During the War of 1812, the British sailed up the Chesapeake Bay. After laying siege to Washington, D.C. and burning the White Housee, and having been held at bay by the patriots in Baltimore, they proceeded to Havre de Grace. Most of the residents fled in fear, but Lt. John O'Neill single-handedly defended the town. He was wounded, captured, and imprisoned on the British ship Maidstone. The town was sacked, and burned, with only two houses and the Episcopal Church spared. O'Neill's fifteen year old daughter, Matilda, pleaded with the Admiral of the fleet for her father's life. Admiral Cockburn was so impressed by the girl's bravery that he released O'Neill unharmed, and rewarded Matilda by giving her his gold snuff box and sword.
Mr. O'Neill built this home for his daughter, Matilda, in 1822 and presented it to her as a wedding present. She sold the house to her brother William in 1842.