Cyber this, cyber that! The term (cyber) is derived from "cybernetic," which comes from the Greek word κυβερνητικός meaning "skilled in steering or governing." You will commonly see it used as a prefix in words (with or without a hyphen) such as cyber-space, cyber-crime, cyber attack, cyber-bullying, and cyber-terrorism. Not all "cyber-things" have negative connotations as the list above seems to insinuate, just look at all the joy the newfound cyber-holiday of "Cyber Monday" brings!
A recent term of the "internet era," cyber is commonly used to describe policies and politics regarding computer systems and networks, as well as the greater information technology industry. Why there is even a term cyber-delic, a fusion between cultures of today (cyber-culture) and yesteryear (psychedelic). I was particularly interested in the official definition of cyber-space and found the following, (online of course):
Cyberspace is the essence of interconnected technology. The term entered the popular culture from science fiction and the arts but is now used by technology strategists, security professionals, government, military and industry leaders and entrepreneurs to describe the domain of the global technology environment. Others consider cyberspace to be just a notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs. The word became popular in the 1990s when the uses of the Internet, networking, and digital communication were all growing dramatically and the term "cyberspace" was able to represent the many new ideas and phenomena that were emerging.
Mount Olivet is a latecomer to the foray of cyberspace. We created our first business website in 2007. Five years later, the cemetery created a FaceBook page. Things were quite pedestrian at first—as few expect cutting edge content and graphic design from an historic cemetery web-page?
For neophytes to our particular cyber-offerings, the "Stories in Stone" brand refers to illustrated essays about former Frederick residents buried within Mount Olivet’s gates. Yes, some of these individuals stand out for their unique achievements on local, state and national levels such as Francis Scott Key, Barbara Fritchie and Thomas Johnson, Jr. Others can be remembered for their misfortunes. All in all, most of those “resting in peace” here just lived simple, ordinary lives, and our written online pieces all end the same, with the main subject dying.
I've generally been able to find a "silver lining" of some sort to highlight and mesh individuals and their lives with the context of Frederick, Maryland's rich heritage. Best of all, I have the opportunity to introduce (or reintroduce) these folks to our readers.
Some may find these stories immediately after initial publishing, and countless others stumble upon them weeks, months, years later while conducting Google and Yahoo searches during family history research. This will continue to happen for years to come, something that makes the research and publishing task involved well worth the effort. This is true history preservation using cyber-tools and cyber technology to do —"cyber-preservation."
"Old School" GPS
With 40,000 former residents in our midst, roughly the same population as our state capital of Annapolis, I do pass countless grave sites without a thought, as their names are nothing more than “names in stone.” However, as I have found through my research and writings, they are much more than that. Grave markers, monuments, and tombstones are tributes to, and representations of, past lives. Each provides a tangible connection to the deceased.
From a religious perspective, I’ve been taught that the spirit of our loved ones will always be with us, and are “watching from above.” However, these works in granite and marble are tangible, standing as a tribute to a life once lived, be it spectacular, tragic or common. Gravestones can bring a sense of reality and closure for some people. For others, they serve to keep the memory of that person eternal. These "stones" stand proof that a life was once lived, and associate it with a tangible geographical location within a large cemetery or memorial park, church graveyard or family burial ground on an ancestral farm or plantation. This is a lasting footprint.
Speaking of cyberspace and the internet, another innovation most of us take for granted is GPS, which is an acronym for the Global Positioning System. With help from a trusty Earth globe, we were taught the concept of longitude and latitude lines in grade school. Like many, I was fortunate enough to have a personal globe at home as well, kept on proud display on a shelf in my bedroom. To find a country anywhere in the world, one could first consult something called an encyclopedia, which would describe said country and gave coordinates allowing you to find the location on the globe or a world map. I credit my success in finding many specific locations thanks to hours spent mastering longitude and latitude while playing the Hasbro Battleship game with my brothers, but I digress.
Today, globes and handheld maps are disappearing. Compasses were once the "smartphone" of their day for explorers and travelers, alike. Life in the cyber-world is made so much easier thanks to GPS. This space-based, radio-navigation system (owned by the US Government) can show the exact position of a person or thing using signals from satellites in space. The smartphone or car-based navigation/tracking devices utilize GPS technology and tell us where to go and how to get there. They also can tell us where we've been, and can get us back home or to familiar surroundings.
This may be a stretch, but I see a great analogy here to cemeteries, and gravestones. Its almost as if we have "old school" GPS here in our midst. Grave sites and respective monuments, markers and plaques denote the people of our past. They are a part of us, good, bad or indifferent, and we can find our biologic, social and cultural markers in them. They are permanently anchored so to speak, and wherever future generations may roam on the globe, their gravesite coordinates remain steadfast and unwavering.
Each and every day, I see individuals coming to Mount Olivet to plan and purchase monuments for themselves and loved ones who have passed. Some designs are playful, others are serious. Most can best be described as traditional. I also see people decorating and cleaning grave stones, especially this time of year. For a modest fee, we are happy to professionally clean monuments with non-evasive techniques. We are now in a position to embark on making high quality repairs and restoration efforts to vintage stones on our grounds.
A month-and-a-half ago, it felt like Christmas in October as we hosted a gentleman named Jonathan Appel, one of the country's top experts in cemetery monument restoration. Jonathan owns Atlas Preservation, located in Southington, Connecticut and presented a workshop to participants providing history and context to the examples of monuments found here in Mount Olivet. He also explained what has happened to many of our monuments over the years and gave instruction and tips on how to repair and clean, historic cemetery gravestones.
Appell has over 25 years of experience preserving, restoring, and repairing gravestones and monuments. A recent work project of note is “the Knight’s Tomb” in Jamestown, quite possibly the oldest existing gravestone in America, dating back to the 1630s. Jonathan continues to spread his knowledge by participation in seminars and workshops around the country and assists historic cemeteries and burying grounds with recommendations on conservation equipment, tools and repair products.
Participants got to see four monuments get repaired and actually took part in cleaning about 20 stones themselves.
The special event took place on October 9th (2019) as part of our new Friends of Mount Olivet Cemetery initiative. This membership group is an extension of the Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund and will continue to host activities like these designed to generate enthusiasm and fundraising through engaging and entertaining educational programs, research projects, gravestone preservation, special event planning and anniversary commemorations.
The Power of the Internet
For as much sadness that I witness firsthand in my job, I see an equal amount of joyful remembrance for those who have passed. I also see family historians (from both the professional and amateur ranks) reveling in discoveries made through ancestral pilgrimages. Those "familial GPS coordinates" littering our grounds led them here to learn or experience more about their past, and themselves.
I know genealogy is not for the faint of heart, but the cyber-innovations of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com, Fold3, Newspapers.com and FindaGrave.com have been godsends, allowing ease in time and effort in finding pertinent resources. The latter of the sites mentioned certainly drives my point home, as you can make a "virtual" visit to a gravestone in a cemetery anywhere in the world as long as its been documented by a FindaGrave volunteer. Here one can gaze upon the final resting place and stone of a long-lost ancestor. In some cases, you may also find exact GPS coordinates for headstones to boot.
Last year we launched a companion "sister-website" entitled www.MountOlivetVets.com. This website has a similar mission to FindaGrave.com and is designed to contain memorial pages for the over 4,000 military veterans buried at Mount Olivet. Here you will find pictures of grave monuments and military-issued stones/markers and obituaries along with vital, personal and military record information. In some cases, we feature photographs of the deceased which allows users to put a face with a name, and so much more—a life.
Last year, we finished a first phase of creating pages for over 500 World War I vets. The site as a whole can best be described as "a work in progress," and will continually be added to. The hope is to find volunteer researchers in our Friends group in an effort to make pages for all the vets here in Mount Olivet. In addition, we humbly ask for the assistance of descendants, historians and friends to provide us with photographs and/or additional information of note. We also want to link to other sources of information regarding our vets, and the training and battles they participated in. The internet will continue to dictate the success and strength of this information resource for not only users, but us here at the cemetery as it additional info, scans of pictures and documents can do nothing but add to our preservation of the history of those buried here. Important for those family historians, Tombstone Tourists and heritage travelers of the future without a doubt.
Some people go into cemeteries and simply see names and dates chiseled in stone. Many of us see much, much more. I continue to learn more about the lives of Mount Olivet’s residents through studying grave stones, researching our blog, collecting images and documenting stories told to me by visiting descendants (regarding their relatives). Our goal is to continue sharing this with you the reader and future generations.
In years to come, we hope to have have more online information about those buried here. At present, the best source is FindaGrave since our current cemetery data system isn't easily compatible with an online interface. We also hope one day to have GPS coordinates for all grave monuments so visitors can actually be led to grave sites by their smartphones, where they will have the opportunity to connect to database information which could include obituaries, photographs and even video of the decedents.
I envision a Cyber Monday in the future in which customers may be able to engage in online "pre-planning," choosing their lots and niches, and designing monuments and plaques. Of course, the day would have to include special online pricing incentives:) More importantly in this cyber-centric era, I want to mention the online opportunity that exists now for charitable donating to our Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund (MOCPEF) on Giving Tuesday, or anytime throughout the year. A formal partnership was formed last November with the Community Foundation of Frederick County, our fiduciary overseer for the fund.
Many people are well aware of Giving Tuesday, also stylized as #Giving Tuesday for internet social networking purposes. This event, occurring on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, celebrates its 6th anniversary this week, as it began back in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City along with the United Nations Foundation. It's a “tongue in cheek” response to the post Thanksgiving commercialization of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has steadily been growing in popularity, now firmly established as an international day of giving at the beginning of the holiday season. Over $60 million was raised last year on this day.
For over a decade, the Mount Olivet Board of Directors had entertained the idea of establishing a preservation-themed fund with the Community Foundation. The idea was first pitched, and championed by the late Colleen Remsberg, longtime Board member and immediate past president. Ms. Remsberg passed away last May, but not before she saw the Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund become an IRS accredited 501(c)(3) public charity in 2017. The mission reads as follows:
The mission of the Mount Olivet Cemetery Preservation and Enhancement Fund is to assist in the conservation of the natural beauty and historic integrity of Mount Olivet Cemetery and to increase public knowledge and appreciation of its unique, cultural, historic, and natural resources through charitable and educational programs.
Putting this in layman’s terms, we continue taking steps to preserve the history of this great “garden cemetery,” a community institution since the 1850’s. In doing so, we want to safeguard the cemetery’s historic records, structures and grave monuments herein. We have taken a bit of a head start as can be exemplified by the fore-mentioned “Stories in Stone” articles and MountOlivetvets.com website, along with public lectures and our recent Gov. Thomas Johnson commemorative events held in late October (200th anniversary of Johnson's death in 1819).
As mentioned earlier, our Friends group members and volunteers hold the key to unlocking and preserving so much more of our cemetery's rich history. in the near future, this could expand to educational partnerships such as school field trips, interpretive historic wayside displays and unique commemorative plantings. Best of all, we will have the opportunity, and more so the financial support, to clean, preserve and repair broken and illegible gravestones and monuments in the cemetery’s historic section.
We appreciate any assistance you can give, be it monetary, or simply volunteering family information and photograph scans of relatives interred here. Please click the links below to learn about contributing to our preservation fund, or joining our Friends of Mount Olivet group. Both make unique gift ideas for the holidays. We accept checks (made out to the Mount Olivet Cemetery Preservation and Enhancement Fund) and will supply paperwork for charitable giving tax purposes.
Feel free to reach out to me to meet in person to discuss, or drop me a line (via email or phone) to learn more about how you can help preserve this amazing outdoor and virtual museum of Frederick's history.
Area NN is an interesting one here in Mount Olivet. It’s shape is somewhat triangular as it sits against the western boundary of the cemetery, not far from the Barbara Fritchie and Thomas Johnson gravesites. The section often raises curiosity among visitors as the stones within are somewhat positioned very closely together—almost too close together, but there is a reason. Most of those people interred here today, came from other burial grounds that once graced downtown Frederick.
Some of these gravestones have death dates that predate the cemetery’s opening in 1854, and there are several examples written in German. The Colonial architecture is clearly evident and the rationale for these stones placed so close together lies in the fact that these comprise church group reburials dictated by the trustees of local congregations. Three different churches bought the bulk of the lots on NN to be exact— the Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran and Methodist Episcopal. These churches once had their own designated burying grounds downtown, but elected to transfer bodies via mass removal to Mount Olivet, allowing for reuse or resale of the former graveyard properties.
This option took the congregations out of the graveyard business and deferred the job to an entity that solely was suited to handle the assignment. This was certainly not an uncommon practice for the time, and in the case of Area NN, most of this reburial activity occurred in 1907-1908.
As for the makeup of the property, the Methodist are to the left, Lutherans in the middle and Presbyterians to the right. I plan to write future articles about all three congregations in context to their earlier burying grounds, but not here. I have only brought all this up because I found that there are several other burials on Area NN that are not affiliated with the three church re-interment projects. I discovered one recently by researching the final resting place of this week’s person of interest. He died 50 years ago this past week.
Donald Lewis Bruchey
The grave of Donald Lewis Bruchey sits prominently in the foreground of the designated “church lots.” His gravestone type is called a slant face marker. To the immediate right is a larger stone for his parents: Harry W. (1885-1934) and Lydia Mae Strailman (1889-1963).
On November 18th, 1969, Don Bruchey found himself visiting at the home of friends living in Pikesville, northwest of Baltimore. He had just been seen by thousands of television viewers days before, while performing his full-time job as a news anchor on WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida. No one could have predicted the terrible circumstance that would soon beset this charismatic, 41 year-old who had returned to his native Maryland in advance of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. Don would suffer a heart attack and would die a short time later at Baltimore County General Hospital in Randallstown.
The Frederick native had worked in the broadcasting business for more than half his life—21 years. Don Bruchey had started as an on-air announcer at Frederick’s WFMD radio station in 1948. This came three years after graduating from Frederick High School in 1945 where he was a theater standout and an outstanding baseball player who was signed to a professional contract by the Detroit Tigers.
He would play catcher for their minor league affiliate in Thomasville, GA—the Thomasville Tigers. Baseball had to wait however, as Bruchey served his country in the Army in Europe during the waning months of World War II.
The 1940 US census shows Don living with his mother Lydia at 312 E. Patrick Street in downtown Frederick. His father, a barber by profession, had passed away back in 1934 when he was six. He was the youngest of four children.
Don's professional baseball dreams were short-lived. He would play for local teams such as the Frederick Hustlers and the Junior Yanks for a few years.
Don set his sights on a career. Interestingly his true passions for sports and acting would pave his path. The young man took a pivotol Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course in 1947. His penchant for acting beyond high school had him playing leads in several local stage productions here in Frederick and at the storied playhouse venue that once stood in Braddock Heights under the direction of James Decker. He performed regularly with Frederick's Community Players ensemble and with a like group in Hagerstown known as the Potomac Playmakers. It appears, the actor was introduced to the world of radio through the broadcast of some of the Community Players' productions in 1948. Don's talents led him to be asked to do narration work for recordings and emcee duties for local events.
Don would leave Frederick and WFMD in 1950, taking a job at Brunswick, Georgia's WGIG where he hosted his own show titled "Spinner Sanctum." After a year he came back to Frederick and WFMD. It is most likely he came back for the love of his life, Miss Marilyn S. Kehne of Yellow Springs area of Frederick. He took on employment at Baltimore's WFBR in 1952. Don took up residence on N. Calvert Street in Baltimore. The couple would marry on March 14, the following year.
Bruchey eventually headed south again, going to Greenville, South Carolina and WGVL in late 1953 where he hosted a studio-based music program called "Club 23." I assume this could have been similar to Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." The former Fredericktonian returned to Maryland, and Baltimore, in late 1954 and worked at radio station WWIN. Don also got his chance to work in television with sports on Baltimore's WMAR, Channel 2. He would host a sports program called "Football Scoreboard" in 1955. He was also asked to present weather from time to time.
