Harford History

February 11, 2007

The inventory for John Hall "of Cranberry" filed with the Register of Wills on Feb. 7, 1770, lists elegant items owned by a prominent family from southern Harford County. Located along the current Route 7 near Aberdeen, the inventory of Cranberry Hall included fine furnishings and manufacturing supplies.

Martha Hall was born into this setting in 1746 as the eldest daughter of Jonathan Hall. She married Samuel Griffith, her second husband, in 1778. They each brought four children to the marriage and had four sons together.

Upon Samuel's death in 1794, another will became vital to Martha's future. Her husband had left her their farm on Swan Creek but had failed to convey to her the property needed to run the farm, including equipment, livestock and supplies.

Martha began her challenge of the will at the courthouse in Bel Air in 1795, claiming that the property had been "taken and unjustly detained" by her stepchildren and their aunt. The case hinged on interpretations of Maryland and British law as far back as the Magna Carta and was not settled until 1803.

Martha ultimately was awarded "one-third part of the personal estate of her husband, after deducting the debts and funeral charges." The case, Griffith v. Griffith's Executors, established an important precedent for the right of Maryland women to inherit their husbands' personal property.

[Source: Harford Historical Bulletin, Summer 1999. Research by Harford County Public Library]

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