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12 May 2018

2018 Cresap Family Reunion at Asilomar, June 28-July 1

Asilomar Visitors' Lodge in Pacific Grove
Are you a descendant of Maryland colonist Thomas Cresap? Perhaps just interested in this colorful character from early America? The 2018 Cresap Family Reunion offers a unique opportunity to gather with Cresap family and fans this summer in Pacific Grove, California. The event, partly organized by Cresap Society Board member and CGS research team leader Lavinia Schwarz, includes three nights' room and board at the historic Asilomar Lodge designed by Julia Morgan.  Attendees will enjoy visits to Carmel Mission, the Presidio at Fort Ord, and the Sherman headquarters in Monterey. There will be plenty of time to visit the beach, the famous Monterey Aquarium, and to chat by the roaring fire in the old lodge. A banquet Saturday night includes two historical talks. 
Thomas Cresap (c. 1700-1790) was born in Yorkshire, England, and emigrated to America as a teenager.  In Maryland, he worked as a carpenter, ferryman, and a land agent for Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore. Reputedly the first permanent white settler in western Maryland, Cresap is credited with having surveyed upwards of 40 percent of the western Maryland wilderness. With Delaware Nation chief Nemacolin, he established a trail across the Allegheny Mountains from the Potomac to the Ohio River. This route tied together the eastern and western portions of the country and became the first National Highway (today's U.S. Route 40).
Braddock's Road map shows the route established by Cresap and Nemacolin

An adventurous and belligerent personality, Cresap is best remembered for his involvement in “Cresap’s War,” the bloody border dispute that raged between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the 1730s.  Cresap secured a great deal of land for himself and Lord Baltimore by force, driving out both Indians and white settlers in the lower Susquehanna Valley. His various skirmishes led to his arrest. When he was taken to jail in Philadelphia, the defiant Cresap declared it "one of the prettiest towns in Maryland!" Dubbed “the Maryland Monster,” by his detractors, Cresap was notorious in Pennsylvania and something of a hero in Maryland, which still has municipalities named after him. He figures as a conniving character in Thomas Pynchon’s epic novel Mason & Dixon

Cresap’s wife, Hannah Johnson (c. 1705-1774) matched her husband in fierceness.  A daughter of Lancaster County pioneer Daniel Johnson, she was handy with a musket and reportedly fought by her husband’s side while pregnant. When a Pennsylvanian was shot and wounded outside her door, Hannah allegedly swore she would be happy to “wash her hands in his heart’s blood.” 

The Cresaps eventually settled near Cumberland, Maryland, where Thomas became a large landowner and frequent host to notable figures including a young George Washington. He lived through the French and Indian War, Lord Dunmore’s War, and in 1765 organized the Sons of Liberty in Maryland supporting the American Revolution. A memorial plaque at the site of his home reads: "In Memory of Col. Thomas Cresap, Pathfinder - Pioneer - Patriot." It is thought that all American Cresaps can trace their ancestry to the immigrant Thomas.
Artist's depiction of U.S. naval ships arriving in Monterey
Just as Thomas Cresap influenced the history of the Mid-Atlantic colonies, some of his descendants helped to forge the history of California. Union Major General Edward Ord, a great-great-grandson of Thomas Cresap, was one of 12 children born to Rebecca Cresap and James Ord. Edward Ord and many of his siblings came from Maryland to California in the early to mid-19th century. Edward Ord arrived in 1847 to direct the building of the fort that is now the Presidio of Monterey. He helped survey numerous California districts and made the first map of Los Angeles. His siblings married into some of the old Californio and Mexican families and their stories are intertwined with those of the Gold Rush and the Civil War. 

“Sometimes I think of the early Cresaps as being like Forrest Gump,” says Schwarz, alluding to the fictional character who manages to be on the scene for many seminal moments in history. “You have Cresaps involved in the colonial world, exploring the wild west of Maryland; a founder of the Sons of Liberty, acquainted with George Washington; fighting at Bunker Hill.  Cresaps fought on both sides of the Civil War, explored California during the Gold Rush and married into old Californio and Mexican families. They really were everywhere.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Cresap cousins and share stories in a beautiful setting on the Pacific Coast. Register for the reunion at this link.
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