A Belated Christmas Gift
Just over twenty years ago, my significant other repeatedly gave me the gift of local history for Christmas. She knew I loved anything pertaining to Frederick’s past…this coming after I had produced a ten-hour video documentary on the subject back in fall of 1995. She gave me the coveted, original hard copy of J.T. Scharf’s History of Western Maryland in Christmas 1995, followed by T.J.C. Williams History of Frederick County in 1996. Christmas of 1997 came with antique paper memorabilia including several receipts on the letterhead, along with cancelled checks from several Frederick businesses of the 1880’s and 1890’s. I also acquired some old glass bottles, and a few program booklets, one from the City Opera House, and another from a Black Elks Conference held here in town.
One more item was included in the mix, but didn’t seem all that interesting to me at the time. It was an old photo card of a teenage boy, produced by the local commercial photographer Josiah R. Marken, likely taken around 1890. These pictures are more commonly known as cabinet cards, photographic portraits the late 19th century that pop up all the time in antique shops, flea markets and eBay of course. Usually a nearby display sign or placard reads “instant, or lost, relatives” or “anonymous ancestors.”
Considering cabinet cards found today, the people that could recognize these folks are long gone. Attempting to identify subjects against extant photos of possible ancestors is difficult. Sometimes you have to compare an antique photo of a younger person against a “newer” photo of that individual as an old man or woman. In many cases, the existing picture is the only image ever taken of an individual. One can try to attempt narrowing down the era of an image subject by photographer, card stock, clothing worn by subject, and/or hair style displayed.
I find it ironic that most antique photos are either unmarked, or over-marked—written all over on the face side, and in pen…sometimes ruining or distorting a beautiful personal portrait or landscape—but at least you know who they are. I have had several of both varieties given to me to sleuth or archive as a designated family historian.
As for the photo of that young man I received for Christmas in 1997, I was lucky enough to have a name written on the backside. It was that of Mr. W.S. Bennett. Underneath looks to be the writing of a child, all in caps, which reads: “BARBARA FRITCHIE BENNETT, BORN OCTOBER 28, 1897. This latter graffiti was one of the reasons why the card was appealing to my wife, as she knew my keen interest in the Barbara Fritchie incident/non-incident.
A Photographic Archeological Dig
I never really looked into the history of Master Bennett, as I simply stowed the photo card away for safekeeping in an archival box with the other paper items. Recently, I found the need to sift through that old box, as it contained an old advertising card from an early rendition of the Barbara Fritchie Restaurant. I needed this for my “Stories in Stone” piece on Ammon Cramer, founder of the popular Fritchie Candy Stick eatery and Barbara Fritchie chocolate candy, founded around 1915. While doing so, I happened upon the card, and my interest was piqued, especially wondering if he was buried in Mount Olivet.
A little bit of research on the mystery cabinet card gave me the name of William Steiner Bennett, and yes, he was indeed laid to rest here in Frederick’s famed “garden cemetery.” He is buried in Area OO, Lot 2 near the fence that parallels Stadium Drive. Mr. Bennett is in the company of his wife, children and in-laws. More so, I found that William S. Bennett’s life was far from ordinary.
William’s childhood was abruptly over as he was forced into the role as “man of the house,” at the age of 13. He immediately sought employment, and received work from the Great Southern Printing and Manufacturing Company—printers of the Frederick News. William S. Bennett would remain in their ranks as a celebrated employee for the next 60 years, most of which holding the title of pressman. Years later, sister Jennie would also gain a job with the company started by William T. Delaplaine in 1883.
Young Bennett also possessed a lifetime love of baseball. He began as a player with early Frederick teams of the 1890’s, playing the positions of pitcher, first base and catcher. After his playing days, he would remain a staunch local supporter of the sport, helping to organize the Frederick Baseball Club in 1912 along with local baseball legend Carlton Molesworth.
