A very interesting figure in Frederick's past had a virtual run on the letter "C" as he boasted the initials C.C.C. His name was Clarence Clarendon Carty, and he lived in a time long before the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930’s. This gentleman was never in need of government employment as his life's work (and that of his future descendants) had an incredible connection to death and local cemeteries, especially Mount Olivet.
I thought of C.C. Carty the other day as I walked past his gravestone in the cemetery’s Area A, located directly across the road from the Key Chapel and large obelisk of Gen. James C. Clarke. It just so happened to be the 107th anniversary of Mr. Carty’s death on August 30th, 1911.
I had first heard of Clarence C. Carty nearly three decades ago when I worked for Frederick Cablevision. Mr. Carty was the maternal grandfather of my employers George B. Delaplaine, Jr. and sister Frances “Franny” (Delaplaine) Randall. Many know that George and Frannie’s paternal grandfather, William T. Delaplaine, founded the Frederick News in 1883—a business that was handed down multiple generations before being sold in 2017 to Ogden Newspapers, Inc. Likewise, C. C. Carty started a business in the late 19th century that would be continuously operated by his descendants well into the next century.
I knew Mr. Carty started a highly successful furniture and undertaking business on E. Patrick Street. His son, Charles Clarendon Carty, would take the reins, eventually turning this over to his son, James Walker Carty.
For the last several years, I have taken participants of our annual, fall-time Candlelight Cemetery Tours to Mr. Carty’s grave, pointing out that this former resident had started in business at a relatively young age, and is buried between both his first and second wives. I usually spellbind my audiences by stating the fact that due to his profession as a local undertaker, C.C. Carty passed his future eternal resting place on a daily basis—hundreds of times. I then ask the question: “How do you think he felt about his own impending death? Did he know too much?”
A Family Tradition
The son of Joseph William Leonard Carty and Margaret Catherine Hardt, Clarence Clarendon Carty was born in Frederick on January 8th, 1847. His father was a tobacconist and later served as clerk of the Frederick County Circuit Court in the waning years of the American Civil War. The elder Mr. Carty was also credited as an organizer and director of the Lincoln Building Association and a director of the Farmers & Mechanics Bank. William’s History of Frederick County refers to him as “a public-spirited” citizen and consistent member of Frederick’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.”
By 1850, three-year-old Clarence Clarendon was the second of three young brothers which also included Charles Proctor (b. 1844), and Arthur Alexander (b.1849). He would soon have to deal with death with the tragic losses of immediate family members. His mother, a niece of famous Frederick diarist Jacob Engelbrecht, died in October, 1850 at the age of 25. Two months later, C.C.’s baby brother (aged 2) would pass. (Both mother and son were originally laid to rest in the Lutheran cemetery of town, but would be removed to Mount Olivet in November 1886).
Clarence Clarendon’s father eventually re-married (Mary M. Lugenbeel) and three step-siblings would come from this union. C.C. Carty grew up on S. Market St. and would receive his education from the public schools of Frederick City. In 1863, he was awarded a clerkship at the Post Office, but clerical work was not his thing as he resigned a year later to pursue an interest in becoming a professional cabinet-maker.
I guess you could say that Mr. Whitehill “made a killing” during the Civil War with this product focus. He hired a controversial embalmer as a necessary “value add” for his customers, especially those desiring to transport their fallen military loved-ones back to hometown cemeteries. Mr. Whitehill, himself, was also no stranger to Mount Olivet as he was one of the original founders of the town’s new burial ground back in the early 1850’s.
Apparently, James Whitehill served as a mentor of sorts to young Carty. The local lore says that Carty asked Mr. Whitehill to consider him as a successor for the prosperous E. Patrick St. furniture and undertaking establishment when it came time for retirement.
C.C. Carty’s big break eventually came in 1869 when Mr. Whitehill granted his request. Joseph W. L. Carty had died in March 1867. Perhaps, C.C. received some inheritance money which allowed him to enter into such a venture? Regardless, at 22 years of age, C.C. Carty became owner of his own business, one that originally opened on the north side of East Patrick near Middle Alley.
On the personal life level, I find it interesting that both of Joseph W. L. and Margaret Carty’s sons married in late October, 1867. Charles married Lucy C. Keneaster of Indianapolis on October 29, 1867. The very next day, Clarence Clarendon married Joanna Fox, daughter of C. F. Adolphus Fox, a noted watchmaker from Germany. Charles and Lucy moved to the Midwest. Of the latter pairing, C.C. and Joanna would go on to have five children: Margaret A. (b.1868), William A. (b. 1870), Charles Clarendon (b. 1872), Arthur Clarence (b. 1876), Harry Edwin (b.1878) and Frank (1884).
