A popular expression used when someone dies is that they are “going home.” In this vein, “going home” simply means that the deceased is heading to heaven, to reunite with their God, along with a host of previously departed family members and friends such as parents, grandparents and cousins.
This same expression could have taken on a unique, and somewhat comical, meaning if it had been uttered at the death of Frederick resident William T. Duvall, who passed on September 19th, 1886. Mr. Duvall was “going home,” but in a way, he was already there. His gravesite in Mount Olivet would be located only fifty yards from his home residence and work office of the previous 33 years.
William Thomas Duvall was born during a turbulent time in American history in which Great Britain was trying to undo that which the founding fathers, Continental Army and countless others had fought so hard to gain in 1776—independence. Duvall’s birth on January 23rd, 1813 came at a time when the main theater of conflicts associated with the War of 1812 was occurring in Canadian provinces and American lands within the Great Lakes territory.
In anticipation of warfare possibly taking place in and around the nation’s capital, local militia units organized and would regularly practice and drill. This was often the scene at the old Hessian Barracks and surrounding grounds atop the aptly named Barracks Hill, later known as Cannon Hill.
British marauders harassed towns along the Chesapeake bay throughout the summer of 1813. As William T. Duvall turned one and a half years old in August, 1814, British forces sailed up the bay and ruthlessly sacked Washington, DC, burning the White House. The aggressors next set their sights on Baltimore, at the time, one of the largest and most important cities in the country. The Charm City defenders held their ground at Fort McHenry and thwarted the advance of the enemy, thanks in part to many Frederick veterans that would one day repose in Mount Olivet. Perhaps, William’s parents sang him to sleep each night with a catchy little song about the flag, written by a Frederick native named Key? Who knows?
William T. Duvall’s father was never too keen on the British. He came from French lineage, his great-great grandfather having been born in Normandy and came to this country in 1650. The family progenitor Mareen DuVall (1630-1694) immigrated to Maryland as an indentured servant but worked his way up the ladder, providing quite a home for his family by the end of the 17th century. This estate was called Middle Plantation, located in Anne Arundel County. This is the area of present day Davidsonville, south of Crofton. Others direct descendants of this prosperous early immigrant include actor Robert Duvall, former vice-president Dick Cheney, and former presidents Harry S. Truman and Barrack Obama. Mareen Duvall is the latter's 9th great grandfather.
The grandfather of William T. was John Duvall, a military captain during the American Revolution. He would live and die in his home county of Anne Arundel, but one of his sons, Marsh Mareen Duvall II (1768-1828), would leave to make a new home in burgeoning Frederick, Maryland. Information is scarce, but Marsh Mareen Duvall II would marry Sarah Stallings, 17 years his junior, in January of 1811. Two years later, the couple would welcome son William Thomas into the world. Three known children followed.
I wasn’t able to glean much about William T’s childhood, other than his family were members of Evangelical Lutheran Church. His father was buried in the church’s graveyard located between Church and 2nd streets upon his death in 1828. William T. Duvall got married in the same church in March, 1835.
Another melancholy Duvall family burial would follow in 1844. William T’s younger brother, Upton Duvall, would make national news in newspapers across the country in late November of that year. He played the lead role in one of the most explosive events in Frederick history. Upton was killed by Cannon Hill’s namesake cannon, after he and friends decided it would be fun to fire a celebratory blast in honor of presidential candidate James K. Polk. Polk had just narrowly defeated Henry Clay, heralded today as one of the greatest senators and statesman in US history. Instead of using typical shot materials, the group of Polk fanatics decided to make a symbolic and sarcastic statement of their actions by filling the artillery piece with clay. Upon a misfiring attempt, Upton approached the cannon to see what went wrong, and at that moment the weapon exploded, instantly killing the young man. Ironically it would be Upton Duvall, who would soon be placed in a grave, his corpse forever surrounded by the clay soil of Frederick’s Lutheran graveyard. (Note: for more on this incident see clipping at end of story)
William T. Duvall had married Mary Ann Rebecca Hawman, a local girl whose father was a Revolutionary War soldier, and her brother served as a member of the Frederick militia during the War of 1812. Fittingly, the new couple named their first born son William Luther Duvall (1838-1902), giving homage to both father and the father of their chosen religion. Sadly, two subsequent sons to William and Rebecca would die in late January, 1847—Frederick age 7, and Louis Hawman Duvall, age 5. These boys died six days apart, likely from a communicable disease. The couple’s fourth child, a daughter, named Harriett was born in 1844, but would also pass in her youth at the age of 16 in 1860. A fifth child, Julia Ann would live a full life, marrying David Ashbaugh.
William T. gained employment as a weaver, having learned his trade from a gentleman named Daniel Boyd. In early 1852, he entered into a new profession. William Duvall was appointed to the position of Keeper of the Frederick County Almshouse located northwest of the City. This charitable housing facility provided Frederick residents (typically elderly citizens who could no longer work to earn enough to pay rent) a place to live. It is better remembered as the predecessor to the Montevue Home, and featured its own burying ground referred to as “the Potter’s Field.”
Exactly two years later, William T. Duvall would make yet another job switch, but this one would last a lifetime. It was recorded for posterity’s sake by Frederick’s legendary diarist Jacob Engelbrecht:
“Mr. William T. DuVall was on Monday evening the 6th instant, appointed keeper of “Mount Olivet Cemetery” of this city—the first keeper—no person is yet buried there—The house (dwelling)is not quite finished.”
—Jacob Engelbrecht (Wednesday, February 9, 1854)
On February 6th, 1854, Mount Olivet’s Board of Managers made a choice for their new cemetery’s gate keeper, also known as a superintendent. Thirteen names had been submitted for the position. Duvall’s prior experience at the almshouse, and handling of the premature deaths of his young children could have given him the “leg up” on other candidates. He garnered the necessary votes on the third round of balloting and staved off competitors for the post: W. Greentree, Harman Butler, George W. Cromwell and Samuel Haller.
The cemetery board set the gate keeper’s beginning salary at $20.00 per month which also included a major perk—the use of the dwelling house, rent-free, effective April 1, 1854. This structure had just been completed and was located adjacent the main entry gate and fronting on South Market Street.
One year later, April 1, 1855, Superintendent Duvall reported a total of 172 interments within Mount Olivet. His job performance was rewarded with a pay raise as he was bumped up to $275/year. He would guide the general operation and improvements to Mount Olivet for 33 years until his death on Sunday, September 19th, 1886.
During Mr. Duvall’s tenure, hundreds of colleagues, neighbors and family members would pass through Mount Olivet’s gate. Many other former Frederick residents that had been buried in the older church cemeteries of town were also moved to the “new” rural cemetery under his watch. When his work on Earth was done, he had buried 4,879 persons. Among these were veterans and combatants of the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War. And let’s not forget a fellow named Francis Scott Key, who was reinterred from Baltimore under the superintendent’s utmost care. William T. Duvall’s own certificate of burial numbered 4,880.
Duvall died in the Superintendent’s house, a site that would host his wake and funeral in the immediate days to follow. On Wednesday afternoon, September 22, 1886, William T. Duvall’s body was easily moved roughly fifty yards to his final resting place, a lot already containing the three children he had been forced to bury. He would forever remain within the location of his employ from that point into eternity.
(Author's note: I am very interested in obtaining an image of William Thomas Duvall for interpretive use by the cemetery. Please contact me if you should ever find one, or know someone who might, thanks!)
The article below was carried in the Frederick Examiner's edition of November 27, 1844. The story was carried in several newspapers across the country including Boston, Vermont and Louisiana to name a few.
Since January is the first month, I’d figure we’d spend the next few weeks on subjects relating to firsts for the cemetery. This week, we will pick up last week’s conversation regarding grave markers and stones.
The most famous monument is clearly that of Francis Scott Key, but I was surprised to find some cousins actually had the "first."
Up until last summer, no one could speak to the subject of first grave monument to appear in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Now I don’t know if people spent a great deal of time on this query, but it makes for an interesting trivia question among local history buffs. My imagination was first sparked when I stumbled upon a news article relating to the cemetery’s official opening in 1854. I found the following piece in the Frederick Town Herald newspaper, dated May 10 (1854):
So with no photograph, or “name in stone,” to go on, I set out to find this “elegant tomb of Parian marble.” But first, I had to figure out what Parian marble was? I soon discovered that Parian marble is:
“a fine-grained, semi-translucent/pure-white and entirely flawless marble quarried during the classical era on the Greek island of Paros in the Aegean Sea. It was highly prized by ancient Greeks for making sculptures.”
The geology/origin hint given by Wikipedia didn’t really help that much, but the news article’s geographical description of the gravestone’s location (within the cemetery) certainly did. I had to find an elevated site on the southern side of the cemetery.
I knew that the obvious high-water mark (literally and figuratively) of the cemetery is the area of present-day Founder’s Garden, between areas “G,” “F” and “Q.” Once the site of an observation tower and waterworks (something we will surely discuss in a future blog), this location boasts its prominence as the highest elevation point in Downtown Frederick. That’s right, I said it—this Downtown Frederick’s highest peak! And with the name Mount Olivet, this is the closest we come to legitimizing our landform moniker—aside from biblical connotations of course.
Many of the community’s most prominent residents of the late 19th and early 20th century would be laid to rest here atop the mountain-like hill. The iron-railed Potts family lot, the cemetery’s only “gated community,” is here as well. During the early decades of Mount Olivet, this locale would also represent the western boundary of the cemetery, as the grounds only encompassed one-third of what they do today. I simply started my search on the apex of the hill, intending to scour the southern slope, area “F.”
I began looking for “two fluted columns, entwined with a finely chiseled garland of flowers, surmounted by flaming censers.” If you were wondering what a censer is, it’s a container in which incense is burned, typically during a religious ceremony. Amazingly, I didn’t have to go far as I found something that fit the bill within seconds. It was adjacent a cemetery lane that runs through the center of the cemetery. I had traveled by this monument regularly by car, but more so when conducting walking tours through the grounds. So I now had something that fit the newspaper article’s given location and description, now I had to check the interments buried beneath. You will recall that the clipping stated that this monument was placed to honor “the memory of two maiden sisters.” This was it!
Mary Louisa Norris (b. 12/26/1834) died less than a week after her seventeenth birthday, on New Years Day, 1851. Eleven months later, Mary’s older sister Catherine Elizabeth “Kate” Norris would meet the same fate on November 11 (1851). She was just 23 years of age. Both young ladies were originally laid to rest in the old All Saint’s Burying Ground, located between East all Saints Street and Carroll Creek. Today this is at the top of another hill in downtown Frederick, one that overlooks an amphitheater and provides commanding views of the Community Bridge to the east, and William O’ Lee Unity Bridge to the west.
Plans for the creation of Mount Olivet would occur the next year (1852) with the founding of the Mount Olivet Cemetery Association. The girls’ grieving parents, Basil Norris and Jane (Charlton) Norris (1797-1871) decided that the new garden-style cemetery would be a more fitting resting place for two young women in the “spring” of their lives. Basil Norris (1788-1865) was a successful Frederick merchant who operated a grocery store for many years in the first block of West Patrick Street across from the City Hotel. Mrs. Norris was a first cousin of Francis Scott Key. (Basil Norris would purchase the City Hotel in 1854. The popular lodging site stood here until being replaced later by the Francis Scott Key Hotel.)
(c.1910) view of the first block of W. Patrick St. (looking east). The author believes the former Norris residence and grocery store were located in the twin three-story townhomes to the right of photograph. Charles F. Seeger would later start his hardware business at this location of 32 W. Patrick St. The Patrick Center sits on this site today.
Rain and thunderstorms delayed Mount Olivet’s official dedication ceremony on May 11. It would be rescheduled for May 23, 1854. Less than a month later, the Norris sisters would be carefully exhumed from All Saints Cemetery and brought to the Norris family lot in the town’s new burying ground. A beautiful monument was waiting their arrival, standing as a beacon to their memory, high atop Mount Olivet Hill. A biblical inscription (taken from Old Testament, second book of Samuel 1:23) can be found at the bottom of the monument. It reads:
“They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.”
Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Norris would be forced to endure more heartache eight years later on July 1st, 1862, with the death of son Henry J. Norris who worked as a clerk in the family store. They erected another magnificent monument to the 25 year-old, placed to the immediate right of the Norris sisters. The stone depicts a broken column, a popular Victorian period design symbolic of a life cut short.
The name of this blog is “Stories in Stone.” I began the weekly feature for the Mount Olivet Cemetery website and Facebook page back in early November, 2016. Since that time, people have remarked to me: “Oh what a clever name for your articles.” And I certainly agree!
These are essays about former Frederick residents buried within Mount Olivet’s gates. Yes, some of these individuals stand out for their achievements. Others can be remembered for misfortunes. All in all, most of those “resting in peace” just lived simple, ordinary lives. To borrow a line from George Bailey in Frank Capra’s legendary film It’s a Wonderful Life:
“Just remember Mr. Potter, that this rabble that you’re talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.”
While I will occasionally touch on local greats who made the national history books such as Francis Scott Key, Barbara Fritchie and Thomas Johnson, Jr., I’ve been most inspired by researching lesser known folks, or individuals that shouldn’t have been forgotten over time. At least, I have the opportunity to introduce (or reintroduce) them to readers here in this fashion.
I can’t walk through this cemetery without my head on a swivel. Monikers are everywhere, and jump out at me, left and right. I try to process these from my past experiences with research, documentary and writing work. I’m quick to recall that this man owned a department store downtown, that lady was a nurse in the Civil War, this individual was a mayor of Frederick in the early 1800’s, that child was killed in the big fire, etc.
With 40,000 former residents in my midst, roughly the same population as our state capital of Annapolis, I do pass countless gravesites without a thought, as their names are nothing more than “names in stone.” However, as I have found, they are much more than that. Grave markers, monuments, and tombstones are tributes to, and representations of, past lives. Each provides a tangible connection to the deceased.
From a religious perspective, I’ve been taught that the spirit of our loved ones will always be with us, and are “watching from above.” However, these works in granite and marble are tangible, standing as a tribute to a life once lived, be it spectacular, common or “rabble.” Grave stones can bring a sense of reality and closure for some people, and for others serve to keep the memory of that person alive.
Each and every day, I see individuals coming to Mount Olivet to plan and purchase monuments for themselves and loved ones who have passed. Some designs are playful, others are serious. Most can best be described as traditional. I also get to see the joy of discovery as family history chasers and historians complete pilgrimages here from around the country, to come as close to “face to face” as possible with ancestors they have heard stories about since childhood, or others just recently discovered on Ancestry.com. And to explain my statement of “face to face,” there are many situations in which a decedent’s photograph does not survive. In this case, a grave marker is the closest thing to visualize that individual.
I often think of the extended family that gathered around a particular gravesite here for a funeral 150 years ago in the mid-1800’s, or maybe one in the early 1900’s or 1950’s. Those people were on hand to say goodbye and shed tears for their dearly departed. As time passed, later generations would gather for each of them as their own funerals took place.
As I learn more about the lives of Mount Olivet’s residents through researching this blog and stories told to me by visiting descendants regarding their relatives, I certainly see that those interred here are much more than “names in stone.” Hence, they are Stories in Stone. I commonly find myself stopping and paying respects to more and more of these people who gave us the Frederick (city and county) we know and love today. I have only met them through perusing old photos, newspaper articles and census records. Thanks to gravestones and monuments, I know where they are, so to speak.
One of Mount Olivet's inhabitants was very poignant to the research and history work I have been doing over the last 25+ years. He’s also the inspiration for the title of my blog. His name, Jacob M. Holdcraft.
Jacob Mehrling Holdcraft was born on February 21st, 1898 in Frederick. He grew up on East Church Street (extended), the son of—you guessed it, a one-time tombstone salesman. Jacob’s father John H. Holdcraft was a native of Massachusetts who married a local girl named Ella C. Mehrling. Ella was the daughter of a butcher and was reputed to have been born in the original Barbara Fritchie house in 1863. Jacob grew up with eight siblings, but another, Nelson, had died from pneumonia as an infant two days before Christmas in 1896.
