It was about 25 years ago when I stumbled upon a certain yellowed publication within the boundless stacks of the Wonder Book & Video Store. It was the History of Carrollton Manor written by William Jarboe Grove in 1922. I had a tough time figuring out what it was in rough shape and devoid of a cover, held together by just a few rusty staples. As I flipped through the nearly 300 pages, I instantly became mesmerized by this history of southern Frederick County, as told by a lifelong resident.
William J. Grove wrote this book while in his late sixties, colorfully recounting stories related to his childhood memories of events and neighbors on the manor. Included were stories relating to farming, industry and the Civil War. The Grove family were quite prominent during the late 19th century, as William’s father, Manassas Grove was a successful industrialist. The elder Grove was responsible for the quaint hamlet of Lime Kiln, aptly named after the booming lime production operation he created. Son William would carry on management after his father’s death, and stayed quite active in Frederick affairs and politics.
Sufficed to say, I bought this tattered book and was excited to start exploring a part of the county I hadn’t known much about. It still remains my personal favorite Frederick history book.
One of the “Carrollton Manor characters” introduced to readers is Clara McAbee—proclaimed as “Maryland’s prettiest girl.” The short passage on her by Mr. Grove reads as follows:
May 17, 1915, Lime Kiln loomed up through the United States when Miss Clara May McAbee was selected as the prettiest girl in Maryland, and was given a trip to California where she entered the nationwide beauty contest, and there came out second after a close contest.
In a letter written May 18th, 1915, by William J. Grove to the Baltimore News, he says: “The beauty contest put the little village of Lime Kiln, Frederick County, on the map, nestled as it is on historic ground, Carrolton Manor, once owned by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Why should not this beautiful girl win out, surrounded by the beauties of this old historic manor and softened by southern breezes from the Potomac?” S.C. Malone, the leading fine art engraver of America says of Miss McAbee, “I am frank to admit as an artist of international reputation that she is indeed beautiful in every sense of the word. It seems as if Mother Nature has enveloped her in all the patriotic panorama that has made the natural scenery of Frederick County famous.”
About five years after buying this book, I found myself pecking around an antique store in Emmitsburg, busily looking for local history collectibles. I soon came upon some World-War II era ration books from Frederick. I did a double-take when I read the name of the owner of these items—Clara McAbee Leon. It took me a minute to conjure up Clara McAbee, “the prettiest girl” I had read about back in Mr. Grove’s book years before. Examining these documents, I discovered Clara’s married name of Leon, and a residential address of 326 Lindbergh Avenue, located in the College/Baker Park area northwest of Downtown Frederick. She was in her late forties at this time.
Twenty more years go by, and I now find myself in the employ of Mount Olivet Cemetery, writing weekly blog posts on interesting inhabitants of the cemetery. A few months ago, I consulted The History of Carrollton Manor while helping a cemetery patron conducting family research. The first page I opened up to was page 46, the one about Clara McAbee which jogged my memory. I simply looked in our burial database and found that Clara McAbee Leon is buried here at Mount Olivet in Area GG, Lot 29! So that is the magical inspiration behind my quest for attempting to learn more about “Maryland’s prettiest girl.” Unfortunately, I must confess, I didn’t find a great deal as Clara would not have any children of her own. She served as a step-mother to her husband’s son from an earlier marriage—but as you will soon see, that must have been a complicated relationship at best.
“Maryland’s Prettiest Girl”
Clara Mae McAbee (Leon) was born October 3rd, 1894 in the vicinity of Lime Kiln, a small village that sits adjacent the original route 15 south, today known as Maryland route 85/Buckeystown Pike. The once booming industrial complex can be found just south of English Muffin Way, and roughly one mile north of Buckeystown. Clara was the daughter of Joseph F. McAbee and Eliza C. Funk, the second of eight children. The McAbees operated a general store out of the front of their Lime Kiln household, located north of Lime Kiln where the old B&O railroad intersected the Buckeystown Pike.
In 1915, twenty-year old Clara was chosen by a local newspaper to participate in a competition to pick Maryland’s most beautiful young lady. It’s interesting to point out that this was one of the first “beauty pageants” of this kind, held six years before the first “Miss America” pageant was held in Atlantic City in 1921. The Maryland event occurred May 16th in Baltimore, and was hosted by the Sun Newspaper Company. Clara Mae was chosen the winner from a large field of 500 contestants, half of which hailed from Charm City. This was quite an accomplishment from a small-town girl, and that’s even a stretch to give Lime Kiln credit for being a small town.
Newspapers near and far tried to describe the young lady in words. One such offered the following:
“a black–haired beauty, with oval features, and Latinish mold of expression.” S. C. Malone went to work on behalf of his home state. He joined with the Frederick News in fundraising efforts to send young Miss McAbee to Los Angeles, California where a nationwide pageant was slated for mid-June. This competition was being sponsored by the Universal Film Company, known today as Universal Studios. For the motion picture pioneer, the event presented a great opportunity to gauge “visual talent” from across the land—the winner promised to receive a high-salaried film contract. Of course, visual appearance was “paramount,” (over straight-up acting ability) in this era of silent movies.
Instant stardom was on the line for attractive young ladies representing nearly all the states in the country. When she departed Frederick on June 3rd, Clara’s reputation had preceded her to California, as she was listed among the favorites to win. As for the trans-Atlantic trek, the young Frederick Countian went first to New York City to meet with fellow Eastern contestants. From there, train travel took Clara and other contestants to Chicago to rendezvous with Midwest state champions. The caravan departed thence to the west coast.
The contest was maintained to be decided by merit, as the bulk of the judges were artists. Many of the competition categories were held at Universal City during the second week of June, 1915. All the while, the girls were treated to lavish dinners, shopping trips and excursions to nearby California sites and cities.
The winner was announced June 12th after a lavish parade of the beauties. Washington DC’s Ruth Purcell won with a score of “93.45% perfect.” Clara McAbee was the runner-up with a score of “93% perfect.” Rounding out the top six were young ladies representing New Jersey, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nebraska.
