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NIDIFFER COLLECTION - WASHINGTON, D.C. DEEDS

The Nidiffer Collection consists of 741 documents, about 600 of which are deeds, all concerning transactions in Washington City and County and Georgetown, all in the District of Columbia between 1817 and 1886. The documents are arranged chronologically one to a folder in 8 boxes. * * * * * * * The Nidiffer Collection contains an interesting documentary account of personal and family business transactions in the District of Columbia in the nineteenth century. About 600 of the 741 document are deeds, including deeds of sale, conveyance, trust and release. Deeds of trust, whereby real estate or personal property such as furniture and housewares were conveyed to a second party in order to secure promissory notes to a third party, are quite common, as are deeds of release, whereby property held in trust are conveyed back to a party who has paid off promissory notes.

Of the deeds for real estate, a vast majority of the lots concerned are in the City of Washington, with about 75 in Georgetown. During most of this period, the City of Washington's borders were defined by Rock Creek on the west, by the Potomac and the Eastern Branch (the Anacostia River) to the south and "Boundary Road" (now Florida Avenue) to the north. The lots in the City of Washington are identified by the system arranged by the original plan of Washington, by which each block, or Square, was given a number (1 to 1160), and each Square was divided into lots. Identification of lots in Georgetown is much more complex. Georgetown was developed in a series of stages by Addition (Beall's, Threlkeld's, Holmead's, Beatty & Hawkins', Deakin, Lee & Cazenove's Additions and Old Georgetown). Each Addition had its own set of lot numbers; unfortunately, the boundaries of the Additions are not always known at this point. Often the lots in Georgetown are identified by the street on which the lot fronts, however, the original street names of Georgetown are always used in the deeds themselves (Frederick Street, West Street, etc.). The modern street names have been listed in the descriptions and the indexes. One of the many deeds of interest is that of a lot at the corner of Fayette & 4th Streets (34th & Volta Streets) by Timothy O'Neal on September 3, 1852. On this lot now stands the Alexander Graham Bell house, built in 1853, which was purchased by Bell in 1881 for his father, Alexander Melville Bell.

About 30 of the deeds regard property outside the two cites in the County of Washington, which are often only identified as named estates, such as "Chillum Castle Manor," "Ship's Landing," "Mount Maria," "Kendall Green," "Turkey Thicket," "St. Elizabeth," "Prevention Enlarged," "Conclusion," "Fife Enlarged" and "Beall's Adventure Enlarged." An interesting deed among those in the County are Amos Kendall's deed of release of "Kendall Green" (6 Sep 1845), where he founded the Columbia Institution for the Deaf, Dumb & Blind in 1857, later Galludet College.

About 100 of the documents are bills of sale of furniture, housewares, horses, farm equipment, books and even the contents of a drug store (Rose Hill Drug Store). Most of the bills of sale are actually conveyances of property in trust to secure promissory notes. Usually these bills of sale contain lists of the items being transferred either in the body of the text of the agreement or in a separate schedule. Other documents include powers of attorney, satisfaction of mortgage, loan agreements, leases and a bill of sale of patent rights.

There are many individuals who are often parties in transactions: Henry Naylor, Walter S. Cox, Nicholas Callan, Thomas J. Fisher, Mayor Peter Force, David A. Hall, the Marbury family, William Redin, Ferdinand Risque, Levi Sheriff, William B. Todd, Ulysses B. Ward, Andrew Rothwell and Charles & George Utermehle. There are also many who appear as officials in numerous documents, such as Benjamin K. Morsele, Francis J. Murphey and Henry Reaver as Justices of the Peace or Notaries Public; and William Brent, John A. Smith, Nathaniel C. Towle and Frederick Douglass (noted Abolitionist) as Clerks of the Circuit Court or later as Recorders of Deeds. Numerous Mayors of the City of Washington also appear in the documents: Benjamin Orr, Walter Lenox, Peter Force and John W. Maury. * * * * * * *

A Note about Names

In every document the names of individuals involved in transactions is always handwritten, even if the rest of the document is printed. Names were transcribed into this guide according to the way in which they are spelled in the document. Several factors may create difficulties in locating an individual in the Collection. Standardization of family and first names had not entirely taken place by the nineteenth century, and many times individuals may not have known the exact spelling of their own or of others' names; sometimes a name will be spelled several different ways in the same document. Often, men used only their initials for their first and middle names, and handwriting used on the documents is sometimes barely legible, especially when initials were used. If a name is not found immediately, it is suggested that one look under possible variations of the name's spelling elsewhere in the index. The same may also be said of Square and Lot numbers, which are also always written in by hand. A helpful tool in looking up names of residents of the District of Columbia in the nineteenth century is the 1860 District of Columbia Census Index which can be found in the open stacks of the library.

* * * * * * Extent: 4 linear feet
Number of Boxes: 8
Provenance: Gift of F. Don Nidiffer, July 1984
Span dates: 1817 - 1886
Processed by: Michael J. North Date: May 4, 1990 BULK DATES: 1817 - 1886
SPAN DATES: 1817 - 1886 EXTENT: 4 linear feet


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