The Holdcraft children would attend local schools and be brought up in the Lutheran religion. The family attended Evangelical Lutheran Church, just a few blocks from home, and were highly active members. Jacob’s older brother Paul would attend seminary and became an ordained minister in the United Brethren Church and served with distinction (mostly in Baltimore) up until his death in 1971. A sister Ruth (Mackley) married and lived in Thurmont where she played the role of longtime organist for Trinity United Church of Christ. Both siblings were linked to “working” funerals.
With an 8th grade education, Jacob set out to work. He served as a paperboy for the Frederick News and would also perform work as a brush maker at the Ox-Fibre Brush Factory (today the site of Goodwill Industries). He served the country overseas in World War I and would participate in Army of Occupation in Germany after the war. After his return home, he would eventually move to the big city of Baltimore, in the early 1920’s, finding work in the printing department of the Baltimore Sun newspaper. He also found Edna May Mund, who would soon be his new bride. Jacob Holdcraft had left Frederick, but Frederick would never leave him.
The couple started a family in “Charm City,” welcoming their first child, Robert Mehrling Holdcraft in September of 1925. A daughter (Elaine) and another son (John) would follow before 1930. Jacob would work his career in the newspaper business, serving as a compositor— a person who arranges type for printing or keys text into a composing machine. Later in his career with the Sun, he would serve as a proofreader.
Jacob Holdcraft most certainly read and performed his share of typing in obituaries. This led to an unusual leisure pursuit of “proofreading” compositing of a different sort—recording the names and birth/death date information on tombstones. He said that this new hobby grew out of his interest in his relatives and ancestors. His brother Nelson had died two years before his own birth, and surely capture his imagination. In addition, trips to visit the graves of early ancestors located in the county led rise to the thoughts regarding the fate of the many pioneers who had passed through life and died without leaving any trace on earth.
He didn’t know it the time, but Jacob Holdcraft would embark on a 35-year odyssey of recording the existing tombstones of all of his native Frederick County’s cemeteries, churchyards and family burying grounds. What started as an aid to his own family genealogical research, became something that would help countless others with their research, including myself.
Jacob’s venture was soon bittersweet as he would have to record the vital information of his own parents. His mother died in 1935, and his father two years later in 1937. Both are interred in Mount Olivet. Another World War was looming, and Jacob volunteered for the US Coast Guard. The events of the conflict consumed the Sun newspaper. However, nothing truly prepared a seasoned war veteran and parent for what would come next—the heart-wrenching task of documenting a relative killed in the line of duty with the US Army during World War II. This was his first born son Robert, aged 19-years old, 6 months and 16 days. He was killed in action by an artillery shell blast, March 22, 1945 in Oggersheim, Germany. Robert’s body was shipped home to be laid to rest in the family lot in Mount Olivet.
I can only assume that this tragic event further inspired Jacob on continuation with his “monumental” hobby. He likely had overwhelming feelings of empathy for the parents of any veteran lost in the line of duty, not to mention, any young person whose grave he recorded from that point forward. Perhaps this event, more than any other, propelled his hobby as an opportunity to fill the heavy void and soothe the pain that Robert’s death created in his life. In a newspaper interview from the 1960’s about his research, Jacob said, “Not only was it a fascinating hobby, but it gave me “quiet” and restful hours in the great out-of-doors.”
Jacob Holdcraft would document cemetery inscriptions for the next two decades into the mid-1960’s, devoting most of his weekend, each and every week. In the end, he held the amazing distinction of visiting more individual graves in Frederick County than anyone before, and likely anyone since—75,000. With help from Dr. John P. Dern of California, Jacob compiled his findings alphabetically and in 1966 had his work published in a two volume, 1301-page masterpiece, aptly titled Names in Stone.
The preface was penned by noted Frederick County genealogist, historian and author Millard Milburn Rice, a great choice in my opinion. (I, myself, visited Mr. Rice in 1994 to gain advice and guidance before embarking on my 10-hour video documentary entitled Frederick Town (1995).) In Names in Stone, Mr. Rice wrote:
“In short, the information in these books may be relied upon within the limits of human fallibility and the ravages of time which are forever making inscriptions undecipherable. And I am sure all who find herein names heretofore possibly long sought will feel, as I do, a debt of gratitude to Jacob Mehrling Holdcraft for completion of such a difficult task.
Names in Stone has been a key resource for genealogists and historians ever since, especially in an era that pre-dated the family history resources associated with the internet. At 68-years old, Jacob, referring to himself as the book’s compiler, had produced the first Frederick-based Find-a Grave site in book form. He had dedicated more than half his life to the project.
But he wasn’t done yet. In 1972, Holdcraft published a sequel entitled More Names in Stone. This 3,000 name addendum to his earlier work, focused on the former lands of Frederick County, now comprised as Carroll County. Amidst, sudden failing eyesight, Jacob added to our resource base. In his touching preface, he lamented that he still didn’t make it to all the graves existing in the county and went further by stating his hope for the work to go on saying: “and that ultimate continuation of my work may yet be undertaken by younger eyes.”
Jacob Mehrling Holdcraft’s name went in stone in 1989. He passed away at his residence of Meridian-Catonsville Nursing Home (Catonsville, MD) having lived 91 years, 4 months and 5 days. His was a "Wonderful Life,” one that impacted genealogists and historians he would never know.
Through the years, certain grave markers stood out in Jacob’s mind. He had his picture taken for the inside cover of Names in Stone at one of these, located in a small cemetery named Bush Creek United Brethren, also known as Pleasant Hill (see header picture for this article at top). This was the grave of Albert D. W. Cronise (1827-1850).