As a consolation, the Frederick belle was also offered a motion picture contract. The top girls chosen next embarked on a goodwill tour across the country. Along the way, Clara began receiving marriage proposals. This was reported in Moving Pictures Magazine at the time. One matrimony offer came from a mine owner living in Las Vegas, another from a rancher whom she met at the Grand Canyon. On the subject, Clara playfully told a reporter: “I have been receiving letters from every city at which we have stopped and telegrams are also coming in from them. I’ll have to marry one of them to get rid of both.”
Once back in Maryland, Clara was treated as a celebrity. She drew crowds, whenever, and wherever, she appeared in public. She was invited to many parties and dances throughout the region. In fact, the beauty queen was given a year pass of free movies from the Empire Theater in Frederick. The owners knew it would be good for business.
Unfortunately, not much more is documented about Clara’s foray into the film industry. But what is known is that brown-haired beauty would play a starring role in a local drama to be played out in area courts and papers less than three years later. These events would feature all the love, scandal, and intrigue usually found in a Hollywood box office smash hit.
This was his second such offense.A trip to the Dentist
Not usually pegged for a role in movies, our story’s leading man was a dentist by profession. His name, Dr. Albert K. Leon, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed native of Philadelphia, born in 1890. The son of Russian immigrants, Leon and his siblings had relocated to Washington DC. Dr. Leon’s father was a tailor and successful inventor who imparted on his children the importance of good dental hygiene. Like Albert, the bulk of his siblings (including an older sister) took up the dental profession. Albert was the youngest son and a bit of a rebel. Whether willingly of not, he completed dental school at Georgetown in 1911 and set out to start his career. That’s about the time he met Agnes V. St. John, a stylish young lady of the District of Columbia.
Young Albert was “playing with fire” with Miss St. John. She was a devout Catholic, a “no—no” for a boy of Jewish faith for the times, not to mention his parents being even more strict to tradition as first generation immigrants. Whatever the case, Albert would bring embarrassment to the family in more ways than just a religious faux pa. In January of 1912, he was caught practicing dentistry without the necessary license needed in the nation’s capital. He did this while using the Washington, DC office of his older brother (Benjamin).
Just a few month’s later, he eloped with girlfriend Agnes after telling his family he would be taking in a movie in Baltimore. The bi-religious couple were married on Easter Eve by Monsignor C. F. Thomas. This wedding would be kept secret by the couple for eight months, at which time the duo learned that Agnes was pregnant. The news shared with family was not well received well by either set of parents.
Albert’s family simply cut the cord on their youngest son, perhaps indirectly instigating his next big misstep by year’s end. Albert opened a dental office in Baltimore on West Lexington Street in October. In the early morning hours of December 2nd, Dr. Leon was caught in the basement of a candy store located below his office. He was arrested and charged with burglary, made even more sensational through newspaper coverage and the irony of a dentist caught robbing a confectionary. He claimed that he was simply investigating a noise, however the access for Dr. Leon required the help of a ladder placed within a dumb waiter chamber between floors.
Albert Leon successfully sidestepped a candy store conviction to encounter two new life changes in 1914. First and foremost, Agnes gave birth to a baby boy in late August. He was named Albert K. for his father. Three months later (November of 1914), Dr. Leon announced in the Frederick newspaper that he had opened a dental office at 10-12 N. Market Street. He continued to boast locations in Baltimore and Washington, but Frederick would become his base of operations.
Whether by design or not, Albert convinced Agnes that it was in the family’s best interest to have him firmly establish his practice in Frederick. This would require him to live in Frederick, while leaving his wife and son in DC with her parents. He claimed this would give him the time necessary to build a proper home for his wife and child. Leon’s innovative advertisements began appearing in the Frederick papers almost immediately. Interestingly, these included a self-photograph, something that strikes one as odd, especially done by a dentist. Perhaps there was an ulterior motive?
Dr. Leon seems to have been progressing well in Frederick by the size and scope of his advertising throughout 1915, the same year Clara McAbee was competing in pageants. Albert continued staying in Frederick during the week, and likely went home to Agnes and Albert Jr. in Washington on weekends. However, the long weeks could certainly open the doors of temptation—especially for a guy with a track record of proven sly behavior, getting caught with his hand in the candy jar, both literally and figuratively. However, this was nothing compared to what was to come.
Somewhere along the line, Albert Leon became smitten with a young, vivacious patient named Louise M. Claybaugh, an employee of the Union Knitting Mills. Plenty of dental-themed double entendres could be used here, but I will refrain. Let’s just say that Louise received more than “a routine cleaning” from the good doctor. Claybaugh claimed later that Dr. Leon had misrepresented himself, claiming to have been unmarried. She made this discovery when Agnes and Albert, Jr. came to live in Frederick sometime in 1917. Claybaugh was enraged and threatened to bring suit against Albert. He calmed her with hush money, offering to pay her a weekly stipend for her silence and cooperation. She relented.
Reports claim that Frederick residents had marveled at the stylish, big-city fashions worn by Agnes when visiting her husband at his workplace. However, not to be outdone, a jilted Louise began copying the fashions of Mrs. Agnes Leon, obtaining and modeling many of the same outfits. The competition was on, however Louise would find out that she had more than one rival for Dr. Leon’s heart.
Well, as if a love triangle wasn’t enough of a challenge for Albert Leon, the cunning periodontist decided to up the ante. Somehow, “Maryland’s prettiest girl,” Clara McAbee, would wind up in his dental chair. With his lack of self-restraint and love of teeth, it seems unfair that he could pass up the “prettiest” smile he would ever lay eyes on. One thing led to another and now he was successfully cheating on his mistress with the lovely girl from Lime Kiln. However, it was him who was about to go into the “kiln” as the jealous Miss Claybaugh was tracking his movements.
She caught Dr. Leon and Miss McAbee in a compromising position in his office on October 12th, 1917. Claybaugh attacked Clara in a fit of rage. Claybaugh admitted that if it hadn’t been for the intercession of Dr. Leon, she would have inflicted serious bodily harm on “the prettiest girl.” After stewing a bit on what to do, Louise Claybaugh wrote an apology letter to Albert for her actions—then decided to make an unholy alliance with Agnes Leon. She confronted Albert’s wife on the subject. Oh to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. Louise divulged her role with the doctor, and then brought up his recent episode with “prettiest girl in Maryland.”
