Well, our story title this week can signal someone’s tragic demise one of three ways: the result of an unfortunate loss of footing or balance; being caught unprepared in an extreme, below average temperature situation in September, October or November that could result in frostbite or worse; encountering a geologic novelty while swimming or boating at a place where water flows over a vertical drop or a series of steep drops in the course of a stream or river.
I probably have most readers somewhat intrigued at this point, especially with the oddity involved with the latter two consequences. However, this week’s story is pretty straightforward, however, complete with a little twist, two in fact.
Rev. Simon Schweigarde Miller was a minister in the German Reformed faith tradition. He was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania on February 22nd, 1842, the son of Henry Miller (1805-1848) and Elizabeth von Schweigarde (1808-1881). His great-grandfather (John Adman Heilman, Jr.) was a commissioned lieutenant who commanded men in the Battle of Long Island during the American Revolution. He was part of the famed “Flying Camp” that included regiments from Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Many Frederick men were part of this military formation employed by the Continental Army in late 1776, chief among them was Thomas Johnson, Jr., who would go on to become Maryland’s first governor.
Simon Miller was living in Lancaster, PA, a student at Franklin and Marshall College, when the American Civil War broke out. He was registered for the draft but his calling differed from his great-grandfather’s as he would graduate from college in 1862, and follow-up his education in divinity school, attending the Reformed Seminary in Mercersburg until 1864. He was ordained at this time and took his first charge at Grace Church in Akron, Ohio.
In the 1870 census, Rev. Miller is duly listed as a clergyman and living in the household of George C. Biser, an insurance agent. Mr. Biser would become Miller’s father-in-law, as daughter Mary Genevieve Biser would become the minister’s wife in 1874. At this time, the couple moved to Boonsboro, where Rev. Miller took the lead of Trinity Reformed which still stands today as the oldest UCC/German Reformed congregation in the tri-state area. The Millers would welcome three children while here: Mary Genevieve (1876), Paul Biser (1877), and Hugh Schweigarde (1884).
It’s because of the Miller’s youngest child, that I “landed” on this family and topic for this week’s story. While perusing a local newspaper, I came across the following sad article.
A terrible happenstance for any family to have to endure, as the headline, not surprising of the time, certainly caught my attention. It was not uncommon for headings of this nature, as ghastly, and straightforward consequences were commonplace in describing fatalities. I guess the Frederick News editor wasn’t to blame as I found the same headline in the Hagerstown paper as well. A few more details of the accident were revealed which makes me assume that this paper carried the story first, although a day behind as it seems.
Simon ventured to Frederick and paid then cemetery superintendent $6.75 for opening and closing a grave space. The young boy was brought to Mount Olivet was placed in the Biser family plot located in Area R/Lot 56. This section is easily found as it is only a few yards away from the Roelkey family crypt.
The unfortunate tragedy that beset Rev. Miller and his family at this place, likely prompted him to tender his resignation a month later. He would leave the site of sadness, and return to his native Pennsylvania. St. Petersburg (Pennsylvania) would be the scene of his new congregation. In the Illustrated Portfolio of Western Pennsylvania Reformed Churches, published in 1896, the following was said about Rev. Miller by author J. N. Naly in relation to his leadership at St. Petersburg Reformed Church:
"The congregation was without a regular pastor for about two years. Then they issued a call to the Rev. Simon Miller. Bro. Miller suceeded, however in establishing confidence, and raised about $2,500 with which the interior of the church was remodeled and frescoed, and the remaining debt was cancelled. His pastorate closed on the 30th day of April, 1895."
In 1893, the Miller’s 16-year-old son, Paul, had died in Philadelphia. I was unable to find the true cause. His body had been sent to Frederick to be buried alongside Paul’s younger brother, Hugh.
The well-traveled clergyman would next take charge of the Daniel Stein Memorial Home in Myerstown, PA. This was a facility for retired German Reformed ministers and their spouses. Rev. Miller would serve as superintendent of the Stein House for four years before returning to Maryland and Frederick County. He would preach at Mount Pleasant Reformed Church for two years before a semi-retirement in Frederick, while filling-in as a substitute pastor for congregations in need.
Rev. Miller took up residence at 44 E. Third Street in downtown Frederick. This rowhouse is on the southeast corner of E. Third and Maxwell Alley.
However, this would be the scene of a second terrible fall for the Miller clan. It happened in April 1924.
From another article, a few days later, it seemed as if the aged minister was recovering nicely from his broken hip. This news, like Rev. Miller, would be short lived.
Rev. Simon S. Miller would join his son Hugh, who had predeceased him 34 years earlier, thanks in part, to a deadly fall.
Wife Mary died the following year. I was relieved to see that it was not the result of a fall or tumble.
Well, with St. Valentine’s Day having recently hit us again, it’s nearly impossible to avoid images of hearts, roses, greeting cards and candy—specifically chocolate . And with the latter, the most popular chocolate chosen for this commercially-hyped day of “love-reckoning,” isn’t the typical household variety such as Hershey Bars, M & M’s or Reeses Cups (my personal favorite). No, no, no, we’re talking the “top shelf” stuff, packaged of course in box form, with an assortment of delicacies.
Whether it’s a familiar name like Godiva, Lindt, Whitman’s or Russell-Stover, I’m always reminded of the legendary line from Forrest Gump—“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” However, when it comes to candy, I think I’d be more satisfied sometimes with plain ol’ Reeses Cups—but it’s the thrill of the quest, I guess, that makes boxed-chocolate something exciting.
As I near my four-year anniversary working for Mount Olivet, I reflect upon the great satisfaction I've had in writing these “Stories in Stone” blog articles—this is number 140. The most gratifying part of it for me can also be explained by that Forrest Gump quote, however with one simple difference by interchanging the word life with the word death--“Death is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
A few years ago, I wrote the following to describe my articles:
“They are essays about former Frederick residents buried within Mount Olivet’s gates. Yes, some of these individuals stand out for their achievements. Others can be remembered for misfortunes. All in all, most of those “resting in peace” just lived simple, ordinary lives. To borrow a line from George Bailey in Frank Capra’s legendary film It’s a Wonderful Life:
“Just remember Mr. Potter, that this rabble that you’re talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.”
We can just assume that the people here that you've never heard of before, simply lived ordinary, average lives. However, I have found that not to be the case, over and over again. That point hit home again last weekend while falling into a subject topic by pure accident. It is the genesis for this story here.
I had been researching online within old Virginia newspapers of the early 1800s in hopes to learn more about my previous "Story in Stone" profile, artist John J. Markell. Out of the blue, a front- page article in the Staunton Spectator and General Advertiser caught my eye. Under the bold headlines MIscellany and Interesting Biography, appeared an extensive, two-column ode to a gentleman named William Lenhart, the Mathematician. Mr. Lenhart apparently had been living in Frederick, Maryland, before his death at the same place in the summer of 1840.
I was certainly intrigued by seeing the words “Frederick, Maryland” in the story, and much more than I was in seeing “mathematician.” I’ll be the first person to tell you that I love numbers, especially as they pertain to history—dates, population totals, ages, casualty numbers, etc. I don’t mind basic arithmetic and entry-level statistics, but higher math in its various forms (ie: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, number theory and mathematical physics) scares the hell out of me. It’s a good thing I married a high school math teacher, who, ironically, has very little use, or interest, for history.
“The Math Guy”
With 40,000 former residents in my midst at Mount Olivet, roughly the same population as our state capital of Annapolis, I still pass countless gravesites without a thought, as their names are still nothing more than “names in stone.” With that said, I was certainly hoping that William Lenhart was possibly one of our own since he lived, and died, in Frederick back in the early 19th century. One minor conundrum was knowing that Mount Olivet opened in 1854, 14 years after Lenhart’s death. However, many of those early Frederick residents that had been buried in the existing church-owned graveyards of that era, would eventually be moved to Mount Olivet by the early 1900s.
When I found that article in the Staunton newspaper, I was at home with no immediate access to Mount Olivet’s interment database. I will share a tip here with those finding themselves in the same predicament of wanting to check if someone is buried in a certain cemetery or not. Simply search the inventory of a particular burying ground on the www.FindaGrave.com site via the internet. It’s certainly not “fool-proof,” as some graves haven’t been added yet by hard-working volunteers, but generally most gravesites are included that have markers.
In respect to Mount Olivet, here’s some basic math: our Find-a-Grave page shows that 34,058 interments have been added—that’s 73%! I simply typed "Lenhart" into the name search option and found the following result as part of a long list of Lenharts.
Normally, I would be very disappointed to find this result. However, with this particular research mission, I became ecstatic because just in the sheer fact of getting this return, I now knew that there was a statistical chance and probability of William Lenhart, (Mathematician) being buried in our cemetery. Although there were no birth or death dates listed here, and no photo of tombstone (if one at all), I held optimism because here was a William Lenhart that could be him. I wish I could tell you the odds at the outset of this being a perfect match, but I already painfully divulged my math deficiencies earlier.
