The Labadists of Bohemia Manor


While engaged in some investigations as to the site and history
of Baltimore Town on Bush River, my attention was directed to
Bohemia Manor, on the opposite side of the Chesapeake. First,
because Baltimore county included that part of the Eastern Shore
as is conclusively proved by a paper from William A. Stewart,
Esq., read before this Society.

And secondly, because the Manor was the residence of
Augustine Herman, who occupied a prominent position in the
early history of Maryland, and whose descendants are among the
principal families of this State, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The
Shippens, Hyusons, Frisbies, Bordleys, Brices, Dulanys, Chestons,
Galloways, Jenningses and Randolphs.

Ariana Vanderheyden, the grand-daughter of Augustine Herman,
married first James Frisby, then her second husband
Thomas Bordley, and her third Edmund Jennings, Deputy Secretary
of the Province.

Ariana was a superior woman. "No one," said one of her sons,
" could forget the mild sparkle of her eye, the sweet tones of her
voice, or the dignity of her deportment. Parents could not bestow
a better wish for a daughter than a resemblance of Ariana."
Mrs. Jennings resided in Annapolis until 1737, when she was
taken by her husband to England, where she was inoculated for
the small-pox, of which she died in 1741.

On further investigation, I found an additional interest in
Bohemia Manor, then in Baltimore county, from the fact that
here was the settlement of the Labadists, a colony from Holland,
and among the principal converts was Ephraim the eldest son of
Augustine Herman.

And who were the Labadists? Jean de Labadie was born in
Bordeaux in 1610, and educated in the Jesuit College, where he
led an ascetic life, eating only herbs. His health became impaired.
and receiving honorable dismission from the order, he assumed
the habit of a secular priest, and preached with great success.
He was invited to Paris, where his preaching drew immense
crowds, and the Bishop of Amiens gave him a prebend in the
collegiate church.

After several years' service at Amiens, he retired to Port
Royal, and became a Jansenist. From Port Royal he went to
Toulouse and then to Graville among the Carmelites, where he
taught that a life of contemplation was perfection, rendering one
insensible to ordinary human motives. At Toulouse he was in
charge of a nunnery, but claiming inspiration and prophecy, he
came under censure, whereupon he went to Montauban and became
a Protestant.

After two years' study at Montauban, he went with the highest
recommendations to Orange and Geneva, where he faithfully discharged
his pastoral duties.

At Orange he wrote to John Milton, expressing a desire to
come to England. Milton wrote a warm letter sympathizing with
him in the persecution he bore, congratulating him on the stand
he had taken, and urging him to come and take the place of a
French pastor who had recently died.

Had Labadie complied, and had he formed an English colony,
the results might have been very different, but he preferred
Geneva, where he gained two important converts, Pierre Yvon
his successor, and Pierre de Lignon, the second in the community,
who both remained his life-long friends.

At Geneva he was heard by John Schurman, minister at Basel,
who invited him to Middleburgh, where he became pastor of the
Walloon Church, and where Anna Marie Schurman, sister of John,
became his devoted disciple.

She was a woman of superior genius and acquirements, writing
Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, German, Italian, French, besides
Dutch, her own mother-tongue.

It would take too much time to detail the life of Labadie. I
must therefore briefly state, that he was banished from Middleburgh
for refusing to sign the Walloon confession. He then went
to Veere where he established an independent sect, whereupon the
Middleburghers demanded his dismissal; this the people of Veere
refiised, and there being imminent danger of a battle, Labadie, in
a spirit of self-sacrifice, left the city.

Going to Amsterdam he had great success, but the ministers
stirred up the magistrates, and a decree was finally passed that
none should attend his ministry except his own immediate

In this extremity the Labadists were favored by Elizabeth,
daughter of the Elector Palatine and Abbess of Herford Abbey,
which she presented to them. They accordingly left Amsterdam
and gained converts rapidly.

But many reprehensible practices were indulged, especially marriages
in private, thus violating the law of the land; and the
authorities expelled them from the Abbey, upon which they then
went to Altona in Denmark, where in 1674, Labadie died,
attended and nursed by Anna Schurman.

