I stumbled upon an interesting wife and husband last spring while researching Frederick’s early oyster saloons from the 1800s. It occurred while I was trying to find more on who I imagined to be a spunky, former female business owner at the time of the American Civil War. The woman’s name was Alice Beck, and she is buried in Mount Olivet. Sadly, she isn’t readily remembered today because she has no gravestone, yet her first husband and father-in-law (who predeceased her) do. All three reside in the same grave lot in Mount Olivet’s Area A, a stone’s throw from Francis Scott Key’s final resting place.
Miss Alice Virginia Keefer was the daughter of John Henry “Harry” Keefer and Elizabeth Titlow. Born on June 27th, 1840, she grew up here in Frederick City and was a member of the town’s German Reformed Church. Alice would be twice married, her first nuptials having taken place in late October, 1857. Her groom was a gentleman named Jefferson O. Boteler.
The Botelers were soon the operators of a restaurant-saloon located at 12 N. Court Street, the stretch that goes between W. Patrick and W. Church Streets. At the time, this thoroughfare was known as Public Street because of its proximity to the county courthouse. The Boteler’ saloon location was sandwiched between the largest hotels in the city (the City Hotel and the Dill House, later to be renamed the Carlin Hotel). Actually the Boteler’s tavern was bounded by the livery stables connected to each of the aforementioned hospitality venues. Today, the Pythian Castle building sits on the old site of the old watering hole.
Although I wasn’t familiar with Jefferson O. Boteler, I soon learned that his father was someone I did know through earlier research going back nearly seven years. This gent’s name was Edward Sims Boteler, one of 110 War of 1812 veterans interred here at Mount Olivet. His story was a bit different from the norm as he served in a Dragoon Troop in Ohio. He was captured at the Battle of Detroit and spent time as a captive in Canada.
I specifically singled out Private Boteler’s grave (Area A/Lot 126) for a newspaper photo and article back in 2014. I was working for the Tourism Council of Frederick County then, and had partnered with the cemetery in a grant project in which we received money from the state’s War of 1812 Bicentennial Anniversary Commission to place marble and bronze markers on the graves of all our 1812 vets.
A special ceremony was held in September 2014 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Fort McHenry and writing of “the Star-Spangled Banner.” We had an evening ceremony adjacent the FSK monument with the purpose of unveiling these markers. Participants were led on a candlelight history tour of 1812 veteran graves.
As the master of ceremonies, I went one step further in recognizing Edward Sims Boteler and read his bio in which I shared with the audience a few scant particulars about Boteler’s military service. I also reveled in presenting a poignant inscription found on his gravestone. It reads as follows:
“Each soldier’s name
Shall shine untarnished on
the roll of fame.
And stand the example of each
And add new luster to the historic age."
Edward Sims Boteler was born on March 24th, 1783 in the vicinity of New Town, later known as Trappe, and today recognized by the name of Jefferson, Maryland. Edward’s parents were Edward Lingan Boteler and Elizabeth (Delashmutt) Boteler. Both father and son fought for independence from Britain. Edward’s father (Edward Lingan Boteler) was recognized by the Carrollton Manor DAR Chapter as a Revolutionary Patriot with a DAR plaque.
In 1812, Edward’s apparent first wife was a Sarah Elizabeth Norris (b. 1783). The couple had one known child, Henry E. Boteler (1812-1843). I’ve read that Edward would be married a second time to a woman whose name is only known as Elizabeth. The offspring of this union was the afore-mentioned Jefferson Orestes Boteler (b. 1832 in Pennsylvania). Interestingly, this same year of 1832 was the one in which “Jefferson” was duly incorporated and given its patriotic name after our third US president.
Edward Sims Boteler appears to have been engaged in farming and lived in the area of Jefferson, and Petersville to the southwest. He died on November 25th, 1858 at the age of 75.
Around this same time, Jefferson was operating the saloon on Court Street with business partner, John McCafferty. One year later an advertisement would appear in the local paper announcing a dissolution of this business, as McCafferty left to take a job running the restaurant associated with the City Hotel, Frederick’s leading lodging place of the time. This was likely when Mr. Boteler had his new bride serve as his business partner, however she could have assisted with the saloon prior.