Another source of delight for me (in looking at the scant Find-a-Grave entry for William Lenhart) was the fact that his grave location was listed as Area NN/Lot 130/Grave 7. This particular area is shaped somewhat like a small triangle on the cemetery’s western perimeter, only about 30 yards from the landmark Barbara Fritchie and Thomas Johnson monuments in the middle of Mount Olivet (in Area MM). Here, three local church congregations of yore bought property around 1907 and made arrangements to move bodies from former downtown churchyards.
Interments from Frederick's former Methodist graveyard (once located at the SE corner of E. 4th St and Middle Alley) occupy the south side of the triangle (left). Evangelical Lutheran holds the center of NN, with these bodies coming from the second burying ground of the congregation, once located on the SE corner of E. Church Street extended and East Street (today's Everedy Square vicinity). Frederick’s Presbyterian Church holds the northern (right) portion closest to Confederate Row, roughly 30 yards away. In particular, bodies occupy lots 130-135 as shown on the above map section. I will tell you more on that church cemetery's history later.
The William Lenhart I had just found on Find-a-Grave is shown as occupying Area NN/Lot 130, and because of this, I now knew that although loosely documented, this man had died before 1854, and had been buried elsewhere in town before being brought here. I would also soon lean that he had been previously buried in another part of Mount Olivet before coming to this current spot.
Now I found the rationale to devote time to solve the problem:
Does the Mount Olivet William Lenhart = William Lenhart, the Mathematician? I now had reason to read through a very lengthy article about a “math guy” in an effort to “solve my equation” or “prove my postulate” of these two being one and the same.
After perusing the article, I engaged in the painful task of transcribing the lengthy two-column article for your reading pleasure. This had first appeared in print within the Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser of October 2nd, 1841 (nearly a month earlier than it had appeared in the Staunton, VA newspaper). With no further adieu, here it is in its entirety as I think that this author’s presentation, although extremely lengthy and embellished, runs circles around anything I could wordsmith for telling his story:
WILLIAM LENHART, THE MATHEMATICIAN.
Perhaps very few of the readers of The American are aware that in July, 1840, a man died in Frederick, Maryland, who had genius, which under favorable circumstances, might have illustrated the name of his country throughout the scientific world. The seed which produces the most luxuriant harvest requires proper cultivation to make it minister to the necessities of man. The marble which is taken from the quarry has no attractions for the eye until the chisel of the sculptor displays its tortuous veins, and gives the beauty of proportion. So, genius of the highest order—without the fostering care of patrons, and a suitable field for its display—often lies buried with the unknown possessor; and “mankind are little sensible how a brilliant sun has gone down in darkness, which, under more favorable circumstances, would have fertilized and adorned society. It is with a view to make my humble contribution to the memory of a highly gifted man, who was, at one portion of his life, a citizen of Baltimore, that I write this article. Had Lord Clive not been employed as a clerk in India, he would probably never have displayed that brilliant genius which gave him rank with the nobility of England, and astonished the world. If Lenhart had not, during the greater portion of his life, been the victim of severe disease, he would not have required the aid of my unpretending pen. For the facts on which this article is based, I am indebted to the July number of the Princeton Review.
William Lenhart was the son of a respectable silversmith, of York, Pennsylvania, where he was born in 1787. His education received but little attention, until when he was about fourteen years old. Dr. Adrain,—then obscure, but since so extensively known as a mathematician,—opened a school in York, and young Lenhart became one of his pupils. Owing perhaps to the scanty means of his father, he did not remain at school more than eighteen months: yet in that short period, the rock was smitten and the waters of genius flowed out in an abundant stream. Adrain soon discovered the great mathematical talents of his pupil; and assumed towards him much of the relation of a companion in study.
At this time he evinced life disposition of his mind by making in miniature, with great perfection, various machines which he had seen—fire engines, water mills, &.c. Before he left the school of Mr. Adrain, he became a contributor to the “Mathematical Correspondent,” a periodical published in New York. When he was about seventeen, he became a clerk in a store in Baltimore. I have no means of ascertaining the house in which he was placed. At that time, he was remarkable for the beauty of his person and the agreeableness of his manners. Having become tired with selling goods, he entered on the discharge of some duties in the office of Sheriff. In both these situations he was—as he continued through life—unequalled as a penman.
While he remained in Baltimore, he occupied his leisure hours with reading and mathematical studies; and also made contribution to the “Mathematical Correspondent,” and the “Analyst,” published by Dr. Adrain in Philadelphia. When only seventeen, he obtained a medal for the solution of a mathematical prize question. After remaining in Baltimore about four years, Lenhart undertook the care of the books in the commercial house of Messrs. Hassinger and Reese, of Philadelphia. On account of his abilities, his employers doubled his salary at the end of the first year. His books were models of book-keeping, and the accounts he made out for foreign merchants were long kept by them as forms. As a clerk and book-keeper he was unrivalled. Such was the estimation in which he was held by the house, that after three years they offered him a partnership, by the terms of which they were to supply the capital, as his eminent personal services were considered by them as an equivalent. During this period, he cultivated mathematical science.
Young Lenhart was now about twenty-four years old; and thus far his career—considering the difficulties with which he had to contend—had been one of great prosperity and promise. As to the remainder, “shadows, clouds and darkness rest, upon it.” It gives me pain to record the events of his subsequent life. When the pride of the forest is preyed upon by the worm, we are not pained by its gradual decay. The rude tempest passes by audit falls in the beauty of its foliage, the majestic oak, as it stands upon the mountain top, maybe splintered by the lightning; but our feelings of regret, as we survey the prostrate trunk, are absorbed by the contemplation of the power of the Almighty. We have different emotions when it has been scathed, and withers, and every wind of Heaven blows through its leafless branches.
Deep must have been the anguish of Lenhart as he contemplated his situation, and felt that the bright prospects of his life were overcast almost as soon as the morning sun had arisen But he calmly bowed his head to the stroke; and his noble spirit enabled him to endure with a martyr’s patience, that which in the amount of suffering surpassed the torture and the flame. Before Mr. Lenhart entered upon his duties, as a partner in the house of Messrs. Hassinger and Reese, he made a visit to his father at York. While taking a drive in the country, his horse ran away, breaking the carriage and his leg was fractured.
After his recovery he returned to Philadelphia. While pitching quoits he was attacked with excruciating pain in the back, and partial paralysis of the lower extremities. He was under the care of Drs. Physick and Parish for eighteen months; and after they had exhausted all their skill, they told him his case was hopeless. The injury he sustained, when thrown from his carriage was probably the cause of his spinal affliction. Had any other circumstance been required to make his cup of misery overflow, it would have been derived from the fact that he was at this time engaged to be married to a most interesting young lady; they having been mutually attached from early life. His sufferings during the subsequent sixteen years were indescribable: the intervals of pain being employed with light literature and music. In the latter art he made great proficiency, and was supposed to be the best chamber flute player in this country. He composed variations to some pieces of music, expressive of the anguish produced by the disappointment of his fondly cherished hopes of domestic happiness: and these he would perform with such exquisite feeling as deeply to affect all who heard him.
In 1828, having so far recovered as to walk with difficulty—he again fractured his leg by a fall. His sufferings at this time were almost too great for human nature lo endure. From this period the greater portion of his time was passed with a sister in Frederick, Maryland. The progress of his disease paralyzed his lips, and he could no longer amuse himself by playing on the flute: and as light literature did not give sufficient employment to his active mind, he relieved the tedium of his confinement by the pursuit of mathematical science. It was under such unfavorable circumstances that he made those advances in abstruse science which have conferred immortality on his name.
A year before his death he thus wrote to a friend: the beauty of the sentence will be appreciated by the mathematical reader :—“My afflictions” he says “appear to me to be not unlike an infinite series, composed of complicated terms, gradually and regularly increasing—in sadness and suffering—and becoming more and more involved; and hence the abstruseness of its summation; but when it shall be summed in the end, by the Great Arbiter and Master of all, it is to be hoped that the formula resulting, I will be found to be not only entirely free from surds, but perfectly pure and rational, I even unto an integer.”
From 1812 to 1828, Mr. Lenhart was oppressed to such a degree by complicated afflictions, that he did not devote his attention to mathematical science. After the latter period, he resumed these studies, for the purpose of mental employment; and contributed various articles to the mathematical journals. In 1836 the publication of The Mathematical Miscellany was commenced in New York: and his fame was established by his contributions to that journal.
