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University of MD at Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

A Swashbuckling Merchant

 
 
A Swashbuckling Merchant Marker image. Click for full size.
By Christopher Busta-Peck, March 26, 2008
1. A Swashbuckling Merchant Marker
Inscription.  Irish-born adventurer John O’Donnell (1749–1805) was a native of Limerick who made his way to India as a youth. He sailed into Baltimore on a late summer day in 1785 aboard a ship laden with Chinese goods, thus opening Baltimore’s trade with the Far East. Armed with a small fortune and an aristocratic lineage, O'Donnell settled down, made a handsome profit on his cargo, and soon married, Sarah Chew Elliott, the daughter of a Fells Point sea captain.

Over the next 20 years, O’Donnell helped transform Baltimore from a promising town of some 12,000 into the young republic's third largest city. He created a plantation, “Canton,” on some two thousands of acres east of Baltimore, built wharves, warehouses and rowhouses, and represented local interests in the state legislature. When he died in 1805 at age 56, O’Donnell was among the nation’s wealthiest men, his real estate holdings alone later valued at more than $500,000.

Known burials: John O’Donnell; Mary Chew Elliott, his mother-in-law; O’Donnell’s two sons, John and Henry; and, a niece, Sarah E. Elliott. All were later removed to Greenmount Cemetery.

[painting]
Wish
Marker and vault image. Click for full size.
By Christopher Busta-Peck, March 26, 2008
2. Marker and vault
You Were Here
Sarah O’Donnell, depicted as an English lady of grandeur by Maryland-born artist Charles Wilson Peale, holds a miniature portrait of her husband. Married less than two years, John had recently left on a long voyage to India and China. Upon his return Sarah gave Peale several items for his Philadelphia museum, including “an East Indian match gun, a damascus sword, Chinese chessmen, skull of the royal tiger, a live cockatoo, and other things.” In exchange Peale returned to Baltimore in 1791 to paint a portrait of Mary, the couple’s first child.

Mrs. John O’Donnell (Sarah Chew Elliott) by Charles Wilson Peale, oil on canvas, 1787
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Gift of Mrs. Frank Batten, 62.94.1

Arrival of the Pallas
“On Tuesday evening last, arrived here, direct from China, the East Indiaman Pallas Commanded by her owner John O’Donnell. She has on board an extensive and valuable cargo consisting of a variety of teas, China silks, satins, nankeens & c. We are extremely happy to find the commercial reputation of this town so far increased as to attract the attention of gentlemen who are engaged in carrying on this distant but beneficial trade. It is no unpleasing sight to see the crew of the Ship, Chinese Malays, Japanese and Moors, with a few Europeans, all habited according to their different countries
Vault detail image. Click for full size.
By Christopher Busta-Peck, March 26, 2008
3. Vault detail
to which they belong and employed together as brethren.”

Maryland Journal (Baltimore), August 12, 1785

The 35-member crew of the Pallas included the first Chinese crew to arrive on the east coast of the United States. In a cruel twist of fate those crew members—32 East Indian Lascars (Asians) and three Chinese seamen named Ashing, Achun and Aceun—became stranded in Baltimore. They reportedly petitioned the Continental Congress for relief.

[photograph] A Roscrucian Temple
The O’Donnell vault is a “cross between a large sarcophagus and a small temple” (Alexander, 1974). Blending elements of the newly fashionable Egyptian orders with Rosicrucian symbols, is is probably the earliest of several vaults designed by the French architect Macimilian Godefroy.

Repairing the O’Donnell Vault, October 7, 1931
Baltimore News American Photo Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries

 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesIndustry & CommerceSettlements & Settlers.
 