In 1896, William S. Bennett would start a family of his own. He married Lucy Virginia Butcher and would welcome his first of two children on October 29th, 1897. The Bennetts named their first daughter Mary Catherine, however, I venture to say that it was this little girl who took on the “alter-ego” of Barbara Fritchie Bennett—responsible for the doodling on the back of my cabinet card. She must not have liked her name as she was more commonly known as Margaret throughout her lifetime. She married Roy Mumford, the son of a former Orphans Court judge.
William lost his mother in February, 1900, however he would gain another child was born later the same year. Garnett R. was born on December 5th. She would wed a Frederick Baseball Club standout named Clarence Waldo Blethen (1892-1973). Blethen was from Dover-Foxcroft, Maine and would play pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Robins and numerous minor league clubs around the country well into the 1930’s. He was referred to as the "Christy Mathewson of the Minor Leagues,” and possessed the nickname of "Climax" after the chewing tobacco he used. Fittingly, his burial plot, like that of his father-in-law faces Harry Grove Stadium, home of the Frederick Keys.
In early 1917, William S. Bennett embarked upon his next life adventure. As early as 1913, he had been moonlighting as a doorman at Frederick’s famed City Opera House, today the site of Brewer’s Alley Restaurant. In late 1916, an opportunity arose to take on a greater role at the entertainment venue. Bennett continued to serve as pressroom foreman at the newspaper, but took on the job of managing the theater. An article appearing in the Frederick News on January 28th, 1917 relayed that a new management will take over the operation of the City Opera House the following month, and pledged that it would become the “Greatest theatre in Maryland.”
At 41, Bennett had created the W. S. Bennett Company in partnership with William S. Haller and Samuel H. Rosenstock. They negotiated with the City of Frederick for an annual rental lease of $4,777.77. William S. Bennett would become theatre manager and told the newspaper that he planned “to bring the finest feature films here and will present at least six acts of high class vaudeville at every show.” He also was said to be negotiating for the presentation of legitimate drama by New York City-based stock companies.
The Bennett firm ran the City Opera House through the difficult era of World War I, up through 1919. As for William S. Bennett’s “day job,” he would become the oldest employee and associate of the News-Post, moving with the firm to various locations and ushering in new technologies. In 1938, Bennett was feted by upper management and co-workers in recognition of his 50th year of service. His close friends and associates at the paper referred to him as “Mr. Billy,” and loved hearing him tell tales of “days of old” in the newspaper business of his youth, and the many changes he had witnessed and experienced. He wouldn’t retire until September, 1956 at the age of 81.
Bennett’s News-Post family kept him great company in the years immediately following Lucy Bennett’s death in 1952. She would be buried in the corner lot occupied previously by her parents.
Another interesting item I learned along the way was that Bennett was also a musician. This was thanks to an interesting feature article which appeared in the Frederick News of September 1st, 1961. Ironically, the news piece, like mine here, centered on the discovery of a mystery photograph. It had been recently returned to Frederick from a repository in Hanover, PA and featured an undated, unmarked photo relating to the Frederick chapter of the Knights of Pythia fraternal organization. The photo was dated to the years immediately preceding the First World War as it captured the Knights of Pythia Band. William S. Bennett was called to help identify the image and those within it. He immediately saw a familiar face—his own. William had served as the group’s drum major, and could be seen pictured prominently in the first row in full attire. He couldn’t recall the picture having been taken, but assisted in identifying some of his chums.
William S. Bennett only spent 10 Christmases without his beloved wife. He passed away in his sleep two days before what would have been his eleventh, in the early morning hours of December 23, 1962. Mr. Bennett lived a full life of 87 years, and would be laid to rest by his wife’s side on December 26th, 1962.
I continue to marvel as I learn more about the lives of Mount Olivet’s residents through researching for this blog and experience stories told to me by visiting descendants regarding their relatives. Each day I certainly see that those interred here are much more than “names in stone”—hence, they are Stories in Stone.
Finding an image of an individual buried here in the cemetery is an added bonus. Putting a face to a name is the proverbial “icing on the cake.” I did not put much stock into the photo cabinet card of W. S. Bennett when I received it on Christmas Day, 1997. But as I held the card next to Mr. Bennett’s tombstone on the last day of 2017, I couldn’t help but feel a special sense of appreciation. Here I am, a total stranger to William S. Bennett and his family, but one who possesses a photo that likely passed through his hand in the late 1880’s at the time of its taking. Now I’m here at his gravesite, exactly 55 years after his death. How many hands did it pass before getting to me? Why wasn't it kept?
