Well, well, well... the 4th of July is here once again—that special day in which we celebrate American Independence Day each, and every, year. Of course, this date is predicated on the magical day in our history when the members of the Continental Congress followed the lead of John Hancock in affixing their signatures to a piece of parchment under a fine essay penned by Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson. The document was destined to be sent to Great Britain’s King George III, son of Frederick, Prince of Wales—namesake of our fine city and county! This event constitutes the birth of the United States of America. Well, we had to win a war first, but it eventually worked out for us in the end.
We, the people, went from a collection of separate, provincial colonies under provincial government rule dictated by a royal ruling family and British Parliament located across the Atlantic Ocean on another continent. The founders had successfully assembled a confederation of newly called “states” that were united together at a location in the middle of our own continent. Best of all, they were united as one against their former oppressor. This was quite an accomplishment, but one thing that surely bound us together (at that time, and ever since) was the fact that we have continually given homage to our “home continent” as it’s even included in our former name (USA).
Now, I know that Canada was slow to get the memo (see the Statute of Westminster in 1931) but they would eventually sidestep British Parliament’s rule as well. Canadians choose to celebrate their independence on July 1st each year, a date that commemorates the uniting of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the year 1867. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the immediate south, Mexico, celebrate two annual holidays marking “independence” from former European continent invaders--Cinco de Mayo (commemorating the triumph over French and Austrian invaders, and 16 de Septiembre (getting out from under Spain). I guess you could say that the continent of America successfully escaped European dominance over itself.
An American in Italy?
Now how did that continent name of America come about in the first place? It was coined by Martin Waldseemüller, a German cartographer. He and Matthias Ringmann are credited with the first recorded usage of the word America. This occurred in 1507, as the gentlemen produced a map entitled “Universalis Cosmographia” in honor of the Italian explorer Americus Vespucius, the Latinized version of the name of Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512). Vespucci was an Italian explorer who mapped what we today known as South America's east coast, along with the Caribbean Sea in the early 16th century. Through his voyages, made between 1499-1504, Vespucci was able to demonstrate that there existed a separate land mass or “super continent” that eventually came to be referred to as the New World. An article appearing on the Library of Congress’ website adds:
The map celebrated Vespucci's understanding that a new continent had been uncovered following Columbus' and subsequent voyages in the late 15th century. An edition of 1,000 copies of the large wood-cut print was reportedly printed and sold, but no other copy is known to have survived. It was the first map, printed or manuscript, to depict clearly a separate Western Hemisphere, with the Pacific as a separate ocean. The map reflected a huge leap forward in knowledge, recognizing the newly found American landmass and forever changing mankind's understanding and perception of the world itself.
So there you have it, our continent is named for an Italian who sailed under both a Spanish and Portuguese flag and eventually received citizenship from Spain—and this, thanks to a pair of German mapmakers. Ironically, the cavalcade of European connections here is also at the core of helping to create the “politically correct” name that has recently been affixed to the continent’s first, indigenous inhabitants—Native Americans. I, of course, say this with a tinge of sarcasm.
Europeans at the time of Christopher Columbus' voyage often referred to all of South and East Asia as "India" or "the Indias/Indies", sometimes dividing the area into "Greater India", "Middle India", and "Lesser India.” The oldest surviving terrestrial globe, fashioned by Martin Behaim in 1492 (before Columbus' voyage), labels the entire Asian subcontinent region as "India".
When Columbus landed in the Antilles, he referred to the resident peoples he encountered there as "Indians" reflecting his purported belief that he had reached the Indian Ocean. The name stuck and for centuries the native people of the Americas were collectively called "Indians" in various European languages. This misnomer was perpetuated in place naming as the islands of the Caribbean were named the West Indies.
The 19th century brought many immigrants to our middle portion of the continent, especially from Europe—the continent that formerly “dogged” our land mass. Of course, immigrants from other continents such came here as well. The term “America” began to take on greater meaning than merely being a fancy name for our mainland. The old explorer’s name now represented an ideal, and would mean different things to different people. This included such things as independence from oppression, a place of peace and prosperity, or the chance to achieve success and fortune. The name America had the overarching connotation of something good, something positive.
That being said, it should come as no surprise that the continent name (of America) would also gain popularity as a baby moniker. Today, many may think it an odd an awkward choice for a person’s name, but just compare this with other evocative choices of the post-colonial period Federal period to follow (roughly 1790-1830). During this time, a keen sense of nationalism arose, and government leaders looked to the classical ages of Greece and Rome for inspiration in forging an identity for the new American Republic. Children were given the names of Liberty and Columbia, personifications of the United States of America with the latter owing its origin to that other famed Italian explorer. In addition, a host of virtue-related names were being used such as Charity, Chastity, Hope, Justice, Mercy, Patience, Faith, Grace, and the name “Virtue,” itself.
The name “America” waned in popularity a bit in the Antebellum Era but seems to have made a comeback in 1876 during the time of our country's Centennial celebration. This resurgence continued through the end of the century and beginning of the 20th century to follow. A website entitled www.OhBabyNames.com recounts the history of the name America, one primarily given to females:
The name would drop off the charts in 1910 and not re-emerge for another 88 years. “America’s” reappearance took place in 1998 but we’re not sure what prompted the return. We do know later in 2002, the American actress of Honduran descent, America Ferrera, established herself as an up-and-coming talent thanks to her role in the successful indie film “Real Women Have Curves,” followed by the starring role in a television show called “Ugly Betty.” It seems Ferrera has had some positive impact on the usage of her uncommon first name. In more recent years, however, America has fallen substantially further down the charts so her heyday may be behind her (the name, not the actress). In fact, the actress was quoted in Time Magazine regarding how she got her name: “I'm named after my mother. In Latin America, April 14 is Day of the Americas, and my mother was born on April 14, so my grandpa named her America.”
From this perspective, America might be a good choice for a U.S. baby born on the 4th of July. Really, it’s hard to find a name more patriotic than America (Liberty comes close). It is also a “place” name much in the same vein as Asia, India or Africa (not to mention London, Paris and Brooklyn). So what’s the controversy with America? Seems that a lot of people who claim to love America feel this is just going too far. Yet the name appears to be more common among immigrants coming to the country from South and Central America; they have a different perspective of and respect for America in general. For them, it’s more of a celebration, which we find lovely. This is not a name for everyone, but there is something special about it that’s hard to deny.
So with all that said, I decided to be "an explorer" myself, and took a voyage through our fair cemetery of Mount Olivet in search of "Americas." Here are my findings.
America Pritchard Magruder
(Dec. 7, 1826-July 15, 1867)
I could not find an obituary for America Pritchard Magruder, who died at the age of 40 on July 15, 1867. I was, however, able to find out a little about her. She was the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Lewis) Pritchard and grew up in Clarksburg, Montgomery County, MD. She married Rufus King Magruder, a prominent farmer of Montgomery County, on October 18th, 1850. The couple would live first in Clarksville, but would relocate to a 230-acre farm just east of Urbana. I was surprised to find that the Magruder farm was directly north and bordering the farm of Miel Burgee on Prices Distillery Road. My last "Story in Stone" centered on Professor Amon Burgee, son of Miel, what are the odds of that?! Apparently the county road here was originally called Magruder Road.
Rufus and America had eight children, however only five would reach maturity. Two of these children would receive patriotic names (America and Columbia). Following America P. Magruder's death, Rufus would remarry. His new wife was his former sister-in-law and namesake for daughter Columbia. This was Columbia Pritchard (1828-1903). All three individuals are buried in Mount Olivet's Area Q/Lot118, and their names are etched in stone on the Magruder family monument that stands here.
America Florence Magruder
(Dec 30, 1860-March 23, 1944)
Another woman by the name of America rests in Area Q's Magruder lot. This is America Pritchard Magruder's daughter, America. Her given birth name is America Florence Magruder and it appears she chose to avoid confusion by preferring to go by the name of Florence. She would be raised into adulthood in the Urbana/Ijamsville area by aunt/step-mother Columbia Pritchard Magruder.
America Pritchard Williams
(1889-April 9, 1899)
On the opposite, east face of the above shown Magruder family monument, one will find the names of America Pritchard Williams and brother H. Magruder Williams. These were the children of Charles A. D. Williams (1859-1938) and wife Columbia Matilda (Magruder) Williams (1828-1903). Mrs. Williams was a daughter of the fore-mentioned America Pritchard Magruder who is buried in the same lot. As you can see by birth and death dates, both of Columbia's children died young.
America Eugenia (Browning) Nicodemus
(March 23, 1845-Dec 20, 1919)
First off, I was ecstatic that this America was not related to the Magruder family, as it was getting very tough to keep a handle on all those Americas and Columbias. America Eugenia Browning Nicodemus was born in Frederick to blacksmith, Jonathan Browning and wife Maryann Clary. The family lived in the vicinity of N. Bentz and W. Third streets in downtown Frederick. America would leave her parents upon marriage in 1863.
