The Families


The following information was compiled by the John M. and Sara R. Walton Foundation, Inc.

Colonel Henry Darnall was a relative of the propriety family and came to the colony of Maryland in the early 1670s. He married Eleanor Hatton Brooke, wife of Major Thomas Brooke, who died in 1676. Colonel Darnall acquired land at a rapid rate and held various offices in the colonial government, among them, Chancellor of Maryland, 1683 – 1689; His Lordship's Agent & Receiver General, 1684-1711; Rent Roll Keeper, 1689-1699; and Colonel of the Militia. The bulk of his estate was located in Prince George's County, including the 7,000 acres of land known as “His Lordship's Kindness,’ which he received from Lord Baltimore in 1703. Sometime between 1683 and the first decade of the 18th century, Colonel Darnall built a mansion house called The Woodyard. It was there that his son, Henry II, lived with his wife and children following the death of his father in 1711. By that time, Colonel Darnall's estate included more than 35,000 acres of land and more than 100 slaves. At the time of his death, most of his estate was willed to his son, Henry Darnall II.

Henry Darnall II never came close to matching his father's success as an owner and manager of a great estate. By the 1720s, he'd become so financially involved with creditors that by the 1730s he had to sell most of the land he had inherited. He left for England around 1730 and it's not known whether he returned to America before his death.

In 1729, Henry Darnall III received slightly more than 1,300 acres of land from his father, Henry II, including the 300 acre portion of the original land grant known as“His Lordship's Kindness.’ In 1728, he'd married Ann Talbot, niece and ward of the 14th Earl of Shrewsbury.  He'd had some success in his career being admitted to the Bar in Prince George's county, serving as Attorney General in 1744-1756 and as Naval Officer of the Patuxent in 1755-1761. However, in 1761 it was discovered that Henry III had been embezzling money in his position as Naval Officer of the Patuxent. It cost him his estate, for when he became Naval Officer of the Patuxent a bond with a penalty of 1,000 pounds sterling had been issued for his proper and lawful fulfillment of the position. This now had to be forfeited and penalty paid by his brother, John Darnall, and Charles Carroll of Annapolis.  In order to reimburse Carroll for this loss, Darnall deeded his residence and estate over to Carroll. Henry Darnall III then fled America, escaping to Belgium, rather than face trial.

Robert Darnall, another son of Henry Darnall II, eventually found the means to buy back his father's estate, known at that time as “Poplar Hill.’ He'd chosen to live and acquire land in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore and by the late 1750s or early 1760s; he'd married Sarah Ryder Nevett Fishwick, a wealthy widow. This enabled him to purchase his father's estate from the Carroll family. The deed recording this purchase is dated March 6, 1773. Even before formal deeding over of the property from Charles Carroll of Annapolis to Robert Darnall, Darnall and his wife had taken up residence on the estate. Poplar Hill remained his home until his death in 1803. Having no children, at the time of his death, his will left the entire Poplar Hill plantation to his nephew, Robert Sewall, a man of some means with business interests in the District of Columbia.

Robert Sewall was the son of Nicholas Lewis Sewall of St. Mary's County and Mary Darnall. In 1800, he'd finished building a townhouse on Jenkins Hill, located near the Capitol Building in the new federal city. Upon inheriting Poplar Hill, he moved to Prince George's County and took up residence on the estate, renting his Washington town house to Albert Gallatin, who served as Secretary of the Treasury for both Presidents Jefferson and Madison. Robert Sewall married Mary (Polly) Brent, daughter of William Brent of Virginia. Robert Sewall's children were buried in the family cemetery at Poplar Hill. Robert Sewall died in 1821, leaving his estate to his son, Robert Darnall Sewall.

Robert Darnall Sewall never married. He was known to be a drinker and a gambler (cards and horses). According to Lewis Brown, a former slave interviewed in 1914, “Marse Sewall’ once started to bet the plantation and the mansion in a game of cards, but a servant who was with him begged him to reconsider and not to lose the farm and pulled him away from the card game. Robert Darnall Sewall died in 1853, leaving his estate two minor nieces, Susan and Ellen, daughters of his sister Susan, who died in 1837. Susan was the wife of Henry Daingerfield of Alexandria, Va. He was a wealthy merchant and planter, and a personal friend of Robert E. Lee.

Susan and Ellen Daingerfield shared a joint inheritance in Poplar Hill. Their father moved them from Alexandria, where they lived to Poplar Hill. Susan Daingerfield would later marry John Strode Barbour, an executive with the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and a U.S. Senator, as well as a personal friend of her father.  Henry Daingerfield died in 1866. After the Civil War and through the early 1890s, Susan and her husband, along with her sister Ellen, live at their town house on Capitol Hill, retaining Poplar Hill as their country home. Susan died in 1886 and her husband died in 1892. Ownership of both the Capitol Hill town house and Poplar Hill pass to Ellen Daingerfield.

Ellen Daingerfield died in 1912. In her will, she bequeaths her Poplar Hill estate to three nephews. Her will provides that portraits of her family and as well as the family's collection of colonial furniture are willed to the Maryland Historical Society.