In the year 1849, Cronise embarked on an amazing adventure with his older brother, William H. V. Cronise. They were heading to San Francisco to take part in the legendary California “Gold Rush.” The 23-year-old son of Rev. Jacob Cronise would not reach his destination, dying aboard the steamship Panama, off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico.
The alleged story (as told in letters home from brother William to his father) was that Albert took ill from a fever soon after his ship left the isthmus of Panama. He would soon perish on January 6, 1850. His last wishes, conveyed to William, were for his body to be returned to Monrovia and buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, for many years under his father’s charge. William successfully preserved Albert’s body in a barrel full of alcohol collected from his ship mates. The vessel made a successful trip to San Francisco, but Albert’s body was quickly decomposing due to the poor quality of the alcohol. Thus, William had his brother buried in San Francisco, but promised his parents that he would return to Frederick County with Albert’s remains.
He eventually fulfilled his brother’s last wish as Albert’s body traveled the 2,800 miles back to Monrovia, Maryland where it was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Albert’s fine gravestone features a depiction of the steamer Panama on its face. A true “story in stone.”
As for William Cronise, he married and became a successful merchant and entrepreneur in San Francisco, passing on his opportunity to be buried and memorialized in the family lot at Pleasant Hill with Albert and his parents. He died in August, 1896 and was buried with his wife in her family lot within San Francisco’s Pioneer Hill/Masonic Cemetery.
Ironically, five years later in 1901, the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors condemned this cemetery and others in the city's northwestern section as potential places of pestilence, outlawing new burials within the city limits. Many of the cemeteries suffered and fell into disrepair...truly a case of benign neglect as many businessmen lobbied to have bodies reinterred elsewhere to free up valuable real estate.
This came to fruition in 1937 as tens of thousands of bodies were dug up and moved to Colma in neighboring San Mateo County. Unless the deceased’s family had enough money to pay for a careful relocation of their loved ones’ graves, bodies were dug up and moved. This was the fate of thousands of burials, including William H. V. Cronise. Unfortunately, very few gravestones made it out “alive,” accompanying their intended remains. The University of San Francisco sits atop William's former burying ground today.
Orphaned tombstones were used for park gutters, miscellaneous municipal stonework, street bollards, support subsurface to create the on and off ramps for the Golden Gate Bridge and filler to bolster San Francisco Bay sea walls.
It’s ironic that Albert’s gravesite, 167 years later, stands as a lasting memorial of the young man’s great quest to be a 49er in the virgin hills of California, not to mention the 2,800-mile post-mortem adventure back home experienced by his corpse. Meanwhile, William’s body is unmarked, no name in stone above his grave for future descendants and curiosity seekers to research or cherish. I guess you can say that William Cronise “left his heart in San Francisco,” but no one will ever be able to find it!
A new year can represent a fresh start—and many of us have been busy constructing resolutions, all part of a strategic plan to re-invent ourselves in 2017. It’s so simple, all we have to do is push the restart button at 12 midnight on New Years Eve, and voila!
Well it’s not always as easy as it sounds. If nothing else, it’s good for the psyche to have hope and optimism at their highest peaks this time of year. So here’s to better days in times ahead. And singing Robert Evans 1788 poem (put to song) is always sure to give us that boost of confidence:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
Exactly 100 years ago, on New Year’s Eve (1916), I would venture to guess that mixed emotions were clouding the head of at least one Frederick resident who is today buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. This was Mrs. Eloise N. English, a 39-year-old widow who had made national headlines earlier in the year. She had been given the task of guiding her four children through a bittersweet holiday season without their father, Eloise's late husband. She thought to herself that the new year of 1917 would surely be better for both herself and the children.
Eloise Newman Young was born on September 3rd, 1877. She came into the world a decade and a half after her parents and fellow residents had experienced trying events connected to the the American Civil War.
Frederick, Maryland had been “one vast hospital” in the words of noted town diarist Jacob Engelbrecht. Union General Hospital No. 1 (which occupied the Hessian Barracks grounds across S. Market Street from the cemetery), the churches, public buildings and many private homes were filled with dying, wounded and sick soldiers from both armies North and South.
The 1870’s was a time of prosperity, reconciliation, and rebuilding. Frederick was reinventing itself, the closest it would ever come to having an industrial revolution. And the Young family was playing a major role. Eloise embarked on a privileged childhood in the Courthouse Square area of Frederick. She didn’t want for much and had the best education that could be had here. Eloise learned first-hand the importance of ingenuity and thus possessed the power to re-invent herself. A guiding influence was her father, a manufacturer who garnered over 100 patents in his lifetime. Over time, he came to be known as Frederick’s greatest inventor. He helped Eloise in many ways, but none more important than on a dark, snowy day in March of 1916.
McClintock Young, Jr., Eloise’s father, was born June 25th, 1836 in Washington, DC. His own father was a politician and received an appointment to the position of Chief Clerk of the United States Treasury. He would be called upon to be Acting Director of the Treasury several times during the Jackson administration. Ironically, Young briefly worked under short-lived Secretary of the Treasury Roger Brooke Taney, but that’s a story for another day. Taney, however, may have influenced the elder McClintock Young to send sons McClintock Jr. and Alexander to Frederick to possibly attend the Frederick Academy, once located on Council Street. Both boys can be found living here in a boarding house in the 1850 census.
McClintock Young, Jr. was a tinkerer from a “young” age. In 1849, at 12 years-old, he constructed a fire engine that could throw a stream of water more than 40 feet in the air. After graduation from St. John’s College in Annapolis, McClintock Young, Jr. opened a foundry on Frederick City’s south-end, on the corner of South Street and Broadway. He soon married Louisa Mary Moberly of New Market and started a family.
