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Cresap/Bruce Family papers

 Collection 0260-MDHC

Thomas Cresap (circa 1692-1790) was a Maryland pioneer, settler colonist, and frontiersman. He surveyed Maryland's western frontier for what is known today as the National Road and fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Records describe Cresap’s participation in the violent attacks of Indigenous people to forcibly overtake their lands. His son, Michael, led Cresap's Riflemen during the American Revolution and records describe Michael Cresap’s murder of Shawnee and Mingo peoples. Later generations include the family names Bruce and Neff. In 1916, Cresap descendants formed the Cresap Society. The collection dates from 1860 to 1987 and consists mainly of correspondence of family members, their genealogical research, Cresap Society newsletters, and newspaper clippings highlighting Cresap history. Also included are Cresap family charts, documents, and photographs.


  • circa 1860-1987 and undated
  • Majority of material found within 1890-1950

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


0.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Cresap/Bruce Family papers span the years 1860 to 1987 with the bulk of the material dating between 1890 and 1950. Correspondence and newspaper clippings comprise the largest portion of the material. The collection also includes eleven issues of the Cresap Society newsletter; religious, legal, and genealogical documents; and photographs. Also included are seven items from Helen Neff Cresap related to Neff family history.

The correspondence documents the early history and genealogy of the Cresap family as researched by members of the family in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The newspaper clippings relate incidents from the Cresap family history.

Family History

Thomas Cresap was born in Skipton, Yorkshire, England. The date of his birth could have been 1692 or 1702 as derived from depositions given by him in 1732 and 1758. In 1931 the Cresap Society placed a tablet in Skipton listing his birth as 1694. He arrived in North America about 1710 and settled in Maryland. In 1727, he married Hannah Johnson. They had seven children between 1728 and 1742. His will was probated in 1790, and that year is generally accepted as the year of his death.

Thomas Cresap earned a place in Maryland history as a "Maryland Monster" for his conflict with Pennsylvania settlers in the 1730s. He also surveyed Maryland's western frontier and, about 1749, cleared the land between Cumberland and Pittsburgh for what became the National Road. In 1755, at the request of Lord Baltimore, he located the source of the Potomac, leading to the establishment of the boundary between Maryland and Virginia. Cresap also served in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Records describe Cresap’s participation in the violent attacks of Indigenous people to forcibly overtake their lands. Thomas Cresap's youngest son, Michael Cresap (1742-1775), is remembered for leading Cresap's Riflemen from Frederick Town to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775 and for his murder of Shawnee and Mingo peoples during Dunmore's War, recounted by Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on Virginia (1797). He died in New York City and is buried in Trinity Churchyard.

The Bruce and Cresap families were connected through the marriage of Phoebe Cresap (?-1826) to William Bruce in 1808. Phoebe was the daughter of Joseph Cresap (1755-1827), a son of Daniel Cresap (1728-1798), the oldest son of Thomas Cresap. Phoebe and William Bruce's two sons were Daniel Cresap (1809-1880) and Andrew (1811-1832).

Another branch of the family is named Neff. Annie Neff married William L. Cresap (great-great-great grandson of Thomas) in 1872. Annie and William had at least one daughter, Helen Neff Cresap (b. 1899). Records show that William L. Cresap was aligned with the Confederacy as pictured in his Confederate uniform.

In 1916, descendants of Thomas Cresap organized the Cresap Society. In 1919, they erected a monument to Thomas Cresap in Cumberland, MD. In June 2004, the Cresap Society actively maintained a website which included an extensive Surname Index at


The collection has been organized into two series:

Series 1
Genealogical Records
Series 2
Prints and Photographs

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Cresap/Bruce Family papers from Charles Apfelbaum, a rare books and manuscripts dealer, in 1996.

Related Material

The two books received with the collection and now in the Marylandia and Rare Books Collection are:

  1. A Biographical Sketch of the Life of the Late Capt. Michael Cresap. Cumberland, Md.: J. J. Miller, 1881. (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Rare Stacks F517.C87 J3 1881)
  2. A Biographical Sketch of the Life of the Late Captain Michael Cresap by John J. Jacob. Cincinnati, Ohio, Re-printed from the Cumberland ed. of 1826, with notes and appendix for W. Dodge, by J.F. Uhlhorn, 1866.(UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Rare Stacks F517.C87 J3 1866)

Researchers may also consult the following works in the Maryland Room:

  1. Anger, Charles Leroy. Thomas Cresap, a Maryland frontiersman. Charlottesville, Va., 1933. (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Microfilm Ban42t)
  2. Bailey, Kenneth. Thomas Cresap, Maryland frontiersman. Boston, Mass., The Christopher Publishing House, 1944. (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Stacks F184.C84)
  3. Ord, Joseph Cresap. The history of the Cresaps, compiled by Joseph Ord Cresap and Bernarr Cresap. McComb, Miss., Cresap Society, 1937. (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Stacks CS71.C925)
  4. Powell, Allan. Forgotten heroes of the Maryland frontier: Christopher Gist, Evan Shelby, Jr., Thomas Cresap. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 2001. (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Folio F184.G57P69)

Also available from Frostburg State University is the revised edition, 1987, of The History of the Cresaps.

Processing Information

The collection was acquired in no discernible order. Subsequently it was divided into the following categories: family, society, documents, and photographs. The materials have been placed in acid-free folders and stored in acid-free boxes. Two books were removed from the collection and transferred to the Marylandia and Rare Books Department. The photographs were sleeved in Mylar. One map and the genealogical charts and family trees have been stored in oversize folders and placed in a mapcase.

Guide to the Cresap/Bruce Family papers
Processed by Terry Ann Sayler.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742