I, too, received my career start at the Great Southern Printing & Manufacturing Company in late 1989. As opposed to Bennett’s amazing tenure, I only spent 12 years in its employ until 2001 at which time the cable company (Frederick Cablevision/GS Communications) was sold to Adelphia Communications. However, in that period, I was afforded the opportunity to be an “audio-video pressman” of sorts. I got to manage entertainment productions, produce/televise Frederick Keys baseball games and provide a showcase for local bands and entertainers. Best of all, the time spent in the employ of the Delaplaines and Randalls gave me the impetus, experience and training to continue my pursuits of documenting/promoting the history of Frederick and its incredible past residents. We have some similarities after all, Mr. Bennett.
Year after year, the passing of time is as fast as it is amazing. Happy New Year to you and yours and please make a resolution to label and organize those old family photos for not only the benefit of future descendants, but those history investigators like me who may yearn to put a face with a name in the future.
The Man Behind the Candy Cane
Christmas decorations have taken over the Frederick landscape! Lights are on houses, candles in windows, figurines on lawns. The same goes for many area businesses as well, including ours here at Mount Olivet Cemetery where wreaths adorn grave sites, and artificial flower arrangements decorate mausoleum crypts and niches. People have also brought favorite ornaments to place on monuments or hang on trees within the mausoleum buildings in remembrance of their loved ones.
I just recently had the revelation that there is at least one establishment in Frederick which proudly displays a “landmark” holiday decoration for 365 days of the year, without fail. More amazing than that, is the fact that it’s been in place for 58 years. Can you guess what it is?
Back in the 1970’s, local Maryland State trooper, Millard “Mick” Mastrino, deemed a section of W. Patrick Street/US Route 40 (west of Frederick) as “the Golden Mile.” Mastrino knew this area well because the Maryland State Police Barracks were among the first structures in this vicinity. The mile-long stretch was the first parcel of former rolling farmland pegged for large scale commercial development.
“The Golden Mile” is still book-ended by two longstanding monuments, both marking fabled (non-chain) restaurant establishments. Each of these freestanding objects are also red in color as well. On the east boundary is the majestic “Red Horse,” survivor of multiple senior prank kidnappings and a local symbol of steak and flame-kissed beef culinary excellence. The Red Horse Steak House is located at the foot of Linden Hills, next to the former Red Horse Motor Inn, now a Comfort Inn. The Red Horse Restaurant started in 1968, positioned across the street from a Holiday Inn built by local attorney Dan Weinberg in 1962.
I recently wrote about Weinberg’s wife, Alyce, in reference to the popular book of local ghost stories she penned in the 1970’s. Although we remember the Weinbergs today for their outstanding generosity in saving the old Tivoli Theater (Weinberg Center), it was another early business venture on the west side of “the Golden Mile” that kept a generation entertained through the phenomenon of outdoor movies. This was the Braddock Drive-In. It was located just west of the triangle intersection of US 40 and US 40-Alternate at present day Old Camp Road. The Drive Inn, which once boasted country legend Patsy Cline performing between features, is long gone, today better known as the home of a Weis Market, McDonald’s Bob Evans and restaurants and strip store outlets.
Like Weinberg, another Frederick business visionary would take his chances with a venture on the west side of town. This was an era that pre-dated the mall, shopping centers, and influx of other restaurants that would later pervade the Golden Mile. He lived atop Linden Hills, moving here decades before the four-legged, equestrian monument made its appearance in the vicinity. Cramer decided to capitalize off the success of the Braddock Drive-Inn by setting up a diner-style eating experience, specializing in “date-night” and after hours fare such as sodas, ice cream, hamburgers, pie and candy. He also sold hearty, hometown favorites like fried chicken and apple dumplings, along with the novelty of breakfast food all day long.