Don’s impressive reputation as a former athlete sportscaster served him well. His theater background also allowed for him to bring dramatics to the events he was covering. Bruchey’s obituary states that he had valued associations with several star athletes including Johnny Unitas, Gino Marchetti, Art Donovan, Don Shula, Chuck Thompson, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Brooks Robinson. Within a few years, he would transition to covering news.
Don successfully transitioned into news from sports and served as a reporter and finally a news anchor for Channel 2 (WMAR). On eBay last year, I found an ad featuring Don Bruchey in an old TV Guide dated July 27th, 1965. It was an intriguing find which led me to write this blog. He anchored the 11PM edition, the prime newscast of the station.
In 1968, Don jumped at the opportunity for a change of venue, and more importantly, the chance to serve as lead news anchor for a station in Florida. After 13 years in “Charm City,” he relocated to Jacksonville in January, 1968, taking with him wife Marilyn and three daughters: Donna, Cheryl and Christine. An eitor's note in the Baltimore Sun in 1968 remarked that Don was homesick for Maryland.
As I said at the outset, Don and family traveled back home to Maryland 50 years ago this week for Thanksgiving in 1969. He would suffer a heart attack while visiting friends in Pikesville. Interestingly, his father had also died of a heart attack in his forties.
Don Bruchey’s body would return to Frederick for burial. Services were held at All Saints’ Episcopal Church on W. Patrick Street on Saturday, November 22nd. Graveside service followed here at Mount Olivet within the historic backdrop of Area NN as he was placed to the side of his father and mother, Lydia, who had died earlier in 1963. As could be imagined, the service was largely attended and including relatives, friends, former teammates, former acting partners, and news colleagues.
I was excited to see that one of his pallbearers was Stu Kerr, a legendary Baltimore television star I remember from my youth. He was a weatherman, afterschool movie host, played Bozo the Clown, emceed "Dialing for Dollars" and was the star of local show "Professor Kool's Fun Skool."
A point I often make to cemetery visitors and tourists here to Mount Olivet is that we have an over-arching theme of “patriotism.” Our two most famous interments include the guy who wrote our national anthem and a nonagenarian who became an overnight heroine thanks to a New England poet who glorified her supposed defiance in front Confederate general Stonewall Jackson and his troops during the American Civil War. Two phrases, attributed to this tandem, speak volumes: “O’ Say Can you See, by the Dawn’s early light?” and “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag, she said.”
A third “history celebrity” is buried here as well, an actual patriot himself. Thomas Johnson, Jr., best remembered as Maryland’s first-elected governor, but also served as a business entrepreneur, member of Continental Congress and brigadier general during the turbulent time of the American Revolution. The above trio is surrounded by nearly 4,000 other men and women (laid to rest here) who performed active military duty—many participated in national and world conflicts. We have individuals who connect to conflicts ranging from the French & Indian War to Vietnam.
In a few cases, we have particular decedents who took part in multiple wars over the course of their lives. This is often true of professional military men. One such is buried here in Mount Olivet, and his story is as amazing as it is heartbreaking. A veteran of both “World Wars,” it can easily be said that he gave his “last full measure of devotion” to the country Thomas Johnson helped create, and the flag Francis Scott Key championed with in song, and Barbara Fritchie protected with her life.
Many recall, or have heard about, one of the most unsettling events in the history of warfare. It is known as the Bataan Death March. This atrocity took place in the Philippines during World War II and included 76,000 prisoners of war (66,000 Filipinos, 10,000 Americans) forced at gunpoint to walk some 66 miles at the mercy of the Japanese military captors. It occurred in April 1942, during the early stages of World War II.
The name Bataan comes from the province situated in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines-Luzon being the northernmost island (of the Phillipines). Occupying the entire Bataan Peninsula on Luzon, Bataan is bordered by the provinces of Zambales and Pampanga to the north. The peninsula faces the South China Sea to the west and Subic Bay to the north-west, and encloses Manila Bay to the east.
It’s complicated to give the backstory of this event to those unfamiliar, but it plays a very important role in understanding this week’s “Story in Stone” subject. Our “Story” also involves the famed US Army General Douglas MacArthur as well—the impetuous five-star general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army, who had previously been a participant in World War I and served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s. He had even retired from the US Army in 1937.
MacArthur played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II after being recalled to active duty in 1941 as commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East. This move would reunite Philippine and US forces under one command. Unfortunately, a series of disasters soon beset Douglas MacArthur, starting with the destruction of his air forces at Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. Immediately after, the Japanese would set their sights on invading the US held Philippines.
The Philippines had become an American possession in 1898, a result of the Spanish-American War. After being ceded by Spain, an era of American colonization commenced, lasting nearly four decades. When the Commonwealth of the Philippines achieved semi-independent status in 1935, Philippines President Manuel Quezon asked MacArthur to supervise the creation of a Philippine Army. The two men had been personal friends since the latter's father had been Governor-General of the Philippines, 35 years earlier. With President Franklin D. Roosevelt's approval, MacArthur accepted the assignment. It was agreed that MacArthur would receive the rank of field marshal, in addition to his major general's salary as Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines.
The following summary can be found in Encyclopedia Britannica, written by Elizabeth N. Norman and Michael Norman:
Within hours of their December 7, 1941, attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Japanese military began its assault on the Philippines, bombing airfields and bases, harbors and shipyards. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, sits on Manila Bay, one of the best deep water ports in the Pacific Ocean, and it was, for the Japanese, a perfect resupply point for their planned conquest of the southern Pacific. After the initial air attacks, 43,000 men of the Imperial Japanese 14th Army went ashore on December 22 at two points on the main Philippine island of Luzon. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of all Allied forces in the Pacific, cabled Washington, D.C., that he was ready to repel this main invasion force with 130,000 troops of his own.
MacArthur’s claim was a fiction. In fact, his force consisted of tens of thousands of ill-trained and ill-equipped Filipino reservists and some 22,000 American troops who were, in effect, an amalgam of “spit-and-polish” garrison soldiers with no combat experience, artillerymen, a small group of planeless pilots and ground crews, and sailors whose ships happened to be in port when Japanese forces bombed Manila and its naval yards. At the landing beaches, the Japanese soldiers quickly overcame these defenders and pushed them back and back again until MacArthur was forced to execute a planned withdrawal to the jungle redoubt of the Bataan Peninsula. This thumblike piece of land on the west-central coast of Luzon, across the bay from Manila, measured some 30 miles long and 15 miles wide, with a range of mountains down the middle.
In early January, 1942, the Japanese made their next major move on the Philippines. Altogether the Japanese landed at three separate places, each a finger of land jutting out from the rocky coast line of western Bataan into the South China Sea. The first landings came on January 23rd, as an overconfident MacArthur gave orders for the American and Filipino troops to begin falling back to a reserve battle position. The Japanese employed multiple assaults and an end run, amphibious style, with its objectives far to the south, in the Service Command Area.
By March, the Japanese invasion had compelled MacArthur to withdraw his forces on Luzon to Bataan, while his headquarters and his family moved to Corregidor. The doomed defense of Bataan captured the imagination of the American public. At a time when the news from all fronts was uniformly bad, MacArthur became a living symbol of Allied resistance to the Japanese.
Fearing that Corregidor would soon fall, and MacArthur would be taken prisoner, President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to go to Australia. A submarine was made available, but MacArthur elected to break through the Japanese blockade in PT boats.
Upon his arrival, MacArthur gave a speech in which he famously promised "I shall return" to the Philippines. The staff MacArthur brought with him became known as the "Bataan Gang". They would become the nucleus of his General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area. One senior member of MacArthur’s leadership team, however, would be left behind. He was a Frederick native who is buried right here in Mount Olivet.
