“Up from the meadows, rich with…snakes?”
Last month, I stumbled across an interesting article appearing in the Frederick News, dated September 4th, 1912. Apparently there was a problem with hostile reptiles at the sacred gravesite of Frederick’s beloved flag-toting heroine, Barbara Fritchie. This occurrence took place in the old German Reformed Cemetery, once located at the corner of N. Bentz and W. 2nd streets. These days, this locale is more commonly known as Memorial Park. Of the many factors that would lead to Dame Fritchie’s re-interment to Mount Olivet Cemetery the following May (1913), I was quite surprised to learn that snakes may have played into the equation.
Today, I can say with confidence, that you would have a better chance encountering “snakes on a plane” than encountering these creatures on, or around, Dame Fritchie’s grave. However, I find it quite ironic that just fifty yards east of Barbara’s grave, there lies a gentleman that made his reputation and livelihood on the limbless reptiles. His name was Gordon Gaver.
Gordon Paul Gaver was born February 2nd, 1904 on the Carroll County side of Mount Airy, Maryland. His father, William E. Gaver, was a local physician who originally hailed from Middletown. His mother, Laura Eugenia Urner came from one of the most prominent families in the county. Her father, Milton G. Urner was a local lawyer, who served Frederick County as State’s Attorney and two terms as a US Congressman. The Urners lived in downtown Frederick’s Court Square area behind the Frederick County Courthouse on Record Street.
Gordon, brothers William and John, and sister, Laura Ann (Mrs. Richard Biggs), grew up on the family farm in Mount Airy. Like many kids of agricultural upbringings, the Gaver children developed affinities for animals. However, young Gordon would take an interest in a non-traditional member of farming life— one not found in the ever-popular “Ol’ McDonald” song.
At the age of five, Gordon was presented with a peculiar new pet by a neighbor—a garter snake. From that point forward, the boy became fascinated with snakes and reptiles of all varieties. He would begin to obtain specimens from his family farm, and other areas throughout the county stretching from the Monocacy and Potomac River environs to the wooded elevations and rock outcroppings of Catoctin Mountain. Whether willingly, or not, his parents seemed to have supported his unusual hobby.
Gordon attended the Tome School for Boys, located in Port Deposit in Cecil County. At the time, this was a nonsectarian college preparatory school for boys. Interestingly, Gaver would not go on to college. It was said that his one ambition in life was to work for a large zoo, turning his hobby into a profession. He would acquire a great knowledge of snakes through self-induced reading, and contact with herpetologists.
Throughout the Roaring Twenties, Gaver continued to capture and collect local species of reptiles, including poisonous snakes such as copperheads, rattle snakes and moccasins. He was contracted to supply specimens to zoos throughout the country.
I haven’t found out to much else about Gordon’s personal life as it pertained to relationships. From an article found in a 1925 Frederick newspaper, Gordon’s thoughts about the perfect female were documented as he was briefly interviewed for a local “man on the street” article. Gaver told a reporter: “For myself, I like them to be quiet and sensible. I like those who are not fresh and those who you can depend upon not to lose their nerve and go back on you in anything.” He would eventually marry later in life, and it seems now as no surprise why. He appears to have enjoyed the same “quiet” and “sensibility” in his pet snakes.
Apparently Gordon Gaver tried to obtain employment with the Washington National Zoo, but was unsuccessful. He then tried his luck at various other careers. In 1927, Gordon found employment on a ship’s crew out of Baltimore. He traveled to South America with visits to Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Sao Paulo. Unfortunately, he wasn’t cut out to be a sailor. From here, he experienced working the oil fields of Texas—not a strong fit either. Although temporary, these short-lived ventures provided the young Marylander the opportunity to see additional species of indigenous snakes and other critters in their natural environments.
In 1930, Gordon could be found living in an apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and working as an artist for an advertising firm. He had gone north in hopes to get hired by New York City’s Museum of Natural History. This never materialized either, and Gaver would relocate to Baltimore a year later. Throughout these moves, he was accompanied by many of his scaly pets. Gordon took opportunities to make a few extra bucks by exhibiting these to the public. In one such case, he was invited to show his small collection of American reptiles to groups in Europe. He did this in 1931.
Gordon Gaver would return to Frederick with renewed optimism. He would forge ahead with his long-burning ambition to promote and educate others on his favorite topic—snakes. In 1933, Gaver set his dream in motion by opening a roadside attraction in the Old Catoctin Furnace schoolhouse. This dilapidated weatherboard structure was located a few short miles south of Thurmont along the newly designated US Route15 (1927), formerly the Frederick and Emmitsburg Turnpike.
Gaver’s Catoctin Snake Farm became an interesting spot for local curiosity seekers and wayward motorists traveling between South Carolina and New York State. His first “star performer” was an 11-foot python, bought from a New York dealer. Also showcased, in the early exhibit, were 11 other specimens, less imposing than the large python.
The enthusiasm of starting his new business must have gotten the best of Gordon, as he made the local newspaper for all the wrong reasons. On August 31st, 1933, Gaver was arrested by police authorities near the Square Corner in downtown Frederick. It was late in the day on a Thursday afternoon, and Gaver was heading southbound through Frederick on N. Market Street. This was a time of two-way traffic on the major north-south route through town, doubling as the city’s stretch of US 15, decades before a bypass.
Gaver apparently crashed his automobile into the car of Augustus Boyne of 515 N. Market Street. This occurred near the 7th Street intersection, where the fountain is located. Gordon promptly left the scene of the accident in his Ford sedan, continuing southward on Market Street. He must have turned around somewhere along the route, and backtracked, because his next feat included an approach to the Square Corner coming from S. Market St. He swerved wide through the intersection onto W. Patrick Street, nearly hitting the posted traffic officer. Gaver became entangled in a traffic back-up and was duly pulled over at this point and arrested by special deputies Nusz and Redmond.
Officers found an empty pint alcohol bottle, along with a full pint in Gaver’s possession. The deputies would soon find something even more disturbing. The Frederick News of September 16th, 1933 reported:
“In the back of his machine was found a cotton bag containing two large rattlesnakes and a copperhead. Deciding discretion the better part of valor, police impounded the snakes with the car in a local garage.”
Gaver admitted his guilt of driving under the influence when arraigned before Justice Alton Bennett. He was fined the minimum of $100, along with court and restitution costs. Officer J.R. Miller of the Maryland State Police, withdrew the charge of failing to stop after an accident when it was pointed out that Gaver was too drunk to know what he doing, and consequently could not be found guilty on the charge.
Gaver found himself partnering with the Washington National Zoo and others throughout the mid-Atlantic, as his animals needed suitable winter quarters.
Less than a year later, Gordon P. Gaver would pass away at the age of 60, after suffering a heart attack in his Thurmont home on August 1, 1964. He had turned a hobby into a fulfilling career, spending three decades at the helm of his own serpentarium, preceded by a decade of chasing snakes and further learning. Gordon was buried beside his parents in Mount Olivet’s Area Q/Lot 83 on August 4th, 1964.
Gordon Gaver’s legacy certainly lives on. Following the snake expert’s death, the Jungleland Snake Farm would be sold to Gaver’s employee Richard Hahn, who eventually changed the operation’s name to the Catoctin Mountain Zoo Park. The Hahn family continues to run this attraction to this day.
I’d like to add an additional note on one of Gordon Gaver’s siblings. As snakes encompassed Gordon’s world, brother John "Jack" Milton Gaver, Sr. loved horses. In fact, he was a lifelong trainer of thoroughbreds, and is a 1966 inductee to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
Jack Gaver (1901-1982) would become associated with the fabled Greentree Stable of Red Bank, New Jersey. In 1939, he was appointed head trainer, a position he held for the next 38 years. During his time with Greentree, Gaver conditioned 73 stakes winners, including winners of five American classics, four champions, and two Horse of the Year honorees.