America's husband, William H. Nicodemus (1838-1914), was a pretty successful businessman who listed his occupation as shirt-maker in the 1870 US census. America is listed in this record as "Mary." Children were born to the couple, a girl, Helen, in 1864, and a son, A. Hammond in 1869. (I ventured whether the "A" stood for "you know what," but wasn't able to find out.) Both would die in childhood before spring of 1880. A third son, however, was born in 1877 and would reach adulthood, Robert C. Nicodemus. He would become a doctor and moved to the nation's capital.
By 1880, the family lived at 514 N. Market St. and William worked as a bank secretary. America is listed as A. Eugenia, so the passing fancy of Mary must have worn off, but upon closer inspection "Mary" is a good nickname for a woman named America.
Mr. Nicodemus accumulated great wealth and real estate over his professional career. He died in 1914 and Mrs. Nicodemus appears to have been well taking care of. At this time, the couple resided at 119 W. Third Street. However, upon her death five years later in 1919, the local newspapers are filled with articles about a highly contested case involving Mrs. Nicodemus' fortune. Apparently a grandson and his wife had taken the invalid widow into their home in Washington DC. and left these individuals the bulk of her estate. Questions were raised by other family members over the legitimacy of this claim and whether or not America Nicodemus was of sound mind when her grandson had her rework her will. The case would not be settled until 1922.
America Nicodemus' gravestone in Area H (Lot362) sits along the main drive, opposite Confederate Row. It has the following quote written at the bottom:
"She Hath Done What She Could."
America Susanna Rhoades Smith
(March 5, 1832 –Aug 6, 1880)
America S. Rhoades was born in Jefferson, Maryland on March 5th, 1832 to Henry and Elizabeth Susannah (Titlow) Rhoades. She would marry Hiram Joshua Smith of Jefferson, and the couple had at least four known children. Sadly, America would die of consumption at the age of 48. She left a widowed husband and four children. Our cemetery records state that she was originally buried in Jefferson Methodist Episcopal Cemetery but later re-interred to Mount Olivet's Area L/Lot71 on December 1st, 1906.
So on this particular Independence Day, I humbly dedicate this blog to five, former “Miss Americas” of Frederick County who are buried here within Mount Olivet. I’m sure each proudly wore her moniker, even though they could have also gone by nicknames such as Amie or Erica as well. Regardless, I hope that each inspired a patriotic spirit among family and friends, especially on the many “4th of Julys” that came and went over their lifetime on earth, and more particularly, the great namesake continent that shares their name, not to mention the amazing country we all should celebrate on this sacred day—the United States of America.
Another school year is complete, kids ranging from kindergartners to college students now find themselves having what seems like an everlasting summer in front of them. It’s a hedonistic existence which could include staying-up late (and “sleeping-in”), vacations, camps and time at a beach or pool. Some kids will work, and others will play all day long. Teachers embrace the break as well—many now getting the chance to unwind and unravel from the past school year, slowly getting themselves recharged and refreshed over the next two months before another demanding “tour of duty” comes their way—always faster than anticipated it seems. I know all about this stuff as I’m the father of four teens and married to a teacher.
There is a select group of people who embrace summer, but find it to be, perhaps, their busiest time of the year. These are the school administrators, an unsung bunch that don’t have reason to countdown to the “last day of school” each year. These folks are faced with a myriad of tasks that must be completed over the summer months before the annual return of students and teachers in late August.
Whether this is a principal’s first or twentieth year as an administrator, planning everything that needs to get done before the start of the new school year can be a challenge. These chores include such things as hiring new teachers, overseeing class assignments, managing school reparations and acquiring needed books and supplies.
Mount Olivet Cemetery is final resting place to countless former educators. In the past, we have featured blog stories on folks like Joseph Henry Apple, Professor William Von Steinman, Hester Posey and Elihu Rockwell. This week we will chronicle one of the most beloved school administrators in Frederick history. His name was Amon Burgee—and education was not only a year-long profession, it was a lifetime passion.
The Making of a Professor
Amon Burgee was born on a day where much of the nation, at least the northern states, was in mourning. This was April 16th, 1865, the day after President Abraham Lincoln had died as a result of John Wilkes Booth successful assassination attempt. Amon’s birthplace was near Price’s Distillery, once located at the crossroads of the namesake road and Maryland route 75. The distillery is long gone from this locale situated southeast of Urbana, but a current landmark is the Green Valley Animal Hospital.
Amon’s father, Miel Burgee (1818-1903) was a native of the area and a lifelong farmer along Prices Distillery Road. His mother, Clara Elizabeth Lawson (1843-1888), was Miel’s second wife. Six children would be blessed to this union, with Amon being the oldest.
Amon grew up on the Burgee family farm where he learned several of life’s greater lessons, none better than the value of hard work. He attended the Pleasant Grove School and quickly developed a desire for learning and a love of reading books. His biography, appearing in Williams and McKinseys’ History of Frederick County (1910), says of the young scholar:
“Almost from the first day he showed a fondness and aptitude for study. Such was his love for school that neither the elements nor three miles of muddy road were sufficient to cause a single day’s absence during eight years’ attendance. This won him the confidence and admiration of his teacher who urged him to continue his studies.“
Amon would go to high school, enrolling in Glenellan Academy in nearby Ijamsville. The school was run by Herbert Thompson from 1878-1888. Burgee’s advanced schooling was not a given, as most farm children customarily went to work full-time (back on the farm) after eighth grade. He completed his classwork in an accelerated rate after just one year. Burgee then attended Western Maryland College in Westminster in fall 1882. He would graduate five years later, having to spend an extra year at the college taking courses in Greek, German, Literature and Science in order to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree as a member of the “Class of 1887.” He had been denied his diploma the previous year because of a requirement to take Greek. He completed four units of the language in that single, additional senior year.
Amon Burgee’s path led back to the family farm near Urbana, but not for long. He would accept the principal position for the public school of Union Bridge in Carroll County. Williams’ History of Frederick County claims that the 23 year-old, recent graduate took this position simply as a favor to his friend and fellow Western Maryland alumnus James Diffenbaugh, Carroll County’s school superintendent.
On his first day in the new post, students laid in wait, setting to test the moxie of their new principal. Amon reportedly gave them a view of his expectations as he apparently “thrashed” the oldest boy in the school. Suffice it to say, Principal Burgee never again had a discipline problem with any of his other students in Union Bridge.
Boy’s High School
Up through the nineteenth century, higher education was centered primarily on males and not females. Girls could receive the 3 “R’s” at private schools and from tutors and governesses. These opportunities were certainly not the norm for the typical girl or young lady. Frederick’s heritage includes the incredible story of the Frederick Female Seminary, later known as the Frederick Woman’s College. Under the leadership of the fore-mentioned Joseph Henry Apple, this institution (once housed in Winchester Hall) would become one of the first, and foremost, educational centers for women in the entire country. We know this school today as Hood College, and Frederick can share the laurels as the backdrop for the school’s role in bridging the educational gender gap.
Ironically, the first public high school in Frederick was for girls, and not boys. Girls' High School was located on E. Church Street just shy of Chapel Alley and behind St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and served for many years as the headquarters for Frederick County Public Schools before a modern, high rise facility was opened in the 2000's at the corner of S. East and South streets.
Young males of the 19th century attended what was known as the Frederick Academy, housed in an impressive building that once stood on northeast corner of Council and Record streets (adjacent today’s Frederick City Hall). For those not attending “The Academy,” another local option was St. Johns Literary Institute. Boys from all over the state attended this Catholic institution, opened by Jesuits in 1829. One of these students had an even stronger connection to Abraham Lincoln than Amon Burgee (and his birthdate)—this was alleged Lincoln conspirator, Dr. Samuel Mudd, who attended this school in Downtown Frederick’s E. Second Street in the late 1840’s.
In 1891, many local community leaders found that the majority of boys here could not afford the tuition fees associated with the above-mentioned two schools of secondary learning. Tax payers requested that a public high school be opened for boys. The Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education employed Mr. Marshall P. Richards to open a school for boys, who desired “better preparation for life, as well as for College.” The Male High School started in a building located at 314 N. Market Street between Third and Fourth streets and was known as Koontz Hall.
Koontz Hall had been the site of a dancing school in 1885, operated by a Frenchman named Monsieur F. William Mueller. Mueller had formerly had stints in places such as Memphis, TN and Louisville, KY and would go on to take a position of professor of dancing for the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
The new high school opened in September 1891 and boasted 13 students. The first graduating class of Frederick Boys’ High School (1892) consisted of three graduates: David Beall, Nelson Beall and Harry Lakin.
