Who would have thought that we have actual royalty here within the historic confines of Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. A mention of this fact came back in fall of 2015 when cemetery superintendent Ron Pearcey actually published an elongated post on FaceBook under the heading: Interesting and Unknown Residents of Mount Olivet Cemetery. The focal point of the story was a gentleman named Frank Lovell, who was referred to in local newspapers as "King of The Gypsies."
Superintendent Pearcey began his article from November 18th, 2015 as follows:
“Among the lesser known people buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery is one whose notoriety at one time made him a major person of interest during the mid-1800s up through the early 1900s. He could often be found among a traveling band of gypsies that would camp regularly in, and around, Frederick County. Although there were similar groups throughout the United States, those that came from England were among those who would frequent Frederick County the most. Their culture and heritage has all but disappeared, but gypsies’ life as wanderers goes back very far, and has often been depicted in ancient books and vintage movies.”
On April 18th, 1904, the Cumberland (MD) Evening Times included an article that not only reported the passing of Mr. Frank Lovell, but boasted the fact that this same Mr. Lovell was, at the time of his death, the King of his tribe.
The Frederick News carried a like obituary in its April 18th issue:
Frank Lovell, king of the tribe of Romany gypsies encamped across the Potomac river from Cumberland, MD in West Virginia for several months, died Sunday, April 17 from an illness of only a few days. He was 80 years of age and was well and healthy up to last Friday. He was an unusually large man and presented a fine appearance in his camp. He was born in England and came to this country about 28 years ago. His ancestors, as far back is known, led the wandering life so peculiar to the gypsy.
He leaves a widow and 10 children, 8 of whom are with other tribes. A brother Chizadine (Hezekiah) Lovell, chief of a large tribe located near Chicago, also survives him. He has been notified. A daughter of the family is very low with pneumonia at the camp and is not expected to live. One of the most pitiful survivors is the old wife of Lovell, to whom he was married in England when both were quite young. She is about 76 years of age.
The remains will be taken to Frederick for interment, where the tribe buries its dead. Lovell was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church in England and funeral services will be conducted from the Protestant Episcopal Church in Frederick. He will be buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
The camp of the tribe in West Virginia is mourning on account of the death of their king. A piece of black rope hangs at the entrance of the tent in which the body rest on a black couch, clad in the finery so peculiar to the gypsy. Levi Lovell, the gypsy who was murdered by Frank Moro, an Italian in Frostburg, about three years ago, was a member of the same tribe.
And in case you were curious as to the death of Levi Lovell, a man also known to Frederick residents...
This killing of cousin Levi was one of many life incidents that Frank Lovell had to navigate his family through.
The Frederick newspaper carried the same story about Frank's death as did the Cumberland paper, on April 18th. I found the story in other papers around the country, with the novelty being Lovell's "royal" status over a misunderstood people that were generally mistrusted and "shared" (or Cher-ed) the labeled as tramps and thieves. One day later, April 19th, 1904, the Frederick News included the following announcement:
Now, before we get into the life and burial of Frank Lovell, I’d like to explain the term “gypsy,” and the term “gypsy king” in context to the time period we are talking about.
Gypsy, as it was used at the time of Frank Lovell’s death, was a slang term used to describe people of Romani heritage (also spelled Romany). They traveled in packs, and were nomadic, in a way we see carnival workers of today. These newcomers to town were known for fortune telling, taking on all sorts of odd jobs, but also were thought by some as hucksters and pickpockets.
It is estimated that there are one million Romani people in the United States today, though this population has assimilated into American society with the largest known concentrations being found in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas and the Northeast as well as in cities such as Chicago and St. Louis. The Romani were different from other Europeans ethnically and genealogically, and began settling in America in the mid-19th century.
The largest wave of Romani immigrants came after the abolition of Romani slavery in Romania in 1864. Romani immigration to the United States has continued at a steady rate ever since. The size of the Romani American population and the absence of a historical and cultural presence, such as the Romani have in Europe, make Americans largely unaware of the existence of the Romani as a people. The term's lack of significance within the United States prevents many Romani from using the term around non-Romani: identifying themselves by nationality rather than heritage. The U.S. Census does not distinguish Romani as a group since it is neither a nationality nor a religion.
The Romani people originate from Northern India, presumably from the northwestern Indian states of Rajasthan and Punjab. Linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of Romani language lie in India. Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group. According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the Ḍoma, are the likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma.
Romani slaves were first shipped to the Americas with Columbus in 1492. Spain sent Romani slaves to their Louisiana colony between 1762 and 1800. The Romanichal, the first Romani group to arrive in North America in large numbers, moved to America from Britain around 1850. Eastern European Romani, the ancestors of most of the Romani population in the United States today, began immigrating to the United States on a large scale over the latter half of the 19th century, following their liberation from slavery in Romania mentioned earlier. In the case of the Lovell family, or tribe, they hailed from Wales and came here to America in June, 1874.
Well, every family can have a leader or patriarch. In the case of the Romani people, this “leadership” position was serious business, resulting in the exultation of said leaders as a kings and queens. I found that Wikipedia has a page description for this:
The title King of the Gypsies has been claimed or given over the centuries to many different people. It is both culturally and geographically specific. It may be inherited, acquired by acclamation or action, or simply claimed. The extent of the power associated with the title varied; it might be limited to a small group in a specific place, or many people over large areas. In some cases the claim was clearly a public-relations exercise.
As the term Gypsy is also used in many different ways, the King of the Gypsies may be someone with no connection with the Romani people. In the early 1970s, it was decided, at the First Annual Romani Meeting that the term Gypsy would no-longer be used to describe themselves.
It has also been suggested that in places where they were persecuted by local authorities the "King of the Gypsies" is an individual, usually of low standing, who places himself in the risky position of an ad hoc liaison between the Romani and the gadje (non-Romani). The arrest of such a "King" limited the harm to the Romani people.