I do not design to enter on a detail of his profound researches —He attained an eminence in science of which the noblest intellects might well be proud; and that too as an amusement, when suffering from afflictions which, we might suppose, would have disqualified him for intellectual labor. It will be sufficient for my purpose to remark, that he has left behind him a reputation as the most eminent Diophantine Algebraist that ever lived. The eminence of this reputation will be estimated when it is recollected that illustrious men—such as Euler, Lagrange and Gauss—are his competitors for fame in the cultivation of the Diophantine Analysis. Well might he say that he felt as if he had been admitted into the sanctum sanctorum of the Great Temple of Numbers, and permitted to revel amongst its curiosities.
Notwithstanding his great mathematical genius, Mr. Lenhart did not extend his investigations into the modern analysis and the differential calculus, as far as he did into the Diophantine Analysis. He thus accounts for it:—“My taste lies in the old fashioned pure Geometry, and the Diophantine Analysis, in which every result is perfect; and beyond the exercise of these two beautiful branches of the mathematics, at my time of life, and under present circumstances, I feel no inclination to go.”
The character of his mind did not entirely consist in its mathematical tendency, which was developed by the early tuition of Dr. Adrain. Possessed as he was of a lively imagination—a keen susceptibility to all that is beautiful in the natural and intellectual world—wit and acuteness—it is manifest that he wanted nothing but early education and leisure to have made a most accomplished scholar. He was also a poet. One who knew him well says:—“He has left some effusions which were written to friends as letters, that for wit, humor, sprightliness of fancy, pungent satire, and flexibility of versification, will not lose in comparison with any of Burns' best pieces of a similar kind.”
Mr. Lenhart was very cheerful and of a sanguineous temperament; full of tender sympathies with all the joys and sorrows of his race, from communion with whom he was almost entirely excluded. Like all truly great and noble men, he was remarkable for the simplicity of his manners. That word, in its broad sense, contains a history of character. He knew he was achieving conquests in abstruse science, which had not been made by the greatest mathematicians; yet he was far from assuming anything in his intercourse with others. During the autumn of 1839, intense suffering and great emaciation indicated that his days were almost numbered, His intellectual powers did not decay; but like the Altamont of Young, he was "still strong to reason, still mighty to suffer.” He indulged in no murmurs on account of the severity of his fate.—True nobility submits with grace to that which is inevitable. Caesar has claims on the admiration of posterity for the dignity with which, when he received the dagger of Brutus, he wrapped his cloak around his person, and fell at the feet of Pompey’s statue. Lenhart was conscious of the impulse of his high intellect, and his heart must have swelled within him when he contemplated the victories he might have achieved, and the laurels he might have won. But then he knew "his lot forbade" that he should leave other than “short and simple annals” for posterity.
He died at Frederick, Maryland, on the 10th of July, I840, with the calmness imparted by Philosophy and Christianity. Religion conferred upon him her consolations in that hour, when it is only by religion that consolation can be bestowed: and as he sank into the darkness and silence of the grave, he believed there was another and a better world, in which the immortal mind will drink at the very fountainhead of knowledge, unencumbered with the decaying tabernacle of clay, by which its lofty aspirations are here confined as with chains.
The life of William Lenhart is not without its moral. Of him it may with great appropriateness be said: “Genius will be fired with new ardour, as it beholds the triumphs of his intellect over the difficulties of science, amid so many disadvantages and discouragements; and misfortune, disappointment and disease, will be reconciled to their lot, as they view the afflictions with which he was scourged from youth to the grave.''—Baltimore American.
All I could say, during and after reading this, was “Wow!” My head quickly filled with several new research questions, along with potential methods to attempt to answer each. Who was this article’s author, simply referred to as “S.C.?” What more did the referenced Princeton Review article have to say about Lenhart? What exactly were Lenhart’s disabilities, and how were they caused exactly? Who was Lenhart’s sister, and where did Lenhart live in Frederick? Were there any direct heirs to Lenhart or his immediate kin (as it appears Lenhart never married or had children)? What religion was Lenhart (hopefully Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian)? The answers to these problems would surely give me my answer.
“Show Your Work”
My wife (the math teacher) always stresses to her students that one of the most important aspects of solving a math problem is to “show your work,” letting others know how you reached a particular answer to a problem. I will follow suit and share my "work" with you as well. You’ve already witnessed my first steps in scouring the Staunton newspaper article for clues, while tracking down the original article in the Baltimore American.
I next went to Ancestry.com to search for a potential Family Tree that would include William Lenhart the Mathematician. I found one immediately, and learned parental names: Godfrey Lenhart (1754-1819), who I successfully verified as a prominent silversmith and noted grandfather clockmaker in York, PA. William's mother was Mary Elizabeth Harbaugh (1753-1824). The Family Tree was a little shaky, so I sought out other genealogical histories of the Harbaugh family that could be found on the internet. One such gave me exactly what I was searching for, including the knowledge that Mary Elizabeth (Harbaugh) Lenhart was a daughter of early Swiss immigrant Yost Harbaugh. Her brothers, George, Ludwig and Jacob, left York in 1760 and brought their families to northwestern Frederick County. Settling in the vicinity of today’s Sabillasville, their last name soon became synonymous with the locale still known as Harbaughs Valley. And just in case you were wondering, Baltimore Ravens head football coach John Harbaugh is a descendant of this same family.
William Lenhart had a sister named after his mother. Mary Elizabeth Lenhart, who somehow met a gentleman named John Bayly. I found that Bayly operate a store in the first block of West Patrick Street which sold linens, broadcloths, groceries and seasonable goods. I'm assuming that the family lived above or behind the store, as was commonplace in the early 1840s.
The Bayley’s had a daughter named Catharine, who would marry a noted former Fredericktonian, Samuel Tyler (1809-1879). Mr. Tyler was a lawyer, author and Georgetown College professor. I was already familiar with some of Tyler’s other writings, including a memoir of Roger Brooke Taney. I now surmise that Samuel Tyler was S.C., the original newspaper memorial's writer, as Mr. Lenhart was his wife’s uncle. (I can’t explain S.C. instead of S.T. but perhaps we can chalk it up to a typo).
I quickly returned to Find-a-Grave and found both John and Mary Bayly buried in Mount Olivet. No pictures of stones either, but elation struck me when I found that they, too, were residing in Area NN, Lot 130, graves 7A and 8. I had successfully proven the relationship between Lenhart brother and sister (now a Bayly), and more so, decedent and famed mathematician!
Of course, when I came into work on Monday, our database included information pertaining to Area NN's William Lenhart ranging from vital dates, to stating the fact that he was a removal from Frederick’s Presbyterian Cemetery on May 10th, 1887. Our data also had him as hailing from York, PA, dying at the residence of John Bayly, and, finally listed as an occupation that of a mathematician. Oh well, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” as they say—an interesting expression to recite as a full-time employee of a cemetery, for sure!
Several old math journals from the 19th century mention Lenhart’s heroics answering prize questions offered up in monthly publications like the Mathematical Correspondent under the leadership of editor George Baron. The Correspondent presented problems to subscribers inviting them to solve and send in answers, which if correct, would be published in upcoming volumes. Lenhart was a regular contributor of both questions/problems, and answers. The following clippings come from the pages of various editions of The Mathematical Correspondent (1804).
I really didn't find much more on William Lenhart in old newspapers. Town diarist Jacob Engelbrecht recorded the mathematician's death, but not anything more. Lenhart’s name came up in several online searches connected with scholarly articles on math and its history in America.
A particular interest to me was exploring how modern academics viewed William Lenhart today? I found an impression of his legacy in an article on early American mathematics journals, in which D.E. Zitarelli writes:
When it comes to the study of mathematics in this country, we describe six of its major contributors, two of whom are known somewhat (Robert Adrain and Robert M. Patterson), but the other four seem to have slipped into obscurity in spite of accomplishments that deserve more recognition (William Lenhart, Enoch Lewis, John Gummere, and John Eberle).
In 2005, Lenhart was ranked as the 7th top problemist of the early 1800s by Zitarelli , a bonafide expert on the subject having published his 2019 book entitled: A History of Mathematics in the United States and Canada: Volume 1: 1492–1900.
An online journal article from the periodical Historia Mathematica (aka The International Journal of History of Mathematics) found at (https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/82122927.pdf) and entitled: The Fading Amateur: William Lenhart and 19th-Century American Mathematics by Edward R. Hogan of East Stroudsburg University (East Stroudsburg, PA). This work was published in 1990 by the Academic Press. Dr. Hogan writes:
"There were amateur mathematicians in the United States after William Lenhart (1787-1840); there still are today. But Lenhart, although strictly an amateur in the sense that he neither received nor sought to receive revenue from his mathematical work, was one of the leading American mathematicians of his generation. He is the last person, to my knowledge, who was both. Lenhart was highly regarded by his countrymen. By the time of his death, he was heralded as a mathematician of extraordinary ability.
