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.
The collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
0.25 Linear Feet
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.
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 http://www.rootsweb.com/~cresap/index.htm.
The collection has been organized into two series:
The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Cresap/Bruce Family papers from Charles Apfelbaum, a rare books and manuscripts dealer, in 1996.
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.