Christmas decorations have taken over the Frederick landscape! Lights are on houses, candles in windows, figurines on lawns. The same goes for many area businesses as well, including ours here at Mount Olivet Cemetery where wreaths adorn grave sites, and artificial flower arrangements decorate mausoleum crypts and niches. People have also brought favorite ornaments to place on monuments or hang on trees within the mausoleum buildings in remembrance of their loved ones.
I just recently had the revelation that there is at least one establishment in Frederick which proudly displays a “landmark” holiday decoration for 365 days of the year, without fail. More amazing than that, is the fact that it’s been in place for 58 years. Can you guess what it is?
Back in the 1970’s, local Maryland State trooper, Millard “Mick” Mastrino, deemed a section of W. Patrick Street/US Route 40 (west of Frederick) as “the Golden Mile.” Mastrino knew this area well because the Maryland State Police Barracks were among the first structures in this vicinity. The mile-long stretch was the first parcel of former rolling farmland pegged for large scale commercial development.
“The Golden Mile” is still book-ended by two longstanding monuments, both marking fabled (non-chain) restaurant establishments. Each of these freestanding objects are also red in color as well. On the east boundary is the majestic “Red Horse,” survivor of multiple senior prank kidnappings and a local symbol of steak and flame-kissed beef culinary excellence. The Red Horse Steak House is located at the foot of Linden Hills, next to the former Red Horse Motor Inn, now a Comfort Inn. The Red Horse Restaurant started in 1968, positioned across the street from a Holiday Inn built by local attorney Dan Weinberg in 1962.
I recently wrote about Weinberg’s wife, Alyce, in reference to the popular book of local ghost stories she penned in the 1970’s. Although we remember the Weinbergs today for their outstanding generosity in saving the old Tivoli Theater (Weinberg Center), it was another early business venture on the west side of “the Golden Mile” that kept a generation entertained through the phenomenon of outdoor movies. This was the Braddock Drive-In. It was located just west of the triangle intersection of US 40 and US 40-Alternate at present day Old Camp Road. The Drive Inn, which once boasted country legend Patsy Cline performing between features, is long gone, today better known as the home of a Weis Market, McDonald’s Bob Evans and restaurants and strip store outlets.
Like Weinberg, another Frederick business visionary would take his chances with a venture on the west side of town. This was an era that pre-dated the mall, shopping centers, and influx of other restaurants that would later pervade the Golden Mile. He lived atop Linden Hills, moving here decades before the four-legged, equestrian monument made its appearance in the vicinity. Cramer decided to capitalize off the success of the Braddock Drive-Inn by setting up a diner-style eating experience, specializing in “date-night” and after hours fare such as sodas, ice cream, hamburgers, pie and candy. He also sold hearty, hometown favorites like fried chicken and apple dumplings, along with the novelty of breakfast food all day long.
This man was Ammon E. Cramer, a talented music prodigy turned restaurateur, sprinkled with more than a dash of “P.T. Barnum-esque” marketing talents. He punctuated his eatery with a landmark synonymous with Christmas and easily recognized by passing motorists as well as moviegoers across the street. The result—a 35-foot jumbo, red and white, candy cane. Cramer fittingly named his new venture after his confectionary-inspired monument, but gave top billing to one Frederick’s finest past citizens, Barbara Fritchie, the 95-year-old, flag-toting, Unionist of the Civil War who lived a few miles east of his restaurant on W. Patrick Street. Opening the Barbara Fritchie Candy Stick Restaurant was not Cramer’s first foray in business. It also wasn’t his inauguration with candy production/sales and the equally lovable Barbara Fritchie, as his track record dates back to 1919.
Ammon Evers Cramer was from one of Frederick’s earliest, and best known, founding families. He was the son of Civil War veteran John Phillip Cramer (1844-1923), a man who fought with the 3rd Potomac Home Brigade and appears to have been wounded in the process. J. P. Cramer married Emeline Eyler (1842-1915) and was engaged in running a family farm at Pleasant Hill, northeast of Woodsboro.
Ammon was born on December 20th, 1883. This was 21 years and two days after the death of Barbara Fritchie. Cramer attended school up through the 8th grade, customary of the time, and spent most of his time working on the farm. Somewhere along the line, he began to show talent as a musician and vocalist. He would leave the confines of Pleasant Hill for Frederick City and took a job with Birely’s Palace of Music, owned by one-time Orphan’s Court judge Jacob M. Birely.