Reviewing old newspapers, I found instances of “Bands of traveling Gypsies” encamped in Carroll and Washington counties, and here in Frederick in the areas of Thurmont and Libertytown and different times. Two articles from the mid to late 1880s mention their presence outside Frederick.
As for Frank Lovell, we can glean valuable insight from his 1904 obituary.
Lovell and his band were well known in the neighborhood of Adamstown, located southwest of Buckeystown in the Carrollton Manor area of Frederick County. As the above article states, King Frank’s tribe camped for almost two decades in the Manor Woods area in close proximity to St. Josephs-on-Carrollton Manor Catholic Church.
From the article, I see that Daniel Z. Padgett made arrangements for Lovell’s funeral. Mr. Padgett (1848-1917) took over the operation of his family farm, part of the original manor farm of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. By the aid of the Titus Atlas of Frederick County published in 1873, I found the location, then owned by Daniel’s father, George Washington Padgett. I’m presuming that the Padgett’s allowed the Romani tribe to set up camp on their property, which would come to be owned by the Eastalcoa Aluminum Company several decades later.
This is also the vicinity of several Emancipation icnics by Frederick’s African-American population dating back to the late 19th century. Interestingly, I also saw another unique connection thanks to the 1873 Frederick County Titus atlas. To the immediate west of the Padgett farm, was one owned by William Henry Michael (1833-1904). Mr. Michael’s brother was Daniel Jerome Michael (1840-1908) who served as Mount Olivet’s third superintendent. His term stretched from 1893-1907, encompassing the 1904 burial of King Frank Lovell.
I presume that the Lovell tribe was also friendly and trusting of the Michael family, whether having a direct relationship or appreciating that between the Padgetts and Michaels. This likely answers the question of why the Lovells chose Mount Olivet as the final resting place to bury their King and patriarch.
Frank Lovell would be buried in Area L/Lot 68, about 40 yards behind the Key Memorial Chapel.
Another story appeared in the Frederick News the following November as Lovell’s gravesite was marked with a magnificent monument.
The Lovell Tribe continued on under the leadership of “the Gypsy Queen,” Elizabeth Lovell, Frank’s wife. The group made the papers in the summer of 1905 when an affray occurred with a rival group of Romani people, a family named Hedges. At the time, I thought it was interesting to see that the Hedges had taken over the old stomping ground of the Manor Woods, while the Lovells were said to be living further east in the Hopeland/Hope Hill area near the intersection of MD85 and Baker Valley Road.
Elizabeth Lovell passed seven years later in August, 1912. She would be buried at Frank’s side here in Mount Olivet, and the occasion of her death in Parkersburg, WV, and subsequent burial in Frederick was reported in several newspapers of the day.
Although Elizabeth’s obituary states her age as 108, I find the math to be a bit fuzzy as she was 76 years of age at the time of Frank’s death just eight years earlier. Perhaps this can be chalked up to Gypsy magic I suppose. Unfortunately, Elizabeth's name and birth/death dates were never carved into the Lovell monument, so many researchers, Find-a-Gravers and "tombstone tourists" haven't a clue that she is even buried here.
The funerary article also states that “it was said to be the custom of the tribe to bury prominent members of their band in Frederick,” although their king and queen and an infant are the only decedents known to have been placed in the burying ground at that time. This child was named Frank Hedges. Our cemetery records show that this child, with a very familiar first name, died on August 4th, 1904 at the tender age of six months and one day. The death occurred in Strasburg, VA. The baby’s father was a William Hedges, and his mother was Harriet Lovell, a daughter of King Frank and Elizabeth. I find it interestingly that we have a joining of the Lovells and Hedges, combatants one year later on Carrollton Manor.
It’s an amazing story, and one that certainly sheds an interesting light on the Romani culture. Sadly, Maryland began turning the proverbial screws on these nomadic folks beginning in the early decades of the 20th century as seen in this Maryland General Assembly proposal for legislation. Maryland virtually outlawed Gypsies in the 1920s. Baltimore followed suit a decade later. Gypsies were described during a public meeting as unsanitary, a menace to organized labor and undesirable to the police.
An interesting article by reporter Peter Hermann in the November 22nd, 1994 edition of the Baltimore Sun wrote:
“Gypsies of Romanian descent have made Baltimore their home for more than a century -- six generations are buried at Western Cemetery -- yet members say they still are not accepted. About 200 Gypsies live in the city, engaged in a struggle to preserve Middle Eastern and Asian traditions that date back to the ninth century as members of the younger generation start to break away.”
Mr. Hermann went on to say: “Gypsies came to Baltimore because it was a central location on the carnival circuit, and camped in Cherry Hill because it was undeveloped and on the city's outskirts. A series of laws enacted in the 1920s and 1930s, outlawing fortune-telling for profit and requiring nomads to pay a $1,000 entry fee each time they came into Baltimore, prompted this headline in an edition of The Sun: 'Gypsy horde leaves Maryland for good.'
The law appeared to have been rarely enforced, and the Gypsies returned to the city two years later.The 1950s and 1960s brought newspaper stories on Gypsy arrests and trials -- on charges of swindling, theft and fortune telling -- and tales of elaborate weddings and funerals.”
All of my “Stories in Stone” end the same, the subject of the written piece dies—thus making it possible for them to be interred here in Frederick, Maryland’s historic Mount Olivet Cemetery. Some of these online biographical essays are uplifting, as we frequently recount the life achievements of many of the lives that have shaped Frederick’s past. Other features are quirky and informative, utilizing individuals to give context to local traditions, civic organizations, public/private structures and even explaining why some of Frederick’s streets are named as they are. Occasionally, I will also throw in a melancholy story about a freak accident or happenstance that lead to a premature grave for one of our interred.
Two years ago, I was surprised to learn that one of my childhood classmates was buried here in Mount Olivet. I had heard of his death back in 1993 when it occurred, and have again been reminded on the occasion of high school reunions every five years. I truly had no idea his final resting spot was just a few hundred yards out my office window.
A “Story in Stone” write-up for this gentleman, Wesley Scot Cover, was contemplated a few years ago, but I decided to wait until August, 2018. This date would mark the 25th anniversary of his passing. When the time came to write the story, I had a difficult time actually putting “pen to paper,” or in today’s updated terms—"fingers to keyboard.” I got particularly emotional in researching, and reading, old newspaper accounts. You see, Wes’ death was no accident, rather it was a horrific situation that found him, and his fiancée, Rona Coomers -Wood, “at the wrong place, and the wrong time.” I decided to table the story then and there, and pick it up one day when I felt more comfortable with the subject matter.
When coming to work on Monday morning, I quickly noticed the flags at half-staff. The events of this past weekend featured troubled gunmen responsible for mass killings in El Paso, Texas on Saturday, August 3rd, and Dayton, Ohio on August 4th. Both shooters were in their early 20's. These senseless massacres have occurred so frequently over the last few years, that we can’t say we are truly shocked and dumbfounded anymore. This is yet another problem.
Usually these episodes end with the death, or capture, of the assailant at the hands of the police. Many investigators, including the media, law enforcement, and researchers of human behavior, look for clues as to why a lone killer goes on these shooting sprees. The hope is to find something that will help us in trying to curb these events in the future of course.
For the rest of us, we are left questioning our own good-fortune and safety, and that of our family members. Some folks take time to reflect on their own mortality, while others engage in the political debate over gun ownership and background checks. The only thing we truly have control over is the ability to pray for the victim(s) and his/her family. And those not religious, or inclined to pray, should simply demonstrate empathy toward said victims and the immense pain endured by loved ones, friends, co-workers and all other acquaintances. Those who don’t pray, or others incapable of showing empathy, should perhaps be watched carefully.
I can immediately be brought back to a portal of my mind that stores memories from Yellow Springs Elementary School and the mid-1970’s. The Six-Million Dollar Man and M*A*S*H were on the television; Kiss, E.L.O., and KC & the Sunshine Band were on the radio; Jimmy Carter was in the White House; many local kids became bandwagon fans of the Vikings and Steelers; our parents had Bicentennial Fever; and you could occasionally catch a glance of the Concorde flying over Frederick.
As for my old school, it was a great place for primary learning. We had a fine group of teachers, a modern school structure (for the time), and surprisingly an American Indian for a mascot (back in the days when you could do that sort of thing). “Chief Montonqua” was a fitting representative for our school because the neighboring community was named for the Sulphur-laden “Yellow Springs” which bordered our school property. This particular location was known to native peoples as Montonqua, roughly translating to “medicine waters,” and was something that not only healed ills, but aided the mind, body and spirit in battle. As a matter of fact, 7th Street leading northwesterly out of Frederick toward this area was once named Montonqua Avenue before being bisected by Camp Detrick in the 1930’s. The further north portion of the route still retains the Anglicized version of the name today—Yellow Springs Road.
Like a lot of boys, I seem to recall gym class and sports activity in elementary school more so than particulars regarding the three R’s. I also remember the fascination with group activities and exercises such as Greek dodge ball, bouncing volleyballs into the air from outstretched parachutes in the cafeteria, climbing cargo nets and performing three-point tip ups (a gymnastic maneuver) in order to achieve the President’s Physical Fitness badge. In 1976, none of us at Yellow Springs Elementary would sense that change was in the air as a new physical education teacher in 5th grade would turn gym class upside down by introducing us to disco dancing instead of the regular beloved fare of softball, football and basketball. I certainly have digressed with my story, I apologize.
One of the best sports moments from elementary school was the school’s annual Field Day, boasting individual and group sport activities ranging from relay races to tug-o-war. A prime memory of this day was the playing of “Red Rover.” The game was wildly popular at one time, but is thought to be taboo these days because of the risk of injury and you'd be hard-pressed to find it played at any elementary school today. For those not familiar, the game is defined by Wikipedia as such:
“The game is played between two lines of players (usually called the "East" or "West" team, although this does not relate to the actual relative location of the teams), usually positioned approximately thirty feet apart with hands or arms linked together. The game starts when the first team, in this example the "East" team, calls a player out, by saying or singing a line like "Red rover, red rover, send [player on opposite team] right over", or "Red rover, red rover, let [player on opposite team] come over", or even "Red rover, red rover, I call [player on opposite team] over."
The immediate goal for the person called is to run to the other line and break the "East" team's chain (formed by the linking of hands). If the player called fails to break the chain, they join the "East" team. However, if the player successfully breaks the chain, they may select either of the two "links" broken by the successful run, and take them to join the "West" team. The "West" team then calls out "Red rover" for a player on the "East" team, and play continues. The game needs five people to play at least, although this would be a very short game.
When only one player is left on a team, they also must try and break through a link. If they do not succeed, then the opposing team wins. Otherwise, they are able to get a player back for their team.”
Well, when you have a name that rhymes with "Rover," perhaps trouble can innocently arise thanks to smart-alec/sarcastic juveniles like yours truly. My victim was the above-mentioned Wesley Cover. Wes was a transplant to Yellow Springs, now a resident of Clover Hill, having originally started his elementary career at Waverly Elementary. I immediately coined the phrase: “Red rover, Red rover, send Wesley Cover on over.” I had my teammates in hysterics by boldly pronouncing this at our third-grade field day back in 1976. Seconds later, I suddenly looked up to see young, Master Cover running directly at me with a full head of steam. The chain broke thanks to my foolish conjuring up of Wes’ athletic prowess. He had the last laugh of course, and anyone who knew Wesley Cover knew that he had no malice at all, and was truly a kind and laid-back guy. This same episode would play out again and again whenever Red Rover was played—Wes knew what was coming from me and others.