Professor Burgee was hired in the summer of 1894 to come back to Frederick to carry out the duties associated with the principal position of Frederick Boys’ High School. A small booklet entitled The Boys High School, Frederick, Maryland (1894-1922) by Mary C. Ott gives a description of Amon Burgee’s first day:
“It is 8:45am, September 3, 1894—a group is at the entrance to the Hall, waiting to pass judgment on this new principal. ‘He is coming. He looks like business.’ He arrives.
‘Boys, it is time for you to be at your desks.’ Do they loiter as formerly? Oh, no. They take the stairs, nineteen steps, almost as one, with leap and bounds. From now on, it is work. No nonsense.
The distance from the Principal’s desk to the last desk in the Hall, was much longer than the usual class room;—the heat of September was intense and the last boy in the row, being too tired a and warm to think, played with a pocket-mirror, reflecting on the sewing of a lady across the street.
It had been fun the year before, but this Principal was alert, and that boy was made an example of the foolishness of wasting mind and matter and from that day, no boy in that group wasted his time nor energy in play.”
Amon Burgee was overseeing a school consisting of eighth, ninth and tenth grades. Eleventh grade came about later in 1907. Operating under the three year plan, students graduated with 22 Units. Year courses included Latin, Botany, Zoology, Physical Geography and Astronomy. Amon taught all subjects at one point or another and his pupils would go into a variety of occupational fields in the future: professional, political, educational, business, cultural, and recreational.
Burgee’s first graduating class consisted of just one student—Jesse Roop Klein. Klein would become a minister, school-teacher and farmer. The number of graduates constantly grew in time, along with it, Professor Burgee’s sphere of influence. He knew his role in life, to grow young minds into competent/community-impacting adults. Burgee's success could also be credited to the talented staff of teachers he had assembled.
As for summer vacation, Amon went back to his first “growing experiences” and the family farm near Price’s Distillery. Here he cared for the summer harvest, just after delivering his academic harvest of graduates. Throughout June, July and August, he readied himself, staff and students for the upcoming school year. No rest for the weary!
Mr. Burgee served Boys’ High School as principal from 1894-1916. For many years he received a salary of $700/year. Lucrative offers were made by other schools to lure him away, however he declined all of them, some of which promising to double his pay. Mrs. Ott goes on to say of Burgee:
Years of fruitfulness and happiness in the continued success of those who had gone out from the Boys’ High, under the guiding hand of himself and his faculty. From the beginning of his regime as Principal, the scholastic assignment had been such, that the evenings were spent at home, in educational preparation. Parents were happy to cooperate and give encouragement to sons to study. Mr. Burgee, and later his teachers did not demand the impossible, but did expect every boy to put forth his best efforts. As enrollment grew, they outgrew their first school home and were given quarters on the third floor of the South Street School. In the interim, the new High School was being built on the North Market St. School grounds to accommodate primary and elementary grades and Mr. Burgee was made Principal of the entire school.
Professor Amon Burgee instituted forensic art societies such as classic literature and student debate. A lasting legacy to Amon Burgee is the surviving team name of Cadets attributed to Frederick High School up through the current day. In 1904, Burgee instituted mandatory military training for his students. He formed the Boys’ High School Cadet Corps, which would be drilled by Harry J. Kefauver, another faculty member at the school. The Cadet Corps was a success from the start. Eventually three companies were formed—A, B, C, and the discipline and tactics learned were said to have carried over into student life, home life and civic participation. Burgee’s rationale was that if every boy could become a leader of a school corps company, that student could later become a leader in community life, wherever he lived.
This held true as a number of Frederick Boys’ High graduates under Burgee became pillars in our community. Many also served in the military as America entered the World War in 1917. One former student, and captain of a Cadet Company at Boys’ High, was Earlston Lilburn Hargett. Hargett would go on to become a champion debater at the University of Pennsylvania and earned both a law and business degrees while there. In late September, 1918, 1st Lt. Hargett would lose his life in eastern France while serving in the 150th Field Artillery in the opening volleys of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the deadliest battle in American history.
(NOTE: In case you are interested, Cadet Corps training in Maryland was disbanded in 1920 by the State Board of Education.)
Amon and his wife were busy raising kids of their own. They resided in Frederick City, living on E. Patrick Street. In 1907, they bought a beautiful country manor house on a 40-acre estate east of town. This was known as Park Hall, built in the 1840's and recently demolished in the last decade. Interestingly, he had bought this home from Robert Downing, one of the top stage actors of the 19th century who is also buried in Mount Olivet. The Burgees would reside here for the next 37 years before moving in town in 1944.
Speaking of moving locations, in 1910, a better site was sought to accommodate an ever-increasing enrollment for Boys' High. A new school structure was built at the head of Elm Street. This consisted of a better equipped plant eventually morphed into the first home of Frederick High School when both the Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools were consolidated into a single coed facility in 1922. When Frederick High School was moved across town (to its present site) in 1939, the second home location of Burgee’s old school became known as the Elm Street School and became a Junior High facility that many residents, including my wife, attended. Today this site features a parking deck for Frederick Memorial Hospital.
Under Amon Burgee’s leadership, the Frederick Boys’ High School came known as one of the leading preparatory schools in the eastern United States. Burgee retired as principal in 1917, but he practiced what he preached in continuing to serve his community thereafter. In 1930, he was elected county commissioner and was a devout servant to Trinity Methodist Church where he sang in the choir and taught the Men’s Bible Class for 55 years. All the while, Amon never lost his interest in two other things, near and dear to his heart: agriculture in which he served in various offices including in the Farm Bureau and the Frederick County Farmers Cooperative Association, and his former students. Professor Burgee can be summed up as a lifelong cultivator. Likewise, he always held the adoration and respect of his former students.
In 1944 a committee was appointed to arrange a fine commemorative event for the following year—the 50th anniversary of the Boys’ High School. This was overseen by the Boys’ High School Alumni Association, consisting of former students whose names read as a Who’s Who of Frederick’s past. The event took place in early June, 1945.
Amon Burgee had been ill and housebound for nearly a year, but he would muster up the strength to travel to Braddock Heights and the Vindabona Hotel to make, what would stand, as his last public appearance. The guest of honor had this final opportunity to see the boys he had turned into men.
Professor Amon Burgee just didn’t create the institution of Frederick’s Boys’ High School, he embodied it until his last breath. The aged educator died at age 80 on August 6th, 1945, at his home on East Patrick Street in Frederick. Amon would be laid to rest in a lot owned by Linthicum family of whom his sister married into. This is in Area T/Lot 41.
The school's alumni association went one step further as a special tribute was erected as a lasting monument to their beloved administrator—one who never took summers off. Former student Joseph Walker Urner was commissioned to sculpt a bust likeness of Professor Burgee, which sits atop a four-foot granite pedestal. This veteran of both world wars was the same artist who had previously crafted the busts of Roger Brooke Taney and Thomas Johnson, Jr. that formerly stood in Court House Square. (To my knowledge, this one has never received threats to be moved.)
A new, and very special, burying place would be purchased for this teacher of men by the alumni association. This was Area AA/Lot 138, a lone parcel that sits as a small island unto itself at the northeast corner of AA, and is buttressed by driveways paralleling neighboring areas MM and T. Professor Burgee's body would be moved to this location on November 6th, 1946. The bust monument would be unveiled on June 20th, 1947.
“This operation is not being planned with any alternatives. This operation is planned as a victory, and that's the way it's going to be. We're going down there, and we're throwing everything we have into it, and we're going to make it a success." --General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Well, it certainly feels of late that we are in the midst of a gauntlet of military commemorations, a time where patriotism is remembered, and equally important, honored. We are a week-and-a-half removed from Memorial Day, and Flag Day will be upon us next week. And the granddaddy of patriotic celebrations is simply a month out—July 4th! But there is an extra day in early June that is certainly deserved of recognition for the events that transpired 75 years ago on June 6th, 1944. This is better known to history, military and freedom admirers as D-Day.
Regarding this day, a website www.army-mil.com says the following:
“On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, ‘we will accept nothing less than full victory.’ More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.”
Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery is the final resting place for a few of the men who participated in this legendary American offensive. One of these was 27-year old Calvin Clayton Cannon, who holds the unique distinction of being the first Frederick County World War II soldier to have lost his life in France. As you have probably guessed, this unfortunate incident occurred on June 6th, 1944.
Today, Cannon’s mortal remains comprise a semi-circle of the graves of 30 US military veterans lost during World War II and surround Mount Olivet’s World War II Memorial located in Area EE. This monument was unveiled on Memorial Day, May 30th, 1948.
Two large pylons are topped with stars and flank a central pedestal bearing the names of 213 fallen Frederick County World War II veterans and crafted after an eternal fame and reads:
“Dedicated to the Men and Women of Frederick County, who by their unselfish devotion to duty, have advanced the American ideals of liberty and the universal brotherhood of man.”