A war being imminent between Sweden and Denmark, the
Labadists made another migration under Yvon to Wieland in
Friesland. Here they were presented by the two daughters of
Cornelis Van Arsen, Lord of Sommelsdyk, the richest man in
Holland, with a castle and estate known as the Walta House.
We are curious to know what were the peculiar tenets of this
colony. Besides what has been said of their mystic character,
they were communists, all being equal. William Penn, who
visited them both at Herford Abbey and Wieland, declared that
they were a plain, serious people and came near to Friends as to
silence in meeting, women speaking, preaching by the Spirit,
plainness in garb and in furniture.

Robert Barclay and George Keith visited Amsterdam, and
offered to take Labadie into their Society, but he declined. As
may be inferred, there were many reports injurious to Labadie,
and yet it is certain, that many excellent men not only disbelieved
such charges but were willing to forsake property, friends and
home, in attestation of their devotion.

Bayle, in his Dictionary, speaks disparagingly of Labadie, but
Mosheim, who had opportunity of knowing the facts, says : " The
charges against him were very numerous and weighty, both as to
his orthodoxy and morals, but it is questionable if, when fairly
tried, he would be found any more than a rash, indiscreet
enthusiastical man."

As many poor persons flocked to the Walta House of Wiewerd,
it did not pay expenses, and the next step was moving to America,
in anticipation of which they sent pioneers to New York.
By the treaty of Breda in 1667, New York was given up to
the English, and as a compensation Surinam was given to the

Accordingly the colonists left Wiewerd for Surinam with high
hopes. They sent back the most favorable reports. A second
company under Joseph Dankers, followed in a ship which was
plundered by pirates.

On reaching Surinam, they were greatly disappointed. They
were attacked by malaria, annoyed by insects, and " snakes ran
through the houses like mice in Holland." They then returned to
New York, and sent Jasper Dankers and Peter Sluyter, to discover
a new location. After visiting various settlements, they
determined on Bohemia Manor, to which they had been invited
by Ephraim Herman, the oldest son of Augustine Herman, who
had in New York become a convert.

Whether the Labadists discovered the best church, I shall not
inquire. It is certain that they discovered the garden of Maryland,
situated between the Elk and Sassafras, and immediately on the
Bohemia Kiver as its centre. The waters of the three rivers
abound with fish. The wild fowl were so numerous, that the
water looked black like turf. Indeed Dankers could not sleep
because of the noise and cries. This was especially the home of
the peach.

The travellers did not cross the Bay, and represented the other
side as a wilderness, but according to Herman's Map made some
years previously, Baltimore was flourishing on Bush River, and
they themselves spoke of ships on the other side, which in all
probability were ships at Baltimore Town loading with tobacco.
In view of the recent movement for a ship canal joining the
Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, it is curious to read the following
statement of Dankers made nearly 200 years ago. " When the
Dutch governed the country, a canal of six miles was much talked
of connecting the Apoquemene and Bohemia Creeks. By this
the Marylanders might buy from the South or Delaware all they
needed, and in turn send their tobacco more easily to that river
than to the great bay of Virginia, as now they have to do. It is
well to consider whether this important subject should not be
brought to higher authorities than particular Governors. What is
now done by land in carts might then be done by water for more
than 600 miles."

In consideration of a map of Virginia and Maryland, made by
Herman at his own expense, which the King of England pronounced
the " best map he had ever seen," Lord Baltimore gave
Herman some 3000 acres of land in this beautiful region, for
which Herman must lay out a new town, Cecilton, and a new
county, Cecil.

But as the Susquehannock Indians occupied much of this
ground, Herman obtained a warrant for a new survey, including
altogether some 20,000 acres. First, however, he met the Chiefs
of the Susquehannocks at their fort on Spesutia Island, made the
necessary purchase, and introduced settlers from New York
about 1660.