Agnes was devastated and on Christmas Eve, packed up her stuff and Albert, Jr. to head to her parent’s house in Washington, threatening to never return. A few days later, Albert apparently received a draft notice in the mail (as this was the height of World War I). Dr. Leon was no dummy, and persuaded Agnes and the draft board that his wife and son were dependent on him. It worked, and Agnes gave the seemingly repentant dentist another chance. She and Albert Jr. returned to Frederick.
Everything was going as swimmingly as possible until late April 1918—that’s when “the toothpaste hit the fan,” so to speak. The Frederick and Baltimore papers were afire with the scandal of a “love quadrangle.” Agnes had issued a bill of complaint with the court outlining the altercation between misses Claybaugh and McAbee the previous October, and a titillating new wrinkle from March, 1918. On March 16th, Dr. Leon and Miss McAbee had “registered as husband and wife and remained at a hotel in Rockville all night occupying the same room.”
Mrs. Leon had hired noted attorney Leo Weinberg and sued for court costs, that of her counsel and demanded a $100/month alimony payment starting immediately. This was duly granted by Judge Hammond Urner. She openly shared her story, and frustration (with her three-timing husband) with the newspapers. Once again, Clara McAbee found herself on the front page, but for the “unprettiest” of reasons.
Dr. Leon gave his side of the story a week later, not admitting or denying his guilt. He said it was simply a big misunderstanding. He pledged to Agnes that he would sever all ties with Claybaugh and McAbee. And somehow, it worked, the couple once again reconciled. It must have been divine intervention, but of a more technical kind. I’m thinking it was Agnes’ dedication to Catholicism and the sacrament of reconciliation, compounded with the church’s firm standing on divorce.
Louise Claybaugh gave up the ghost and actually received positive attention for her role played in the affair. She also received marital offers E. Roy Kaufmann of Washington DC. The couple married just a few months later on September 11th, 1918.
Forgiveness is a great virtue and Agnes Leon should be given all the credit in the world. But, alas it wouldn’t last. The Leon family of three persevered for a time, as they can be found living together in Frederick in the 1920 census, on South Market Street. Meanwhile, Clara Mae McAbee can be found still living at home in Lime Kiln within the same census. However, Agnes would find that she could not keep her husband and Clara apart.
In 1923, Agnes Leon and 9 year-old son Albert, Jr. left Frederick once and for all. She sued for divorce, stating that her husband could not keep his pledge of fidelity to her. The guilty accessory to Dr. Leon’s downfall was not announced at first, but soon would be revealed as Miss McAbee.
In April, Agnes was granted an absolute divorce. She had returned to Washington and would live with her parents, raising young Arthur, Jr. as a single mother. She would never remarry, dying in 1969. Son Arthur K. Leon, Jr. followed in his father’s professional footsteps, becoming a successful dentist, last serving in Boca Raton, FL.
I guess you could say that “Maryland’s prettiest girl,” was once again victorious, beating other beautiful contestants! Clara Mae McAbee had won Dr. Leon’s heart, and would marry him in the mid 1920’s. The couple resided at 326 Lindbergh Avenue, but would have no children together. Dr. Albert K. Leon continued his successful dental practice in Frederick for over 50 years. He was noted in his field, serving as president of the Frederick County Dental Society and presented with a life membership in the Maryland state Dental Association. He also busied himself with charitable and civic work. The couple remained together, without known issue, until Albert’s death in April, 1966 at the age of 74. Dr. Leon’s passing made front page news in the Frederick paper, but this time he was duly heralded for his many contributions to the Frederick Community over his lifetime.
As for Clara, I know she did her part during World War II in respect to rationing, but outside of that, but I failed to learn much more. She died on March 20th, 1983, nearly 65 years to the day of her infamous night spent with Dr. Leon in a Rockville hotel.
Clara was 86 years old. Her obituary appeared in the Frederick News a few days following her death. It mentions her late husband, described as Albert K. Leon, prominent Frederick dentist.
A bevy of nieces and nephews are mentioned but nothing else. No mention of her one-time title as “Maryland’s prettiest girl.” No mention of the honor of runner-up for Universal Film Company’s national beauty competition in 1915, or potential film foray. Sadly the obit just tells readers that there would be no visitation hours at the funeral home, and graveside services would be private. She was laid to rest beside Albert on March 24, 1983 in Mount Olivet’s Area GG, lot 229.
I was surprised to find that Louise Claybaugh (Kaufman) is also buried in the cemetery, about 150 yards away in Area S. She died in 1949 at the age of 52.
Louise Claybaugh Kaufmann would live in Washington most of her adult life after marrying E. Roy Kaufmann. Upon her death in October, 1949, her body was returned to Frederick and buried in a lot next to her parents (Area S/Lot 10)
Corinthians 13:4-8 reads “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not.” I don’t know how to exactly apply this bible passage to this sordid story, as it may be more fitting to take inspiration from song titles such as “Love is a many splendored thing,” “Love is strange,” and best of all “Love is a Battlefield.” In this case, pain and heartbreak was unfortunately experienced, but Dr. Albert K. Leon and Clara Mae McAbee were destined to be together. Their love for each other took hold in 1917 and would withstand the test of time.
It just goes to show that true Valentines belong together. However, I would strongly advise that love is a great deal sweeter if you can spare the pain and embarrassment to ex-lovers, family friends and self—and 4 out of 5 dentists should be able to tell you the same.
Special thanks to Paula Feldman of the University of South Carolina. Ms. Feldman is a literary historian, English professor and great niece of Dr. Albert K. Leon, Sr.
If you have anything to share, especially photographs or reminisces of Clara McAbee, Dr. Leon et al, please leave comment or contact the author. Thank you!
Are you ready for some football? It’s the Patriots vs. the Falcons, ironically two names very common to Frederick area football. “Super Bowl Sunday” weekend, the annual post-Christmas ripple of heightened commercial marketing. There is no shortage of football-themed advertisements, viewing parties, and game prognostications. The whole thing has certainly turned into a cultural frenzy over the past half-century.
