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.