Seven Generations of the Ridgleys
The Hampton estate was the home of one elite family, the Ridgelys, through seven generations, and the enslaved people, indentured servants, and paid laborers/servants who supported them, from before the American Revolution to after World War II.
- Captain Charles Ridgely (1733-1790), the builder and first master of Hampton. He married Rebecca Dorsey (1739-1812), daughter of Caleb Dorsey, an Anne Arundel County iron master, in 1760. A ship’s captain in his early career, Capt. Ridgely assumed control of the family iron business in 1763. He also operated a mercantile business in Baltimore Town; owned vast farms and plantations cultivating grain and vegetable crops; bred cattle, pigs, and thoroughbred horses; planted commercial orchards; and operated mills and quarries. Profits from his Northampton ironworks during the Revolutionary War and from confiscated Loyalist properties afterward helped to fund the building of Hampton Mansion in 1783 - 1790.
- When Capt. Ridgely died childless in 1790, his nephew Charles Ridgely Carnan (1760-1829) inherited the Hampton estate, iron furnaces, and additional property, on the condition he change his surname to Ridgely. Charles Carnan Ridgely eventually owned more than 25,000 acres of land in northern Maryland and over 300 slaves. In addition to his vast agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests, he served as a three-term governor of Maryland, ending in 1819. In 1782, Charles Ridgely Carnan married Priscilla Hill Dorsey (1762-1814), the youngest sister of his uncle Capt. Charles Ridgely’s wife, Rebecca Dorsey Ridgely. Priscilla bore her husband fourteen children, eleven of whom survived to adulthood.
- John Ridgely (1790-1867), the first child born in Hampton Hall and third master of the estate, became the heir after the untimely death of his elder brother, Charles Carnan Ridgely, Jr. (1783-1819). When his father Charles Carnan Ridgely died in 1829, the Hampton “empire” was largely reduced. John's inheritance encompassed only a courtesy entail of about 4,500 acres. John's life was not marked by the ambition or prominence of Hampton's first two masters. His interests were largely confined to his estate and its development, especially its horses. In 1828, John Ridgely married his second wife, Eliza Eichelberger Ridgely (1803-1867), who was rich, beautiful, well educated, and an international traveler with sophisticated taste. She was renowned as a horticulturalist and made numerous improvements to the gardens and grounds of Hampton.
- Hampton’s fourth master Charles Ridgely (1830-1872), the second child of John and Eliza Ridgely, received his early education in Baltimore and graduated from Harvard University. After his marriage in 1851 to his first cousin Margaretta Sophia Howard Ridgely (1824-1904), he assumed much of the responsibility for managing the Hampton estate, especially during the difficult years of the Civil War. Margaretta mothered eight children. After her husband’s untimely death while traveling with his family in Rome in 1872, she returned to Hampton and managed the estate until her own death 32 years later.
- Styled “Captain,” John Ridgely (1851-1938) was the eldest son of Charles and Margaretta Ridgely. He technically became fifth master of the estate on the death of his father in 1872, but his mother managed the estate for many years afterward. A “gentleman farmer,” John oversaw an estate that was dwindling in size (1,000 acres) and in profitability by the early 20th century. His wife, Helen West Stewart Ridgely (1854-1929), was a highly accomplished woman: a talented writer, antiquarian, artist, genealogist, manager, and hostess.
- John Ridgely, Jr. (1882-1959), the son of Capt. John and Helen Ridgely, was the sixth and final master of the Hampton estate. Louise Roman Humichouse (1883-1934) of Hagerstown wed John Ridgely, Jr. in 1907. Together, they built a house about a half mile west of Hampton Mansion at 503 Hampton Lane. The couple resided here until her death in 1934. In the late 1920s, John Ridgely, Jr. established the Hampton Development Company which constructed and sold houses on Hampton lands near the heart of the Home Farm. John sold the mansion with some of its furnishings and 43 acres of land to the National Park Service in 1947. Funds for the purchase and restoration were provided by the Avalon Foundation, a Mellon family foundation.
- Although John Ridgely III (1911-1990) was never officially a master of the Hampton estate, he and his wife, Lillian Ketcham Ridgely (1908-1996), played significant roles in the management of the property. The couple lived for several years at Hampton during the late 1930s, where Lil focused on the restoration of Hampton’s gardens. Both served their country during World War II.