Gaver won two legs of the Triple Crown twice. He conditioned Shut Out to victories in the 1942 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and Capot won the 1949 Preakness and Belmont. He also won the 1968 Belmont with Stage Door Johnny. Gaver’s four champions were Devil Diver (1944 Champion Handicap Male), Capot (1949 Horse of the Year), Stage Door Johnny (1968 Champion 3-Year-Old Colt) and Tom Fool (1953 Horse of the Year).
In the fall of 1905, the Gaspee Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution held its annual meeting in the rooms of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, Rhode Island. Reports were read, officers for the ensuing year elected, and delegates chosen to attend the DAR’s Continental Congress for the ensuing year of 1906 elected. In addition, several minor matters of business were discussed.
A special feature of the annual program was the presentation of a beautiful flag to the chapter on behalf of Chapter Regent Mrs. Eliza Harris Lawton Barker. This was a duplicate of one presented by her to the National Society DAR at a celebration in Continental Hall a few months earlier on July 4th. This was followed by another notable action— the sending of a telegram of greeting and congratulations to Mrs. Donald McLean, the new president general of the National Society. In the message, the ladies expressed the loyalty of the Gaspee Chapter. The feeling of many of the members was expressed by one woman, who said aptly: "Mrs. McLean is to the Daughters of the American Revolution what President Roosevelt is to the nation—a leader."
Mrs. Donald McLean was the seventh woman to hold the title of President General, the highest position in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The organization had only been founded 15 years earlier in 1890, for the purpose of promoting patriotism while preserving the shared heritage of women from throughout the United States.
Small Town Girl
Mrs. McLean was born Emily Nelson Ritchie on January 28th, 1859. She was born in the home of her maternal grandparents, the Prospect Hall mansion on the southwestern edge of Frederick, Maryland. Emily would be the first of 18 children born to lawyer John Ritchie and wife Betty (nee Maulsby)—a Frederick civic leader extraordinaire. The youngster came from good stock, boasting well-revered grandfathers (physician Dr. Albert Ritchie and lawyer Col. William P. Maulsby) and grandmothers with important ties to the American Revolution. They were Catharine Lackland (Davis) Ritchie, a daughter of James Lackland, commissioned by the Committee of Safety as a second lieutenant, 29th battalion of the Frederick County militia; and Mrs. McLean’s namesake, Emily Nelson, the daughter of Roger Nelson, a commissioned lieutenant in the Maryland Continental Line who was promoted to the rank of general for distinguished service.
Two more ancestors of Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean had taken part in the Stamp Act Repudiation of 1765. This defiant act by Thomas Beatty, David Lynn and 10 other justices of the Frederick County Court occurred seven years prior to the legendary Boston Tea Party, and has been called by some historians “the verbal shot heard around the world.” As a youth, Emily developed her love of history, thanks in great measure to familial and geographic connections her hometown of Frederick had to the American Revolution, War of 1812 and the American Civil War.
In fact, Emily’s earliest memories dated back to the turbulent Civil War era. Frederick played witness to the major military campaigns in 1862 (South Mountain-Antietam), 1863 (Gettysburg) and 1864 (Monocacy). In between, the town served briefly as the state capital where secession was discussed (Summer 1861), and more so played the pivotal role as “one vast medical hospital” throughout the war.
The Ritchie family first resided on the north side of W. Patrick Street, just east of Carroll Creek. Neighbors included noted diarist Jacob Engelbrecht and the legendary Barbara Fritchie. They would eventually move a block north to the Court Square area of downtown Frederick. They lived in the large home originally built in 1821 by Emily’s great uncle (grandmother Emily Nelson Maulsby’s brother), John Nelson. The “gracious white house,” as described by former Sen. Charles “Mac” Mathias, Jr., was located at 114 W. Church Street.
In 1933, The News Citizen paper described the house in the time of the Ritchie’s ownership:
“Behind those gorgeous twin horse-chestnut trees stood the beautiful home of Chief Judge and Mrs. John Ritchie, those remarkable parents of eighteen children. ‘Ritchie’s wall’ was a Frederick institution over which we ran, jumped and raced up and down. Years ago the wing of the house, the old flagstone driveway with its large iron gates, and the Judge’s fascinating little white brick office with green door and shutters gave way to modern buildings. The yard, where every kind of fruit tree grew, with its circle of old English boxwood and abundance of old fashioned flowers was a veritable Eden when the trees were in bloom.”
John Nelson was a highly distinguished citizen, and held several important offices. He served in the United States House of Representatives (1821-1823), and was the Charge’ d’ Affaires to the Two Sicilies, (1831-1832). In case you were wondering what a Charge’ d’ Affaires is, it’s a French term for a diplomat who heads an embassy in the absence of the ambassador.
The Two Sicilies (1815-1860) was the largest of the states of Italy before Italian unification and was formed as a union of the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples. John Nelson also held positions of US Attorney General (1843-1845) and interim Secretary of State in the cabinet of President John Tyler in 1844.
Emily attended local schools, punctuated by the Frederick Female Seminary, eventually called the Frederick Woman’s College. She graduated at the age of 14, but would continue her study of history, languages and mathematics by taking post graduate courses. Emily also is said to have traveled extensively with her father in his business and political dealings. This added to her breadth of knowledge.
A few years after the Civil War, Emily’s father was elected State’s Attorney for Frederick County. Before his term was over, he would be elected to Congress’ House of Representatives where he served in the 42nd Congress (1871-1873). In 1881, he was elected to serve a 15-year term as Chief Justice of the Sixth Judicial Circuit and Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
One of the greatest gifts Emily received from her father was his great talent as an orator. From her mother, she received a love of American history, along with the management skills to get things done. These traits would one day propel the young lady into one of the highest positions a female could find one’s self in during the end of the 19th century. Women rarely held leadership roles of any kind outside of being business holders. Social celebrity came only to wives of politicians, military officers and industrialists. Of course, a few female artists, stage actresses and writers made names for themselves as well.
On April 24th, 1883, Emily Nelson Ritchie was married at age 24. Her choice was a Rahway, New Jersey native turned New York City lawyer named Donald McLean. Mr. McLean’s mother was a Marylander, and he received his education at the Bel Air Academy (Harford County). He was admitted to the New York bar in 1872. Emily didn’t have to go far as the wedding ceremony took place at Frederick’s All Saints’ Episcopal Church, three doors west of her family home. Rev. Osborn Ingle and Rev. William Pinkney, Bishop of Maryland performed the service.
Once married, the new Mrs. McLean left Frederick and Maryland to take up residence in New York City. Mr. McLean made his fortune on his legal abilities, but his reputation was solidified through distinctions in office conferred upon him by the President of the United States and the Mayor of the City of New York. He was elected alderman of New York City in 1881. In time, Donald McLean would be appointed by the US Congress to hold the position of General Appraiser of Merchandise for the Port of New York City. This position was under the US Treasury Department. Of unique interest is the fact that he was a director of the Guanajuato Consolidated Mining and Milling Company (located near Chihuahua, Mexico), along with the British Guyana Gold and Railroad Company.
Emily spent the last half of the decade of the 1880’s involved in childbirth. The couple produced three daughters: Elizabeth Maulsby McLean (1852), Rebecca McCormick McLean (1887) and Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean (1889).
The family resided in a four-story town house in Upper Manhattan, part of the neighborhood of Central Harlem. The McLeans lived at 186 Lenox Avenue (renamed Malcolm X Boulevard).
Thanks to Mr. McLean’s profession, along with several business and political associations, Emily had the opportunity to mix in New York City’s upper class social circles. She was a gifted conversationalist who loved talking and writing about US history. Mrs. McLean’s essays and letters began being printed in the New York papers. Even as a southerner from Maryland, she was readily being accepted in her new home, and started taking responsibilities in "Gotham City's" service organizations and civic groups.
Like Emily, Donald seems to have loved history, geography and was proud of his family heritage. His father was Col. George Washington McLean, a Civil War participant and the son of John McLean, a Revolutionary War veteran who served as 2nd Lieutenant in the New York Troops. Mr. McLean had memberships in the Sons of the American Revolution, the Veteran Corps of Artillery, the Society of the War of 1812, the New York Historical Society, and the National Geographic Society. It was a match made in heaven.