PFC Lester Earl Stull was the first veteran to be buried within the confines of the newly created World War II monument area. A military funeral was held for this former member of the US Army’s 134th Infantry Regiment at 2:00pm on Saturday, December 13th, 1943. Two days later, our subject for this week’s “Story in Stone,” PFC Calvin C. Cannon would be the second man interred in this extremely hallowed area of Mount Olivet. His reburial, with full military honors, occurred on Monday, December 15th, 1947. Cannon’s body was delivered to Frederick by train a few days prior, as it had been sent direct by the Philadelphia Quartermaster depot after returning stateside from an initial burial in in Normandy, France.
From Yellow Springs to Omaha Beach
Calvin Clayton Cannon was born on April 7th, 1917. Just one day earlier, Congress granted a request for war made by President Woodrow Wilson. The United States was now formally at war with Germany. The country would come out of “the Great War” victorious. Young Calvin was merely a year-and-a-half old when church bells rang out across Frederick County on November 11th, 1918 proclaiming a cease fire after the signing of an armistice between the US and its fellow Allies and chief aggressor, Germany.
Calvin Cannon grew up in the small Yellow Springs community north of Frederick City. His father, Clayton Lurene Cannon, was a skilled carpenter and his mother, Laura Christina (Kintz), was a homemaker. Calvin was one of nine children. He attended local schools, including one year of high school and was quite familiar with farm work.
Calvin was 24 when the US entered into a second World War. The United States Congress declared war on Japan (and other Axis powers in Germany and Italy) on December 11th, 1941 just days after that “infamous day” of December 7th. President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged the nation to join Great Britain and other allies in liberating European countries that had been initially invaded by Germany and Italy back in the spring and summer of 1940. War in western Europe continued through 1941 as the US sat on the fence, but was quietly ramping up for war against Germany.
Cannon would join the US Army in January, 1942. Three of his brothers, Carroll, Herbert and Robert would also enlist and serve in the war. Calvin soon found himself at Camp Lee in Prince George County, VA. He would be assigned to the 26th Infantry Regiment. The regiment’s nickname is the "Blue Spaders," taken from the spade-like device on the regiment's distinctive unit insignia.
The regiment was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division for the duration of World War II. The 26th Infantry led America's first-ever amphibious assault in North Africa and fought at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in February, 1943. A few months later, Cannon’s regiment assaulted Sicily at the amphibious battle of Gela in July. At the time, he held the rank of private first class, having received a promotion earlier. A month later, the Frederick News reported to readers in Calvin’s home county that the young man from Yellow Springs had been seriously wounded in the Italian campaign. He apparently had received an injury to his back.
Calvin fully recovered and rejoined his fellow soldiers. With the Allied Sicily campaign over, the division returned to England, arriving there on November 5th, 1943 to prepare for the eventual invasion of Normandy, France across the English Channel to the south. The 1st Infantry Division and one regimental combat team from the 29th Infantry Division would comprise the first wave of troops that assaulted German Army defenses on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944—D-Day.
The 26th regiment was commanded by Colonel John F. R. Seitz. Over the duration of the war, Seitz would lead his men in three amphibious assaults, and earned seven battle streamers, a Presidential Unit Citation, and five foreign awards. The third of these assaults would take place on June 6th, 1944.
Below is a part of the most detailed report from the 26th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Battalion. It gives a glimpse into what PFC Cannon experienced over his final week among the living:
June 1 - All Battalion transportation and equipment not being carried by personnel (excepting kitchen trucks and personnel which are scheduled to come ashore at "D" plus 8) is today completely loaded aboard LST #494, U. S. Navy. The ship is anchored in Plymouth Bay, England. Seems rather symbolic, for the Mayflower was anchored in this same bay before the Pilgrim Fathers made their historic voyage to New England. Today all NCO's received their briefing from 0930 to 1030 hours in the Officers Ward Room. Were brought up to date on Enemy installations and dispositions, our plans and tactics to be used and routes to be taken after we hit the beach. Army rations are being taken aboard.
June 2 - We are still anchored put in the bay but the convoy is forming slowly but surely. Even in this one small port the forces, and the equipment, the ships and the personnel are tremendous and preparations such as we see here, are occurring all over the United Kingdom. It forebodes evil for the Jerries whenever "D" day occurs. Boat assignments have been made in case of abandon ship. General Quarters drill has been observed and worked out quite well. Personnel reacted quickly according to instructions and generally were well behaved during the drill. All units aboard holding briefing conferences again. All personnel gradually becoming acquainted with the situation and the plans. Nothing unusual happened today. Day filled with unit organization. Motors were warmed up and tested for one hour from 1500 to 1600 this afternoon. Weather is clear and sunny. Lieutenant Volk and Lieutenant Allen plus six men as an advance detail boarded the DOROTHEA DIX, U. S. Navy, today.
June 3 - Convoy is still forming and growing. Aboard this ship the day being devoted again to briefing and general organization. Motors again started and warmed up between 1500 and 1600 hours. Everyone anxious to get going and get the job started. The balance of the Battalion is loading aboard LCI's today.
June 5 - Moved out of Plymouth Bay at 0230 Hours. Sailed along south with France our destination. In particular, the coast of Normandy at a point between St. Laurent Sur Mer and Colleville Sur Mer. Men getting all packed and ready to go. Morale is good and spirit excellent. Again, nothing to do but "sweat it out". At darkness can still sight the coast of England. No unusual occurrences.
June 6 - At daylight no land can be observed. 0720 hours was to be "H" hour for the invasion of Europa Festung (The Fortress of Europe). We are to land on Omaha Fox Green beach. At 1000 we first observed land on our right flank (starboard bow). We were first able to discern the beach at 1500 hrs. It seems to be littered with equipment. Enemy fire falling length and breadth of the whole beach. The Bn. hit Omaha Easy Red Beach between 1800 and 1900 after vainly trying to get in on Fox Green. "I","K", and "M" Companies landed during this period and moved inland. Col. Corley's command reports the beach an utter shambles. Equipment scattered everywhere. Beach under observed artillery fire. Derelict sea-craft hung up on the beach--a few on fire. The colonel led the Battalion through the one gap they were able to traverse. Moved toward assembly area and ran into the Regimental CP in an over-ran gun emplacement. At 2300 hrs. German Dive Bombers bombed the beach area. At 2300 the Bn. moved out in column of files because of mine fields. Colonel Corley received orders that 116th and 115th are attacking St. Laurent Sur Mer and that 3rd Bn. is to by-pass the town and seize the high ground on the south of town. Battalion moved out at 1230 with "K" Co. leading.
Reinforced with two regiments of the 29th Infantry Division, the 1st Division led Force O in the assault on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. After being transported to shore aboard amphibious landing craft, soldiers of the 1st Division had to run 300 yards to get to the bluffs. The men encountered a hailstorm of intense fire from the German defenses. Through incredible acts of individual bravery, initiative and leadership, the 1st Infantry Division overcame the enemy forces and penetrated well inland. Some of the division's units suffered 30 percent casualties in the first hour of the assault, and secured the French towns of Formigny and Caumont by the end of the day.
PFC Cannon would not have luck on his side on June 6th. He would become the first Frederick County man killed in action. Local newspaper accounts reached home nearly a month later said that this occurred in the siege of Cherbourg, a major, deep water port town. However, I have a major problem with this. The newspaper accounts (and our records based on them) are speculative at best. The town of Cherbourg is 51 miles northwest of Omaha Beach! There is no way PFC Cannon died on June 6th in Cherbourg, which would be liberated by the Allies a few weeks later around June 20th. I have traced regimental records and can't find the 26th Blue Spaders fighting in Cherbourg either.
I strongly feel that Calvin C. Cannon landed in the eastern vicinity of Omaha Beach in the second phase on the late afternoon of June 6th, and was killed in action near here, just inland, at a location directly northeast of the village of Colleville-sur-Mer. Interestingly I found a name "Cabourg" on the map which appears both on a short road (alley) and entails a small cluster of old farm houses. This is at the intersection of Rue Cabourg and D514 (Route d'Omaha Beach). Could this be where PFC Cannon breathed his last breath?
Cherbourg and Cabourg are very similar both spoken and written, and by the time news reached home in early July, the name of Cherbourg had been in the news a great deal with its capture in late June. (NOTE: I'm certainly open to continued guidance from folks much more studied in the battle and regimental movements of the 1st Division. I also haven't been able to find what company he belonged to.)
Far from home, Cannon would be buried here, adjacent the shore of Normandy at St. Laurent.
The 26th would push on without PFC Cannon. The division fought through the hedgerows of Normandy, fought through the breakout and fought through the rapid Allied advance across northern France against the retreating German Army. They would defeat the Germans in Normandy and began plowing westward through France and into Belgium.
The 26th eventually reached the Siegfried Line and border with Germany. In October, they conquered Aachen, the first German city of the war. They crossed the Rhine River and attacked all the way to Czechoslovakia by war's end.