This man was Ammon E. Cramer, a talented music prodigy turned restaurateur, sprinkled with more than a dash of “P.T. Barnum-esque” marketing talents. He punctuated his eatery with a landmark synonymous with Christmas and easily recognized by passing motorists as well as moviegoers across the street. The result—a 35-foot jumbo, red and white, candy cane. Cramer fittingly named his new venture after his confectionary-inspired monument, but gave top billing to one Frederick’s finest past citizens, Barbara Fritchie, the 95-year-old, flag-toting, Unionist of the Civil War who lived a few miles east of his restaurant on W. Patrick Street. Opening the Barbara Fritchie Candy Stick Restaurant was not Cramer’s first foray in business. It also wasn’t his inauguration with candy production/sales and the equally lovable Barbara Fritchie, as his track record dates back to 1919.
Ammon Evers Cramer was from one of Frederick’s earliest, and best known, founding families. He was the son of Civil War veteran John Phillip Cramer (1844-1923), a man who fought with the 3rd Potomac Home Brigade and appears to have been wounded in the process. J. P. Cramer married Emeline Eyler (1842-1915) and was engaged in running a family farm at Pleasant Hill, northeast of Woodsboro.
Ammon was born on December 20th, 1883. This was 21 years and two days after the death of Barbara Fritchie. Cramer attended school up through the 8th grade, customary of the time, and spent most of his time working on the farm. Somewhere along the line, he began to show talent as a musician and vocalist. He would leave the confines of Pleasant Hill for Frederick City and took a job with Birely’s Palace of Music, owned by one-time Orphan’s Court judge Jacob M. Birely.
The Woodsboro native soon earned the title around town of “Professor Cramer” thanks to his musical talent. He not only sold instruments ranging from pianos and organs to symphoniums and autoharps, but also taught music lessons, and wrote several compositions of his own. An early newspaper article reports that at least a dozen of Cramer’s songs met with modest success in the northeastern cities of the country.
The family eventually moved to a house of their own on E. Third Street. Cramer’s business grew larger and more diversified in 1919 as a restaurant was opened in conjunction with the music showroom and “Five & Dime” dry goods entity. Marketing ads boasted complete meals for the price of a quarter. A common crossover novelty tying all modes of business together at this location was a player piano, utilized to entertain patrons of the lunch counter and soda fountain.
In addition to composing music, Ammon Cramer soon found himself composing candy. He entered the confectionary trade, and began attending yearly conferences and expositions in Chicago. Cramer’s leading number would take the name of Frederick’s favorite daughter—Barbara Fritchie Chocolates and Bon-Bons. Cramer would file to have the name trademarked on September 13th, 1923. Success came quick, and necessitated a downtown diner/candy store location at 15 E. Patrick Street. He named it the Barbara Fritchie Chocolate Shop and Inn.
With business escalating, Cramer opened a second candy shop location in Baltimore, and also moved his chocolate factory the heart of Charm City. This endeavor would be located at 109 N. Liberty Street. Success did take a toll, along with alleged “indulging in sweets of another kind” as Blanche Cramer filed for divorce in May, 1924. Cramer found himself in a financial conundrum, and had to pay a settlement to his ex-wife, and had other creditors. He tried leasing his Frederick Barbara Fritchie location, but to no avail.
A levy sale was soon held by the county sheriff in August and many of his instruments, store furnishings and glassware were sold. A public sale, hosted by Ammon, would be held three months later with a number of items departing the inventory of Cramer’s Palace of Music, and highlighted by the passing of his majestic soda fountain along with the glass bar and stools. The Baltimore location also fell by the wayside. It was a low time for Frederick’s “Music Man/Candy Man.”
As this business did fine at the present location, something very special happened in 1927. A few local businessmen, under the leadership of Hammond Clary, concocted the idea of building a replica Barbara Fritchie House and Museum on W. Patrick Street along Carroll Creek. The original Fritchie home was destroyed by a flood in 1868 and dismantled as part of a control effort in widening of the creek at that location. Tourists and visitors had been coming to Frederick for decades, only to be disappointed to learn that the Fritchie House was not here, and no chance was afforded travelers to gaze upon the famous second-story dormer window in which the nonagenarian leaned out of and waved her flag.