Samuel Tyler, although not a scientist, was one of the foremost Baconians in America and Lenhart’s nephew by marriage. He said of his uncle’s contributions to the Mathematical Miscellany: “They have gained for him a reputation as the greatest Diophantine Algebraist that ever lived; and this is no mean renown, when it is considered that a Euler, a Lagrange, and a Gauss are his competitors." Such words might be dismissed as exaggerated praise from family and friends, but others with far more mathematical knowledge gave Lenhart similar compliments. Probably the most impressive came from Charles Gill, a competent, if self-taught, mathematician. He wrote to Lenhart: “No one will now deny that you have done more with the Diophantine analysis than any man who ever lived." In addition, the mathematical astronomer Daniel Kirkwood described Lenhart as an “eminent mathematician” and cited Gill’s evaluation, implying his agreement."
Dr. Hogan also shed a bit more light on how William Lenhart suffered his life altering afflictions.
After being offered a partnership in a business firm in 1812, Lenhart went home on a holiday to see his family, friends, and fiancee, and met with a freak accident. He was taking a ride in a gig when he passed by a traveling menagerie. The roar of a lion in the caravan frightened his horse, and Lenhart, thrown from his gig, fractured a leg and seriously injured his back. He never recovered; for the rest of his life he suffered extreme pain, exacerbated by a second fracture of the same leg.
The article goes on, but I think you are now likely feeling overwhelmed. I certainly am at this point in writing, and am starting to have uncomfortable flashbacks to certain math classes in my high school and college career.
A final article of note was found in math periodical entitled The Analyst (Volume II, No. 6). A piece in this November, 1875 edition was penned by a colleague and friend of Lenhart’s, the fore-mentioned astronomer Daniel Kirkwood. The professor recounted that Lenhart was extremely fond of smoking cigars, owned a small library of books with some volumes dating to the early 1700s, and oftentimes replied to math publications with solution submissions to math questions under pseudonyms because he had found various ways to solve problems. He used the name Diophantus on a number of occasions, and more surprisingly answered as a supposed female contributor as well—using the name Mary Bond of Frederick Town, MD.
My last task was to seek out Lenhart’s exact gravesite. Since there was no picture on the Find-a-Grave website, I pondered if our local math genius was simply buried in an unmarked grave? This was often common as the re-interment process was quite complicated. Many graves were unmarked in former cemeteries, and old stones from the early 19th and 18th centuries didn’t hold up well in some instances. Those deemed shabby, were oftentimes banned from public display in the once- uppity places like our sparkling new “garden cemetery” during its earlier days.
Some ragged stones hit the trash heap, others were buried. This would happen regularly when certain families "ponied" up the funds to have new stones made, and sometimes elaborate family memorials crafted, as replacements. Our records are pretty good here at Mount Olivet, and extensive work has been done over the years to document interments in places like Area NN in an effort to compensate reburials lacking gravestones or any other kind of marking. An interesting wrinkle in this particular re-interment case relates to the Presbyterian Cemetery removal of 1887.
The church graveyard in question was originally located at the southwest corner of Dill and N. Bentz streets. Various clergy members and other VIP's would be buried behind the church itself, located on W. Second Street. The majority of burials of this congregation were placed in the other graveyard. Back in the day, Dill Avenue was originally known as New Cut Road. Upkeep for these cemeteries was difficult and costly for churches, especially when the burial business was now going to Mount Olivet—a well-established professional cemetery in town.
The old Presbyterian graveyard is located on this 1873 Titus Atlas map near the upper left of this image at the intersection of N. Bentz Stand Dill Ave (as it becomes W. 4th Street to the east). The larger burying ground below the E. H. Rockwell residence is the former German Reformed Cemetery, today known as Memorial Park
Many congregations simply bought land in the form of lots within Mount Olivet, in an effort to transfer their own graveyard inhabitants. Since 1854, individuals had been removed here and there across town from various churchyards and associated graveyards and brought to the new cemetery by families with the means to do so. Mount Olivet was "the place to be,” even in death. Younger generations purchased extra lots in an effort to remove bodies from elsewhere in an effort to reunite themselves one day with parents, grandparents and other members of extended family in one location.
The Presbyterian Church bought lots 246-251 in Area Q in 1887, just across from the Barbara Fritchie monument. Bodies were brought from the former burial ground—among them William Lenhart, his sister and brother-in-law (the Baylys) and buried on May 10th. I would find their names among those appearing in a newspaper article from the May 18th, 1887 edition of the Frederick Examiner which reported the mass removal from Frederick’s Presbyterian graveyard.
You may recall, that earlier in the story, I gave Area NN as the location of William Lenhart’s grave, not Area Q? In December of 1907, a decision was made to rebury the Presbyterian bodies in Q (hailing from the old graveyard on N. Bentz) in Area NN. The move was only about 30 yards away. So William Lenhart was buried three times, a charming way to be handled in death.
Armed with cemetery diagrams, I went to Area NN to find Lenhart’s grave and subsequent gravestone. All the while, I said to myself, “If this guy doesn’t have a stone, can I actually call this a “Story in Stone?” This was a logical question that I’m sure would make Lenhart and a host of ancient Greek math philosophers smile for sure. Once on the scene, I sadly went to the spot where Lenhart and the Baylys were supposed to be located. I found nothing but unmarked grave here. I double and triple checked the area and maps, but still with no success.
Upon closer examination, I noted two downed-headstones, innocently leaning behind the row in front that Lenhart and the Baylys were supposed to be within. I strained to read a faded name on the top of these two stones, after brushing off debris. I then found the name "John Bayly.” I was once again very excited, well, you know, not as happy as at the birth of my son, but pretty happy. I carefully pulled that stone off the other to expose the second gravestone leaning underneath Bayly’s.
Bingo!!!--it was that of William Lenhart, and I won’t confirm, or deny, that I may have done some sort of crazy math celebratory dance, then and there, in Area NN. I next carefully laid both stones out in the places they were supposed to occupy. I questioned the whereabouts of Mrs. Bayly’s gravestone, as it was visible, yet noted on the old diagram I held. I then thought perhaps she didn’t have one, or shared her husband's.
The next morning, I made a visit to the gravesite to see the stone faces of the Lenhart and Bayly monuments. I had hoped overnight rain showers had helped clean off additional mud and debris. I soon flagged down our assistant grounds foreman, Rob Reeder, who was passing by the Area. I told him a bit of the story and how I found these stones stacked behind other graves. I also asked if he would kindly re-set the Lenhart and Bayly stones in place sometime in the coming months? He said sure, and even told me that he could do this later that same day. I certainly was expecting an answer of March or April.
Excavation work began later that morning, and the original bases of each stone were found, having been placed within a cement trough. This method was responsible for serving as a foundation for the entire row of vintage stones from the former Presbyterian cemetery.
I was called to the scene a short while later as a third stone foundation was found in the spot where Mary Elizabeth Bayly appears on lot maps. This was the base of a missing stone. Another search ensued and her gravestone (somewhat illegible) was found in two pieces, hidden behind the back row of Presbyterian congregation monuments and against the perimeter fence.
The bottom piece of Elizabeth Bayly's stone fit against the foundation base like a "Cinderella shoe." Unfortunately though, erosion had rounded the major break area showing that this marker had been broken for a very long time, perhaps 50-60 years and never repaired. The other stones (Lenhart and Mr. Bayly) must have fallen more recently, but sometime before 2013, at which time the Find-a-Grave contributor posted the additions of William Lenhart and the Baylys to the Find-a-Grave website without photographs.
I’m proud to say that in less than one week, we discovered a famous mathematician buried in Mount Olivet, found out more about his life and times, and set into motion the repair and resetting of his tombstone. This is the essence of our Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund with a 3-part mission to preserve the history, structures and gravestones of our amazing cemetery. Our newly-formed Friends of Mount Olivet membership group will further this mission as volunteers will assist in documenting and assisting in the "resurrection" of fallen and damaged stones, while helping to raise needed project funds and support to benefit our historic monuments and memorials through repair.
It has been said that each of us dies two deaths. The first is when the physical body ceases to exist. The second is when you are forgotten, and disappear from the written and spoken record. I’d say that we successfully brought William Lenhart back to life—a great "addition" to our varied cemetery population. Just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
When you have over 40,000 individuals buried in a cemetery, you are bound to have a few that possessed above average artistic ability over their lifetimes. As some of subjects of these “Stories in Stone” articles have left their legacy in the form of hand-signed letters or documents, interesting houses of their own design, advertising memorabilia, mentions in faded newspapers, and their names on various street signs within the city and county, the artists leave their precious work behind—visions that once encompassed their minds, and in some cases, very souls. To name just a few, representatives of this profession and buried here include Helen Smith, David Yontz, Florence Doub and John Ross Key, grandson of the guy with the most famous memorial in the cemetery—sculpted by another artist of renown by the name of Pompeo Coppini.