In 1890, Emily learned of the potential for a new organization for women, dedicated to preserving heritage and enhancing patriotism through education and service. One year before, a group calling itself the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) had been formed. The SAR traced its roots to the founding of the Sons of the Revolution, a New York Society which was organized in 1883 as an aristocratic social and hereditary organization along the lines of the Society of the Cincinnati.
During that time Emily saw her mother and sisters (Eleanor, Anna and Willie) start a DAR chapter in her old hometown. Emily’s mother served as the first Regent of the Frederick Chapter, and then played roles on the national level as Vice President General and Maryland State Regent. Meanwhile, Mrs. McLean was harboring larger aspirations of her own to serve at the organization’s national level.
The Daughters of the American Revolution elected officers at their annual congress event, held in spring at Washington DC. In 1895, Mrs. McLean ran unsuccessfully as a minority candidate for DAR’s top spot in the nation—the position of President General. The national officers of the NSDAR (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution) carry the title “General” to indicate that they are responsible to the general organization, not to indicate rank. The local, and state, chapter “Regents” govern vicariously for the one presiding president—the “President General.”
Although the DAR was established as a non-political entity, politics surely entered into officer elections, because it had plenty of marital and blood connections to prominent politicians. This played out in the NSDAR election as part of the annual congress of 1897. Newcomer Emily had to run up against ladies connected to Washington DC’s social elite, usually peppered with wives of the nation’s leading politicians. It was a tall task, but Mrs. McLean’s New York City Chapter consisted of the largest single “voting bloc” in the country, the base of her operations. She also had tremendous lobbying going on from her friends and family within the Frederick and Maryland chapters of DAR.
Sadly, Mrs. McLean lost again, but would receive a hero’s welcome when she returned to her old hometown in August of 1898, as she had been invited to give a patriotic address at the unveiling ceremonies of the Francis Scott Key Monument in Mount Olivet Cemetery. This took place on August 9th, 1898.
In spite of ”strenuous efforts,” the President Generalship went to Mrs. Charles Fairbanks—the young wife of a Republican Senator from Indiana, who later would become President Teddy Roosevelt’s vice presidential running mate. Driven "not to go quietly," Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean would run again at the organization’s annual congress of 1905. She was pitted against the Washington political establishment, as administration wives represented a power clique destined to keep the DAR's top spot. To combat this, Mrs. McLean appealed to the "grass roots" level of the organization. She “campaigned” hard, with chapter visits and lobbying forays in an effort to become elected. One-such happened in St. Louis at the 1903-1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, where she made a concerted effort to represent the varying interests of women, education and the DAR.
Two years later, the NSDAR Congress was held for the first time in the auditorium of the society’s own building—Memorial Continental Hall. On April 20th, 1905, two ballots were taken. On the second ballot, 684 votes were cast.
Emily received 362 votes and won the election for President General of the National Society DAR, becoming the seventh individual to hold this position. She now represented the whole country while wielding a high degree of power and celebrity. Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean's first order of business after giving her acceptance speech and greeting her constituents and fellow officers was to make the short trip from the stage of Memorial Continental Hall to the White House. Here she would receive congratulations and support from the President of the United States. The sitting president at this time was a fellow New Yorker—Theodore Roosevelt.
The 15th Continental Congress in 1906 received a special invitation from Secretary of the Navy Charles Bonaparte, former United States Ambassador to France General Horace Porter and Maryland Governor Edwin Warfield. President General Emily R. McLean announced with great pleasure that an invitation was extended to every member attending Continental Congress to be present at the ceremonies related to the final interment of John Paul Jones at Annapolis, Md. The American naval hero was to be placed in “his rightful tomb,” after Ambassador Porter located and identified his remains, which had been buried in Paris in an unmarked coffin. Jones’ remains traveled to the United States aboard the cruiser Brooklyn, the vessel that made Frederick native Winfield Scott Schley a star just eight years earlier. According to an issue of American Monthly Magazine, Jones' coffin was “draped in colors lovingly presented by the Daughters of the American Revolution, through their honored chief, Mrs. Donald McLean." She is said to have remarked, “This invitation I consider a great honor to this Congress, not only because we should all wish to be present at such an historic occasion, but because it is an unusual courtesy shown to us …”
Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean would serve two consecutive terms as President General (1905-1909) and is often considered to be the first President General chosen solely for her work within the Society, and not because of her husband’s status. In her words, she was “the only President General who has ever known what it was to sit under the Gallery,” according to a NSDAR historian. Another author wrote:
"Mrs. McLean has traveled several hundred thousand miles throughout the states, visiting innumerable cities and towns, making addresses upon patriotic subjects, not only in furthering the work of the Daughters of the American Revolution, but in participation in civic and national patriotic celebrations. She is deeply interested in the work of patriotic education, both for immigrants and Southern mountaineers, as well as in keeping alive a patriotic spirit in all classes of American citizens, and is widely and internationally known as a speaker in patriotic and educational gatherings, and in her interest in the movement for peace by arbitration.''
Emily shared stages with political heavyweights and other celebrities of the day such as humorist Samuel Clemons, better known as Mark Twain. Her greatest accomplishment would encompass completing the interior work on Memorial Continental Hall in Washington.
The 300th anniversary commemoration of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia took place in 1907. The DAR built a small house at the historic site and donated it to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities as a “rest house.” Mrs. McLean was a vice-president, and the only woman member, of the commission from New York to the Jamestown Exposition. She was the perfect ambassador for New York. Emily was held in high esteem by commission colleagues, as well as history and political leaders of the state of New York.
The following can be found within the 1912 book, The Part Taken by Women in American History, by Mrs. John A. Logan, (Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912):
“It has been the editor's valued privilege to have known Mrs. McLean since the beginning of the twentieth century, and she takes pleasure in adding that among the thousands of gifted women she has met during these years Mrs. McLean is second to none in largeness of heart, brilliancy of mind, quickness of perception, eloquence of speech, marvelous executive ability, genial disposition, sturdiness of purpose, and charming personality. As president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution she lifted the society out of the chaos into which contentious rivals had dragged it, and placed it in the line of progression and achievement. She made the dream of Continental Hall a possible reality by her skillful financial management No other woman has received greater honors or worn them more gracefully than has Mrs. Donald McLean, who is among the most faithful of wives, tenderest of mothers, loyal of daughters, truest of patriots, most generous and loyal of friends.”
After serving the maximum of two terms as President General, the Continental Congress of 1909 named Mrs. McLean an Honorary President General. Upon her return to New York City, her home chapter named her “regent for life.” She continued to stay active in her home chapter and would continue to be sought out for advice and guidance at the state and national level. Her daughters were grown and married with families of their own. The Marylander turned New Yorker settled into life as a doting grandmother. She would also spend her time traveling and enjoying the fruits of her celebrity with hundreds of new friends and acquaintances made thanks to NSDAR.
In 1910, scandal surrounded the McLean household as Donald was accused of embezzling money given him to invest on the part of Third Reformed Presbyterian Church of New York City. Other accusations of money mismanagement would follow in 1913 and 1914, as well as lawsuits. These stories were carried in New York City’s leading newspapers, along with getting picked up by papers across the country. Sadly, Mrs. McLean’s good name and reputation were slowly being tarnished in the process.
In my conjecture, I feel that this caused incredible concern, embarrassment and consternation within Emily. It may have caused her to seek solace in alcohol. The newspaper coverage eventually waned, but the McLeans had experienced a change in fortune along the way as Donald’s associates stepped in to pay restitution and legal fees. By 1915, the family felt they had “weathered the storm,” as Donald and his legal counsel had paid monies owed and shown sufficient accounting evidence in regard to investments, particularly in the Third Reformed Presbyterian Church case which reached the New York Supreme Court. But it wasn’t over yet.