Over the first decade of his business ownership, Charles Clarendon Carty manufactured most of the fine furniture sold at his shop. He also built on Whitehill’s acumen as an undertaker. A humble cabinet shop eventually morphed into C.C. Carty’s Furniture Store and necessitated a move across the street to a larger warehouse facility. Soon Carty’s became the largest outlet of its kind in Maryland, outside Baltimore.
The term “undertaker” refers to the person who “under took” responsibility for funeral arrangements. Many of the early undertakers were furniture makers because building coffins, and later caskets, was a logical extension of their business. For them, undertaking was a second business rather than a primary profession. C.C. Carty soon became widely prominent in furniture circles and the undertaking business “as one of the ablest and most representative men identified with that branch of the industry.”
C.C.’s family lived above the business establishment on the upper floors of his building. The furniture showroom was towards the front of the first floor, and the funeral operations occupied the rear of the ground level floor. Not as much room was needed for the latter as compared to today’s more extensive funeral home operations. Funerals, or more so wake services, were held in the decedent’s home. Bodies were either picked up by the undertaker, or brought to him by horse and wagon. The body would be embalmed here, and then returned to the home or church for “viewings” and memorial services. In other cases, undertakers delivered the body directly to the cemetery for burial.
Mr. Carty suffered another major blow in October of 1884 as his wife Joanna died in her 37th year. With five children and a flourishing business, C.C. was quick to remarry a year later as he took Ann “Nannie” Catherine Keefer as his second wife on November 4th, 1885. He would go on to father four more children: Cora (b.1888), Eleanor (b.1890) and Ruth (b.1892 and future mother of George B. Delaplaine, Jr. and Franny Randall) and May (b. 1895).
Williams’ History of Frederick County (1910) says of Mr. Carty:
“He is recognized as one of the foremost and most prominent merchants of Frederick, and is held in high esteem by all with whom he has come in contact. Mr. Carty has directed the affairs of his establishment with a foresight and sagacity that stamp him as a man of superior executive ability. To his forceful personality is due much of the prosperity and prestige attained by him.”
In 1895, the existing buildings comprising the furniture store and undertaking business were demolished to make way for a new home for the downtown operation. At this point, the family moved their living quarters to 54 E. Patrick St., a few doors to the east on the corner of Middle Alley. This is one of the oldest structures in Frederick City dating to the mid 1700’s. Some say it is one of the oldest brick built structures in town. It would eventually be utilized as one of the first funeral homes in town, owned by the Carty’s. Today this is the home of Brainstorm Comics.
In 1905, sons Charles and Harry became involved in the family business as the boys inherited the establishment from their father upon his semi-retirement. Charles headed up the furniture endeavor, while Harry took the undertaking side.
Meanwhile, C.C. had become an officer with the Frederick Brick Company, and took on extra responsibilities of representing the firm in Baltimore and other cities.
C.C. Carty enjoyed a few years of retirement before his death on September 1st, 1911. He would be buried next to first wife Joanna, and in the morning shadow of his parents’ beautiful monument, capped with a hand with a finger pointing toward heaven. His second wife, Nannie would be buried to the right of C.C. Carty upon her death in 1931.
Throughout the years, many changes were instituted to keep the business location of 48-52 E. Patrick St. modern and up to date. The building was expanded once again in 1922. For decades Carty’s served as the largest retail store in Frederick. In 1930, the partnership between the brothers was dissolved as Charles took over the furniture business as sole owner, and Harry received the undertaking and funeral home operation.
Once again, the furniture business sole owner had the initials C.C. Carty. However, this would be short-lived as Charles Clarendon Carty would die suddenly at the age of 60 from Angina on March 4th, 1932. This came as a shock and surprise to the entire community. The family must have found some degree of solace as the Carty Furniture Store would now be run by grandson James Walker Carty (1908-1975), son of Charles Clarendon Carty. “Walker” Carty was attending college at Princeton at the time. He returned home to Frederick and provided leadership until his own retirement in 1975. Walker’s wife, Janice, had taken an active role in the business by creating an interior design service sector.
Harry E. Carty died in 1934 and was succeeded by his son, Clarence Clarendon Carty, Jr. Another grandson of the founder ran the funeral home business until his retirement in 1964, at which point he went to St. Petersburg, Florida, while is cousin (Walker) continued with the furniture operation for well over another decade.
After 109 years, the business closed its doors for good on July 19th, 1978. It was a great run, and truly “a family affair.” A builder from the beginning, C.C. Carty had certainly “undertaken” an endeavor that not only served his neighbors, but certainly established his place in the annals of Frederick history. Each year, thousands of visitors continue to explore the site of the former Carty business location, as one can see antique furniture from the 1800’s and actual coffins, all the while learning about early embalming practices. It was the Carty family, in the early 1990’s, who were kind enough to donate their former commercial building to serve as the home to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.