Young continued to make the world better through mechanized means, earning patents for steam engines, saw mills, and sewing machines. He also designed such useful things as a box-making machine and an ink eraser. His big invention came with a “self-rake” mechanism that he sold to the McCormick Harvester Company. This would remain a pivotal part of the firm’s famed reaper machines for more than half of a century.
The light bulb continued to turn on within McClintock Young’s head. Ironically, he would earn a great payday in 1870 from the Diamond Match Company, who purchased the patent for an automated match-making machine. The relationship grew as McClintock Young and two executives of the Diamond Company founded the Palmetto Brush Company here in Frederick in 1886. Young had come up with a machine that could turn palm trees into scrub brushes, and would design several more variations on his original. By the next year, McClintock Young’s original foundry location became the home of the Ox Fibre Brush Company. Due to the business’ great success with customers here and abroad, a new plant would be built on East Church Street extended (today the site of Goodwill Industries). The company would long outlive Mr. Young into the mid 1900’s.
McClintock Young’s “brush with success” would not stop here. He patented a hinge-making machine that lead to bicycles with pedals powering rear wheels instead of the existing early technology of the late 1800’s that featured “front-wheel drive.”
Aside from that, Young was highly involved in the civic and fraternal clubs of town and most importantly, raised three daughters into adulthood, including Eloise who was only nine when her mother passed in 1886. It’s hard to keep a good man down, but the brilliant light within McClintock Young, Jr. finally faded after a three-year illness on August 1, 1913. He was buried in Mount Olivet amidst a great number of family, friends and admirers.
One of the many gifts Eloise would receive from her father was a small, rustic dwelling with property located on Catoctin Mountain. This was in the vicinity of Indian Springs, roughly four miles northwest of downtown Frederick. Bought around 1890, this was a favorite place to hunt for her father. Fellow Frederick businessman DC Winebrenner owned a neighboring farm about a mile distant that was a regular scene of society gatherings. That would continue with later owners of note including James H. Gambrill, Jr. and Charles R. Simpson.
The Young family's mountain house was simple, made of stone and said to have “stood on a bluff in an isolated section of the rugged mountain land.” It was quite a departure from the fine Frederick townhouse on North Court Street that Eloise had grown up in, not to mention her posh surroundings in New York City. Eloise had left Frederick around 1900 after marrying Arthur English, a one-time assistant US attorney for the Department of the Interior, now in private practice.
Mr. English was a native New Yorker, extremely well-educated, and the son of a pseudo-celebrity. His father Thomas Dunn English was a former New Jersey congressman and the author or a popular song entitled “Ben Bolt.” Doors were opened for Eloise’s husband but he was also a diligent worker—but some said too diligent. He was licensed to practice in New York, Washington DC and several other states. In 1910, the couple could be found living on State Street in Brooklyn with Arthur’s son Edward from a previous marriage. (Arthur’s first wife Lucy died in 1895.)
The approximite location of Indian Springs can be seen on the 1873 Titus Atlas of Frederick County within the Frederick District (later Tuscarora District). The author believes that the approximate location of the Young-English residence was in the upper left of the map, noted as the residence of J. E. Fox, an earlier owner. This is located a short distance west of the present day home of the Tuscarora Archers, Archery Lane on Etzler Road.
At the time of her father’s death (1913), Eloise and Arthur had four children: two boys (Hugh b. 1901) (Edgar b. 1904) and two girls (Ruth Bird b. 1905) and (Louise b. 1912). “Home life” slowly changed Eloise’ opportunity to be a New York socialite. She became more centered on raising her children, a burden that seemed to be falling more on her shoulders as husband Arthur spent more and more time on his profession and less time at home.
By year’s end 1915, Eloise and her children were residing at the Indian Springs mountain farmstead on the outskirts of Frederick. Friends and neighbors claimed that the relationship between husband and wife was beyond strained, the couple spent more time living apart than together. Arthur could often be found back in New York, as Eloise now found some semblance of civility up on Catoctin Mountain, but more so from being away from Arthur.
Arthur made a brief visit to be with his family over the Christmas holidays. However, he would not return until the second week of March in the new year of 1916. No one can attest to the tone of the family’s reunion, but a glimpse can be garnered by the events that would unfold one week later— events that would change the lives of every member of the English family.
On Saturday, March 18th, 1916, Eloise watched out the window in sadness and dismay as Arthur forced sons Hugh and Edgar to chop wood during inclement weather. The story goes that Hugh had been ill of late, and Eloise did not want him in the frigid elements on this particular afternoon. She went outside and asked Arthur if he would give Hugh a reprieve, perhaps choosing a lesser chore like cleaning wood indoors instead. At this request, Arthur erupted and began regaling Eloise, not happy with her intervention. Eloise returned to the house quite shaken. This had not been an isolated incident as it was later reported that she regularly endured verbal beatings from her sharp-tongued husband.
Things must have been more tense than normal, as Eloise felt compelled to retreat upstairs to retrieve a most practical gift given to her as a young girl by her father—a small revolver pistol. She hid this in her dress, sensing the dire possibility that it may be needed for protection for both herself and the children. She returned downstairs and took to washing dishes.
