People often ask me what is the oldest burial stone marker in Mount Olivet Cemetery? It’s a great question, but one whose answer is not rooted in the cemetery’s first interment of 1854, or the cemetery's first monument. Ironically, it has a direct connection with the word stone, itself, not to mention being that of the builder of Frederick’s oldest known house. If you guessed the Brunner family (Schifferstadt built ca. 1758), you’d be wrong. It’s the gravestone, or grabstein, of Jacob Steiner (1713-1748). And in case you didn’t take German in high school, “stein” is the German word for stone.
To understand the significance of this unique cemetery marker, one can also look at the significance of the house Jacob Steiner left behind, the archaic centerpiece of one of Frederick’s prime residential developments. Both are true stories left in stone.
Master of Mill Pond
I was intrigued to see a recent story in the Frederick News announcing the formation of the Mill Pond House Ruins Committee, a group taking aim to further preserve and interpret the “mortal remains” of what most likely represents Frederick’s oldest known house. The article states that City of Frederick planning officials are aiming to take the ruins over as part of a parkland dedication agreement with the developers of Worman’s Mill, located in the northeast portion of the city, just off MD route 26 and Monocacy Boulevard.
Thankfully the remnants were not bulldozed with the creation of the Worman’s Mill community a few decades back. You can find them safely secured behind a chain link fence, located off a bicycle/walking trail that traverses the Worman’s Mill Conservancy property. This locale is bounded by Tuscarora Creek and Mill Race Road, and is also in close proximity to the Monocacy River to the northeast.
Unfortunately, all that exists of the original Mill Pond House are the chimney and a few of the structure’s stone walls. The current location of the remains of the Mill Pond House can be found on the Worman’s Mill Conservancy property (abutting the fore mentioned Mill Race Road and the Tuscarora Creek). We are lucky that multiple residents, past and present, have taken a great interest in the architectural importance of the house, and the life of its original builder.
Neighboring Worman’s Mill resident Dedra Salitrik, a master gardener, became enamored with the Mill Pond House when she and husband, John, bought their home on Mill Race Road. The Salitrik residence actually backs to the ruins, and gave inspiration for their purchase at this location. The couple immediately started doing detective work on the structure, eventually receiving permission from the Wormald Development Company to go inside the chain-link fence and build a pollinator garden to attract birds and bees. They went on to enhance the ruins with plantings of elderberries, winterberry holly, milkweed and turtlehead.
As for context on this old house, Worman’s Mill resident and historian Heidi Sproat wrote the following introductory piece on the Worman Mill Conservancy’s website:
Jacob Stoner, a German settler to Frederick, MD built the Mill Pond House around 1746, before the Revolutionary War, on a site along the Old Annapolis Road. It was a prime example of half-timber and wattle-and-daub construction typical of late medieval dwellings in the valley of the Upper Rhine in Germany. In fact, it was the only known house in the East German or Palatine style ever built in Maryland. The house was constructed entirely of peg and rail construction; there were no nails used. The house was built forty feet wide and thirty feet deep and had two stories. While the original house was constructed using a technique known as "waddle and daubing," the ground floor was made of both sandstone and limestone. Incredibly, there was a vaulted cellar and spiral stairs. The house resembled what we refer to today as English Tudor.
After Jacob Steiner’s (Stoner’s) death in 1748, the Mill Pond House, and surrounding property, was held by the Frederick County court and eventually transferred to his children in 1767. His wife had died the same year, leaving minor aged children. Jacob’s eldest son, John, inherited the Mill Pond parcel and continued to operate his father’s mill. Mill Pond was sold out of the family in 1798 (the time of John’s death) to William Potts, who would eventually convey the property to namesake Moses Worman on April 3, 1811.
I have had the pleasure of knowing two of the leading contemporary authorities on Jacob Stoner and his Mill Pond House. One is my friend Patricia “Pat” Ogden, a historian, genealogist and master docent at Schifferstadt Architectural Museum. Pat has researched and presented on the Mill Pond House and Jacob Steiner in recent years, and serves as a key member of the Mill Pond House Ruins Committee. The other individual of note is no longer with us, however my work office is within 100 yards of his gravesite. His name was Claggett Jones (1924-2004).
Claggett Jones, a Washington DC native and World War II veteran, took a great interest in the Mill Pond House and its history. After his retirement from the Department of Commerce, Mr. Jones moved to Frederick with his wife Jean, taking up residence in the Worman’s Mill community. Back in 1995, he was kind enough to provide me with a copy of an old article from 1951 which included photographs of the ancient structure for use in my documentary film series Frederick Town. A few years later, we invited Claggett to be a guest for a special feature on Young at Heart, one of our GS Communication’s Cable 10 television programs. He spoke on the Mill Pond House and shared a spectacular two-foot square model of the structure which he and lifelong friend and neighbor Wes Stewart had meticulously crafted in his basement.