In April of 1916, Mrs. McLean was vacationing in the Norfolk, VA area with her brother-in-law, Rear Admiral Walter McLean, commandant of the Norfolk Navy Yards. Emily had experienced stress and nagging health issues for the last two years, but suddenly became gravely ill while here in Virginia. She would be removed for advanced care in her home state. She was sent to Baltimore’s Church Home and Infirmary. Unfortunately, Mrs. McLean would die three weeks later on May 19th, 1916, succumbing to complications associated with cirrhosis of the liver. She was only 57 years old.
Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean would return once again to Mount Olivet Cemetery, the scene of patriotic triumph 18 years earlier as she spoke at the legendary Key Monument dedication and ascending to the national stage. Now, her incredible voice had been silenced. She would be laid to rest next to her namesake grandmother, Emily Nelson. Mrs. McLean’s sister, Willie Maulsby Ritchie, was Frederick Chapter Regent at this time, and played a leading role in making sure an appropriate funeral was conducted. The May 22nd church service at All Saints' Church and burial took place amidst the large attendance of several friends, relatives, and endeared compatriots from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In April 1972, 56 years later, members of the Frederick and New York City DAR Chapters, along with representatives and officers from the NSDAR paid homage to their legendary former colleague. A new footstone style monument was placed on Emily’s grave, listing the DAR related accomplishments of this legendary pillar of leadership.
Memorial Continental Hall, DAR, the greatest memorial building ever erected by women in the world, was completed during Mrs. McLean’s administration and dedicated with beautiful and interesting ceremonies in Washington DC on April 19th, 1909. This monument to the heroes and heroines of Liberty, 1776, is a stately marble building erected at a cost of half a million dollars. In it hangs a portrait of Mrs. McLean, painted by artist Irving Wiles, and presented to the Hall by members of the NSDAR as a token of appreciation for the great work accomplished by Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean as President General in financing and bringing to successful completion this unrivaled building project.
For many years, a course of lectures on American History was presented regularly and known as the Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean Lecture Course, established and endowed by members of the DAR, as a tribute to Mrs. McLean’s interest in patriotic endeavors.
Back in New York, a scholarship in perpetuity was founded at Barnard College for $3000. This was established by the New York City Chapter and named the “Mrs. Donald McLean Scholarship.”
One of the most prominent women in the country was gone. Although forgotten to time by many, her name deserves to be included within the ranks of the immortal patriots from Frederick, Maryland who made lasting contributions to patriotism and the promotion/preservation of the American ideal of freedom and faith in the flag. This list includes past residents such as Thomas Johnson, Jr., Lawrence Everhart, Francis Scott Key, Barbara Fritchie, Admiral Winfield Scott Schley and William Tyler Page.
Like the rest, Emily was human and had flaws. So did her husband Donald, who, less than a month after burying his wife, would be extradited from Frederick back to New York City on June 16th, 1916. Once there, Mr. McLean was indicted on the charge of grand larceny connected to faulty accounting of funds and stealing $8,000 from the New York City’s Third Reformed Presbyterian Church.
On Tuesday, September 20th, 1892, 14 local women met in the Frederick home of Mrs. Betty Harrison Maulsby Ritchie located at 116-118 West Church Street. The guest of honor was Miss Eugenia Washington, a sister of Millissent Washington McPherson, one of the meeting’s participants. Miss Washington was one of the original four co-founders of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She had reportedly been inspired by experiences during the American Civil War to found an organization for preserving the shared heritage of women from both the North and South of the United States.
Eugenia Washington and sister Millissent were natives of nearby Charles Town (West Virginia) and the daughters of William Temple Washington, a grandson of Samuel Washington, younger brother of George Washington. This made both ladies the great-grandnieces of the first president. In addition, both women were grandnieces of Dolly Payne Todd Madison, wife of former president James Madison.
The purpose of the meeting at Mrs. Ritchie’s home related to the organizing of a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution—the National Society (DAR) had been formed in part by Miss Washington two years earlier in October, 1890. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a lineage-based membership service organization for women who are directly descended from a person involved in the United States' struggle for independence. The organization was founded as a non-profit group, whose charge is to promote historic preservation, education, and patriotism.
The local chapter was formally organized (according to charter) on September 28th, although a record at the national headquarters from 1911 gives the organization date of September 20th, 1892. Regardless, the chapter was duly approved and accepted by the National Society on October 7th, 1892. This was the second chapter to form in Maryland, behind Baltimore. It was named “Frederick” in honor of the record made by Frederick County in the struggle for national independence.
Betty Harrison Maulsby Ritchie was named Organizing Regent for the Frederick Chapter. The elected national officers of the NSDAR (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution) carry the title “General” to indicate that they are responsible to the general organization, not to indicate rank. The head of each local chapter or state is called “Regent” because she governs vicariously for the one presiding president – the President General.
Regent Betty Ritchie certainly knew something about “daughters,” in more ways than one. She had given birth to 18 children, an accomplishment etched on her tombstone. Fifteen of her biological offspring were girls. Three of these ladies were founding members of the Frederick Chapter—Eleanor Nelson Ritchie, Jane Hall Maulsby Ritchie Boyd and Willie Maulsby. Ritchie’s eldest child, Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean, lived in New York City, and was one of the founding members of the New York City DAR Chapter. She likely provided additional influence to her mother and three sisters. In time, Mrs. McLean would eventually hold the NSDAR’s highest office.
Betty Maulby Ritchie
Elizabeth “Betty” Harrison Maulsby Ritchie was born June 24th, 1839 in Westminster, Maryland. Her parents were Col. William Pinkney Maulsby (1815-1894) and Emily Contee Nelson (1815-1867). Betty’s father was originally from Bel Air, Maryland (Harford County) but began an illustrious law career here in Frederick, where he met, and married, his wife in 1835. He would take his practice to Westminster, followed by Baltimore during Betty’s youth, eventually returning to Frederick in 1851.
Mr. Maulsby played an active role in civic affairs, but none greater than his service in the American Civil War. William P. Maulsby served as colonel of the First Maryland Regiment of the Potomac Home Brigade, and took part in several local battles including action at Charles Town, Harper’s Ferry, Martinsburg, Monocacy and Gettysburg. Before and during the Civil War (1858-1864), the Maulsby family resided at the stately mansion of Prospect Hall, located on the Jefferson turnpike west of downtown Frederick. Here, in June 1863, military command of the Union’s Army of the Potomac passed from Gen. Joseph Hooker to George G. Meade just days before the Battle of Gettysburg.
After the war, Mr. Maulsby resumed his law practice, but would soon receive an important appointment in 1870 from Maryland’s governor, Oden Bowie. Upon the death of Maulsby’s brother-in-law, Madison Nelson, he would assume the position of Chief Judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit.
Betty’s mother had died in 1867. Emily C. Maulsby was described as a woman of fine education and exceptional talent as an author, having written many articles for leading magazines of the day. It is this “estimable lady” who played a pivotal role mode and provided Betty with her patriotic pedigree. Emily Maulsby was the daughter of Roger Nelson (1858-1815), descendant of one of the first-settled landowners in Frederick County.
Roger Nelson ran away from William & Mary College to enlist as a private in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. In 1780, he was commissioned lieutenant as part of the Maryland Line. At the August, 1780 Battle of Camden (South Carolina), Nelson was left for dead on the field, only to be taken prisoner by the enemy and eventually exchanged toward the end of the war. He was promoted for distinguished service, and gained post-war celebrity as a judge and member of the United States Congress, from 1804-1810, representing Maryland’s Fourth District.
Betty Harrison Maulsby also claimed descendancy from David Lynn, one of Frederick County’s “Immortal Justices,” who repudiated the Stamp Act on November 23rd, 1765. Under her regency, Frederick Chapter members would choose as their motto “No Taxation without Representation,” referring to the Frederick Court’s direct defiance to the British Crown back in 1765. This event occurred 127 years before the Frederick DAR’s founding, but would remain a prime concern for the local chapter to champion up through to this day.