Among the earliest painters that can be found in Mount Olivet is John Johnston Markell. He was born on June 17th, 1821, the son of Samuel and Amelia Schley Markell. His great-grandfather, John Thomas Schley (1712-1790), was one of Frederick’s first settlers-having built the town’s first house and serving as schoolmaster and choirmaster for the German Reformed Church. An artist in his own right, Schley was a master of Fraktur, a calligraphic hand of the Latin alphabet and any of several blackletter typefaces derived from this hand.
Samuel Markell (1789-1846) was one of three brothers living in Frederick (John and Jacob) at the time of his wedding in 1815. He and wife Amelia would have five children, our subject John Johnston being the third-born in order. These included: William Warren Markell (1816-1839), Thomas Maulsby Markell (1818-1902), John J., Catherine Markell (1827-1907), and Amelia S. Markell (1833-1910). The Markell family resided in the vicinity of S. Market and W. South streets, one time owning the property on the south side of South between Market and present day Broadway Avenue. Marilyn Veek, my amazing research assistant, scoured old land records and found Samuel living at 203 S. Market Street, a location his wife and children would live out their lives as well.
I’m assuming that young John received his education at the Frederick Academy, where his father had been appointed to teach the Introductory School in 1809. In 1827, Mr. Markell would oversee the Third Department, which I'm guessing would denote secondary education. As for artistic talent, Markell was self-taught as a painter. Perhaps he gained inspiration from miniature portraits of his parents painted at the time of their wedding. A depiction of Amelia Schley Markell dates to March 9th, 1815 and was done by the Swiss itinerant artist David Boudon.
John J. Markell was only 17 years old when he painted his first self-portrait in 1838 in Philadelphia. Even at an early age, he clearly knew he was an artist, and holds, in his hand, several brushes to identify himself as an artist. By 1839, at the age of 18, he was found living in Leesburg, Va., and advertising his services as a “Portraits and Landscape Painter.” Markell had embarked upon the life of an itinerant portrait artist, travelling to various locations and offering his unique services to the local population.
A bit of information regarding this profession can be gleaned from a book entitled: A Most Perfect Resemblance at Moderate Prices: The Miniatures of David Boudon by Nancy E. Richards and published by the University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Inc. The author states that the field of portrait painting in which John J. Markell entered was highly competitive and traditional customers/patrons were those of middle and upper middle class. In the early 19th century of Markell’s era, painters charged $100 for full length portraits, $50 for half-length, and $6 to $20 for miniatures done on ivory, some going on to be encased within a locket. Other services included profile likenesses which could be performed from $6-$8 and silhouettes were a true bargain at just 6 cents each.
John J. Markell’s accomplishments as an artist are especially noteworthy because he only lived to age 23. This, however, also adds to the issue of having only a scarce bit of information on him. Markell left behind at least eleven portraits, seven landscapes, one lithograph and three other paintings to study and enjoy today. For quite some time now, I have been familiar with three vivid local landscape scenes, two depicting major incidents in Frederick’s history. Note: all three works can be found in some form as part of the Heritage Frederick archival collection.
View of Frederick from Prospect Hill
This 1844 landscape piece may look familiar as it was utilized as the cover of an anniversary calendar produced for Frederick’s 250th commemoration back in 1995. John J. Markell painted this scene of the Frederick City skyline looking northeast from a vantage point atop Prospect Hill (and the vicinity of the aptly named Prospect Hall mansion). Rolling farmland and clusters of trees are beautifully portrayed here as storm clouds gather overhead. One can see the picket fence-lined Jefferson Pike starting at the right of the artist’s work and extending into town as it still does today. The one church spire most evident in this work is that of Trinity Chapel of the German Reformed Church. This was home church of Markell’s family going back to the time relatives immigrated here in the mid-1700s.
On March 31st, 1842, a fire broke out near Court House Square on Record Street at the residence of Dr. William Tyler. Burning embers were carried by blustery conditions to other nearby dwellings. One such was the Frederick Academy located directly across the street to the slight northeast of the Tyler residence. Another key building of interest also was affected—the County Courthouse to the southeast. The belfry of the seat of government, which formerly stood on the same footprint as today’s Frederick City Hall, was ignited but thanks to the work of town fire companies and residents participation in bucket brigades, the building was saved. John J. Markell did not let pass the opportunity to paint from memory his eyewitness account of a very scary moment. Apparently this was done in the form of a banner and was in the possession of the Independent Fire Hose Company for many years. Unfortunately, the courthouse would burn to the ground 19 years later, possibly thought to be the work of arsonists with Southern sympathies at the advent of the American Civil War.
Camp Frederick, 1843
A watercolor (that would became a popular lithograph obtained by local residents) by Markell depicts a military encampment that occurred June 6-10th, 1843 on the grounds of the Frederick Barracks, better known to locals as the Hessian Barracks. Today this is the site of the campus of the Maryland School for the Deaf. In the work, Markell skillfully produced images of the varying companies that participated. These included men from Fort McHenry, Hanover, Hagerstown, Sharpsburg and Frederick. It was quite an attraction as throngs of local citizens lined S. Market Street to get a glimpse of the happenings of this major military force assembled. Markell's vantage point for this work would put him at Mount Olivet's front gate, however the cemetery would not come into existence until a decade later.
A more intensive self-portrait of John J. Markell arrived at Heritage Frederick some years ago from California. Former curator and Executive director of the Museum of Frederick County’s history, Heidi Campbell-Shoaf had been eagerly awaiting this treasure to add to the local collection.
In a newsletter article she wrote of the oil portrait:
“Markell painted himself posed with the tools of his trade, an oval artist’s palette and a collection of brushes. He wears the typical male attire for the 1840s, a black frock coat with white shirt and black cravat; a red vest adds a touch of color to his ensemble. His hair, nearly chin-length as was the fashion at the time, flips up ever so slightly at the ends and falls to either side of his left ear.
Stylistically, Markell’s self-portrait is much like his other paintings, confident brush strokes and clear color choice with a minimum of detail in the clothing results in an image that appears somewhat flat to the eye. Though aspects of his art lacks definition, he skillfully executes the 5’oclock shadow shading his chin and cheeks.
The painting we have is signed not once but three times on the back of the canvas as was Markell’s custom to do. Recycling or reusing the canvas is the most likely reason for the multiple signatures. The first reads ‘John J. Markell, Del., Frederick MD, May 10, 1843’ and is crossed out, then ‘Bathing Lady,’ John J. Markell, Del., Frederick MD, August 13, 1843’ is written and also crossed out, finally, “John J. Markell, Del., Frederick MD, February 7, 1844’ remains.”
I was able to peruse the online Art Inventories Catalog database of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museums and found reference listings for many of Markell’s known works. I was interested to see several portraits done of family members including his parents and siblings. (NOTE: I was not able to see any images of these, but hope that I will be contacted in the future by someone who has a Markell piece and finds this story on the internet. I have included a rundown from the database at the very end of this blog.)
John J. Markell would die later that year in 1844 on December 2nd. This apparently occurred in nearby Hagerstown. John was likely buried in the German Reformed Cemetery that once stood at the northwest corner of W. 2nd and Bentz streets. Today this is the site of Memorial Park. He also could have been buried behind Trinity Chapel, as his Schley ancestors were among the founders of the German Reformed congregation here.
Our records show that John J. Markell and his father were re-interred in Mount Olivet in April of 1866. The gravesite is in Area D/Lot 71. The artist’s mother would be laid to rest in this same lot in January, 1870. Siblings including older brother Thomas (d. 1902), who worked as a cashier at a local bank, and sisters Catharine (d. 1907) and Amelia (d. 1910) would join them here too.
The memory of John Johnston Markell is kept alive and well thanks to the fore-mentioned Heritage Frederick. To recognize the work of this young artist, the entity holds an annual contest to encourage local high school students to depict, through art, an aspect of the county’s history. The contest is funded by the John Markell Memorial Art Contest Fund, administered by the Community Foundation of Frederick County, with additional support from the Frederick Art Club. Cash prizes are awarded to three winners.
John Johnston Markell Aug 24, 1838 Oil Painting IAP 7300001
View Near Fishkill Jan 1835 Watercolor IAP 7300002
Men on Horses unknown Watercolor IAP 7300003
Man of the unknown Oil Painting IAP 7300004
Woman of the unknown Oil Painting IAP 7300005
Landscape unknown Oil Painting IAP 7300006
George Markell unknown Oil Painting IAP 7300007
Sophia Schley Markell unknown Oil Painting IAP 7300008
John Johnston Markell Oct 4, 1839 Oil Painting IAP 7300009
Landscape with unknown Oil Painting IAP 73000010
People, Dog and Castle
Landscape with Cows unknown Oil Painting IAP 73000011
St. John Roman 1840 Oil Painting IAP 73000012
John Johnston Markell Feb 7, 1844 Oil Painting IAP 73000013
Jacob Byerly 1843 Oil Painting IAP 73000014
Samuel Markell 1842 Oil Painting IAP 73000015
Mrs. Samuel Markell 1842 Oil Painting IAP 73000016
George Markell unknown Oil Painting IAP 73000018
Sophia Markell unknown Oil Painting IAP 73000019
Jacob Markell February 7, 1839 Oil Painting IAP 73000021
Cupid on a Dolphin January 1, 1839 Oil Painting IAP 73000022
Infant Savior March 1840 Oil Painting IAP 73000023
The Painter’s Sister March 30, 1839 Oil Painting IAP 73000024
Once known by the name as Pumphouse Hill, a central area of Mount Olivet represents the highest elevation in Downtown Frederick. This was the one-time location of an actual pumphouse which fed water to all parts of the cemetery. Today, the pumphouse is long gone, but the area’s central facet is Founder’s Garden, a tribute to the seven church congregations that helped with the founding of this non-denominational burying ground which opened in 1854. A decade earlier, this was a farm field with a commanding view to the northeast that included the Frederick Barracks silhouetted against a large grove of mulberry trees.