The Service Command Area
When the American line was first established on Bataan on January 7th (1942), defense of the southern tip of the Bataan peninsula was designated by the name: the Service Command Area. This task had been assigned to Brig. Gen. Allan C. McBride, MacArthur's deputy for the Philippine Department. McBride's command included, roughly, all of Bataan south of the Mariveles Mountains, and was divided into an East and West Sector by the Paniguian River which flows southward into Mariveles Bay.
The Service Command Area covered over 100 square miles. The distance around the tip of Bataan along the East and West Roads, from Mamala River on the Manila Bay side to the Paysawan River on the South China Sea coast, is at least forty miles. Inland, the country is extremely rugged and hilly, with numerous streams and rivers flowing rapidly through steep gullies into the surrounding waters. The coast line facing Manila Bay is fairly regular but the west coast, where the Japanese landings came, is heavily indented with tiny bays and inlets. The ground on this side of the peninsula is thickly forested almost to the shoreline where the foothills of the central range end in abrupt cliffs. Sharp points of land extend from the "solid curved dark shoreline" to form small bays.
An adequate defense of this long and ragged coastline would have been difficult under the best of circumstances. With the miscellany of troops assigned to him, the task was an almost impossible one for General McBride. Things were extremely tough for both American and Filipino forces over the next few months, and even worse after MacArthur and his staff pulled out in late March. By early April, McBride and tens of thousands of soldiers would surrender to their foes.
Back to the summary by Elizabeth N. Norman and Michael Norman:
MacArthur had planned badly for the withdrawal and had left tons of rice, ammunition, and other stores behind him. The Battle of Bataan began on January 1, 1942, and almost immediately the defenders were on half rations. Sick with malaria, dengue fever, and other diseases, living on monkey meat and a few grains of rice, and without air cover or naval support, the Allied force of Filipinos and Americans held out for 99 days. Though they ultimately surrendered, their stubborn defense of the peninsula was a significant propaganda victory for the United States and proved that the Imperial Japanese Army was not the invincible force that had rolled over so many other colonial possessions in the Pacific.
It was against this backdrop that the Bataan Death March—a name conferred upon it by the men who had endured it—began. The forced march took place over some two weeks after Gen. Edward (“Ned”) King, US commander of all ground troops on Bataan, surrendered his thousands of sick, enervated, and starving troops on April 9, 1942. The siege of Bataan was the first major land battle for the Americans in World War II and one of the most-devastating military defeats in American history. The force on Bataan, numbering some 76,000 Filipino and American troops, is the largest army under American command ever to surrender.
Beginning on April 9th (1942) in Mariveles, a village on the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula, the prisoners, including Frederick’s own Allan C. McBride, were force-marched north to San Fernando and then taken by rail in cramped and unsanitary boxcars farther north to Capas.
From there, the men walked an additional seven miles to Camp O’Donnell, a former Philippine army training center used by the Japanese military to intern Filipino and American prisoners. During the main march—which lasted five to ten days, depending on where a prisoner joined it—the captives were beaten, shot, bayoneted, and, in many cases, beheaded. A large number of those who made it to the camp later died of starvation and disease.
Only 54,000 prisoners reached the camp, though exact numbers are unknown. It is believed that some 2,500 Filipinos and 500 Americans may have died during the march, and an additional 26,000 Filipinos and 1,500 Americans died at Camp O’Donnell.
The Life of Allan C. McBride
As America gasped at the news reports coming from the South Pacific, relatives and former friends of Allan C. McBride pondered his fate at the hands of the Japanese. He had been assigned to Army headquarters in the Philippines as plans and training officer over a year earlier on February 20th, 1941. His wife, Avis, was living in northwest Washington, DC at the time, and had only received a belated Christmas card from her husband in late January (1942), having been written a few days before Christmas when the Japanese initial invasion on the Philippines occurred. At the time, he said he was doing well on the protected confines of Corregidor.
Gen. McBride was well known here, even though his military career took him all over the world. He was the son of Andrew Clay McBride (1860-1910), a former Frederick County sheriff, and Annie Estelle Routzahn (1861-1927). Allan Clay McBride was born June 30th, 1885 in Frederick’s Middletown Valley and attended public schools. The family lived on a farm in Jefferson, and consisted of younger brother Edgar and sister, Carrie (Shafer). The McBrides would eventually move into Frederick City as Mr. McBride served as principal of the N. Market Street School for some time and also was one-time manager of the Washington, Frederick and Gettysburg Railroad. The family could be found living at 221 S. Market Street.
Allan would attend St. John’s Military College in Annapolis, graduating with the Class of 1908. He would join the Regular US Army on September 9th, 1908 and was given the rank of captain in 2nd Field Artillery unit. He would be assigned to the 4th Field Artillery and promoted to 2nd lieutenant by September. He was stationed at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington. By 1910, he was reassigned to Fort D. A. Russell in Laramie, Wyoming.
Allan would marry Mary Avis Halbert of Baltimore on October 23, 1911. The couple welcomed a baby daughter in July, 1913, and she was named Avis Halbert McBride in honor of her mother. A few years later, McBride was promoted to major of field artillery with the National Army in World War I.
Soon after, he was transferred to Headquarters of the 349th Field Artillery and gained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He spent time overseas in the Great War from mid-June, 1918 until July, 1919. While in France, he took part in fighting within the Marbache sector and received multiple battlefield promotions as he spent time with the Headquarters unit of the 2nd Field Artillery and 13th Field Artillery. He commanded a battalion.
McBride would be promoted to Adjutant General on January 11st, 1919 with the 4th Field Artillery Brigade. Upon his arrival back in the States, he was assigned to Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma where he served as an instructor of Field Artillery. A son, Andrew would be born here in 1921. The McBride family moved back east and can be found living on N. Calvert St. in Baltimore in 1924. A daughter, Susanne was born in 1925. The family relocated to Washington, DC when Allan was accepted into the US Army War College in 1926. He next attended General Staff School and also Chemical Warfare School, Field Officers’ Course.
Maj. McBride and family were back at Fort Sill and Lawton, Oklahoma by 1930. In 1935, they were in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and by 1940, Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. His last assignment came in 1941. Allan C. McBride was assigned to Army headquarters in the Philippines as plans and training officer February 20th, 1941.
As news of the Bataan Death March unfolded, relatives and friends in Frederick received scant information about Gen. McBride in the local papers. His sister, Mrs. Carrie Shafer, resided on West Patrick Street. The family of his deceased brother, Edgar H. McBride, a well-known attorney and banker, also was also very concerned and eager for details.
I will let old newspaper articles tell the rest of his story.
Upon his arrival in Australia in March, 1942, Douglas MacArthur gave a speech in which he famously promised "I shall return" to the Philippines. After more than two years of fighting in the Pacific, he fulfilled that promise. For his defense of the Philippines, MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor. He officially accepted the Surrender of Japan on September 2nd, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri, which was anchored in Tokyo Bay, and he oversaw the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951. As the effective ruler of Japan, he oversaw sweeping economic, political and social changes.
General McBride is one of 4,000 veterans whom we plan to honor on Veterans Day. We also look forward to adorning his gravesite with a wreath on Saturday, December 14th during our 2nd annual Wreaths Across America event. The WAA kickoff ceremony will begin at 11am only feet from Allan C. McBride's final resting place at our World War II Memorial, erected in 1947 and dedicated on May 30th, 1948. Gen. McBride's mortal remains are joined by those of 29 other servicemen of World War II who died in active duty. Their military issue stones are placed in a semi-circle surrounding two large pillars and an eternal flame monument which 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." It also reads, "The flame of love shall burn into our hearts the memory of our noble dead."
Like many others, the Winchester family lot in Mount Olivet is particularly pretty this time of year, shrouded in fall foliage. It sits in Area C/Lot 53 near the original southeast boundary of the cemetery just as it stood at the turn of the 19th century. To the immediate east, one once saw the spacious John Loats farm on the other side of the Newly Designed Road (as it was first called). Today, this thoroughfare has been renamed Stadium Drive and offers a viewshed of the main concourse area in front of the entrance to Harry Grove Stadium at Nymeo Park.
