Well, I can’t recall a year in my lifetime, thus far, when 12 midnight on New Year’s Eve couldn’t come fast enough. This year is it, and it’s a real shame that the legendary Dick Clark isn’t still here to help usher in 2021 in “Rockin’ style.”
The past 12 months of 2020 will go down in history as the year the world saw a pandemic like no other, ruining just about everything except the always precious gift of new babies born within its 365 day-span. I don’t need to go into all the negative things that went on display this past year, but it has been a period most all of us are eager to put in the rear-view mirror. Let’s just push the reset button in hopes for a kinder, gentler and brighter 2021.
Of course, some folks have capitalized on this miserable time period including toilet paper, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipe manufacturers. Amazon, Netflix and grocery stores made out pretty well, as did Covid face-mask manufacturers and vandalism supply outlets. Even on the back end of the year, makers of novelty t-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers calling out 2020 are getting the last laugh. Although in all seriousness, it really hasn’t been a laughing matter. And that’s a perfect segue as difference of opinion, ideology and thought ran rampant this past year, and divided friends and family in many cases. That said, perhaps there is only one thing that we can all agree on and come to the consensus that, plain and simply, 2020 sucks.
Now, the verb “sucks,” or its other tense “suck” (when used with a pluralized noun) has a colorful slang meaning (and an even more colorful origin which you can research on your own time). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary includes the definition of the slang use of this word, which in some circles is seen to have a somewhat vulgar connotation. Here goes: Suck -- to be objectionable or inadequate. Of course, the irony with our English language is that the best remedy and advice given to people for properly surviving and overcoming the challenges associated with this past year is the phrase: “You just have to suck it up.” This is conveniently defined by Merriam-Webster as “making the effort required to do or deal with something difficult or unpleasant.”
So why have I gone off on this strange rant in the first place, when our weekly “Stories in Stone” features are supposed to be interesting, informative, and sometimes entertaining as we are recounting the lives of former Frederick residents laid to rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery? Well, I must warn you that like 2020, this week’s blog will “suck.” You may not want to read any further (but I sure hope you do).
A couple of years back, I stumbled upon a rare surname among the 40,000 inhabitants interred in our fair burying ground. Frankly, I found myself doing a doubletake.
Well, there’s a name you don’t see everyday, if ever at all. I think that it would actually suck to have such a last name today, and possibly even worse to take as a married name? Could you imagine going to the DMV to have your maiden name changed to Suck? Anyway, perhaps I’m overexaggerating a bit, but if anything else, the surname is quite a conversation starter, as well as a story starter. This gravestone is in Area OO/Lot 136. I first took notice of it when I wrote a story about a gentleman named Charles Edwin “Casey” Jones who is buried in an adjacent lot. I knew I’d get back to William Suck, and wife Altie, in the future when the time was right, or should I say, when the time was wrong?
William Suck was born in eastern Ohio (near the West Virginia border) on February 8th, 1869, the son of Augustus Fellers Suck (1846-1919) and Catherine Reece (1850-1917). William’s grandfather, Justus Frederick Suck, pronounced “sook” which rhymes with book. He was a German immigrant from Hesse who came to Pennsylvania in the 1840s and later migrated further west to the Ohio River Valley and Independence Township in Washington County, Ohio, located northeast of present-day Parkersburg, West Virginia. The Sucks were farmers.
William was the oldest of six children. The 1880 census shows that William’s father (Augustus Suck) was a miller and farmer. When writing the name Augustus Suck (pronounced Sook of course) I am immediately reminded of Augustus Gloop, a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the weight-challenged, German boy who also found a magical, Golden Ticket courtesy of Willie Wonka. You may recall that Augustus couldn’t help himself from overindulging from the Wonka factory’s chocolate river. His demise came after he lost his balance and fell into said tributary, and was “sucked” out by the extraction pipe and whizzed off to the boiler room.
Now, back to our “non-sweet” story at hand, sorry about that. It appears that William Suck’s family eventually moved across the Ohio River to Ravenswood in Jackson County, West Virginia, where our subject continued performing farm-work. On January 1st, 1893, he married Altie Elizabeth West of Silverton, also in Jackson County. The couple can be found in Ravenswood in the 1900 US Census with their first-born son George Earnest Suck (b. 1897).
A second son, John George was born in June, 1901 and a third son, Charles K., would be born in 1903.
In 1910, the Suck family could be found living in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, at which place William was working as a foreman at a quarry and the census states that he was a steam shovel operator. His employer was likely the Fort Smith Marble Company.
