June 7, 2013

Henry Newcomer, Tory

I received a packet of visitor information from Hagerstown, Maryland. Some of my ancestors once lived there and I'm planning to visit to look around. I saw that there is a house on Antietam Battlefield called the Newcomer House, which piqued my interest because one of my ancestors is named Barbara Newcomer. It turns out that the house was owned by her cousin at the time of the Civil War.

I went back to a long document that I linked to in a previous post and found details about Henry Newcomer's role as a British sympathizer during the American Revolution. Here are excerpts from the 1781 Deposition of Christian Orendorff:

About a Fortnit ago Henry Newcomer of Washington County came to him in Shaftsburg and called him out of his Father's House and asked what he thought of these Times, answered the Times were very bad & precarious--he then asked if he thought the King would over-come this Country answered he thought he might. I'm sure he will overcome the Country and Orendorff if you will keep it a secret I lead you into a Matter of great Importance--answered he would he said we have raised a Body of Men for the Service of the King and we thought proper to make appln to you to go to N York for a Fleet, asked how many Men they had raised he said upwards of 6000--asked who was the Commanding officer of the Party, answered one Fritchy of Fred. Town a Dutch Man dont know his Christian Name--ordered Orndorf to go to his House and he would shew him the Man...
Well, it's a little embarrassing that an ancestor was a loyalist, but I also have several ancestors who fought on the winning side of the Revolutionary War. My great-grandmother and her daughter documented these and joined the D.A.R.

Henry Newcomer's daughter Barbara (1774-1837) was my great-great-great-grandmother. I found further information on the Newcomer Geneaology site which links Henry to the Newcomer House in Antietam:
In June of 1781 Henry was arrested for participating in a loyalist plot in Frederick County, Maryland. The plot sought to recruit loyalist soldiers for the British Army. He was sentenced to one year in prison. The officer who charged Henry was Captain Christopher Orendorff. A Christopher Orendorff, likely the same one, sold his home in Sharpsburg to Henry's grandson, Joshua Newcomer.
Wow! Thank goodness for the internet! I'm not a well-organized genealogist but I do love these anecdotes! I've also been thrilled to hear from distant cousins who see my posts and add fascinating details.

Postscript: According to the book Antietam Farmsteads, Orndorff's son Christopher built the present-day house. The family sold it in 1796 to Jacob Mumma. Eventually Mumma family members sold it in 1860. Records show that in 1862 it was owned by Joshua Newcomer, who operated a nearby mill at the time of the Battle of Antietam. (Yes, Orndorff is spelled various different ways in the records, which was not unusual at that time.)


  1. It's neat that you were able to track down this information.

  2. That's some interesting family history!

  3. How cool one of your ancestors owned a home the Newcomer House. Bet you were thrilled to find that out.

  4. This was an exciting find! It doesn't matter that this ancestor was a loyalist...such a small portion of the population was actually on the side of revolution, with the largest chunk just wanting to be left alone and not take any side. So, we are all bound to have some of one side or another on any issue...or just those who want to not "think about it" :-) I know you will greatly enjoy seeing this house! What an amazing thing to have in your indirect line!


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