Wes and I were friends and also participated in Cub Scouts together, however I recall Wes showed interest in Boy Scouts and higher level scouting experiences. He was an average athlete and played Little League in his youth. If anything else, Wes Cover was one of those guys prone to crazy miscues or accidents. I recall him coming into school with a black eye and broken nose because he slipped in the bathtub due to his brother leaving the floor wet. When we made the jump to Gov. Thomas Johnson Junior High in 1980, Wes would continue with Babe Ruth Ball and Midget League Football. In high school, Wes joined the wrestling team and we both played football together for the Patriots.
I remember Wes being a great sport on the football practice field, and often taking a friendly ribbing from upper-classmen and those of us that had known him since elementary days. Every play involved a ferocity much worse than Red Rover. Wes was such an honest, wholesome and innocent individual, that he set himself up occasionally for pranks and the role of a human punchline. I wouldn’t call his athletic career stellar, as mine wasn’t either, but he was stable and sturdy like a brick wall—a fitting trait since he was very active in our school’s VICA masonry program. In fact, I found an old article saying that he participated in the 1984 Frederick Homebuilder’s High School Olympic contest. Wes also regularly participated in high school blood drives, donating in order to help others in need.
By senior year, we all saw Wes Cover’s interests turn towards a potential career in the US military after high school. His senior quote, taken from Gen. Douglas MacArthur, lays testament to this. We both graduated on a warm night in early June, 1985. Our paths wouldn’t cross too many times thereafter.
That fall of ’85 found me away at college for my freshman year at the University of Delaware. My Dad had known Wes dating back to our Cub Scout days. He thoughtfully clipped, and sent a newspaper article regarding Wes completing a phase of his basic training. I recall seeing him shortly after at the TJ Homecoming (Nov. 1985) game and dance, and he looked every bit the part of a US Army Airborne Ranger, complete with the stylish beret. We reminisced and laughed about old times, including the ridiculous “Red Rover” tradition I had started back in 3rd grade.
I was lucky enough to run into him over Christmas break as well and would see him one more time in the summer of 1986. These would be my last interactions with Wes Cover. I was busy with school over the next three years, and Wes was compiling the fine military career he had contemplated back in high school. I also heard that he had participated in the Gulf War in 1990-91, and came out fine.
Time marched on in the early 1990s, as I now was in the midst of starting my post-college working career. Even though I worked at Frederick Cablevision, the sister company of our local newspaper, and was involved in local public affairs, I had no idea that Wes’ life would meet a tragic end in the summer of 1993. A former classmate told me of his death, a week after it happened.
My immediate thought was that Wes had died heroically somewhere on a battlefield or on a complex training mission. He was a Ranger, and those guys are among the toughest—talk about impenetrable if lined up as a chain for a game of Red Rover. I knew Wes was strong, smart, and thoughtful, but I recalled that he was also unfortunate at times. Imagine my surprise when I learned the full story of his death at the hands of a fellow soldier, within the confines of an Italian restaurant in Fayetteville, NC. He was only a mile off base from his home at Fort Bragg Military Installation. Nonetheless, he would die a hero.
The Massacre at Luigi’s
On Friday, August 6th, 1993, Kenneth Junior French, a US Army master sergeant from Fort Bragg, became enraged with President Bill Clinton and the pending institution of the military’s new "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy involving service by gays, bisexuals, and lesbians. The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service.
After a long afternoon of drinking whiskey while watching Clint Eastwood's The Unforgiven, which concludes with a violent massacre at a saloon, the 22-year old French grabbed two 12-gauge shotguns and sought to display his displeasure in downtown Fayetteville. Unfortunately for Wes Cover and other patrons, French chose the popular Luigi’s Restaurant, operated by an earlier US Army and war veteran named Pete Parrous and his wife Ethel.
French pulled up to the restaurant, shouting about President Clinton and homosexuals in the military. He began shooting his weapon outside the establishment and soon made his way inside through a back door to the kitchen. From here, he made his way into the main dining room and shot people at random, killing four and wounding six before being shot and captured by local authorities.
The gunman killed Peter and Ethel Parrous, who were 73 and 65 years old. Mr. Parrous had lived in Fayetteville for 54 years and had introduced pizza to the town. Apparently, he pleaded with French not to hurt anyone, when the gunman ruthlessly shot him in the face at point blank range. This prompted Ethel to stand up and scream, which resulted in French next taking her life. The Parrous’ daughter, Connie, would also become a shooting victim, but would recover from her injuries.
The other fatalities were 46-year-old James F. Kidd of Wheaton, IL and the former resident of Frederick, Wesley Scott Cover. Mr. Kidd was a lawyer with the Internal Revenue Service and simply in town to visit his 20-year old son Patrick who was stationed at Fort Bragg. At the time of his death, Wes was only 26 years of age and living in Fayetteville. He was currently engaged to be married, and was eating at Luigi’s with his fiancée Rona Wood, after the two had just enjoyed a movie with a good friend. Both were also connected to Fort Bragg.
The stories of bravery and selflessness demonstrated by Mr. Kidd, and of my old classmate are heart-wrenching. With mere seconds to act, both men sacrificed themselves in covering their respective dining partners. Not just two, but three lives were directly saved as a result of their “duck and cover” maneuvers as both ultimate victims used their bodies to shield the other (Mr. Kidd’s son and Wes’ fiancée Rona) from French’s deadly fire.
Patrick Kidd was physically unhurt as his father draped himself across the young man in the booth in which they were sitting. Wesley and Rona dropped to the floor below the table after the latter had been shot initially. Wes would cover Rona with his body after having ripped his shirt off to help compress the blood seeping from Rona’s open wound. The gunman proceeded to their table and stooped down with his firearm pointed at Wes’ head. Wes asked French not to shoot Rona because she was pregnant. At this point, Wes was callously shot in the head, and slumped further on top of his wounded fiancée.
