Next weekend, I will be going to see one of my all-time music groups in concert in Baltimore. It’s a tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. So many hit songs from these Rock n’ Roll legends, with roots in the Gainesville, Florida area.
This will be my seventh time seeing them, and I’m bringing three of my sons along. Their playlist of is lengthy and chock’ full of hit songs and memorable videos: Don’t Do Me Like, Breakdown, American Girls, Don’t Come Around Here No More, Runnin’ Down a Dream, Refugee and Freefallin’ to name a few. One song, however, gave me the impetus to write this week’s “Stories in Stone” piece. This is the Heartbreaker’s 1993 offering “Mary Jane's Last Dance.” The catchy chorus made this song a fan favorite, but a haunting video made it even more memorable and gave the group top honors for 1993’s MTV “Music Video of the Year.”
The song, and accompanying video, conjures up plenty of abstract meanings and haunting images, although I want to single out a positive connection to a local “Mary Jane” for purposes of this article. This “Mary Jane” is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery and was somewhat of a mirror who reflected Frederick, Maryland through her social and professional lives.
Emma’s childhood was a nice one, as she enjoyed a relatively peaceful rearing in a small town. She was the oldest of nine children, having four brothers and four sisters. Her father was a boot and shoe merchant. Turbulence would occur in her pre-teens with the American Civil War. Emma saw the wounded and dying first-hand. Her school, the Frederick Visitation Academy, had been commandeered for use as a makeshift hospital. Emma is also said to have assisted in carrying food and assisting with the care of soldiers at the General Hospital #1 site, located adjacent the Frederick Hessian Barracks (today’s site of the Maryland School for the Deaf).
Emma would graduate with the Visitation Academy’s “Class of 1866.” Interestingly, her upbringing was not Catholic as could be imagined. I have found that she was baptized a few months after her birth in Frederick’s German Reformed Church. However, she appears to have jumped ship somewhere down the line as she had a strong lifetime affiliation with All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church of Frederick. A block separated both of these houses of worship located on W. Church Street—not too far of a hike from Emma’s home located on E. Patrick Street.
The former home of Emma Gittinger, located at 224 E. Patrick Street, is now a realty office (far left). Sadly, in Emma's time, the Frederick News was not located just a few short doors away to the west as could be imagined by this photo. The newspaper office was located on N. Market and later at the intersection of W. Patrick and Court streets before moving into the Old Hagerstown & Frederick Trolley Terminal building. Her commute would have been ideal.
Miss Gittinger came from good, patriotic stock—at least on her mother’s side. Emma was a great grand-daughter of Major Peter Mantz of Frederick, an aide-de-camp of George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Through this line, she was also a lineal relative of Barbara Fritchie, the famed nonagenarian that lived down the street. Interestingly, like her sampling of different religions, Emma’s family may have shown support to the Confederacy during the Civil War. Later in life, she became a charter member of the Fitzhugh Lee Chapter, Daughters of the Confederacy. She was the group’s treasurer and took active roles in Decoration Day ceremonies at Mount Olivet. Emma was equally active in the erection of the Francis Scott Key monument, and other civic and patriotic activities.
Emma should be best remembered for her professional career—one that began with the Frederick News at the time of the paper’s founding in 1883. She would be faithful to the journalism industry, not to mention her family-based employer, for the next four decades. It all began with a column entitled "The Girl About Town" and later renamed "Saturday Chat with the Girl About Town," which continued weekly until 1927. Looking back from a historical perspective, Emma Gittinger was Frederick’s best documentarian/gossip, seemingly “picking up” where legendary diarist Jacob Engelbrecht left off five years earlier with his death in 1878.
The column and its writer came to be known as “Mary Jane, the Girl about Town.” She knew all, and could talk with equal competence on topics ranging from local history to cutting edge social trends. “Mary Jane” was a straight shooter, sometimes brash, and other times crass. She was obstinate, outspoken, knowledgeable and funny. Her columns included sarcasm and tremendous wit, much like her predecessor Herr Engelbrecht. However, she differed greatly in the level in perceived social status—Miss Gittinger was part of the “in-crowd,” compared to the blue collar craftsman who was just part of the crowd. “Mary Jane’s” refined standing in Frederick Society boasted a magical panache—a cutting edge socialite living and partying in Frederick during the late 19th century!
Gittinger’s writing has been described as “naturally cheerful and happy temperament, her column was witty and most re-readable. These traits reflected her personality. In later years she spoke of “the new Frederick,” contrasting the modern with a Frederick before the automobile, before the vogue of the telephone, the aeroplane. ”In time, her identity need not be disguised as she was a much sought after public speaker.
A focus on World War captured the headlines of the Frederick News and Post of one hundred years ago. “Mary Jane” kindly provided a bit of levity at home, while many local men were fighting for our freedoms across the Atlantic.
World War I would cease in 1918, giving way to the Prohibition amidst the Roaring 20’s. Oh what an amazing time to be a socialite. Unfortunately, Emma was slowing down. She was in the twilight of her years, both professionally and personally. Soon there would come the Stock Market Crash of 1929, plunging the country into the Great Depression. A decade later, the US would be engaged in a second, and greater, World War against Germany and Japan. “Mary Jane” would not have the opportunity to comment on either.
At 76, Emma Gittinger was one of, if not, the oldest, female columnist in America in 1927. In early January of that year, she came down with a heavy cold, one she couldn’t kick. Her condition worsened, forcing her to vacate her home residence for the hospital in mid-January. One month later she became bedridden. Although she had many visitors, complications set in and she would become weaker.
Emma died on April 6th, 1927 at the Frederick City Hospital. “Mary Jane” was gone. Her body gave final punctuation to an eventful life on a Wednesday evening at about 6:30pm. Death was given as due to a dropsical condition. Dropsy is an old term describing the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. In years gone by, a person might have been said to have dropsy. Today, this condition would be more descriptive, while specifying a particular cause. For example, the person might have edema due to congestive heart failure.