Arthur English reappeared indoors after completing a myriad of outside tasks. Once again face to face with Eloise, he restarted his diatribe, scolding Eloise for up-rating him and his directive for the boys regarding the wood. She tried to reason that Hugh had been sick, and thought it better that he be assigned a less rigid task. At this, Arthur flew into an uncontrollable rage. Eloise took to her knees, begging her husband to calm down, all the while, ten-year-old daughter Ruth was watching a horrific drama play out before her very eyes. Arthur grabbed a hammer and began smashing furniture, heirlooms and china wear. Eloise continued to beg him to stop, which made him even angrier. He then smashed a glass cabinet and obtained the revolver kept within. He took hold and boldly uttered to Eloise: “I will finish you!”
Eloise quickly shot first, emptying all five chambers of her gun into her husband. She then picked up his gun and did the same supposedly. Not knowing the damage inflicted, she quickly gathered all four children and fled, traveling a distance of a mile and a half through the snowy woods to a neighbor’s home. She had shot Arthur through the heart and in four other places, dropping him in the middle of the family’s dining room.
At the home of Charles R. Simpson, Eloise told the story of what had just transpired. She did not know Arthur’s condition and the damage done by her volleys as she calmly telephoned for a physician to attend to her fallen husband. She next called police headquarters to report her actions in response to Arthur’s threat to her life, and requested a warrant for his arrest. At once, other neighbors were summoned to help.
Eloise English would be exonerated by a coroner’s jury the evening after she and three of her children testified to Arthur English’s alleged brutality and frequent threats to kill her. Neighbors, friends and relatives backed the story fully. One day later, Arthur’s body was laid to rest, just ten feet beyond the grave of Eloise’s beloved father.
Eloise English was now free of the abuse, threats, and violence. She chose not go back to the dwelling in Indian Springs, staying for a time at the home of her older sister Helen Young Johnson and husband Baker. In time she would return, and operated a truck farm with help from her children and a hired hand named Keefer Kline. She successfully raised her children into adulthood, but would never remarry.
Eloise died in 1959. She was buried in the family plot (area H lot 483), next to her father, not husband Arthur. Today, one can find three of her four children buried next to their protective mother—Louisa English Wemple (d. 1978), Hugh English (d. 1985)and Ruth Bird (d. 1999). As a ten-year-old child, the latter had proved the most significant witness to the case.
Ruth Bird English would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Hood College and her master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. She taught for 32 years in private schools and may also be remembered as a reference librarian for C. Burr Artz Library. She would never marry.
Eloise Newman (Young) English had reinvented her own life, and that of her children. Her father, Frederick’s remarkable inventor, would be proud. One hundred years ago today, as she stood ready to “re-invent” herself, I wonder if she reflected on the original lyrics of Robert Woods “Auld Lang Syne.” Or, rather, did she know that Woods had borrowed from an earlier poem written in 1711 by James Watson entitled “Auld Long Syne”:
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.
Special thanks to Mr. Ron Twenty who shared this modern-day picture of the English family's cabin.
There is nothing more enjoyable during the holiday season than frantically finding the right gift for loved ones while navigating crowded stores and co-mingling with equally stressed fellow shoppers. Was it always like this?
Gift giving at Christmas has been around for quite some time, and so has the pressure of buying presents. However, when it’s all said and done, nothing beats the joy involved in showing appreciation to friends, family and work colleagues through this selfless act. Unless, of course, you are forced to make a return. But that’s a whole other issue.
Everything is relative, and it always will be. I have the good fortune of being a parent to four boys, currently ranging in age from 15 to 10. They each have different interests, so I experience eclectic quests for gifts. In general, I have a harder time searching for adults. Researching and acquiring “kid toys” and gadgets has been quite enjoyable, an experience that commonly takes me back to my own childhood and the magical Christmas’ of my youth. While I fondly recall gatherings with family, church services and delicious meals and sweets, I remember best the toys.
Interestingly, I have even bought some of the same gifts for my guys that I had received as presents from my parents “back in the day.” Of course, technological advances have changed “toys” drastically in some cases, but this isn’t the so with many items such as dolls, basic sporting equipment (bats, balls, gloves), toy soldiers and bicycles.
As I stare down my 50th birthday, coming in just a few short weeks, I can’t help but think of what my parents endured at Christmastime, shopping for me and my brothers. I then think of my grandparents shopping for my parents (as kids), and further back to my great-grandparents approach to Christmas as young parents themselves. That takes me back a century.
If we were to go back in time to 1916, where would we go to shop for yuletide gifts and toys? I searched the newspaper archives and found that Frederick had a bevy of downtown stores, bustling with holiday shoppers in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas. One merchant, above the rest, caught my attention through whimsical advertisements for toys and gifts of all kinds. Best of all, the name of the business was also mysterious, yet awe inspiring--H.F. Shipley’s Temple of Fancy.
As for H. F. Shipley, he was born Harry Franklin Shipley on October 23, 1874 on Frederick’s West South Street, the son of J. Frederick and Margaret (Baer) Shipley. With his father employed as a general laborer, young Harry had a humble upbringing as the second oldest of ten children. His childhood can be exemplified by a family story of Harry commonly waiting along the railroad tracks in an effort to retrieve lost pieces of coal (that would fly off train cars) for his family to utilize for heating the house.
Now, what is a “Temple of Fancy.” Merriam-Webster defines fancy (items/goods) as novelties, accessories, or notions that are primarily ornamental or designed to appeal to taste, or fancy, rather than being essential. There was actually a renowned “Temple of Fancy” in London, opened in 1810 by two brothers, Samuel and Joseph Fuller. This had become one of the leading print publishing businesses of the Regency and early Victorian periods, selling watercolors, lithographs, sporting prints, and fancy stationary to the masses.
Today our lives are cluttered with “fancy,’ but back in earlier days, novelty items were just that—novelties. This included items such as Christmas Cards, holiday decorations/ornaments, lights, candy, and nouveau accoutrements that made life grander.
Looking back 200 years in Frederick’s history, you’d be hard-pressed to find “fancy” items in 1816. Frederick folks back then were just happy to still have their own country of United States, recently having had to fend off the pesky British again in the War of 1812. The “national pike” ran through town, and was the first federally funded road project, bringing travelers, settlers, farm output and western exploited natural resources through town like never before. Outside of that, everyone just worked hard for subsistence, mostly growing their own food and making clothes and whatever else they needed. You saved up money to buy necessities—like nails, shoes and coal. Slowly but surely, specialty shops began opening as goods could be more easily transported from the larger cities.
I’m guessing that holidays like Christmas were “less than fancy” for young Harry F. Shipley and his siblings, especially when compared to others in the community. Perhaps this precipitated a curious wonderment in his mind, or at the very least gave him the inspiration to change the course for his own children one day and future generations. Harry bettered his lot, and that of his family, by going to work—at the age of 11.
Harry gained employment from Mr. David H. Smith, a well-known merchant who operated one of the most colorful and interesting businesses in town, surely making him the envy of his peers. This was Smith’s Temple of Fancy, located on the northeast corner of East Church and North Market streets in a building known to locals as Coppersmith's Hall.This veritable “tasting room” for the visual senses brought in plenty of profit (or should I say Proffitt). It was originally begun by Smith’s father, printer and compositor David F. Smith.
David F. Smith was born and raised in Frederick but left town for love and employment, marrying a Baltimore girl (Susan Ford) and working in that city. He was employed by the Baltimore Sun and other newspapers before going into business for himself. The elder Smith operated a stationary and book shop on Gay Street in Baltimore before returning to his hometown and opening his Temple of Fancy in 1848.
I’m assuming Mr. Smith's store was modeled after the London enterprise of the Fuller brothers. The younger David H. Smith would take hold of the operation in 1880 and add greatly to a business that specialized in selling items such as commercial art prints, cards and stationary. He was an excellent marketer and the store's reputation seemed to be very well-known. An article from the Frederick Daily News, dated December 16, 1886, sung the praise of the establishment under the heading "Christmas at Smith’s":
The Temple of Fancy has become one of the established institutions of Frederick, and especially at Christmastime, it is the center of attraction. The article went on to say “The Temple is certainly the headquarters for Santa Claus, if that great old genius has any idea of what good headquarters are.”
The article boasted that Smith's Temple of Fancy featured “goods purchased from 147 separate and distinct metropolitan establishments, representing many separate and distinct lines, and the summary embraces everything from a toy whip to the most handsome and elaborate parlor, toilet or general household necessities or ornaments.”
(See this article in its entirety below at end of article)
Harry F. Shipley would pass his formative years in the employ of Mr. Smith. His job had him extending Christmas Spirit to kids of all ages. Still a kid, himself, the young clerk was in the position of sharing keen advice to parents on the latest, greatest toys. I’m sure he also gave pointers on obtaining lumps of coal for stocking stuffers to parents of “naughty” kids.
In the mid 1890's, Harry was given the job as bicycle agent for the firm. The wheeled machines were all the rage, and advertisements under Shipley's name regularly appeared in the local paper.
After 11 years of working for Mr. Smith, 22 year-old Harry struck out on his own in conjunction with another former co-worker, George S. C. Bopst (also buried here in Mount Olivet). This was 1897, and their new venture came to be known as Shipley and Bopst. Bicycles and motorcycles would be a specialty of the business, along with other sporting goods. They would eventually acquire the Temple of Fancy business name from David H. Smith when the latter left for another job opportunity in 1901.
Eleven more years would pass in Harry’s life before another major “business” change. He bought out Bopst on January 1, 1909. From that point on, Shipley conducted the business under his own family name and would eventually be aided by sons Harry M. and Dorsey F. Shipley.
Harry F. Shipley was an active sportsman, fraternalist and ardent Democrat. His employment could definitely be called a “life’s work” for he spent 50 years at the same Frederick location. Well actually, there was a slight change of venue as Harry had erected a new building at 103-107 N. Market St., making it one of the largest stores of its kind in Maryland. The structure still bears his family name today on its upper brick façade, but is better known as the home to Firestone’s Restaurant. In keeping with tradition, I understand that Firestone’s official name is Firestone’s Culinary Tavern—certainly a much “fancier” moniker.
In 1912, he signed an agreement to lease the first floor of the corner building next door at 101 North Market and West Church streets. He made major improvements to the structure including the large expanses of plate glass windows that still exist today, adorning the Tasting Room Restaurant.
H. F. Shipley’s Temple of Fancy remained the "go-to" Christmas headquarters for decades to come. It was usually decorated for the latest holiday, and carried a wide variety of merchandise ranging from toys, athletic goods, radios, and notions. It was one of the first to carry phonographs and records. Harry remained active, and beloved in the community. The “family discount” on store items must have come in handy, as he had 15 children to buy for at Christmas. He was twice married, first at the ripe age of 20. His first wife was Fannie Easterday (1873-1915)and second Mary Cramer. The family resided at 416 N. Market St.
Harry was a member of All Saints Church, belonged to the Junior Fire Company, No. 2, King David Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, Sons of American Revolution, Frederick Lions Club (Charter Member), Frederick County Fish and Game Association and the Elks Club.