Jacob Steiner (Stoner)
One of the area’s earliest settlers, Jacob Steiner (Stoner), was one of six men who tried to buy Tasker’s Chance in the late 1730’s. Tasker’s Chance was a parcel of 7,000 acres patented to Annapolis businessman and politician Benjamin Tasker in June 1727. It was eventually conveyed to Frederick Town’s founder, Daniel Dulany, and would constitute the bulk of the land that the City of Frederick sits on today. Of the 19 individuals in 1746 who initially received deeds from Dulany, only Steiner received more than one parcel. He held three lots, all located northeast of the newly laid-out town.
Steiner operated a grain mill near the mouth of the Tuscarora Creek and named his lands Bear Den, The Barrens, and Mill Pond. It was on this latter tract that Jacob Steiner erected a late medieval-style stone and timber dwelling in 1746.
Not much more is documented about Jacob Steiner’s arrival to this country from Germany, or his early years here. He was born in 1713 and married Magdalena Glattacker (1715-1748) in 1733. It is likely that Jacob arrived in Philadelphia and settled west of the city like many of his German brethren of the era. He would eventually come to Maryland and the Monocacy River Valley in the late 1730’s. In the year 1740, Jacob Steiner was naturalized with sons John and Jacob (Jr).
Jacob Steiner would not see the growth of Frederick, dying in 1748 at the age of 35. He would be laid to rest in the first graveyard associated with the German Reformed Church. This was located behind the site of the congregation’s first church structure in the first block of West Church Street. The place of worship would eventually be enhanced in the form of Trinity Chapel which still exists today. The burying ground stretched from behind the church, southward to West Patrick Street. The former McCrory's Store, today’s Maryland Ensemble Theater building (31 W. Patrick St.), occupies the footprint today. The congregation eventually built a second graveyard at the corner of Bentz and West Second streets, the site of Memorial Park.
With the opening of Mount Olivet in 1854, many churches were relieved of the burden of not having adequate burial space. In some cases, folks bought lots in Mount Olivet and decided to move their ancestors into newly purchased lots from other cemeteries. Sometimes this was by choice, and other times by necessity as various congregations were making decisions to expand church structures, build support buildings or simply sell off downtown graveyard properties for lucrative offers made for residential and commercial purposes. This was the situation with for the German Reformed Church’s first cemetery. Coincidentally, the church’s second cemetery, original resting place of the famed Barbara Fritchie, was condemned by the City of Frederick in the 1920’s, and repurposed as Memorial Park in which soon became home to a fine World War I monument, erected in 1924.
Our cemetery records do not show the removal or reburial of Jacob Stoner in Mount Olivet. Based on the time of his death, one of the earliest in Frederick Town’s history, his mortal remains are likely one with the earth that comprises the original German Reformed burying ground. Steiner's beautifully crafted tombstone was moved to Mount Olivet, likely in 1923 with the other family stones.
Back in 2014, Jacob's grave stone was moved to the basement of the Key Memorial Chapel for safekeeping after descendant Roland Steiner and family of Howard County had new memorial stones crafted for Jacob Steiner and others whose stones had been disintegrating. The intent of Mr. Steiner was to preserve what is likely the oldest surviving tombstone in Frederick. With our new Preservation and Enhancement Fund, we hope to make a thorough restoration for the future and have the stone available for public display.
Jacob Steiner is one with Frederick, and his original grave stone and some of the stone work associated with his magnificent home at Mill Pond have survived the test of time.
One day, two summers back, I was walking around Mount Olivet Cemetery, taking scenic images for our website. While out and about, my curiosity was suddenly piqued by a well-aged, marble monument containing a tremendous amount of text carved on its face. The gravestone was about 3-foot tall, and appeared to have been the recipient of numerous repairs over the years. I could made out a few dates, and what I thought was the decedent’s name—William A. Von Steinman.
When I got back to my office, I looked up William Von Steinman in our network interment database. I found basic vital information such as birth and death, but more importantly found an entry in the notes section that read as follows:
Born in New Orleans, LA. Occupation: Professor of Music at Frederick Female Seminary who studied under of operatic singer Gilbert Raoul di Palma. The death records of the Evang. Lutheran Church, Frederick, Md. recorded his full name (Prof. W. H. Von Steinman), age (39y2m), death date (Dec. 30, 1882) and burial date (Jan. 4, 1883).
I thought it was ironic that this professor had been born in 1843, the same year the Frederick Female Seminary was originally opened. I immediately performed a Google word search on Gilbert Raoul di Palma (a name that also appears on the face of Von Steinman’s tombstone) to gauge his importance in the history of opera, thinking this could be a neat tie-in for a future blog story. Sadly, I found nothing.