Emma’s body was taken to the home of brother George Gittinger living on E. 2nd Street. She would be laid to rest in Mount Olivet, a place she was very familiar with, having spent countless volunteer hours within, not to mention family visitations and picnics on weekends as was customary in the Victorian period. Emma Gittinger’s funeral was largely attended as the below article shows:
I find it a bit ironic that Emma is unheralded in a town known for Francis Scott Key, Thomas Johnson, Jr. and Barbara Fritchie. All were patriotic and outspoken, but I’d certainly place money on the fact that none loved their hometown of Frederick more than Emma R. Gittinger. Virtually unknown by people today—she doesn’t even receive mention in the pantheon of local women’s heroes, a list boasting early settler Susanna Beatty, the abovementioned flag-waver Fritchie, collegiate benefactress Margaret Scholl Hood, Frederick City Hospital’s Emma Smith and fashion designer Claire McCardell. Perhaps my humble writing here will introduce local residents to one of the first women newspaper column writers in the United States.
Goodbye Mary Jane—but thanks for all the “dancing” you did within the now yellowed pages of our town newspaper.
The town of New Castle, Delaware was bubbling over with nervous excitement in early July, 1776. Three weeks earlier on June 15th, the Assembly of the Lower Counties of Pennsylvania met here in the courthouse and declared itself independent of British and Pennsylvanian authority. This brash action thereby created the state of Delaware, as it hadn’t even existed as an independent colony under British rule. Since 1704, Pennsylvania had two colonial assemblies: one for the “Upper Counties,” (originally Bucks, Chester and Philadelphia), and one for the “Lower Counties on the Delaware” (New Castle, Kent and Sussex). All of the counties shared one governor. Now, New Castle was chosen the new capital of Delaware. Meanwhile just up the Delaware River in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress was convened and discussing a permanent break with Great Britain.
On July 4th, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king. Contrary to popular belief, the legendary convention of delegates adopted Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence from Great Britain on July 2nd, not July 4th. Furthermore, the document wasn’t signed by all delegates on July 4th as has been assumed, partially thanks to John Trumbull's iconic depiction.
Most of the signatures were pledged and affixed one month later on August 4th, while some autographs wouldn’t be gotten until October and November. Two individuals did sign off on the corrected draft on July 4th, 1776 after edits were properly made. These were John Hancock, President of the 2nd Continental Congress, and lesser known Charles Thomson, Secretary to the Continental Congress. The day we celebrate each year is the day that these gentlemen signed the rough draft, and delivered to the official printer, a man named John Dunlap.
Finished copies of the Declaration of Independence were brought to the Pennsylvania State House (later named “Independence Hall”) on July 8th. Philadelphia citizens were summoned for the first public reading of the document by the ringing of a very famous bell, one which had announced the battles of Lexington and Concord some fifteen months before.
CharlesThomson's grandson would also declare his own independence of thought to the masses, criticizing some of the almighty 1776 signers in the process, especially the man who receives the majority of credit for authoring the Declaration— first presented to public audiences on the day of his birth.
John Popham Thomson
Future Frederick resident, John Popham Thomson was born to William and Margaret Thomson. William was the son of Continental Congress Secretary Charles Thomson. At the time of young John's entrance into this world, soldiers under Col. John Haslet’s Delaware Blue Hen Regiment came from Wilmington and “took out of the Court House all the insignias of the monarchy…all the baubles of royalty and made a pile of them before the Court house…set fire to them and burned them into ashes and a merry day we made of it.”
John’s life was just as colorful as the events surrounding his birth. His first seven years were spent during the American Revolution. His father, William Thomson, was a 1772 graduate of the nearby Newark Academy, a continuation of Rev. Alison's New London endeavor. He married Miss Margaret Popham three years later.
Mr. Thomson would become the principal of his alma-mater, having re-opened the school (because of a closure due to the war) in 1780. He remained here until 1794, at which time he and Margaret moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to take the post of Professor of Languages and librarian at Dickinson College.
William Thomson would become the principal of his alma-mater, having re-opened the school (because of a closure due to the war) in 1780. He remained here until 1794, at which time he and Margaret moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to take the post of Professor of Languages and librarian at Dickinson College. This school had been founded by Declaration of Independence signer, Benjamin Rush, and named for another, John Dickinson.
Things got off to a rocky start. In 1795, family friend Henry Ridgely wrote a telling letter home describing the state of the affairs for the Thomsons in their new home:
"Mr. Thomson has been very sick since he has been at Carlisle, and kept his bed light on nine days, and Mrs. Thos. had the ague and fever, and James Thomson fell over a cellar door and broke 3 of his ribs.” Henry (Ridgely) and his brother George had been "under (the) care and tuition" of William Thomson at the Newark Academy in 1794 and had been sent by their mother to Dickinson to be under the same by the educator.
As can be imagined, William’s son, John Popham Thomson, would experience a great educational upbringing. He would attend his father’s school, Dickinson College, and graduate with a law degree in 1797. Although well-versed in law and politics, John P. Thomson chose journalism and would soon embark on an illustrious, lifelong career as a newspaper publisher. The 23-year-old founded The Eagle or Carlisle Herald newspaper on October 3rd, 1799. It was mockingly labeled a “Tory paper” by critics for its Federalist stance and anti-Jeffersonian sentiment. John Thomson ran the paper while simultaneously performing duties as Carlisle, Pennsylvania’s postmaster. (John's grandfather Thomson had held the role of Postmaster General for the US under the Articles of Confederation.)
