Thursday, October 1, 2015

Corn Roast Festival

October's blog post will be online soon - apologies for the delay!

In the meantime, please come out to support the cemetery at the Corn Roast Festival on Saturday October 10th!

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Elizabeth H. Davis

September 1st marks 114 years since the death of Elizabeth "Bessie" Hudson Davis.
Bessie was born on April 5, 1866, the eldest daughter of Michael Davis and Rebecca Ruth Mettam.  Her father Michael was a German immigrant, and probably traveled to the U.S. sometime in the 1850s.  Though Bessie's mother Rebecca was born in Maryland, her parents were English immigrants.  Bessie's maternal grandfather Joseph Mettam was a well-known minister who served as the pastor of the Pikesville Baptist Church, now the Mettam Memorial Baptist Church, for over fifty years.

Michael Davis and Rebecca Mettam were married in Pikesville by Rebecca's father on October 8, 1863.  By the 1870 census, the couple were living near Reisterstown and had three daughters, Bessie, Annie, and Carrie.  Michael was a farmer and owned real estate valued at $7,500.  A laborer, William Bean, was also living with the family.
The Davises would welcome two sons and another daughter in the coming years, before tragedy befell the family in November of 1877.  Perhaps some illness struck, as three of the children died within weeks of each other:  Annie, almost ten years old;  Alice, just two weeks shy of her sixth birthday; and Henry, three years old.
In the 1880 census, Michael was now working as a carpenter.  Bessie and her sister Carrie were attending school, while their mother Rebecca was keeping house with their new one-year-old brother, Reister.
Bessie graduated from Reisterstown High School, now Franklin, in 1886.  The year prior, her father had purchased a plot of land for $240 along Central Avenue in Glyndon in trust for Bessie.  There were some interesting conditions required in the deed.  The Davises were not allowed to "make or sell any speritous or intoxicating liquors, except for medical use", nor to build a slaughter house, lime kiln, glue factory, bone mill, soap factory, or stable.  Further, they would have to put in a board walk and plant trees along Central Avenue.  For reasons unknown, Michael sold the land in 1887 for $300, this time without any conditions attached.

The following year, on September 18, 1888, Michael Davis passed away at the age of 52.
Around this time, Bessie began teaching history and civil government at the Reisterstown High School.  In 1892, she was appointed assistant principal, a position she still held when the school was renamed Franklin High School a few years later in 1896.  In the photo below, taken in 1898, Bessie is standing on the far left, with Principal Zachariah Ebaugh in the center of the group.  Her youngest sister Katherine would graduate from Franklin the following year.
In early 1892, Bessie's mother Rebecca purchased a plot of land for $300 from John and Catherine Dean at the sharp curve near the south end of town, near present-day 500 Main Street.  The location was marked "Mrs. Davis" on an 1898 map of Reisterstown.
In the 1900 census, 34-year-old Bessie was listed as a teacher, living with her mother and three younger siblings.  Her sister Caroline was a music teacher, and brother Reister was a fireman.
Late in the evening on August 31, 1901, Bessie was returning home on the electric railway line on Main Street after visiting with friends.  She missed the stop near her home, and hurried up to the conductor, asking him to stop the car.  He told Bessie that he couldn't stop the car until the next stop on the line, and tried to grab a hold of her arm.  As the conductor rang the bell to signal to the car's motorman, Bessie jumped off the moving car.

After stopping the car, Bessie was found unconscious on the side of the road, and carried to her home.  She had suffered a concussion on the left side of her head from the fall, leaving the right side of her body paralyzed.  Though she attempted to move her left arm a few times, Bessie never fully regained consciousness, and passed away the following day.

Because Bessie herself was never able to give a statement about what had caused her fall, an inquest was held to determine if she had jumped from the car, or had been thrown by the car's movement.  Though the motorman and several of the passengers were unable to say for certain what had happened, the conductor and a few other witnesses testified that Bessie had jumped.  While the conductor claimed that the car was moving at over twenty miles an hour, the motorman stated that the cars never go faster than fourteen miles per hour.
The inquest determined that Bessie had jumped from the car, but also stated that "this would have been prevented had the conductor been better acquainted with the road and people, which lack of acquaintance results from the system of the railway company in frequently changing conductors on this route."