Buried here in the Winchester family lot are Henry Kirkham Winchester, Benjamin Winchester, Mary Jane Winchester, Mary Winchester, and Mordaunt C. Winchester. The family has a lasting connection to Frederick as we named our seat of county government for them. Well, the actual namesake for the building located on E. Church St., Hiram Winchester, is buried in Cambridge, Maryland. But the name has stayed with us since Mr. Winchester lent his regal sounding moniker to the building he planned and built on E. Church Street between 1843-1844.
More importantly, Hiram and brother Benjamin Franklin, made a profound impact on our community in the realm of education, and construction. These teachers were good for students, contrary to the Pink Floyd anthem, and it is fitting that they crafted their female pupils to be important building blocks for our community.
The son of Benjamin Winchester III and Rebecca (Wing) Winchester, Hiram (b. 1803 in Hardwick, MA) was one of five children. He had come to Frederick in the late 1830’s after teaching school in Connecticut and serving as a lecturer at a seminary in Baltimore located at 16 N. Frederick Street, this according to the 1835 and 1837 Matchett's city directories of Baltimore. He is said to have come to Frederick in 1839. It was this year that he would open the Frederick Literary Society located on Frederick’s N. Market Street in the old Bartgis Hotel, a space he had rented for the purpose of the school. This would evolve into what would become known as the Frederick Female Seminary, and Winchester knew he needed a larger space to work within.
This school was established by an Act of the Maryland Legislature. A lottery was raised providing an amount of $50,000 for the initial construction and endowment. The cornerstone was laid (for the current East Wing) in 1843. This was the year that Mr. Winchester was named principal. Charter and privileges were granted in 1845 and the first school catalog issued in 1846. A primary target demographic for school enrollment included wealthy children from southern states.
A second wing would be built onto Winchester Hall in 1856. Seven years later in 1863, the school closed due to the American Civil War as student numbers were down as many southern families cut back due to wartime activity. Union soldiers had occupied the West Wing the previous year. Meanwhile, Hiram Winchester had been forced to retire due to poor health. He would move to Cambridge, Maryland and took up residence with his oldest daughter (Eveline Kirkham Baugher) and son-in-law there. Hiram would die on July 5th, 1876 and was buried in the Cambridge Cemetery, joining his wife, Juliet Kirkham Winchester (b. 1806) who had been laid to rest there in 1868.
In 1893, the Potomac Synod of the Reformed Church would buy the property and opened the Woman’s College of Frederick and came under the purview of Dr. Joseph Henry Apple. A former student of Mr. Winchester was invited to live at the school with the school president and his family. This was newly widowed Margaret E. (Scholl) Hood, an 1849 graduate of the Frederick Female Seminary. Hood would leave the Woman’s College $30,000 upon her death in 1913 and a new campus was made possible on the northwest suburb of town because of her generosity. The school was soon renamed after the benefactress.
As for the old school building constructed by Mr. Winchester, the structure would be bought in 1931 by the Board of County Commissioners for $35,000. Since that time it has served as Frederick’s seat of county government.
You may ask: “If Hiram Winchester is buried in Cambridge, MD, then why are you writing a “Story in Stone” article on him?” Well, I am and I’m not. My premise though is the fact that I think Hiram, and wife Juliet, should have been laid to rest here in Area C/Lot 53, if not for their departure from Frederick and relocation to Dorchester County. I surmise this based on multiple facts, foremost the 12-plot lot was purchased by Benjamin Franklin Winchester, Hiram’s kid-brother who was born in 1810. Only four decedents are definitively marked on the central monument here, along with our interment lot card. However, our card shows that probing the lot nearly 70 years ago found the possibility of three others buried here.
Later research clarified that one of these burials is the gravesite of Hiram and Juliet’s youngest child, Henry Kirkham Winchester, who died a child at age six (1845-1851). He was originally buried in Frederick’s Presbyterian Cemetery, but was removed to Mount Olivet in 1887. His name was never added to the monument.
We also have reason to believe that two infant children of the Winchesters are also buried here, although they don’t appear by name in our records. Again, we see that there are two additional spaces that appear to be occupied here in the Winchester lot. The hypothesis is that this grave site could have two youngsters within, also moved from the Presbyterian Church. The children in question are Caroline (1838-1839) and Juliet (1838-1842).
Lastly, the large monument placed upon the lot has two major faces on its south and west sides that have stayed blank after all these years. Benjamin's family names are on the east and north faces. I bet the other two were reserved for Hiram's decedents, but never placed on there, likely because Hiram and Juliet Winchester wound up being buried in Cambridge, Maryland.
As for some backstory on the buyer/owner of this lot, we must examine the life of Benjamin Franklin Winchester. Earlier mentioned Hiram, appears to have pulled a few strings in getting his brother a teaching job at the Frederick Female Seminary in the school’s first decade in operation. B. F. would follow is brother’s educational footsteps to Frederick as he taught Mathematics to the students. He was also a native of Hardwick, MA, and taught with his brother previously in Baltimore. He would find a greater career for himself after leaving the Frederick Female Seminary when Hiram decided to call it quits.
B.F. Winchester owned a brickyard, located on the southeast part of town on E. South Street today. It appears both Hiram and Benjamin started the venture together in the 1860s, perhaps in response to the school's closure during the Civil War.
You would have found this venture near the intersection of E. South and the aptly named Winchester Street. Begun in the 1860’s, the Winchester Brick Works would be family-run up through the 1890s at which time it would take the new name of the Frederick Brick Works. The Winchester firm's bricks are still the prime building blocks used in a substantial number of buildings throughout the Frederick region. One such example was the original home of the Maryland School for the Deaf, located on the former grounds of the Frederick “Hessian” Barracks on South Market Street. Keep in mind that the Barracks grounds were also the first home of the Great Frederick Fair as well up through 1867. This locale was located just a few hundred yards west of the brick-works itself.
We can get a glimpse of the scope of Mr. Winchester’s profitable venture through a passage recorded on July 3rd, 1875 within (Frederick diarist) Jacob Engelbrecht’s storied diary:
The State of Maryland Asylum for the Deaf & Dumb—The north wing of this asylum is nearly finished. It was commenced in summer of 1874 (the north wing). I inquired from Mr. B. F. Winchester, who furnished the brick, how many brick there were in the whole building. He said, nearly or quite 2 and a half million. He also said the new jail (now nearly up) will take about 800,000. Mr. Winchester furnished brick for both buildings. The bricks were made in the brickyard in East South Street adjoining the ground on the east side of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum. The cornerstone of the D. & D. Asylum was laid “May 31, 1871.”
B. F. Winchester died in 1895 and buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Wife Mary Jane had passed five years earlier in 1890. Sadly the elderly couple had to endure the death of their only son (Mordaunt) in 1878 and sole granddaughter, Mary, who died in 1874. Benjamin’s obituary of May, 1895 labeled him as “a man of the highest integrity of character, possessing a well-storied mind and was endowed with eminent Christian traits.” He died at the age of 86 at the home of his nephew, whom he had been living with in West Camden, NY.
The Frederick Winchesters will be of special interest to those fans of the American Civil War. When President Lincoln called for recruits in 1861, B.F. Winchester volunteered and served under Benjamin Henry Schley and the Union Army. He is also listed as 1st Lt. Quartermaster, 1st Potomac Home Brigade Cavalry, and took part in the Battle of Monocacy in 1864. Benjamin ultimately attained the rank of Major.
B.F. Winchester’s son, Mordaunt, however, would side with the Southern Cause. We have no way of knowing how or why things went down in the family home, but Benjamin was likely outnumbered because his wife was a southern belle, herself, hailing from Richmond. Mordaunt is thought to have been a Confederate spy. He was arrested on a number of occasions, these recorded by Jacob Engelbrecht in his diary with the first infraction occurring on August 1st, 1862. Mordaunt was arrested a day later after taking an oath to the Union. However, just three weeks later, he would be arrested again and this time sent to Baltimore.