It was at this time that the gunman would be felled by an off-duty police officer, who shot from outside the restaurant’s front plate glass window. Other police arrived moments later and successfully captured French.
Here is a link to a short, television news story from 1995 that recounts the incident two years prior:
Three of those injured were treated at a hospital and released, and three others would be listed in stable condition but recovered. Rona would suffer being shot but survived, albeit with lasting complications including paralysis in her right leg. The miracle of the situation was the protection given by Wes in saving Rona’s life, and that of the unborn son she was carrying. The baby would be born the following February without complications—Rona would name him Stefan Wesley Wood.
The shooter, Kenneth Junior French, was wounded in the leg and jaw, and apparently asked responding emergency personnel to let him die. He would make a full recovery but was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and six counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The highly anticipated court case occurred in February, 1994 in Wilmington, NC.
French claimed to not remember the events of the murders, stating he had gotten excessively drunk prior to the occurrence at Luigi’s. He said that he had been deeply depressed with President Bill Clinton’s policy allowing homosexuals and bisexuals to serve in the military, under the condition they not divulge their sexual orientation. Defense attorneys for French argued that this decision had struck a nerve with their client and his rage, combined with alcohol, l had him out of sorts. They also cited a lifetime of childhood abuse at the hands of French’s late father as a key factor. They went as far as trying to make the case that French’s actions were not premeditated, rather that he was acting out his aggressions as his father on that deadly night.
After a colorful court case, lasting over a week, French was found guilty and sentenced to four consecutive life terms plus 35 years. Since 1998, he has been imprisoned at the Marion Correctional Institute.
Luigi’s Restaurant is still open today. It naturally was closed for several months after the tragedy. Pete and Ethel’s son Nicholas Parrous, daughter Linda Parrous Higgins, and son-in-law, Tony Kotsopoulos, did not want to let their parent’s legacy to end with the massacre of August 6th, 1993. They decided to reopen the restaurant later that year and were received with great community support.
As I have looked back in old newspapers, I’m a bit surprised to see that the Fayetteville shooting doesn’t seem to have made our local papers. Wes Cover’s obituary appeared here however on August 19th, 1993. He would be buried two days later on August 21st in the cemetery’s KK/Lot 23.
As I approached Wes’ gravesite to take a few photographs for this story, I felt a special calm and noticed the peace and tranquility of the surrounding area. Things got very quiet and I swear I heard a faint echo from over forty years ago calling:
“Red rover, red rover….send Wesley Cover on over."
One of the smallest grave monuments within Mount Olivet is also the most thought provoking. In addition, this final resting place of a child, who died in 1874, is among the most eye-catching, as it clearly stands out against a backdrop of 40,000 other gravesites. The memorial in question is not made of marble or granite, and deceives some into thinking that it could be an above ground crypt—crafted in the shape of a small sarcophagus from ancient time.
Before receiving a thorough cleaning a few years back from cemetery superintendent J. Ronald Pearcey, you wouldn’t have even noticed this memorial to Arfue Brooks. And if, indeed, you did find it, an attempt to read the name carved on the exterior would have been a futile and frustrating chore—but not anymore.
A bas-relief figure of a sleeping child conjures up a melancholy feeling as the onlooker is tipped off to the occupant’s age and innocence. In contrast, a sudden feeling of warmth (in any season) may follow, thanks in part to the brown-orange hue of the monument— a diversion from the vast sea of whites, grays that can be found throughout the grounds. As far as I know, this is the only terracotta monument of this color and design within the cemetery.
Terracotta is a type of ceramic pottery, used to make flower-pots, pipes, bricks, and sculptures. The word (Terracotta) comes from the Italian words for “baked earth.”
The terracotta comprising grave markers is not simply the brick-red composition of flowerpots and utilitarian redwares. It is called architectural terracotta, a form of ornamental ceramic cladding made from sculpted and molded clay. The body has a fine texture that allows it to be molded, sculpted, and glazed. Terracotta was often made in the form of hollow blocks with internal webbing or supports that allowed it to be both strong and light.
Nineteenth-century architects viewed terracotta as a sort of “wonder material.” Less expensive than stone, it could be mass produced to exacting specifications, easily took glaze, was fireproof, could be sculpted and molded, was easy to clean, and billed as lasting forever.
I found a study of these memorials online and the researcher had documented 175 terracotta grave-markers in New Jersey and adjacent parts of New York State. Other examples have been reported from upstate New York, near the site of a terracotta factory, as well as from California, Louisiana, and Ireland. The markers were produced in a variety of forms and sizes, most of which fall within the standard canon of Victorian mourning art. They include crosses, tablets, pedestals surmounted by urns, obelisks, and statues. Small marble tablets were often attached with personal information about the deceased.
The earliest terracotta grave-markers date from the 1870s and 1880s. They gradually grew in popularity from the 1870s until roughly 1910. Then, they exploded in popularity. After 1920, they rapidly lost their appeal. The latest examples date from the 1930s.
Some grave-markers appear to have been sculpted, whereas others were molded. The latter were made in plaster molds, reinforced with strap iron or wires, which could be reused over and over. Pressing the clay into the molds took great strength. After a mold was filled, the pressers would set it aside to dry. The piece was then removed and allowed to sit for several days. Next it was finished by rubbing and trimming. It was then taken to a drying room heated to about eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit. After two days of drying, glazes and slips were applied to the hardened unfired body. Red, buff, and gray was the triumvirate of colors on which the industry initially built its strength. In the 1880s a variety of new colors was introduced.
The Brooks terracotta marker here in the cemetery’s Area A/Lot 116 is thought to be one of the earliest of the trade. The decedent, Arfue Brooks, died on July 6th, 1874. A small obituary mention can be found in the Frederick Examiner newspaper dated July 15th (1874) and mentions that Arfue was only six months old and died from cholera infantum (infant cholera). For those, like me, who don’t completely understand this malady, it is defined as an acute noncontagious intestinal disturbance of infants formerly common in congested areas of high humidity and temperature. Although rare today, it was a common form of death back in the day and was nicknamed “the blue death.” I will spare you the explanation, however.
