The Colonial Ancestors of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
by Scottie Fitzgerald Smith

All his life—which may seem odd in one who is sometimes called “the historian of the Jazz Age”—my father was fascinated by the poetic aspects of early times. His first success, at age sixteen, came with the production in St. Paul of a Civil War play, Coward… and his most abysmal failure, some twenty years later, with a series of stories about a medieval knight which were so inferior to his other work that Redbook asked him to discontinue them. He loved to study the “Histomap” that hung on the wall of his workroom in Baltimore, to collect miniature soldiers which he deployed in marches around our Christmas trees, and to recite the kings and queens of England. I can still remember his annoyance when I kept falling asleep during his background briefings on Ivanhoe.

It seems, therefore, ironic and a little sad that he was almost totally unaware of what romantic cloth his own colonial ancestors were made. He knew, of course, that he was related to Francis Scott Key, but he dubbed him a great-great-uncle whereas Key was, in fact, only a distant cousin. The snob in him dropped the names of some Dorsey and Ridgely forebears into his preface to Don Swann’s Colonial and Historic Homes of Maryland, but they were hopelessly confused. I do wish he had been familiar with Adam Thoroughgood, Kenelm Cheseldyne, Marmaduke Tylden, and the other intrepid souls who set sail fromEngland in the seventeenth century to settle along the rivers of Tidewater Maryland and Virginia, for surely he would have contributed their improbable-sounding names to literature.

The one with whom I fancy my father might have felt the closest bond is Thomas Gerard, Lord of the Manor of St. Clement’s in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, who arrived in 1638, four years after his cousin had made the celebrated voyage with the Ark and Dove. To get to be a Lord of the Manor, of which some eighty were created before the title was abolished toward the end of the century, you simply had to buy 1,000 acres and import enough indentured servants to populate them; but Gerard went on to become one of the province’s largest landowners, with holdings of over 12,000 acres including what is now Capitol Hill in Washington. A poor relative of a titled family, he was a doctor by profession, referred to by Lord Baltimore as his “beloved surgeon.” This staunch Catholic brought suit against a Jesuit priest who tried to coerce his Protestant wife and children into attending Catholic services. A tobacco planter like nearly all the Maryland landowners, he also manufactured bricks and a celebrated peach brandy… of which he evidently partook with relish, being publicly accused of drunkenness and intemperate language at a meeting of the Provincial Council.

In 1659, after a characteristic scrap with his patron Lord Baltimore, Gerard joined a briefly successful rebellion against his government; when- a furious Baltimore returned to power, he fined him 5,000 pounds of tobacco and exiled him to Virginia where he continued to practice medicine and bought several thousand more acres. Eventually he was pardoned and given back his confiscated lands, but though he returned temporarily he spent the end of his life in Virginia where he started what has been called the first country club on these shores. It consisted of a “Banquetting House” at the point where his property joined with three others, and its bylaws called for a party once a year “fit to entertain the undertakers thereof,” to be followed by a “procession to every man’s land for re-marking and bounding… this for the better preservation of that friendship which ought to be between neighbors.” He was, perhaps, among the earliest bon vivants in the New World.

Though Gerard kept a low political profile after his exile, his rebellious spirit seems to have transmitted itself to his family, for three of his numerous daughters married men who became, sixteen years after his death, important figures in the Maryland Revolution of 1689. Thisnonviolent event, which removed the Baltimores from office for a quarter of a century, had many causes—among them Protestant resentment of the favoritism shown by the Baltimores to their relatives and Catholic intimates. When England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688 placed the Protestant William and Mary on the throne, the time seemed right for such ambitious malcontents as Kenelm Cheseldyne to make their move. The second son of the Vicar of Blaxham in Lincolnshire, a London-educated lawyer and husband of the well-to-do Mary Gerard, Cheseldyne joined with his two brothers-in-law and Henry Jowles, the father of his son-in-law, to play a prominent part in the overthrow of the Baltimores, the forming of the Associators’ Convention (as the revolutionary government was called), and to a lesser extent in the royal government which was established in 1691. It was he who sailed for London with his brother-in-law, John Coode, to plead the cause of the Associators before the Crown.