Speaking of the Civil War and arrest, our old friend Hiram Winchester’s son of similar name had quite a life journey, only making it to his 38th birthday. More interesting is the fact that he died in the infamous frontier town of Tombstone, Arizona territory in 1881. Hiram Franklin Winchester (b. 1843) served in the Civil War under the Union flag. He was a 1st Lieutenant/Quartermaster for the 1st Potomac Home Brigade Cavalry from 1864-1865 under Col. Henry Cole. After the war, he would remain in military service, becoming a part of Maryland’s 6th US Cavalry and would be stationed at places such as Fort Richardson, TX, forts Riley, Hayes and Dodge (all in Kansas) and finally forts Huachuca, Lowell and Thomas (all in Arizona).
Apparently, the trouble for young Hiram Franklin began when a new postmaster showed up at Fort Huachuca:
A post office was constructed in November and Huachuca received its first
postmaster, Fredrick L. Austin. By the beginning of 1880 Huachuca had telegraph
communications, daily stagecoach runs from Benson, and the Southern Pacific Railroad now
stopped at Tucson near Fort Lowell, just forty-seven miles distant.
One of the unexpected difficulties that coincided with the arrival of a new postmaster was
the sale of liquor on the camp. In addition to serving as the postmaster, Austin also ran a sutler’s
store from which he sold whiskey. Whitside was sternly against intoxicants on the camp and
attempted to curb, if not shut down, Austin’s business. Unaffected by the post commander’s
protestations, Austin had the audacity to complain to Whitside that his troopers were slow in
paying for spirits bought on credit. Whitside summoned his senior noncommissioned officer and
told him to “take care of it . . . and let the la dies of the post know about it also.” The ploy
worked, and Austin left the post all but penniless seven months after arriving.
One of the troopers who imbibed of Austin’s whiskey was Captain Whitside’s second in
command, First Lieutenant Hiram F. Winchester. In addition to obtaining liquor at the sutler’s
store, Winchester could also be seen drunk in the saloons of Tombstone, located twenty miles
east of Camp Huachuca. The lieutenant’s intemperance caught up to him in the summer of 1880
when he was court-martialed for being absent without leave displaying “loud and indecent
behavior . . . in company with a prostitute.” Winchester was incarcerated at Fort Yuma,
California, for nine months. Apparently after completing his sentence in May 1881 and prior to
reporting to his unit, Winchester returned to Tombstone where he turned up dead on 29 May of a
The following obituary reports the mysterious and untimely death of 1st Lt. Winchester as it appeared in the Arizona Weekly Citizen of June 5th, 1881.
The younger Hiram Winchester died on May 29th, 1881. Interestingly, the village he had come to, Tombstone, had only been founded two years before in 1879. The boom town was only 30 miles from the U.S.–Mexico border and was an open market for stolen cattle from ranches in Sonora, Mexico. This feat was regularly accomplished by a loosely organized band of outlaws known as “the Cowboys.” Meanwhile, the legendary Earp brothers—Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan—as well as Doc Holliday, arrived in Tombstone in December 1879 and mid-1880.
The Earps had ongoing conflicts with Cowboys Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Claiborne. The Cowboys repeatedly threatened the Earps over many months until the conflict escalated into a shootout on October 26th, 1881. The historic gunfight is often portrayed as occurring at the O.K. Corral.
It’s fascinating to think that the son of the namesake of our Winchester Hall, a native of Frederick and young man who regularly walked the streets of downtown, may have had interactions with the Earps and Doc Holliday while he was there in Tombstone. If so, I sure hope they were positive encounters. We’ll likely never know.
Following the death of Hiram Franklin Winchester, his corpse would be brought cross-country and eventually be re-buried in the family plot at Cambridge Cemetery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Dorchester County. He left a wife and daughter. (NOTE: For more on this provocative story, click this link:
And speaking of guns and shootouts, Hiram Winchester, the school principal and namesake of Winchester Hall, was distantly related to Oliver Fisher Winchester, a one-time shirt-maker who became incredibly wealthy as the inventor and manufacturer of “the gun that won the west.” This innovation is also known as the Winchester repeating rifle. Both Winchester men (Hiram 1803-1876 and Oliver 1810-1880) were Massachusetts natives who migrated to Baltimore as young men in the 1830s. Most important here is the fact that these men were cousins who shared the same GGG Grandfather— a man named John Winchester, Jr. (1644-1719) of Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. John’s father, John Winchester, Sr. (1611-1694) was the family progenitor who immigrated to Massachusetts from England in 1635.
Now, how's that for finishing with a bang? I'm sure I've given you plenty to think about, next time you visit, or drive by, Frederick's Winchester Hall!
October 26th, 2019 marks an interesting day, one that pays cause to remember the many achievements of a life that impacted not only Frederick County’s history, but that of the state of Maryland. This date is the bicentennial, or 200th anniversary, of the death of Thomas Johnson, Jr.
Many may be familiar with the name as it has adorned one of our local public high schools since the fall of 1966. Meanwhile, less than a quarter of a mile away sits Governor Thomas Johnson Middle School in one direction, and, in another, Frederick’s “mecca” of doctors’ offices and medical practitioner headquarters—Thomas Johnson Drive.
As a proud member of TJ High’s graduating class of 1985, I have always been quite knowledgeable about my alma mater’s namesake, along with the the location of the school on the former Rose Hill Manor estate, and the significance behind the chosen mascot/team for the educational center— the “Patriots.”
My personal interest in Thomas Johnson was initiated by an elementary school field trip to Rose Hill Manor when I was a kid. This historic house, today the centerpiece of a county park created in 1968, served as Thomas Johnson’s retirement home, and is located yards from the high school.
I've read the property dates back to a land patent created in 1746 named Rose Garden that went to early German settler Hans Peter Hoffman. Hoffman's heirs sold this to Thomas Johnson for 4,000 pounds money in 1778.
I fondly recall my days at old TJ, and have the distinction of being part the last class to go through the same school building from 7th-12th grade, as Monocacy Middle and TJ Middle were still being built at that time. My classmates and I cruised through a lost bastion once known as “Junior High” here in Frederick County. As it did when I was in high school more than three decades ago, the manor house stands as a beacon within the backdrop of our proud football field's north endzone.
Thomas Johnson, Jr.
Thomas Johnson, Jr., the son of Thomas Johnson (1702-1772) and Dorcas Sedgwick (1705-1770), was born in Calvert County near the mouth of St. Leonard’s Creek and the Patuxent River. The date of his birth was November 4th, 1732. Interestingly, two of his most intimate friends, later in life, were born the same year—George Washington and Richard Henry Lee.
Thomas Johnson’s grandparents were immigrants from Yarmouth, England who had eloped and came to Maryland in 1687. They settled on the eastern shore of the Patuxent River and built a manor house they would name “the Brewhouse.” Here is where Thomas, Jr. came into the world, one of eleven children.
The original house was lost in a fire, as you will see, a recurring theme somewhat. However, a house was built on the footprint and retained the name. A small family graveyard can be found on the property holding the remains of our Thomas' parents (Thomas and Dorcas).
All that I can glean from Thomas' appearance was that he was short in stature, and possessed reddish hair, the latter fact can be corroborated somewhat by the existence of a unique artifact in the collection of artifacts at Rose Hill Manor. This would be a lock of Dorcas Johnson's (Thomas' mother) hair kept as a lasting memento at her time of death. Yes sir, it is indeed red!
Thomas was eventually sent to the provincial capital of Annapolis in the late 1740's, where he would receive his schooling. One of the major steps which set into motion Johnson’s exemplary career in public service was his early employment under Thomas Jennings, Register of the Land Office at Annapolis. Johnson performed the job of a writer in the office of the Clerk of the Provincial Court. This gave him an opportunity to meet, and witness, the most talented lawyers in the colony, while also learning court procedure along the way.
You could say that Mr. Jennings had a hand in changing young Johnson’s life both professionally and personally. Thomas would marry his boss’ daughter, Ann Jennings, on February 16th, 1766.
In addition, Mr. Jennings inspired Johnson to study law, which he would go on to do as an apprentice under a gentleman named Stephen Bordley. Mr. Bordley was quite experienced and well-traveled, having taught law to many able men over his career. Young Johnson would follow suit (of these other pupils) and eventually opened his own practice in Annapolis. His work quickly led him to branch out to different sections of the Maryland Province. One such was the burgeoning county of Frederick, created in 1748 out of Prince Georges County. Johnson would be admitted to the Bar here in 1760, as well as that for Baltimore County.
By the age of 29, Thomas Johnson, Jr. was recognized as a leading member of the Annapolis Bar, and soon would be elected to the Provincial Assembly as a delegate from Anne Arundel County. Meanwhile, in his home life, Johnson found himself the father of eight children. One of his children (Rebecca) died in infancy and a second, Elizabeth (1780-1798), would die as a young adult. (NOTE: A later daughter would be given the name of Rebecca as well).
In the 1770s, Thomas Johnson, Jr. relocated to Frederick County. He had previously patented over 21,000 acres of land in Frederick between 1763-1765. It is said that his move was precipitated by the urging of his brothers who were doing quite well out here on the western frontier of Maryland. It has also been recorded that the move was one that allowed Johnson to be a bigger player in the Frederick court scene along with offering lucrative business opportunities. Best of all, this afforded the chance to bring him closer to siblings James, Roger, Baker and John who had, or would, move to the Frederick area.
As a side note, James (1736-1809) was the original furnace-master of Catoctin Furnace (below Thurmont) and builder of Springfield Manor, now a wildly popular wedding destination owned by Amie and John St. Angelo. Roger (1749-1831) operated Bloomsbury Furnace along Bennett’s Creek at the southeast foot of Sugarloaf Mountain. Baker (1747-1811), a lawyer, practiced law here and eventually ran Catoctin Furnace in the early 1800’s from his manor house named Auburn, which still exists on the west side of US15, at the point of the at-grade exit to MD806 that goes through the village of Catoctin Furnace. These three would serve in the American Revolution under brother Thomas. John (1745-1811) was a physician with an office at one point on W. Patrick Street in Frederick Town and served as a surgeon in the Maryland Line during the Revolution.
Thomas Johnson, Jr. continued purchasing several tracts of land in the county. He bought the Rose Hill tract (originally known as Rose Garden) in 1778, and a year later (1779) another property that he would take the name Richfield. This latter holding would become his personal (and first) home place here in Frederick County.
According to former historian/archeologist E. Ralston Goldsborough, who grew up on this tract, “Richfield was built with bricks brought from England, was three stories high and contained mammoth proportions." Goldsborough's grandfather, William Goldsborough, bought the property from Johnson in 1800. Goldsborough recalled his grandmother saying the "hall running through the center of the house was wide enough to turn a wagon and four horses."
The Richfield home of Thomas Johnson, Jr. was once located adjacent an old wagon road that headed to the northern reaches of the county from Frederick Town. Today you can see the structure that took its place, but holds the same name of “Richfield.” This is just to the east of US15 (north of Frederick), north of Tuscarora Creek and near the intersection with Willow Road. In layman’s terms, its across from Beckley’s Motel and liquor store—a formidable landmark considering our subject was born in a place called “the Brewhouse,” I guess.
An intimate friend of Thomas Johnson was George Washington, who actually stayed at Richfield on two occasions in 1785 and 1791. Johnson hoped the estate would be his place of retirement, but his wife died in November, 1794 at the age of 49. In 1800, Richfield was sold and the former governor moved to Rose Hill Manor, which he had built as a wedding gift for his daughter Ann Jennings (Johnson) Grahame and husband Maj. John Colin Grahame.
Sometime after that, Richfield burned. According to Goldsborough, “a servant girl tending the fireplaces placed an ash box under the stairs leading to the third floor. During the night, the box caught fire and spread through the house. Some fishermen on the Monocacy River saw the flames, ran to the house and managed to get the family out, along with a few furnishings and pieces of silverware, but the house was destroyed.”
A manor house would be rebuilt by the Goldsboroughs. This would eventually become the birthplace of Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, who was born there in 1839 and later proclaimed as the "hero of Santiago" during the Spanish-American War. The home was again ravaged in the late 1920's by a tornado, but rebuilt to look as it did before. It continues to be in private ownership.
The Winds of Revolution
As mentioned earlier, Thomas Johnson, Jr. was a delegate to the Provincial Assembly in Annapolis. This was an interesting time to be in local government considering the period of unjust taxes being forced on the colonial citizenry by order of the English Crown. Here in Maryland, Frederick gained a reputation as a “hotbed” of activity for the Sons of Liberty, and our Frederick County court justices were the first official body to repudiate the Stamp Act of 1765.
Thomas would lend his talents to be a leader in the crusade against taxation without representation. In 1774, the Maryland Assembly appointed Johnson a delegate to the First Continental Congress, and he would represent the colony once again the following year at the Second Continental Congress. Of course, this body met at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in Philadelphia. One account said of Johnson:
“Biographers might well applaud him most of all for his clarity, soundness, and originality of his thinking. Not for him were the muddled emotionalism and uncomprehending flagwaving of some loudly vocal patriots. To him, things either made good sense or they did not. Sound reasoning served as his chief navigational instrument in charting a course of action. He was a conservative, hoping for reconciliation of the American colonies with the “mother country,” and became a devoted rebel only after hope for patching the breach began to fade.”
In the Congress, Johnson was allied with those who favored separation from Great Britain. In November 1775, this legendary body created a Committee of [Secret] Correspondence that was to seek foreign support for the war. Thomas Johnson, along with Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Harrison V, was initially named to the committee.
Throughout his career, Johnson maintained a personal and political friendship with George Washington, which was solidified during his time in Philadelphia. He holds the distinction of nominating his friend to become the first commander in chief of the Continental Army in June, 1775. Many histories give the credit to another founding father, John Adams, but it was Johnson.
Judge Edward Delaplaine in his 1927 biographical work entitled The Life of Thomas Johnson states: "Thomas Johnson often told his nephew (James Johnson) the story along the lines that he and Richard Henry Lee wanted to nominate George Washington but even at that time there existed a division between the northern and southern colonies in the Congress. The war was seen as a northern battle, with all the confrontations in the northern states. Apparently, upwards of a half-century later Mr. Adams remembered that the delegates from Virginia had, from “delicacy,” declined to place Washington’s name before the House. In a letter written February 24, 1821, to Richard Henry Lee, grandson of the Richard Henry Lee who introduced the resolution to Congress to declare the United Colonies free and independent, Mr. Adams gave this explanation of why Thomas Johnson, of Maryland, made the nominating speech:
“As such motions were generally concerted beforehand, I presume Mr. Johnson was designated to nominate a General, because the gentlemen from Virginia declined, from delicacy, the nomination of their own colleague…It ought to be eternally remembered that the Eastern members were interdicted from taking the lead in any great measures, because they lay under an odium and a great weight of unpopularity. Because they had been suspected from the beginning of having independence in contemplation, they were restrained from the appearance of promoting any great measures by their own discretion, as well as by the general sense of Congress.
Later in 1775, Thomas Johnson drafted the declaration of rights that became adopted by the Maryland Assembly and later included as the first part of Maryland’s original constitution. It was adopted by the state's constitutional convention at Annapolis in 1776. Johnson would frequently leave Philadelphia and return to Maryland as he continued to lead simultaneous efforts in the Maryland Assembly, along with recruiting for the war effort. He was here in Maryland when the United States Declaration of Independence was signed, and did not have the opportunity to affix his signature to the legendary document—a feat which surely would have heightened his legacy.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s skills in leading fighting men were called on as he would be elected the first brigadier general of the Maryland provincial militia and commander of the Flying Camp in 1776. His brothers supported the revolution by manufacturing supplies, ammunition and possibly cannon in their respective furnace operations. Some of the cannonballs used at the famed battle of Yorktown were made at the Catoctin Furnace.
It is generally thought that Thomas Johnson, Jr. commanded a force of about 1,800 men, under the name of the Flying Camp as mentioned earlier. His brothers James and Baker were appointed to the rank of colonel and headed a few of the battalions. Roger was a major. In early February of 1777, Johnson and his Flying Camp would be in winter headquarters near Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
The first State Legislature of Maryland had convened in Annapolis. One of the important duties imposed by the new state Constitution of 1776 called upon the Legislature to select a Governor. This task was performed on February 13th, 1777 by a joint ballot involving both houses of Maryland’s legislature. A total of 40 out of 52 assemblymen cast their gubernatorial votes for Thomas Johnson, Jr. Delaplaine in his book goes on to say:
“The overwhelming majority in favor of Johnson for Governor was an unquestioned tribute to his integrity, ability, and lofty patriotism.
Johnson was given the extraordinary news while in camp with Gen. Washington. He penned an acceptance letter to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, President of Maryland’s Senate:
Thomas Johnson would be Maryland’s first elected governor of this new age after Independence was declared in 1776. The politician would make sure that his old friend George Washington was supported from this new state of Maryland, as well. Johnson had a hand in getting a gun-lock factory built in Frederick, along with the major construction of a barracks which would eventually house British officers, but is better remembered for the captivity of hundreds of German missionary soldiers who were called “Hessians.”
More Public Service and Retirement
Thomas Johnson was twice reelected as governor and served until 1780. He then served in the Maryland legislature. The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, and almost fittingly George Washington resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in the Maryland State House in Annapolis, stomping ground of the guy who helped put him in the position in the first place.
Soon afterwards, Johnson and George Washington formed a company to extend navigation of the Potomac River. Thomas also served briefly in the Maryland ratification convention, where he supported ratification of the federal Constitution, and then became chief judge of the General Court of Maryland.
In 1789, Thomas Johnson was appointed U.S. District Judge of Maryland by George Washington, and a year later became Chief Judge in Maryland District Court. In 1791, President Washington elevated him even higher as he was named to the U.S. Supreme Court and took his seat as an associate justice. He was 60 years old at this time.
Johnson wrote the first documented opinion of the court. He also served the shortest term of any justice—14 months—citing health issues for resigning.
That same year of 1792, Johnson was appointed by Washington as chairman of the board of commissioners to lay out the capitol city. He was said to have been the first to call the city after his friend, Washington.
In actuality, Johnson may have turned down more invitations to serve than he accepted. President George Washington asked him to serve as his secretary of state. Johnson declined citing his health and not feeling qualified for the job. Apparently, Johnson was not confident in his own speaking skills as an orator. His strong suits were that of writing and working with finances. Letters penned by Johnson also indicate he believed his eyesight was failing.
After 30 years of public service, Johnson retired to private life. At Rose Hill, Johnson could reflect upon his many achievements and spend quality time with his favorite child and two grandchildren. He had missed the opportunity to see his own children grow up due to his work on behalf of Maryland and his countrymen.
Johnson can be found living in Frederick in the 1790, 1800 and 1810 census records. He would make his last public appearance in Frederick in early January, 1800. This was the time of George Washington’s death, and Johnson was charged with presenting the eulogy in the local memorial service for his dear friend.
Johnson would live for another 20 years, however little is known about his activities. It’s been said that his bedroom was in the rear of Rose Hill and overlooked the gardens and mountains, as he once noted in correspondence to a friend. A few documents remain that indicate that the aged statesman continued to provide legal advice. He carefully labeled and packed his correspondence in barrels for preservation. Sadly, the next generation used the papers for kindling, according to Judge Delaplaine.
On the morning of October 26th, 1819 at the age of 87, Maryland’s first-elected governor would pass.
The Frederick Town Herald paper commented:
“His deeds are inscribed in the imperishable archives of his country; his wisdom, impartiality and integrity in the records of justice; his worth and virtue are preserved in the hearts of his countrymen; his kindness, affection and friendship in the memory of his family, relatives and friends; his trust for immortality rested in his Saviour and God. Washington was his friend. Eulogium can add no more.”
Thomas Johnson’s body was buried at All Saints' Episcopal Churchyard in a family crypt located below ground and accessed by a stairway. This underground vault contained the remains of his wife, brothers James and Joshua, along with a few of his children. In 1894, the newly-founded Frederick Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, at the urging of Charter member and Johnson granddaughter, Ann Grahame Ross, would place a marble marker atop the ground above the Johnson family tomb.”
The All Saints burial ground was sold in 1913, and all bodies were moved here to Mount Olivet Cemetery. Greatest interest was placed in the re-interment of Governor Johnson, and the process made front page news in the local paper. Apparently, the former governor was not where the principles of the project thought he was, and an arduous struggle of “Finding TJ” transpired over the summer of 1913. With the help of relatives, his corpse was finally identified and was the last to make the move to Mount Olivet in November, 1913.
With the re-interment of the first governor's mortal remains into a vault within Frederick’s “garden cemetery” in Area MM/Lot 38, came the tablet that Mrs. Ross and the DAR had laid upon the grave in 1894. Three of Johnson's brothers are also buried here in this particular lot as well: James, John and Joshua, the latter the father of first lady Louisa Catherine (Johnson) Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams. Baker Johnson is buried in the cemetery's Area E about 150 yards to the north.
A new marker displaying Johnson’s many achievements was placed here, and a flag pole was also erected which proudly flies the Maryland flag over the grave of the first governor. This has been the scene here ever since.
An area to the immediate south of the mausoleum complex and along the highway was named in honor of Thomas Johnson. Come to think of it, so was a bridge over the Patuxent River, not far from Johnson’s birthplace. You can traverse this patriotic bridge when traveling from Solomon’s Island at the southern tip of Calvert County to St. Mary’s County on the other side. Interestingly, the TJ bridge was built for Southern Maryland in a trade to get rid of its slot machines in the 1960s. After slot machines were phased out in 1968, so the plan went, the new bridge would foster economic development for the rural area, which still relied on tobacco farming and working the water for crabs, fish and oysters.
Nearly 104 years later, Mount Olivet received a bust of Thomas Johnson. This had previously resided in front of Frederick City Hall (the former Frederick County Court House) since its unveiling in 1929. The bronze sculpture is the work of Joseph Urner, a talented local artist who served in both world wars and was laid to rest in a family plot in Area AA. Our superintendent cleaned it up, and we placed it up near the FSK monument in the front of the cemetery.
Today, many residents of Frederick have no clue who Thomas Johnson, Jr. was, and how important his actions were to not only shaping Frederick, but our State of Maryland and our country. He rose to the top in regards to his given legal profession. He was a successful businessman exemplified by his furnace, real estate and farming endeavors. He was not only an influential leader in the fight for independence as a delegate to Continental Congress, but he commanded troops in the American Revolution. He helped shape Maryland as a state and served as a faithful delegate and our first-elected governor. He was just as much a "patriot" as his close friend Washington, the legendary Jefferson, Adams, Hancock, along with our Maryland signers: Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Samuel Chase, Thomas Stone and William Paca.
If you know a student who attends TJ High or TJ Middle, please tell them the story of their school's namesake. That takes care of the younger generation. As for the rest of us, there will come a time we need to visit a specialist with an address on Thomas Johnson Drive. If anything else, take a moment to think of our first governor and his legacy when you do..... as you will likely have a wait before your appointment anyway.
Private practice, Annapolis, Maryland, 1760-1762
Member, Maryland Provincial Assembly, 1762-1774
Delegate, Continental Congress, 1774-1777
Brigadier General, Maryland Militia, 1776-1777
State Governor, Maryland, 1777-1780
Private practice, Frederick, Maryland, 1780-1790
Member, Maryland House of Delegates, 1780-1782, 1786-1788
Chief judge, Maryland General Court, 1790-1791
Associate Justice, US Supreme Court, 1791-1792
Commissioner of the New Capital, 1791-1794