Betty enjoyed a happy childhood and was educated both in Frederick and at St. Mary’s Hall in Burlington, New Jersey. She would marry a local attorney, John Ritchie, on May 5th, 1858 in Baltimore. Ritchie was born in Frederick on August 16th, 1831 on his father’s farm, land that would one day become a portion of Mount Olivet Cemetery. John’s father, Albert Ritchie, was a local physician who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1826 and practiced here until early 1857, a year prior to his death.
Young John Ritchie attended the Frederick Academy, and afterwards studied medicine. However, he changed direction towards the study of law, which was taken up under the instruction of Judge William P. Maulsby. Ritchie subsequently entered the law department of Harvard. After his graduation, he came back to practice in Frederick and married his mentor’s daughter. A year later, while serving with the Junior Fire Company’s Defenders militia outfit, John Ritchie was among the first responders to Harpers Ferry, sent to suppress John Brown’s ill-fated insurrection attempt of October 16th, 1859.
In 1867, Betty’s husband was elected State’s Attorney for Frederick County, and before his term was over, would be elected to Congress’ House of Representatives where he served in the 42ndCongress (1871-1873). Mr. Ritchie resumed his law practice in town. In 1881, he was elected to serve a 15-year term as Chief Justice of the Sixth Judicial Circuit and Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
The Ritchie family resided near the Court Square area of downtown Frederick, living in the large home originally built by Emily Nelson Maulsby’s brother, John Nelson, located at 114 W. Church Street. Betty remained here with some of her children until John’s death on October 27th, 1887. She then moved next door to 116-118. Betty was heartbroken, but dedicated herself to carrying on her husband’s legacy, trailblazing her own in the process.
A story recounted in Williams’ History of Frederick County says that when John Ritchie died, the exact ground that comprised his gravesite had been clearly viewed from the window of the childhood home room in which he was born.
Betty Harrison Maulsby Ritchie served as the Frederick Chapter’s Regent from 1892-1894. During her first term, the Chapter honored Revolutionary War patriots by contributing toward a monument that the Maryland Sons of the American Revolution was erecting in Brooklyn, New York—a tribute to the Maryland Line’s valiant efforts in the Battle of Long Island.
The chapter also arranged for the remains of Thomas Beatty, a 1765 Stamp Act Repudiation judge, to be re-interred in Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Mrs. Ritchie showed her dedication to the organization by serving at the national level. She served as Vice President General (1894-95), and then as Maryland State Regent (1895-96). She returned to her original role as Chapter Regent for a second term (1896-98). During this stint, Betty helped organize the movement to bring about the Francis Scott Key Monument in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Betty Ritchie was on hand for the momentous unveiling ceremony for her “pet project”—the Key monument, on August 9th, 1898. It was a proud day for Frederick, Maryland, but an equally proud day for Betty as she had both her Chapter and biological daughters by her side. In fact, Betty’s daughter Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean did a great deal from her post in New York City. McLean’s DAR Chapter was the largest in the country, and did much to promote, and raise funds, for the FSK monument project in Mrs. McLean’s old hometown. For her efforts, Emily Ritchie McLean was afforded an opportunity to speak at the Key Monument dedication in the summer of 1898.
Betty’s daughter, Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean, would ascend to President General, NSDAR (1905-1909), while another, Willie Maulsby Ritchie, would serve as Chapter regent for two terms (1903-1906) and (1915-1917).
This past week, the Frederick Chapter, NSDAR celebrated its 125th anniversary. A luncheon gala was held to recount the chapter’s many projects and contribution’s since that 1892 founding by Mrs. Ritchie and 13 other local women. Mount Olivet Cemetery is the final resting place for not only Betty Maulsby Ritchie, but all 14 of the founding Charter members of the Frederick DAR Chapter.
The NSDAR is still headquartered in Washington, D.C., and serves as a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America's future through better education for children. It currently has approximately 185,000 members in the United States and in several other countries.
The zenith of any wedding ceremony is the presentation of wedding vows. These, of course, are the promises each partner makes to the other—at least as far as western Christians are concerned. Like any bonding agreement, groundwork and stipulations are determined to ensure that the two individuals know what they are entering into. One is required to make promises ranging from commitment during "good times and bad," along with caring for each other in varying economic conditions and stages of health.
The closing line of typical marriage vows usually features a softening of the oft-used commercial slogan "all sales final." This is one that we are all familiar with: "Until death do us part." Nowadays, this specific line from the marriage liturgy (within the Book of Common Prayer) has been watered down to read "Until we are parted by death," and lighter yet, "through the final days of our lives."
Divorces and annulments are much more commonplace today then they were half-a-century ago. There were far less 100 years ago, and fewer yet as you travel back in time from there. In the 18th and 19th centuries, divorce was a foreign concept for a variety of reasons. The 1970's saw a proliferation to nearly due to the acceptance for the "irreconcilable differences" claim. According to an article found on the website www.ahundredyearsago.com, "The divorce rate was 0.9 per thousand in 1913. It peaked at 4.6 in 1993; and decreased to 3.6 in 2013. So there's some encouraging news at least!
Early on, most marriages ended because of the premature death of a spouse--a sad, yet common occurrence during a period in our history boasting rudimentary healthcare and fledgling medical knowledge (y today's standards). Back in the day, when you professed those wedding vows, you sure as heck meant it without hesitation. Now I'm not saying that this isn't the case today as all newlyweds "enter the ring" (both figuratively and literally) with the intent that their love and commitment will last a lifetime. I'm just interpreting the factual results.
I always find it extremely heart-wrenching to see widows and widowers coming into Mount Olivet Cemetery on the funeral days of their husbands or wives. In many instances, I have been privy to see the photo shrines, slide shows and videos used for memorial services in our chapels. Most of these include pictures of a happy couple on their respective wedding day. This is an invaluable reminder of the day those legendary wedding vows were exchanged--including that promise, "Till death do we part." I can say with confidence that this phrase is usually the last thing on our minds as newlyweds, but comes to the forefront of our thoughts on the day of a spouse's death and/or funeral.
On a cold, blustery day in late January, 1943, Mrs. Ella Kanode took her place in Mount Olivet Cemetery for the graveside service of her husband. The air was brisk amidst a snow-covered ground. Jacob Kanode's parents had predeceased him and were in Area L/Lot 148. This would be his final resting place as well. As his coffin was lowered into the grave, Ella likely thought back to a joyous day in the fall of 1890 when she and Jacob exchanged their marriage vows.
Just 24 hours earlier, Ella Kanode's husband was as vibrant, healthy and energetic as a 72 year-old could be. So much so, that Jacob willingly set out to perform a tedious home repair in the dead of winter. Apparently, there was some sort of problem with a downspout on the upper exterior of the Kanode's farm. Their home was located in Hopeland, a small community just east of the Monocacy River on Fingerboard Road (MD Rt80) near the intersection with Baker Valley Road. Jacob told Ella of his intention to fix the gutter problem in mid afternoon, as she would stay inside due to the weather and a health setback.
After a few hours, Ella, became concerned, likely annoyed, that Jacob hadn't returned from his chore. Darkness enveloped and concern soon turned to worry. She had been inside all afternoon and is reported to have called on a friend to whom she shared her worry. Next door neighbor Jesse L. Stup quickly responded around 7pm and found Mr. Kanode near the base of a ladder. He was dead, the result of a broken neck.. The sheriff was called for immediately.
The cause of the fall was unknown, but the county medical examiner deducted that the death had happened around 4pm. It was most likely an accident, as the seasoned dairy farmer either mis-stepped, or over-reached, losing his balance atop the ladder or roof. Jacob Kanode would be the 18,100th person interred within Mount Olivet Cemetery, since its opening in 1854.
Jacob Martin Kanode was born on the family farm on August 16th, 1870, as the son of Jeremiah R. Kanode (1825-1907) and Margaret Layman. His parents grew up on adjoining farms basically across the road from one another. The young couple endured the American Civil War. As a matter of fact, the Kanode's farm supplied, or was ravaged by, Union troops under Gen. George B. McClellan in September, 1862. I found that Jeremiah Kanode sued the federal government for a war claim reimbursement. The case was heard in the US House of Representatives in 1907, 45 years after the infractions in question. The Kanodes were awarded $136.00 in November of that year, nine months after Jeremiah's death.