Five years later, the family moved to Frederick County, Maryland and settled in Ijamsville in the eastern part of the county. I assume the move was made for employment purposes as William continued his work as a foreman and steam-shovel operator. He labored at the Westport Paving and Brick Quarries here. I was curious to learn about the industrial history of this interestingly named hamlet that grew up around an old mill on both sides of Mussetter Road. I found the following passage about the Ijamsville quarry which specialized in the extraction of slate stone. This appeared as part of a website featuring paranormal activity at the old Gabriel’s Inn in Ijamsville:
Ijamsville's slate quarry opened in the 1700s by the Duvall brothers. Veins of slate run through Westminster towards Frederick, but the best examples of the volcanic-derived rock were to be found in Ijamsville. In time, two thriving quarries were established, in which men worked to provide slate material that was used for roofs all around Frederick and even in Washington, D.C. One was situated just west of the railroad station, beside the tracks, and the other was about a half mile south of the town. The village of Ijamsville, relying more on mining than quarrying, was settled in 1831 spurred by the construction of both the Ijams Mill and the B&O Railroad. "All day long, loud blasts of rock powder...could be heard above the rumble of passing freight trains, and children scurried to cover to escape the showers of falling slate." At night people congregated at the village store where, lit by whale oil lanterns, farmers and the primarily-Welsh miners would have lively arguments, sometimes leading to fist fights. "Asked by a traveling drummer (of the Union Army during the Civil War) about local crops one farmer replied: 'We raise wheat, tobacco, and corn, and on Saturday nights we raise a little hell.'"
The Suck home property was at what is now 4703 and 4705 Mussetter Road, just north of the railroad tracks in Ijamsville. The house, formerly home of Ijamsville’s former general store operator at 4703 Mussetter, is described in a Maryland Historical Trust survey for the Ijamsville District as follows:
The two-story frame building has been considerably altered, but the massing of the house reveals its 19th century origin. The exterior is covered with vinyl siding and a one-story porch is on the south elevation. The bay arrangement is irregular, reflecting the present use of the building as an apartment house. On the 1873 town plan, the building is identified as owned by J.T. Williams, one of the partners in the Sellman and Williams store (demolished) which stood to the west of the house near the road. The building's date is unclear because of its alterations, but at least part of the structure may date from about 1850-1860.
J.T. William’s son, Anthony Williams, is on record having sold the property to Altie Suck in October, 1915. In case you were interested, J. T. Williams and wife Jane are also buried in Mount Olivet. My assistant Marilyn Veek shared that interment tidbit with me as she researched, and found, that the Westport Paving Brick Company owned property that was located directly east of the Suck's property along the railroad tracks. This was not part of the earlier mentioned quarry operation which seemed to have enjoyed its heyday before the Civil War.
The Williams family also originally owned this property - Anthony Williams sold 5 acres to the Baltimore Vitrified Clay Company in 1903; that company went bankrupt in 1909 and the property was sold to the Westport Paving Brick Company. Westport owned it until 1946. 1913 ads in the News mention the Westport Paving Brick Company's quarry in Ijamsville. Shale from the quarry was used to make paving bricks according to a 1922 Frederick News article about the company.
The photo above appears in an 1898 publication entitled Maryland Geological Survey (Volume Two). The caption reads as follows: Slate Quarry, Ijamsville, Frederick County. William Bullock Clark (MD State Geologist at the time) wrote the following passage that accompanied this photograph:
At the present time no slate is quarried at Ijamsville although this locality has been known as a source of slate for nearly if not quite a hundred years. Parrish, in his brief history of the slate trade in America, states that quarries near Frederick were opened about 1812. This may be a reference to the small openings at Linganore but it seems more in harmony with local traditions to infer that the quarries about Ijamsville were in mind.
When Isaac Tyson, Jr. (State Agricultural Chemist from 1858-1862) prepared his report, there were two slate quarries in operation. One was situated just west of the railroad station beside the tracks and the other was about a half mile south of the town. They were evidently quite small for they had not reached the best material. Little work was done during the time of the Civil War and the more prominent quarry shown in Plate XXIV Fig 2 (above photo) was permanently abandoned about 1870 when the pit commenced to undermine the roadbed of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The smaller opening lying south of the town never attained any considerable importance although efforts were made as late as 1892 to bring the product of this quarry into the market. The method of working followed was that of the Germans who mine rather than quarry their slate. A shaft was sunk to a depth of about sixty feet but the enterprise was not successful.