On cue, Ammon Cramer quickly moved his establishment right across the street of the new museum to 59 W. Patrick Street. It also appears that he brought son his son Chauncey into the family business as well. He could now prey on the countless pilgrims to the recreated “alleged site” of Barbara Fritchie’s defiance back in 1862. And in my book, nothing goes better with Civil War history than candy and ice cream.
It was at this time that Cramer would marry Helen Mackley. The couple would move to the new suburban development of Linden Hills, west of town. He built a house at the top which afforded an incredible elevated view of Frederick’s famed “clustered spires,” made famous by the Whittier poem about Barbara Fritchie, of course. Everything was going very nicely for the former farm kid from Woodsboro.
Sadly, Ammon would lose Helen in 1938. She died after a five-month illness at the tender age of 31, leaving her husband to raise two young daughters, ages six and seven. As had always been the case, Cramer persevered, throwing himself into his work. Meanwhile, the allure for a takeaway souvenir of namesake chocolate was overwhelming for tourists visiting the Barbara Fritchie House. Cramer had to find new digs for his candy manufacturing. In 1944, he attempted to gain industrial zoning approval for a new factory which he desired to place at the northwest corner of W. 7th and Bentz streets. He couldn’t get the zoning, however and was forced to look elsewhere.
Ammon Cramer would establish his chocolate factory south of Frederick on the once-sparse Evergreen Point (along the Georgetown/Urbana Pike/MD355). He built a series of Quonset huts, encompassing 18,000 feet, to house the equipment used to pump out his Fritchie bon-bons. This was 1947, after the boom following the close of World War II. Much of this structure survives today as it has been repurposed many times of the years. Currently, it serves home to Tate Chrysler/Plymouth's Used Cars location.
Ammon had married for a third and final time earlier in the decade. His young bride (35 years his junior), was Mary Frances Wertenbaker. Mary took an active role in helping Ammon run the family business, plus two more children would come from this marriage.
The New Frontier
In the post-war period, automobile sales skyrocketed, and motoring shaped the culture of the country. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 added to this. Roadside attractions and restaurants sprouted up everywhere, as did motorist-friendly amenities such as drive-up tellers at banks, drive-in movies, and drive-in restaurants. These were “Happy Days” for sure! Ammon Cramer needed to be part of the new “vehicular” frontier.
The newspapers of 1959 feature news stories of the Cramer’s attempting to get zoning approval for a parcel located at the intersection of Hayward Road at US15. This was the year that the Frederick Freeway opened, a plan to bypass traffic around downtown Frederick. Ammon Cramer experienced defeat again with this venture—one which would have been optimal in capturing motorists coming from the north on the early interstate, along with those coming from the south and heading towards the Civil War mecca of Gettysburg. Undaunted, he now focused his attention west of town on W. Patrick Street/US40 as it had been a major traveler highway of note for two centuries.
Ground was broken on October 13th, 1959 at a site north of the Braddock Drive-Inn and west of Masser’s Motel. Ammon Cramer placed a large candy cane along the roadside itself in front of the restaurant to bring extra attention to his eclectic eatery. Day or night, this architectural element became a beacon to travelers, and an important landmark in the annals of Americana.
Ammon Cramer faithfully ran his Barbara Fritchie Candystick Restaurant, including the resale of his Barbara Fritchie candy creations, up through his death on September 13th, 1967. He also lived to see his music business celebrate 50 years in business, closing shortly after.
Ammon would be laid to rest in the mausoleum-cloister atop Linden Hills, immediately across from his home. At the time, this was known as Frederick Memorial Park Cemetery (established in 1931). It has undergone a series of names and owners, but today goes by the name of Clustered Spires Cemetery and is operated by the Cody family and Resthaven Cemetery.