I cannot resist inserting here that John Coode, the military commander of the revolution and by all accounts a fiery rascal, is a direct progenitor by way of his second marriage of my mother Zelda. There is no way my mother’s sister Rosalind, who spent many years documenting their origins in southern Maryland, could not have known this, yet she so detested my father that she studiously omitted from her papers any reference to it or to the many other connections by marriage between their Maryland ancestors… and carried her awful secrets to her grave.

At about the time that Thomas Gerard was establishing himself in southern Maryland—during the 1640’s—a group of dissenters from England’s established church, called Non-Conformists or Puritans, were running into trouble with the authorities at their settlement along the Elizabeth River in Virginia. For refusing to “hear the Book of Common Prayer” and other offenses against the Crown, they were being threatened with arrest and imprisonment. Governor William Stone, Maryland’s first Protestant governor, anxious for more colonists, took it upon himself during Lord Baltimore’s absence in England to invite them to settle on the virgin territory along the Severn River near what is now Annapolis. Thus in about 1650 Edward Dorsey and Matthew Howard, whose descendants stayed in the foreground of Maryland affairs for many generations, were among those who made the move from Virginia northwards. They were granted between 200 and 500 acres each, according to how many children and indentured servants they transported with them, and the complete (for that time)religious freedom which allowed some, like Edward Dorsey’s wife, even to become Quakers. Puritanism did not last much beyond the first generation, however; prosperity and the advent of slavery soon demanded a less exacting religion.

The first Anne Arundel County settlers were joined by Richard Warfield, an indentured servant who rose to become a commissioned officer in the Provincial Militia (how my father would have relished, during the scandal over King Edward VIII’s abdication, knowing he was an eighth cousin to Wallis Warfield, Duchess of Windsor!) and by Richard Hill, “a Scotchman, bold in speech, who spoke what others only dared to think,” and was often sent as ambassador to the neighboring colonies to try to work out a joint policy toward the marauding northern tribes of Indians. He wrote to the Governor on one of his trips that in “lyeing out of doors both upon land and water I have taken a grievous cold, but as I am at your Lordship’s Commands, I shall nevertheless readily obey them.” These were some of the immigrants whose names appear on the family tree for several generations; wives’ maiden names are seldom recorded.

Things were turbulent in the earliest days of this puritan enclave within a predominantly Catholic-run province, culminating in the bloody 1655 Battle of the Severn between the established planters of St. Mary’s and the new arrivals. No F.S.F. ancestor lost his life, but the brother of one did: Thomas Hatton, former Secretary of the Province, the man famous for bringing over on the boat from England the draft of Maryland’s “Act Concerning Religion,” the first formal declaration of religious tolerance in the New World. He had also brought along the widow of his brother Richard and her four children, and thereby hangs a tale.

Soon after their arrival in Maryland in 1648, one of the Widow Hatton’s daughters married Captain Luke Gardiner, Lord of the Manor of St. Richard’s, Justice of the County Court, High Sheriff of St. Mary’s (the Sheriff was the Governor’s Representative in each county), and member of the Assembly. He was so ardent a Catholic that after marrying Elizabeth Hatton, a Protestant, he kidnapped her twelve-year-old sister, Elinor, in an attempt to bring her up in the Roman faith. The Widow Hatton, by now remarried, elicited the help of her brother-in-law, then Secretary of State, in having Elinor forcibly returned to her. Hatton termed the abduction “an insufferable dealing” and one of “very dangerous and Destructive consequence in relacion to the peace and welfare of this Province,” terming Gardiner insolent andrefractory. Elinor apparently suffered no lasting damage, later marrying twice most advantageously (both times to Catholics), but Luke’s wife Elizabeth left his bed and board, declaring in court that she was “delighted” to be released from him. After Luke’s death she remarried —to a Protestant. Luke left his large estate to his four young sons on condition that if any “be no Catholic” his share be divided among his brothers.

A third region of Maryland was becoming populated in the mid-seventeenth century—as late as 1700, there were not many more than 25,000 people in the entire colony—across the Chesapeake Bay from the mainland, on what is now known as the Eastern Shore. Our ancestors were among the pioneers along its river banks: Dr. Richard Tilghman, “Doctor in Physic,” who plied his trade from a boat and built a famed plantation house, “The Hermitage”; Thomas Hynson, High Sheriff and later Justice of Kent County, who held the sessions of the court at “Hinchingham,” his 2,200-acre property (when he died, his sons paid Dr. Tilghman 4,621 pounds of tobacco “for care and physic”); Simon Wilmer, delegate from the new county to the Assembly at Annapolis, owner of “White House Farm” on which part of Chestertown now stands; Marmaduke Tylden (changed to “Tilden” in later generations), who inherited “Great Oak Manor” from his father-in-law William Harris and was said to be the largest landowner in the county, with 13,000 acres. William Harris was one of the few Eastern shore planters to join the rebel side in 1689.