I then pulled out the heavy “research guns,” and began scouring online/digitized newspapers of the 19th century to see if Gilbert Raoul di Palma had taught and/or performed in the United States, likely in New Orleans. Then “Bingo!"— I had hit the “history geek researcher” jackpot on my first try. The top Google entry included not only di Palma’s name, but also that of Von Steinman! This article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer edition of January 6, 1883.
I soon learned two fascinating things about my subject: Mr. di Palma and William Von Steinman were one in the same; and this enigmatic man (with fancy monikers) was not only a mystery to me, he (and his true identity) had been at the center of a larger puzzle and subsequent police investigation at the time of his untimely death—he had died at the age of 39 while traveling on a train between New York City and Philadelphia.
The Inquirer article was a Godsend, and told me everything I needed to know—well almost everything. I found that the story of William Von Steinman was run in newspapers in New York City, Chicago, Buffalo and even Racine, Wisconsin. Although I couldn’t find funeral coverage in any of our available local Frederick papers, I did find an article in a New York offering, reprinting a story that first originated here. (I’ve inserted at the end of this story). I wanted to go a bit further, yearning to learn three things, in particular:
1.)What was the exact timeline of Von Steinman’s life in reference to residences?;
2.)Why/how did he come to Frederick and the town’s seminary?; and
3.) Why is he buried in Mount Olivet as opposed to other locations?
There was no “Big Easy” in trying to find details of the early life in New Orleans of one William Von Steinman/Gilbert di Palma. I couldn’t find any di Palmas in census records (1840’s-1870’s), as the closest match was a Gilbert Detour of French descent, aged 17 and living in the Fifth Ward of New Orleans in the 1860 US Census. In the dwelling next door, I found a James Dejour from Sicily. In an 1850’s New Orleans’ newspaper, I found the name of a Hermann Steinman attached to a political petition of support for a certain candidate.
I could not put my finger on Gilbert di Palma’s assumed Italian roots, or the Bohemian influence inflicted by his step-father resulting in his name change. As can be seen by the Inquirer article, this individual spent time in Europe, attending what would become the Music Conservatory in Leipsig, oldest in Germany, and receiving piano instruction under the great Carl Tausig (1841-1871), Franz Liszt's most esteemed pupil. Europe was certainly a better option for the Von Steinman family in the decade of the 1860’s, as opposed to spending time stateside in New Orleans during the turbulent time of the American Civil War.
The first tangible census record on our mystery man comes in 1875 with the New York State Census taken in that year. Mr. Von Steinman can be found living in Albany, New York as a boarder in Ward 7. His listed profession is that of music teacher, but his birthplace is shown as New Orleans, but rather Germany. Perhaps his birth in New Orleans was just a technicality as his parents (or simply his mother) was simply traveling through at the time. I started thinking that the professor either came from tremendous wealth, or was a total sham, taking fancy names suitable to propel a fledgling career as a successful music teacher/musician. Apparently, this time period included Von Steinman petitioning the New York legislature to have his name legally changed back to Gilbert di Palma, again, a great self-marketing ploy for an aspiring tenor.
I deduce that the professor’s time in Albany ranged from late 1874-mid 1877, as many local newspapers articles and advertisements mention him often in relation to concert performances. I did find that he had been hired to teach music at another school prior to his tenure in upstate New York. This occurred in 1873, as his employer was the Goldsboro Female Seminary, located in New Bern, North Carolina. I had to smile in finding this tidbit, because the earlier mentioned Baron Christoph Von Graffenried was the founder of New Bern in 1710—the first Swiss settlement in the New World. Anyway, I digress (as usual).
The Hackleton Connection
Further investigation showed me that William Von Steinman came to Frederick in the summer of 1877, in preparation for the upcoming school year in the employ of the Frederick Female Seminary—a fact that could have been learned earlier had the gravestone been more legible. It was a melancholy time for the Frederick institution, preparing for its 35th academic year of existence. The previous April, the school’s principal, James Harvey Hackleton, suddenly expired one week after celebrating his 60th birthday.
Professor Hackleton had come to Frederick in 1873 with an impressive resume. Along with his wife, Maria (Williams) Hackleton, a noted professor in her own right, the Maine natives had previously administered like female seminaries in his home state and schools in the South, most recently in Memphis, Tennessee. Upon Principal Hackleton’s death, Maria assumed her husband’s chief leadership role at the institution. The transition was reported to have been quite smooth, and Mrs. Hackleton would remain in this position until 1885, aided by her two daughters, staff members of the Frederick Female Seminary who would marry into local Frederick families (McPherson and Parsons). Maria Hackleton would move to Greenville, South Carolina and continue her profession as principal of the Classical School for Young Ladies.