Unfortunately, Thomson was soon fired from the postmaster gig, forcing him to give up the newspaper. The cause of dismissal resulted from his editorial attacks on President Thomas Jefferson (within the paper). A fellow publisher wrote in March of 1802 that Thomson: "proposed that the grand jury then sitting would present the election of Mr. Jefferson as a national curse." A competing newspaper in March ran the headline: "O Johnny Thomson, Johnny Thomson O!" upon hearing that John demanded to know why he was fired as town postmaster. The rival paper went on to call Thomson’s paper "slanderous." This was a major setback for the Delaware native, but John P. Thomson would not be unemployed for long.
Several prominent citizens of Frederick asked the young publisher to move south and set up a Federalist paper. These included Judge Richard Potts and John Hanson Thomas, son of Dr. Philip Thomas and grandson of John Hanson. Thomson’s friend and former Dickinson classmate Roger Brooke Taney had come to Frederick a few years prior, launching his illustrious law career here. The new town newspaper would take the name of the Frederick-Town Herald.
John P. Thomson's printing office and headquarters was advertised as being next to John S. Hall’s tavern. I place this tavern on the northwest corner of N. Market and W. Church streets, location of today's Tasting Room restaurant. The next door (to the north) was the Frederick-Town Herald office, also serving as Thomson’s home address in the beginning. This would have sat on the footprint of present day Firestones restaurant.
The first issue of the Frederick-Town Herald hit the streets on June 19th, 1802. The inaugural edition contained a long three-column preamble by Thomson explaining his political and editorial beliefs. He said that he supported Washington and Adams, but views "...with horror the late unpardonable attack of the Legislature on the independence of the Judiciary - an attack, that had proved but too successful, and which had effectually demolished one of the great pillars of the Constitution." John Thomson reassured readers that: "...he will in no instance attempt to deceive or mislead them, by willfully suppressing or misrepresenting any transaction."
Maryland historian/writer Walter Arps labeled Thomson "...an unabashed polemicist” in an article that appeared in the spring, 1979 edition of the "Maryland Magazine of Genealogy” (vol. 2, #1, p. 30). Arps went on to say:
“His (Thomson’s) chief target was Thomas Jefferson, whom Thomson said was embarked on a systematic campaign of subtle denigration of the achievements of Washington and Adams." Arps continued claiming that Thomson accused Jefferson of being in cahoots with Napoleon Bonaparte when the two leaders solidified the Louisiana Purchase: "Mr. Thomson was enflaming the political passions of the good burghers of Frederick County. With Bonaparte terrorizing Europe and the Barbary pirates plundering American shipping lanes, as well as Thomson's weekly multi-column tirades, there was relatively little page space left in the Herald for local news."
Thomson was partially recruited to do battle with Matthias Bartgis (1756-1825) an established Frederick publisher of several weekly papers under various different names in both German and English. These included The Hornet (1802-1814), Bartgis' Republican Gazette, The Independent American Volunteer or Der Americanische Voluntair (1807-1808), and the General Staatsbothe (1810-1813).
The Hornet possessed strong Republican leanings and carried the motto: "To true Republicans I will sing, But aristocrats shall feel my sting"
Bartgis' Republican Gazette (1800-1820) generally avoided politics and lasted much longer than The Hornet. In 1811 Bartgis took his son, Matthias E. Bartgis (1791-1849), in partnership. A great rivalry was born between Bartgis and Thomson.
As one of the leading citizens of Frederick, his paper gave additional glimpses into the personal life of Thomson and his family. Sadly, unfortunate personal events were displayed for readers to see such as the death of Thomson’s oldest daughter Margaret in February of 1823—only 17 years old at the time. The Frederick-Town Herald also shared the obituaries of his first two wives: Margaret (Holmes) in 1809 and Mary (Barnhold) in 1832. Wife Margaret's obituary is included at the end of story.
The Frederick-Town Herald truly made its mark on Frederick as it thrived for three decades, where many competing newspapers folded. The weekly newspaper published on Saturdays had become a mainstay in the community, especially beloved by Federalists. Thomson passed the reigns to William Ogden Niles when he sold the paper in late 1831, likely influenced by the sickness/eminent death of his second wife, Mary.
In his last edition, of October 23, 1831, the seasoned publisher and printer graciously thanked his patrons and readers, and made no apology for his rhetoric and conduct over the past three decades. John P. Thomson's name would next appear in the Frederick-Town Herald a few months later in March (1832) an advertisement offering agricultural implements for sale. One week later, the Frederick-Herald would run the obituary announcing the death of Mary Thomson.
The Frederick-Town Herald would survive another 30 years under various publishers until its abrupt end at the start of the American Civil War. The paper was suppressed in 1861 for its political stance, at this time, showing Southern sympathies. The Herald had supported presidential candidate John C. Breckinridge, former vice-president and Democrat, in the highly contested election of 1860. Abraham Lincoln won by the electoral vote as Maryland had overwhelmingly been in support of Breckinridge as he took 46% of the votes (42,482) compared to Lincoln’s 2% (2, 294 votes). From that point forward, the paper, under publisher John W. Heard, vehemently supported the Confederacy until its demise, caused ironically enough, by the federal government’s order of prohibiting the postmaster to send it through the mail.
In a letter written in 1836 by Thomson’s niece, she describes her “Uncle John” as being a banker who had lived in Frederick for more than 30 years. She talks of his son Charles choosing to be a farmer, and that his daughter Elizabeth had died. Lastly, she mentioned that he had remarried– "...for the third time about a year ago." At the occasion of the marriage, John was on the verge of his 60th year, while his new bride, Mary Lucas Hamner (1802-1857) was nearly half his age—born in the year Thomson started the Herald. The union produced another son, who would be named James H. Thomson (1837-1908).
Retirement was a busy time for John P. Thomson. He dabbled in politics, being named to the National Republican Central Committee in 1832. Thompson could now devote more time to his place of worship, the Frederick Presbyterian Church. He also served as the President of Frederick County Bank, being elected president in 1833 and serving the institution up through the early 1850’s in this capacity.
