Harlem

 

The land tract called Harlem, which appears on 19th century Baist real estate maps of Washington, lies on either side of Foxhall Road south of Reservoir Road, and originally extended from the mouth Foundry Branch to about the intersection of Reservoir Road and Canal Road.

Its 185 acres appear to include 100 acres on Ridge (Foxhall) Road devised to Dorothy Barber by Col. John Murdock’s will (April 4, 1788), and 41 acres that John Threlkeld of Georgetown bought from the trustees of John Murdock, and sold to James M. Lingan in 1797.  (DC Liber C3 f.4/3)

Although Harlem lies beyond the area covered by these pages, it is is included here because its name––chosen by Lingan, a hero of the American Revolution, to commemorate a battle in which he fought––deserves to be remembered.

 

 

Sketch-of-Battle-of-Harlem-Heights

 

 

James McCubbin Lingan

 

James M. Lingan  (Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town)

James M. Lingan (Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town)

 

 

 

James McCubbin Lingan, an officer of the Continental Army, was wounded and captured at the battle of Fort Washington (November 16, 1776), and was imprisoned, under atrocious conditions, on the decommissioned British ship HMS Jersey, anchored near Brooklyn.

After the war President Washington rewarded Lingan with appointment as Collector of the Port of Georgetown. In 1788, Lingan built Prospect House, at 3508 Prospect Street in Georgetown, as a town residence. (The next street west in Georgetown––36th Street NW––was then called Lingan Street. )

When Lingan bought a farm west of Georgetown, he named it to commemorate the American victory at the battle of Harlem Heights (September 16, 1776), where he had served with distinction two months before his capture.

 

“At the conclusion of the war, General Lingan returned to George Town and farmed two estates he owned, both named after battles in which he had participated––Harlem and Middlebrook. He also was appointed collector of the port by [President] Washington himself. He was one of the original members of the Order of the Cincinnati. In later years he moved over to [Washington], his house then being in the neighborhood of Nineteenth, M and N Streets.”  (Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town, p.91)

 

At the outset of the War of 1812, Lingan––a Federalist who was opposed to the new war––again put his life on the line for his principles, and died at the hands of a pro-war mob in Baltimore.  His funeral services in Georgetown were held outdoors, in Parrott’s Woods––now Oak Hill Cemetery––to accommodate the large number of mourners. (Federal Republican, August 8, 1812; National Intelligencer, August 13, 1812; Helen West Ridgely, Historic Graves of Maryland and the District of Columbia, 1908, pp.250-1)

Lingan was buried in the quarter-acre family burial ground at the upper end of Harlem, where the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker in 1903, and from which his remains, and those of his widow, were transferred to Arlington in 1908. The location of this burial ground, at about 1600 Foxhall Road, can be identified because, in 1911, an Episcopal chapel was built on its site.  (Ella Loraine Dorsey, “A Biographical Sketch of James Maccubbin Lingan, One of the Original Proprietors”, Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 13, 1910, p.47; Mary Badger Wilson, The Story of St. Albans Parish, 1854-1929 (1929), p.83)

 

 

Lingan's grave in Arlington Cemetery

Lingan’s present grave in Arlington Cemetery.

 

Post Script

 

“Valuable Property for sale at the Union Tavern, Georgetown: property of the late Gen. James M. Lingan: tract called Haerlem––185 acres. W. Smith, trustee.“ (National Intelligencer, Oct 8, 1813)

Lots in Harlem were sold to Edward Dawes, John Baker, and Buckner Thruston. Judge Thruston also bought a part of Harlem from Dorothy Barber’s son, John Addison Barber (who had changed his name to John Addison Murdock) in 1815.  (DC Liber AI34 ff.396/419; DC Liber WB1 (1821) f.174; DC Liber WB5 (1823) f.478)

John W. Baker’s widow Jane’s name appears below the present location of Hardy School on the 1859 Boschke map. Sixteen acres southwest of the intersection of Reservoir and Foxhall Roads––later known as Clover Hill––are marked “David L. Shoemaker Heirs”, and were purchased in 1867 by Frederick Wetzel (husband of David Shoemaker’s cousin, Margaret Anne Shoemaker).

An adjacent parcel (approximately 37 acres) called F. W. Jones Subdivision of part of “Harlem”, appears on Map of the Real Estate in the County of Washington, D.C. (Carpenter, 1881).

The short Lingan Road NW, off MacArthur Boulevard, is the only local trace of the patriot and his farm that survives today.

 

 

“The Late James M. Lingan: His Memory Relieved of Certain Erroneous Imputations”,  Washington Post, September 30, 1883, p.3

“The Grave of Gen. Lingan: Granddaughter Tells of Location, Where It Is Still Cared for by Relatives”, Washington Post, August 6, 1900

“The Memory of Gen. Lingan: Granddaughter Denies That He Ever Expressed Anti-American…”, Washington Post, May 25, 1903, p.9

 

 

Ella Loraine Dorsey, “A Biographical Sketch of James Maccubbin Lingan, One of the Original Proprietors”, Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 13, 1910

http://www.jstor.org/stable/40067009

 

www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Lingan&GSfn=James&GSbyrel=all&GSdy=1812&GSdyrel=in&GSob=n&GRid=2282&df=all&

 

http://www.foxhallcommunity.org/history/

 

 

________________________________________________________

Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

All rights reserved.

 

 Questions and corrections may be directed to

carlton@gloverparkhistory.com

 

The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.