The Woodsboro native soon earned the title around town of “Professor Cramer” thanks to his musical talent. He not only sold instruments ranging from pianos and organs to symphoniums and autoharps, but also taught music lessons, and wrote several compositions of his own. An early newspaper article reports that at least a dozen of Cramer’s songs met with modest success in the northeastern cities of the country.
The family eventually moved to a house of their own on E. Third Street. Cramer’s business grew larger and more diversified in 1919 as a restaurant was opened in conjunction with the music showroom and “Five & Dime” dry goods entity. Marketing ads boasted complete meals for the price of a quarter. A common crossover novelty tying all modes of business together at this location was a player piano, utilized to entertain patrons of the lunch counter and soda fountain.
In addition to composing music, Ammon Cramer soon found himself composing candy. He entered the confectionary trade, and began attending yearly conferences and expositions in Chicago. Cramer’s leading number would take the name of Frederick’s favorite daughter—Barbara Fritchie Chocolates and Bon-Bons. Cramer would file to have the name trademarked on September 13th, 1923. Success came quick, and necessitated a downtown diner/candy store location at 15 E. Patrick Street. He named it the Barbara Fritchie Chocolate Shop and Inn.
With business escalating, Cramer opened a second candy shop location in Baltimore, and also moved his chocolate factory the heart of Charm City. This endeavor would be located at 109 N. Liberty Street. Success did take a toll, along with alleged “indulging in sweets of another kind” as Blanche Cramer filed for divorce in May, 1924. Cramer found himself in a financial conundrum, and had to pay a settlement to his ex-wife, and had other creditors. He tried leasing his Frederick Barbara Fritchie location, but to no avail.
A levy sale was soon held by the county sheriff in August and many of his instruments, store furnishings and glassware were sold. A public sale, hosted by Ammon, would be held three months later with a number of items departing the inventory of Cramer’s Palace of Music, and highlighted by the passing of his majestic soda fountain along with the glass bar and stools. The Baltimore location also fell by the wayside. It was a low time for Frederick’s “Music Man/Candy Man.”
As this business did fine at the present location, something very special happened in 1927. A few local businessmen, under the leadership of Hammond Clary, concocted the idea of building a replica Barbara Fritchie House and Museum on W. Patrick Street along Carroll Creek. The original Fritchie home was destroyed by a flood in 1868 and dismantled as part of a control effort in widening of the creek at that location. Tourists and visitors had been coming to Frederick for decades, only to be disappointed to learn that the Fritchie House was not here, and no chance was afforded travelers to gaze upon the famous second-story dormer window in which the nonagenarian leaned out of and waved her flag.
On cue, Ammon Cramer quickly moved his establishment right across the street of the new museum to 59 W. Patrick Street. It also appears that he brought son his son Chauncey into the family business as well. He could now prey on the countless pilgrims to the recreated “alleged site” of Barbara Fritchie’s defiance back in 1862. And in my book, nothing goes better with Civil War history than candy and ice cream.
It was at this time that Cramer would marry Helen Mackley. The couple would move to the new suburban development of Linden Hills, west of town. He built a house at the top which afforded an incredible elevated view of Frederick’s famed “clustered spires,” made famous by the Whittier poem about Barbara Fritchie, of course. Everything was going very nicely for the former farm kid from Woodsboro.
Sadly, Ammon would lose Helen in 1938. She died after a five-month illness at the tender age of 31, leaving her husband to raise two young daughters, ages six and seven. As had always been the case, Cramer persevered, throwing himself into his work. Meanwhile, the allure for a takeaway souvenir of namesake chocolate was overwhelming for tourists visiting the Barbara Fritchie House. Cramer had to find new digs for his candy manufacturing. In 1944, he attempted to gain industrial zoning approval for a new factory which he desired to place at the northwest corner of W. 7th and Bentz streets. He couldn’t get the zoning, however and was forced to look elsewhere.
Ammon Cramer would establish his chocolate factory south of Frederick on the once-sparse Evergreen Point (along the Georgetown/Urbana Pike/MD355). He built a series of Quonset huts, encompassing 18,000 feet, to house the equipment used to pump out his Fritchie bon-bons. This was 1947, after the boom following the close of World War II. Much of this structure survives today as it has been repurposed many times of the years. Currently, it serves home to Tate Chrysler/Plymouth's Used Cars location.