Through his son Ephraim's persuasion he agreed to convey a
large part of his manor to Sluyter, Dankers, Judge Moll, Arnoldus
de la Grange, and Peter Bayard, nephew of Governor Stuyvesant,
—all Labadists.

Herman, however, repented his bargain, suspecting that the
names were a device to secure his conveyance and refused to fulfill
the contract until compelled by law. The final deed was executed
in 1684, when a company of men and women numbering one
hundred came over from Holland.

Herman's suspicions were well founded, Moll and de la Grange
transferring their interest to Sluyter, who in 1693, monopolized all.
Herman had made a will leaving his property in entail to his
eldest son Ephraim, providing also for his other children, directing
that if his heirs died without issue, the Governor and Council
should appropriate the Manor to an English Protestant School
and College, with provision for a minister and a refuge for dis-
tressed travellers. He also directed that a marble monument be
erected to his memory near the manor house.

When Ephraim joined the Labadists, forsaking his family and
bright prospects, his father made a codicil expressing his dissatisfaction
; calling the Labadists a faction; and lest Ephraim should
seduce the other children to that sect, he directed other trustees to
guard the property. Herman died shortly after, in 1686, about
the time of his son Ephraim's death. Ephraim had repented of
his folly, returned to his wife, and soon after lost his reason and
died, fulfilling the curse pronounced on him by his father, that he
should not live two years after joining the Labadists.

The subsequent history of the colonists is given by Eev. Peter
Dittlebach, who having been once a member and unfavorably
impressed, wrote a book, showing Sluyter's tyranny, who, for one
thing, would not allow fire in cold weather, in order that the
disciples might be hardened, though he had his own hearth
well provided. Their doctrine as to marriage and facility of
separation by some internal choice, was also objectionable.
The original Labadists were opposed to slavery and raising
tobacco, but these had no scruples on either respect. They
threatened to sell a negress slave, because she took some beer to
her sick master without permission of the Abbess.

Another account is from Samuel Bownas, a Quaker preacher,
who visited Bohemia Manor in 1702. He says that the men and
women took their meals separately. There was a common stock
into which rich and poor must place their money. They carried
on a factory of linen, besides raising corn, tobacco, flax, hemp,
with cattle.

All ornaments of dress were put off. Their different employments
were assigned by the head director, Sluyter. A former
minister might be seen at the wash tub, or a young man of good
family tending cattle. One must eat the food provided, however

The disobedient were punished by reduction of clothing or
placed lower down at the table or finally excluded.
The dissolution of the mother-house in Holland depended on
the lives of the sisters Sommelsdyk, they having only a life estate
in the property given to the Labadists. In 1688, there was a
division of the property, the poor going away, the rich remaining.
In 1725, the last of the three sisters died, and this was the last of
the Holland congregation.

In 1861 there was no trace left of the mother-house at Wiewerd,
but their church was yet standing and the visitor was shown
eleven bodies, which have been for generations preserved through
some unascertained property in the earth or atmosphere.
Among the Maryland colonists there was a similar distribution
by Sluyter to Herman Van Barkelo, Nicholas de la Montaigne,
Peter de Koning, Deriek Kolchman, John Moll, Jr., Hendrick
Sluyter, and Samuel Bayard. Sluyter, the head, died in 1722,
and in 1727, none were left,- an existence in Maryland of 43
years. Sluyter directed in his will that his body should be buried
at the Walta House of Wiewerd.

Henry C. Murphy, Esq., Secretary of the Long Island Historical
Society (to whose writings I am much indebted), observes,
"the Labadists failed when the eloquence of their founder, and
the ability of Yvon his successor were withdrawn. It was personal
influence rather than its adaptation to the spiritual wants of
the man, that made the strength of Labadism, which like a ship
without a pilot, drifted on the rocks and disappeared."

There is in our Historical Society, a package of valuable
papers; among others the original Charter from Lord Baltimore
to Herman, and also Herman's Will.

