Friday, August 1, 2014

George Kephart

August 26th marks 126 years since the death of George Kephart.
George Kephart was born on February 7, 1811, the fifth child of David Andrew Kephart Jr. and Margaret Reister.  On his mother's side, George was a great-grandson of town founder John Reister, and an uncle of William Russell, from last November's blog post.  George and his siblings grew up near Taneytown - then Frederick County, now Carroll County.

David Kephart passed away in 1836.  In his will, he made specific bequests to his wife and two of his children, but his estate was to be equally divided among George and his seven siblings.  George and his older brother Philip were named as executors.

In the 1850 census, George was a farmer living in Carroll County, owning real estate valued at $17,000.  His mother, Margaret, and two sisters, Sarah and Hannah, were living with him.  Also in the household was a laborer, David Yingling.  Three other men lived on the farm:  Nelson Shriver, and David and James Foreman;  no occupation is given for these men, but likely they also worked on the farm.
In 1856, for the price of $40 an acre, George Kephart purchased about 259 acres of land from "Walnut Grove", a tract of land owned by John T. Moale, who was the husband of George's second cousin, Caroline Reister Moale.  John's father Thomas had owned "Walnut Grove" before him, and part of it included sixteen acres of land from John Reister Jr.'s tract originally known as "Brotherly Love", near present-day Glyndon Drive.
Ten years later, not long after the end of the Civil War, the Reisterstown's Lutheran congregation began work on building a new church for their services.  The original log church, which had been located in the northeast corner of the Reisterstown Community Cemetery, had been torn down in the 1850s.  Since then, members had been meeting in each other's homes.  A cornerstone was laid in July of 1866, and work on the church continued until January of 1867, overseen by the building committee, of which George Kephart was a member.
On February 25, 1867, George donated half an acre from "Walnut Grove", along present-day Bond Avenue, to the "coloured Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church ... for a coloured school house and graveyard."  Dating back to the 1830s, the African-American community in Reisterstown had been growing, originally meeting at the Methodist Church on Main Street, then moving around to various private homes as the community expanded.  The new one-room school house, completed in 1872, became part of the Black Public School System of Baltimore County.

In the 1870 census, George, now 59 years old, was living in Reisterstown.  He was still working as a farmer, owning $18,000 worth of real estate.  Living with him were his aunt, Susan Whalen;  his younger sister, Susan Russell, who was keeping house; his nieces, Hannah and Susan Russell;  and a laborer, George Chance.
Another religious community seeking to build a church was the Episcopal Church.  In January of 1879, the Vestry of Reisterstown Parish purchased five acres, and rented five more acres, from George Kephart's "Walnut Grove" property.  The land was immediately east of the African-American community's school house.

About a year after, Reverend Valentine, who led the African-American congregation, approached George Kephart for permission to use part of the cemetery grounds next to the school house for a larger church building.  George agreed, so long as the construction would not interfere with the school.  The new church was completed in 1880 and was named the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church of Baltimore County, which later became St. Luke's United Methodist Church.

By the 1880 census, George's household a changed a bit.  His aunt and sister still lived with him, and sister was still keeping house.  Two different nieces lived with him now, Lizzie and Sarah Russell.  Kephart Pfeffer, who would later marry George's grand-niece Hannah Russell, was working on the farm.  George also employed two domestic servants, Ann Madden and Jane Smith.
The Episcopal Church purchased additional land from George Kephart in 1881 and 1883, and a temporary chapel was built at the property's western edge.  In March of 1884, the Vestry of Reisterstown Parish "desired to obtain the sanction of the General Assembly of Maryland to such purchase", which was given.
On August 21, 1888, George Kephart suffered a paralytic stroke, which left him in a coma.  He passed away five days later, on August 26th, at the age of 77.  His obituary in the Baltimore Sun described him as "a bachelor of sociable tastes" and "one of the oldest and wealthiest farmers near Reisterstown".

George never married or had children, so in his will, he left to his sister Susan Russell the use of his farm and personal property for one year, after which it would be sold, and she would receive $5,000.  To his widowed sister-in-law Susan Kephart, he left $1,000.  The remainder of George's estate was to be equally divided among his nieces and nephews:
  • Elizabeth Russell, 1837-1909, unmarried
  • Susan Russell Wightman, 1851-1938, wife of James S. Wightman
  • Reister Russell, 1842-1922, husband of Julia C. Ducker
  • Susan Keller Russell, 1842-1940, wife of George Russell
  • Abbie Ann Thomas Russell, 1842-1926, wife of William A. Russell
In the early 1900s, the Lutheran church on Main Street was torn down and replaced with a new sanctuary, now known as Trinity Lutheran.  All Saints' Episcopal Church was built on East Chatsworth Avenue, but the cemetery remains at their original location on Bond Avenue.  Next door, the old school house was torn down in the 1990s, but St. Luke's Methodist Church still stands, with its small cemetery.

All Saints' Episcopal Church (census records)
  • Year: 1850; Census Place: District 2, Carroll, Maryland; Roll: M432_289; Page: 379A.
  • Year: 1870; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M593_569; Page: 271A.
  • Year: 1880; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 495; Page: 556C.
Baltimore Sun
  • "Deaths and Burials." Date: 28 August 1888; Page: 6. (will)

German Marylanders

Maryland Archives (land records, legislative records, will & Historic Sites Inventory Survey)

Reisterstown Library

  • Reister's Desire by Lillian Bayly Marks, 1975.
  • School House & Church Photos
St. Luke's United Methodist Church

Trinity Lutheran Church

Cemetery Photos © AgateGS

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