A common question we receive from visitors who happen upon Arfue Brooks' grave marker is whether or not Arfue's body was placed within the terracotta crypt which sits about 1 foot off the ground. The answer is a resounding "No," as the decedent was placed in a dug (and back-filled) grave below the monument.
Arfue Brooks was the child of a local cabinetmaker from Pennsylvania named David William Brooks (1831-1904). Mr. Brooks operated a successful furniture business with his brother (William M. Brooks) once located at Coppersmith's Hall on the corner northeast corner of Church and Market streets.
David and William dissolved the partnership in 1863, but the former would take on a new colleague shortly thereafter and continued operation of his retail store at 77 N. Market intothe 1870’s. Brooks and new partner, John H. Keller, sold a wide variety of household wares and continued to from a new location across from old City Hall on N. Market St. (today’s Brewer’s Alley).
David W. Brooks got married in February, 1873. His bride was Miss Harriet Ann Rice, born in 1835, the daughter of George Rice, Jr. and Harriet Trego. Harriet kept the family household located at 417 N. Market St., and soon found herself expecting the couple's first child in January, 1874.
Unfortunately, we already know the sad set of circumstances that beset the couple in regard to Arfue's death that following summer. The couple would not have any other children. Mr. Brooks seems to have continued with focus on his business with Mr. Keller, but also appears to have been aspiring to get to new heights—both literally and figuratively. Along these lines, I found an article in a Frederick newspaper from May, 1886 that reported that Mr. and Mrs. Brooks were moving to Otsego, Michigan. Here, David would be engaged in the manufacture of stepladders.
Of the time the couple spent living and working in Michigan, I know not. I hope it was fruitful as we don’t have the 1890 census to give us any clues. A decade later, I found the couple living in the Hyde Park area of Chicago in the 1900 census. Here the couple took up residence in the "Windy City's" south side at an address listed as 82 Avenue L. Daniel’s profession is listed as a cabinetmaker as it appears he had come “full circle” in his professional life.
Harriet died in late August of 1902. Her body was returned back home to Frederick, where it was interred a few feet away from son Arfue’s which had been placed here nearly 30 years earlier. As for David W. Brooks, he would live the following two years as a widower at Chicago’s aptly named “Old Peoples Home.” Here he would die on August 15th, 1904.
David, too, would return to Frederick and the Brooks family lot in Mount Olivet's Area A/Lot 116 containing the magnificent terracotta grave marker of the son he only had the chance to father for six months.
For the last few summers, I have participated as a history guide for a middle school-aged outdoor activity camp. It is a product of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Heritage Area, a partnership I worked with closely during my time at the Tourism Council of Frederick County. This group is headquartered in Waterford, VA and comprises “historic” real estate stretching from Gettysburg to Frederick and down to Charlottesville. My primary role for these camps is to provide historical context associated with the Potomac River while the participants are engaged in a peaceful canoe sojourn from Lander to the Monocacy Aqueduct near Dickerson, affording a beautiful view of nearby Sugarloaf Mountain.
My talk revolves around the early geology and peoples of the environs, with major emphasis on the earliest inhabitants in the form of the Piscataway and Tuscarora Indian tribes. I have to say the highlight for me is retracing the research and videography steps I took back in the late 1990’s while producing a film documentary on the subject.
My favorite sites are part of the tour and include Heaters Island (home to the Piscataway Tribe from 1699-1712)and the Mouth of the Monocacy, where a French Canadian fur trader named Martin Chartier once operated a trading post and a contingent of Tuscarora Indians would come up from North Carolina and settle nearby from 1712-1724.
The experience has been quite rewarding for me, but not just because of the history aspect. The natural beauty of the area and getting glimpses of ospreys and bald eagles is the proverbial “icing on the cake.” I’ve also recaptured an appreciation for paddling and the expertise practiced by river guides. We’ve been “on the river” in a variety of situations, from static flat water under sunny blue skies, to summer rain storms, one of which cut our trip short as it brought with it “an electrical component.“
That brings us to this week’s “Story in Stone,” set in the year 1926 amidst the backdrop of a river and what was supposed to have been a carefree day of picnicking and pleasure on an island “sandwiched” between east-central Michigan and the western border of Ontario, Canada. Below is the first article I could find which appeared in the Frederick News a few days after the tragedy. I found out a bit more about the accident in the following Michigan paper out of Lansing.
I originally stumbled upon this melancholy tale about a year ago. It involves two former Frederick County residents, one having been a veteran of World War I. What struck me more is the fact that William Turner, Jr. was a Navy veteran who would be promoted to Seaman 2nd Class. I just assumed he would be a strong swimmer since he was stationed on and adjacent water.
William John Alfred Turner, Jr. was born on November 22nd, 1896 and Paul Edward Turner in 1909. They were among seven children of William John Alfred Turner, Sr. and wife Margaret Virginia “Jennie” H. Kanode. The Turner family resided in the hamlet of Mt. Ephraim near Bell’s Chapel at the southwestern foot of Sugarloaf Mountain. The specific location is just west of the intersection of Comus and Mt. Ephraim roads. The property appears on the 1873 Titus Atlas.
Details (on earlier life for the boys) have been hard to find. The Turner children presumably worked on the farm and attended local schools. Apparently, William would obtain a job as a hotel clerk in Frederick. On July 5th, 1918, 21-year-old William Jr. would join the Navy as the United States ramped up its staging and began amassing its great force in eastern France in the fall of that year. He was sent to a Naval training Station in Newport, RI. Two months later, William was assigned to a Receiving Ship in Boston. He remained here for four months before being admitted to a hospital in Chelsea, MA. Next, I found William receiving an honorable discharge for physical reasons on March 14th, 1919.