Beginning another occupation of Germany, the Blue Spaders bore the United States national colors at the Allied Victory in Europe parade, and served as guards at Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Thus began a lengthy stay in Germany, first as conquerors and later as friends and allies. Sadly, PFC Calvin Clayton Cannon would not experience the fruits of war with his fellow soldiers—his body remained on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.
Cannon's corpse was placed in the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, that was established by the U.S. First Army on June 8th, 1944, the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. This would later morph into the famed American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.
I had the great opportunity of visiting this cemetery and Omaha Beach back in June, 2001 while on a WWII Battlefield Tour with my father. You may recall it from the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”
Calvin’s body would come back home in late 1947 and, as previously mentioned, his military funeral took place in Mount Olivet just a few weeks before Christmas, 1947.
A return to normalcy had been experienced by the entire country, but it still must have been difficult for GI’s even though the war had been over for over two years. It can be certain that all those who attended PFC Cannon’s funeral reflected back to the importance of “the longest day,” June 6th, 1944, and the ultimate sacrifice made by this particular Frederick County boy. Today, we should surely remember it again.
“The flame of love shall burn into our hearts the memory of our noble dead.”
Memorial Day weekend or not, curiosity can certainly be piqued when finding a small news article like this in an old edition of the Baltimore Sun. It dates back to October 13th, 1901 and involves two veterans of the Spanish-American War. One of these men was among the most colorful characters in our nation’s history, while the other was a well-known resident of Frederick County during his day. Few, if any, know anything about this latter gentleman today.
The news article comes less than a month from the day that Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated as our country’s 26th US president. Many are familiar with the legacy of this vivacious man and war hero. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (1858 – 1919) was a statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer. He served as president from 1901 to 1909. He previously served as the 25th vice president of the United States from March to September 1901 and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900.
As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. He helped start what we know as today’s National Park Service and, fittingly, his face is depicted on Mount Rushmore, alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. In polls of historians and political scientists, Roosevelt is generally ranked as one of the five best presidents.
Over 120 years ago, on July 1, 1898, Theodore Roosevelt could be found racing up Santiago, Cuba’s San Juan Hill in a decisive military offensive that would help define the Spanish-American War. With Capt. Roosevelt on that fateful day was the aforementioned fisherman—Jesse C. Claggett. He was a member of Troop K of the 1st US Army Cavalry. Claggett is significant in the fact that he was the only Marylander to participate in the storming of San Juan Hill as a member of the immortal Rough Riders—an event that would soon take on mythical proportions.
Jesse C. Clagett
Once again, I am most fortunate to have found some “ready-made” research on my subject, courtesy of T.J.C. Williams’ and Folger McKinsey’s masterful work published in 1910: The History of Frederick County, Maryland. The biographical supplement includes the following entry for Jesse C. Clagett:
Jesse C. Clagett, a well-known citizen of Motters, Emmitsburg District, Frederick County, Md., son of Thomas and Cynthia (Norwood) Clagett, both deceased, was born on his father’s plantation, Urbana District, Frederick County, Md., May 15, 1851.
Jesse C. Clagett is the eighth child and the third son of his parents. He attended the country schools until his parents removed to Frederick when he was sent to Mount St. Mary’s College, where he spent four years under Father McCaffrey and Father McCloskey. However, Jesse was of a restless, roving disposition, and left school against his father’s wishes to go to Texas, where he became a cowboy on a ranch in McLennan County. He rode into Dallas when it was a straggling village with one old countrified hotel with steps on the outside leading into it. He spent four years in Texas and, after a short visit at his home in Maryland, went to St. Louis, Mo., where he secured a situation as night clerk in a hotel. Not long after this, he was taken sick with typhoid fever, and was removed to the Sisters’ Hospital on Grand Ave. When he was discharged, at the end of nine weeks, he secured a position with a firm of wholesale grocers to build up their city trade.
Some time after this, Mr. Clagett accepted a position as street broker for a firm dealing largely in tea and coffee. He soon decided that he could sell for himself as well as for others, and began business for himself, and was very successful. He was finally made a partner in the first firm which he had served, the firm being, Churchil, Rearick & Clagett. This partnership lasted almost three years, when Mr. Clagett withdrew from the firm after making the largest coffee deal ever made in St. Louis, at that time, through B. C. Arnold & Co, of New York, then known as the Coffee King of Wall Street. Mr. Clagett now went to New York, speculated in Wall Street and lost, returning to his home in Frederick City, and afterwards going to Baltimore to seek a position. There he approached Levering & Co., large dealers in coffee, without success. However while at the old "Maltby House," he was offered a position as salesman for a dealer in paper collars at $75 per month and expenses.
This offer he accepted and remained with the firm for five or six years. Mr. Clagett was next employed by a firm in Troy, N. Y., to sell shirts and linen collars. After having spent twenty-one years as traveling salesman, Mr. Clagett gave up the business and, returning to Maryland, settled in Frederick City. About 1890 he purchased his present home, a farm of 40 acres, known as "Windy Castle." At the breaking out of the Spanish-American War, Mr. Clagett responded to the call for volunteers and enlisting in the Rough Riders under Col. Roosevelt, served until the close of the war and, after the surrender, was taken sick with yellow fever. He is a member of the Society of the Army of Cuba. Mr. Clagett was a Democrat, but left the party at the time it divided on the silver issue, and is now an independent voter.
Jesse C. Clagett was married in 1880 to Miss Price, daughter of the late Thomas W. Price, of Philadelphia, Pa. They have two children, Thomas, aged twenty-seven, and Jesse, deceased. On November 5th, 1903, Mr. Clagett was married to Mrs. Etta L. Spicer, daughter of Mrs. Florence Shipley, of Baltimore, Md. They have one child, Cynthia Norwood, born on October 4th, 1904.
The Clagett family has an extremely rich heritage in Maryland. The spelling of this surname sometimes includes two “G”s and two “T”s as it varies in in both public records and newspaper articles. However, family gravestones and monuments at Mount Olivet pertaining to this particular family utilize the spelling “Clagett.”
Jesse Charles Clagett was one of 15 children born to Thomas Clagett (1813-1887) and wife Cynthia Norwood (1815-1895). Cynthia’s gravestone, and many records, spell her name as Syntha which was likely a nickname or pet name given by Mrs. Clagett’s husband. Jesse’s father was a native of Clarksburg in Montgomery County. The son of Ninian Clagett of Prince George’s County, Thomas grew up on a farm and busied himself in like pursuits as an adult. His mother, Margaret Burgess, was the daughter of a Revolutionary War Continental Army captain. Thomas Clagett came to Frederick County in 1839, two years after his marriage to the former Miss Norwood, first settling in Urbana, where he would grow tobacco and engage in shipping. Cynthia Norwood’s father was a native Englishman, who had immigrated to Frederick County.
In 1866, the Clagetts moved to Frederick City, living at 17 E. Patrick Street, not far from the intersection with Market St. This building (now housing the children’s toy store called The Dancing Bear) doubled as Mr. Clagett’s business office. Here, Thomas changed his profession from commercial shipping to that of broker and banker. The Clagetts were also active in St. John’s Catholic Church here.
Thomas Clagett died on August 7th, 1887 after a several year illness of dropsical effusion—the local paper includes several articles of Mr. Clagett’s trials with medical operations beginning in 1885. Jesse’s father was buried a day after his death in Mount Olivet’s Area P/Lot34. At the time of his passing, he was reported to have been worth a half-million dollars and considered the wealthiest man in the county. His elaborate grave monument, erected earlier in 1884, stands proof to the power and prestige of Mr. Clagett. Cynthia Clagett died eight years later in 1895.
On a crisp spring day in early May, 1898, Jesse would take his favorite horse for a ride into destiny. One week before his 47th birthday, Clagett departed from his “Windy Trails Farm” near Emmitsburg with a destination of Washington, DC. Here he would join to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry.
The Rough Riders
The Rough Riders was a nickname given to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, one of three such regiments raised in 1898 for the Spanish-American War and the only one to see action. The United States Army was small, understaffed, and disorganized in comparison to its status during the American Civil War roughly thirty years prior. Following the sinking of the USS Maine, President William McKinley needed to muster a strong ground force military group swiftly. This was accomplished by calling upon 125,000 volunteers to assist in the war efforts.
The United States was fighting against Spain over Spain's colonial policies with Cuba. Applications to serve (in the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry) flooded in from all over the country. Clagett’s request was accepted and he would soon be serving in the regiment also called "Wood's Weary Walkers" in honor of its first commander, Colonel Leonard Wood. This nickname served to acknowledge that despite being a cavalry unit they ended up fighting on foot as infantry.
