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  Colonel Ninian Beall

By Ruth Beall Gelders, 1976
Daughters of the American Revolution
Joseph Habersham Chapter, Atlanta, GA.

[Return to the main Ninian Beall page]

(This document may be reproduced and distributed to anyone interested in Beall family history, provided that it is distributed in its entirety with credit given to the original author (Ruth Beall Gelders) and is not altered in any way. -keb)

Ninian Beall had the distinguished name of a Christian Saint and a Druid Priest, prophetic of his future prodigious leadership and experience.

He was probably descended from the Celts who came to Scotland about the 4th century BC. The Celts were known in Europe from the second millennium BD. Armed with iron weapons, they spread rapidly over Europe, introducing the newly developed iron industries. Greek influences stimulated the use of the chariot and later of writing, and art flourished in richly ornamented styles.

By the 4th century BC, the Celts could no longer withstand encroaching tribes, so they came across the sea to England, Ireland, and Scotland. A division of the northern Celts called Picts or Cruithne settled in Fife in Scotland. They had a hierarchical tribal organization in which priests, nobles, craftsmen, and peasants were clearly defined. They were agriculturists who reared cattle and owned domestic animals, and were tall with long heads, light eyes, and dark or red hair.

The Celts relied on the ministry of the Druids. For a long time, the powers of the priests were kinglike but later the priests became less political and were leaders in the Druid religion, the advancement of art and writing, and teachers of children. The Druids were worshipers of nature and considered the oak tree and the mistletoe which grew upon it to be sacred. They believed in the immortal soul, and its departure at death into another, not earthly, body.

The Druid priests became known by the name Beall, with its various spellings, Beal, Bell, Bel, or Beall. (Genealogical column in "The Warcry," Salvation Army paper 1936).

Christianity was accepted by the Celts about the 5th century AD. It was brought to Scotland by St. Ninian and his disciples. St. Ninian was the son of a British chief in Galloway who was already Christian. Many churches were dedicated in St. Ninian's name. He is buried at the cemetery on Molindenar Burn. Ninian Beall was possibly one of many who were named for St. Ninian.

Ninian Beall's father was Dr. James Beall of Largo, Fifeshire, Scotland. Ninian was born in 1625 at Largo, in East Scotland between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay. He grew to be seven feet tall and had red hair. In later years, he was quick to remind people that his name was not pronounced as spelled, but was "ringing bell".

Largo is in the lowlands, but is near the Lomond Hills which rise to 1500 feet. Fishing villages of great antiquity dot the eastern coast, indicating that fishing was one of the occupations of Ninian's time. In addition to fishing, there was also agriculture, mining, weaving, glass blowing and ship building. An adequate judicial system has evolved, and children were required to attend school.

St. Andrews, founded in 1411, seat of Scotland's oldest university, was the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland until the Reformation, and is located in Fife. Dunfermline, also located in Fife, was the royal seat, occupied by the Stuarts. Charles I, second son of King James I and Anne of Denmark, was born there. James I died in 1625, the year of Ninian Beall's birth.

Oliver Cromwell, an active leader in the Puritan cause, had risen to power in England, and in 1648 he repelled the Scottish Royalist invasion at Preston. Scotland had become Presbyterian, principally through the work of John Knox, although the Stuarts favored the Episcopal Church. In 1649, Cromwell's political power was enhanced by the removal of Presbyterian leaders from Parliament. In 1650, he invaded Scotland and defeated the Royalist Scots at Dunbar. More than 3,000 Scotsmen were slaughtered on the field and 10,000 prisoners were taken. The wounded among these were released, but 5,000 were sent into virtual slavery in Northumbria, and the rest were shipped off to America and the West Indies. Among these was Ninian Beall who held a commission as a cornetist in the Scottish-English Army under Leslie raised to resist Cromwell, and fought and was made prisoner in the battle of Dunbar, September 3, 1650. He was sentenced to five years of servitude and, after a short stay in Ireland, was packed into the hold of a prison ship with 149 other Scotsmen and sent to Barbadoes, West Indies.

About 1652, he was transferred, still a prisoner, to the Province of Maryland where he served five years with Richard Hall of Calvert County.

"Then came Ninian Beall of Calvert County, planter, and proved his right to 50 acres of land for his time in service, as military prisoner, performed with Richard Hall of said county. This servitude which came to him through the fortunes of war was an Honor." (From Liber 2, Folio 195, Maryland Land Office, Jan. 16, 1957)
When Ninian was captured and exiled, he was already a husband and father, although his Scottish wife, Elizabeth Gordon, probably died even before the battle of Dunbar. Thomas, one of the sons of this marriage, eventually came to America (about 1667).

In those days, Maryland extended from 40 degrees North to the Potomac River, King Charles having granted a charter for this territory to George Calvert, first Baron Baltimore, in 1632.