The slates from Ijamsville formerly brought nearly as good prices as those from Harford county but at the present time they are almost unsaleable. This is not due to the poor or unstable character of the stone so much as it is to the relatively poor workmanship displayed in recent years and the popular demand for a slate which will ring when tapped with a finger or pencil. Because of the hard and compact character of the better siliceous slates from Pennsylvania and the northern states it has become customary to regard all dull or soft slates as untrustworthy. In many instances this view is correct but in the case of the Ijamsville slates it is not warranted by the facts. The slates from this locality show microscopically that they are well crystallized and that they do not owe their softness to a partial change from a shale to a slate but to an admixture of the relatively stable and soft mineral talc, which is usually wanting in the better-known slates. If the stone were unstable the blue-black color would change upon exposure. This it does not do since roofs on which the slates have been exposed to the atmosphere for fully fifty years do not indicate any change in color as a result of this exposure. In spite of their permanency in color and their strength the slates have yet to prove themselves a basis for a profitable industry.
I read in the Maryland Heritage Trust survey that a number of early Ijamsville homes boasted slate roofs. Regardless, I found it interesting that the article mentioned the German style of “mining” slate. Was this a contributing factor for bringing the German Suck family to our area?
Our friend, William Suck of Bohemian heritage, didn’t get to enjoy many years of life in Maryland, “the Land of Pleasant Living.” There is also a specific reason why I have given an intricate geology lesson as it pertains to Ijamsville. Our final plot twist involves a cause and effect relationship between both statements above. For many people living in this time period, 1918 was understandably a terrible year with the height of American involvement, and casualties related to World War I. This year also saw the Spanish Influenza pandemic which is said to have infected one-third of the world's population with an estimated number of deaths at 50 million worldwide and 675,000 here in the United States.
Our subject and his family made it through unscathed, George participated in World War I and no one got the flu from what I have been able to glean. However, one can definitively say that the year 1919 really “sucked” for our subject. To be exact, the day of June 16th would be more than “rocky” for the entire Suck family, leaving them with a crushing blow, both literally, and figuratively.
William Suck languished for a few days but succumbed to his injuries four days later on June 20th, 1919.
Following William’s tragic death, Altie Suck began spending her winters in Melbourne, Florida with son John. The family continued residing in Ijamsville. George would move to Wolfsville in northern Frederick County and Charles would relocate to Tulsa, Oklahoma by 1930 and at the time of his mother’s death could be found in Burbank, California, residing with his wife’s grandfather, working as a welder and having changed the spelling of his last name to Sook. Another son, Harry R. Suck (b. 1911), appears in the 1920 census, but nowhere else. He is thought to have predeceased his mother because he is not mentioned in her obit.
Altie would survive her husband by nearly twenty years. She died while visiting son George in winter of 1938. She would be laid to rest next to William in Area OO/Lot 136..
The family property was advertised for sale in October 1938, but learned that this would convey to brother John. He lived in Ijamsville until his death on December 7th, 1960. Although there is no stone, our records show that John is buried next to his parents in the Suck lot within Area OO. I found that George died in 1956 and is buried in Baltimore National Cemetery. His widow, Caroline Kolb Suck, is buried in Mount Olivet, just a few yards away from her former in-laws in Area OO/Lot 128.
Interestingly, George's son, George Earnest (1939-2012), actually changed his name to George Earnest West, taking the maiden name of his patenal grandmother, Altie (West) Suck. He is buried to the immediate left of his grandparents (William and Altie) in Area OO's Lot 136.
Well, after that tale, maybe your assessment of this past year of 2020 may not be all that bad, after all, getting crushed by a huge boulder, now that would really suck! However, on a strictly serious note, Covid-19 and the loss, pain, suffering and stress it has brought over the past year has been no laughing matter.
I will share that from our cemetery perspective, we expected a much worse result than what we experienced in number of related deaths. Back in March, with the onset, we had staff meetings in which we planned for mass burials, or at least what had occurred back in fall/winter of 1918 with the Spanish Influenza pandemic. At that time, Frederick County experienced roughly 250 deaths between September, 1918-January, 1919. One-hundred of those victims are buried here in Mount Olivet. Yes, it was a less populated world back then, but medicine, technology and communication are nothing like we have today, a century later.
Since the beginning of 2020, even considering the first Coronavirus positive cases did not start appearing until mid-March, we have had 275 total interments in Mount Olivet, which mirrors our annual total over the last several years. From the information made aware to us by our partnering funeral homes, only seven of these 275 deaths in 2020 were the direct result of Covid-19.
We have seven victims of the Coronavirus:
* four victims were residents of Montgomery County with three over the age of 75 and one under 50.
*one victim was from Washington County and 70 years old
*two victims were Frederick County residents, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s
Yes, one death from Covid-19 is too many, but when you really think about how bad things could have been in terms of fatalities, we were very fortunate. Happy New Year to all of our readers, families and friends, and thanks for your continued support of these stories and Mount Olivet Cemetery.