Wood's second in command was the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a strong advocate in support of the Cuban War of Independence. When Col. Wood became commander of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, the Rough Riders then became "Roosevelt's Rough Riders." That term was familiar in 1898, from Buffalo Bill who called his famous western show "Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World." The original plan for this unit called for filling it with men accustomed to fighting within the Indian Territory in places such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma. Frederick’s Jesse Clagett fit right in as his earlier time in Texas and abroad as a cowboy had served him well. He would be assigned to Troop K.
The regiment trained for several weeks in San Antonio, Texas, and in his autobiography, Teddy Roosevelt wrote that his prior experience with the New York National Guard had been invaluable, in that it enabled him to immediately begin teaching his men basic soldiering skills. The Rough Riders used some standard issue gear and some of their own design, purchased with gift money. Diversity characterized the regiment, which included Ivy Leaguers, professional and amateur athletes, upscale gentlemen, cowboys, frontiersmen, Native Americans, hunters, miners, prospectors, former soldiers, tradesmen, and sheriffs.
The Rough Riders were part of the cavalry division commanded by former Confederate general Joseph Wheeler, which itself was one of three divisions in the V Corps under Lieutenant General William Rufus Shafter. Lt. Col. Roosevelt and his men landed in Daiquiri, Cuba, on June 23rd, 1898, and marched to the nearby village of Siboney.
Wheeler sent parts of the 1st and 10th Regular Cavalry on the lower road northwest and sent the "Rough Riders" on the parallel road running along a ridge up from the beach. To throw off his infantry rival, Wheeler left one regiment of his Cavalry Division, the 9th, at Siboney so that he could claim that his move north was only a limited reconnaissance if things went wrong.
Roosevelt was promoted to colonel and took command of the volunteer regiment when Col. Wood was put in command of the brigade. The Rough Riders had a short, minor skirmish known as the Battle of Las Guasimas in which they fought their way through Spanish resistance and, together with the Regulars (professional soldiers), forced the Spaniards to abandon their positions.
Under Roosevelt’s leadership, the Rough Riders became famous for the charge up Kettle Hill, part of the San Juan Heights, on July 1st, 1898, while supporting the Regulars. Private Jesse Clagett is said to have been the sole Marylander in the engagement. Roosevelt had the only horse, and rode back and forth between rifle pits at the forefront of the advance up Kettle Hill (San Juan Hill), an advance that he urged despite the absence of any orders from superiors. He was forced to walk up the last part of Kettle Hill, because his horse had been entangled in barbed wire. The victories came at a cost of 200 killed and 1,000 wounded.
Roosevelt commented on his role in the battles: "On the day of the big fight I had to ask my men to do a deed that European military writers consider utterly impossible of performance, that is, to attack over open ground an unshaken infantry armed with the best modern repeating rifles behind a formidable system of entrenchments. The only way to get them to do it in the way it had to be done was to lead them myself." He always recalled the Battle of Kettle Hill as "the great day of my life" and "my crowded hour.” Likewise, it was the greatest moment of Jesse C. Claggett’s life, as well. He could easily identify with Roosevelt as both came from wealthy and comfortable upbringings, but had a secret yearning for adventure, danger and “roughing” it with comrades of varied economic backgrounds and lifestyles.
Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were a colorful group of characters and received the most publicity of any unit in the army. A few days after the legendary charge up San Juan Hill, the Spanish fleet was virtually all but destroyed in Santiago Harbor. Thanks in part went to another Frederick Countian, Winfield Scott Schey. Schley’s leadership in command of Admiral Dewey’s flagship, the USS Brooklyn, made him a household name and hero across the nation. It was just a matter of weeks before the war had ended and the U.S. was victorious. Two of Frederick’s native sons were at the forefront.
In August, Roosevelt and other officers demanded that the soldiers be returned home. Thanks to newspaper headlines, the colonel’s writing ability and the retelling of the courageous charge by veterans themselves, soldiers like Jesse Clagett became seen as men among men, once home. Private Jesse Clagett became a hero and celebrity of sorts back home in Frederick County.
By the end of August, Jesse Clagett would make a triumphant return to his home in northern Frederick County while on furlough.
Jesse came back to Frederick for good that fall, and rejoiced in telling his tale of combat, made all the more special when his former commander was elected governor of New York in early November (1898). The Emmitsburg citizen/soldier was now in high demand to perform honorary equestrian duties, possessing an even more impressive resume based on his US Cavalry experience.
The Rough Rider was singled out to be chief aid to Capt. Walter Saunders, Chief Marshall for a victory parade held in Frederick for the Spanish American War’s other local hero, Admiral Winfield Scott Schley. This occurred on November 20th, 1898.
Clagett was getting recognized everywhere for his gallantry, or should I venture “praise by association.” There was even one occasion in which he was identified by a stranger on a city street in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia was the home of his wife (Mary S. Price), or should I say his first wife, whom he would request an absolute divorce from in the fall of 1900. Meanwhile, Jesse’s old commander was uncertain about whether to begin strategising for a 1904 presidential election run, or to serve another term as New York’s governor. Roosevelt eventually joined President William McKinley's reelection campaign ticket as the Republican vice-presidential nominee (as McKinley's first vice president had passed away, leaving an opening). The tandem were victorious in the November (1900) election.
President McKinley would die in September, 1901, the result of an assassin's bullet. Roosevelt would be propelled to the office of president, the nation's youngest at age 42. Weeks later, Jesse Clagett sent the new president a “fine string” of fish he had recently caught in the Potomac River. This was just another example of the friendship and correspondence between these two men.
By fall of 1903, Jesse was 55 years old, but still kept a youthful outlook on life. Someone who certainly helped in this arena was Etta Leister (Shipley) Spicer of Baltimore. Mrs. Spicer, a 26-year-old widow, had lost her husband two years earlier. In November, Jesse and Etta would elope, and marry in the parsonage of the West Baltimore Station Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore in November. Interestingly, it was said that Claggett had principally been in town for the purpose of helping with a political campaign for a friend on election day. He would bring Etta back to his 40-acre farm at Motters Station. The following October (1904), Etta would give birth to a daughter, Cynthia Norwood Clagett, named for Jesse’s mother.
Sadly, Jesse would lose his namesake son from his earlier marriage. Jesse Charles Clagett, Jr. died in July 1905 while living in Chicago. Another son, however, was living in St. Louis. This was Thomas “Tom” H. Clagett who was working as a shipping agent for the railroad at the time.
A few years later, Jesse was given command of his own local, ceremonial “Rough Rider” unit. This consisted of 125 men and performed drills for onlookers at local patriotic events and carnivals. In 1909, they would be one of the main entertainment attractions at a large home-coming festival in Emmitsburg. This would be one of Clagett’s last public appearances.
Jesse’s health soon began to fail and he was forced to decline social invitations. His condition further declined, forcing him to enter the Riggs Cottage Sanitarium for Nervous and Mental Diseases. This facility was located in Ijamsville, originally constructed by local carpenter and slate mine owner Christopher Riggs in 1862 for use by Welsh mining families.
Riggs's son, Dr. George Henry Riggs (a local family physician and psychiatrist), converted the structure into a "sanatorium for nervous and mental health disorders" in 1896.
Jesse C. Clagett died on July 26th, 1911. Cause of death given was cirrhosis of the liver. I hope he, at least, had the capacity to reflect on his climb of Kettle Hill on the occasion of the 13th anniversary at the beginning of the month. Clagett’s obituary appeared in the Frederick Post of July 27th, 1911.
Clagett was buried in the family plot, and his name appears on the west face of the large obelisk his father had placed here a few decades earlier. His life's greatest moment is carved in stone for eternity:
A member of Col. Roosevelt's Regiment of Rough Riders
Spanish-American War 1898
In his will, Jesse took care of his wife and children with his accrued wealth, not to mention his military pension. Wife Etta would leave Frederick for sunny Florida, primarily because Jesse had left his farm to his son (Thomas). She would not remarry, but spent the majority of her remaining years in Miami with daughter Cynthia (Clagett) Daisey. The fate of Jesse’s son, Thomas, is a story unto itself as his father’s estate became a curse instead of a blessing. Although not buried here, I have included clippings of Tom Clagett’s “rough ride” and subsequent demise below.
It's just a shame that Jesse Clagett didn't live another year as President Roosevelt visited Frederick on May 4th, 1912 as part of a barnstorming election tour as he attempted to run for a third term as president. He spoke to residents from the steps of the Frederick County Courthouse (today's City Hall). Had Private Clagett been on hand, it is certain who would have held the title of Grand Marshal for the president's visit.
It’s Mother's Day, and the florist trade in Frederick, Maryland has been well-tested once again. Among the major recipients of florists' handiwork on this special holiday are cemeteries. For many burying grounds, such as Mount Olivet, Mother's Day is traditionally the day with the highest visitation totals each and every year.