The Hopeland area was known as a haven for former slaves and free blacks after emancipation, and the American Civil War. Hope Hill Methodist Church and Hopeland Colored School catered to the local black community. Jacob went to a nearby school up through the sixth grade and tended to the obvious tasks farming life required. Along the way, he became intertwined with the annual county agricultural exposition-known more commonly as the Great Frederick Fair.
From articles I found in 1888-1890, Jacob seems to have taken a strong interest in knight pageants and jousting tournaments around the state. Victors received premiums and the honor of selecting the Queen of Love and Beauty, and three Maids of Honor. It was sort of a medieval version of the "The Dating Game" television program of the 1970's. In one, he was labeled as the Knight of Redwood, another the Knight of New Market. Jacob appears to have been a popular eligible bachelor of the period.
Mrs. Kanode was born Ella Nora Graser on December 10th, 1870. She was the fifth of seven children born to Francis "Frank" Graser and Margaret Musser. Mr. Graser came from Wurttemburg, Germany and worked as a farmhand. His wife, Mary Musser hailed from Pennsylvania.
I'm not exactly sure how the couple first met, but Jacob and Ella married under the strangest of circumstances. They were successfully recruited for a publicity and marketing stunt. Jacob was 20 years-old and working on the family farm in 1890. The 13th Annual Exhibition of the Frederick County Agricultural Society was held October 14-17th, 1890 and was billed as "A Mammoth Exhibition of Agricultural, Industrial, Natural and Artistic Products."
The Agricultural Society was a clever marketer. Among the scheduled attractions used to lure fair-goers that year was a balloon ascension featuring a leap in the air by the pilot while traveling at a height of 5,000 foot from the ground. Other special events "on tap" were a Grand Bicycle Tournament, an equestrian Hurdle Racing and High Jumping Contest, and the most novel and unique attraction in Frederick Fair history up to that point--The Grand Wedding. An ad in a local newspaper announced: "The bride and groom have been secured, and the nuptial knot will be tied in the presence of the assembled multitude."
Today, reality shows are commonplace, but in 1890, this prototype of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette was truly a must-see event. Posters were put up all over Frederick. The newspaper promoted the event, set for 12 noon on October 16th. The couple had been enticed by the Agricultural Society's offer of a free Honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls or any other point within 800 miles. James H. Gambrill, Fair Board president, met with the volunteer couple and their respective families.
Everyone agreed to the Society's proposal, thanks to great legwork done by Secretary George W. Cramer. A committee was formed to plan and handle arrangements for the event. This included J. William Baughman, John W. Markell, and C. Stanley Gambrill.
Things were not all "flowers and roses" as a local minister filed a formal protest of the public wedding. The Rev. James Stephenson, D.D. of the Protestant Episcopal Linganore Parish was livid. He felt the stunt was nothing more than a cheap farce, designed to "create a caricature of one of the most sacred institutions of Christianity." Rev. Stephenson threw his venom at the Fair Board, but to no avail as the show, I mean wedding, must go on. This complaint was not really surprising as pressure had been mounting toward the Agricultural Society to curb immoral sideshows, alcohol distribution and gambling. This would be addressed soon after with a re-focus on family values and intellectual culture.
The event was slated for noon on October 16th. The Frederick News reported that "by noon a few fights occurred among the rougher element and a number of women were insulted by the "toughs" from other cities, but not a single incident of purport occurred. The receipts were far in advance of any single day of the fair yet." It was a favorable omen, as it likely beckoned good luck to the bride and groom.
The event attracted one of the largest crowds to date at the fairgrounds. One estimate put the crowd at 25,000 to hear the wedding vows. This number is especially poignant because the population of Frederick in 1890 was about 9,000 and the county was about 50,000.
Dr. Edmund Eschbach of the Evangelical Reformed Church performed the ceremony. The Frederick News reported that Dr. Eschbach had married the couple in the presence of "thousands of our best people, and to the pleasure of a very happy couple." Mr. Gambrill reported that the beautiful ceremony impressed the respectable and orderly citizens who were present from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.
Emma Gittinger, the pioneer female columnist of the Frederick News wrote of the spectacle in her weekly "The Girl About Town" column on October 18, 1890:
"I occupied a cozy little nook on the grand stand during the wedding ceremony at the Fairgrounds Thursday and my dear girlish heart felt possessed by the Demon of Regret when I saw how beautifully the wedding passed off. It was a pretty wedding, I can tell you, and the bride looked just too sweet and lovely for anything. I felt sorry for her, poor thing, with all those people staring at her, but she didn't seem to mind it a bit, and indeed there was no reason to, for it was just as solemn and romantically impressive as something need well be. I don't believe in too much solemnity at a wedding. I think it must be the happiest moment in a person's life, and such an occasion ought to be as gay and happy as possible."
"Not a single one of the vast throng of persons who witnessed the public wedding had any comment to make upon it except in the way of praise for the decency and decorum of the ceremony and the gentlemanly and lady-like conduct of the bride and groom. Even those who bitterly opposed the idea but went out of curiosity to witness the ceremony were convinced that they had been hasty in their judgment and too severe in their condemnation.
As Governor Jackson arrived just too late for the ceremony he gave the bride away by proxy, his able substitute being Mr. R. Q. Taylor, of Baltimore. The bridal party were met at Monocacy Junction by the ushers, C. Staley Gambrill and John Usher Markell, and were driven first to the residence of Rev. Dr. Eschbach, who joined the party, occupying a seat in the coach with Mr. James H. Gambrill. The bride had been gotten in readiness by her friends at Araby and looked very beautiful. Her counterpart was a vision of manly glory and felt like a Prince. The couple didn't seem to mind the ordeal at all, taking a very casual and mature stance and accepting the crowd most favorably.
They were met at the grounds by the bands and Grand Marshal and a partial circuit of the track was made. The ceremony then passed off. The ring service was used, and on the platform were the families of the contracting parties, the ushers, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Gambrill and Mr. George W. Cramer. During the impressive service an intense calm prevailed, but afterward the immense crowd cheered lustily, steam whistles blew and the small boy wasted the strength of his lungs on the inevitable tin horn.
Dr. Eschbach was first to congratulate the bride, and he was followed by hundreds of others, all expressing their hearty hopes of a long and wedded life for the happy bride and groom. They re-entered their carriage , the top of which had been thrown open, and the party drove around the track, afterward going to the City Hotel, where the wedding breakfast was eaten. The bride and groom got off safely for Washington on the 8:30 train from Frederick Junction, amid the hearty good wishes of the friends who had gathered there to see them depart."
Luck was certainly on the young couple's side! In other fair news later in the day, horse racing was hampered by rain. The balloon ascension was a failure as well, as the air-ship only ascended 25 feet, when it drifted over the cattle pens and collapsed. News of the successful public wedding was carried by newspapers throughout the country.
I wasn't able to find a report of the Kanode's honeymoon, but I'm sure the couple reaped the spoils of their all-expense paid trip. Oh to be a fly on the wall and hear their thoughts and emotions as they reflected on the spectacle of the day. They must have felt like pseudo-celebrities while on vacation, due to media coverage.
Once back in Frederick, the newlyweds took up residence at the Hopeland/Hope Hill family farm with Jacob's parents. They can be found living with them in the 1900 census. Jeremiah died in 1907, and was buried in Mount Olivet. Jacob, now 37, took over the family dairy and creamery operation and would run it until the day of his death.
Jacob and Ella had two sons—Charles and Ralph. At the time of Jacob's death, Charles E. Kanode (1896-1957) lived in Walkersville, while Ralph G. Kanode (1902-1957), resided near Monocacy Junction. Jacob and Ella possessed two grandsons and a granddaughter as well.
Ella would pass one year and two months after her husband on March 31st, 1944. The 73-year-old had been suffering from an illness for ten months. At the time of her passing, Ella's two grandsons, additional byproducts of the Frederick Fair publicity stunt of 1890, were serving in the US Military during World War II. These included Petty Officer Charles E. Kanode, Jr., in Norfolk (VA) and Corp. Ralph G. Kanode, Jr. in Fort Myers, FL.
Ella Kanode was laid to rest in Mount Olivet on April 2nd, 1944. Beautiful marble footstones compliment a five foot pedestal-style monument commemorating Jacob's parents. To this day, the Kanode's nuptials at the fairgrounds back in 1890 still holds the undisputed record for best attended wedding in Frederick County's history!
Down on Fingerboard Road, the Kanode family farm is long gone, but part of it constitutes land that is today the site of the Maryland Sheriff's Boy's Ranch.
The Great Frederick Fair is once again in "full-swing." The largest county fair in Maryland has had an amazing run, revered by many as the best in the state. Be that as it may, Frederick's agricultural roots run deep, and our county has been blessed with amazing folks, both past and present, proudly wearing the moniker of farmer.
The Frederick Fair continues to be a reflection of great "farm families," some dating back to the mid 1700's. Many of the brightest doubled as pioneering businessmen, while others served in politics. They were also leaders in their respective churches, social clubs and civic causes. From the gentleman planter to the tenant farmer, the knowledge and drive these individuals exhibited was, and still is, awe-inspiring. Just think of the countless Frederick agriculturalists who proved successful without the help of the internet and cable television.
In this week's edition of "Stories in Stone," I have put the spotlight on three such individuals from Frederick's past. These men are seldom mentioned, or thought of, today. I'm sure that the vast majority of fair-goers entering through the "GFF" turnstiles have no earthly idea or context to who any of these gentlemen are. However, this trio helped pave the way for us to enjoy rides on the midway, experience entertainment in the grandstand, view the latest in agricultural implements and other home innovations and locally offered services, celebrate arts and crafts, and most importantly, understand the important and difficult tasks that farmers embrace each day by raising livestock, cultivating crops and ship food to market for our sole survival.
William E. Williams
The Frederick County Agricultural Society was "birthed" in November 1821. A group of the area's most distinguished planters and farm owners forged the organization’s bylaws and elected William Elie Williams as the society's first president. Williams was the builder and operator of the large stone grist mill on his plantation farmstead at "Ceresville," so named for the Roman goddess of agriculture and grain, Ceres.
More than his contribution to farming, the leader of the county's first agricultural society was better known for being the son of celebrated Revolutionary War Brigadier Gen. Otho Holland Williams. This man (Otho H. Williams) once served as a county clerk for Frederick County, and was an intimate friend of George Washington. He is also the namesake of Williamsport, MD, where he persuaded Washington to place his capital city.
Williams would serve as chairman of the society's greatest achievement, arranging and promoting the first-ever cattle show and fair in our county's history. Most local histories simply give credit to a mysterious man, and former sheriff, named George Creager, a one-time tavern keeper who supposedly hosted the first agricultural exhibition. Williams did so much more for Frederick's rich agricultural heritage.
As the oldest son, William E. Williams obtained one of his father's treasured farmsteads in 1808 at the ripe age of 21. It was located just northeast of Frederick City on the eastern bank of the Monocacy River along the Liberty Road (current day MD26). Not much is known about Williams childhood, but it assumed he grew up in Baltimore and likely attended schools there as his father had been appointed as the port collector of that city by President Washington. Gen. Otho H. Williams passed in 1794 at the age of 45.
William was born in 1787 and after his father's premature death was raised into adulthood by the family of his mother (Mary "Polly" Smith) family. He attended Princeton and received his Bachelors of Arts degree in October, 1806. He followed with service in the US Army Infantry, earning the rank of captain and eventually entered into the practice of law.
Up until 1810, the Williams-owned farm at Ceresville had been run by overseers for the previous two decades. The property was described as "a farm of 300-500 acres, with a suitable number of hands, animals and implements; crops are wheat and other cereals, potatoes, hay and other food for stock; stock in horses, cows, sheep, pigs and poultry."
William E. Williams ingratiated himself with the prospect of farming his father's Frederick-based plantation. Over the next five years, Williams would have the property surveyed and appraised. He contemplated adding Merino Sheep, searched for a mason to construct a home on the property, bought additional acreage, looked for a blacksmith and gardener among other slave hands, and got a sawmill up and running. The principal structure of his operation was a flour mill which he had built in 1813. It would be powered by water from nearby Israel's Creek. The Ceresville Mill, later to be known as Kelly's Mill, replaced a smaller mill on the property and was described as follows:
“The new stone mill had six floors and two rows of dormer windows. The machinery from the mill came from nearby Catoctin. In 1826 the mill manufactured 30,000 bushels of wheat a year. The additional output was 5,000 bushes flour, 7 bushels rye, 132 tons meal and 180 tons of feed.”
Williams also started a limestone quarry on the premises and operated a ferry to shuttle passengers and wagons across the Monocacy. Having a career, and home, William E. Williams moved with his wife, Susanna Frisby Cooke, to Frederick County. The couple married in April, 1812 and would have five children.
In addition to agricultural pursuits, Williams was named one of the first directors of the Farmers & Mechanics Bank for Frederick County in 1818. He was also active in the local Republican Party, and ran for the state house of delegates in 1819. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Frederick County by Maryland's governor (1820/1821) and was active in All Saints Episcopal Protestant Church.
William E. Williams and the other members of the Frederick Agricultural Society took seriously the charge of their organization to teach best practices and look after Frederick County farming interest in comparison to other locations and cities where local trade existed. An example of this came with a November, 1821 resolution involving flour inspection:
William E. Williams and the Frederick County Agricultural Society quickly made plans for a Cattle Show and Fair on May 23rd and 24th, 1822 to immediately precede the Maryland State Show. This would be the second agricultural fair held in the state, and the rationale for the state’s date followed the planting of corn and was in advance of the tobacco planting season.
The first-ever Cattle Show and Fair in Frederick's history went off swimmingly, taking place at the Monocacy Bridge Tavern, on the western bank of the river along the National Pike (today's MD144). This was the site of the famed Jug Bridge. Williams wouldn't get his opportunity for an encore.
Three months later, by mid-August 1822, the 35-year-old William E. Williams had relocated to Baltimore, taking up residence there once again due to illness. Williams was very sick, said to be suffering from a throat and respiratory ailment. His condition worsened as summer turned to fall. He would eventually succumb to this malady three on November 17th, 1822.
I have not been able to find a burial record, but I am highly confident that our first president of the Frederick Agricultural Society was laid to rest in Baltimore's "Old St. Paul's" Protestant Episcopal Cemetery located at the corner of W. Redwood Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. It is bordered by the University of Maryland Medical Center campus.
Part of the cemetery was destroyed in the creation of MLK Boulevard, and this could hold the key for the lack of Williams' stone. Regardless, he is in good company as this burying ground contains the mortal remains of other leaders from Maryland's past such as Samuel Chase, John Eager Howard, George Armistead and Daniel Dulany, the Younger—son of Frederick's founder Daniel Dulany. This cemetery was also the first resting place of Mount Olivet's Francis Scott Key from 1843-1866.
Spring 1823 didn't see a second Cattle Show & Fair in Frederick. One of the reasons was simply due to the sudden loss of William E. Williams. A related ag-related event would, however, be held at the Monocacy Bridge Hotel and tavern location by the Monocacy. This show was not officially sanctioned by all in the local Agricultural Club as it was more of a horse racing festival put on in conjunction with the Frederick County Jockey Club. Another factor contributing to this absence (of a follow-up Frederick cattle show) had to do with the previous scheduling of the Maryland Cattle Show and Fair by the state's Agricultural Society. This would be held in Easton, on the Eastern Shore, in November (1823). Things would follow suit with a failed attempt to have a cattle show in 1824 due to respectively not wanting to compete with the visit of Gen. Marquis de Lafayette's visit to Maryland. This hiatus allowed the Frederick County Agricultural Society to regroup, and reorganize, in December 1824.
