Many people declare Thanksgiving as their favorite holiday. I know this isn’t the case with everyone, as there are plenty of anxious people hoping to slug through another holiday with relatives “not of their choosing.” But for most of us, we find ourselves very fortunate to be surrounded by people that mean a great deal…so much so, we can easily declare that we are sincerely thankful for them. And that’s what Thanksgiving is all about, not to mention sharing, or sampling, the finest meal of the year.
When you look up the meaning of family in a dictionary, the definition is usually something along the lines of “a social group consisting of parents and children – usually living in the same household.’’ That’s okay, but family can be extended to more than just parents, siblings, and children. Thanksgiving can include aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, and any individual friend or acquaintance that you would deem closeness to. Not to get overly dramatic or “sing-songy”, but let’s just say our family consists of people we love to know, and those we know to love—simply put, people we are thankful for.
Since you can’t accommodate, or invite, everyone you care about to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, its meaningful to at least have a sample of that caliber of friends/family. To revisit the original premise, I pity the poor folks that have to spend this awesome holiday, and like meal, with people with whom their lives would be perfectly complete without.
Many people interred in our cemetery will surely be missed at the Thanksgiving table once again this year. Spouses, parents, siblings, children, grandparents—the list is vast. In addition, I sense that there are so many people here that would make excellent dinner guests and conversationalists, irregardless of whether they are relatives or not. That said, I’m reminded once again of the fact that there are plenty of amazing people here that I wish I had the chance to meet.
On this particular Thanksgiving, one individual seems to stand out, prompting me to compile this particular “Story in Stone” article. A descendant of hers helped to “jump start” my interest a few years back. She shared the fact that her ancestor had given the world a very special keepsake of her life—one that speaks volumes of her love and admiration of family. Her name was Hester Ann Posey.
A few years back, a nice lady named Donna Bertrand stopped in my office one day, as so many people do, week in and week out. She was performing research on her “family tree” and asked if I could help her find a few grave sites in the cemetery. One of these locations was that of was Hester Ann Posey, Donna’s GGGG spinster aunt who was born a few days after Christmas in the year 1822.
Donna was proud of the fact that she had come across this particular family heirloom which she didn’t know existed at the outset. It was almost as if this family became frozen in time. It was a truly unique, primary resource which showed all members of Hester’s family and their respective birth dates. No, this wasn’t a family bible, but something a bit more artistic and creative—as Hester had embroidered this information as part of a sampler, completed in 1837 when Hester was 15 years of age.
Donna, did not have the sampler on hand, but shared an image with me. The original sampler is part of the priceless collection of National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution just down the road in Washington, DC.
You will likely notice that Hester utilized an archaic variant of letter “s,” in her handiwork. This actually looks like a lowercase letter “f,” and was often found in Colonial times and referred to as the long, medial or descending “s.” Here is some information that the Smithsonian has compiled on Hester’s vintage piece within their extensive collection:
Below family record, pyramidal monument (memorial to deceased sister) flanked by rosebushes and butterflies, under weeping willow tree, on ground-line worked in "crinkled" silk. To left of monument, verse in square outline, all lettering black. Border of geometric flowering vine on all four sides. Silk embroidery thread on linen ground.
STITCHES: cross, crosslet, satin, stem.
THREAD COUNT: warp 28, weft 31/in.
"A Family Reccord
Nathaniel and Margaret Posey
The Parent's of those Children
Sophia Maria Posey born Oct 8th 1813
Fredrick Jerome Posey born Feb 28 1815
Margaret Posey born Dec 19th 1816
John Pitts Posey born Oct 12 1818
Mary Jane Posey born Dec 3d 1820
Hester Ann Posey born Dec 28 1822
Nathaniel Boliver Posey born April 11 1827
Henry Clay Posey born Aug 14 1829"
To left of monument in square:
"Weep not my frien
ds. As you pass by.
as you are now. so
once Was I. as I
am now. So you
must be. prepare
to meet me in
Embroidered on the monument are the following words:
to The -
Who died Feb 2
A.D. 1824 aged 8 YS
1 Month and 14 days”
"Hester Ann Posey’s Sampler, Finished in the 15th
year of her age. A.D. 1837."
I set out to find some interesting happenings representing the time Hester worked on her beautiful silk, embroidered sampler. On the local level, our town diarist Jacob Engelbrecht had just turned 40 years-old, and seemed to be consumed with the usual: politics, townspeople dying and the fall’s sauerkraut yield.
Nationally, Martin Van Buren took over the White House from Andrew Jackson to become our 8th US president. In fact, he was sworn into office by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a former Frederick resident serving in his second year of office—Roger Brooke Taney.
Meanwhile overseas, Queen Victoria ascended to the throne of England starting a new era of enlightenment and Louis Daguerre developed his first daguerreotype. Back home, Chicago and Houston are granted city charters, and a guy named john Greenleaf Whittier has his first book of poetry published, entitled: Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States. He would put Frederick on the map just over 25 years later with a poem written about a Frederick woman who dared to wave the “Stars & Stripes” in the face of Gen. Stonewall Jackson and his Confederate Army—well allegedly. The famed Barbara Fritchie’s gravesite is only a couple hundred yards away from Hester’s final resting place here at Mount Olivet.
Hester Ann Posey was born in Baltimore, the daughter of Nathaniel Posey and wife Margaret Kemp, the latter hailing from the Rocky Springs area just north of Frederick. Margaret’s father was Rev. John Peter Kemp who is considered a founding member of the United Brethren in Christ Church. Her childhood home was considered the “Bethlehem” of the religion. We covered a great deal about the Kemp family in a recent story about Dr. William Waters. Many Kemps can be found in Mount Olivet, and several more inhabit the ancestral grounds, buried within the Rocky Springs Cemetery.
Nathaniel Peter Posey is said to have hailed from Alexandria, Virginia, born around 1790. Here’s where Donna had hit a genealogical brick wall. A great deal of Poseys lived in the Charles County area dating back to Maryland’s founding. It’s not certain if Nathaniel came from this family or an early “pocket full of Poseys” located in North Carolina. Information was scarce as he died on March 14th, 1840 at the age of 52 and is buried in Baltimore’s venerable Mount Olivet Cemetery.
I found references to Nathaniel getting married in Frederick in October, 1812 and less than two years later, serving as a first lieutenant in a militia company from Hagerstown in the war of 1812. Apparently, Nathaniel had set up shop as a hatter in Washington County’s largest town. By 1820, Posey had his young family living in Baltimore’s 4th Ward. A later address for the family can be found within Charm City’s 12th Ward, on the corner of Franklin and Cove streets. In the last years of his life, I found Mr. Posey working as a bailiff/police officer for the 12th Ward, an elected position he won successfully numerous times.
Even though it wasn’t yet declared a national holiday until the 1860’s, imagine Thanksgiving with the Posey family from Hester’s perspective. I put a little research into each member of Hester’s immediate family—the ten captured for posterity on the sampler’s face. Through the textile, Hester tells us that sister Margaret has died at the age of eight in early 1824. She is buried in the same grave lot as her father in Baltimore’s Mount Olivet, not that of Frederick. I decided to "carve up" the sampler and explore what became of the individual family members.
Oldest sister Sophia Maria Posey (b. 1813) married in 1832 a gentleman named Bernard Armand Courtois, a French émigré from Paris who had come to Baltimore. Apparently, Sophia was an accomplished dressmaker, and city directory listings seem to echo this fact. Her husband was a distiller, perhaps this was a contributing factor to his premature death in 1843.
Frederick Jerome Posey (1815-1881) married a Baltimore girl named Elizabeth McCardell and relocated back to Hagerstown in 1836 where he worked as a silversmith, jeweler, watch and clock-maker. Later in life he served as a director of Hagerstown Bank and also was a director of the Hagerstown Gas Company.
John Pitts Posey (1818-1894) was mentioned in the Sun newspaper of June 12, 1846 as a member of the Chesapeake Rifleman of Baltimore, a volunteer militia group that headed west to do battle with Mexican forces in the Mexican-American War. He made it back okay and continued militia work and “putting out fires” with local fire companies in Baltimore. He married a lady named Margaret Eugenia Martin, and together farmed and operated a popular boarding house on Lake Roland named “Brightside.”
Mary Jane Posey (1820-1896) married a carpenter by the name of John Foreman. She can be found living in Baltimore as a widow in the 1880’s up through her death in 1896. She and John are buried in Baltimore’s Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Nathaniel Bolivar Posey (1827-1912) would change the order of his name to Bolivar Nathaniel. Like his brother Frederick, B. N. would marry in Washington County (Adaline Darlymple) and live in Hagerstown. However, he would head to York, Pennsylvania and then back to Baltimore and found living on St. Paul Place during the American Civil War, employed by the railroad. Around 1880, he headed back north of the Mason-Dixon Line and would live the rest of his life in Carlisle, then Pittsburgh, working as a railroad agent, and as a hotel clerk.
Henry Clay Posey (1829-1856) also took up a profession with the railroad. Henry was a transportation and freight agent for the B&O in Frederick for five years beginning in 1851. He lived on W. 3rd Street and is listed among the vendors involved with the building of the All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church on W. Church Street during that period. Sadly, he died at the age of 26 in early December, 1856.