While Mother's Day includes the introduction of hundreds of new floral arrangements into the cemetery, others appear daily to commemorate birthdays and anniversaries. The most common occurrence of flowers in the cemetery however is quite obvious—funerals.
Some of the most recognizable names for local flower fashions over the last century were Sharpe and Zimmerman, two family run operations that closed their doors in the last decade after “four score plus” of serving the needs of our community. Their story was told last week.
We have a bit of a special mission with this week's blog as we’ll try to answer three questions:
* Why are flowers synonymous with cemeteries and funerals?
*Who were some of our earliest artisans in this trade?
*What’s the deal with this week’s blog title?
Flowers & Funerals
Flowers have always been a potent symbol for expressing many deep feelings. For both those who are gifted communicators, be it verbally or written, there’s not much of a problem. However, for others, flowers can do the talking for us. Just think about the greeting card industry as a perennial “lifesaver” as well. While flowers have long been traditionally given at many different times to help express feelings of sympathy or condolence, sending flower arrangements to a funeral have also served an ulterior motive for many centuries.
Sending flowers to a funeral is not a modern custom. In fact, according to The Funeral Source, archaeologists have discovered evidence dating back to 60,000 BC of flower fragments surrounding corpses at ancient burial sites. It is unsure exactly what purpose these flowers served, but researchers hypothesize that the flowers were used in a type of burial ritual or ceremony.
In more recent history, flowers were used for their fragrance. Things get a little more delicate with this explanation as the art of embalming has certainly evolved over the centuries. In ancient times flowers were not only tokens of respect, but they were also used as a means to help cover up the unpleasant odors of decomposition. Depending on the environment, condition of the body and delay of the actual burial from the time of death, flowers were used in varying quantities to allow mourners to tolerate the smell of the dead as they grieved and paid final respects to the body before it was interred.
An interesting case in point was that of our illustrious seventh US president, Andrew Jackson. The website My Funky Funeral recounts his post-mortem story:
“He died at the age of 78 and by the time the funeral took place his body had begun to severely decompose. The stench from the closed coffin was so horrible that the undertaker at the time used a literal mound of flowers to cover up the entire coffin to contain it. The potent fragrance of the hundreds of flowers was just enough to overpower the stench for attendees to sit through the service. This particular act highlighted just how important flowers are for their beauty and scent.”
I’ve now given you a colorful story to share the next time you pull a $20 bill out of your purse or wallet! I also learned another interesting fact involving President Jackson's funeral in that his beloved pet parrot had to be removed from the service due to incessant cursing.
Aside from the practical use in covering up odors, flowers have also always served as sentimental tokens for the bereaved and by the mourning. In the Victorian era, emotions were not readily discussed or shared. Surrounding the casket with flowers served as a silent expression of emotion. This deep interconnection still survives today as flowers can convey what we can’t—the secret language of condolence that expresses everything that is too painful to speak of. They can also help create a beautiful final memory at the funeral service.
Flowers & Frederick
In searching the old town newspapers, I came across the first floral experts of Frederick. One of the earliest was a gentleman named William L. Morris. He was a Civil War veteran from Lancaster, Pennsylvania who fought with Company A of the 97th Pennsylvania Regiment.
Morris came to Frederick prior to 1870 and would begin advertising his services as a nurseryman and florist in the local papers in 1874. He would soon marry a local girl, Georgeanna S. Dill, whose family Dill Avenue is named.
Morris appears in the 1880 census and was continuing his work with plants and flowers here in Frederick at a location on East Street across from E. 4th Street. The Morris family would re-locate to Nashville, TN by 1900. William died in 1918, and is buried in another Mount Olivet—the famed Mount Olivet Cemetery of Nashville.
Henry Trail was the son of one of the cemetery’s founders, Col. Charles E. Trail. Col. Trail was a highly successful businessman who built the Italianate mansion on E. Church Street that today serves home to the Keeney & Basford Funeral Home. Henry was born March 17th, 1862 and lived his entire life at the Trail family mansion at 106 E. Church Street. He was a Harvard graduate who at one-time worked as a chemist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and traveled the world over his life of 61 years.
Henry grew produce which would be sent to the finest restaurants of New York City and grew exotic flowers never before seen here in Frederick. This was done in “extensive greenhouses” that were erected on his father’s farm that adjoined the Frederick Fairgrounds on the east side of town.
Henry Trail lived the life of a gentlemen and left the growing business of exotic plants in favor to raising exotic birds. Many Fredericktonians have heard stories of pheasants and peacocks strolling the grounds of the old Trail Mansion, at which Henry constructed a large aviary structure to be used for his hobby. He died of pneumonia on April 22nd, 1923 and is buried beneath the outstanding monument that adorns the Trail family lot on Area H/Lot 110.
David Groff was born on Christmas Day, 1855 in Walkersville. His parents are known in the annals of Frederick history as prominent hoteliers and local heroes of the Civil War. Joseph and Susan Groff ran the Arlington House, located on N. Market Street during the turbulent era of the 1860’s. David’s father was a shrewd businessman who also ran a brickyard and dabbled in real estate acquisition. One such property was the site of a former German social club called Scheutzen Park.
The site would come to be known as Groff Park and the former social group’s main club house would become the family’s new personal residence. In the next century, Groff Park would become the new site of the Frederick Woman’s College, renamed Hood College. David Groff’s childhood home was none other than Brodbeck Hall, the central facility associated with Hood College’s music department.
Groff Park and Brodbeck would serve as the family residence until 1894, at which time they re-located to another stately dwelling at the intersection of 7th and N. Market Street. Here they would open a new hotel by the name of the Groff House. This location would later serve as the home of WFMD.
David attended St. John’s School and began taking a keen interest in growing things from a young age. Groff Park was his showplace, and he would turn a hobby into a profitable profession. It was here (in Groff Park) where the family grew extensive gardens in which they harvested produce and flowers for their hotel guests. Greenhouses were built here for the express purpose. Locals were invited to see David’s handiwork as the location became known as somewhat of a “poor man’s” botanical garden—one that preceded Baker Park by nearly 50 years as a scenic destination for picnicking, leisurely strolls and carriage rides.
The park would become a prime location for “drives” with the advent of the automobile in the 1890’s. The 1873 Titus Atlas of Frederick illustrates the lanes within Groff Park, and I assume that they were paved as the family-owned brickyard specialized its marketing efforts on advertising pavers for streets, alleys and driveways. David’s job was to run this family business, which was anchored in the 700 block of N. Market Street not far from the Groff House Hotel which was originally constructed by Captain Groff in 1884.
David seems to have extended his floral hobby to competitions in the early 1890’s and was a prominent member of the Frederick Floriculture Club. He is mentioned in a newspaper article in November 1892 which talks about the Chrysanthemum Show in which he entered 20 varieties of the flower.
Articles regularly appeared in the local newspaper boasting David Groff’s floral artistry and special growing experiments. When the family left Groff Park around 1897, David took charge of selling off properties for building lots on the eastern edge closer to town. He took up residence at 701 N. Market Street adjacent the family-run hotel. He would build greenhouses here that would help supply a florist business ran out of his new residence.
The florist operation of David Groff thrived and became his life’s work as he never married or would have children. David would run the business until early 1916, at which time the reins were handed to his younger brother Charles Benjamin Groff (b. 1873). The younger Groff had worked as a county clerk but assisted David for years. He, too, would make his mark as well on the community over the next 18 years until his death in December, 1936. An article appearing in the April 5th, 1917 edition of the Weekly Journal of Florists, Seedsmen and Nurserymen contained a small mention of the Groff-run business:
“A grower whose long suit is performance and who has a reputation as a teetotaler, will find a good market for his services if he happens down Frederickway and stops in at Charles B. Groff’s stand where everything is grown, and grown well.”
David Groff never stopped growing things. He devoted his time to selling family-owned land, newly constructed homes and renting apartments within the old Groff House (after the hotel closed as a business). In 1927, he ran advertisements for things such as potted tomato plants and celery. He died nine months after his brother at the age of 81 (August 26, 1937). His passing, and subsequent funeral were the source for a few nice articles that appeared on the pages of the Frederick News-Post. Of special notes was the fact that “floral offerings were beautiful and numerous.” One of his pallbearers was Alfred G. Zimmerman (1891-1961), the progenitor of Zimmerman Florists. David Groff is buried next to his parents in Area L/Lot 247. His kid brother can be found in Area Q/Lot 127.
Not that far from the gravesite of Charles B. Groff is buried a true early giant in the field of Frederick floristry—Charles Hermann. He even became known as “Hermann, the Florist,” a slogan that can be found in several old news articles and advertisements.
Charles Maximilian Hermann was a German transplant to Frederick who earned the nickname of “Hermann the Florist” by the mid 1880’s. Actually, I found that a good deal of this gentleman’s success should be given to his wife, Elizabeth (Diehl) Hermann. Evidence comes in the form of a news article that appeared in the Frederick News in mid-December 1883.
