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Wilmer- Hoffman-Deford manuscript collection

Identifier: MS 3079


The Wilmer – Hoffman – Deford Manuscript Collection follow different branches of the Deford family tree, highlighting the lives of various, but eventually connected, families, extending from 1777 to 1999. The bulk of the papers (1777 – 1981) center around individual members of the families including James P. Wilmer, Wilmer Hoffman, RC Hoffman, and Mary Dorothea Hoffman Deford.


  • 1777-1999
  • Majority of material found within 1777-1981


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

The Wilmer – Hoffman – Deford Collection spans three centuries of Maryland families and history, and though there are many members of each respective family mentioned, there are some individuals who have helped to shape the content and character of this collection – their lives will be given greater detail here.

James P Wilmer was the son of the famous (and occasionally infamous) reverend James J Wilmer, he was born on 1785 August 13 in Maryland and on 1802 December 27, at the age of 17, joined the US Navy as a Midshipmen. Wilmer’s Naval orders (including those for participation in a prisoner exchange with the British in 1812 September), personal finances and business, as well as few letters from individual friends make up the majority of the James P Wilmer’s series. However, there are several letters to Wilmer from his childhood friend, Thomas Shields, who was also in the Navy and who was stationed in New Orleans. The friendship with Shields was evidently a close one, and though Shields urged Wilmer to join him in Louisiana, from the letters we have (1811 – 1812) it appears they did not meet again before Wilmer was killed in a sea battle on 1814 March 28. Wilmer died at the rank of Lieutenant, which he attained on 1809 February 16.

Thomas Shields, also native to Maryland, joined the Navy 1804 January 2 as a Midshipman, reaching the rank of Purser on 1812 April 25. His role in Wilmer’s life was not only that of a friend, but also that of a financial advisor and an accountant of sorts, taking care of Wilmer’s finances and purchases while Wilmer was at sea and then being reimbursed later. Shields, a career Naval Officer, apparently remained a Purser for its entirety, which lasted until he died on 1827 May 22 still in the service of the Navy.

The Hoffman family also made some exceptionally important contributions, and features three of its members very significantly throughout the collection. Richard Curzon Hoffman, or RC Hoffman, born on 1839 July 13 was prominent both in society and business; a former iron merchant and retired president of Seaboard Air Line, the highly successful company which he ran out of his native Baltimore, RC Hoffman was well known and respected at the time of his death by his business contemporaries. However, Hoffman was not only famous for being a successful businessman, but was well known throughout the South for his time as a Captain in the Confederate Army and as a recipient of the Southern Cross of Honor. Hoffman, who was survived by six children died on 1926 January 22, and was one of the last surviving Confederate officers in the country.

One of these children, RC Hoffman’s younger son, artist Wilmer Hoffman, also figures prominently into the collection. Born on 1889 August 1, Wilmer Hoffman grew up in Baltimore, training as an artist first at the Maryland Institute and then at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia for four years. After his time in Philadelphia Hoffman was awarded the Cresson Traveling Fellowship (twice) and spent two years traveling Europe before settling in Paris for the next 14 years. When France fell to Germany in 1939 Wilmer Hoffman returned to America and bought a house in Charleston, South Carolina. There Hoffman continued his work as a successful artist and remained a resident of Charleston until his death on 1954 May 21.

Mary Dorothea Hoffman Deford, sister to Wilmer Hoffman and daughter of RC Hoffman, is the last prominently featured person in the Wilmer – Hoffman – Deford Family Papers. Born on 1887 February 8, Dorothea (as she was known to her family) was 23 when she was married Robert Bell Deford on 1910 June 11. Dorothea took a lively interest in her husband’s family history and after his death on 1952 January 10 she began collecting information from books, historians, and distant relatives in an effort to make Long Green House an historical site. Her efforts were rewarded when the Maryland Historical Trust recognized Long Green Valley as an historical site in 1982, however, Dorothea, who died on 1975 February 11, did not live to see it. Dorothea’s dedication to the collection of historical documents and facts about her family, and her family’s family, is the basis of this collection.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Robert B. Deford, 2008.

Related Materials

PP281, Wilmer–Hoffman–Deford photograph collection, 1829-1950

Scope and Contents

The collection is broken down into 11 series.

Series I: Hoffmans contains documents pertaining to the Hoffman family such as family and business records, a personal scrapbook, wills, and genealogical notes. Also included are two partial family trees, one of which has been copied from a family Bible that is part of Mr. Robert Deford’s private collection.

Series II: Wilmer consists of documents relating to James P Wilmer and his family. It is made up of a Wilmer family history; a letter from Wilmer’s father, James J Wilmer, to his children; and then letters to Wilmer from friends; his Naval Orders; his personal finances; and notices of financial support for Elizabeth Rymard by the crew of the USS Essex, one of the ships on which Wilmer served.

Series III: Long Green consists of documents pertaining to registering Long Green House as an historic landmark. The bulk of the series are pages copied from history books, letters from family members and historians, and maps of the Long Green Valley, however there are also newspaper clippings about the house and family, as well as information about touring Long Green House and Valley.

Series IV: Bells contains Bell family documents as well as letters written about the Bell family’s ancestry and their connection to the Defords.

Series V: Dallams holds family histories about the Dallam family and several of their ancestors, as well as some of the Dallam family’s personal accounts and papers.

Series VI: Emily Spencer contains four letters sent to her, one from her brother and three from Julia Gittings.

Series VII: Clynmalira primarily contains a short story written by Harriett Sterrett Winchester Sparhawk-Jones about her childhood at her aunt’s country house, Clynmalira. It also contains a poem by Robert Liddell Lowe which was sent with the story.

Series VIII: Phillips – Magee is comprised of the family history of Sarah Magee (first wife of James J Wilmer) and the Phillips family.

Series IX: Curzons contains the unbound pages of a book on the Curzon family lineage in both Britain and America; original correspondence between RC Hoffman and the Earl Curzon of Keddleston in Britain; shipping manifestos from Richard Curson’s mercantile business; and a two page, handwritten family history.

Series X: Letter Box Miscellaneous contains miscellaneous manuscripts such as pictures, letters, family histories, the baptismal certificate for Curzon Hoffman Deford, and various newspaper clippings (1806 – 1835).

Series XI: Miscellaneous is divided between 19th century documents, among which are John Hoffman’s French Foreign Legion passport and letters about property value; and newspaper clippings (1814 – 1974).

Guide to the Wilmer- Hoffman-Deford manuscript collection
Under Revision
Emily Lapayowker and Damon Talbot
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-03-31: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States