Today, at these "lofty heights," the view of the barracks is quite obstructed by buildings, but one can find some of the most prominent families and characters in Frederick history within a small radius. Just a few yards from Founder’s Garden, is the stand-alone grave monument of Dr. William D. Jenks (1791-1877), the man responsible for the previously mentioned Mulberry trees. I have been familiar with this gentleman, at least in name, for over 25 years now since my work on a video production called Frederick Town, a 10-hour documentary featuring a chronological telling of our town’s history from 1745-1995.
Dr. Jenks was one of our earliest dentists. In addition, he, along with a business associate, was responsible for one of Frederick’s strangest, yet short-lived business endeavors, commencing in the late 1830’s.
William Dexter Jenks was born on December 5th, 1791 in Cheshire, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of four children born to Dr. William Jenckes (1757-1794), a private of the American Revolution who fought in a Rhode Island regiment and mother Freelove Brown (Jenckes) (1764-1843). Our Dr. Jenks received his middle name courtesy of his maternal grandmother, Hopestill Dexter (Brown).
It was tough finding any early information on Dr. W. D. Jenks. His parents were natives of Rhode Island and moved their young family to Massachusetts prior to our subject’s birth. Dr. Jenks’ third great-grandfather (Joseph Jenckes, Sr.) emigrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1643 and was involved with organizing and operating the first American iron works in the New England Colonies (1646). In 1953, this iron works was excavated and rebuilt to what is now the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site in Saugus (MA) located about ten miles northeast of downtown Boston. Joseph Jenckes is credited with America’s first machine patent with his design of a waterwheel used at the forge. He would also be inventor of the first fire engine apparatus to appear on the continent in 1654.
Joseph’s son, Joseph Jenckes, Jr., was also a native of Great Britain, having traveled across the Atlantic with his widowed father in the 1640s. An ironworker as well, Joseph Jenks, Jr. is credited as being the founder of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Dr. Jenks’ father (Dr. William Jenckes) died a few months before the boy’s third birthday. His mother would remarry a gentleman named Dr. David Cushing and six additional step-siblings would come from this union. It comes as no surprise that our subject would enter into the medical profession like his father and step-father. I don’t know if they were dentists per se, but am assuming rather general practitioners. I also was not able to find anything on William Dexter Jenks’ professional schooling/training, or anything pertaining to his youth and young adulthood for that matter.
A public family tree is posted on Ancestry.com which infers that Dr. Jenks married a woman named Julia A. Hamilton in the year 1806 in Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio. It goes on to show that the couple had three children: Judith (b. 1837), Freeman (b. 1839), and Harriet Ann (1841-1929). I have found nothing about any of these individuals in searching records galore. I feel somewhat confident in stating that the family historian that posted this either holds the only key, or is completely mistaken as Jenks’ obituary makes no mention of a former wife or children. I'm leaning towards the latter, especially after discovering that Jenks' brother, Stephen B. Jenks, moved to East Hamilton, NY, married a woman named Julia Ann, and had children named Judith and Freeman.
I do know that W. D. Jenks came to Frederick in the late 1820’s, likely 1828, as his obituary dated 1877 says that he had spent nearly half a century in the western Maryland town of ours. I performed hours of additional research at the Maryland Room of C. Burr Artz Library hoping to discover his exact arrival. Sadly, the particular microfilm reel of the Frederick Town Herald newspaper facsimiles dating from summer 1827-mid fall 1830 is missing from the collection, and has been for years.
Although this is conjecture, I feel that Dr. Jenks simply answered the call of local residents here looking for a dentist and moreso, a dental surgeon. In perusing earlier newspapers, I happened to find an advertisement dating from 1824 heralding the services being offered by an early dental physician named D. Asher of Philadelphia. It appears that Dr. Asher was simply an itinerant professional who set up “shop” during his stays at Frederick in the home of a Miss Crables (likely Miss Graybill) on W. Patrick Street.
I saw no other dentist advertisements in local newspapers until I saw an immediate ad for Dr. Jenks on the front page of the first newspaper I scrolled to within the ensuing microfilm reel (after the missing reel).
One year later, famed Frederick diarist Jacob Engelbrecht mentions our New England physician in an entry that dates to October 4th, 1831:
“This day I had a jaw tooth extracted by Doctor W. D. Jenks. It was the 3rd from behind on the lower right jaw. It is the first I had extracted, except when I was a boy and then did it with thread & a sudden jerk. I had the next hind one plugged by Doctor Jenks on the 16 October & one filed.”
I would see several other advertisements in the years to follow.
Of particular interest was a small mention in the January 4th, 1834 edition of the Frederick Town Herald which sheds light on the fact that like the previously mentioned Dr. Asher of Philadelphia, Dr. Jenks apparently took his talents out on the road.
Dr. Jenks continued to serve the Frederick community throughout the 1830s, a decade that saw plenty of town growth and passers through as the National Pike was busier than ever with rushing stage coaches, settlers in large wagons heading westward, and travelers and livestock coming eastward along with valuable trade items and natural resources from the burgeoning Ohio River valley. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had arrived in town in 1831, changing the transportation landscape forever.
Jenks continued to live and run his practice in hotels of town, Capt. Nicholas Turbott’s Tavern at first and later Talbott’s Tavern, operated by Joseph Talbott. This latter hostelry was located at the northeast corner of W. Patrick and Court streets, diagonally across from the Frederick County Courthouse of today. The site had hosted Gen. Lafayette back in 1824 and would gain later fame as the City Hotel before its removal in the early 20th century to make way for the Francis Scott Key Hotel.
In my researching endeavors for this story, I found an article published in 1968 in which the managing staff of the Frederick News-Post became recipients of a booklet containing copies of several letters written by Dr. Jenks to relatives living in East Hamilton, New York, home to Dr. Jenks’ brother Stephen B. Jenks.
In one of these letters, written in 1831, Jenks estimated that Frederick had a population of 5,000. He mentioned that the city had eight churches and that there was “an elegant and expensive iron railing” around the Court House. According to Jenks:
“Frederick had a flourishing Academy for the education of boys, and also a Catholic Seminary and an Orphan Asylum operated under the direction of the Sisters of Charity.”
In describing the citizenry, many of whom made up his customer base, Dr. Jenks reported:
“A stranger on visiting Frederick County would discover little of that urbanity of manners so fascinating in the warm hearted Southerner; they are, however, sober, industrious and frugal; but the want of a system of general education is deeply felt.”
Jenks said that he had never known business so dull, and he regarded the farmers as an unusually fortunate and happy class of people at that time. He went on to write: “The farmer, who is free from debt and can raise his own bread and meat is your most independent man after all, and must be the happiest.”
Perhaps this last shared impression was the impetus for William D. Jenks to make a very interesting move in the late 1830s? In April, 1837, the local newspaper reveled in reporting to its readers:
“Dr. Wm. D. Jenks has planted this Spring in the vicinity of this town, 20,000 white mulberry trees. On the growth of one year, for the purpose of feeding silk worms, and purpose of planting the same number next year.
Jacob Engelbrecht would shed a bit more light on the progress of the enterprising tooth expert with an entry written into his diary on July 2nd, 1838:
“Silk Worms—Messrs. William D. Jenks & Lewis Ramsburgh have a cocoonry at the barracks and their mulberry trees next to the barracks field. I saw them yesterday. Nearly mature they have about worms, this is the first year.”
Of course, the barracks referred to the Frederick “Hessian” Barracks located today on the campus of Maryland School for the Deaf, just a stone’s throw from Mount Olivet’s front gate.
The process, as demonstrated by Dr. Jenks’ actions, begins with the mulberry tree and the silkworm, which is a type of caterpillar. The silkworm prefers a diet of mulberry leaves, and produces a cocoon which, when unraveled, can be spun into silk thread. In case you are curious, silk production is called sericulture.