These papers must have furnished a " celebrated case " in the
Chancery of Maryland, " Ensor vs. Lawson." Joseph Ensor,
marrying Mary Bouchell, a great-grand-daughter of Herman, was
plaintiff against Mary Lawson, another great-grand-daughter.
As a layman, I shall not go beyond my depth, and will remark
only, that there lie the written opinions of Mr. Dulany, Mr.
Holliday, Mr. Bumsey, and Mr. Bordley. Also a mortgage from
Ensor to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and also the legal possession
of part of the property by William Paca, Governor and
signer of the Declaration of Independence.

It is remarkable that while the French successfully colonized
Lower Canada, and the Dutch the East Indies, no French or
Dutch colonies have prospered in the United States of America,
while the Germans, Irish, Welsh and Scandinavians, have widely
spread and flourished.

It is also observable that most colonizations have been very
different from the original intention. Columbus, to discover a
passage to the East Indies, reached San Salvador. Ponce de
Leon, attracted by a miraculous spring, discovered Florida. The
Puritans came to this country not directly from England, but
from Holland, where they had originally settled. Lord Baltimore's
first scheme was colonizing Newfoundland, but the permanent
settlement was made at St. Mary's by an after-thought; and
the Labadists, instead of Surinam their first choice, went to
Bohemia Manor.

We learn further from the journal of the Labadist Dankers,
that Lord Baltimore, through his Governor, Charles Calvert, was
not so tolerant as is generally supposed, though in the case to be
mentioned, he did not probably exceed the general standard of
that day. The case was this :—The Dutch were the discoverers
of the Delaware river and reasonably claimed the title to the adjoining
lands. Accordingly a colony of Mennonites left Holland
and settled at Horekill, now Lewes, about 30 miles from Cape

The first comers were destroyed by the Indians in 1631. A
new colony was plundered by the English on the conquest of the
New Netherlands in 1662, and in 1672, Charles Calvert, who
became Lord Baltimore in 1675, sent 30 men and horses under
one Jones, who in derision and contempt of the Duke of York's
authority, bound the magistrates and inhabitants, despitefully
treated them, plundered their goods and when asked for his
authority pointed to his pistol.

It has been said that Spanish missionaries had visited the
Chesapeake unsuccessfully long before the settlement of St. Mary's.
Herman says, that there were mines worked by the Spaniards beyond
the mountains, and in a recent letter Governor Seymour
says: " The Spaniards, attracted by the prospect of precious
metals, came to the Onondaga Lake, where they built forts long
before the French, Dutch or English visited that region, and that
relics are shown of crucifixes, weapons and especially a remarkable
stone bearing date of 1520."

Dankers, the Labadist journalist, says : " I asked Hans an
Indian, what Christians had first seen these parts ? He replied :
The Spaniards or Portuguese, who brought maize or Spanish wheat,
but they did not stay long. Afterwards came the Dutch to Noten
or Governor's Island, and to Fort Orange or Albany, and after
them came the English, who always disputed the first possession."
Again, " We took a walk to an Island near Albany, where the
earth of a fort is seen, said to be built by the Spaniards," and
though Dankers discredits the statement, he admits that such is
the Indian tradition.

Herman, the Commissioner of the Dutch, disputing the Maryland
boundary with Col. Utie, alleged no Spanish settlements in that
region, but based his claim on the ground of discovery by Columbus,
and argued that when the Spanish Netherlands become
independent of Spain, they carried with them the rights of the
original Spanish discovery.

Our Labadist journalist does not give a good account of our
Baltimore county forefathers. He states that the lives of the
planters in Maryland and Virginia, are very godless and profane;
they listen to neither God nor His commandments, and have
neither church nor cloister.

When the ships arrive with goods, and especially with wine and
brandy, the planters indulge so extravagantly, that nothing is left
for the rest of the year, not even tobacco enough to buy a shoe or
stocking for their children.

He further says, that as a punishment for such conduct, insects,
flies and worms are sent, producing great famine, so that on one
occasion a mother killed her own child, and for such cannibalism
she was executed. As there is no record of any such famine, to
say nothing of the cannibalism, we must suppose that somebody
was humbugging the credulous Dutchman. Maryland has lacked
many things in the course of her history, but never victual.