I knew John S. Tyson, Sr. My entire Howard County family knew him. He was one of the Inspectors for the Primary Schools in 1845, though I would have never seen him in that role since the schools didn’t teach people like me at that time. I first knew of him when he worked with the woman to help me get out of jail after my mother and siblings were picked up by the Sheriff and held there. The man who was trying to enslave us claimed us as estate property, and Tyson got us released. I thought that meant he was on our side, until he turned around and worked as the man’s lawyer when he was losing his second case involving us. I never knew what that meant about him, other than that money might have been more important to him since both of those clients had it. Conflict of interest wasn’t a thing then. Tyson’s name is widely known today in Howard County as being the prior owner of “Mount Ida” in Ellicott City, due in large part to the inclusion of Mount Ida on historic tours. Some of the history left off of the historical inventory about Mount Ida might shed some light as to why he was okay with getting funds from two competing clients on the same issue. 

John Shoemaker Tyson was a Baltimore attorney when he met his future wife, Rachel Snowden. More on her later. They moved to the Ellicott’s Mills area of Howard at some point in the early 1840s. Much has been written for the Maryland Historical Trust Inventory (HO-59) about Mount Ida and its occupant, Tyson, but there are material omissions/inaccuracies that need to be corrected. They interfere with the proper telling of my story, and people are using that info in their books which perpetuates the inaccuracies. 

Tyson may have had suit brought against him for the non-payment of a debt in 1847 (as the MHT Inventory indicates), but it was the court case against him by Mr. Loveby that is important to note for reasons that will become clear. Mr. Loveby won his case against Tyson in 1845. From the records found in the Insolvency Docket (Howard County Circuit Court Insolvency Docket MSA C979-1, 1852-1880), it appears that John S. Tyson filed for personal bankruptcy, and his original application was refused. He reapplied Dec 6, 1847 for a personal discharge, which he received on March 23, 1848. His bankruptcy was listed right after that of William J. Timanus, whose bankruptcy took longer to resolve.

The bankruptcy didn’t stop the Sheriff’s sale of the property. Mr. Alexander H. Hobbs was the high bidder at $420, but he turned around and sold and assigned his right and interest in Lots 106-116 to Isaac Tyson, Jr of Baltimore City (highly likely to have been a relative of John’s) for and in consideration of $5. This is all written in the 1848 deed. 

From deed book EPH8 pg 13

Tyson had title to at least the following lots: #99, 100, 101, 102-105, and 106-116. Many of them had been purchased from the holdings of the nearly bankrupt Ellicott brothers partnership which saw most or all of their vast Ellicott’s Mills property transferred to the same trustee (Robert Mickle) who sold those lots to Tyson in 1845. In the Ellicott deed record it was written that they were, “..being embarrassed in their circumstances and being largely indebted to many individuals..” and were therefore transferring all of their personal property to pay and satisfy their numerous creditors. 

From deed recorded in WSG24 page 285 dated July 19, 1839.

John Tyson wouldn’t be able to hold onto the property either. The story of how makes for an interesting lesson about how women were valued. The lot that contained the prior home of William Ellicott (lot 15) which is Mt. Ida, had been sold by trustee Mickle to Joseph and Edward Patterson in 1840. At some point in time, Tyson made an arrangement with the Pattersons to buy it from them. When he stopped paying on the debt he owed, court proceedings were instituted against him and his wife Rachel in the Chancery Court. Those creditors won their case, and the right to have Tyson’s property sold off to pay the debt. That was the general time period when my family encountered John S. Tyson, who we only knew to be one of the attorneys working to help his client keep us improperly enslaved. John Tyson became the Howard County’s interim State’s Attorney in September 1851, due to the sickness of Mr. Hammond. He didn’t get to keep the job when voters went to the polls that November and elected William H. G. Dorsey, son of Maryland Court of Appeals judge Thomas B. Dorsey.

Many writers of the historical narratives about Mt. Ida appear to not know the identity of Anna M. Hopkins, which is unfortunate given her significance to the history of the property and story. Thanksgiving wasn’t yet a national holiday, but surely John Shoemaker Tyson was thankful for Anna in 1851! The MHT inventory indicates that Tyson advertised in a newspaper that the property was for sale. Beginning with transactions on November 20, 1851, Anna M. Hopkins would save the Tyson family from John’s debts and creditors. 

  • Nov. 20, 1851, she pays off the debt owed to the Patterson brothers in the amount of $5806.15. In the recorded deed, it notes that Anna stepped into their shoes to be able to enforce against John. The deed didn’t get written up until 1857 for recording. Book WHW18 pg 92
  • Nov. 21, 1851, John and Rachel sells lots 102 to 105 to Anna M. Hopkins for $600. Book WHW12 pg 97
  • Nov. 25, 1851, John and Rachel sell lots 99, 100 and 101 to Anna M. Hopkins for $500. Book WHW12 pg 100
  • Dec. 5, 1851, Isaac Tyson, Jr. sells the lots he had been holding (106-116) to Anna Maria Hopkins for $182. Book WHW12 pg 102

A few years later in 1854, John and Rachel Tyson sold the unexpired servitude time of Mary Jane whom they had been enslaving to Hopkins. Though Anna M. Hopkins made the purchase for $100, she was recorded in the Tyson household in 1850 and 1860. Mary Jane therefore hadn’t left the enslavement of the Tysons. The 1850 Slave Schedule lists John owning one, a 13 year old girl, possibly Mary Jane. The 1860 census records John owning very little compared to his wife and Anna. In 1860, the assessed value of her real estate was $50,000. John had none. It’s unclear how Rachel had any, having participated in the sale of it to Anna. Anna was recorded to be the enslaver of at least five, but possibly six males, all in their 20s.

The 1860 Martenet map listing “J.S. Tyson” as the owner for Mt. Ida, was therefore incorrect. John S. Tyson wasn’t the owner of Mt. Ida when he died in 1864, because Anna was. 

Detail of Ellicott‘s Mills from Simon J. Martenet, Map of Howard County, 1860, Library of Congress, MSA SC 1213-1-467

Who was Anna? The relationship between Anna M. Hopkins and Rachel/John Tyson is known. Anna and Rachel were sisters; the children of John and Rachel Snowden of Birmingham Manor. Anna became a Hopkins by marriage to her husband, Joseph R. Hopkins, who predeceased her. Thanks to records found at Montpelier Mansion letters like this one were found that had been written by Anna when she lived in Philadelphia to her sister. This one was sent in care of Rachel’s husband John Tyson, at his law office in Baltimore in 1835. 

Gordon Kirwan Collection, 2000.002.01; Courtesy, M-NCPPC, Montpelier Mansion/Historic Site

It had been his sister-in-law who came to the financial rescue of attorney Tyson and his family. It was Anna who saw to it that the property remained safe from John’s creditors. She named a Trustee, John Snowden, to hold the property for the benefit of her sister Rachel and the kids. Mt. Ida was owned by Anna.