Fifty years ago, the first ever Super Bowl was simply a major championship game between reigning champions of competing professional football leagues—the NFL (National Football League) and the AFL (American Football League). The game was played on January 15, 1967 and featured the Green Bay Packers (NFL) and the Kansas City Chiefs (AFL).
Although the Packers of the NFL were victorious, the game had a tinge of “David and Goliath” to it. The NFL had been around for over 40 years already when the upstart AFL,, and its 8 teams, began play in 1960. The established league had successfully fended off several other rival leagues in the past, and wrote off the AFL as a collection of second-rate misfits and rejects, not good enough to play at their level. NFL officials thought that fans would not accept these new teams and the players that filled their rosters. Contrary to belief, many of these players were good, very good in fact. The AFL would soon put themselves in a position to bid against the NFL for top free agents, college prospects and coaches. The AFL had arrived!
Unfortunately, the AFL hadn’t completely arrived yet for that first "Super Bowl" as they took a 35-10 beat down by Green Bay, led by Quarterback/game MVP Bart Starr. The heavily favored Packers were also coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, a coach so good they later would name the Super Bowl Championship trophy after him.
Even in its infancy, the Super Bowl generated a heightened interest in professional football, giving hope to athletes, coaches and communities throughout the country that perhaps one day, they, themselves, could break into the big time, perhaps even playing in the “Big Game” itself one day. The stage was set for locals here in Frederick, Maryland to strike while the iron was hot. We got ourselves a team!
The Frederick Falcons were first organized in November, 1967 by Wayne Bowens and Herbert R. Eiker, Jr. A key component was hiring the right head coach. And this was done when they chose Richard L. “Dick” Shipley, Frederick’s version of Coach Lombardi—not to mention having a bit of Bill Belichick, Bill Walsh, and Bill Parcells sprinkled in.
Richard Lee Shipley, a father of three, was an employee of Frederick County Schools, as a Supervisor of Operations. He was also a sitting member of the City of Frederick’s Board of Alderman at the time, two-time elected. Shipley knew how to work and motivate people, young and old. He also knew football.
Born March 11, 1933, Dick Shipley was an athletic standout at Frederick High School, playing from 1949 to 1951. He was named to the Maryland All Star team in 1951.Dick Shipley’s football career continued at the University of Maryland. His 1953 Terrapins team won the national championship after posting an undefeated regular season. The offensive lineman went on to play in the Blue and Gray Football classic game in 1954. He entered the Army and continued playing football while in service.
Once home and starting a family with wife Eleanor Heston, he returned to football as one of the original coaches in the Frederick Midget Football League, a post he kept for five years. And then, in June of 1968, Shipley was hired to coach the Frederick Falcons.
Plans for the semi-professional team had come to fruition over the winter months. The Falcons would play as a member of the Interstate Football League which featured teams hailing in state rivals from Baltimore, Cumberland and Pennsylvania mainstays Waynesboro and Chambersburg. The Falcons games were played at McCurdy Field, with practices first held in Baker Park. The first game took place at Red Lion, (PA) on August 18th, with the Falcons victorious as 6-0 victors. And the winning continued.
The team was led by QB Ron Manges and receiver “Wonderful” Wayne Randolph. Shipley was buttressed with other notables such as former college standout Fred Burgee who doubled as both Falcon assistant coach and player. Two more assistants of note were William O. Lee and Richard “Bing” Keeney. Local radio legend Tommy Grunwell even took played for the team as a stand-in for quarterback Manges while the latter was on summer camp active duty with the Marines. The team had players ranging in age from 17 to 41, plus had three deaf team members. The Falcons finished with an 11-0-1 record, dethroning the reigning champion Baltimore Eagles.
How do you repeat the surprise success of 1968? With another great season! Shipley coached the 1969 Falcons to a 13-2 record. They unfortunately lost in the final championship game to the Chambersburg Cardinals by a score of 33-28.
Year three for the Frederick team was much of the same, a great record (14-3), however the last was a tough loss to the Schuylkill Coal Crackers for the IFL championship in November 1970.
Dick Shipley found himself with a coaching record of 38-5-1 as he entered his fourth season. Meanwhile, the Falcons had made a move to a new league—the Seaboard League, billed as the top minor-league football entity in the country. Coach Shipley and his Falcons were challenged both on and off the field. They finished 4-9, and were shut out in their last game against the Carroll County Chargers.
The true problem came with other teams paying some of its star players, not just recruiting hometown talent from within. Shipley longed the IFL days, having a team of unpaid players, not having as far to travel, and local players. New teams from Long Island and Norfolk (VA) had joined the league and players were being lured to rival teams. He did not think that this was in the best interest of Frederick.
With all of this going on, the Falcons realized that it was harder to come by money to operate, especially in a more competitive league. They lost $13,000 during the previous season. For this reason, the team sought, and came into, the new ownership of a bonafide local non-profit entity in February, 1972. The Frederick County Association of Retarded Children was now responsible for administering Frederick’s football Falcons and solidified the team’s non-profit status and ability to accept donations and grants. (To note, these funds were separate from the central aim of FCARC.)
Coach Shipley came under fire for being so vocal about the return to the IFL and accusations made against the Seaboard League. Some players became disenfranchised too, thinking this was a step down. Management was conflicted, perhaps slightly intimidated, by the power and passion Coach Shipley wielded in regards to the Falcons. It was then and there that Shipley would surprisingly step down as coach in May of 1972. His resignation read as follows:
“After considerable thought in consideration of all aspects pertinent to my relationship with the Frederick Falcons, I have decided to tender my resignation as head coach, effective immediately. The thought processes involved in reaching this decision have been agonizing at best, not only for myself but for my entire family, I regret that this decision had to be made. ….To communicate my real feelings at this time is impossible, I would like, however, to express public thanks for having been given this opportunity, I would also like to congratulate the ballplayers and fans for having created “the image of the Falcons.”
It appears that his resignation was more a protest stemming from a disagreement with the team’s Board of Directors. He would defect to the Falcons top rival, the Chambersburg Cardinals, serving as their offensive line coach. Shipley also brought with him star player, Wayne Randolph. Stan Goldberg, my old colleague from the Great Southern Printing and Manufacturing Company, wrote a bold editorial about the whole affair in the May 9th, 1972 Frederick News-Post.