In 1850, Thomson held real estate valued at $7,000. He lived with wife Mary and son James in downtown Frederick within the Court House Square area, but it could have well been the original N. Market Street location of his printing business. Thomson’s will was fittingly prepared and signed at the time of his 76th birthday, in July 1852. The man born within “the Spirit of ‘76,” possessing a childhood amidst the Revolution and experiencing a young adulthood framed by the experiment of self-government for a new nation, would pass three years later on March 1st, 1855. He would be buried in the old Presbyterian graveyard, once located near the intersection of Fourth and Bentz streets.
Mary Hamner Thomson would die just two and a half years after her husband in August 1857. Son James would purchase lot 47/Area E within Mount Olivet at this time. Mary was placed here and the dutiful son would have his father reinterred and buried next to his mother. A large ledger or tablet monument marks their gravesite. James and his wife would be buried here in time. In 1907, the Presbyterian Church purchased lots in Mount Olivet’s Area NN in advance of a mass removal of the bodies from their downtown graveyard. This occurred in 1907, and brought the mortal remains of Thomson’s first and second wives, along with daughter Margaret and John’s brother James (1778-1847) who followed his older sibling to Frederick-Town and worked as a teacher.
It’s the July 4th holiday once again—a time-honored tradition marked best by vacations, baseball games, cookouts, parades, concerts and firework displays. Patriotism is certainly “a many-splendored thing.”
Mount Olivet Cemetery is no stranger to the concept of patriotism as it includes thousands of military veterans and legendary figures oozing with the “right stuff” such as Francis Scott Key, Barbara Fritchie and Thomas Johnson, Jr. The latter was a member of the famed Continental Congress, which met in 1776 to discuss means to gain independence from Great Britain. He voted for the Declaration of Independence, however “old TJ” isn’t as well-known (as he should be) because he didn’t have the opportunity to affix his proverbial “John Hancock” on the “Declaration” parchment signed by his colleagues in early July, 1776. Nevertheless, Johnson made the history record for his leadership both on, and off, the battlefield during the American Revolution. He served as Maryland’s first elected governor and is remembered as one of Maryland’s finest statesmen and business entrepreneurs. He was, and always will be, viewed as Frederick County’s top “patriot.” But, of course, I’m biased as an alumnus from the high school that bears his name.
Just a few yards away from Gov. Thomas Johnson’s grave (located in Mount Olivet’s Area MM), is the final resting place of another great Maryland patriot. In addition to his tireless work during the “fight for independence,” this gentleman holds the distinction of being one of Frederick’s first reputable doctors. Interestingly, he may have been referred to as Dr. Phil by a few former patients living in Frederick Town during the rustic 18th century.
Philip Thomas was born on the 11th day of June, 1747, two years after Frederick Town was laid out by Annapolis businessman/politician Daniel Dulany. The son of James Thomas and Elizabeth Bellicum, Philip’s birthplace was Kent County’s Chestertown on Maryland’s upper Eastern Shore. The lad became fascinated with medicine and apprenticed with a local physician. He would go on to study in Philadelphia from 1768-1769 under Dr. Thomas Van Dyke and attended professional lectures by the most knowledgeable men in the profession this side of the Atlantic.
At this time, he attended Dr. William Smith’s lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy, and matriculated in the college that would one-day be known as the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine. This was the first, and only, medical school in the thirteen American colonies when, in the fall of 1765, students enrolled for "anatomical lectures" and a course on "the theory and practice of physik."
By organizing a medical faculty separate and distinct from the collegiate faculty, Penn's trustees effectively created the first university in North America, though the corporate name continued as the College of Philadelphia until 1779. Philip Thomas spent time receiving valuable clinical practice by working at Pennsylvania Hospital, the oldest hospital in America (founded 1751) under professors Thomas Bond, William Shippen and John Morgan. Morgan, a young Philadelphia physician, was founder of the School of Medicine and like the school’s other early faculty, had earned his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh and supplemented Edinburgh's courses with further study in London, where advanced training was offered in anatomy by private schools owned by the field’s most successful practitioners.
Apparently, Thomas could not afford to pursue a medical degree, but completed his apprenticeship and obtained letters of recommendation from noted teachers. He relocated to Frederick in the summer of 1769 and “commenced the practice of Physic and Surgery.”
In 1773, he married the “high-bred” Jane Contee Hanson, daughter of lawyer John Hanson. Like Thomas Johnson, John Hanson would also serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress and would one day become "President of the United States in Congress Assembled," and became the first president (third overall) to serve a one-year term under the provisions of the Articles of Confederation.
Dr. Thomas built a townhouse at 110 W. Patrick Street, next door to his in-laws. He also owned a manor farm located west of town near the foot of Catoctin Mountain in which he bred horses. Thomas gave this endeavor his own name, calling it “Mount Philip”—this of course gave rise to the name of the adjoining road that still bears this name.
Dr. Philip Thomas quickly became one of the most respected citizens of town, and his reputation spread throughout Maryland. This was solidified on the eve of the Revolution in 1774 when he was appointed by his county as a representative to attend the General Conference at Annapolis and later was one of the committee “to carry into execution the association agreed upon by the Continental Congress.”
Frederick had already earned the reputation as a highly "patriotic" (and rambunctious) place in November of 1765, when twelve county justices repudiated the Crown's order to utilize stamped paper. Under the leadership of his father-in-law (John Hanson), Dr. Thomas became a member of Frederick’s Committee of Safety comprised of the Committee of Observation and the Committee of Correspondence.
During the American Revolution, committees of this sort included area “sons of liberty” and other die-hard patriots. They became a shadow government on the local level, slowly taking control of the Thirteen Colonies away from royal officials, rendering them helpless.
Noted historian T. H. Breen of Northwestern University wrote that these committees were the first step in the creation of "a formal structure capable not only of policing the revolution on the ground but also of solidifying ties with other communities. The network of committees were also vital for reinforcing a shared sense of purpose, speaking to an imagined collectivity—a country of the mind of Americans.”
Like the moniker states, these committees required oversight of local activities and allegiances, and precipitated correspondence and communication between towns and colonies. It was Homeland Security, long before the Homeland Security Department. Frederick Town’s committee was chaired by John Hanson and met regularly in the county courthouse structure that once stood on the site of present Frederick City Hall on W. Church Street. T.H. Breen went on to explain these early bodies:
“For ordinary people, they were community forums where personal loyalties were revealed, tested, and occasionally punished. ... Serving on committees of safety ... was certainly not an activity for the faint of heart. The members of these groups exposed ideological dissenters, usually people well-known in the communities in which they lived. Although the committees attempted as best they could to avoid physical violence, they administered revolutionary justice as they alone defined it. They worked out their own investigative procedures, interrogated people suspected of undermining the American cause, and meted out punishments they deemed appropriate to the crimes. By mid-1775 the committees increasingly busied themselves with identifying, denouncing, and shunning political offenders. By demanding that enemies receive "civil excommunication" – the chilling words of a North Carolina committee – these groups silenced critics without sparking the kind of bloodbath that has characterized so many other insurgencies throughout the world.”
At 28 years of age, the young physician sat as a member of the General Congress held at Annapolis on June 20th, 1774. Dr. Thomas is said to have rendered distinguished service until the close of the war, but not just as a statesman. He joined the local militia at the outset of war, but his leadership and master equestrian skills would be better utilized later. On February 3rd, 1781, he was commissioned as captain of the Frederick Light Dragoons, in which Francis Scott Key’s father, John Ross Key, was lieutenant. Thomas would be promoted to the position of lieutenant-colonel of Frederick County, which translated to the same position within the Continental Army.
The entire Frederick County militia would come under his command and was subject to his call to action in the field at all times. Thomas also helped with the collection of revenue to purchase and acquire arms, ammunition and supplies as a member of a sub-committee authorized by the Provincial Convention. He had recruited a regiment of men to aid General Washington at Yorktown, and “forwarded to the jaded and hungry army 500 head of cattle and immense quantities of flour and provisions.”
At war’s end, Thomas would again lend his support to George Washington—this time as a presidential elector who proudly cast his vote for the Continental Army’s top commander to become the first President of the United States. With the birth of a new nation, Thomas could now turn his attention toward his medical craft, and more importantly, his own family. Wife Jane had died in June, 1781 at the age of 34, leaving the doctor with three young children to raise: Catherine Hanson Thomas (Alexander) (1775-1826), Rebecca Bellicum Thomas (Magruder) (1777-1814) and John Hanson Thomas (1779-1815) who followed in his father’s footsteps in public service to not only Frederick County and Maryland, but the country as he was elected as a United States Senator in 1815.
In the late 1790’s, Dr. Phillip became active in a statewide organization of physicians. The group formed the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty, the first organization of its kind in Maryland, in January, 1799. This occurred at a meeting in Annapolis attended by 101 leaders of the medical profession. The physicians who started the organization represented most of Maryland's counties. The Maryland General Assembly approved a petition for a charter for an incorporated society of physicians in Maryland to be known as "The Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland". ("Chirurgical" was the common spelling of surgical at the time of the 18th Century.) The society became the seventh of its kind established in the country.
One of the founders was a prominent young physician of Baltimore named Dr. Ashton Alexander. Alexander served as the Faculty’s first secretary, treasurer, and last surviving charter member. Dr. Philip Thomas would become Alexander’s father-in law in December, 1799, when the young physician married his oldest daughter Catherine.
Dr. Thomas would become the Faculty’s second president after inaugural president Dr. Upton Scott stepped down in 1801. He would hold this post for the next 14 years. The Medical College of Maryland was established in 1807, and because Thomas was president of the Faculty, he became chancellor of the school. In 1808, Thomas was elected as a Maryland State delegate.
In spring 1815, Dr. Philip Thomas found his town hit by a terrible disease epidemic. Typhus was causing several deaths of Frederick residents, usually passed by lice and other microscopic mites. Sadly, he contracted the disease himself. His 34-year-old son, John Hanson Thomas, newly elected to the US Senate, stood affectionately by his side until he drew his last breath on April 25th, 1815. Unfortunately, John Hanson Thomas would become a victim as well, said to have received it through his deep care of his dying father. John Hanson Thomas would die only six days later on May 2nd, 1815, cutting short a brilliant career that would have eclipsed that of his father.
Both men were buried in Frederick’s old All Saints Church burying ground adjacent Carroll Creek. Their bodies would be re-interred in Mount Olivet in 1901 within Lot 19 of Area MM.
Dr. Philip Thomas’ obituary from the Frederick-Town Herald (April 3, 1815)
Departed this life on Tuesday last, in the 67th year of his
age, Doctor Philip Thomas.
The various worthy and distinguished merits of this venerable
and revered character, it cannot be expected, will be
portrayed in an obituary notice. He was a native of Kent
County, but removed to this place very early in life. Ardently
attached to liberty and his country, he took a decided
and active part in our revolutionary struggle, and was often
elected by his fellow-citizens to represent them in the public
councils. He was appointed by the great and good Washington
to an office under the general government, which he
held for a number of years, and shortly after the establishment
of the Medical Society of Maryland, he was chosen its
President, in which situation he continued until his death.
These several trusts he discharged with the most strict
fidelity and integrity.
As a physician, no man was more highly and deservedly
esteemed for his skill. No man was ever more beloved for his
affectionate tenderness and unwearied attention to the sick.
As a member of society, those who have been most intimately
acquainted with his principles and motives of action,
can attest their purity and correctness.