Ammon had married for a third and final time earlier in the decade. His young bride (35 years his junior), was Mary Frances Wertenbaker. Mary took an active role in helping Ammon run the family business, plus two more children would come from this marriage.
The New Frontier
In the post-war period, automobile sales skyrocketed, and motoring shaped the culture of the country. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 added to this. Roadside attractions and restaurants sprouted up everywhere, as did motorist-friendly amenities such as drive-up tellers at banks, drive-in movies, and drive-in restaurants. These were “Happy Days” for sure! Ammon Cramer needed to be part of the new “vehicular” frontier.
The newspapers of 1959 feature news stories of the Cramer’s attempting to get zoning approval for a parcel located at the intersection of Hayward Road at US15. This was the year that the Frederick Freeway opened, a plan to bypass traffic around downtown Frederick. Ammon Cramer experienced defeat again with this venture—one which would have been optimal in capturing motorists coming from the north on the early interstate, along with those coming from the south and heading towards the Civil War mecca of Gettysburg. Undaunted, he now focused his attention west of town on W. Patrick Street/US40 as it had been a major traveler highway of note for two centuries.
Ground was broken on October 13th, 1959 at a site north of the Braddock Drive-Inn and west of Masser’s Motel. Ammon Cramer placed a large candy cane along the roadside itself in front of the restaurant to bring extra attention to his eclectic eatery. Day or night, this architectural element became a beacon to travelers, and an important landmark in the annals of Americana.
Ammon Cramer faithfully ran his Barbara Fritchie Candystick Restaurant, including the resale of his Barbara Fritchie candy creations, up through his death on September 13th, 1967. He also lived to see his music business celebrate 50 years in business, closing shortly after.
Ammon would be laid to rest in the mausoleum-cloister atop Linden Hills, immediately across from his home. At the time, this was known as Frederick Memorial Park Cemetery (established in 1931). It has undergone a series of names and owners, but today goes by the name of Clustered Spires Cemetery and is operated by the Cody family and Resthaven Cemetery.
West of Frederick, the story was quite different. The “Golden Mile” and suburban boom provided more customers, along with more competitors as well. The Barbara Fritchie Restaurant held its own and was run successfully by Mary Cramer, who died in July, 2003. Mary Cramer’s children had her inurned within Mount Olivet’s main Mausoleum Chapel. At this time, Ammon Cramer’s remains were removed from the Clustered Spires Mausoleum, and brought here to Mount Olivet. Today, you can find the couple sharing a niche space on the back wall of the Chapel Mausoleum.
As for the Barbara Fritchie Candystick Restaurant, new owners have continued the Cramers’ legacy, and it is still beloved by Frederick locals and tourists alike. The place hasn’t changed all that much as it marches toward 60 years in existence. The candy counter is gone, but the throwback décor and “homey feel” certainly remains. Over the years, many travelers have recounted to me their fond memories of Frederick being synonymous with dining excursions at “the Fritch” dating back in some cases to their youth. I’ve had the opportunity to share this with my children as well. How can one forget the desserts, milkshakes and breakfast all day-long? Thank you Ammon Cramer, if nothing else, you certainly “composed” culinary masterpieces in the form of music for our stomachs.
December 12th marks the death date of a Jefferson, Maryland native who fought bravely in the Great War. John J. Arnold (1894-1984) fought with Company A of the 311th Machine Gun Battalion of the 79th Division. Private Arnold was severely wounded on September 29th, 1918 during the Battle of Argonne Forest. He would receive the Purple Heart for an injury that partially disabled him for the rest of his life as a farmer tending to his family homestead located at 3945 Lander Road.
What a whirlwind week and a half! Starting with Thanksgiving, we quickly progressed into the “Thanksbuying” holidays with the annual events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday…which has been extended now to Cyber Week. A shining diversion to the unbridled, holiday-related spending of the period came in the form of charitable donating on Giving Tuesday.
Many people are well aware of Giving Tuesday, also stylized as #Giving Tuesday for social networking purposes. This event, occurring on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, celebrated its 5th anniversary this past week, as it began back in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City along with the United Nations Foundation. The “tongue in cheek” response to the post Thanksgiving commercialization of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has steadily been growing in popularity, now firmly established as an international day of giving at the beginning of the holiday season. An accounting showed that $10 million dollars was raised on the first Giving Tuesday. The amount has grown steadily each year since, with early estimates from this past Tuesday being reported at over $60 million.