Shipley and his new team (Chambersburg) would go to the Seaboard League's championship game in 1972 and 1973, winning the latter. At the time, the Seaboard League would be the second-highest ranked professional football league behind the NFL. The league folded after the 1974 season with the founding of the World Football League, which deprived them of talent.
The Falcons would rejoin the Intersate Football League and fly on into the future with great coaches such as former player Tom Kent and Shipley’s one time player/coaching assistant Bing Keeney who coached the team to three straight championships from 1987-89. Shipley even came back to the Falcons for head coaching and assistant coaching stints along the way. The team eventually disbanded in 1992 due to financial reasons.
As for Dick Shipley, his name will be forever synonymous with Frederick football and the Frederick Falcons. He was inducted into the Alvin J. Quinn Hall of Fame in 1979.
His last football assignment came with announcing high school football games as a color commentator with WFMD. Shipley’s final broadcast featured coverage of a state championship loss by his high school alma-mater Frederick High School. This took place at the University of Maryland, his collegiate alma-mater.
Just two days later, December 2, 1985, Shipley was engaged in an annual hunting trip to Sterling Run, PA with friend Elgin Etchison. This is located near Emporium in the north central part of the state. As the story goes, Etchison was on one hill talking with his son, when he turned to spot Shipley’s progress in traversing another nearby hill with an extremely steep grade. Etchison waved to Shipley, and he (Shipley) returned the favor, but then collapsed. Etchison rushed to his aid, performing CPR for 15-20 minutes on his friend before leaving to seek help from the closest house, about a half-mile away.
Dick Shipley was gone at the age of 52. His death made front page news here in Frederick the next day.
It’s interesting here to tell a story that occurred a couple weeks ago to me. I saw what I thought could be an eagle flying over the cemetery’s western section. I was soon corrected that it wasn’t an eagle, but instead, you guessed it, a falcon. Perhaps it was simply paying respects to the old football coach, whose name will ever be synonymous with the bold and brash bird of prey.
The last few blogs have centered on important “firsts” for Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. A few weeks back, I pointed out the first monument erected in the burying ground, dedicated in early 1854 to the memory of two maiden sisters—Kate and Mary Norris by their loving parents. Last week, we introduced William Thomas Duvall, the first cemetery superintendent.
History and trivia books are filled with the names of people responsible for “famous firsts.” Most of us are familiar with luminaries of the past such as Adam and Eve, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, John Hancock, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Jackie Robinson, Sandra Day O’Connor and Neil Armstrong—but does the name Ann Crawford mean anything to you?
I guess it’s always noteworthy to be the first individual to accomplish something unique or special. This individual is seen as a trailblazer, pioneer, or legend. Plus it’s especially thought provoking in this day in age where “participation trophies” are trumping “placement honors.” That said, however, I don’t think everyone would aspire to holding the superlative the abovementioned Ann Crawford possesses—that of being “first person buried” in Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. This occurred on May 29th, 1854.
Although this history milestone failed to make front page news back in the mid-nineteenth century, the event did receive its own entry in John T. Scharf’s History of Western Maryland (1882) and of greater value, was recorded for posterity’s sake within the legendary diary of Jacob Engelbrecht:
The first corpse buried on the New Cemetery — Mrs. Ann Crawford, who died at the house of Mr. James Whitehill on Sunday evening May 28, 1854 was buried, on “Mount Olivet Cemetery.” This was the burial on the cemetery since they dedicated it….Reverend Alexander E. Gibson officiating Minister (of Methodist Episcopal Church).
Tuesday May 30, 1854 7’oclock AM
That’s basically all we know from the written record on Mrs. Ann Crawford. Her scant, 23-word obituary appearing in the Frederick Examiner doesn’t add much more, however it does provide her middle initial of “J,” and that she was 67 years old at the time of death.
I have been working off and on for nearly seven years trying to find out more about this “first-rate” woman. Since 2012, I have taken hundreds of visitors to Ann Crawford’s grave site located in Area A, lot 58. To me, it has always seemed a logical place to begin our candlelight strolls of the historic grounds. In these nocturnal outings, (held throughout October each year), I shine my flashlight on Mrs. Crawford’s grave marker, and emphasize her novel achievement. I then ask guests to visualize what the scene of her burial ceremony must have looked like. I ask, “What did the new cemetery grounds look like in 1854, less than a decade before the American Civil War would be fought, and in this area?” The scenic view, framed by Catoctin Mountain to the west, consisted of a picturesque landscape full of rolling hills—the former farmland covered with maintained grass, trees and freshly laid out dirt lanes zig-zagging throughout. It was a place of tranquility, at the time located “far south” of bustling downtown Frederick City.
I then ask visitors to “fast-forward” back to present-day Frederick. That’s when I dramatically shine my flashlight into the distance, illuminating a backdrop full of marble and granite grave stones and funerary monuments. I make the statement, “Mrs. Crawford was the only one here on that day in late May, 1854, now there are tens of thousands.” I next share the fact that today’s cemetery population of nearly 40,000 interments within Mount Olivet rivals the living population of our state capitol of Annapolis. This usually elicits more than a few “oohhhs, and ahhhs.”
Unfortunately, I haven’t garnered much more on Mrs. Ann J. Crawford after an exhaustive search of my usual repositories and historical resource haunts. But here’s what I can tell you. Ann Crawford can be found living in Frederick’s 8th ward at age 53. This is in the 1850 census, just four years prior to her death. She was in the South Market Street area home of 42-year-farmer/horse breeder Lewis Bentz, a recent widower. I have no idea how long Mrs. “C” had been living there, and in what capacity? Was she caregiving, consoling, convalescing or courting? If the latter is true, I guess you could say “cougaring” based on the age difference between tenants—but I digress.
It’s been long claimed that Mrs. Crawford was a maid/housekeeper for hire. Whatever the case, Ann Crawford would be found in a different domicile at the time of her death in 1854. This occurred in the home of prominent Frederick businessman, James Whitehill on the southwest corner of N. Market and 8th streets. Mr. Whitehill will certainly be the focus of a future blog as he was one of Mount Olivet’s founders and a charter member of the Board of Managers. His successful furniture-making operation on East Patrick Street once stood on the location of today’s Museum of Civil War Medicine.
