .



Maryland Calendar of Wills Volume 3

Bonner, Henry,
Prince George's Co.,
1st Oct., 1702; 21st Oct., 1702.
To wife Eliza:, extx., entire estate, real and personal, including 1000 A., Bonner's Camp at hd. of Bush R., Baltimore. Co., and 500 A., Bonner's Interest in Baltimore. Co.
Test: Jas. Moore, Henry Glover, Benj. Berry.
11. 334



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©Roberta Tuller 2019
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