Dr. John Scott, another surgeon, was also one of the pioneer settlers, though not such a formidable landowner. From him seven generations of Scotts descend, all of whom lived in Chestertown, Kent County, until after the American Revolution when the fifth of the line, also a John Scott, moved to Baltimore. These were not the same Scotts for whom Francis Scott Key was named—no connection can be found —though F.S.F.’s mother, when naming him after his illustrious relative, must surely have taken into consideration the fact that the Chestertown Scotts were the longest continuous line in his American ancestry. Only the name “Francis” was what one might call capricious, and even “Francis” had been in the family before the birth of Francis Scott Key. Whatever her motives, Mollie Fitzgerald had legitimate cause for bestowing upon her son such a star-spangled name.

Before leaving the seventeenth century for the more worldly eighteenth, when all the known forebears on this side of the Atlantic were firmly planted on Maryland soil, we need to return to Virginia, settingthe calendar back briefly to the year 1608. The first of our adventurers to arrive in America, Thomas Graves, landed that year at Jamestown as part of the “Second Supply.” Shortly after, while on an exploring expedition, he was taken captive by hostile Indians and rescued just in time to avoid a premature death.

In 1619 Captain Graves was one of two representatives from “Smythe’s Hundred” (Southampton) to the first session of the House of Burgesses of Virginia—the first legislative assembly in the New World—held in an old wooden church at Jamestown. Later that year, referring to a feud at Smythe’s Hundred, Governor Yeardley wrote, “I have entreated Capt. Graves antient officer of this Company to take charge of the people and the workes.” He could not have been quite so “antient” as implied, for several years later, as part of the census taken after the Indian Massacre of 1622, he is listed as Commander of the “Plantation of Accomack” on Virginia’s eastern shore.

In 1629 Graves represented the new county of Accomack-Northampton at the Assembly, later becoming a member of the first vestry of the Church of England parish. One of his daughters, Ann, set what must be some sort of record by marrying successively three rectors of this parish. Her third husband then accepted a rectorship in Charles County, Maryland, where her sister Verlinda was living with her husband, former governor William Stone, who had earlier in his career been Commissioner of Accomack, Virginia. When Stone died, Ann stayed on with Verlinda, sending her own husband back to Virginia alone. Her daughter by her first husband, the Reverend William Cotton, married a Charles County, Maryland, planter, thus ending the Virginia connection.

Another early bird, especially interesting to his descendants because his plantation house east of Norfolk—said to be the oldest brick dwelling still standing in America—is now a charming small museum, was Adam Thoroughgood. The seventh son of the Vicar of St. Botolph’s, Norfolk, England, he is credited with giving America’s Norfolk its name. He arrived in Virginia in 1621 as a seventeen-year-old indentured servant, earned his freedom in the customary five years, bought 150 acres, and returned to England where he married Sarah Offley, daughter of a well-to-do London merchant who was, lo and behold, a member of the Virginia Company. Soon Adam was back in Virginia with 105 new settlers, which entitled him to large amounts of land; within seven years, he was one of the wealthiest planters in the colony and a member of the prestigious King’s Council. He died at thirty-five and the widow Sarah, though remarried as most affluent widows promptly were, appears to have remained devoted. When a woman importunely suggested that “noone could get a bill” out of Sarah’s late husband, she insisted that the offender publicly apologize in the middle of the following Sunday’s church service. The Thoroughgoods had, of course, founded the church.

