A Spartan Among Us
One of the most amazing monuments in Mount Olivet belongs to a gentleman whose name evokes an equal level of intrigue. Lycurgus Edward Hedges was a businessman who made a fine living engaged in the flour and grain business. He accumulated great wealth, but remained civic minded. One of his social accomplishments relates to having served as our cemetery's third president from 1889-1892.
Lycurgus, a name you don’t run across every day, was born in Frederick County near Hansonville on February 14th, 1825. As the second child of Eneas and Catherine (Scholl) Hedges, he came into a family with roots dating back to before Frederick’s founding in the mid 1700’s. His ancestors settled a 258-acre parcel in the 1732 on Monocacy Manor which they gave the name “Hedge Hogg,” located roughly five miles north of Frederick City and west of the Monocacy River. Lycurgus childhood home was a family farmstead that straddled the old Frederick Turnpike (today’s US15) located south of Muddy Creek and north of Sundays Lane and Biggs Ford. The Hedges family would come to own other nearby parcels such as “Hedges Delight” to the southwest at Tuscarora Creek and my childhood stomping ground of “Yellow Springs.”
The Hedges are said to have originally come from Berkshire, England in the late 1600’s, first settling in the New Castle Delaware area, then Chester County, Pennsylvania. Lycurgus’ mother’s side was comprised of Scholls and Brunners, two early German families who came here in the mid eighteenth century. His maternal grandfather, Christian Scholl, Jr., was a War of 1812 veteran who married Maria Elizabeth Brunner of the family associated with Schifferstadt.
So based on his family tree, how did he get a name like Lycurgus? Well, I can’t help to think of the old, downtrodden idiom “Its’ Greek to me,” because it is, Lycurgus is a name from ancient Greek history. Although it was faintly familiar to me, I looked it up immediately and found the following from “wunder-source” Wikipedia:
Lycurgus (c. 820 BC) was the quasi-legendary lawgiver of Sparta who established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. All his reforms promoted the three Spartan virtues: equality (among citizens), military fitness, and austerity.
Lycurgus attended Marshall College in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania in the late 1740’s, just before it merged with Franklin College to become Franklin & Marshall. He actually worked as a teacher early in his career, but eventually moved to Frederick City and took a job as a clerk. His residence was on the north side of W. Third Street in the first block west of Market Street.
Lycurgus’ big opportunity came when he entered into the flour and grain business, his firm having a location on E. Patrick Street. Somehow, he grew his efforts westward, going in business with a man named Joseph Snively. Around 1870, The tandem acquired a mill in Warthena, Kansas, a town in Doniphan County that bordered Missouri. This geographic location is just northwest of Kansas City, MO, and more importantly, is situated along the Missouri River, which provided a great opportunity for transport. The Eagle Flour Mill was a very successful operation, and one of the greatest suppliers of flour to the western territories, not to mention sending product north, south and eastward as well.
Mr. Hedges traveled to Kansas regularly, but his home was here in Frederick where he also busied himself with the growing needs of his community. Civic work included service as a trustee and board manager of the Montevue Hospital.
Lycurgus also shared his talents as a director of the First National Bank. Best of all (for us), he also was a board member who rose to become the third president of the Mount Olivet Cemetery Company. He also belonged to the Evangelical Reformed Church, where he was both a member and an officer. Outside of that, I found a few newspaper articles that showed he enjoyed fishing at his favorite childhood spot on the Monocacy at Biggs Ford.
The ensuing summer and fall were very difficult for Mr. and Mrs. Hedges due to the loss of their only child. In addition, Lycurgus had been dealing with heart trouble. One day in late October (1892), Lycurgus was walking on E. Second Street, on his way to Zacharias’s stable where he boarded his horse team. He and his wife were planning to take a buggy ride to see friends. Having set out from his home, Lycurgus soon collapsed on the sidewalk and died in front of the Jesuit Novitiate.
Mr. Hedges was buried three days later on November 3rd. His body was placed in Area C/Lot 85, next to the grave of his beloved Lillian who had died eight months earlier.
I found Lycurgus Hedges last will and testament on Ancestry.com, solely because it was also registered by Mrs. Hedges with the county courthouse of Donaphin County, located in the county seat of Troy—yet another serendipitous connection to Greek mythology. Mr. Hedges went to great lengths to spell out his intentions that his executor erect a "suitable" grave monument to the memory of himself and wife Amanda on his lot in Mount Olivet.
Learning all this information has certainly added to my fondness of the monument which features a weeping woman sitting atop, and holding a wreath in one hand with the other holding up her head. In the study of monument iconography, the grieving woman is self-explanatory, where the wreath symbolizes victory over death. Interestingly, the laurel wreath is associated with Greek attire and celebrations since ancient times, continuing a tradition to the modern day Olympic ceremonies.
The weeping statue could be that of Niobe, another woman from ancient times. She appears a great deal in classical art and sculpture, especially in cemeteries. In Greek mythology, Niobe was a victim of hubris, and was turned to stone by Zeus after she mourned over her lost children. The story of Niobe, and especially her sorrows, is an ancient one. She is mentioned by Achilles to Priam in Homer's Iliad and is as a stock type for mourning.
I can’t help but see Mrs. Amanda Hedges in the form of the grieving statue, having lost both her daughter and husband during that fateful year of 1892. She, herself, may have felt like Niobe, as if she had emotionally been suspended in stone. Mrs. Hedges would depart this life less than five years later on April 16th, 1897. Dr. Talbott would be buried here 16 years later.
To the left of the monument are markers for Lycurgus’ parents, an individual stone for Lilly and another for husband Dr. Talbott. A final family member buried here is granddaughter Lillian Talbott Humphrey. From what could be gleaned from early newspapers, Ms. Humphrey was quite a colorful figure in her own right. Thanks to her grandparents, Lillian Talbott (Humphrey) incurred great wealth at age 21, as she inherited the Hedges fortune and farm property on Route15. It didn’t come without drama however as the article below attests to.
The couple reconciled, but eventually sold the Hedges family farm as they had serious money problems. They moved to Baltimore but eventually divorced. Mrs. Humphrey would die in 1967 in Woodstock, VA, and represents the last of her family to be buried here.
In retrospect, perhaps Lillian Talbott Humphrey should have been given the Athena or Pandora, or lesser known goddesses such as Dysnomia (associated with lawlessness) or Nemesis (goddess of retribution).
*Note: Special thanks to Mary Mannix (C. Burr Artz Library Maryland Room) for deciphering the address of the Hedges home for me.
Leave a Reply.