Historians trace the origins of what has been coined the “Mulberry Mania” or the “Multicaulis Craze” of the 1830s to an 1826 Congressional report. This stated that too much money was being spent on imported silk and that, to remedy this, the feasibility of domestic production should be explored. The result of this investigation was a 220-page illustrated manual published in 1828 by the U.S.Treasury Department.
Following the federal lead, state legislatures took up the issue of silk production. Back in Dr. Jenks’ native state, the House of Representatives of Massachusetts actually passed a resolution in 1831 that a treatise be compiled that would contain “the best information respecting the growth of the mulberry tree, with suitable directions for the culture of silk.” The author of this work, Jonathan H. Cobb of Dedham, MA had experience in sericulture and claimed that he was able to produce $100 worth of silk a week year-round. Cobb’s promise enticed farmers with visions of silk production as the surest way to “acquire so much [income], with so little capital and labor.”
Mr. Cobb also pitched silk production as a means of alleviating rural poverty. Cobb envisioned self-sustaining towns run silk farms, suggesting that “paupers” and students provide the labor. This manual also predicted ample funds would be available for public works and schools “if all the highways in the country towns were ornamented with a row of mulberry trees.” By the end of the decade, thousands of volumes had been printed and this wildly popular work had gone through four editions.
Similar works were published up and down the east coast. In 1836, F.G. Comstock, a Hartford, Connecticut seed dealer, published A Practical Treatise on the Culture of Silk, his own contribution to a growing body of work that sought to promote the planting of mulberries. With the fertile ground of imagined riches thus well prepared, the introduction of a new mulberry tree from China was the seed that allowed a bout of wild agricultural speculation to take root.
Around 1830 a new variety of mulberry was introduced in America from France. It was known as Morus multicaulis, for its habit of sending up multiple sprouts from the base. This variety also had very large leaves and was said to be the secret behind the Chinese success at silk production.
Nurseryman in several northeastern states began to grow the trees in great quantities. At the height of the bubble, young mulberry trees sold for up to $5 each, while the going rate for trees of other species was thirty to fifty cents apiece. Mulberries are fast growing, as well as easily cloned from both softwood and hardwood cuttings, so a skilled propagator was able to realize great profits.
The dizzying heights which the speculation reached caused an insatiable demand for the multicaulis mulberry. In hindsight, it is clear that that market speculation drove the price of the mulberry trees well beyond the value of any silk which might be produced from the leaves. Indeed, none of the accounts from the period tell of any but theoretical profit made from silk farming, but instead of equal parts lucky and wily nurseryman who were able to capitalize on the craze.
Dr. Jenks and Mr. Ramsburg also had the State of Maryland behind them as can be seen by proceedings in the Maryland General Assembly session of 1840. In January, the silkworm entrepreneurs received the permission necessary to utilize the Hessian Barracks for their endeavor.
John Thomas Scharf wrote in his History of Western Maryland (published in 1882):
“From 1840 and for several years afterwards a portion of the Barracks (which belonged to the State) were used by special permission of the Legislature by Messrs. Jenks & Ramsburg as a cocoonery. They had a white mulberry orchard, consisting of ten acres, in an adjoining lot. The State granted them the use of the Barracks buildings to test the experiment of silk-culture, then creating so much discussion throughout the country. W. D. Jenks began operations and planted his trees in 1837. Feb. 28, 1840, the reels were put up. During the year sewing silk was made equal to that of foreign manufacture. After the flyer was in operation, gold-stripe vesting was manufactured in considerable quantities.
With Jenks and Ramsburg leasing the Barracks, silk worms were being raised on the second floor. It has been said that results for this local endeavor were not commercially promising, although enough silk was produced in 1843 that a pair of silk stockings was woven by Buck, a prominent stocking weaver based on Patrick street. Supposedly, the following year featured silk being sent to the penitentiary, where a vest was woven, but this was the peak of the silk industry in Frederick County.
Another resident of town wrote on the subject of the Frederick cocoonery, present in her youth. This was Catherine Susanna Thomas Markell (1828-1900) who wrote an unpublished manuscript entitled "Short Stories of Life in Frederick in the 1830s." Mrs. Markell wrote in her memoir:
"An orchard of thrifty white mulberry trees, covering ten acres, flourished on the sunny eastern slope. The greatest interest was manifested by citizens of all classes and for us children, the whole procedure possessed an inexpressable fascination. Imagination exhausted itself in varied speculations as to what new phase would be next developed. With unbounded admiration, we regarded the huge hampers of glistening, white, yellow and orange-colored cocoons, and when, after undergoing a heating process for the destruction of the grub, interminable lengths of soft gossamer fibre were wound smoothly off the great reels or flyers, our delight defied control.
In wonderment akin to awe, we watched the mysterious advent of the butterflies and the dainty things emerged, one after another, from their pretty oval prisons and hovered o'er the mulberry foliage strewn about on long plank tables. Upon these leaves the tiny eggs were deposited and upon them also the larvae subsequently fed. The moth, in its exit from the sheath, severed many strands of its fibre, thus rendering the cocoon in a measure worthless for reeling, though an uneven, lustre-less thread, known as "spun-silk" was often fabricated from these "cut" cocoons and used for knitting purposes."
Like all bubbles, the "Mulberry Mania" of the 1830s grew and grew until it popped. Precipitating events for the rapid deflation of the industry nationally can be blamed on a blight which wreaked havoc on newly-planted mulberry orchards in 1839, along with a particularly hard winter in 1844, to which many surviving trees succumbed. These two calamities offered a moment of clarity to farmers who had been swept up in the craze. This helped prove the point that silk production was not viable on a large scale in America. Too many factors, from climate, to the necessary labor and the knowledge of the production process were hurdles too large to surmount. By the time the market crashed, nurseries could not even sell a bundle of a hundred mulberry trees for a dollar.
The operation at the barracks likely ceased by 1843, opening the opportunity for the grounds to be used easily with the large military encampment under Gen. Scott. Luckily, Dr. Jenks had a legitimate, and proven, career to fall back on. He continued to operate on teeth and create smiles here in Frederick. It’s just a shame he didn’t have the foresight to see the possibility of silk dental floss, embodied today by the product named Dental Lace.
Dr. Jenks was a member of the Columbia (Masonic) Lodge #58, and served as a Methodist church trustee although he identified more closely with the Unitarian Universalist religion. He also busied himself with politics. In fact, Jenks’ obituary shares that he was among the small minority who supported (and voted for) Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860. He personally cast one of 2,294 votes for the future “Great Emancipator.” Many are surprised to learn that Lincoln only received 2.48% of the popular vote statewide, finishing last behind three other candidates: John Breckinridge (42,482 votes), John Bell (41,760 votes), and Stephen Douglas (5,966).
Well, Dr. Jenks’ support did not go unnoticed as he was aptly rewarded after President Lincoln took office. This came in the form of an appointment as Frederick’s new Post Master.
Dr. Jenks would conduct this job with great pride until having to step down for health reasons in 1865. I presume the assassination of his political icon that same year didn’t help matters either.
Two years later, health setbacks forced a retirement from the dental business.
Dr. Jenks soldiered on, living with a gentleman named Charles Lewis and family. According to the family tree I saw on Ancestry.com, Mr. Lewis would be Jenks' son-in-law, having married supposed daughter Harriet A. Jenks (b. 1842). I did find that Lewis was a merchant who owned a dry goods store on W. Patrick Street, and the family lived on the premises as this was Dr. Jenks' last home. The Lewis family would eventually move to Clarendon, TX in the late 1880s and be buried there. Charles would be appointed a Post Master of Clarendon years later, so I'm guessing the connection could be more along "postal" lines rather than familial. I'm thinking Jenks took Charles under his wing as a mentor of sorts. I still remain skeptical on this issue of Jenks being married with children, even though Charles and Harriet Lewis would name their first-born son William Jenks Lewis (1871-1960).
Dr. Jenks would die on May 1st, 1877 at the age of 85. I’d really like to think that the good doctor breathed his last, with head lying comfortably on a silk-upholstered pillow from his earlier venture begun “two score” earlier.
The former New Englander would be buried in Mount Olivet’s Area F/Lot 5. He had bought two adjoining plots when the cemetery was created in the early 1850s. With no family buried in the vicinity, his monument is surrounded by a nice green-space. It almost begs to ask a final, and befitting, question: “Is there room to plant a few mulberry trees?”
One of the hottest movies in theaters currently (at the time of this writing) is simply entitled 1917. We will continue to hear about this critically acclaimed work in coming months as it has already garnered Academy Award® consideration. The feature is an epic war film directed, co-written and produced by Sam Mendes and based in part on an account told to Mendes by his paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes, a veteran of World War I. The movie chronicles the story of two young British soldiers during the war who are given a mission to deliver a message that warns of a suspected ambush during a skirmish, soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich in 1917.
