Hester Dorsey Richardson
Hester Dorsey Richardson

The Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America was founded in 1911 by noted author and historian Hester Dorsey Richardson (Mrs. Albert Levin Richardson) of Baltimore, Maryland.

Who's WhoHester Dorsey Richardson was listed in the 1906-1907 Who's Who, for her scholarly historical and genealogical articles for The Philadelphia Press, The Baltimore American, and Lippincott's Magazine. Her weekly column Side Lights on Maryland History, which first appeared in the Baltimore Sunday Sun around 1904, became a best-selling book by 1913. She was appointed by the governor of Maryland to the Public Records Commission of Maryland in 1904.

Side Lights on Maryland HistoryHester was a member of the Maryland Historical Society, Maryland Society of Colonial Dames, and the Baltimore Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, where she held the office of Historian. She was an incorporator and vice president of the Maryland Original Research Society and Maryland Secretary of The General Federation of Women's Clubs from 1901 to 1905.

Liberty HandHester was at least ten years old by 1876 when America celebrated its Centennial. (She claimed to be born in 1867, although the 1880 census lists her as being 18 years of age.) This post-war moment of national self-reflection generated renewed interest in the deeds of and services of colonial ancestors who came to America and of their descendants who served in the Revolution.

The first post-Revolutionary War hereditary society to be officially organized was the Society of the Cincinnati, which was formed in 1783, although there other were groups in the Colonial period which eventually became hereditary societies, such as the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, founded in 1637. Ethnic groups were also organized in the eighteenth century, among them the Welsh Society of Pennsylvania in 1729, the Saint Andrew's Society of Philadelphia in 1747 and the Saint Andrew's Society of New York in 1756. The English colonials formed the Saint George's Society in 1770, and the Irish organized the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick in Philadelphia in 1771, and in New York in 1783.

1876 Banner After the Revolution, more ethnic civic minded groups were established, such as the Welsh Saint David's Society in New York in 1801 and the (nominally Dutch) Saint Nicholas Society in 1835. Washington Irving, who founded the latter, was a child of Scottish immigrants but enamored of the Dutch. He felt that since they had been the founders of New York, they should have an ethnic society in addition to those for the Scottish, Welsh, English and Irish. He chose as its namesake the patron saint of the Netherlands, and set 1785 as the cut-off date for ancestral residence in New York. Since he was born in New York in 1784, there was no question about his qualifications to join.

Around 1890, ladies descending from qualifying ancestors for the male only Sons of the Revolution formed the (now defunct) Daughters of the Revolution of 1776. In 1890, the Colonial Dames of America was founded, and is now the oldest women's genealogical organization in the country. Later that same year, the Daughters of the American Revolution was organized with great fanfare in Washington. In 1891 the National Society of Colonial Dames was established in Philadelphia. These new groups gave the men the idea of organizing the Society of Colonial Wars in New York in 1893, and the Order of Indian Wars in 1896. In 1897, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants was organized, accepting both men and women.

The Ark and The Dove stampHester joined every hereditary society that she could, but was stymied by the entrance requirements for the Society of The Ark and The Dove, which was founded in 1910. Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, received the patent for the Province of Maryland in 1632 as Lord Proprietor. He, along with his brother Leonard, who was appointed the first Governor of the Colony, arrived with his two ships The Ark and The Dove in 1634. As Lord Proprietors, the Calvert siblings promoted a manorial system to expedite the colonization. Hester had no qualifying ancestor who would make her eligible to join the society of descendants of those who arrived aboard those two ships.

Hester Dorsey RichardsonThe very next year, in 1911, Hester decided that the Lords of the Maryland Manors and their families deserved to be commemorated in addition to the two boats. It was her manorial descent and her interest in hereditary societies that led her to commemorate these men with the formation of the Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America, admitting both men and women. Hester Richardson also knew that New York shared this same manorial land-grant system, and she invited descendants of the Livingston, Pell, Van Rensselaer and other New York manorial families to join the Order.

An article in the New York Times of May 21, 1911 lists the officers of at the founding of the organization as Hester Dorsey Richardson, President; Douglass H. Thomas, 1st Vice-President; Mrs. Edward Shippen, 2nd Vice-President , Mrs. Dunbar Hunt, 3rd Vice-President; Edwin Warfield, Treasurer; and Albert Levin Richardson, Official Genealogist and Registrar. The New York Branch flourished from the beginning.

John Henry Livingston
John Henry

In 1911 John Henry Livingston of Clermont was the President of the New York Branch, until his death in 1927, when was succeeded by Stephen H. G. Pell, who stepped down after two years. Major Montgomery Schuyler was elected in his place and served from 1929 to 1955. Major Schuyler was an exceptional historian, and in 1944 edited a series of articles entitled Material for the Study of Maryland Manors, published by the Order, including the listing of 62 Maryland manors by Donnell MacClure Owings. Major Schuyler was also the author of Notes on the Patroonships, Manors and Seigneuries in Colonial Times, published by the Order in 1953, about New York and Canadian manors.

Timothy Field Beard
Timothy Field

In 1953, Miss Sarah Diodati Gardiner left the Order $10,000 at her death. John White Delafield, the Treasurer at the time, invested this money wisely, and it became the initial capital of the Order's endowment fund. John H. G. Pell, who succeeded to the presidency in 1962, had a vision of the Order helping preserve historical sites with grants. The focus of the Order gradually changed from one of commemoration to one of preservation. Grants were distributed to museums and organizations publishing material about the Colonial period. Since then, the Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America has given hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants for historical preservation.

More recently, in addition to the lecture traditionally presented at its annual meeting, the Order has been organizing field-trips for its membership to seventeenth-century manors and related sites.

New York Times article