In an article appearing September 17th, 1877 in the Frederick Examiner newspaper, Mrs. Hackleton received praise for bringing Professor William Von Steinman onto her staff. It seems that the new music teacher’s reputation had certainly preceded him. Thus began Von Steinman’s four- year stint at the Frederick Female Seminary, where he soon became beloved by students and fellow citizens alike. I presume the young man meant a great deal to Mrs. Hackleton as well, as he likely did much to enhance the prestige of the school, while also bolstering the skills of Hackleton’s daughters, who appear to have had musical talents and aspirations of their own.
From the newspaper articles, I assume that William Von Steinman left the school, or took a sabbatical in fall 1880 to follow his perceived true dream as a professional musician. He became part of the Royal Opera Troupe led by Col. James Henry Mapleson, an English opera impresario and leading figure in the development of opera production, and the careers of singers in London and New York City in the second half of the 19th century. The company gave autumn and spring seasons at the New York Academy (10 weeks in the fall and 5-8 in the spring) and toured, appearing regularly in Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany. Other cities included St Louis, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Indianapolis. Mapleson’s continental repertory was fairly standard and featured operas by Italian composers such as Donzetti, Rossini and Verdi as well as translations of works by the likes of Gounod, Bizet and Wagner. So this explains the years of Von Steinman’s life during 1881 and 1882.
Mount Olivet Superintendent, Ron Pearcey, and I recently ventured out to make a rubbing of the gravestone, with the hope of gleaning more of the text content that couldn’t be read by the human eye—or at least mine. We were able to find that under his arching name of William A. Von Steinman (at the top of the stone), the following information is included:
Born in New Orleans in 1843
Performed under the name of Gilbert Raoul di Palma
Professor of Music at the Frederick Female Seminary from Sept 1877 to Nov 1880
Died while traveling from New York to Frederick January 3, 1883
Erected by his Grateful and Devoted Pupils in June 1899.
Even with the rubbing we couldn’t decipher a biblical passage. We also note here that the death date of January 3, 1883 is incorrect, as it was actually December 29th (the time of the discovery aboard the train). January 3rd is likely the day that proper identification was made, however, the official Pennsylvania death certificate gives December 30th as the death date of Gilbert Raoul di Palma.
I found a few remembrances of Professor Von Steinman in later papers. In 1889, an advertisement announced that a benefit concert was being planned to raise funds to place the fitting grave monument for the former music teacher. This would eventually become a reality nearly a decade later in 1897.
Just over twenty years ago, my significant other repeatedly gave me the gift of local history for Christmas. She knew I loved anything pertaining to Frederick’s past…this coming after I had produced a ten-hour video documentary on the subject back in fall of 1995. She gave me the coveted, original hard copy of J.T. Scharf’s History of Western Maryland in Christmas 1995, followed by T.J.C. Williams History of Frederick County in 1996. Christmas of 1997 came with antique paper memorabilia including several receipts on the letterhead, along with cancelled checks from several Frederick businesses of the 1880’s and 1890’s. I also acquired some old glass bottles, and a few program booklets, one from the City Opera House, and another from a Black Elks Conference held here in town.
One more item was included in the mix, but didn’t seem all that interesting to me at the time. It was an old photo card of a teenage boy, produced by the local commercial photographer Josiah R. Marken, likely taken around 1890. These pictures are more commonly known as cabinet cards, photographic portraits the late 19th century that pop up all the time in antique shops, flea markets and eBay of course. Usually a nearby display sign or placard reads “instant, or lost, relatives” or “anonymous ancestors.”
Considering cabinet cards found today, the people that could recognize these folks are long gone. Attempting to identify subjects against extant photos of possible ancestors is difficult. Sometimes you have to compare an antique photo of a younger person against a “newer” photo of that individual as an old man or woman. In many cases, the existing picture is the only image ever taken of an individual. One can try to attempt narrowing down the era of an image subject by photographer, card stock, clothing worn by subject, and/or hair style displayed.
I find it ironic that most antique photos are either unmarked, or over-marked—written all over on the face side, and in pen…sometimes ruining or distorting a beautiful personal portrait or landscape—but at least you know who they are. I have had several of both varieties given to me to sleuth or archive as a designated family historian.
As for the photo of that young man I received for Christmas in 1997, I was lucky enough to have a name written on the backside. It was that of Mr. W.S. Bennett. Underneath looks to be the writing of a child, all in caps, which reads: “BARBARA FRITCHIE BENNETT, BORN OCTOBER 28, 1897. This latter graffiti was one of the reasons why the card was appealing to my wife, as she knew my keen interest in the Barbara Fritchie incident/non-incident.