As a man, and in all the relative duties of life, he was
a bright model of excellence, a kind neighbor, a warm
steadfast and immovable friend, an indulgent master, a most
affectionate parent, and in all his dealings sternly and
undeviatingly just. In him the poor had always a friend, the
oppressed found a protector, and friendless merit, a patron
As a Christian, his conviction of the truth was the result
of careful and candid examination, and was deep and riveted.
Fully persuaded that man was fallen, his nature corrupt, and
that but for the salvation purchased for us by the merits
and sufferings of a crucified redeemer, and the divine aid
graciously afforded to the believing penitent in working out
his salvation, his doom must have been eternal misery.
His faith in all the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel
was lively and sincere ; his hopes were founded on its
promises, and his entire trust for salvation and happiness
was in the mercy of God through the merits of Christ Jesus.
He was, as his ancestors for ages had been, and as he has
often been heard to express his hopes, that his posterity
might remain to be members of the Protestant Episcopal
Church, warmly attached to its doctrines, its government,
its pure and evangelical services. He deeply lamented the
many difficulties and disadvantages with which the religious
denomination of which he was a member, had to struggle
in this nation generally, and more especially in the place of
his residence ; and after witnessing with joy, and it is fondly
hoped with gratitude to the Author of all good, the success
of many efforts for its revival, it was the happiness of his
declining years to have contributed in no small degree, to-
wards the erection and completion of a convenient and
elegant building in which its worship maybe performed, and
the ordinance of our holy religion administered. But
although he gave a decided preference to his own church,
and anxiously wished others to agree with him, yet he never
presumed to dictate to any, but desired to live, and did live
in peace and charity with all denominations of Christians.
While he was very young he was deprived of his father,
and to the more than parental care of a kind and affection-
ate brother, he was indebted for his education and the
means of his future usefulness.
In the pursuit of his studies, and in qualifying himself
for the exercise of his profession, he was obliged to exhaust
the small patrimony which he received. Without friends,
and in very delicate health, he left his native county, and
with it the few valuable friends which remained to him, to
settle among strangers. Of the kindness with which he
was received and treated by many of them, it was his delight
always to speak. His professional merit soon procured him
an extensive practice, and although his constitution frequently
appeared to be entirely broken, and his friends often feared
that they would soon be deprived of
him, yet, by a life of most rigid temperance and self-denial
and care, he was enabled to persevere in the practice of his
profession, and at the advanced age of sixty-six, was in the
enjoyment of better health, than in early life. It has now
pleased Almighty God to take him from us — to remove him
from this world of affliction and trouble — to rest from his
But few around him have had more of the blessings and
comforts of this life ; but few have partaken in a greater degree
of its bitterest sufferings ; but few have been more greatful
for the blessings which a gracious providence has been
pleased to confer, or have submitted with a more pious and
humble resignation to the severest chastisements. It will be
the comfort and delight of his afflicted friends to remember,
and it will be their duty to imitate his shining virtues. The
separation, though painful, is but for a time. "In a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye," those who followed the remains
of the deceased, may, like him, be a lifeless corpse. And
the voice of the preacher was a warning from Heaven, even
to the most young and healthful, and sounded in their
ears the awful words, " Be ye also ready."
The remains of the deceased were, on Thursday evening,
conveyed from his late dwelling to the new Episcopal Church,
where the services of the Church were performed, and a very
eloquent and most appropriate discourse was delivered by
the Rev. Mr. Wyatt, of Baltimore. Afterwards the corpse
was carried to the burying-ground, belonging to the
congregation, attended by an unusually large concourse of
friends and citizens.
I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling. Our proudest moment is to save lives. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even of supreme sacrifice.
—Chief Edward F. Croker (1863-1951), FDNY
The wait for the next fireman’s death “in the line of duty” would take a relative fraction of time. Barely a a decade would pass. The victim had certainly taken his lumps over the years, dodging several work-related injuries along the way. Sadly, his last accident would prove fatal. He would be killed on March 20th, 1910, just steps in front of his own firehouse, a week before his 66th birthday.
Two of the first three firefighting casualties in Frederick County history involved members of the Junior Fire Company #2. The third name listed on Mount Olivet’s Fallen Firefighters Memorial of Frederick County is that of William Basil Davis. Davis was born in Frederick on March 29, 1844—four years after the death of Fireman William F. Charlton. He was the son of Nathan Davis and Elizabeth Delashmutt, operators of a farm located south of Frederick City. Unlike Charlton, Davis had been married for 38 years. His wife Virginia Frances Staley (1845-1926) joined her husband’s family in operating the farm after their marriage in 1872. The couple had four children, two boys (John and James) and two girls Elizabeth and Mamie).
Mr. Davis led the proud life of a farmer, before trading in “country life” for “city life” and serving the community in various fashions. He was appointed a member of Frederick City’s police force and served from 1898-1901 under Mayor William F. Chilton. The family lived in a rented row house located at 56 E. Fourth Street.
William Davis, and son, John became volunteer members of the Junior Steam Fire Company as well. In 1900, Davis was elected assistant foreman. He was beloved by his fellow company members, and affectionately earned the nickname “Uncle Billy.” Davis would eventually hold the title of Keeper of the Engine House. His advanced age dictated a role more suited to his physical abilities. The 59-year-old became the driver of the Juniors’ engine in 1903—a paid position. At this time, horses were introduced into the Juniors’ operation to improve response time in pulling the engine. In prior years, the firemen themselves pulled and pushed their engines to various fires in, and around, Frederick.
Representatives of the company had visited Baltimore on a fact-finding mission to improve firefighting methods. They came back with ideas that resulted in the remodeling of their engine house, located within the first block of N. Market Street for the entire duration of William B. Davis’ life. The company’s name was changed to the Junior Steam Fire Engine Company #2.