James Whitehill often receives credit for helping care for and bury Mrs. Crawford within the new cemetery, but it’s interesting to note that the lot she was laid to rest in a lot owned by the Methodist Episcopal Church of Frederick. Both facts raise the question: Was Mrs. Crawford destitute at the time of her death? A unique irony lies in the fact that James Whitehill’s home, the last residence of Mrs. Crawford, is located at 731 N. Market Street. In December, 2016, this building was recently opened as the Frederick Rescue Mission’s “Faith House,” a temporary shelter for homeless women and children.
A brief note in the cemetery’s lot records states that Ann Crawford worked as a maid for James and Ann Whitehill at the time of her death. We know she died at his house, but what was the rationale for her living there? This is a good assumption, if, indeed, she had played that role previously for Lewis Bentz and simply changed employers. We have no idea of knowing this for sure.
Now, here’s an opposite of extremes, an apocryphal story I have heard from fellow local Frederick historian/researcher Larry Moore. He has heard that Mrs. Crawford was the second wife of a prominent physician from Pennsylvania. When the Doctor died as a result of a buggy accident, she was cut out of the will by the physician’s children from his first marriage. She then went to live with a sister in Carroll County (Maryland) and had a son who went to Baltimore after marrying into the McPherson family. Once having a high social status through marriage, Ann Crawford was forced to earn her own way, working as a maid here in Frederick.
I have not been able to find any direct connection or documentation on Ann Crawford in Ancestry .com databases, marriage licenses, etc. My biggest challenge is not knowing Ann’s maiden name.
I have wondered if perhaps Ann Crawford could have been a relative of either James Whitehill or wife Ann Whitehill. James Whitehill’s ancestors were quite prominent in south central Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Some of these men served as politicians, such as US Congressman Robert Whitehill (1738-1813). The name might not mean much to you, but he should receive partial credit for the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments found in the US Constitution. It wasn't all James Madison!
The Whitehills were intertwined with prominent Crawfords of areas such as Adams County to Frederick County's immediate north. These too served in various levels of government. One such was Dr. William Crawford whose biography reads as follows:
Hon. William P. Crawford, M.D., was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1760, received a
classical education, studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland,
and received his degree in 1791; emigrated to York County (now Adams County),
and located near the present site of Gettysburg, purchased a farm on Marsh Creek
in 1795, and spent the remainder of his life there practicing medicine among his
friends, with the exception of intervals in which he was elected to office. He
was an associate judge, and was elected to represent York district in the
Eleventh Congress, in 1808, as a Democrat or Republican, as the name was then
generally termed. He was re-elected to the Twelfth Congress to represent York
District and to the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Congresses to represent a new
district formed, of which Adams County was a part, serving continuously from
1809 to 1817, after which he resumed the practice of medicine. He died in 1823.
Mrs. Edward McPherson is a granddaughter of Dr. Crawford.
History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania
Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1886
In digging deeper, I was ecstatic to learn that Dr. William P. Crawford had a wife named Ann! However, she died in 1860 and is buried with the physician in Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery. But could she be a daughter-in-law? It doesn’t seem likely. Of other interest with this biography, is the mention of Edward McPherson, who married Dr. William Crawford’s granddaughter, Annie D. Crawford (daughter of John S, Crawford). Another Ann Crawford, but far too young to be our Ann Crawford!
Edward McPherson was a leading lawyer of the Gettysburg area and also served terms in the United States Congress. The name McPherson conjures up a potential connection to another early Frederick transplant (and family) from the Adams County area— Col. John McPherson.
You may recall that it was Col. John McPherson, who along with son-in-law John Brien, built the beautiful Council Street townhomes in Frederick’s Courthouse Square. Both men also operated the Catoctin Furnace for a period. Could Mrs. Crawford have any ties to them? Although known slaveholders, the need for a maid for this family and relatives is not far-fetched.
A final theory on Mount Olivet’s “first lady” comes from cemetery superintendent of 50+ years, J. Ronald Pearcey. Ron told me that he had heard that Ann Crawford was the wife of a tailor. Her husband had a business here in Frederick in the early 19th century, which was located in a building owned by none other than Mr. James Whitehill. Mr. Crawford passed away, leaving Mrs. Crawford to work as a domestic for local families. I have yet to find this gentleman, and Ron didn’t get his first name, but I did find this passage in Jacob Engelbrecht’s diary, written in 1827:
Died last night in the year of her age Mrs. Crawford consort of Mr. Crawford of this county and mother of James and Joshua Crawford who now live with John & George Engelbrecht.
Sunday, February 11th 1827 4pm
Since this Mrs. Crawford died in 1827, I pose the question, “Could this Mrs. Crawford be the mother-in-law of our Mrs. Ann Crawford?” Was Ann Crawford’s husband either James or Joshua? It’s likely far-fetched because James and Joshua are likely just children, perhaps teenagers, at this time. If there was a relationship with our Mrs. Crawford (age 34 in 1827), we would have another “cougar-type” relationship in the making.
It is possible, I guess, not to mention the fact that James and Joshua could have been tailors. The reason I say this stems from the fact that the abovementioned John and George Engelbrecht were brothers of diarist Jacob Engelbrecht. Their profession, like his, was that of a tailor. Were James and Joshua apprenticed in tailoring by their hosts?
To tie-up this blog up with a pretty bow, I offer my deepest apologies to you the reader. I’m sorry I couldn’t shed anything more definitive about Mrs. Crawford, and am open to any leads or information anyone can offer.
I guess the “Story in Stone” here is that Ann J. Crawford’s life is simply defined by her death, leading to her May 29th burial in Mount Olivet, the very first--with thousands to follow. This is all she had to do to make history.
A popular expression used when someone dies is that they are “going home.” In this vein, “going home” simply means that the deceased is heading to heaven, to reunite with their God, along with a host of previously departed family members and friends such as parents, grandparents and cousins.