I saw ads referencing Mrs. Hermann and her business and greenhouse located at 61 W. South Street in Frederick up through mid-1888. She is said to have had a branch office located on W. Patrick near the Square Corner and in 1885 was preparing to furnish Mount Olivet with 1700-1800 plants. In December of that year, her husband Charles announced that the Hermann floral business had moved to a new home down the street from their home and next to the old Page agricultural implements foundry that sat on the SW corner of the intersection of W. South and Broadway Street. Back in the day, Broadway Street was called Mantz Street and the Page foundry location is the home of the Gary L. Rollins Funeral home with an address of 110 W. South Street.
Whether by design or accident, Mr. Hermann shared his talents with Mount Olivet Cemetery in more ways than a flower vendor. On March 16th, 1887, he was given the title of assistant superintendent of the cemetery, the first time such a position would exist after 33 years of operation as a burying ground. I searched to see if Hermann had been working for the cemetery in any other capacity before this date, but came up unsuccessful. So I deem it a case of “chicken or the egg.” Was Hermann hired for his special expertise in gardening and floral creation, or did he hone his skills here at the cemetery, which in turn, would benefit the business apparently started by his wife, Elizabeth?
Interestingly, Mr. Hermann’s immediate supervisor, Edward Herwig, started in his position on March 16th, 1887—the same day Hermann began his duties as assistant super. Herwig was filling big shoes, as he would be the second superintendent ever chosen for the position, following inaugural cemetery head William T. Duvall who served from February 6th, 1854 until the day of his death on September 19th, 1886.
Regardless, things seem to have “taken bloom” for the Hermann family business here in Frederick, perhaps tied to an increase in orders connected to Mount Olivet Cemetery. Was this a case of “double-dipping?” And I’m certainly not talking about ice-cream.
As said, everything was coming up roses for Charles B. Hermann until one fateful day in early November, 1892. A special meeting of the cemetery board of directors had been called with the death of Board President Lycurgus Hedges. At this meeting, the Board secretary, Thomas M. Markell, was instructed to notify Superintendent Herwig that “his service would be disposed with after the first day of January next.” This was roughly a 8-week notice, and the board subsequently authorized interim president Lewis C. Clingan to find a new man to take Herwig’s place.
Charles Hermann was not even considered for the job, but there was good reason as he could been a prime reason for Herwig’s downfall. The accounting associated with the cemetery’s books was in question as things weren’t quite matching up—floral and shrubbery expenses were way up.
Just over a week later, Mr. D. Jerome Michael was unanimously elected to become the cemetery’s third superintendent, a position he would hold for the next 14 years. In conducting research, I was more than pleased to find a celebration of sorts held at the Michael residence a few week’s after being awarded his new post at the cemetery. This would certainly not be the last “pound” party that Superintendent Michael would take part in.
Mr. Michael assisted the Board of Directors with research into the accounting and management issues discovered under the Herwig regime. Apparently, the trouble came under the purview of Mr. Hermann in the daily performance of his duties as assistant superintendent.
It came as no surprise that Mr. Hermann was given the proverbial “pink slip” on January 1st, as his service was promptly disposed with as well. Superintendent Michael, the new sheriff in town so to speak, continued his research over the winter months.
The Board of Directors reconvened for their annual meeting in early May, 1893. A special committee would be appointed by the Board to explore the cemetery books more in depth with a goal of “placing things in a satisfactory and intelligible shape.” Assistance would come from the Board’s secretary and treasurer as well.
On May 22nd, a special meeting was called in which Board member Mr. Charles M. Tyson presented a report on the special committee’s finding. the following passage comes from the Mount Olivet Minute Book records:
May 22, 1893 report
To the President and Board of Managers of Mount Olivet Cemetery:
Your Committee appointed to examine the books of the Company would hereby respectfully report that they have attended the said duty that the careful examination of the Books of Mr. Hermann has failed to inform the Committee of the real condition of the accounts for tending lots or of the finances of the Company so far as they were under his management or control. The entries, both in the Book of accounts and in the Account Book, in which Mr. Hermann is charged with the amounts received by him, are so obscure, confused and uncertain and the calculations so inaccurate, as to render it impossible to say what the status of this department.
What was happening in the cemetery, behind the scenes, had been brought to light by the new superintendent and likely corroborated by existing grounds employees—Charles Hermann was not only using his personal business as a major vendor for the cemetery (for plants, shrubs and flowers), he was likely recommending his personal business services to lot-holders over the capable individuals on the Mount Olivet payroll. He was poaching customers for personal gain—a clear-cut case of conflict of interest.
At another Board of Managers meeting, held May 31st, 1893, Mr. Edward S. Eichelberger made a pivotal motion. Eichelberger was one of the three Board members assigned to the special committee of inquest into the matter. His motion ordered that “no one other than Employees of the Company be allowed to take care of Lots, unless he files with the Superintendent of the Cemetery, a separate written authority from each lot holder of whose lots he is to have charge, which authority shall be countersigned by the President of the Company and which shall be kept by the Superintendent, as a defense against any complaint of the lot holders for any alleged neglect. “
Mr. Eichelberger went on to add that “the President be instructed to obtain a list of those persons whose lots have been placed in Mr. Hermann’s charge, and notify them of the above order, and correct any misapprehension as to the facts in regard to the lots, and the Secretary is instructed to send a written copy of the above order to Mr. Herman.
It appears that Mr. Hermann had decided to continue accommodating “his” lot-holding friends and cronies by providing special services to them and their respective lots in the spring after his termination. The Board was not amused. They also understood the ramifications that they would be liable for the conduct, or better—misconduct or “neglect” of an outside vendor performing work in their cemetery—especially work they were plenty capable of doing themselves with their own staff.
Well, just five days later, let’s just say that the “flowers” hit the fan so to speak. Mr. Hermann and a hired hand named Aquilla Ashbaugh came to Mount Olivet to perform work on lots, contrary to the recent order set forth and communicated by the Board of Managers. These lots belonged to local department store owner Joseph Doll (1829-1895), and another owned by the hiers/family of William T. Preston (1811-1879).
Our minutes book say nothing of the incident that occurred on this day, however a vivid depiction of events was printed in the Frederick newspaper two weeks later as part of a court case that went before local magistrate Alfred Ritter.
The case can be seen from two different vantage points. First and foremost was the obvious “assault and battery” on Hermann and Ashbaugh as Superintendent Michael decided to host another “Pound” party on June 5th as he threatened (and succeeded somewhat) in pummeling his adversaries. The other part centered on cemetery lot-holder rights vs the cemetery corporation’s authority and responsibilities of operating a cemetery. Judge Ritter ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but simply looked at the case from the perspective of the unjustified act of assault and battery on these gentlemen at the hands of Superintendent Michael. Each plaintiff was awarded $75 and their court costs were paid by Mount Olivet.
(For your reading pleasure, I have included below the full verdict as reported in the newspaper)
It didn’t end there, as the case would be appealed by the cemetery. In late August, 1893, a jury listened to the facts of the case and ruled in favor of the cemetery. The end result was a study into the ultimate responsibilities of the Cemetery Board, and their standing as being nominated and duly elected to represent the mass congregate of active lot-holders. The jury found the cemetery “not guilty” of wrongdoing, and rewarded them back $82.50 in both cases (involving both men—Hermann and Ashbaugh).
The Hermann-Michael "Battle Royale of 1893" solidified a rule that still stands today under Article 31 of our official Mount Olivet booklet of rules and regulations published by the cemetery:
“No one other than employees of the cemetery will be allowed to take care of lots, including but not limited to the mowing, trimming and watering of grass on their lots.”
While Charles Hermann lost $75, court costs, and future earning potential with personal lot renovation work, it is important to know that he kept working. As a matter of fact, he would continue to have success in the floral business and would be appointed overseer of St. John’s Catholic Burying Ground off E. 3rd and N. East Street in June, 1893. Hermann would grow the business with the guidance of Elisabeth and help of his son (Charles) who he brought into the business. Charles eventually sold the family business upon his retirement in February, 1922. This would go to friend and fellow florist Charles B. Groff, brother of David Groff, whom we discussed earlier.
Charles M. Hermann died on March 11th, 1922. He would be buried on a corner lot in Area H, directly across from Confederate Row. Wife Elizabeth, the unsung and original floral artist of the couple, died in 1941 at the age of 95.
Hermann’s faithful sidekick, Aquilla Ashbaugh, is also buried in Mount Olivet with his wife Minnie. In finding his obituary, I was surprised to find that Mr. Ashbaugh was a former employee of the cemetery. This means that he left with Hermann when the latter was fired in January, 1893. Sadly, the Ashbaugh gravesite is devoid of an identifying marker or monument (Area B/Lot44). Must have been confusing for friends and relatives to find his grave in order to place flowers...
“In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends”