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Tilghman family papers

Identifier: MSS 0524

Scope and Content Note

The Tilghman family papers, spanning the years 1730-1903 (bulk dates 1776-1810), was a gift of the Moyerman family in 1970. The collection comprises .3 linear ft. (102 items) of legal documents, legal correspondence, receipts, and financial records. The collection has been divided into two series.

Series one contains documents, receipts, correspondence and financial records pertaining to the main figure in the collection, William Tilghman. The documents in this series pertain to his legal career in Maryland as well as his service as Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. There are also two brief biographies of William Tilghman, both excerpts from a longer eulogy by Horace Binner (F3). Major correspondents in this series include attorneys Henry Drinker, Andrew Allen, Jr., James Matthews, Thomas Wallace, Peter Wikoff, Jasper Yeates, and justices Philip Quinton and Joshua Townsend of Worchester (F1, F2). The legal issues reflected in this series pertain to property law, and the settlement of financial debts between two parties. Folder 3 contains various documents pertaining to both legal and financial business including a list of "Supreme Court Issues April 1776" (F3), a list of patents for lands in the North Carolina received by William Tilghman in 1795, printed jury lists of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, March 1799-March 1800, and a notebook recording the court cases tried by William Tilghman, 1793-1794.

Series two contains papers of five other Tilghman men: James, Edward, Matthew, Benjamin and Richard. This series is fragmentary and contains documents pertaining to legal issues attended to by these Tilghman men, all of whom were lawyers except Richard.

This small collection offers a fragmented account of the legal careers of some members of the prominent Eastern Shore Tilghman family. It is not a comprehensive family papers collection. The collection may be useful to those interested in early American law and the development of the legal profession. These papers also supplement larger groupings of Tilghman family materials held by other archives and libraries on the East Coast.


  • Creation: 1730-1903
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1776-1810


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

The Tilghman family has long been associated with the early settlement of Maryland's Eastern Shore region. The men represented in this collection, lawyers in Maryland and Pennsylvania, trace their lineage to Richard Tilghman, an English physician who emigrated from Kent County, England, to Queen Anne's County on the Chester River in Maryland in 1661 or 1662.

William Tilghman (1756-1827) was born in Talbot County, Maryland, on August 12, 1756. In 1763 he entered the College, Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia, which became the University of Pennsylvania. Upon completion of law school in 1772 he worked in Philadelphia as a lawyer until 1776. During the Revolutionary War, he and his father, both believed to be loyalists by their peers, moved to the family estate in Maryland and shortly thereafter William began to practice law there. Living in Chester Town (now Chestertown) Maryland, William Tilghman entered the political scene in 1788 as a member of the Maryland Assembly, a position he held until 1790. In 1791 he became a Maryland senator, a seat he resigned in 1793 when he moved back to Philadelphia, where he was admitted to the bar in September of 1794. In Philadelphia, he began to rise in the ranks of the legal profession, and in 1801 President Adams elected William Tilghman the chief judge of the third circuit court. This court, however, was abolished in 1802, at which point William resumed his law practice in the city. In 1805, he was appointed to the office of the president of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, and he was a judge of the Pennsylvania High Court of Errors and Appeals. In 1806 William was commissioned Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a position he held until his death in 1827. In addition to his legal career William Tilghman was also a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania from 1802 until his death, and president of the American Philosophical Society from 1824 until his death in 1827.

Details of William Tilghman's personal life are not as thoroughly documented as those pertaining to his professional career. He married Margaret Elizabeth Allen on July 1, 1794, and they had one daughter. Margaret died in 1797, and he never remarried.

James Tilghman , father of William Tilghman, was born in 1716 on the Tilghman family estate, the Hermitage, on the Chester River in Maryland. Upon completing law school, he practiced in Annapolis, and married Ann Francis, the daughter of his teacher and prominent lawyer Tench Francis, in 1743. Around the year 1760 James moved to Philadelphia where he continued to practice law. He became involved in political life there: in 1764 he was elected to the Philadelphia City Council, in 1765 he was named secretary of the Proprietary Land Office by John Penn, and in 1767 was elected to the Pennsylvania Provincial Council in 1767, a position he held until the outbreak of the American Revolution. He was also a trustee of the College of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania) from 1775 to 1788. When the American Revolution began, James Tilghman was believed to be a Loyalist to the crown by his fellow Pennsylvanians. Consequently, Pennsylvania state authorities placed him under arrest until 1778.

James and Ann Tilghman had twelve children, six boys, and six girls. The Tilghman daughters all married prominent men of the Eastern Shore region. The Tilghman sons all became respected men in their fields. Tench Tilghman (1771-1786), the eldest son, was aid-de-camp to George Washington during the Revolution. Richard Tilghman studied law at the Temple in London, and then obtained employment at the East India Company, with recommendation for the position of attorney general of India. However, he died at sea before he could take up this position. James Tilghman, the third son, became a justice in the Court of Talbot County, Maryland. Chief Justice William Tilghman, discussed above, was the fourth son. Philemon Tilghman, the fifth son, joined the British Navy, and married a woman from England. He fought against the colonial forces in the Revolutionary War. The sixth son, Thomas Ringgold Tilghman, was a well-known merchant in Baltimore who died at a young age.

Edward Tilghman , first cousin of William Tilghman, was born at Wye, Queen Anne County, Maryland, on February 11, 1750/51. Like his cousin and uncle, Edward Tilghman was also a lawyer. He graduated from the College, Academy, and Charitable School of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1767. In 1772 he was admitted to study at the prestigious Middle Temple in London. When he returned to America in 1774 he married his first cousin Elizabeth Chew, and they had four children. In 1774 he was also admitted to the Philadelphia Bar, where he practiced until his death in 1815. In 1806 he was offered the position of Chief Justice of Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, but he declined the honor and recommended his cousin William, who accepted the position.

Benjamin Tilghman , born January 6, 1785, was the second son of Edward Tilghman. He practiced law in Philadelphia, although further details of his career or personal life are unknown. Richard Tilghman was the third son of Benjamin Tilghman, born in 1865 and died in 1906. Further details of his life are unclear.

Matthew Tilghman appears in this collection, yet there is no clear connection to the other Tilghman family represented in this collection.

Clark, Charles Branch.Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, Volume 3: Personal and Family Records. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1950.Golder, John, comp.Life of the Honourable William Tilghman, late chief justice of the state of Pennsylvania. Compiled from the eulogies of two distinguished members of the Philadelphia bar, who delivered them in commemoration of his virtues. Philadelphia: Thomas Town, 1829."James Tilghman" (1716-1793), University of Pennsylvania Archives. Viewed July 29, 2011, Dumas, ed.Dictionary of American Biography, Volume IX. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 542-546.Tilghman, Oswald. "Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman."The Worthies of Talbot County, Volume I. Publisher unknown, 1915. Available online at the Talbot County Free Library. Viewed March 13, 2006.


.3 linear foot (102 items)


The Tilghman family papers, spanning the years 1730-1903 (bulk dates 1776-1810), comprises .3 linear ft. (102 items) of legal documents, legal correspondence, receipts, and financial records from this Maryland Eastern Shore family.


Gift of Samuel Moyerman, 1970.

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes


Processed by Emily Holloway, February 2006. Encoded by Lora J. Davis, January 2011.

Finding aid for Tilghman family papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2011 January 5
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA