Apples have been with us all our lives, and have always held a scholarly and "bookish" air about them. As a matter of fact, many of us learned about an affiliation with apples in the most famous "books" of all, one that goes back to ancient times—I’ll have you recall a guy named Adam and a gal named Eve. The unnamed fruit of Eden eventually became thought of as an apple. Perhaps this was influenced by the story from Greek mythology of the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides. Whatever the case, the apple became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, and the fall of man and sin.
Rather than the latter associations mentioned here, I’d like to dwell on the positive connotations of apples, like the objects adorning the desks of beloved teachers, or an orchard-derived “Kryptonite” to thwart having to see doctors. While we are at it, we can also call attention to the modern-day technology company that has been revolutionizing the computing world for over four decades now. Oh, and who can forget apple dumplings, a country culinary delight for all ages.
Here in Frederick, the surname of Apple has certainly upheld the connection to knowledge and learning. Dr. Joseph Henry Apple, Jr. (1865-1948) came to Frederick from his native Pennsylvania and became the first president of the Woman’s College of Frederick. His outstanding leadership talents grew the school in countless ways. It eventually became known as Hood College, and moved its campus from Winchester Hall in downtown Frederick to its present site on Rosemont Avenue.
Dr. Apple arrived here in town in the summer of 1893, with his wife, Mary Evans (Rankin) Apple. The couple had wed just months before in December of 1892, and it has been said that it was Mary who influenced her husband to make the move to Frederick. Mary grew up in Clarion, PA in the western part of the state and enjoyed the distinction of being the first Clarion pupil to graduate from the Pennsylvania State Normal School, in the class of 1889. Soon afterward Mary’s ambition to become a teacher led her to continue her studies at the Cook County Normal, Chicago, IL., from which she graduated in 1890. For one year after graduation she taught for a public school in suburban Chicago with marked success Mary then came home to become a faculty member of the Clarion State Normal School.
As Dr. Apple held the title of President and Principal, Mary would serve as Vice President and taught classes. Their first school year commenced that fall of 1893. By the time of the Christmas holidays to celebrate, Mary was pregnant with the couple’s first child. The baby would arrive less than a week before Christmas on December 19th, 1893. She would be named Miriam Rankin Apple.
Miriam was given a sister named Charlotte in August of 1895. The girls would spend their childhoods within the confines of Winchester Hall, home of the Frederick Woman's College.
Unfortunately, Miriam’s mother was not blessed with perfect health throughout her young life. Shortly after Charlotte’s birth, or possibly as a result, evidence of tubercular trouble starting showing itself in autumn of 1895. She was forced to abandon her duties with the Woman’s College at the advice of her physician who recommended a change of climate. Accompanied by her sister, Mrs. Apple spent the winter of 1896 in North Carolina and returned north in the spring to spend the remainder of her days with her parents and friends in Clarion and at her home in Frederick.
Thanksgiving of 1896 was celebrated at the college in Frederick. At this time, Miriam’s mother was enduring intense suffering. Mary Apple would succumb to her illness just ten days before Miriam’s third birthday on December 2nd, 1896. Her obituary states:
“The hope that some instrumentality would be blessed to her recovery, for the sake of her two little daughters, Miriam and Charlotte, remained strong in her till within ten days of her death.”
The article also sheds light on the impression she left on the Woman’s College of Frederick over such a short time:
"At this institution of learning, Mrs. Apple at once made herself a necessary part. Her loving advice to and sympathy for the young ladies of the College made her loved by all, and no doubt her influence for good will be felt during the lives of many. She was ever a loving devoted wife to her husband encouraging and helping him in all his undertakings and rejoicing in his success."
Mrs. Apple’s body would not be laid to rest here in Mount Olivet, rather it was returned to her family plot in Clarion, Pennsylvania, placed in proximity to her parents and a host of relatives and friends.
Miriam, her sister, and Dr. Apple had been dealt a hard blow. The girls leaned on their father, who likely worked through his grief by his extraordinary commitment to growing the college. He would marry again by the end of the century, giving Miriam and Charlotte a step-mother in the person of Gertrude Harner, an instructor at the college hailing from Ohio.
While the new union would bring three step-siblings over the first decade o the 1900s, Miriam would be dealt another major loss with the death of Charlotte in December, 1902 shortly after the sixth anniversary of her mother’s passing and days before Miriam’s ninth birthday.
Dr. Apple’s surviving daughter would take her studies seriously, as would be expected from the child of educators. She also inherited her mother’s talent as a musician. Several early newspaper articles make mention of Miss Miriam Apple entertaining audiences and guests to the college through her gift as an instrumentalist and also as a singer. She would attend the college herself, and graduated in 1914. She was also an athlete, participating in the College's annual inter-squad field hockey game.
The Hood College website notes Miriam’s attributes of grace, charm and friendliness inherent at a young age. Miriam was active in church, civic and club life as well as in the affairs of the college, not surprising due to the fact that her father would serve here as president for 41 years. Upon graduation, she became librarian of the newly named Hood College, carrying on her father’s great interest in library work. A library had been formed on the third floor of Alumnae Hall, a structure that would grace the new campus after its construction in 1914.
In an effort to enhance her knowledge of library work, Miriam would take courses at Simmons College in Boston in 1917-1918 school year. This was the equivalent of graduate studies and Miriam excelled in the program taken abroad.
Miriam and her counterparts returned to the United States in July, 1919. The experience further grew Miriam, now 25 years-old. Notoriety of her experiences, combined with extreme competency and above-average drive opened other doors upon her return to Frederick.
With the exception of her two leaves of absence to gain graduate training at Simmons and serve in the US Army’s Quartermaster Corps at Gen. Pershing’s headquarters, Miriam R. Apple would hold the position as Hood’s librarian for nearly 36 years. All the while, she continued to gain recognition throughout the east for her efforts on behalf of libraries and their staff workers. A new library was opened in 1941, named in honor of her father who had retired in 1934.
Miriam continued serving the college and greater community through the 1940’s. She again answered the call of patriotism with service in the Civilian Defense Corps where she was a fire warden, and within the American Women’s Volunteer Services which provided support services to help the nation during the war such as message delivery, ambulance driving, selling war bonds, emergency kitchens, cycle corps drivers, dog-sled teamsters, aircraft spotters, navigation, aerial photography, fighting fires, truck driving, and canteen workers.
Dr. Apple died in January, 1948 and was buried in Mount Olivet. Miriam continued to serve her students, fellow faculty and college administration (along with community and country) until her untimely death at the age of 57. She died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in the early morning hours of July 15th, 1950. Miriam Rankin Apple's wonderful achievements would be lauded throughout impressive funeral ceremonies at her beloved Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Mount Olivet Cemetery. She was laid to rest in the Apple family plot on Area CC (Lot 27), next to her sister Charlotte who predeceased her nearly half a century earlier and a few yards from her dutiful father.
Today on the Hood campus, one can find lasting reminders of the Apple family and their enduring legacy. The Joseph Henry Apple library gave way to the Beneficial-Hodson Library and Information Technology Center. in 1991. Here in the main lobby of the facility, a beautiful color portrait of the school's legendary librarian adorns the wall. Miriam R. Apple's legacy of sharing resources and knowledge with others will continue on through this storied institution. what a father-daughter duo--giving proof that the apple certainly didn't fall far from the tree.
Extra special thanks goes out to Hood College Collection Services Development Manager and Archivist Mary Atwell who provided the author with so many fascinating images from the college's vast archival collection.