This same expression could have taken on a unique, and somewhat comical, meaning if it had been uttered at the death of Frederick resident William T. Duvall, who passed on September 19th, 1886. Mr. Duvall was “going home,” but in a way, he was already there. His gravesite in Mount Olivet would be located only fifty yards from his home residence and work office of the previous 33 years.
William Thomas Duvall was born during a turbulent time in American history in which Great Britain was trying to undo that which the founding fathers, Continental Army and countless others had fought so hard to gain in 1776—independence. Duvall’s birth on January 23rd, 1813 came at a time when the main theater of conflicts associated with the War of 1812 was occurring in Canadian provinces and American lands within the Great Lakes territory.
In anticipation of warfare possibly taking place in and around the nation’s capital, local militia units organized and would regularly practice and drill. This was often the scene at the old Hessian Barracks and surrounding grounds atop the aptly named Barracks Hill, later known as Cannon Hill.
British marauders harassed towns along the Chesapeake bay throughout the summer of 1813. As William T. Duvall turned one and a half years old in August, 1814, British forces sailed up the bay and ruthlessly sacked Washington, DC, burning the White House. The aggressors next set their sights on Baltimore, at the time, one of the largest and most important cities in the country. The Charm City defenders held their ground at Fort McHenry and thwarted the advance of the enemy, thanks in part to many Frederick veterans that would one day repose in Mount Olivet. Perhaps, William’s parents sang him to sleep each night with a catchy little song about the flag, written by a Frederick native named Key? Who knows?
William T. Duvall’s father was never too keen on the British. He came from French lineage, his great-great grandfather having been born in Normandy and came to this country in 1650. The family progenitor Mareen DuVall (1630-1694) immigrated to Maryland as an indentured servant but worked his way up the ladder, providing quite a home for his family by the end of the 17th century. This estate was called Middle Plantation, located in Anne Arundel County. This is the area of present day Davidsonville, south of Crofton. Others direct descendants of this prosperous early immigrant include actor Robert Duvall, former vice-president Dick Cheney, and former presidents Harry S. Truman and Barrack Obama. Mareen Duvall is the latter's 9th great grandfather.
The grandfather of William T. was John Duvall, a military captain during the American Revolution. He would live and die in his home county of Anne Arundel, but one of his sons, Marsh Mareen Duvall II (1768-1828), would leave to make a new home in burgeoning Frederick, Maryland. Information is scarce, but Marsh Mareen Duvall II would marry Sarah Stallings, 17 years his junior, in January of 1811. Two years later, the couple would welcome son William Thomas into the world. Three known children followed.
I wasn’t able to glean much about William T’s childhood, other than his family were members of Evangelical Lutheran Church. His father was buried in the church’s graveyard located between Church and 2nd streets upon his death in 1828. William T. Duvall got married in the same church in March, 1835.
Another melancholy Duvall family burial would follow in 1844. William T’s younger brother, Upton Duvall, would make national news in newspapers across the country in late November of that year. He played the lead role in one of the most explosive events in Frederick history. Upton was killed by Cannon Hill’s namesake cannon, after he and friends decided it would be fun to fire a celebratory blast in honor of presidential candidate James K. Polk. Polk had just narrowly defeated Henry Clay, heralded today as one of the greatest senators and statesman in US history. Instead of using typical shot materials, the group of Polk fanatics decided to make a symbolic and sarcastic statement of their actions by filling the artillery piece with clay. Upon a misfiring attempt, Upton approached the cannon to see what went wrong, and at that moment the weapon exploded, instantly killing the young man. Ironically it would be Upton Duvall, who would soon be placed in a grave, his corpse forever surrounded by the clay soil of Frederick’s Lutheran graveyard. (Note: for more on this incident see clipping at end of story)
William T. Duvall had married Mary Ann Rebecca Hawman, a local girl whose father was a Revolutionary War soldier, and her brother served as a member of the Frederick militia during the War of 1812. Fittingly, the new couple named their first born son William Luther Duvall (1838-1902), giving homage to both father and the father of their chosen religion. Sadly, two subsequent sons to William and Rebecca would die in late January, 1847—Frederick age 7, and Louis Hawman Duvall, age 5. These boys died six days apart, likely from a communicable disease. The couple’s fourth child, a daughter, named Harriett was born in 1844, but would also pass in her youth at the age of 16 in 1860. A fifth child, Julia Ann would live a full life, marrying David Ashbaugh.
William T. gained employment as a weaver, having learned his trade from a gentleman named Daniel Boyd. In early 1852, he entered into a new profession. William Duvall was appointed to the position of Keeper of the Frederick County Almshouse located northwest of the City. This charitable housing facility provided Frederick residents (typically elderly citizens who could no longer work to earn enough to pay rent) a place to live. It is better remembered as the predecessor to the Montevue Home, and featured its own burying ground referred to as “the Potter’s Field.”
Exactly two years later, William T. Duvall would make yet another job switch, but this one would last a lifetime. It was recorded for posterity’s sake by Frederick’s legendary diarist Jacob Engelbrecht:
“Mr. William T. DuVall was on Monday evening the 6th instant, appointed keeper of “Mount Olivet Cemetery” of this city—the first keeper—no person is yet buried there—The house (dwelling)is not quite finished.”
—Jacob Engelbrecht (Wednesday, February 9, 1854)
On February 6th, 1854, Mount Olivet’s Board of Managers made a choice for their new cemetery’s gate keeper, also known as a superintendent. Thirteen names had been submitted for the position. Duvall’s prior experience at the almshouse, and handling of the premature deaths of his young children could have given him the “leg up” on other candidates. He garnered the necessary votes on the third round of balloting and staved off competitors for the post: W. Greentree, Harman Butler, George W. Cromwell and Samuel Haller.
The cemetery board set the gate keeper’s beginning salary at $20.00 per month which also included a major perk—the use of the dwelling house, rent-free, effective April 1, 1854. This structure had just been completed and was located adjacent the main entry gate and fronting on South Market Street.
One year later, April 1, 1855, Superintendent Duvall reported a total of 172 interments within Mount Olivet. His job performance was rewarded with a pay raise as he was bumped up to $275/year. He would guide the general operation and improvements to Mount Olivet for 33 years until his death on Sunday, September 19th, 1886.