A Photographic Archeological Dig
I never really looked into the history of Master Bennett, as I simply stowed the photo card away for safekeeping in an archival box with the other paper items. Recently, I found the need to sift through that old box, as it contained an old advertising card from an early rendition of the Barbara Fritchie Restaurant. I needed this for my “Stories in Stone” piece on Ammon Cramer, founder of the popular Fritchie Candy Stick eatery and Barbara Fritchie chocolate candy, founded around 1915. While doing so, I happened upon the card, and my interest was piqued, especially wondering if he was buried in Mount Olivet.
A little bit of research on the mystery cabinet card gave me the name of William Steiner Bennett, and yes, he was indeed laid to rest here in Frederick’s famed “garden cemetery.” He is buried in Area OO, Lot 2 near the fence that parallels Stadium Drive. Mr. Bennett is in the company of his wife, children and in-laws. More so, I found that William S. Bennett’s life was far from ordinary.
William’s childhood was abruptly over as he was forced into the role as “man of the house,” at the age of 13. He immediately sought employment, and received work from the Great Southern Printing and Manufacturing Company—printers of the Frederick News. William S. Bennett would remain in their ranks as a celebrated employee for the next 60 years, most of which holding the title of pressman. Years later, sister Jennie would also gain a job with the company started by William T. Delaplaine in 1883.
Young Bennett also possessed a lifetime love of baseball. He began as a player with early Frederick teams of the 1890’s, playing the positions of pitcher, first base and catcher. After his playing days, he would remain a staunch local supporter of the sport, helping to organize the Frederick Baseball Club in 1912 along with local baseball legend Carlton Molesworth.
In 1896, William S. Bennett would start a family of his own. He married Lucy Virginia Butcher and would welcome his first of two children on October 29th, 1897. The Bennetts named their first daughter Mary Catherine, however, I venture to say that it was this little girl who took on the “alter-ego” of Barbara Fritchie Bennett—responsible for the doodling on the back of my cabinet card. She must not have liked her name as she was more commonly known as Margaret throughout her lifetime. She married Roy Mumford, the son of a former Orphans Court judge.
William lost his mother in February, 1900, however he would gain another child was born later the same year. Garnett R. was born on December 5th. She would wed a Frederick Baseball Club standout named Clarence Waldo Blethen (1892-1973). Blethen was from Dover-Foxcroft, Maine and would play pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Robins and numerous minor league clubs around the country well into the 1930’s. He was referred to as the "Christy Mathewson of the Minor Leagues,” and possessed the nickname of "Climax" after the chewing tobacco he used. Fittingly, his burial plot, like that of his father-in-law faces Harry Grove Stadium, home of the Frederick Keys.
In early 1917, William S. Bennett embarked upon his next life adventure. As early as 1913, he had been moonlighting as a doorman at Frederick’s famed City Opera House, today the site of Brewer’s Alley Restaurant. In late 1916, an opportunity arose to take on a greater role at the entertainment venue. Bennett continued to serve as pressroom foreman at the newspaper, but took on the job of managing the theater. An article appearing in the Frederick News on January 28th, 1917 relayed that a new management will take over the operation of the City Opera House the following month, and pledged that it would become the “Greatest theatre in Maryland.”
At 41, Bennett had created the W. S. Bennett Company in partnership with William S. Haller and Samuel H. Rosenstock. They negotiated with the City of Frederick for an annual rental lease of $4,777.77. William S. Bennett would become theatre manager and told the newspaper that he planned “to bring the finest feature films here and will present at least six acts of high class vaudeville at every show.” He also was said to be negotiating for the presentation of legitimate drama by New York City-based stock companies.
The Bennett firm ran the City Opera House through the difficult era of World War I, up through 1919. As for William S. Bennett’s “day job,” he would become the oldest employee and associate of the News-Post, moving with the firm to various locations and ushering in new technologies. In 1938, Bennett was feted by upper management and co-workers in recognition of his 50th year of service. His close friends and associates at the paper referred to him as “Mr. Billy,” and loved hearing him tell tales of “days of old” in the newspaper business of his youth, and the many changes he had witnessed and experienced. He wouldn’t retire until September, 1956 at the age of 81.
Bennett’s News-Post family kept him great company in the years immediately following Lucy Bennett’s death in 1952. She would be buried in the corner lot occupied previously by her parents.
Another interesting item I learned along the way was that Bennett was also a musician. This was thanks to an interesting feature article which appeared in the Frederick News of September 1st, 1961. Ironically, the news piece, like mine here, centered on the discovery of a mystery photograph. It had been recently returned to Frederick from a repository in Hanover, PA and featured an undated, unmarked photo relating to the Frederick chapter of the Knights of Pythia fraternal organization. The photo was dated to the years immediately preceding the First World War as it captured the Knights of Pythia Band. William S. Bennett was called to help identify the image and those within it. He immediately saw a familiar face—his own. William had served as the group’s drum major, and could be seen pictured prominently in the first row in full attire. He couldn’t recall the picture having been taken, but assisted in identifying some of his chums.