I’m proud to announce that Mount Olivet Cemetery had some involvement in this great day, albeit a small entrée into something much bigger for the future. Thanks to the generosity of our Board of Directors, an amount of $25,500 was collected in order to establish our newly formed Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund (MOCPEF) with the Community Foundation of Frederick County.
For over a decade, the Mount Olivet Board of Directors have entertained the idea of establishing a preservation-themed fund with the Community Foundation. The idea was first pitched, and championed by Colleen Remsberg, longtime Board member and immediate past president. In 2014, the Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund was incorporated, but it wasn’t until December 2016 when the cemetery took the next important step to move forward—filing an application with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity. The mission of this charity reads as follows:
The mission of the Mount Olivet Cemetery Preservation and Enhancement Fund is to assist in the conservation of the natural beauty and historic integrity of Mount Olivet Cemetery and to increase public knowledge and appreciation of its unique, cultural, historic, and natural resources through charitable and educational programs.
Putting this in layman’s terms, the cemetery’s Board wants to take steps to preserve the history of this great “garden cemetery,” a community institution since the 1850’s. In doing so, they want to safeguard the cemetery’s historic records, structures and grave monuments therein. We have taken a bit of a head start in 2017 as can be exemplified by things such as these “Stories in Stone” articles and our monthly lectures. In addition, we’d like to expand upon cemetery walking tours, visitor assistance with genealogy and family history of those interred here, special events and anniversaries, educational partnerships with school field trips, interpretive displays such as historic waysides and unique commemorative plantings. Best of all, we will have the opportunity, and more so the financial support to preserve and repair broken and illegible gravestones and monuments in the cemetery’s historic section.
Many people assume that “downed,” and leaning grave markers are products of vandalism or shoddy care. This is incorrect. Most have toppled due to the fact that graves of the 19th century lacked the underlying support foundations that are commonplace in the cemetery’s 20th and 21st century interments. Early graves and reburials lacked vaults of any kind, others consisted of brick vaults or simple “over coverings” of a casket with a slab of slate stone. Over time, the weight from above has caused a collapse as the slate and brick has given way. In other cases, most monument dies are simply held up by iron rods. Moisture can get to these inner pinnings and rust them out. Ground movement underneath (as mentioned), or a strong wind can fell these tombstones at will. In addition, fissures can develop based on weather, causing a stone to crack or a delicate angel’s wing to break. Weather and pollution are also to blame for monument discoloration and other things like algae growth and mineral buildup on marble and granite stones alike.
With these problems, who’s responsibility is it to make repairs? Well, the stones are the property of individual lot holders. The cemetery comes into play with any damage done by cemetery staff, mowing vendors, or acts of nature/God such as a tree or branch collapse. Sadly, In the case of the historic area of Mount Olivet, descending generations have passed on, and many monuments are presently unvisited, and unclaimed, as families moved from the area, or simply “died” out. The new Preservation Fund will allow us to proceed with repairs, and in some cases, elaborate fixes can be attempted requiring specialized craftsman. One of our long range goals is to make inventories of our prominent and unique monuments here at Mount Olivet, representing not only prominent folks from Frederick’s past, but serving as testaments of outstanding art works of early craftsmanship.
Mount Olivet received a positive determination letter back from the IRS in late February, 2017. In doing so, people can now donate to the fund and deduct contributions they make. The Mount Olivet Cemetery Preservation and Enhancement Fund is qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts. At once, we started researching how other historic cemeteries around the country are running foundations of this sort, including board oversight, fiduciary management, special programming and outreach. To establish a relationship with the Community Foundation of Frederick County was an obvious necessity.
With roots dating back to 1986, the Community Foundation allows members of the Frederick community to establish charitable funds that are then distributed to nonprofit agencies and other social services throughout Frederick County. The cost of establishing a fund with this great organization is $25,000. Colleen Remsberg gave the initial pledge of $10,000 and started the ball rolling for us toward the goal of $25,000. In doing so, she challenged her fellow board members.
December 1st had been set by the Board as the projected date to submit the paperwork agreement with the Community Foundation. At our last Board meeting, this past Monday (November 27th), the challenge to raise $25,000 was reiterated to the cemetery’s directors, with the deadline of Friday, December 1st. At the same time, I made sure to mention that the following day was none other than Giving Tuesday, and this week could be considered Giving Week for Mount Olivet.