William E. Williams would have made a far greater impact locally here in Frederick County if given the opportunity. His widow Susanna, and brother Henry Lee Williams, would take over the estate after his death. An ad appears in the Washington Intelligencer newspaper of December 31st, 1822 for a public auction of "Ceresville Farm" and the plethora of agricultural implements that Williams had acquired. A man named Cornelius Shriner would operate the mill afterwards, turning it into one of the most profitable of its kind in western Maryland. His son Edward A. Shriner would follow in his father's footsteps and flour would be continuously milled here until 1988.
Col. Lewis Kemp & Gideon Bantz
The vice presidents of the Frederick Agricultural Society under first president William E. Williams included: Col. Henry Kemp, Col. John McPherson, Col. John Thomas, Mr. James Johnson, Col. G.M. Eichelberger, Mr. W.P. Farquhar, Mr. Jesse Slingluff, Mr. Joshua Delaplane and Mr. William Morsell.
Of particular interest is Col. Henry Kemp (1863-1833), a veteran of the War of 1812 and successful mill owner. Kemp was influential in helping re-launch the Agricultural Society and another cattle show and fair in 1825. Like his friend William E. Williams, Col. Kemp dabbled in politics. He was appointed by the governor as a judge of the Frederick Orphan's court and would also be elected as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly. Kemp was also a director of the Farmers & Mechanics Bank.
Col. Henry Kemp and his colleagues would hold another cattle show, fair and exhibition in Frederick County in May, 1825. Two more would follow in 1826 and 1827, the latter taking place in Libertytown. For some unknown reason, the show went by the wayside, not to be re-visited until almost 25 years later.
Henry Kemp's oldest son, Col. Lewis Kemp, assisted his father with the organization and served as the secretary for the county's Election District 1 subcommittee of the larger Frederick County Agricultural Society.
Born January 22nd, 1797, Col. Lewis Kemp grew up on Carrollton Manor and eventually married Rebecca Charlotte Buckey, granddaughter of German immigrant Matthias Buckey. The couple wed on May 19, 1818. Rebecca's father, George Buckey, owned a large tannery in town. Two of Lewis' sisters married Rebecca's brothers, strengthening the bond between both families. Kemp was involved with the Buckey tannery operation, but eventually relocated to Baltimore around 1834 in an effort to conduct a dry goods store with his brother-in-law (twice-connected) Daniel Buckey.
Col. Kemp retired and came back to Frederick in 1851. His great-grandfather had been Christian Kemp, builder of a large house and mill on Ballenger Creek. Lewis Kemp lived in the Carrollton Manor vicinity before his departure to Charm City, but upon returning moved to the Prospect Hill, taking up residence in the Prospect Hall manor house as a gentleman farmer.
In 1849, Col. Kemp found himself a member of the newly-formed Farmers Club of Frederick County. The Farmers Club was formed in November (1849) at a gathering in the Old Academy building on Council Street in downtown Frederick. A local businessman named Gideon Bantz would be named president.
Gideon Bantz was born on February 9th, 1792, the son of Henry and Catherine Bantz. The 57 year-old owned farmland both inside and outside the town limits, plus a quarry east of Frederick on the National Pike. Bantz was best known for operating a tannery in downtown Frederick. It was positioned north of Carroll Creek along the west side of S. Court Street (between the creek and W. Patrick Street).
Bantz's home fronted W. Patrick and took the form of a large three-story dwelling occupying a corner lot. Bantz was the husband of Ann Maria Sowers and had 12 children. Gideon Bantz served as a church elder (German Reformed Church), served on several board of directors and dabbled in politics earning him the title of the county's most popular Whig party politician.
Many subsequent meetings would be held by the Farmers Club Of Frederick County, but no county-wide exhibition was planned, or held, during the next three years.
Although the new club seemed a little obsessed with poop, their overall constitution was rock solid. After four years under President Bantz' leadership, the Farmer's Club would make some alterations to itself.
On January 12th, 1853, the Frederick Examiner newspaper announced an upcoming meeting, which respectfully invited “all who feel an interest in the advancement of Agriculture” to attend. This ad was placed by members of the Farmers Club.
In another part of the same paper, the Examiner’s editor pointed out the meeting as being “well worth the attention of farmers, millers, and all others interested in the development of the productive resources of our county. Its object is to revive and reorganize the Society, and it is to be hoped that a becoming interest and enterprise will be manifested in the important undertaking. “
This meeting took place on January 22nd, 1853 at the Frederick Academy building, where a large and highly respected group convened and organized an association under the title of the Agricultural Club of Frederick County and the Frederick County Agricultural Society. High spirit and enthusiasm abounded and another constitution and by-laws were adopted with amendments. An election for officers was held and Col. Lewis Kemp became the group's first president. The particular goal of the meeting was to make arrangements for holding a local agricultural fair for the following fall season.
The first exhibition of the Frederick County Agricultural Society was held October 16-18th, 1853 and attended by thousands of eager visitors. This far exceeded the numbers imagined by the organizers. The home for the newly revived cattle show, fair and exhibition was the Frederick Barracks Grounds on Cannon Hill.
One year later, the second annual Exhibition of the Frederick County Agricultural Society took place. The same support of the 1853 event was again demonstrated as it was estimated that 15,000 people attended the second day of the fair alone. The Great Frederick Fair, the way we know it today, was officially born.
Sadly, two leading Frederick Countians, would experience their final fair opportunity in October, 1854. Gideon Bantz had been elected to serve as Acting President due to an illness that was pestering Col. Lewis Kemp. This occurred when the Agricultural Society's Board of Trustees met on October 7th, just prior to the opening of their Exhibition on Wednesday, October 11th. Gideon Bantz attended opening day, but would travel to Baltimore on Thursday to represent Frederick County by attending the Maryland State Fair. While there, he contracted a sudden illness, blamed on something he ate for dinner. He returned home, but would breathe his last breath just 24 hours later on Friday night. The community was stunned and deeply saddened.
Gideon Bantz was buried in the German Reformed Burying Ground at the intersection of S. Bentz and W. Second streets. He would one day be reinterred in 1873 within Mount Olivet Cemetery. His mortal remains were placed in Area G/Lot 188. Bantz' obituary, (above), placed in the Frederick Examiner contains a wonderful sketch of Mr. Bantz' colorful achievements and standing in the community. Tributes of Respect also appeared in the newspaper. The following appeared in the October 18th edition of the Frederick Examiner:
"Tribute of Respect
At a meeting of the Frederick County Agricultural Society, held on Friday evening October 13th, the following proceedings were had:
Whereas, It has pleased the Almighty to remove from our midst, within a few days of each other, two of our fellow citizens, F.A. Schley, Jr., and Gideon Bantz, Sr., the one young, ardent, energetic, full of all promise of usefulness, beloved by all who knew him; the other advanced in years and enjoying all that high respect and warm regard of his fellow citizens which a long life of irreproachable conduct had won for him; and whereas both the departed were valued members of the Association, Gideon Bantz being, at the time of his death, one of the Vice Presidents of the Society. Therefore
Resolved, That we deeply deplore the loss of our fellow members, F. A. Schley, Jr., and Gideon Bantz Sr.; and that we sincerely sympathize with their afflicted relatives and friends.
Resolved, That the Secretary of this Society communicate a copy of these resolutions to the respective families of the deceased.
Resolved, That these proceedings be published in all the papers of the town; and be also entered upon the minutes of the Society.
President pro tem
Oct. 18, 1854
One of the likeliest of pallbearers for Gideon Bantz' funeral was Col. Lewis Kemp. Whether he did, or not, Kemp would return to the German Reformed Cemetery just a few months later. Unfortunately, it wasn't to pay respects to his fellow farming brother. Instead, friends, family and neighbors were saying goodbye to him as he died on December 13th, 1854.
Today, Kemp's gravesite is roughly 20 yards away from his old friend and colleague, Gideon Bantz. in Area G/Lot 177. Bantz had been brought to Mount Olivet and reburied on the 19th anniversary of his death (October 13th, 1873.) Col. Kemp would be re-interred on June 23rd, 1906.