So what became of Hester? Well, she lived the great balance of her life right here in downtown Frederick. I hypothesize that the family came to Frederick after Nathaniel’s death sometime in the 1840’s. Hester, her mother Margaret, and widowed older sister, Sophia, appear here in the 1850 US Census. As a matter of fact, they seem to have had charge in running the All Saints’ Episcopal Free School on E. Church Street on the SE corner at Middle Alley. This location is across the alley from the former mansion of Dr. John Baltzell, later to be owned by George B. Hanson. This entity, operated by the local Protestant Episcopal congregation, had been in existence since 1833, and was also known as the School of Industry. Here at this free school for orphaned girls, students were taught to read, write and sew.
A few years later in 1837, the entity would take the moniker of All Saints’ Orphanage after the All Saints’ Sewing Circle applied to the state legislature to incorporate an Orphans’ Home. In 1839, a new building was erected for meeting the purpose. Decades later, the Loats Orphanage Asylum would be centered in the mansion structure across the alley, after being purchased in 1871 by one of Mount Olivet’s founders, Mr. John B. Loats. Seventy-eight years later, this entity would end its run as an orphanage and become the new home for the Historical Society of Frederick County, (better known today as Heritage Frederick) who would leave their original headquarters at the Stephen Steiner house at the corner of W. Patrick and Jefferson streets.
Back to the 1850 census, at 25 years of age, Hester Posey is listed as a teacher at the Orphanage, as is sister, Sophia. Sophia’s two children (Clementine and Theodore) are among the 12 orphans listed by the enumerator at this time.
Margaret Posey, Hester’s mother, would die the following January of 1851. She was not brought back to Baltimore to be buried with her husband. Instead, she was laid to rest somewhere in Frederick (likely All Saints' Graveyard along Carroll Creek or even the Rocky Springs burial ground of the Kemps). Our cemetery records show that she would be re-interred here in 1857. This came as a consequence of Henry Clay Posey’s death in 1856. Mother and son are buried together under one monument in Area E/Lot 129.
An interesting advertisement appears in the Frederick Examiner newspaper throughout the month of November, 1857. Hester Posey put out a call for young ladies interested in entering the dress and cloak-making business, and soon commenced with her small manufactory. This is said to have been located near N. Market and 4th streets. Another great vintage newspaper find comes in 1860, as Hester’s name is listed among a “who’s who” list of prominent townspeople giving testimonial for a new sewing machine line carried by George Tyler at his store on Market Street. I find it interesting that the advertisement uses the line “every kind of Family Sewing.” Hester’s talents must have been known near and far for such a mention in print.
Sophia (Posey) Courtois went back to Baltimore and would reside with her grown children. Hester seems to continue teaching in the employ of the orphanage for another decade or so until 1880, where she is living alone and listed in the census as a housekeeper. It suddenly seems like a lonely existence for Hester, now in her late 50’s. This woman was surrounded by family back in 1837 as embodied and embroidered on her sampler. Now she was truly an orphan herself, or so it seems.
Thanksgiving was now an official holiday thanks to Abraham Lincoln, but gone were her parents and half of her siblings. The other half were quite spread out. She had never married, and had no children of her own. I hope that Hester met up with siblings or was “rich” with friends, but one never knows.
Without a census from 1890, I’m not sure of Hester’s home for a decade. However, I know exactly where she likely spent Thanksgiving of 1892. This is due to the fact that her whereabouts are on “Record,” both literally and figuratively. In October 1892, Hester Ann Posey followed Ms. Margaret M. Delaplaine (widow of George Washington Delaplaine) as the first two inhabitants of the newly formed Record Street Home for the Aged. This was located at 115 Record Street adjacent the Frederick County Courthouse, where Roger Brooke Taney and brother in law Francis Scott Key began their illustrious law careers roughly two decades before Hester’s 1822 birth.
The Record Street Home was very selective as residents had to be:
“persons of respectable parentage and good character, who in advanced age, by reason of the death of their natural protectors, by loss of fortune, by physical infirmity, or other inability to care for themselves, are unprovided with the means of obtaining the comfort and security so necessary for the repose of mind and body which should ever attend the declining years of life.”
The handsome, three-story, brick, Greek Revival house would be “home” for Hester Ann Posey over the next 25 years. I’m sure she made it even “homier” for those ladies who eventually took up residence. Hester likely completed plenty more works of embroidery, and enjoyed many more Thanksgivings in the company of her newfound family.
Hester died at the age of 93 on November 7th, 1916. News of her passing made the front page, stating that Frederick City’s oldest female resident was gone. The Baltimore Sun also alerted readers of the noble seamstress' death. This was just a few weeks shy of another Thanksgiving. I’m sure she was with the other ladies in spirit at the Record Street Home that proceeding holiday, and the several that followed. I hope she is with you as well this Thanksgiving.
What I admire the most about Hester Ann Posey is her quiet work as a documentarian, through her teachings, stories and stitching needle, and that makes us kindred spirits. I’d like to conclude with a heartfelt and happy holiday wish to you and yours—thanks for your continued support of Mount Olivet’s historic preservation pursuits.