Apparently, Jefferson had been going through life with health problems. In January of 1862, he would experience quite a further setback to his medical maladies.
Jefferson O. Boteler’s health continued to decline as the year went on. He would die on June 22nd, 1862 and was buried in Mount Olivet the following day, next to his father.
Meanwhile the American Civil War was in full effect. Union soldiers had been plentiful in town for over a year. That number would grow exponentially over the next two. In her husband’s absence, Alice Boteler took over sole operation of the oyster saloon, while also raising a son, Edward, two-and-a-half years old at the time. I can just imagine the often bawdy scenes in the saloon establishment now frequented by imbibing Union soldiers from out of town.
The following September (after Jefferson’s death) the town would receive a week-long visit from the Confederate Army under Gen. Robert E. Lee. They wouldn’t stay long, but certainly left their mark on town before heading westward where the engagements of South Mountain and Antietam would take place on September 14th and 17th respectively. Again, I can’t help to wonder what Alice’s state of mind could have been like through those troubling times, not to mention losing her husband, raising a child and running a business.
Well, the above story just goes to show that you never know what can happen in life. It also echoes the old sentiment: ”What happens in rowdy oyster saloons, should stay in rowdy oyster saloons.”
I found an advertisement in the local paper announcing a private sale of Mrs. Alice V. Beck’s oyster saloon in February 1867. For one reason or another, it doesn’t appear that she sold at that time, or perhaps she did sell, but kept a lease agreement with a new owner in an effort to continue running her popular establishment. The Botelers had rented the building up until Jefferson's death, at which time Alice purchased the property.
The 1870 US census shows the Beck family living above the restaurant as was quite common in that day. I found out that Mrs. Alice V. Beck had $4,000 of real estate in her name in the form of her restaurant building. I also found that husband James Beck was listed as a restaurant keeper, but Alice was simply keeping house. Alice's son, Edward was now ten-years-old and the census mentions that he was attending school at the time.
Advertisements in Frederick’s Maryland Union in the fall of 1871 announced that a gentleman named J. William Brubaker was now the new owner of the former saloon operated by Alice V. (Keefer) Boteler Beck. Brubaker would eventually sell fourteen years later to Lewis A. Hager in 1885.
During that run by Mr. Brubaker, Alice busied herself with legitimate matters of home, first and foremost relating to the fact that she had given birth to three additional children between 1871-1874: Nellie Virginia (b. 1872), Mollie Adele (b. 1873), and Willie Justus (b. 1874).
Alice died of pneumonia at her home residence on W. Patrick Street on April 8, 1876. Only 36 years of the age, she would be buried alongside her first husband, Jefferson O. Boteler, and father-in-law, 1812 veteran Edward Simms Boteler. As I began the article saying, her gravesite has no monument or marker whatsoever.
I found that there are five others in this plot who have suffered the same fate and are blood relatives of Alice from the Keefer family. They include:
*an infant child of Alice and Jefferson 1859
*Elizabeth Titlow Keefer 1888 (Alice’s mother)
*Missouri M. (Keefer) Meese 1860 (Alice’s sister)
*Hiram Bartgis Keefer 1878 (4 year-old nephew of Alice/son of L. H. Keefer)
*unnamed Keefer nephew 1869 (infant son of brother Lewis Henry Keefer)
As was common in those days, the children were unfortunately split up. I learned there whereabouts from the the 1880 census. Here, I found husband James M. Beck living in his native Woodsboro with his sister and working as a painter. He had daughter Nellie living with him. Mollie was sent to live with her Uncle Charles Beck in Hagerstown and Willie was adopted by a paternal aunt living in Woodsboro. The latter would move to Brooklyn, NY as an adult and worked as a telegraph operator. As for Alice's oldest son, Edward O. Boteler, he went to live with his Meese cousins in Wetmore, McKean County, Pennsylvania. He worked for F. W. Meese who operated a hotel there and was married in the 1880 census at the age of 21.
James M. Beck died in 1905 and is buried in Woodsboro's Mount Hope Cemetery.