5. Isaac Linton, Revolutionary Fraud?

The connection to Isaac Linton, and his ancestry, is covered in The Omnibus Ancestry. It is available through Lulu.

For many years the only information we had about my ancestor Isaac Linton’s background was a preposterous family legend, related in a great-grandson’s letter in 1933:

I.W. Linton

Did father [I. W. Linton] ever tell you the story of his grandfather’s father? He told it to us one time and I copied it as he told it to me.

Greatgrandfather’s father was Sir William Linton of the British Navy. His name was Livingstone and he was knighted for bravery in action at the Battle of Trafalgar… I do not know whether his imagination had been working overtime or not but I tell to you as he told it to us. That was the only thing I have ever been told beyond greatgrandfather Isaac Linton. There appeared to be something that he did not care to talk about. [16]

Someone’s imagination was at work, for in his lifetime Isaac Linton completed a Revolutionary War pension application stating that he was born 1764 in Frederick county, Maryland [1]. Therefore his family had been in America for at least 40 years before the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.

Nevertheless family legends often contain a grain of truth. As the years passed, the last sentence in particular kept replaying in my head: “There appeared to be something that he did not care to talk about.”

Isaac’s Revolutionary War Claim

Isaac Linton was my ancestor through my grandfather Forest Joseph Boles. He married in 1793 in Frederick county, Maryland, to Susanna Richards, and about 1804 moved with his family to Brooke county, (now West) Virginia [1].

In 1832, Isaac completed a Revolutionary War pension application stating details of his birth and service. He had been born in Oct 1764, he said. In Aug 1777 he “Volunteered to serve six months as a militia man”, but was soon retired from service after repairing barracks in Fredericktown. On 31 Oct or 1 Nov 1777 he was recalled to service to complete his 6 months. In Dec 1778 he was drafted for further service, mostly involving guarding British prisoners at Fredericktown barracks. He was discharged in Mar 1778, but in Aug 1779 was again drafted. Following his final draft in Jan 1780 his company searched for Tories, and he was part of the guard when three were hung. Isaac declared that he had no documentary evidence and knew of no one who could attest his service. He did, however, produce three character witnesses who swore that Isaac was “reputed and believed” to be a Revolutionary War veteran [16].

The result of Isaac’s application was protracted review, undoubtedly the result of disbelief that he initially served at age 12. Apparently it was assumed that at such a tender age he was a drummer, for in an 1835 restatement of his service, he responded, “I was not musician but private soldier”. Approval of his application was a near thing, as indicated both by the restatement and by a comment written in his file by W.G. Singleton, the man responsible for prosecuting application fraud [2]:

… this man is truly unfortunate in doty [duty] to say the least– If he is correct in his doty he is clearly wrong in everything else– my opinion is he is an impostur– by character I understand is vain-

Nevertheless a pension was granted, and began paying $50 annually [1].

Was Isaac a Revolutionary War Veteran?

One outstanding feature of genealogy is that it is cumulative. Records continually come to light that once transcribed or digitized become part of the permanent record. In the late 1980s or 1990s I became a beneficiary of the transcription process when I came across the only known Revolutionary-era record of Isaac Linton. It consisted simply of his name on an Oath of Fidelity and Support [1]. Although it had been transcribed and published in 1928, I only became aware of it through a 1985 reprinting.

The Oath of Fidelity and Support originated in an act of the Maryland Assembly in 1777. It required all free males over the age of 18, save those actively serving in the military, to renounce the King of England and to pledge allegiance to Maryland’s Revolutionary government. All oaths were to be completed before Mar 1778 [15], although in practice some were completed in that month. Isaac Linton took the oath in Prince Georges county, Maryland, about the month of Feb 1778.

There can be little doubt it was my ancestor who took the oath because he is the only one of the name who has been identified in Maryland at the time, following extensive search using highly cumulated records. Yet astute readers will recognize potential contradictions to Isaac’s pension application. First, the oath was taken in Prince Georges, not Frederick county. The locations are some distance apart. Yet Isaac testified that he served a cumulative total of 6 months from Aug 1777, with some time off in the middle; thus he was probably still in the militia in Frederick, by his account, when the oath was taken in Prince Georges. Of course the oath’s date is imprecise, as were his claimed dates of service, so there is some room for error. But note that the oath was only for males over age 18. Isaac, in other words, must have been born before 1761, not in 1764 as he claimed. That is a flat contradiction, and a very curious one. Given that claiming to have volunteered at age 12 was bound to raise questions, why would he have understated his true age?

Here we enter the realm of speculation, and readers are free to draw their own conclusions. However, I believe Isaac’s statement of age is the “smoking gun” strongly suggesting fraud in the pension application. I think that Isaac, knowing he had taken the oath and that it was for nonserving males age 18 and over, intentionally understated his age in order to dissociate himself from it. In other words if confronted with the oath, which implied that he had not served, he could claim that it was a different, older man named Isaac Linton. Certainly given the low degree of record cumulation in the first half of the 1800s, no one could say with certainty that another Isaac Linton hadn’t existed.