During Mr. Duvall’s tenure, hundreds of colleagues, neighbors and family members would pass through Mount Olivet’s gate. Many other former Frederick residents that had been buried in the older church cemeteries of town were also moved to the “new” rural cemetery under his watch. When his work on Earth was done, he had buried 4,879 persons. Among these were veterans and combatants of the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War. And let’s not forget a fellow named Francis Scott Key, who was reinterred from Baltimore under the superintendent’s utmost care. William T. Duvall’s own certificate of burial numbered 4,880.
Duvall died in the Superintendent’s house, a site that would host his wake and funeral in the immediate days to follow. On Wednesday afternoon, September 22, 1886, William T. Duvall’s body was easily moved roughly fifty yards to his final resting place, a lot already containing the three children he had been forced to bury. He would forever remain within the location of his employ from that point into eternity.
(Author's note: I am very interested in obtaining an image of William Thomas Duvall for interpretive use by the cemetery. Please contact me if you should ever find one, or know someone who might, thanks!)
The article below was carried in the Frederick Examiner's edition of November 27, 1844. The story was carried in several newspapers across the country including Boston, Vermont and Louisiana to name a few.
Since January is the first month, I’d figure we’d spend the next few weeks on subjects relating to firsts for the cemetery. This week, we will pick up last week’s conversation regarding grave markers and stones.
The most famous monument is clearly that of Francis Scott Key, but I was surprised to find some cousins actually had the "first."
Up until last summer, no one could speak to the subject of first grave monument to appear in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Now I don’t know if people spent a great deal of time on this query, but it makes for an interesting trivia question among local history buffs. My imagination was first sparked when I stumbled upon a news article relating to the cemetery’s official opening in 1854. I found the following piece in the Frederick Town Herald newspaper, dated May 10 (1854):
So with no photograph, or “name in stone,” to go on, I set out to find this “elegant tomb of Parian marble.” But first, I had to figure out what Parian marble was? I soon discovered that Parian marble is:
“a fine-grained, semi-translucent/pure-white and entirely flawless marble quarried during the classical era on the Greek island of Paros in the Aegean Sea. It was highly prized by ancient Greeks for making sculptures.”
The geology/origin hint given by Wikipedia didn’t really help that much, but the news article’s geographical description of the gravestone’s location (within the cemetery) certainly did. I had to find an elevated site on the southern side of the cemetery.
I knew that the obvious high-water mark (literally and figuratively) of the cemetery is the area of present-day Founder’s Garden, between areas “G,” “F” and “Q.” Once the site of an observation tower and waterworks (something we will surely discuss in a future blog), this location boasts its prominence as the highest elevation point in Downtown Frederick. That’s right, I said it—this Downtown Frederick’s highest peak! And with the name Mount Olivet, this is the closest we come to legitimizing our landform moniker—aside from biblical connotations of course.
Many of the community’s most prominent residents of the late 19th and early 20th century would be laid to rest here atop the mountain-like hill. The iron-railed Potts family lot, the cemetery’s only “gated community,” is here as well. During the early decades of Mount Olivet, this locale would also represent the western boundary of the cemetery, as the grounds only encompassed one-third of what they do today. I simply started my search on the apex of the hill, intending to scour the southern slope, area “F.”
I began looking for “two fluted columns, entwined with a finely chiseled garland of flowers, surmounted by flaming censers.” If you were wondering what a censer is, it’s a container in which incense is burned, typically during a religious ceremony. Amazingly, I didn’t have to go far as I found something that fit the bill within seconds. It was adjacent a cemetery lane that runs through the center of the cemetery. I had traveled by this monument regularly by car, but more so when conducting walking tours through the grounds. So I now had something that fit the newspaper article’s given location and description, now I had to check the interments buried beneath. You will recall that the clipping stated that this monument was placed to honor “the memory of two maiden sisters.” This was it!
Mary Louisa Norris (b. 12/26/1834) died less than a week after her seventeenth birthday, on New Years Day, 1851. Eleven months later, Mary’s older sister Catherine Elizabeth “Kate” Norris would meet the same fate on November 11 (1851). She was just 23 years of age. Both young ladies were originally laid to rest in the old All Saint’s Burying Ground, located between East all Saints Street and Carroll Creek. Today this is at the top of another hill in downtown Frederick, one that overlooks an amphitheater and provides commanding views of the Community Bridge to the east, and William O’ Lee Unity Bridge to the west.
Plans for the creation of Mount Olivet would occur the next year (1852) with the founding of the Mount Olivet Cemetery Association. The girls’ grieving parents, Basil Norris and Jane (Charlton) Norris (1797-1871) decided that the new garden-style cemetery would be a more fitting resting place for two young women in the “spring” of their lives. Basil Norris (1788-1865) was a successful Frederick merchant who operated a grocery store for many years in the first block of West Patrick Street across from the City Hotel. Mrs. Norris was a first cousin of Francis Scott Key. (Basil Norris would purchase the City Hotel in 1854. The popular lodging site stood here until being replaced later by the Francis Scott Key Hotel.)
(c.1910) view of the first block of W. Patrick St. (looking east). The author believes the former Norris residence and grocery store were located in the twin three-story townhomes to the right of photograph. Charles F. Seeger would later start his hardware business at this location of 32 W. Patrick St. The Patrick Center sits on this site today.
Rain and thunderstorms delayed Mount Olivet’s official dedication ceremony on May 11. It would be rescheduled for May 23, 1854. Less than a month later, the Norris sisters would be carefully exhumed from All Saints Cemetery and brought to the Norris family lot in the town’s new burying ground. A beautiful monument was waiting their arrival, standing as a beacon to their memory, high atop Mount Olivet Hill. A biblical inscription (taken from Old Testament, second book of Samuel 1:23) can be found at the bottom of the monument. It reads:
“They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.”
Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Norris would be forced to endure more heartache eight years later on July 1st, 1862, with the death of son Henry J. Norris who worked as a clerk in the family store. They erected another magnificent monument to the 25 year-old, placed to the immediate right of the Norris sisters. The stone depicts a broken column, a popular Victorian period design symbolic of a life cut short.