A funeral service led by five local ministers was held at the Southern Methodist Church, which proved to be too small to hold the all of the mourners wishing to attend.  Several members of Franklin High's alumni association served as pall bearers.  Rev. William M. Waters, the church's pastor, sang "Nearer, Yet Nearer" and read a poem, "Fate", found in a notebook that Bessie had been carrying the night of the accident.
Bessie's siblings were:
  • Annie Louisa Davis, 1867-1877
  • Caroline "Carrie" Davis, 1869-1939, wife of Cardiff Tagart Hollingsworth
  • Alice Barker Davis, 1871-1877
  • Henry Davis, 1874-1877
  • William Reister Davis, 1879-1958, husband of Clara Marie Chason
  • Katherine Turner Davis, 1881-1963, unmarried

Sources: (census records & map)

  • Year: 1870; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M593_569; Pages: 263B-264A.
  • Year: 1880; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 495; Page: 571A.
  • Year: 1900; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 606; Page: 3A.
Baltimore Sun
  • "Married." Date: 14 October 1863; Page: 2.
  • "Death Of An Aged Minister." Date: 2 February 1888; Page: 6.
  • "Died." Date: 19 September 1888; Page: 2.
  • "Franklin High School." Date: 24 June 1898; Page: 7.
  • "Franklin High School." Date: 24 June 1899; Page: 7.
  • "Suburbs And County." Date: 2 September 1901; Page: 7.
  • "Jury Says Miss Davis Jumped." Date: 3 September 1901; Page: 7. 
  • "Suburbs And County." Date: 4 September 1901; Page: 7. 
Maryland Archives (death & land records)

Reisterstown Library

  • 1898 & 1901 Franklin High School Photos
Cemetery photos © AgateGS

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Frank L. Dorsey

August 30th marks 88 years since the death of Frank Louis Dorsey.
Frank was born on July 3, 1893 in Louisville, Maryland, the second son of James M. Dorsey and Fannie Bell Stocksdale.  His father James was the son of Irish immigrants, and grew up working on the family's farm in Baltimore County.

In the 1900 census, the Dorsey family was living in Carroll County.  His father James was working as a farmer, and one of the farm hands, Adam Miller, was living with them.  James and Fannie had been married nine years prior, and had three young sons:  Harry, Frank, and James.
Sometime shortly after this census, the Dorseys moved to a farm in Reisterstown.  It was around this time that a photo was taken of the family.  The identity of the girl in the picture is unknown.
Frank's mother Fannie passed away on June 26, 1907 at the age of 43 from an ovarian tumor.

In 1910, teenage Frank was living with his father and brothers in Reisterstown.  His elder brother Harry was listed as being a laborer on the farm, while Frank and younger brother James had no occupation.
Both Frank and Harry were students at Franklin High School, with Harry graduating in 1910, followed by Frank two years later in 1912.  Oddly, their younger brother James does not appear in any of the school's Dial yearbooks.  The 1912 Dial gives interesting glimpses of Frank's time there:  his nickname was Shortie, his "greatest need" was an automobile, and he was famous for his good humor.

Frank also played on Franklin's baseball team.  According to a passage in the yearbook, written mid-season:
"This year the managers arranged a very ambitious schedule with some of the strongest schools in the city and state including McDonough, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Maryland Agricultural College Reserves, Loyola High School, Westminster High School, and Western Maryland College Freshman.  The weather prevented much early practice and consequently the playing was rather ragged, but there was a noted improvement in each game.  Finally the team struck its stride, started a winning streak and shows fair promise of keeping on winning until the close of the year."
During World War I, Frank enlisted as a private on August 28, 1918, serving in the Supply Company of the 72nd Infantry.  Not much is known about his brief service in the war, which came to an end two and a half months later.  Frank was discharged from service on January 30, 1919.  The Dial yearbook from that year included Frank on the Franklin High School Honor Roll of graduates who had served during the war.
In the 1920 census, Frank and both of his brothers were still living at home with their father.  Harry was listed as a clerk for the railroad, while Frank and James worked at home on the farm.  The family had hired a housekeeper, Sallie Gittinger, who lived with them.
Sometime during the 1920s, Frank married a woman named Catherine, but  sadly, they only had a few years together at most.  Frank passed away on August 30, 1927 at the age of 34 from peritonitis.

Sources: (census & WWI records)

  • Year: 1900; Census Place: Woolerys, Carroll, Maryland; Roll: 620; Page: 4A.
  • Year: 1910; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: T624_550; Page: 21B.
  • Year: 1920; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: T625_654; Page: 18A.
Baltimore Sun
  • "Deaths." Date: 2 September 1927; Page: 17.
Maryland Archives (death records)

Reisterstown Library

  • Dial, Franklin High School, 1912 & 1919.
  • Dorsey Photo
Cemetery photos © AgateGS

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

John & Mary Neel

July 23rd marks 100 years since the death of John A. Neel.
John Neel was born on April 30, 1844 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Hugh Neel and Mary Ann Neeper.  His grandfather was Thomas Neel, who served as a Lieutenant in the Fifth Company of Colonel Watson's Battalion during the American Revolutionary War.  According to John's nephew Albert Gore, Thomas "was a powerful man physically.  Captain Patrick Marshall of the same battalion having been killed in the Battle of Germantown, Lieut. Neel picked Marshall's body up and carried it on his back for a mile.  This was during the heat of the engagement when the bullets were flying fast."