The grave importance of message carrying in warfare cannot be understated. The common name applied to these brave souls was that of a “runner,” a soldier responsible for passing on messages between fronts during war. In the era before electronic communication innovations in warfare, battlefield administrators needed to share intelligence among one another in highly stressful, chaotic and rapidly changing situations. It was certainly a matter of life and death, as the lives of countless soldiers were at stake based on the safe transport of either questions or answers by the runner. Things could go horribly wrong with a lack of communication, a mistake, or an incorrect presumption made without the aid of military intelligence or observation.
As can be easily imagined, this was a very dangerous job. The movie will certainly demonstrate this fact if you don’t believe me. World War I was dominated by trench warfare. With such, there was a tremendous need for runners. Passing messages between the trenches was not possible without climbing up to ground level and running towards the other trench. While on the ground, the soldier was hampered by weather conditions. The track was not ideal and full of obstacles, oftentimes forcing the soldier to sprint through smoke and chemical-weapon gasses, while on a muddy, or artillery riddled, track. Add to this the fact that runners were completely exposed to enemy sharpshooters, and it was commonplace for participants to die before reaching their destination. Officers could not be sure that a message had reached its recipient unless the runner managed to return.
Last year was the anniversary of the end of the Great War, which prompted me to write stories on some of Mount Olivet Cemetery’s 500+ veterans of that conflict alone who are buried here. Many know that we have Charlotte Berry Winters here, who at the time of her death at age 109, was the last female veteran of the war to pass. We also have 13 soldiers who died during the war in active service. Some died in combat, and others due to the terrible Spanish Flu pandemic.
One specific Frederick World War I vet, (today buried in our midst here in the cemetery) survived combat and the flu to return to the States and live a productive life. He was a bugler in the US Army’s Company A of the 115th Infantry Regiment, part of the famed 29th Division. Company A, started right here in Frederick. This gentleman’s name was William Theodore Kreh, Sr.—and he was a runner.
Known by the nickname of “Whitey,” William Theodore Kreh Sr. was born on July 21st, 1897 in Frederick, the son of Theodore Christian Kreh and Ada Mae Stull. The family had 11 children and Mr. Kreh was an accomplished stone mason. The family lived at 239 W. 5th Street on Frederick’s south side at the time of William T.’s enlistment into service at the age of 20.
He had joined the National Guard and was assigned to the 115th Regiment and Frederick’s Company A was based here in Frederick at the Armory located at the corner of Bentz and W. Second streets. As a matter of fact, the armory had been built in 1913, the third of a series of similar armories built for the Maryland National Guard in the early 20th century. Up until his time of deployment, he worked as a brushmaker at the Ox Fibre Brush Company.
The following passage comes from the Regimental History of the 115th and paints a picture of what William T. Kreh experienced during his military service.
Under command of Major General Charles G. Norton, the division was sent to Camp McClellan, near Anniston, Alabama, in August 1917. It spent ten months there in training before being shipped to France. On arrival at the front the division was given responsibility for a "quiet" sector on the German-Swiss border; its mission was to control the Belfort Gap. After two months in that position, the Blue and Gray division was sent north on September 22, 1918, to take part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The men of the division went "over the top" for the first time on October 8. In twenty-one consecutive days in the front line trenches they advanced six miles at a cost of 4,781 casualties, including 1,053 killed or died of wounds. The 29th sector was south of the Heights of the Meuse. The mission was to storm those heights attacking the entrenched positions of the Hindenberg Line with its pillboxes and machine gun nests. The division helped to take the Consenvoye Heights and the Borne de Cornouilles (Corned Willy Hill). On November 11, when the Armistice was declared, the 29th division was marching back to the line to join the Second (U.S.) Army's drive against the forts at Metz.
William T. Kreh had recently married Amy Ford before making the trek to Alabama. Musical talents earned him a prestigious job as Company A’s bugler. This would put him in close proximity to the command element throughout the war.
Like the runner, bugler was a hazardous position in any infantry unit—and often times one in the same. In addition to the standard Reveille and Taps calls, the bugler blurted out command signals for the troops during action. To do so required him to stand tall and play the instrument with great force so all could hear over the rattling of machine guns and the explosions of artillery shells. In doing this, he represented a perfect target for the enemy. Cutting off lines of communication in war was an essential objective for the enemy, and I’m sure William T. Kreh was well aware of this fact.
On arrival at the front, the division was given responsibility for a "quiet" sector on the German-Swiss border with its mission to control the Belfort Gap.
After two months in that position, the Blue and Gray Division was sent north to France on September 22nd, 1918, to relieve the soldiers on the frontlines northwest of Verdun taking part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The men of the division went "over the top" (of the trenches) for the first time on October 8th. In twenty-one consecutive days in the frontline trenches they advanced six miles at a cost of 4,781 casualties, including 1,053 killed or died of wounds. The 29th sector was south of the Heights of the Meuse.
Up until the 8th of October, William T. Kreh and his colleagues of the 29th had been encamped in the Valley of the Meuse, waiting for orders to attack. Mustard gas created depression among the troops. Of all the death and destruction, the area of Molleville Farm would prove the bloodiest and fiercest. The locale was a key position in the German defenses during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The farm was attacked on October 8th, by the 29th, who finally took the woods around the farm over a week later on October 16th at a cost of 3,936 casualties.
Several Frederick doughboys fought in a fierce and decisive battle, as this action would become a deciding turning point in World War I. Going across this land, the soldiers not only fought the Germans but also the horrible conditions of the trenches located so close that one could hear their enemies talking to each other. Other inhabitants of the trenches were rats and vermin.
William T. Kreh would be given an assignment at the Molleville Farm, one that would receive great praise from a fellow Fredericktonian, Major D. John Markey (1872-1963), commander of the 112th Machine Gun Battalion of the 1st Maryland Infantry Regiment. He eventually took command of the 115th Regiment, and eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general, and served on the General Staff of the Army. In a letter written in January, 1919, Major Markey, an original founder of Frederick’s Company A, was quick to heap praise on the former unit he helped create. The letter was published in the February 21st, 1919 edition of the Frederick News:
“Company A, 115th and the community can well be proud of the record they have made. One of their members, “Whitey” Kreh, a bugler of the company carried a message for me at the battle of Molleville Farm, an important message from the frontlines back to headquarters through an unusually heavy barrage.”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find much more on Kreh’s heroics at Molleville Farm on October 15th, however his action under fire would not go unnoticed by the top brass as they say. On November 11th, when the Armistice was declared, the 29th Division was marching back to the line to join the Second (U.S.) Army's drive against the forts at Metz. The Armistice put an end to the war—the Allies were victorious. Kreh and the men of Company A would return home that spring, and Kreh officially wrapped up his service with the 115th on May 24th, 1919, receiving his honorable discharge.
William T. Kreh would receive the AEF Citation for Gallantry in Action for his role in delivering important messages through an intense bombardment. This award is more commonly referred to as the Silver Star. His citation, dated June 3, 1919, reads as follows:
“By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved July 9, 1918 (Bul. No. 43, W.D., 1918), Bugler William T. Kreh (ASN: 1283806), United States Army, is cited by the Commanding General, American Expeditionary Forces, for gallantry in action and a silver star may be placed upon the ribbon of the Victory Medals awarded him. Bugler Kreh distinguished himself by gallantry in action while serving with Company A, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in action in the Verdun Sector, France, 15 October 1918, in delivering important messages through an intense bombardment.
In doing some more research, I found that the bugler’s mission in World War I would be replaced in the coming years by more advanced communication equipment and procedures.
Once back home in Frederick, William T. Kreh took up residence with wife Amy at 110 W. 5th Street. They would have two sons: Robert and William T. Kreh, Jr. By 1930, the Kreh family can be found living at 110 McMurray Street and William was still employed as a machinist and Ox Fibre. I saw several articles that show Kreh’s involvement in the local American Legion Post and was a charter member of Veterans of Foreign Wars, John R. Webb Post, No. 3285. In addition, it seemed commonplace for him to be regularly given the honor of performing as bugler for military holiday events and on veteran funeral details here at Mount Olivet and other local churches.
By the year 1941, America was heading into a Second World War. William T. Kreh, Sr. was involved in the war effort again, this time as an employee working at the Washington Navy Yard within the Personnel Department.
His obituary says that he was actively involved in local athletics, primarily officiating games—a perfect hobby for a former bugler. He even served as a former president of the National Baseball Umpires Association. Kreh became ill in the late 1940’s and would slowly become debilitated by this malady. He spent his final months at the Newton D. Baker Veterans Hospital in Martinsburg, WV, dying of a heart attack on November 30th, 1956. His death and obituary made the front page of the local paper.
William T. Kreh is buried in Mount Olivet’s Area P/Lot 198. His wife Amy would pass in 1968. Other family members reside here too.
It's only fair to ponder the question: "Was Taps played at the former runner's funeral? And if so, who played the bugle?" ........................................................................It didn't take long to answer that question.