Oh Thanksgiving, now in the rear view mirror for this year. This holiday certainly represents so many different things to different people: gathering with family and friends, giving thanks, hunting, eating indulgence, football, fishing and, of course, shopping with those captivated with “Black Friday.” For one couple interred here in Mount Olivet, Thanksgiving represented even something more than the reasons given above. And it’s a safe bet that trout was served alongside turkey as well.
A century ago, Frank L. Bentz (Sr.) and Ida May Hagan were married on Thanksgiving Day, 1916. This surely made for terrific wedding anniversary dinners for the next 38 years—leading up to Mr. Bentz’ death in 1955. Both left an impact on the Frederick and Washington county communities, especially on children.
Frank Lawrence Bentz Sr. was born in Frederick on March 1, 1879. In 1911, he removed to nearby Hagerstown and opened a show store with partner John Dunn. After 20 years in business, Bentz retired from the Bentz & Dunn footwear firm in 1932. He would embark on a new career that fast became the love of his life, outside of wife Ida May, of course. This was conservation and fishing.
Bentz worked as the popular and highly respected chief clerk of the Maryland Conservation Commission and later became the public relations director for the Maryland Game and Inland Fish Commission. In the latter capacity, he supervised much of the stocking of streams and conservation policies of the commission. At the time of his death, Frank Bentz was said “to have done more than any other Marylander to provide the finest sport for those followers of Izaak Walton.”
After his retirement from his commission post on March 1, 1949 (his sixtieth birthday), Bentz gave much of his time to the Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock, an organization of trout fishing enthusiasts, devoted to teaching youngsters about fishing, conservation of natural resources and, most importantly, good sportsmanship. Bentz was a charter member of the club founded in 1940, along with fishing legend Joe Brooks, Jr. (known as the father of modern fly-fishing”) and J. Hammond Brown (outdoors columnist/editor for the Baltimore Sun and Frederick News-Post).
Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Bentz was the first Boy Scout master in Washington County, an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, founder of the Izaak Walton League, one of the first 40 members of the National Guard’s Company A (Frederick), founder of the Conococheague Sportsmen Club and a member of the First Hose Fire Company (Hagerstown).
Frank L. Bentz died on June 24, 1955. His legacy lives on in Thurmont, where a body of water, filled with trout, bears his name. This small pond off Maryland Route 77 (east of Catoctin Mountain Park), was created in 1908 when Big Hunting Creek was dammed to power electric generators for Thurmont. In 1955, it was dedicated to the man responsible for the original restoration of the pond, and given the name of the Frank Bentz Memorial Lake. also referred to as Frank Bentz Pond.
As for Mrs. Bentz, she was also a native of Frederick, born December 29, 1882. She was a former secretary at Frederick’s Lowenstein and Wertheimer and served as corresponding secretary to the Barbara Fritchie memorial association. She prepared the sketch of the monument and the draft of the plaque which were used for the Barbara Fritchie Monument at the relocated grave dedicated in 1914 here at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
She was active in the Red Cross and helped organize a Hagerstown public school lunch program designed to feed children whose families could not afford to do so. It is believed that this was the first program of its kind in the country. Ida May Hagan Bentz passed on May 29, 1971 at the age of 89.
I find it ironic that a few weeks back, a visitor to the cemetery inquired about gravestones having fish on them. The Bentz’ stone doesn’t, but perhaps it should.
NOTE: The Bentz's are buried in Area L (Lot 224). If you have any photos of Mr. or Mrs. Bentz to add to this story, please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org