Location. 39° 17.397′ N, 76° 37.392′ W. Marker is in University of MD at Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. Marker can be reached
Mrs. John O’Donnell (Sarah Chew Elliott) image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 5, 2015
4. Mrs. John O’Donnell (Sarah Chew Elliott)
by Charles Wilson Peale, oil on canvas, 1787 Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Gift of Mrs. Frank Batten
Close-up of photo on marker
from the intersection of West Fayette Street and North Greene Street. Marker is on the grounds of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 519 West Fayette Street, Baltimore MD 21201, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 26 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fame, Fortune and Financial Scandal (here, next to this marker); Monumental Lives (a few steps from this marker); Dugan-Hollins Family Vault (a few steps from this marker); A Mother’s Grief (a few steps from this marker); Believe it or Not (a few steps from this marker); Among Family: Poe’s Original Burial Place (a few steps from this marker); Original Burial Place of Edgar Allan Poe (a few steps from this marker); “…a truly affectionate wife” (within shouting distance of this marker); The Sleep of Young Innocents (within shouting distance of this marker); A Beloved General (within shouting distance of this marker); Infusing Style and Sophistication: The Influence of Maximilian Godefroy (within shouting distance of this marker); John McDonogh (within shouting distance of this marker); The McDonoghs of Baltimore (within shouting distance of this marker); An 18th-Century Burying Ground (within shouting distance
Captain John O'Donnell image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 5, 2015
5. Captain John O'Donnell
Close-up of photo on marker
of this marker); Final Rest (within shouting distance of this marker); James McHenry (within shouting distance of this marker); The Gilmors (within shouting distance of this marker); James McHenry, M.D. (within shouting distance of this marker); The Carriage Gates of Westminster Burying Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); Westminster Hall & Burying Ground: Where Baltimore's History Rests in Peace (within shouting distance of this marker); Westminster Church and Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Bernard von Kapff (within shouting distance of this marker); Local Hero, National Leader (within shouting distance of this marker); A Monument to the Memory of Edgar Allan Poe (within shouting distance of this marker); A La Memorie D’Edgar Allan Poe (within shouting distance of this marker); Poe’s Baltimore (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in University of MD at Baltimore.
 
Related marker.
Repairing the O’Donnell Vault, October 7, 1931 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 5, 2015
6. Repairing the O’Donnell Vault, October 7, 1931
Baltimore News American Photo Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries
Close-up of photo on marker
Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. Photo of a statue of John O'Donnell is on this marker.
 
Additional comments.
1. Incorrect information on marker
Green Mount Cemetery has no record whatsoever that the remains were transferred from this tomb to Green Mount. This tomb still contains remains from several, at least 4, humans. There is no record whatsoever that Mary Chew nor her two infants grandsons John and Henry O'Donnell were interred in this exact location. The claim that a niece, Sarah Elliott, was interred in this tomb has no ground. I suspect that the information on this marker originally is derived from a research done by Mary Ellen Hayward, who published a book on this cemetery in 1984. Mrs. Hayward however does not provide us with any sources of her findings. I have strong indications that at least John O'Donnell is still buried in this tomb.
The tomb was built after John O'Donnell's death in 1805, very likely after a design of Maximilian Godefroy, and on request of Maximilian's wife, Eliza Crawford Anderson, niece of John O'Donnell, as a token of gratitude for John's help after Eliza's mother died and she was left behind with her father, Dr. John Crawford (buried behind John's tomb). John invited Dr. Crawford and his daughter Eliza to come live in Baltimore in a house
Vault as seen from the north image. Click for full size.
By Christopher Busta-Peck
7. Vault as seen from the north
The vault in question is to the right
provided by John.
The current caretakers of Westminster burial grounds, nor the Presbyterian church have any records which could sustain the claims made on this marker as to who, when or where any of the O'Donnell family is buried.
    — Submitted November 21, 2019, by Hans de Jong of Belleville, Pa, Usa.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on March 26, 2008, by Christopher Busta-Peck of Shaker Heights, Ohio. This page has been viewed 4,356 times since then and 77 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on March 27, 2008, by Christopher Busta-Peck of Shaker Heights, Ohio.   4, 5, 6. submitted on May 29, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   7. submitted on March 27, 2008, by Christopher Busta-Peck of Shaker Heights, Ohio.
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Sep. 25, 2020