William S. Bennett only spent 10 Christmases without his beloved wife. He passed away in his sleep two days before what would have been his eleventh, in the early morning hours of December 23, 1962. Mr. Bennett lived a full life of 87 years, and would be laid to rest by his wife’s side on December 26th, 1962.
I continue to marvel as I learn more about the lives of Mount Olivet’s residents through researching for this blog and experience stories told to me by visiting descendants regarding their relatives. Each day I certainly see that those interred here are much more than “names in stone”—hence, they are Stories in Stone.
Finding an image of an individual buried here in the cemetery is an added bonus. Putting a face to a name is the proverbial “icing on the cake.” I did not put much stock into the photo cabinet card of W. S. Bennett when I received it on Christmas Day, 1997. But as I held the card next to Mr. Bennett’s tombstone on the last day of 2017, I couldn’t help but feel a special sense of appreciation. Here I am, a total stranger to William S. Bennett and his family, but one who possesses a photo that likely passed through his hand in the late 1880’s at the time of its taking. Now I’m here at his gravesite, exactly 55 years after his death. How many hands did it pass before getting to me? Why wasn't it kept?
I, too, received my career start at the Great Southern Printing & Manufacturing Company in late 1989. As opposed to Bennett’s amazing tenure, I only spent 12 years in its employ until 2001 at which time the cable company (Frederick Cablevision/GS Communications) was sold to Adelphia Communications. However, in that period, I was afforded the opportunity to be an “audio-video pressman” of sorts. I got to manage entertainment productions, produce/televise Frederick Keys baseball games and provide a showcase for local bands and entertainers. Best of all, the time spent in the employ of the Delaplaines and Randalls gave me the impetus, experience and training to continue my pursuits of documenting/promoting the history of Frederick and its incredible past residents. We have some similarities after all, Mr. Bennett.
Year after year, the passing of time is as fast as it is amazing. Happy New Year to you and yours and please make a resolution to label and organize those old family photos for not only the benefit of future descendants, but those history investigators like me who may yearn to put a face with a name in the future.
Christmas decorations have taken over the Frederick landscape! Lights are on houses, candles in windows, figurines on lawns. The same goes for many area businesses as well, including ours here at Mount Olivet Cemetery where wreaths adorn grave sites, and artificial flower arrangements decorate mausoleum crypts and niches. People have also brought favorite ornaments to place on monuments or hang on trees within the mausoleum buildings in remembrance of their loved ones.
I just recently had the revelation that there is at least one establishment in Frederick which proudly displays a “landmark” holiday decoration for 365 days of the year, without fail. More amazing than that, is the fact that it’s been in place for 58 years. Can you guess what it is?
Back in the 1970’s, local Maryland State trooper, Millard “Mick” Mastrino, deemed a section of W. Patrick Street/US Route 40 (west of Frederick) as “the Golden Mile.” Mastrino knew this area well because the Maryland State Police Barracks were among the first structures in this vicinity. The mile-long stretch was the first parcel of former rolling farmland pegged for large scale commercial development.
“The Golden Mile” is still book-ended by two longstanding monuments, both marking fabled (non-chain) restaurant establishments. Each of these freestanding objects are also red in color as well. On the east boundary is the majestic “Red Horse,” survivor of multiple senior prank kidnappings and a local symbol of steak and flame-kissed beef culinary excellence. The Red Horse Steak House is located at the foot of Linden Hills, next to the former Red Horse Motor Inn, now a Comfort Inn. The Red Horse Restaurant started in 1968, positioned across the street from a Holiday Inn built by local attorney Dan Weinberg in 1962.
I recently wrote about Weinberg’s wife, Alyce, in reference to the popular book of local ghost stories she penned in the 1970’s. Although we remember the Weinbergs today for their outstanding generosity in saving the old Tivoli Theater (Weinberg Center), it was another early business venture on the west side of “the Golden Mile” that kept a generation entertained through the phenomenon of outdoor movies. This was the Braddock Drive-In. It was located just west of the triangle intersection of US 40 and US 40-Alternate at present day Old Camp Road. The Drive Inn, which once boasted country legend Patsy Cline performing between features, is long gone, today better known as the home of a Weis Market, McDonald’s Bob Evans and restaurants and strip store outlets.
Like Weinberg, another Frederick business visionary would take his chances with a venture on the west side of town. This was an era that pre-dated the mall, shopping centers, and influx of other restaurants that would later pervade the Golden Mile. He lived atop Linden Hills, moving here decades before the four-legged, equestrian monument made its appearance in the vicinity. Cramer decided to capitalize off the success of the Braddock Drive-Inn by setting up a diner-style eating experience, specializing in “date-night” and after hours fare such as sodas, ice cream, hamburgers, pie and candy. He also sold hearty, hometown favorites like fried chicken and apple dumplings, along with the novelty of breakfast food all day long.