The Neel family moved south to Baltimore County sometime prior to the 1850 census, when John's father Hugh's property was valued at $4,000.  Hugh and his eldest son Thomas were working as farmers, while John and his sister Rebecca were attending school.

By 1860, the value of Hugh's real estate had more than doubled to $10,000.
Mary E. Ducker was born on November 27, 1851 in Maryland, the daughter of Henry Howard Ducker and Elizabeth Ann Devries, and a granddaughter of Jeremiah and Julia Ducker (see the blog post from May 2014).  In the 1860 census, Mary's father Henry was a farmer, owning $8,000 worth of real estate.  Eight-year-old Mary was attending school along with siblings Kate, George, and Bill.
During the Civil War, John Neel enlisted in the Union Army on August 14, 1862, serving originally as a Private in Company B of the Eighth Maryland Infantry Regiment.  According to the muster rolls, he was described as five feet, eleven and a half inches tall, with a fair complexion, gray eyes, and dark hair.  In June of 1863, John was promoted to Corporal, but soon after was hospitalized in Washington, DC, sick with typhoid fever, from July through October of 1863.  He was later promoted to Sergeant in August of 1864, and again on October 15, 1864, to Commissary Sergeant.  After the end of the War, John was mustered out of service on May 31, 1865.

Both John Neel and Mary Ducker lost their fathers during the 1860s.  John's father Hugh passed away in 1866, when John was twenty-two years old.  Henry Ducker passed away on his daughter Mary's eighteenth birthday, in 1869.

In the 1870 census, John was living in Reisterstown with his widowed mother Mary and siblings Rebecca and Joseph.  Mary had apparently inherited her husband's real estate, now valued at $17,500, and was keeping house while John and Joseph farmed the land.  The family also employed a domestic servant, thirteen-year-old Clara Keagey.
That same census year, Mary's family had moved in with her uncle Jeremiah T. Ducker in Woodensburg.  Jeremiah was a retired farmer, while Mary's widowed mother Elizabeth kept house.
John Neel and Mary Ducker were married on June 21, 1877 in Baltimore City.
Over the years, the Neels' household changed little, as the couple had no children.  John continued to work as a farmer, with Mary keeping house.  Clara Keagey worked for them as a domestic servant at least until the 1910 census.
Late in 1906, John Neel applied for a pension based on his service during the Civil War, claiming "partial inability to earn a support by manual labor" due to his age.  He was granted $6 per month, which was increased to $18 in 1912.
John Neel passed away on July 23, 1917 in Reisterstown at the age of 73.
After John's death, Mary applied for a widow's pension, and received $25 per month.  In the 1930 census, Mary was living with her two unmarried sisters, Ida and Sarah, at 216 Hanover Road in Reisterstown.
Mary's health took a turn for the worse, and in August of 1935, her niece's husband, Reverend S. H. Culler, wrote to the Bureau of Pensions requesting that her pension be increased:
"I am writing on behalf of Mrs. Neel who is helpless on her bed in Reisterstown, Maryland.  She is paralized and I fed her with a spoon during her illness which began in July ... She is getting $40.00 per month pension which I believe is below the amount she should receive because of her utter helplessness and her financial circumstances.  She is 84 years of age and in need of necessities and much extra care."
Rev. Culler's request was denied in September:
"The $40 per month pension which Mrs. Neel is now receiving is the maximum amount to which she is entitled under any existing pension law.  As the records in the case show that her marriage to the veteran on June 21, 1877 was subsequent to the period of the Civil War, she could have no title to the $50 rate ... It is regretted by this Service that under the law, no increase of pension can be made on account of the financial and physical condition of the above named widow."
Mary Neel passed away two months later, on November 4, 1935, just weeks shy of her 84th birthday.