As mentioned earlier, the Board Directors answered the call! Special thanks goes to Colleen Remsberg, President Tim Horman, Vice President Emil Bennett, Vice President Andy Radcliffe, Treasurer Jim Summers, Bruce Jett, Dale Summers, Mary Ann Frank, Connie Snook, Bert Anderson and cemetery superintendent Ron Pearcey. One additional donation of note also came from the Board’s legal counsel, Clay Martz. On Friday, December 1st, I had the privilege of accompanying Board member/Preservation Fund committee chair Bert Anderson to the Community Foundation’s downtown office to drop off the fund agreement and an envelope of checks totaling $25,500.
While sitting in the Community Foundation office and discussing our future plans to their staff, I was again reminded of the importance of Mount Olivet and all those buried here. Our interred cemetery population of over 40,000 represents a mirror of the Community Foundation, or better yet, the foundation for our Frederick Community. It’s a “who’s who” of Frederick’s past, with grave memorials and monuments keeping alive the names and memories of those who truly gave us the Frederick that we cherish today.
Yeah, there’s Francis Scott Key, Barbara Fritchie and Gov. Thomas Johnson, but let’s not forget the contributions of former community pillars and veterans whose names grace our streets, parks, businesses. It is these people who gave back to Frederick through their dedication, vision, unselfishness, and money. They formed, or gave birth to, our many church and civic groups, beneficial societies, non-profits and charitable organizations that have aided our citizenry and community for centuries—and the same we hopefully remembered on Giving Tuesday. Mount Olivet Cemetery is more than just a burying ground, it’s a “museum without walls.” This fund, and future support will ensure that it continues to thrive and stay relevant into eternity as these life “Stories in Stone” are certainly worth preserving.
For more information on giving, please contact the Community Foundation by clicking on the logo below.
Well, once again, we are officially in the throes of the holiday season. With Thanksgiving out of the way, here comes the annual onslaught of Christmas-themed decorations, commercials, movies, television holiday-specials, and best (or worst) of all—Christmas music. Earlier last week, I somehow I managed to hear a sneak preview of the “audio yuletide Armageddon.” I became engrossed with the holiday classic, “Home for the Holidays.” This particular version wasn’t the Perry Como original, rather it was the peppy rendition as sung by the Carpenters. Hey, don’t ask me how I found myself in this predicament—It certainly wasn’t a rainy day, or a Monday for that matter, but at the particular moment I did find myself haplessly “hangin’ around” with “nothin’ to do but frown.” That is, until I got this magical little pick me up in my system! Suffice it to say, the song ended up inspiring me to choose this week’s story subject.
The lyrics written by Al Stillman in the early 1950’s still reign true:
“Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays,
'Cause no matter how far away you roam,
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,
For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home.”
Frederick, Maryland has been my home now for this, my 44th holiday season. I had spent seven previous years in Delaware and Virginia, but Frederick has served for my true, “sweet home” for the vast majority of my existence. Especially poignant in my 50-year-old mind is the Frederick of my early youth, and the family-based holidays spent in our rural, Indian Springs/Yellow Springs area home and neighborhood. I grew up here in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I’m sure this same sentimentality reverberates in the hearts of many of my childhood friends—those who stayed local, and those who moved away such as my brothers residing in Orlando, Florida and Brooklyn, New York respectively.
Whether it’s Clover Hill, Tulip Hill, Linden Hills, Downtown Frederick, or Monocacy Village, “Home for the Holidays” could have the same meeting for residents, or former residents. The municipality has continued growing larger and larger with passing decades—more memories for more people I guess.
It got me really thinking about different places in and around town: “What is the quintessential Frederick neighborhood?” What would catch the eye of Norman Rockwell? That’s right, the famed illustrator and artist whose name is synonymous with not only the holidays, but more so, American culture, much of which has faded over the decades as Frederick (and the country) has grown larger.
From the “Roaring Twenties” to the turbulent Sixties, people throughout the country eagerly anticipated the Christmas season and Rockwell’s festive images, originally appearing on the covers and pages of their favorite magazines, and on holiday cards that brought the spirit of the holidays home. Often criticized by art purists, he possessed a special talent “of appealing to viewer’s nostalgia for home, bygone times and a sense of universal good cheer and benevolence.” The artist once remarked: “I showed the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.”