Another article about the boating accident, from the local Frederick paper of record, explains that the two Turner boys had recently moved to Detroit to join two other brothers, Millan David Turner (1904-1967) and Gordon Henry Turner (1906-1968), already living in “the Motor City.” I would discover that both were employed as auto body mechanics at the time of their deaths. The surmise the reason for their move could be related to the fact that the young men lost their father earlier that year in January. The aforementioned Mr. Turner died of acute indigestion, and was laid to rest in a family plot on January 7th, 1926 beside his wife who had passed back in November, 1917.
As for the melancholy drownings in the St. Clair River, I sought to learn more about the area, and any particulars on the cause of the accident. Stag Island is a private Canadian island that today boasts over 100 cottages and once featured a casino. The island is accessed by Marysville, Michigan on the west and Corunna, Ontario to the east. The St. Clair River drains the famed “Great Lake” Huron, with the waterway’s mouth located just upstream from Stag Island. This surely explains the potential for dangerous currents, such as that which swept the Turner brothers to their early demise.
The quartet of brothers were apparently vacationing on the Ontario side of the river in Corunna. On September 26th, they had obtained a rowboat and ventured to spend the day on Stag Island. While there, three of the brothers decided to make a quick trip back to their vacation cottage at Corunna in hopes to return right back a short-time later. Gordon Turner remained on Stag Island to “hold down” the proverbial fort in his brothers’ absence.
The largest nearby town is Sarnia, on the Canadian side, within Lambton County. From death records, I found that this was the location of a coroner’s inquest on the bodies of both William and Paul. I even found the original coroner’s report on Ancestry.com. This was a boon, especially due to the fact that our original cemetery interment cards were scant and even mistakenly listed Lambton County as being in Michigan.
I found several vintage images of Stag Island, Corunna and Sarnia. These helped me visualize to a degree, the scene of drownings. From my own recent experiences on the river, it’s somewhat hard to believe that a place of such beauty and tranquility can be tarnished in an instant by such a tragic event.
A final article found in newspaper research came within a funeral announcement in the September 30th edition of the Baltimore Sun. This article tipped me off to a prime catalyst and cause for the horrific events of September 26th, 1926. It appears that the fateful “chain of events” was put into motion by a simple error in packing the picnic basket for the island excursion—someone forgot the bread. Somehow, I was reminded of the passage found in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 11:1-10, known commonly as “Cast thy bread upon the waters."
The bodies of William and Paul Turner were shipped back to Frederick, and the young men would be buried in the family plot in Area OO/Lot 36. In time, they would be joined by Millan, the brother who was luckily saved from the jaws of the St. Clair River back in early fall, 1926. He would stay in Detroit for the rest of his life, working as a merchant. I assume he painfully relived the site of that terrible day for 41 years before his death in November, 1967. Remaining brother, Gordon, returned home to the family farm. He worked as a carpenter, never married and would join his siblings in death a year after Millan in 1968.
The lot also includes sister Catharine “Katie” (Turner) Smith and an additional brother named George (1900-1946). Interestingly, our cemetery records list George’s profession as that of a cable-splicer with C & P Telephone. I wonder if he was inspired by the advent of the telephone earlier in life, as he was 13 when it was installed in his home.
"Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.
In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:
But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity."
In addition to being the grandson of Mount Olivet’s most famous resident, Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-Spangled Banner," John Ross Key III was a world class artist. He was born in Hagerstown on July 16th, 1837, two months after the death of his father, John Ross Key II (1809-1837). Young Key’s mother, Virginia Ringgold (1815-1903), was a native of Washington County and daughter of Brigadier Gen. Samuel Ringgold, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a US congressman.
John Ross Key III was the third such in the illustrious family to hold the name, the first being the father of Francis Scott Key who served as a captain in the American Revolutionalso buried at Mount Olivet. We will tell his life tale another day. As for the subject of this week’s “Story in Stone,” John Ross Key III would be brought up in Georgetown, District of Columbia, until the age of five by his famous grandfather (Francis Scott Key).
The family home had a back yard that stretched to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and Potomac River. This house no longer stands today, however the site is marked with a small park on the southern approach to the aptly named Francis Scott Key Bridge (“Key Bridge”) built in 1923 and connecting Georgetown with Rosslyn, Virginia on the other side of the river.
John had an older brother Clarence and another sibling, Caroline who appears to have died in childhood. As a teenager, John Ross Key III was forced to go to work to support his widowed mother. He showed an early talent for drawing, in which he was mostly self-taught. Key’s talent led to a job as a topographical artist and draftsman with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey where James McNeill Whistler was a colleague in the department. Whistler would achieve later fame as an artist living abroad in Paris, his most well-known work being “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1,” best known under its colloquial name “Whistler’s Mother.
At war’s end, John Ross Key settled in Baltimore where his war scenes found a sympathetic audience and critical acclaim. He soon launched into a career as a landscape painter and divided his time between Baltimore and New York City.
During the summers of 1867 and 1868, he retreated to the rustic Key-Howard family cottage at Oakland, Maryland in Garrett County on the far western end of the state. Here, John was accompanied by his mother. Oakland had become a popular summer resort for prominent families trying to escape the summer heat of Baltimore. The Keys and Ringgolds were among the firsts, making this a fashionable resort area easily accessible by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The area's popularity would grow into the greater tourist destination we know today as Deep Creek Lake.
Among relatives in the area were Key’s maternal aunt, Nancy Ringgold Schley, and her husband, Maryland state senator William Schley. They owned “Herrington Manor,” a 2,000 acre tract about five miles from Oakland that the Keys had named “the Glade.” John painted several versions of this work, showing Herrington Creek and Snaggy Mountain, a view on the Schley’s property. One of these, smaller and slightly different, is in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore. The Herrington Creek depicted in these paintings has become Herrington Lake, the result of a dam built in the 1950s.