John & Mary Neel's signatures:

Sources: (census records & NSSAR application)

  • Year: 1850; Census Place: District 1, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M432_280; Page: 232B.
  • Year: 1860; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M653_468; Page: 21.
  • Year: 1860; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M653_468; Page: 8.
  • Year: 1870; Census Place: Reisterstown, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M593_569; Page: 281A.
  • Year: 1870; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M593_569; Page: 238A.
  • Year: 1880; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 495; Page: 555B.
  • Year: 1900; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 606; Page: 10B.
  • Year: 1910; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: T624_550; Page: 13A.
  • Year: 1930; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 846; Page: 10A.
Baltimore Sun
  • "Died."  Date: 24 July 1917; Page: 6.
  • "Deaths."  Date: 5 November 1935; Page: 21.
Fold3 (Civil War records)

Maryland Archives (marriage records)

National Archives (pension file)

Cemetery photos © AgateGS

Monday, June 1, 2015

John & Mary Beckley

June 9th marks 202 years since the death of Mary "Polly" Reister Beckley.
Mary was born in early 1757, the sixth and youngest child of John Reister and Margaret Sohn.  She was still just a baby when her father patented the "Reister's Desire" land tract in Baltimore County the following year, and shortly after he moved the family there.

In 1781, John Reister broke his property "Brotherly Love" into smaller lots for several of his children.  Mary, in her turn, was deeded a half-acre with a small house, located south of the Reisters' inn.
Two years later, on October 14, 1783, Mary married John Beckley, a blacksmith.  He, too, was of German descent, believed to be the son of Mathias and Elizabeth.  John took over the blacksmith shop established about eight years prior by his new father-in-law.
Perhaps as a wedding gift, John Reister deeded John Beckley a quarter-acre lot with a house from his original "Reister's Desire" land in August of 1786.  Reister promised to "warrant and forever defend the aforesaid lott or parcell of land and premisses unto him the said John Bachley his heirs and assigns forever against any person or persons whatsoever", in exchange for five shillings sterling, and an annual rent of six dollars.
While the oldest part of the house dated back to 1779, the Beckleys added on to the structure.  By 1798, it was listed on tax records as a two-story brick building, twenty-nine feet by fourteen feet, with a fifteen-by-fifteen brick kitchen.

John Beckley passed away on December 5, 1806 at the age of 50.
As John left no will, Mary was appointed administratrix of his estate in February of 1807.  By April, her estate inventory totaled $142.12, including:
"1 bedstead and bedding, 2 chests, 1 lot of wearing apparel, 1 pair speckticles and one pair knee buckles, 1 case of razors, 1 looking glass, 1 chest, 1 bedstead and sacking bottom, 1 walnut table and a desk, 1 stove, 15 chairs, 1 table and a candlestand, 1 bedstead and furniture, 1 small bedstead under bed and quilt, 1 lot of books and a clothes brush, 1 looking glass, 2 old spinning wheels and reel, ten course linen sheets and one fine, 4 old bed quilts 4 hand towels + 2 table cloths, 1 bedsted bed and furniture, 1 folding table, 1 lot of plates and dishes, 3 decanters 3 tumblers, 1 lot of tea ware, 8 bottles, 1 cutting box, 1 cow, 2 iron shovels + one garden rake + one hoe, 1 drag and fork, 1 lot of crockery, 1 lot of pewter and finery, 1 lot of wooden ware, 3 flat irons 2 dripping pans 2 ladles 1 fleshfork, 1 sow and pigs, 4 pots 2 frying pans and potlid, 3 kettles, 1 cittchen cupboard and coffee mill, 3 dough trays and churn, 3 barrels 3 tubs, 1 lot of old blacksmith tools and some old iron, 1 grindstone and slate, 1 wooden morter and old ax."
The following year, Mary was appointed guardian of John Beckley's "orphan" children:  Juliet Ann, John, Philip, Elizabeth, Jacob, and Dorothy.
Mary passed away four years later, on June 8, 1812, at the age of 56.  The guardianship of the younger Beckley children would fall to John Jr., who had taken over his father's blacksmith shop.

The Beckleys' house still remains today, at the corner of Main Street and Cockeys Mill Road.  For many years, it remained in the hands of Reister descendants.  In the early 1900s, the house was purchased by the Naylors and became a popular ice cream parlor.

In the 1970s, the Beckley house entered its current incarnation as the Ski Shoppe.

John and Mary's children were:
  • Julia Beckley, c1785-1854, unmarried
  • John Beckley, 1788-1871, husband of (1) Urith Geary & (2) Juliann Gore
  • Philip Beckley, 1793-1860, husband of Rebecca Choate
  • Elizabeth Beckley, c1794-1974, wife of Solomon Choate
  • Jacob Beckley, 1796-1874, husband of Matilda Wilson
  • Dorothy Beckley, 1801-1869, wife of Elijah Gore

Sources: (inventory & Orphan's Court records)
Maryland Archives (marriage & land records, Historic Sites Inventory Survey)

Reisterstown Library
  • Ice Cream Parlor Photos
  • Reister's Desire by Lillian Bayly Marks, 1975.
Cemetery photos © AgateGS