Other Considerations

My ancestor can’t defend himself, so it is fair to dig deeper into the record to see whether other details of his claim were true. In his application he made several mentions of officers under whom he claimed to have served. Those whose full names were given included Adjutant John Mimm, Capt. Ralph Hillary, Capt. John Burket, Capt. Moses Chapline, Lt. Joseph Madding, and Ens. Ralph Crabb. A Capt. Benjamin Murdock was also mentioned [16].

Of these the only one who completely checks out was Benjamin Murdock, who was a Lt. of the first Maryland Regiment of Continental troops in Mar 1779, and a Capt. in July 1780 [9]. Isaac said that in early 1779, Continental officer Capt. Benjamin Murdock performed enlistment duty in Fredericktown.

Another who comes close was Capt. Ralph Hillary. One Elisha Griffith stated that he served under Ralph Hillary and mostly guarded prisoners and magazines at Fredericktown [6], an account similar to that of Isaac. However, pension applicants named Chisholm Griffith and James Ball indicated that after they enlisted under Capt. Hillary (in Griffith’s case in June 1777), they joined the army under Gen. Washington and fought at the battle of Germantown [4, 5] in Oct 1777. Isaac made no such claim.

The other names do not closely match known soldiers for a couple of reasons. Four show mismatching geography. The only John Mimm I can identify as a Revolutionary soldier was a Lt. from York county, Pennsylvania, in 1778 [3]. A John Burkett served in 1776, but as a Continental private from Calvert county, Maryland [7], not as Isaac stated a militia Capt. from Frederick county in 1779. A Joseph Madden (sic, Madding?) was a Lt., but from Virginia [10]. Finally, Ralph Crabb was a 2nd Lt. who enlisted for Continental service from the militia of Prince Georges co, Maryland, in Dec 1776 [11]. Crabb’s case is particularly problematic because Isaac said that Crabb was an Ensign in the Frederick county militia in 1777, an error in both location and rank.

That leaves Capt. Moses Chapline, perhaps the most interesting case of all. He was of some prominence in early portions of the Revolutionary War, but resigned from the Continental service in Oct 1777 [9]. Isaac indicated he served under him for 3 months beginning in Jan 1780, during the search for Tories. However, I have been unable to locate convincing evidence of Chapline’s service as late as 1780. Although it is sometimes stated that he was wounded at the battle of Cowpens in 1780 [13], this may be a confusion with Samuel Chapline [12].

All told, these records are not good for Isaac’s credibility. Although some error might be expected because of the long delay between the Revolution and his pension application, his statements were so specific as to name and place as to call for evaluation using a fairly high standard. It is hard to see how his application statements meet that standard. Again readers are free to draw their own conclusions — but remember, “There appeared to be something that he did not care to talk about.”

A Final Irony

Interestingly, even if Isaac’s military service should be disallowed, female descendants still qualify for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. That is because signers of the Oath of Fidelity and Support are considered to have rendered a patriotic service [14]. Thus while Isaac’s oath may impeach his service statement, it also qualifies descendants for the D.A.R.

Should more substantial evidence of service be needed, Boles-Bowers descendants have about two dozen ancestral Revolutionary soldiers to choose from [1]. Barth-Hickey descendants have five [1]. Among all of these is at least one story for another day.

The connection to Isaac Linton, and his ancestry, is covered in The Omnibus Ancestry. It is available through Lulu.


[1] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry. Available for download through Lulu.com.

[2] Information retrieved from http://www.southerncampaign.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Harris-SCAR-Summer-2014v5.pdf (2015).

[3] Information retrieved from http://archive.org/stream/continentalcongr00prow/continentalcongr00prow_djvu.txt (2015).

[4] Information retrieved from http://files.usgwarchives.net/md/frederick/military/revwar/pension/griffith-c.txt (2015).

[5] Information retrieved from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~inallcem/soldiers/ball.html (2015).

[6] Information retrieved from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=90704847 (2015).

[7] Information retrieved from http://aomol.msa.maryland.gov/000001/000018/html/am18–34.html (2015).

[8] Information retrieved from http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=jerry_bruhn&id=I299 (2015).

[9] Ancestry.com. Maryland Archives, 1658-1783 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003.

[10] Information retrieved from http://www.geni.com/people/Joseph-Madden/6000000008104586849 (2015).

[11] Hienton, L.J. (no date). Prince George’s Heritage. Baltimore, Md: The Md. Historical Society.

[12] Newmarket News [N.H. newspaper], 14 May 1936.

[13] Dare, M.J.L. (1902). Chaplines from Maryland and Virginia. Washington, DC: The Franklin Print.

[14] Information retrieved from http://www.dar.org/national-society/acceptable-service (2015).

[15] Information retrieved from http://www.mdhs.org/findingaid/oaths-fidelity-or-oaths-allegiance-1775-1778-ms-3088 (2015).

[16] Boles, H.W., & Boles, D.B. (1986). Some Earlier Americans: Boles-Linton Ancestors. Decorah, Iowa: The Anundsen Publishing Co.  Available for download through Lulu.


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