In 1869, Key headed west again and lived in San Francisco. He traveled throughout California, painting dramatic scenic views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Point Lobos and the Golden Gate. The latter oil painting would be awarded a gold medal at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and many of his California-themed paintings were made into chromolithographs by publisher/printer Louis Prang in the 1870’s.
John Ross Key kept painting Allegheny mountain scenes later in his career, based on studies done in the late 1860s. In 1872, an art critic of the Boston Evening Transcript reported that Key had almost finished “three or four rugged glimpses of the Allegheny Mountain region in Maryland… a section almost unknown on canvas in our locality, but quite as worthy of attention as the well-worn White Mountain region.” (February 17, 1872). Later that year, the same critic wrote: “John R. Key has a spirited view among the Alleghenies, the foreground of which is rich in color and strong in effect. The water and shadows are finely rendered, and the cattle careful studies.” (March 23, 1872). These are said to be extremely rare and beautiful exhibition paintings in the Hudson River school style of seldom portrayed parts of America.
About the year 1873, John traveled to Europe to study art in Munich and Paris. Here, he would meet and marry, Mabel Thayer (b. 1852), a native of Boston living in England. The couple had their first child, named Mabel, in 1874 while living in Paris. They would return stateside the following year as Key would establish a studio in Boston. The family settled in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in Berkshire County. John’s mother, Virginia, would reside with the family which grew with the additions of daughters Beatrice (1876) and Edith (1880) and Marian (1883).
At this time, John Ross Key primarily worked in Boston where he showed over 100 works in 1877 at the Boston Athenaeum. Critics praised a selection of his charcoal drawings as “firm and masterly, strong and graceful.” Over his career, he would also exhibit at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Boston Art Club.
In the early 1880’s, John seems to have created a great stir in Chicago with his artwork. An article in the Chicago Tribune newspaper gives a tremendous review of Key’s artwork in an article appearing in mid-April, 1881. He would have another stellar exhibition in 1882 and received commissions for special pieces and painting home-based murals from wealthy Chicago patrons. This prompted a move by the Key family to “the Windy City.” John Ross Key opened his own office and art studio in town.
In 1888, Key helped decorate the famous Chicago Club with his art pieces. The prominent social club had been ravaged by fire. A few years later, Key was commissioned to make portraits of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair. This opportunity would make him a favorite adopted son to Chicago, and led to other expositions/fairs taking the country and world by storm. He would produce more scenes of this historic event over the remaining years of the decade.
As John Ross Key's fame grew, so did that of wife Mabel Key, John’s wife. She became a central figure in Chicago’s social scene, and regularly made the newspapers’ society page write-ups.
Sadly she would die in 1897 at the age of 44, after what the newspapers referred to as a long illness. She would be laid to rest in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Miss Dutcher was a resident of Omaha, Nebraska and worked for a regional rail line and served as a leading member of the DAR chapter there. At the Eighth Continental Congress in 1899, Ellenore proposed the adoption of an official emblem of suitable size for the organization’s daily use. She was concerned how the larger, existing pin would get caught on clothing and had become somewhat of a safety issue. She explained that this new pin could provide funds in which to help the DAR in their goal of building Memorial Continental Congress Hall in Washington DC (Constitution Hall).
This resulted in the creation of the DAR Recognition pin, which each member may purchase today upon admission. At the 10th Continental Congress in 1901, the design proposed by Miss Dutcher was adopted as the official emblem for daily use. It is worn over the left breast in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the DAR Handbook and National Bylaws. Each pin is engraved with the owner’s unique membership number—the lower the number, the older the pin.
In 1900, Key traveled to Paris, accompanied by Miss Dutcher, where his scenes of the Chicago World’s Fair were exhibited to European audiences as part of the Exposition Universelle. The following year these same pieces were featured in the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. He was revered for new works depicting both these events.
The couple of John and Ellenore would marry in 1902 in Chicago, and relocate to Key’s earlier home of Washington, DC. The artist, now 65 years old, seemed to preoccupy his time with creating landscapes of the nation’s capital and other nearby places, however he seldom sold any of these works with the hopes of one day having a large exhibition of his works. He would eventually move to Baltimore and took up residence in the Mount Vernon neighborhood.
John Ross Key was back home for a very important event that occurred in 1914. It was the centennial anniversary of his grandfather’s writing of “the Star-Spangled Banner.” He took part in commemorative events in Baltimore and also here in Frederick and in Mount Olivet on September 15th, 1914. John R. Key would be the guest of honor at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new monument to his grandfather placed on the grounds of the Terra Rubra, childhood home of the famed songwriter located near Keymar in Carroll County.
John Ross Key’s family heritage proved very important, especially in his waning years. He would be inspired to paint scenes of both of his grandfather’s primary residences including the plantation birthplace of Terra Rubra and the Key home in Georgetown. He did these from memory.
John Ross Key died in Baltimore on March 24th, 1920, a victim of heart disease. He would be buried in the original Key family lot in Mount Olivet’s Area H. This is where Francis Scott Key and wife Mary had been placed 54 years earlier in October, 1866 after being reinterred from Baltimore’s Old St. Paul’s Burying Ground.
Five years after the death of her husband, Ellenore worked to organize the largest exhibition of John's more recent work. This was “a Star-Spangled success" to say the least. John Ross Key’s works have been represented in important exhibitions over the following decades since his death, including the National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Corcoran Gallery. They can be found all over the world and originals, as well as prints are still being sold and can even be found on eBay.
JOhn Ross Key’s works are represented in important museum collections across the country, including the White House Historical Association, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, University of Michigan Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, Morris Museum of Art, and Greenville County (SC) Museum of Art. If you’d like to see a John Ross Key work in person, stop by Frederick City Hall as you can find one of his original landscapes entitled "Sunset on the Potomac" adorning a wall along the stairs leading to the second floor.