Catholics had come to Maryland to avoid persecution. However, the ships Ark and Dove brought both Catholics and Protestants and religious conflict was strong in ensuing years. Soon the Puritans seized control and there was a brief civil war. In 1657, the proprietorship was briefly restored to Lord Baltimore. After England's Glorious Revolution of 1688, the government of the colony passed to the Crown, and the Church of England was made the established church. In 1699, as a member of the Assembly, Ninian Beall signed the petition to King William III for the establishment of the Church of England in Maryland, although Ninian was a Presbyterian Elder.

Maryland became a royal province in 1691. The proprietorship was restored in 1715, but Maryland remained virtually the same as a royal province. Ninian Beall was freed from his obligations as indentured servant during the proprietorship of Lord Baltimore. But after the colony became a royal province, he continued to rise and was appointed Chief Military Officer of Calvert County. He rose from indentured servant to Member of the House of Burgesses, and Commander in Chief of Provincial Forces of Maryland. He was one of the most influential men in the settling of the District of Columbia and its surrounding area, and the protection of the colonists from the Indians.

As religion was the basis for the wars that precipitated the exodus of the colonists to America, it was a vital part of their lives while the country was being settled.

Before 1690, Col. Beall gave land in Upper Marlboro upon which a Presbyterian church was erected. For a minister, he turned to the Rev. Nathaniel Taylor, one of his 200 immigrants from Scotland. In 1707, Col. Beall presented the church with a costly silver communion service set. In 1936, the church and the silver set had been moved to Hyattsville, MD, and an Episcopal Church had risen on the old site at Upper Marlboro.

In 1699, Ninian Beall gave land on the Patuxtent River for "Ye erecting and building of a house for ye Service of Almighty God."

Records at Annapolis give the following memoranda of Ninian's Offices:

  • 1688 - Lt. Ninian Beall
  • 1676 - Lt. of Lord Baltimore's "Yacht of War, Royal Charles of Maryland, John Goade, Commander"
  • 1678 - Captain of Militia of Calvert County, Maryland
  • 1684 - Deputy Surveyor of Charles County
  • 1688 - Appointed Chief Military Officer of Calvert County
  • 1689 - Major of Calvert County Militia
  • 1690 - One of the 25 Commissioners for regulating affairs in Maryland, until the next assembly
  • 1692 - High Sheriff of Calvert County
  • 1693 - Colonel, Commander in Chief of Maryland forces
  • 1694 - Colonel of Militia
  • 1697 - On a Commission to treaty with the Indians
  • 1679 - 1701 - Member of General Assembly
  • 1696 - 1699 - Representative of Prince Georges County in the House of Burgesses

Much of Colonel Beall's time was spent in the saddle riding over Maryland. His interest was centered in the land and the beauties of nature, and the establishment of a foothold in this great new country which we know to day as the United States of America.

The States of Maryland and Virginia were most influential in establishing the Capital in it's present location, as the land upon which it rests belonged mostly to Maryland with a small portion belonging to Virginia. George Washington, a native of Virginia, selected the site of the Nation's Capital and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Virginia granted land on each tide of the Potomac River.

The Indian name for this territory was "Tohoga". The Indian tribes and the immigrants were probably drawn here for some of the same reasons. The soil was rich, the climate was mild, game was plentiful, there was a variety of trees and wild plants, and there was easy access to the sea via the Chesapeake Bay and the wide Potomac. The beautiful Falls and the Potomac Palisades complimented the wide expanse of level land suitable for growing corn and tobacco.

As he rode through the woods admiring the loveliness of this land, Col. Ninian Beall must have been an impressive figure with his great height, red beard and hair. Ninian was instrumental in the negotiation of a treaty with the Piscataway people so that together this tribe and the colonists were able to fight off incursions of the dreaded Susquehannas. In 1699, the General Assembly passed an Act of Gratitude for the distinguished Indian services of Colonel Ninian Beall:

"Whereas Colonel Ninian Beall has been found very serviceable to this Province upon all incursions and disturbances of neighboring Indians and though now grown very aged and less able to perform well, continues, now beyond his ability to do the like service at this juncture of affairs, it si therefore thought fit in point of gratitude for such his good services done and towards his support and relief now in his old age to make him an allowance out of the public revenues of this province."
In 1636, Lord Baltimore stipulated the terms for allotment of land under his official seal. Every adventurers in the first expedition, 1634, who had transported five men between 15 and 50 years of age, was to receive 2,000 acres of land for a yearly rental of 400 acres for himself, a like area for his wife (if he had one) and for each servant, and 50 acres for every child under the age of sixteen. For this he was to pay a yearly rental of 10 pounds of wheat for every 50 acres.

Those who should arrive after 1655 were promised 1,000 acres for every five men they transported to the colony, and the rent for it was fixed at 20 shillings a year, payable in the country's produce. Ships from the Old World continued to arrive with settlers for the manors and plantations of lower Maryland. In 1633 began the patents in the upper reaches of the Potomac and near the Falls. Before 1700, the whole area now covered by Washington was in the possession of its first land owners.

As Ninian Beall was responsible for about 200 immigrants coming to the country, when Prince Georges County was created out of Calvert County, over 7,000 acres of his property were found to be in the new county. On part of this acreage, the District of Columbia is now located, an on another part the famed "Dumbarton Oaks." His first tract of land was called "Rock of Dumbarton." This grant was received from Lord Baltimore and was for seven hundred and ninety five acres.

The area in Maryland now included in the District of Columbia, in those days before 1700 was called New Scotland Hundred, and was a part of Charles County. This county was created by Lord Baltimore in 1658. It was the property along the Potomac River from Wicomico "as high as the settlements extend." New Scotland Hundred extended from Oxon Branch (opposite Alexandria, Va.) to the falls of the Potomac. Charles Beall was the pressmaster of this county. The area included:

  • "The Nock" - grant of 500 acres first warranted to Ninian Beall.
  • "Meurs" - 500 acres first granted to Ninian Beall, originally named "Chance"
  • "Barbadoe" - first laid out or surveyed by Ninian Beall, 250 acres
  • "Inclosure" - patented on Oct. 2, 1687, 1503 acres surveyed for Ninian Beall and by him taken up in 1687, and which was a tract now part of the National Arboretum.
On the eastern side of the Anacostia River the land belonged to Col. Beall above the land of the Addisons. "Fife Enlarged," 1,050 acres, named for Fifeshire, Scotland, was deeded by Co. Beall so his son Capt. Charles Beall, who died in 1740.

In the western portion of the area later covered by the National Capital, early taken up by various grants, there was no opportunity for ownership by Col. Beall until the end of the 17th century. His interests had centered on the area, however, probably through his early trips to the Garrison at the Falls. Eventually, Col. Beall was successful in obtaining tracts on both sides of Rock Creek, "Rock of Dumbarton" on the western side of Rock Creek, and on the eastern side, nearly opposite "Rock of Dumbarton," his earlier tract, "Beall's Levels," 225 acres between Mr. Hutchison's land, and the tract called "Widow's Mite."

It is recorded that George Beall, son of Ninian's son Ninian, was born in 1729 in the home built on Rock of Dumbarton. Another house was built at 1703 32nd Street, at the corner of R Street on "Rock of Dumbarton" by William Dorsey. It is known as "Dumbarton Oaks." From August through October 1944, the first conference of the United Nations was held at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks had several owners until it was acquired by Robert Woods Bliss who gave it to Harvard University. A research library has been collected containing about 10,000 volumes relating to gardening, Byzantine and early Christian art. This is one of the finest museums and libraries in the world on Byzantine and early Christian art. The present mansion was built about 1800.

Through his may acts of faithfulness and bravery, and because of the large number of immigrants to his credit, Ninian Beall was given warrants for thousands of acres of land. As Deputy Surveyor, he seated many families along the Eastern Branch and the Potomac in Scotland Hundred, most of them through his own land warrants.

Some interesting descriptions of Beall properties obtained from "Washington, City and Capitol, " American Guide to Service, 1937, U.S. Govt. Printing Office, Supt. of Documents, Washington, D.C., follow:

  • "Beall's Pleasure" - The house is up a narrow, private road on the left, 16.3 miles N.E. along Bladenton Road from Old Toll Gate, or at Bladensburg. Rd. and H Street, but is visible from the main road. This early colonial and brick house was built in 1795 by Benjamin Stoddard, 1st Secretary of the Navy, and confidential agent in securing rights for the Capital City. This fine example of Georgian architecture was built of brick burned at clay pits still visible on the grounds. The house was erected on foundations of a still earlier house, probably one built by Ninian Beall when he first patented the land and gave in the name in 1706.
  • "Mackall Place" - On R street between 28th and 29th in Georgetown. Soon after 1717, George Beall came to live ion his inheritance called the Rock of Dumbarton, and this small structure may have been his first home here. It consists of a large room with a huge fireplace which was still standing when this description was written. Later, when the Rock of Dumbarton was sold to make part of the City of Georgetown, Beall built, about 1750, the large brick mansion at what is now 3033 N Street, northwest of the oldest brick houses now in the District. This is the house to which Jaqueline Kennedy and her children moved and in which they lived for a year when they left the White House after the death of President Kennedy.
  • "Ninian Beall's Pleasure Map" - Land around the headwaters of the Anacostia had been patented in 1696 to Ninian Beall who sold it to Dr. John Gerrard. Charles Calvert, descendant of the Lords Baltimore, acquired it through marriage to Gerrard's daughter. Calvert's daughter Eugenia sold 60 acres in 1742 for the town of Garrison's Landing.
  • "Dumbarton - Washington House" 1647 30th Street at R Street. Built by Thomas Beall shortly after he inherited the Rock of Dumbarton from his father George Sr. in 1784. At that time he gave his elder brother, George Jr., the Beall mansion on N Street. The new home "Dumbarton" went to Thomas' daughter Elizabeth Ridley as a wedding present when she married George Corbin Washington, great nephew of the President. It was inherited by their son, Lewis Washington, who sold it to Elisha Riggs, co-founder with W. W. Corccoran of Riggs National Bank.
  • "Inspection House for Tobacco" - Ninian Beall received the patent for the Rock of Dumbarton in 1703. Some years later, George Gordon acquired some of the land and also acquired "Knave's Disappointment' from James Smith. He renamed the land "Rock Creek Plantation."
  • "Rosedale," 3501 Newark, and "Woodley," 3000 Cathedral Ave. - Both estates were part of a much larger tract, 1300 or 1400 acres west of Rock Creek and extending beyond the Cathedral grounds, which George Beall acquired in 1720 and described as an addition to the Rock of Dumbarton grant to his father.
  • "Dumbarton House" Q street in Georgetown - This red brick mansion was built by the Bealls and occupied by them until 1796. "Dumbarton" later belonged to Joseph Nourse, first Register of Treasury, and to Charles Carroll. It is now the headquarters for the National Society of the colonial Dames of America. Dolly Madison fled here when the British burned the White House in 1814.
As mentioned before, Col. Beall's first wife, Elizabeth Gordon , died in Scotland, and only one offspring of this marriage is known to have come to America, their son Thomas.

Ninian's second wife was Ruth Moore, daughter of Richard Moore, a Calvert County lawyer. According to records, they were married in 1633 and were the parents of twelve children. Col. Ninian Beall's children are listed as follows:

Son of his first wife Elizabeth Gordon:

  • Thomas Beall, 1647 - 1730, m. Elizabeth Bateman
Children of his second wife Ruth Moore:
  • John Beall 1670 - 1711
  • Capt. Charles Beall - 1672 - 1704
  • Ninian Beall - 1674 - 1734, m. Elizabeth Magruder
  • Sarah - 1669 - 1734 m. Col. Samuel Magruder
  • Hester - m. 1707 to Col. Joseph Belt
  • Jane - m. Col. Archibald Demonston
  • Rachael
  • Col. George Beall - 1695 - 1780 m. Elizabeth Brooke, daughter of Col. Thomas and Barbara Brooke.
  • Mary - m. Andrew Hanbleton
  • Thomas, died in 1708, unmarried
  • Margery, m. (1st) Thomas Sprigg; (2nd) Col. Joseph Belt, her brother-in-law
  • James
Sarah's grandson, Joshua, married Millicent Bradley, daughter of Robert Bradley and Ann Fendall, daughter of the first Governor of Maryland.

The Bealls were of the Macmillian Clan, and the Magruders were of the MacGregor Clan. There were marriages with the Magruders and several marriages with the descendants of Gov. Robert Brooke of Maryland. Gov. Robert Brook came across the Atlantic in his own vessel carrying his wife, ten children, and forty servants in 1650.

Alexander Beall came to this country late in the 17th century. His large land holdings began at Sligo Creek in the edge of Silver Spring, Maryland, and reached across what is now Montgomery County. There were marriages between his descendants and Col. Ninian's.

The necessary research and the space to list all of the members of Col. Ninian Beall's family in all professions and types of employment who have been of service to the country, outstanding and distinguished citizens, is for hands other than mine to finish. However, in this Bi-Centennial year, let us remember the men and women who spent their lives in the establishment of out country, both at its beginning and those who have helped to develop it into the great country which now exists.

A bronze plaque has been installed on a large oval rock, symbolic of the "Rock of Dumbarton," in front of St. John's Episcopal church in Georgetown, 3240 O Street N.W., with the following inscription:

"Colonel Ninian Beall, born Scotland, 1625, died Maryland 1717, patentee of the Rock of Dumbarton; Member of the House of Burgesses; Commander in Chief of the Provincial Forces of Maryland. In grateful recognition of his services "upon all Incursions and Disturbances of Neighboring Indians" the Maryland Assembly of 1699 passed an "Act of Gratitude." This memorial erected by the Society of Colonial Wars in the District of Columbia, 1910.
Colonel Ninian Beall died at the age of 92 at Fife's Largo, named for the place of his birth in Scotland. This was the home mentioned in his will (1717) and was in Prince Georges County near Upper Marlboro. It is believed that he is buried at Bacon Hall, another of his homes in Prince Georges County.