Two grey horses were put into service, one named “Dan,” the other “Billy." William Davis worked day and night shifts with his employment. He proudly took part in driving these horses and the company’s 1876 Silsby Steamer. In his inaugural year on the job, he took part in parading up and down Market Street as the Maryland State Firemen’s Convention was held in Frederick (1903). Large arches were erected across the street and in front of the three engine houses of downtown at that time (Juniors, Uniteds and Independents).
In August of 1904, the Juniors purchased a new piece of equipment. It was a combination chemical and hose wagon, manufactured by the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company of Elmira, NY. It was described as “maroon and black in color, and capable of holding 35 gallons of chemicals, 200 feet of chemical hose, and 1000 feet of water hose. The apparatus weighed 3,600 pounds and cost $2,000.” Another horse named “Frank” was brought on staff to help the company.
William Davis happily drove the original Juniors tandem of “draft,” or better named “backdraft,” horses. However, one can’t say that Davis’ career was devoid of drama. There seems to be a history of the driver’s name making the pages of the local paper from time to time. In November, 1904, Davis’ face was badly cut and bruised resulting in an eye swelling shut. This was the result of being thrown forward when of his horses stumbled. Just over a year later, William B. Davis received an unwanted holiday present in December, 1905. This was the gift of mashed toes when one of the horses stepped on the driver’s foot quite hard. Months later in April of 1906, the unlucky fireman made news again when he accidentally burned his hands quite badly while charging the lighter of the engine. Supposedly chemicals in a bottle exploded.
In 1908, William Davis was put in charge of another new piece of equipment. Also purchased from the American LaFrance Company of Elmira, a Combination Metropolitan Steam Engine was bought for $4,500 to replace the aging Silsby unit that Davis had tugged for five years. A few pictures exists of Mr. Davis at the helm in the carriage seat of the new Steamer unit. The weight of the vehicle eventually led to the forced retirement of one of the horse corps because of disability. This occurred in December of 1909. The change called for a replacement horse in the Juniors’ stable. Unfortunately, the new animal led to the final appearance of William B. Davis’ name in the Frederick News—his obituary
1910 and the Ides of March came and went. However, should have been aware of Sunday, March 20th instead. A fire had broken out in the storeroom of Clinton Main of W. Patrick Street. This occurred around 3:30am with most of Frederick sleeping. William Davis got the horses hitched up to the steam engine and began to start the departure process from the fire house. Tragically, the rogue horse became excited due to a fire alarm, and Mr. Davis would not make it with his steam engine to N. Market Street, just a few yards out the garage door—although the horses and engine would. The grisly accident was shared in the pages of the Frederick News and the Baltimore Sun over the next few days.
Prompted by the death of William B. Davis, a meeting was held to make major decisions that would have long-term positive effects on the Junior Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 2. Among these was decision to end the era of using horses. They would be sold to a fire department in Washington, D. C. Ironically, one of the horses involved in Davis' demise was killed in an accident while on duty in the nations' capital. The Juniors voted to purchase a Christie tractor to attach to the front of the 1908 LaFrance steam fire engine. This vehicle pushed and pulled the steamer into and out of the engine bay of the company's headquarters. Also at this time, a decision to sell the original engine house was made, and the building of a new fire house commenced near the corner of 6th and Market streets.
This new Juniors Company home opened in December 1913, and both fallen comrades, William Charlton and William B. Davis, were fondly remembered for their unselfish commitment to their duties, the Junior Company, and the Frederick, Maryland community. Their memory lives on here at Mount Olivet through respective grave monuments and the Frederick County Fallen Firefighter Memorial. Just this week, Mount Olivet played host to the funerals of two funerals for Frederick County fireman. I’d like to think that the spirits of the two Williams were amongst the throng saluting their departed brothers.
A few scenes from a modern day funeral at Mount Olivet of a Frederick County firefighter, more than a century after that of William B. Davis in 1910. This service took place on June 22, 2017 and honored Capt. Andrew "Andy" Pryce (1975-2017) formerly of the Walkersville Fire Company and Frederick County Fire/Rescue Services.
"Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. They were not thinking of getting killed when they went where death lurked. They went there to put the fire out, and got killed. Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires."
—Chief Edward F. Croker (1863-1951), FDNY
In June 2000, a very special monument was erected in Mount Olivet Cemetery. It is located in front of the mausoleum complex to the rear of the historic burying ground. Known as the Fallen Firefighters Memorial of Frederick County, the polished collective of granite currently lists the names of 21 men and women who died in the line of duty. Two of the first three individuals listed on this monument served with the town’s second fire company, better known as the Junior Fire Company, No. 2.
The Junior Fire Company was organized in 1838, and incorporated in March of 1840 by an act of the General Assembly of Maryland. The “Juniors” trace their origin back to a chance meeting of three townspeople meeting at Dr. Alexander Mantz’s drugstore on the Square Corner (corner of Market and Patrick streets) and discussing the recent destruction of the home of Horatio Waters and others on S. Market Street by fire. These men came to the agreement that something needed to be done, and set about the movement to create another fire fighting entity in addition to the Independent Hose Company, officially organized in 1818 as the Frederick Hose Company.
The three founders Dr. Alexander K. Mantz, George F. Webster and William Carlton issued the call for volunteers for a “Young Men’s Fire Company” through the town’s weekly newspaper entitled The Frederick-Town Herald. In the months that followed, local men answered the call to serve, and officers were elected. This was a company of younger, or junior, residents of town. Among these were William Pitts, President and William Carlton, Vice President.
Vice President William Carlton was well-connected in Frederick. His late father, Thomas Carlton (1783-1835), was a veteran of the War of 1812 had served two terms as Sheriff of Frederick County a decade later in the 1820’s. His public life continued with two terms as town mayor from 1829-1835. Mayor Carlton’s main claim to fame came in 1831 when he was influential in brokering the deal to have the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad come to town. This was the nation’s first railroad, and an argument can be made that Frederick-Town was the first major town the fabled transportation line would reach from its center of origin in Baltimore.