This man was Ammon E. Cramer, a talented music prodigy turned restaurateur, sprinkled with more than a dash of “P.T. Barnum-esque” marketing talents. He punctuated his eatery with a landmark synonymous with Christmas and easily recognized by passing motorists as well as moviegoers across the street. The result—a 35-foot jumbo, red and white, candy cane. Cramer fittingly named his new venture after his confectionary-inspired monument, but gave top billing to one Frederick’s finest past citizens, Barbara Fritchie, the 95-year-old, flag-toting, Unionist of the Civil War who lived a few miles east of his restaurant on W. Patrick Street. Opening the Barbara Fritchie Candy Stick Restaurant was not Cramer’s first foray in business. It also wasn’t his inauguration with candy production/sales and the equally lovable Barbara Fritchie, as his track record dates back to 1919.
Ammon Evers Cramer was from one of Frederick’s earliest, and best known, founding families. He was the son of Civil War veteran John Phillip Cramer (1844-1923), a man who fought with the 3rd Potomac Home Brigade and appears to have been wounded in the process. J. P. Cramer married Emeline Eyler (1842-1915) and was engaged in running a family farm at Pleasant Hill, northeast of Woodsboro.
Ammon was born on December 20th, 1883. This was 21 years and two days after the death of Barbara Fritchie. Cramer attended school up through the 8th grade, customary of the time, and spent most of his time working on the farm. Somewhere along the line, he began to show talent as a musician and vocalist. He would leave the confines of Pleasant Hill for Frederick City and took a job with Birely’s Palace of Music, owned by one-time Orphan’s Court judge Jacob M. Birely.
The Woodsboro native soon earned the title around town of “Professor Cramer” thanks to his musical talent. He not only sold instruments ranging from pianos and organs to symphoniums and autoharps, but also taught music lessons, and wrote several compositions of his own. An early newspaper article reports that at least a dozen of Cramer’s songs met with modest success in the northeastern cities of the country.
The family eventually moved to a house of their own on E. Third Street. Cramer’s business grew larger and more diversified in 1919 as a restaurant was opened in conjunction with the music showroom and “Five & Dime” dry goods entity. Marketing ads boasted complete meals for the price of a quarter. A common crossover novelty tying all modes of business together at this location was a player piano, utilized to entertain patrons of the lunch counter and soda fountain.
In addition to composing music, Ammon Cramer soon found himself composing candy. He entered the confectionary trade, and began attending yearly conferences and expositions in Chicago. Cramer’s leading number would take the name of Frederick’s favorite daughter—Barbara Fritchie Chocolates and Bon-Bons. Cramer would file to have the name trademarked on September 13th, 1923. Success came quick, and necessitated a downtown diner/candy store location at 15 E. Patrick Street. He named it the Barbara Fritchie Chocolate Shop and Inn.
With business escalating, Cramer opened a second candy shop location in Baltimore, and also moved his chocolate factory the heart of Charm City. This endeavor would be located at 109 N. Liberty Street. Success did take a toll, along with alleged “indulging in sweets of another kind” as Blanche Cramer filed for divorce in May, 1924. Cramer found himself in a financial conundrum, and had to pay a settlement to his ex-wife, and had other creditors. He tried leasing his Frederick Barbara Fritchie location, but to no avail.
A levy sale was soon held by the county sheriff in August and many of his instruments, store furnishings and glassware were sold. A public sale, hosted by Ammon, would be held three months later with a number of items departing the inventory of Cramer’s Palace of Music, and highlighted by the passing of his majestic soda fountain along with the glass bar and stools. The Baltimore location also fell by the wayside. It was a low time for Frederick’s “Music Man/Candy Man.”
As this business did fine at the present location, something very special happened in 1927. A few local businessmen, under the leadership of Hammond Clary, concocted the idea of building a replica Barbara Fritchie House and Museum on W. Patrick Street along Carroll Creek. The original Fritchie home was destroyed by a flood in 1868 and dismantled as part of a control effort in widening of the creek at that location. Tourists and visitors had been coming to Frederick for decades, only to be disappointed to learn that the Fritchie House was not here, and no chance was afforded travelers to gaze upon the famous second-story dormer window in which the nonagenarian leaned out of and waved her flag.
On cue, Ammon Cramer quickly moved his establishment right across the street of the new museum to 59 W. Patrick Street. It also appears that he brought son his son Chauncey into the family business as well. He could now prey on the countless pilgrims to the recreated “alleged site” of Barbara Fritchie’s defiance back in 1862. And in my book, nothing goes better with Civil War history than candy and ice cream.
It was at this time that Cramer would marry Helen Mackley. The couple would move to the new suburban development of Linden Hills, west of town. He built a house at the top which afforded an incredible elevated view of Frederick’s famed “clustered spires,” made famous by the Whittier poem about Barbara Fritchie, of course. Everything was going very nicely for the former farm kid from Woodsboro.