Elihu H. Rockwell
For a brief genealogy lesson, and sketch of the life of Elihu Rockwell, I submit the following eulogy given by Rev. Irwin P. McCurdy, pastor of Frederick’s Presbyterian Church. This took place during Rockwell’s funeral service held November 27th, 1883 at the (Presbyterian)church’s location on W. 2nd Street.
Elihu Hall Rockwell was born on the 15th day of July, 1790, and consequently at his death he was in his 94th year. He was a native of Middletown, Connecticut, where his great-grandfather Joseph Rockwell, had settled in 1692, which was nearly two centuries ago, and exactly two centuries after the discovery of America by Columbus.
Mr. Rockwell belongs to a respectable and illustrious line of ancestors. His great-grandfather who settled in the town where our deceased brother was born, was a grandson of Deacon William Rockwell, who came to this country from England in the ship “Mary and John” in 1630, which was 10 years after the landing of the “Pilgrim Fathers” on Plymouth Rock from the “Mayflower.” Deacon William Rockwell was one of the principal men of the company that settled the town of Dorchester, Massachusetts. He was a native of the west of England, and of good family and of good estate. He belonged to that family in England, and of good family and of good estate. He belonged to that family in England which traces its origin back to Sir Ralph de Rockville, a Norman Knight, who accompanied the Empress Maude into England, when she claimed the throne of that realm. Sir Ralph de Rockville ultimately joined King Henry II, and had a grant of three Knights of land in the county of York upon which the estate the Rockwells have continued until the present day.
Deacon William Rockwell, who came from England more than two and a half centuries ago, is the ancestor of all that name in America. He remained at Dorchester, Mass., until 1636, when he with the greater portion of the colonists removed to Windsor, Connecticut, taking with them their pastor who had accompanied the colony from England. Deacon Rockwell died in 1640, and subsequently, his widow married Matthew Grant, who had come over from England in the same vessel with the Rockwell family. From this union descended the Grant family of which General U. S. Grant is its most illustrious representative. Thus, the ancestors of our departed brother (Elihu Rockwell) and those of our ex-President were the same.
Mr. Rockwell was educated in a classical institution in his native town, and paid special attention to mathematics, especially surveying and civil engineering. In 1814, almost seventy years ago, at the age of twenty-four, he accepted a position to teach in an academy at Mount Pleasant, in this county, to which he had been recommended by his pastor, the Rev. Mr. Huntingdon, the father of the late distinguished Bishop Huntingdon. He remained at Mount Pleasant for a few years (until 1820), after which he established an academy at Liberty, in this county, which bore a high reputation of learning, and which was continued until recently. Among his students may be mentioned many of the prominent men of the county today and several outside of it. He continued in the academy at Liberty until 1837, after which, as well as during the time in which he was teaching, he was employed as a surveyor and civil engineer in various parts of the surrounding country until a few years ago.
Twenty-eight years ago he removed from Liberty to this city (Frederick in 1855), where he has had his home ever since until last Sabbath evening (Nov. 25th, 1883). God called him to his eternal home in heaven, and he has his residence today in that ‘house not made with hands, eternal in heavens’.
Elihu Rockwell was a man of great accuracy and high reputation; a church officer of remarkable wisdom; a citizen who stood in the front rank. But it was the balance of his powers, the beautiful adjustment of intellectual and moral qualities with refinement of culture, and unique individuality of character, speech, and action, which constituted the general excellence of the man.”
Rockwell’s body was accompanied by quite a procession to Mount Olivet Cemetery, where he would be laid to rest in Area E/Lot 16 beside his twin daughters Alice and Rachel, who both predeceased him decades before. The girls were born in August, 1838, just 13 months after Elihu Rockwell married Mrs. Rachel Wagner Wiestling of Libertytown, widow of Rev. Jacob H. Wiestling.
A Terrace is Born
In 1854, Rockwell bought the parcel of land on the west side of N. Bentz Street, opposite W. Third Street. It was purchased for the sum of $1,600 from Dr. William Tyler. Elihu Rockwell went about building a large home directly facing east towards Third Street, in what is today the street bed of Rockwell Terrace. His place of worship, the Presbyterian Church, was only 100 yards to the southeast of his door. Rockwell was living here during the disruptive period of the American Civil War. He described the scene in a letter to Mrs. E. R. Coleman:
“At the same time imagine a bloodthirsty gang of desperados drawn up in a battle array, drawing nearer and nearer, throwing their shells into the heart of the city, some bursting near us, one entering the Presbyterian Church and falling directly over the pulpit.“
Elihu Rockwell and his wife would live in this vicinity until their respective deaths—his in 1883 and Rachel’s three years later in November, 1886. The commodious house would revert to Elihu’s reclusive step-daughter Maria K. Wiestling. Wiestling would play an interesting, yet controversial, role in the legacy of Rockwell Terrace—but more on that in a minute.
According to the "History of Frederick County, Maryland, Volume 1," published in 1910 by Thomas John Chew Williams and Folger McKinsey, it is said that “the wide avenue was named in memory of Elihu Hall Rockwell. Rockwell acquired the land and, after his death in 1883, the property was purchased by Frank C. Norwood, who, in 1905, laid out Rockwell Terrace.”
The authors go on to note: “the street was carefully macadamized ... Norway maple shade trees planted along both sides; the grade of the streets and of the houses established ... building regulations established to guarantee uniformity of character of the houses and the stipulation that "no intoxicants of any kind are allowed ever to be sold or in any way traded in—such stipulations being made in the deeds to purchasers."
As trolley lines and the advent of automobiles enabled people to move from the center of Frederick, some had relocated to this suburban development laid out and recorded in 1905 by local lawyer/former state senator turned businessman Frank C. Norwood. The area fast became the most desirable location in town and additional new neighborhoods would continue to be built under the leadership of Norwood and his West End Realty Company.
In researching this further, I found that Mr. Norwood came under a great deal of scrutiny and cross examination in the Frederick County Court in October of 1901. This was nine months after the death of Elihu Rockwell’s step-daughter and sole heir, Maria Katherine Wiestling. Miss Wiestling had died an old maid at the age of 79. Some said she was crazy, others say she was simply plagued by ill health, which kept her immobilized. These latter folks said her mind was brilliant and “as sharp as a knife.” Whatever the case may be, a week-long trial was held to contest her will, with emphasis on her mind and intent. Apparently the bulk of the Rockwell fortune involving money, land and belongings was left to a cousin of the aged woman—none other than Frank C. Norwood. Norwood was also named sole executor.
Tensions had escalated when it was discovered and determined that Mr. Norwood had actually written the last will and testament for Miss Wiestling, and in his own hand. Apparently, the will had undergone some new revisions, having originally been written in 1893. After numerous witnesses and experts were called to the stand, including Mr. Norwood, the jury would not reverse the intention of the will in the favor of Miss Wiestling’s family. The Presbyterian Church also lost out on a small fortune promised by Elihu Rockwell in his earlier will, contingent on the sale of his landholding opposite W. Third Street.
Frank C. Norwood was not found guilty of any wrongdoing. He now went into action, soon demolishing the old Rockwell family mansion in order to open a street into his new suburban oasis on the northwest part of town. He would build 31 homes. Additional land was purchased from the German Reformed Church and Lewis Dill (namesake of another Frederick roadway). Norwood made a fortune in the process, and the door was open for future expansion in this vicinity. Newly renamed Hood College opened their spacious campus here in 1913, followed by the construction of the College Park neighborhood subdivision in the 1920’s, with such useful amenities as Baker Park and Culler Lake.
If nothing else, at least Norwood affixed the beloved schoolteacher’s name to the broad avenue that bisected his regal neighborhood. And yes, it was for Elihu, because Norman Rockwell was only a boy of 11 years old and living in New York City at the time.
Thank you Elihu Hall Rockwell for being the genesis of upscale suburban living in Frederick. In 1974, ninety years after your death, my family moved from Wilmington, Delaware to Stonehouse Road, within the new northwest suburbs of Frederick City. My childhood wasn’t quite Rockwell Terrace, but it surely was “Rockwellesque.”
“Oh there's no place like home for the holidays,
'Cause no matter how far away you roam,
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays,
You can't beat home, sweet home”
Somewhere in the past, I had heard, or read, that Elihu Rockwell's house was not demolished, rather it was dismantled and rebuilt on the south side of Rockwell Terrace along Bentz Street's west side. I was not able to confirm this before publishing this story, but would invite comment from anyone in the know. I did however, find a news clipping from May, 1904 that mentioned that this could have been a future possibility due to the necessity to move the Shriver family cemetery that once stood in the area directly south of the Rockwell residence (along Bentz).
One of the best newspaper clippings uncovered in my research of Elihu Rockwell was from 1911, and tells the story of an unwelcome "heavenly visitor" to the angelic neighborhood.
*Special thanks to my friend the Hon. Sandra K. Dalton, Clerk of the Frederick County Court, for providing me with a facsimile copy of Maria K. Wiestling's last will and testament
It's officially been one year since we introduced the "Stories in Stone" blog feature. Now it's time for a slight change after 52 consecutive weeks of introducing readers to just a small sampling of the 40,000+ special "life stories" that constitute the population of Mount Olivet Cemetery.
The stories will continue to come as we wrap up this year and head into 2018, however, new editions will come bi-weekly instead of weekly. In the "off weeks," we will offer a reprise of some of our finest pieces from the past year. This all comes as a result of something new and equally time consuming that I'm presently researching and building for the cemetery.
I'd like to introduce you to a new auxiliary website entitled Mount Olivet Veterans, with an email address of http://www.mountolivetvets.com. This venture will one day document and showcase all veterans buried within the cemetery, ranging the gauntlet of American History and boasting connections to every armed conflict our country has taken part in.
As many already know, Mount Olivet is considered one of the most distinguished, and beautiful, burial grounds in the country. Meanwhile, it serves as the final resting place for unselfish patriots who bravely served their country under the same flag so proudly hailed in 1814 by fellow cemetery resident and Frederick native, Francis Scott Key.
Of those reposing in Mount Olivet, some veterans died amidst military combat, while others succumbed to wounds and sickness acquired in the line of duty. The vast majority came back home from the battlefields and lived out full lives dedicated to family and professional pursuits. Most returned with the full understanding that freedom is not necessarily free, as great sacrifices are made to protect that freedom.
The new website can best be described as "a work in progress," and will continually be added to. We humbly ask for the assistance of descendants, historians and friends to provide us with photographs and/or additional information of note. We also want to link to other sources of information regarding our vets, and the training and battles they participated in.
As opposed to a finished publication like a book, we will have the opportunity to add supplemental images and information at will, while also having the ability to correct errors and misnomers. We hope this site provides an educational and informational portal, one that sheds light on why Frederick, Maryland has always been linked to patriotism and the American flag.
We have a large challenge ahead, but are excited to provide this site on behalf of the cemetery operation and the newly created Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund, an IRS accredited 501(c)3 non profit, with fiduciary oversight to be handled by the Community Foundation of Frederick County.
Our starting point with the website will involve World War I, as we are currently within the centennial commemoration. The launch of this site occurs in November, 2017 with an eye looking towards next November, 2018. Our goal is to compile veteran profiles on nearly 500 soldiers, marines and sailors linked to "the Great War." We want to complete this task by Armistice Day (November 11th) of 2018, at which time we hope to have a large-scale, public commemorative event to usher in the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.
In the meantime, I will be busy researching World War I veterans buried here in the cemetery. The goal is to introduce an average of 20 or so of these veterans through the website on a biweekly (every other week) schedule. The order of release on the site will be tied to death week/date anniversary. Our first batch of veterans includes the weeks November 11-17, November 18-24, and November 25-December 1.
Our secondary role for the website (behind adding archival information and photographs) is bringing attention to old gravestones and markers within the cemetery. We have the opportunity to work with families and fellow history groups to clean and/or make necessary repairs to grave monuments and markers. This is particularly true of graves associated with veterans of earlier conflicts than later. Some of these are unreadable due to the effects of pollution and acid rain. Others have toppled due to ground shift and the lacking of proper underground foundations.
We also would like to see special commemorative medallions signifying graves without military issue markers, and trees planted in the honor of servicemen. These, as well, are the aims of the new Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund.
The sky is the limit, and we hope to garner the support of interested descendants and others interested in our veterans at rest here in Mount Olivet. That said, we would like to provide future commemorative events and programming, enhanced tourist experiences along with the formentioned added documentation to the cemetery history archives/websites, monument repair and special plantings.
The Mount Olivet Veterans website is currently quite sparse as it only includes inventory records associated with World War I participants. Next year, we hope to tackle Civil War soldiers and beyond in an effort to have all Mount Olivet veterans represented on the site. Future plans include the French and Indian War, American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Spanish-American War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm, etc.
Below is a friendly link to the new Mount Olivet Veterans website. Let us know your thoughts...and as the highway construction signs always say: "Please Pardon our Progress" as we continue to strengthen Mount Olivet's history records, while making the grounds look even better.