One more Virginia immigrant—doubtless the most blue-blooded of the lot, since he is listed by the Order of the Crown of Charlemagne in the United States as a descendant of that monarch—needs mention. Gerard Fowke of Gunston, Staffordshire, had been a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Charles I and a colonel in the royal army before coming to Westmoreland County, Virginia, sometime before 1657 with his cousin George Mason. He became a colonel of troops but ran into serious trouble in 1661 when, along with Mason and two others, he was charged with having “injured and affronted” Wahonganocke, King of the Potomac Indians. For the high misdemeanor of illegally imprisoning the King, they were ordered to pay him “100 arms length of Roanoke apiece or match coats instead at 20 arms length every coat,” to pay the Assembly 15,000 pounds of tobacco, and to relinquish all offices, civil or military. Fowke moved to Charles County, Maryland, where he married Anne, the daughter of Adam Thoroughgood, then a widow living at Port Tobacco. He was soon elected Burgess, then appointed Justice, despite his reputation for a “hasty temper.” One of his granddaughters, Frances Fowke, married Dr. Gustavus Brown, which brings us back to the eighteenth century when two of the last colonial immigrants on the tree—and among the most appealing—are about to establish residence in southern Maryland.

Gustavus Brown, grandson of a minister of the Scottish Episcopal Church who was deposed for “speaking out against the Covenant,” came in 1708 as a nineteen-year-old surgeon’s mate on a royal ship bound for the Chesapeake Bay. While the ship lay at anchor, a storm arose and it put out to sea, leaving him ashore with nothing but the clothes on his back. According to an early report, “he quickly made himself known, and informed the planters of his willingness to serve them if he could be provided with instruments and medicines, leaving them to judge if he was worthy of their confidence. He began his practice at Nansemond, Maryland, soon gained respect and succeeded beyond his expectations.” He married the heiress Frances Fowke, granddaughter of the Gerard Fowke above, and they had twelve children, the eleventh of whom, Cecilia, married a son of Philip Key. Theyoung John Key was living with Dr. Brown while studying medicine, as was the custom of the day, when the romance was discovered by Cecilia’s father. He wrote to his friend Philip to come and fetch his son at once, but despite their youth, the couple’s wishes prevailed.

In 1723 Dr. Brown was one of seven trustees appointed by the county to find schoolteachers who were to be “members of the Church of England, pious and exemplary in their lives, capable of teaching well the grammar, good writing and the mathematics, if such could conveniently be got.” The following story was told of him by a descendant:

On one occasion Dr. Brown was sent for in haste to pay a professional visit in the family of a Mr. H., a wealthy citizen of King George Co., Va., who was usually very slow in paying his physician for his valuable services, and who was also very ostentatious in displaying his wealth. In leaving the chamber of his patient it was necessary for Dr. B. to pass through the dining room, where Mr. H. was entertaining some guests at dinner. As Dr. B. entered the room a servant bearing a silver salver, on which stood two silver goblets filled with gold pieces, stepped up to him and said, “Dr. B., master wishes you to take out your fee.” It was winter, and Dr. B. wore his overcoat. Taking one of the goblets he quietly emptied it into one pocket, and the second goblet into another, and saying to the servant, “Tell your master I highly appreciate his liberality,” he mounted his horse and returned home.

Dr. Brown’s son, also Dr. Gustavus Brown, was one of the two physicians with George Washington at the time of his death—not a glorious page, it is said, in medical history.

Philip Key, first of the Maryland line, was born in London and received his legal education at The Temple before settling in St. Mary’s County in 1720 at “Bushwood Lodge,” adjoining the St. Clement’s Manor which had belonged to Thomas Gerard. He built a highly successful practice, held the offices of High Sheriff and Presiding Justice, served on a commission with Dr. Gustavus Brown to “regulate the parishes of St. Mary’s and Charles Counties,” and finally in 1763 received the highest honor, appointment to the Council of Maryland. When he died the following year, the Maryland Gazette extolled him as “a pious and devout Christian, an affectionate and tender Husband, an indulgent and fond parent, a humane Master, a warm Friend, a friendly Neighbor, and a most agreeable and cheerful companion.”

His first wife was Susanna, daughter of John Gardiner, the grandson of the Luke Gardiner who had kidnapped his twelve-year-old sister-in-law some three-quarters of a century earlier. She was probably raised a Catholic, as the Gardiners were among the last of the old manorial Catholic families. Philip and Susanna had seven children, all but one of whom held high provincial offices: one was Francis, father of Philip Barton Key who sided with the British during the Revolution, but was later forgiven and elected to Congress. It was from him that my father was convinced he was descended, probably because of a chart made by a Baltimore genealogist erroneously stating that Eliza Key, wife of his great-grandfather John Scott, was Philip Barton Key’s daughter. From Francis also came the father of the author of our national anthem. Dr. John Key was the only one of Philip and Susanna’s children to choose a profession other than the law. He is supposed to have studied medicine at Edinburgh, but whether this was before or after his apprenticeship with Dr. Brown is unclear.

Philip Key was married again after the death of Susanna, to Theodosia Barton, who was so kind to her stepchildren (so goes the legend) that Philip Barton Key was named for her. She established the first free school for the poor in the vestry house of the church her husband had built at Chaptico with bricks “brought from England.” A descendant wrote that “so highly was Mr. Key honored while High Sheriff that the… congregation would not enter the Church until the Lord High Sheriff arrived.”

Dr. John Key and Cecilia Brown were married just long enough to have two children, Philip and Susanna, before he died. It is a commentary on the times—for today it would probably raise a hue and cry—that after her husband’s death Cecilia married Major Thomas Bond, whose younger brother Richard married her daughter Susanna, making mother and daughter sisters-in-law. Philip, her son by Dr. John Key, went to London in 1767 to study law, was presented at the Court of St. James and, according to one source, “was counted one of the handsomest men of his day.” At a Key family reunion held in June of 1877, the story was told that just before he left for London, he had become engaged to his cousin, Mary Key, but when he stayed abroad longer than expected, local gossips attributed this to an English love affair. Disconsolate, the fair Mary married another suitor in August of 1768. When Philip learned of this at the Annapolis inn where he spent the night on his return home, he became so distraught that he remained single for ten more years.

He then, however, wed Rebecca Jowles Sothoron, great-great-granddaughter of that Henry Jowles who had been prominent in the Revolution of 1689. Her father was Henry Greenfield Sothoron of “The Plains,” Justice, delegate to the Assembly for five terms, delegate from St. Mary’s to the Provincial Conventions held between 1774 and 1776 when independence was declared, and member for St. Mary’s of the General Committee for the Revolution, which was charged with carrying out the policies of the Continental Congress. Philip Key was also a delegate to the Assembly (Speaker of the House for two terms), and active in the Revolution as a member of the Committee of Correspondence. He was elected to the second United States Congress in 1791, and “declined the offer to become Governor of Maryland when that official was appointed by the Electoral College.”

After the Revolution, Philip and Rebecca bought Tudor Hall, a plantation house famous for its inset portico; it is now preserved as the public library at Leonardtown, county seat of St. Mary’s. They had nine children, the youngest of whom, Eliza, born in 1792 at Tudor Hall, would have had to be my father’s favorite ancestress. She is credited with saving the Leonardtown courthouse from the depredations of the British Navy in 1814 by rowing out in a boat, alone, to persuade the British Admiral against all evidence that the courthouse was sometimes used as “a place of divine worship.” He is alleged to have been so charmed that he also gave protection to Tudor Hall, with the words, “That is a deucedly fine woman; her house shall not be burned.” Eliza married John Scott, a Baltimore lawyer, thus becoming the great-grandmother of F.S.F. and bringing the large southern Maryland branch into the family tree.

Meanwhile, the descendants of the Puritan settlers of Anne Arundel County were prospering mightily. Captain John Dorsey, third son of Edward Dorsey the boatwright, served in both houses of the Assembly, on commissions to lay out the town and port of Annapolis, and on the Governor’s Council. He accumulated land, much of it in newly created Howard County near Baltimore, where the soil was not depleted by the continuous planting of tobacco. Having amply taken care of his sons in his will, he left the sons of his daughter Deborah, Charles and William Ridgely, a 2,000-acre Howard County estate which he called “White Wine and Claret” because the surveyors he engaged, and supplied with potables, gave it such irregular boundaries. At his funeral in 1715 ten gallons of rum and thirty gallons of cider were consumed. His daughter Deborah’s husband, Charles Ridgely, was a son of Robert Ridgely, a leading lawyer of the province who was at one time Deputy Secretary of Maryland. From him, Charles inherited a large estate inwhat is now Prince George’s County. He left Deborah a widow only five years after they were married; as usual, the records frustratingly fail to suggest a cause. According to one account, she was nearly blind from a childhood case of smallpox, but “so acute were her senses of hearing and feeling that she suffered no inconvenience from her misfortune.” She went on to marry Richard Clagett, another of Maryland’s princely landowners, and by him to become the grandmother of the first Episcopal Bishop consecrated in America.

Deborah’s son Charles, one of her three Ridgely children, became a Justice of Baltimore County. Public offices in those days were regarded more as a way of paying one’s dues to society than making a living; his principal business was dealing in mortgages and liens on property, a lucrative endeavor at a time when Maryland’s population was growing rapidly and banking was a private enterprise. Included in his vast estate at his death in 1773 were 125 gallons of spirits (whiskey), 25 gallons of rum, 111 bottles of canary wine, 115 bottles of red port wine, seven gallons of Lisbon wine, and 11 hogsheads of cider. His son Charles Ridgely III, brother of our ancestress Pleasance, built “Hampton,” a magnificent mansion in the Dulaney Valley near Baltimore, now open to the public. Ridgely descendants still occupied the house when my father lived in Baltimore in the Thirties, and invited him to visit on several occasions; as I recall he was enthralled, asking many questions and taking copious notes. He had no idea, I am certain, that while Charles Ridgely’s wife officially opened “Hampton” with a prayer meeting, Charles held a card party in the attic with his fellow officers from the militia.

Charles Ridgely died childless in 1790, before “Hampton” was completed, and left it (with the wherewithal to finish the job) to a nephew, on condition that he change his name to Ridgely. He was also generous to his sister Pleasance and her children by Lyde Goodwin, leaving them roughly a fourth of his fortune. One of her daughters, Elizabeth Goodwin, married her second cousin, Henry Hill Dorsey, in 1765, which returns us again to the Dorseys. We left the Dorseys, the reader will recall, when Deborah Dorsey married Charles Ridgely in about 1700. Four years later her brother Caleb married Elinor War-field, daughter of the upwardly mobile Richard of early Annapolis, and he, too, parlayed his land holdings into a vast domain, smartly investing around Elk Ridge Landing, the new port about to burst into prosperity because of the iron ore which had been discovered nearby. They lived at “Hockley-in-the-Hole” near Annapolis, the plantationleft to Caleb by his father, and very well: his will, made in 1742, bequeathed thirty-four slaves to his wife Elinor and their eleven children. They actually had twelve children, but one had fallen into disfavor: “Item, to daughter Elinor Lynch, who for her disobedience, I exclude from any part of my estate, five shilling sterling.”

It was Caleb’s son Caleb who became the real tycoon, opening mines, building forges, and erecting furnaces on the Elk Ridge lands as Maryland inched from its tobacco economy into the industrial age. Known as “the Iron Merchant of Elk Ridge,” it was said that he could ride ten miles in any direction on his properties. He ran his own fleet of ships directly to England. In 1735 he married Priscilla Hill, granddaughter of the immigrant Richard, after a romantic encounter described by a descendant:

On one of his long hunts after the elusive fox, young Caleb Dorsey, who was living at the time at his father’s plantation, “Hockley-in-the-Hole,” got lost in the vicinity of the West River, and made up his mind to spend the night in the woods, when to his surprise there came riding down a little lane a young damsel as beautiful as the goddess Diana.

“How may I get to Hockley, near Annapolis?” he inquired.

“I don’t know,” replied the maiden, “but if you keep down this lane for half a mile and turn to the left you will come to a mansion where they may direct you.” With that, she rode quickly away. The house she spoke of was her father’s.

Caleb followed the lady’s directions, and made the acquaintance of old Mr. Hill, a fox-hunter like himself. He not only spent the night under the hospitable roof of the Hill family, but remained their guest for several days. After that Caleb frequently renewed the chase in the same direction of the West River, and finally brought home Miss Priscilla Hill as his wife. Obtaining from his father the tract known as Moore’s Morning Choice, he built the lordly Belmont for his bride.

“Belmont,” finished in 1738, is one of the great country houses of Maryland. It is terraced after the English fashion, with formal gardens bordered with box and lilac bushes, and has a graveyard behind the house where Caleb and Priscilla are buried. Two of its unusual features are the “witches’ crosses” Caleb put on the doors to ward off evil spirits and the plate with the initials “C” and “P” intertwined which is in the front wall. The property was inherited through marriage by Alexander Contee Hanson, another relative of Zelda’s.

When Caleb and Priscilla’s oldest son, Henry Dorsey, married his cousin Elizabeth Goodwin in 1765, he was doing the traditional thing:intermarriages between Dorseys, Ridgelys, Howards, Warfields, and a few other families of the squirearchy were everyday affairs. One of Henry’s sisters married Charles Ridgely III, the builder of “Hampton,” becoming his aunt as well when he married Elizabeth. Another sister married Charles Ridgely Carnan, who changed his name to Charles Carnan Ridgely to inherit “Hampton”; he was Elizabeth’s first cousin. Yet another sister married Elizabeth’s brother, and a brother married a Dorsey. Henry and Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth Goodwin Dorsey, broke the pattern when she married John Scott from Kent County, a Baltimore lawyer and state senator and later judge, in 1788.

Henry Dorsey died in 1772, in the same year as his father, and his brothers Samuel and Edward ran the ironworks throughout the Revolution, supplying guns, cannons, and ammunition to George Washington’s troops. John Scott’s father, Dr. John Scott, vaccinated 500 revolutionary soldiers against smallpox in the public square in Chestertown, refusing to take a fee.

John Scott himself was only eight years old at the time of the Declaration of Independence; he and Elizabeth Goodwin Dorsey were the last of the ancestors to have been born in America under the British flag. They carried a mighty lot of colonial history in their veins, and it seems appropriate that some of the furniture at Mount Vernon was given by Elizabeth Dorsey Scott at the time of its restoration. It is equally appropriate, and pleasing, that my father is buried in an ancient churchyard in Rockville, Maryland, just north of Washington… which is just about equidistant from where all these adventurous folks put down their strong, tenacious, and, I like to think romantic, roots.

Principal Sources

Anne Arundel Gentry, by Harry Wright Newman, Vols. I and II (privately printed), and all other writings of Mr. Newman’s; Maryland’s Revolution of Government, by Lois Green Carr and David William Jordan (Cornell University Press, 1974); Founders of Anne Arundel & Howard Counties, by J. D. Warfield (1905, reprinted by Regional Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1973); Sidelights on Maryland History, by Hester Dorsey Richardson (1903, reprinted by Tidewater Publishers, Cambridge, Md., 1967); His Lordship’s Patronage, by Donnell M. Owings (Maryland Historical Society, 1953); Virginia Genealogies, by Horace Edwin Hayden (1891, reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1973); History of Old Kent County, by George A. Hanson  (1876, reprinted by Regional PublishingCo., Baltimore, 1967); Adventurers of Purse & Person, ed. Annie Josh Jester (reprinted by the Order of First Families of Virginia, 1964); History of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, by Regina Combs Hammett (privately printed 1977, with an introduction by Edwin W. Beitzell); Yesterday in Old St. Mary’s, by Robert E. T. Pogue (privately printed, 1968).

Genealogy is time-consuming work; even with the aid of modern copying machines and reprint houses, I could never have tracked down these people without the help over several years of Messrs. Theodore Brownyard, a professional genealogist in Washington; Harry Wright Newman, the Annapolis-based expert on ancient Maryland families; and Waverly Barbe, professor of genealogy at the University of Alabama.

How Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald Got His Name

Philip Key (1697-1764)

m. Susanna Gardiner


Dr. John Key (1730-1755)

m. Cecilia Brown (b. 1731)

Francis Key (1731-1770)

m. Anne Arnold Ross

Philip Key (1750-1820)

m. Rebecca Jowles Sothoron

John Ross Key (1754-1821)

m. Phoebe Penn Dagworthy Charlton

Philip Barton Key (1757-1815)

m. Anne Plater

Eliza Maynadier Key (1792-1866)

m. John Scott (1789-1840)

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)

m. Mary Tayloe Lloyd

Therefore: Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and Francis Scott Key were second cousins, three times removed.

Philip Barton Key (1809-1854)

m. (1) Mary Brent Sewall

(2) Maria Laura Sewall

Cecilia Ashton Scott (1832-1924)

m. Michael Fitzgerald (d. 1855)


Edward Fitzgerald (1853-1931)

m. Mollie McQuillan (1860-1936)

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

m. Zelda Sayre (1900-1948)

Published in Some Sort Of Epic Grandeur: The Life Of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Matthew J. Bruccoli (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981).