Sadly, Ammon would lose Helen in 1938. She died after a five-month illness at the tender age of 31, leaving her husband to raise two young daughters, ages six and seven. As had always been the case, Cramer persevered, throwing himself into his work. Meanwhile, the allure for a takeaway souvenir of namesake chocolate was overwhelming for tourists visiting the Barbara Fritchie House. Cramer had to find new digs for his candy manufacturing. In 1944, he attempted to gain industrial zoning approval for a new factory which he desired to place at the northwest corner of W. 7th and Bentz streets. He couldn’t get the zoning, however and was forced to look elsewhere.
Ammon Cramer would establish his chocolate factory south of Frederick on the once-sparse Evergreen Point (along the Georgetown/Urbana Pike/MD355). He built a series of Quonset huts, encompassing 18,000 feet, to house the equipment used to pump out his Fritchie bon-bons. This was 1947, after the boom following the close of World War II. Much of this structure survives today as it has been repurposed many times of the years. Currently, it serves home to Tate Chrysler/Plymouth's Used Cars location.
Ammon had married for a third and final time earlier in the decade. His young bride (35 years his junior), was Mary Frances Wertenbaker. Mary took an active role in helping Ammon run the family business, plus two more children would come from this marriage.
The New Frontier
In the post-war period, automobile sales skyrocketed, and motoring shaped the culture of the country. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 added to this. Roadside attractions and restaurants sprouted up everywhere, as did motorist-friendly amenities such as drive-up tellers at banks, drive-in movies, and drive-in restaurants. These were “Happy Days” for sure! Ammon Cramer needed to be part of the new “vehicular” frontier.
The newspapers of 1959 feature news stories of the Cramer’s attempting to get zoning approval for a parcel located at the intersection of Hayward Road at US15. This was the year that the Frederick Freeway opened, a plan to bypass traffic around downtown Frederick. Ammon Cramer experienced defeat again with this venture—one which would have been optimal in capturing motorists coming from the north on the early interstate, along with those coming from the south and heading towards the Civil War mecca of Gettysburg. Undaunted, he now focused his attention west of town on W. Patrick Street/US40 as it had been a major traveler highway of note for two centuries.
Ground was broken on October 13th, 1959 at a site north of the Braddock Drive-Inn and west of Masser’s Motel. Ammon Cramer placed a large candy cane along the roadside itself in front of the restaurant to bring extra attention to his eclectic eatery. Day or night, this architectural element became a beacon to travelers, and an important landmark in the annals of Americana.
Ammon Cramer faithfully ran his Barbara Fritchie Candystick Restaurant, including the resale of his Barbara Fritchie candy creations, up through his death on September 13th, 1967. He also lived to see his music business celebrate 50 years in business, closing shortly after.
Ammon would be laid to rest in the mausoleum-cloister atop Linden Hills, immediately across from his home. At the time, this was known as Frederick Memorial Park Cemetery (established in 1931). It has undergone a series of names and owners, but today goes by the name of Clustered Spires Cemetery and is operated by the Cody family and Resthaven Cemetery.
West of Frederick, the story was quite different. The “Golden Mile” and suburban boom provided more customers, along with more competitors as well. The Barbara Fritchie Restaurant held its own and was run successfully by Mary Cramer, who died in July, 2003. Mary Cramer’s children had her inurned within Mount Olivet’s main Mausoleum Chapel. At this time, Ammon Cramer’s remains were removed from the Clustered Spires Mausoleum, and brought here to Mount Olivet. Today, you can find the couple sharing a niche space on the back wall of the Chapel Mausoleum.
As for the Barbara Fritchie Candystick Restaurant, new owners have continued the Cramers’ legacy, and it is still beloved by Frederick locals and tourists alike. The place hasn’t changed all that much as it marches toward 60 years in existence. The candy counter is gone, but the throwback décor and “homey feel” certainly remains. Over the years, many travelers have recounted to me their fond memories of Frederick being synonymous with dining excursions at “the Fritch” dating back in some cases to their youth. I’ve had the opportunity to share this with my children as well. How can one forget the desserts, milkshakes and breakfast all day-long? Thank you Ammon Cramer, if nothing else, you certainly “composed” culinary masterpieces in the form of music for our stomachs.
December 12th marks the death date of a Jefferson, Maryland native who fought bravely in the Great War. John J. Arnold (1894-1984) fought with Company A of the 311th Machine Gun Battalion of the 79th Division. Private Arnold was severely wounded on September 29th, 1918 during the Battle of Argonne Forest. He would receive the Purple Heart for an injury that partially disabled him for the rest of his life as a farmer tending to his family homestead located at 3945 Lander Road.