Frederick resident and diarist extraordinaire Jacob Engelbrecht captured the historical moment with an entry dated Thursday, December 1, 1831, 5 PM:
“Opening of the railroad—The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was opened this day as far as Frederick City. Five cars came from Baltimore this day, in which came passengers, the president (Philip E. Thomas), and directors of the railroad, the Mayor & City Council (both branches), and the Governor of Maryland (George Howard Esquire) together with other officers of the company being upward of seventy in number. The citizens of Frederick gave them a dinner at Talbott’s hotel. The arrival of the cars was announced by the firing of cannon, ringing of the bells, & C, & C. It was a proud day for Frederick. The “car Frederick” was first.
Mayor Thomas Carlton was responsible for the “Deep Cut” through All Saints Street which allowed the train to make its way to Market. Apparently, railroad tracks would eventually stretch up Frederick’s principal commercial street all the way to Fourth Street, as horse drawn train cars ran on tracks placed on wooden stringers. As a compliment to Mayor Carlton, a special car was sent to the front of Carlton’s home dwelling (located at the northwest corner of West Fourth and Market) on the occasion of his daughter Ann’s wedding to Lewis A. Brengle in 1834. Bride and groom were taken from here to the railroad depot (the present day site of the E. All Saints Parking Deck and Wm. Donald Schaefer Government Services building intersection of Carroll and Commerce streets).
Mayor Carlton’s son William Frederick Carlton was born September 13th, 1816 and grew up in Frederick. He and his colleagues with the new fire company venture contracted with the John Rodgers Company of Baltimore for an engine that cost $1,000. Local resident Henry Boteler provided hose reels, and hoses were gotten from another Baltimore firm named Dukehart’s. The engine, known as Rodger’s “Junior” model, made its debut in town in August, 1839. It was vermillion red in color, and was considered a “beauty.” It was immediately exhibited to the public with a show as it threw a stream of water 150 feet in the air over the town clock, located atop Trinity Church. The new apparatus was the centerpiece of the company that came to be known as the Juniors, and devoid of a fire house structure at the time, this was kept in a vacant lot in the rear of the original Farmers & Mechanics Bank location on the southwest corner of N. Market and 2nd streets.
The year 1840 promised to be a great one for the 23-year old. He had accomplished the task of creating another fire company in town. He also had a fulfilling regular job as City Register, which we today generally call the Register of Wills. This individual is responsible for appointing personal representatives to administer decedent’s estates and for overseeing the proper and timely administration of these proceedings. On Saturday June 27th, 1840, Jacob Engelbrecht wrote in his diary:
Married on Thursday evening last 25th instant by Reverend John L. Pitts, Mr. William Carlton (Register of this City) to Miss Mary P. Neill, daughter of the late John W. Neill of Philadelphia.
The summer of 1840 must have been one of bliss for the newlywed couple. Fall came, and perhaps with it, talk of starting a family of his own? Whatever the case, the remembrance of family would certainly play heavy on his mind with end of year holidays. His father, Thomas Carlton, was resting in peace in the new Evangelical Lutheran burying ground, once located at the southeast corner of East Street and E. Church Street extended (also known as the Gas House Pike). Next to his father was buried older brother Edward Alexander Carlton (1806-1834). Perhaps William visited this cemetery on December 20th, 1840, the sixth anniversary of his brother’s death? Whatever the case, he likely never imagined that he would join these loved ones in just a matter of days.
Two days before Christmas, Jacob Engelbrecht would again put pen to paper regarding a member of the Carlton family:
Died last evening in the year of his age, Mr. William Carlton, Register of this city, son of the late Thomas Carlton. His death was very sudden. There was a cry of fire in town about 6 or half past 6 o'clock PM (Colonel John McPherson’s chimney) and was running with the engine (Juniors Company of which he was a member) and when they got to Brien’s Row, Court Street, he became exhausted, fell down, and in short time, thereafter expired.
Wednesday, December 23, 1840 12 o’clock Midnight
William Carlton would be the first firefighter in the State of Maryland to die in the line of duty. His body was placed next to his father and brother in the new Lutheran Graveyard on the east side of town. He had only been married for six months, leaving wife Mary to celebrate Christmas as a widow.
The Junior Fire Company would live on. Two years following the death of their co-founder, the “Juniors” would take part in extinguishing one of the worst fires in Frederick history. Ironically, this would take place in the vicinity of Court House Square within feet of where William Carlton took his last breath. A fire had broken out at the Record Street home of Dr. William Tyler on March 31st 1842. Strong winds blew burning embers through the air, causing additional fires to start in adjacent structures including the Court House itself, when the cupola ignited and soon became engulfed in flames.
A fire engine house for Company No. 2 would be built by the City Council four years later in 1846. The location was donated by the Farmers & Mechanics National Bank next to the same lot where the company’s engine had already been stored. The structure fronted N. Market Street, and had another prominent neighbor to the south in the old Market House, which also housed the town offices. Today, Brewers Alley stands on the Market House site.
For those wanting to visit the grave of William Carlton to pay respects, there is a bit of a snafu. His gravesite, along with father Thomas, brother Edward and mother Mary is unmarked—at least in Area NN. Supposedly, the Carlton headstones were once here in the cemetery, but in a completely different area. They once adorned a lot in Area P owned by the son of Lewis A. Brengle and wife Ann (Carlton) Brengle.
You may recall that Ann was William’s sister, the one who got the free train ride down Market Street on her wedding day. Ann had died in 1852 but was originally laid to rest in the German Reformed Cemetery of town (today’s site of Memorial Park on the corner of Bentz and W. Second streets). Lewis would pass in 1879, and buried next to Ann. However, both would be reinterred in 1881 and moved to Mount Olivet (Area P/Lot 125).