West of Frederick, the story was quite different. The “Golden Mile” and suburban boom provided more customers, along with more competitors as well. The Barbara Fritchie Restaurant held its own and was run successfully by Mary Cramer, who died in July, 2003. Mary Cramer’s children had her inurned within Mount Olivet’s main Mausoleum Chapel. At this time, Ammon Cramer’s remains were removed from the Clustered Spires Mausoleum, and brought here to Mount Olivet. Today, you can find the couple sharing a niche space on the back wall of the Chapel Mausoleum.
As for the Barbara Fritchie Candystick Restaurant, new owners have continued the Cramers’ legacy, and it is still beloved by Frederick locals and tourists alike. The place hasn’t changed all that much as it marches toward 60 years in existence. The candy counter is gone, but the throwback décor and “homey feel” certainly remains. Over the years, many travelers have recounted to me their fond memories of Frederick being synonymous with dining excursions at “the Fritch” dating back in some cases to their youth. I’ve had the opportunity to share this with my children as well. How can one forget the desserts, milkshakes and breakfast all day-long? Thank you Ammon Cramer, if nothing else, you certainly “composed” culinary masterpieces in the form of music for our stomachs.
World War I Spotlight: John J. Arnold
December 12th marks the death date of a Jefferson, Maryland native who fought bravely in the Great War. John J. Arnold (1894-1984) fought with Company A of the 311th Machine Gun Battalion of the 79th Division. Private Arnold was severely wounded on September 29th, 1918 during the Battle of Argonne Forest. He would receive the Purple Heart for an injury that partially disabled him for the rest of his life as a farmer tending to his family homestead located at 3945 Lander Road.
What a whirlwind week and a half! Starting with Thanksgiving, we quickly progressed into the “Thanksbuying” holidays with the annual events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday…which has been extended now to Cyber Week. A shining diversion to the unbridled, holiday-related spending of the period came in the form of charitable donating on Giving Tuesday.
Many people are well aware of Giving Tuesday, also stylized as #Giving Tuesday for social networking purposes. This event, occurring on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, celebrated its 5th anniversary this past week, as it began back in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City along with the United Nations Foundation. The “tongue in cheek” response to the post Thanksgiving commercialization of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has steadily been growing in popularity, now firmly established as an international day of giving at the beginning of the holiday season. An accounting showed that $10 million dollars was raised on the first Giving Tuesday. The amount has grown steadily each year since, with early estimates from this past Tuesday being reported at over $60 million.
I’m proud to announce that Mount Olivet Cemetery had some involvement in this great day, albeit a small entrée into something much bigger for the future. Thanks to the generosity of our Board of Directors, an amount of $25,500 was collected in order to establish our newly formed Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund (MOCPEF) with the Community Foundation of Frederick County.
For over a decade, the Mount Olivet Board of Directors have entertained the idea of establishing a preservation-themed fund with the Community Foundation. The idea was first pitched, and championed by Colleen Remsberg, longtime Board member and immediate past president. In 2014, the Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund was incorporated, but it wasn’t until December 2016 when the cemetery took the next important step to move forward—filing an application with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity. The mission of this charity reads as follows:
The mission of the Mount Olivet Cemetery Preservation and Enhancement Fund is to assist in the conservation of the natural beauty and historic integrity of Mount Olivet Cemetery and to increase public knowledge and appreciation of its unique, cultural, historic, and natural resources through charitable and educational programs.
Putting this in layman’s terms, the cemetery’s Board wants to take steps to preserve the history of this great “garden cemetery,” a community institution since the 1850’s. In doing so, they want to safeguard the cemetery’s historic records, structures and grave monuments therein. We have taken a bit of a head start in 2017 as can be exemplified by things such as these “Stories in Stone” articles and our monthly lectures. In addition, we’d like to expand upon cemetery walking tours, visitor assistance with genealogy and family history of those interred here, special events and anniversaries, educational partnerships with school field trips, interpretive displays such as historic waysides and unique commemorative plantings. Best of all, we will have the opportunity, and more so the financial support to preserve and repair broken and illegible gravestones and monuments in the cemetery’s historic section.
Many people assume that “downed,” and leaning grave markers are products of vandalism or shoddy care. This is incorrect. Most have toppled due to the fact that graves of the 19th century lacked the underlying support foundations that are commonplace in the cemetery’s 20th and 21st century interments. Early graves and reburials lacked vaults of any kind, others consisted of brick vaults or simple “over coverings” of a casket with a slab of slate stone. Over time, the weight from above has caused a collapse as the slate and brick has given way. In other cases, most monument dies are simply held up by iron rods. Moisture can get to these inner pinnings and rust them out. Ground movement underneath (as mentioned), or a strong wind can fell these tombstones at will. In addition, fissures can develop based on weather, causing a stone to crack or a delicate angel’s wing to break. Weather and pollution are also to blame for monument discoloration and other things like algae growth and mineral buildup on marble and granite stones alike.
With these problems, who’s responsibility is it to make repairs? Well, the stones are the property of individual lot holders. The cemetery comes into play with any damage done by cemetery staff, mowing vendors, or acts of nature/God such as a tree or branch collapse. Sadly, In the case of the historic area of Mount Olivet, descending generations have passed on, and many monuments are presently unvisited, and unclaimed, as families moved from the area, or simply “died” out. The new Preservation Fund will allow us to proceed with repairs, and in some cases, elaborate fixes can be attempted requiring specialized craftsman. One of our long range goals is to make inventories of our prominent and unique monuments here at Mount Olivet, representing not only prominent folks from Frederick’s past, but serving as testaments of outstanding art works of early craftsmanship.
Mount Olivet received a positive determination letter back from the IRS in late February, 2017. In doing so, people can now donate to the fund and deduct contributions they make. The Mount Olivet Cemetery Preservation and Enhancement Fund is qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts. At once, we started researching how other historic cemeteries around the country are running foundations of this sort, including board oversight, fiduciary management, special programming and outreach. To establish a relationship with the Community Foundation of Frederick County was an obvious necessity.
With roots dating back to 1986, the Community Foundation allows members of the Frederick community to establish charitable funds that are then distributed to nonprofit agencies and other social services throughout Frederick County. The cost of establishing a fund with this great organization is $25,000. Colleen Remsberg gave the initial pledge of $10,000 and started the ball rolling for us toward the goal of $25,000. In doing so, she challenged her fellow board members.
December 1st had been set by the Board as the projected date to submit the paperwork agreement with the Community Foundation. At our last Board meeting, this past Monday (November 27th), the challenge to raise $25,000 was reiterated to the cemetery’s directors, with the deadline of Friday, December 1st. At the same time, I made sure to mention that the following day was none other than Giving Tuesday, and this week could be considered Giving Week for Mount Olivet.
As mentioned earlier, the Board Directors answered the call! Special thanks goes to Colleen Remsberg, President Tim Horman, Vice President Emil Bennett, Vice President Andy Radcliffe, Treasurer Jim Summers, Bruce Jett, Dale Summers, Mary Ann Frank, Connie Snook, Bert Anderson and cemetery superintendent Ron Pearcey. One additional donation of note also came from the Board’s legal counsel, Clay Martz. On Friday, December 1st, I had the privilege of accompanying Board member/Preservation Fund committee chair Bert Anderson to the Community Foundation’s downtown office to drop off the fund agreement and an envelope of checks totaling $25,500.
While sitting in the Community Foundation office and discussing our future plans to their staff, I was again reminded of the importance of Mount Olivet and all those buried here. Our interred cemetery population of over 40,000 represents a mirror of the Community Foundation, or better yet, the foundation for our Frederick Community. It’s a “who’s who” of Frederick’s past, with grave memorials and monuments keeping alive the names and memories of those who truly gave us the Frederick that we cherish today.
Yeah, there’s Francis Scott Key, Barbara Fritchie and Gov. Thomas Johnson, but let’s not forget the contributions of former community pillars and veterans whose names grace our streets, parks, businesses. It is these people who gave back to Frederick through their dedication, vision, unselfishness, and money. They formed, or gave birth to, our many church and civic groups, beneficial societies, non-profits and charitable organizations that have aided our citizenry and community for centuries—and the same we hopefully remembered on Giving Tuesday. Mount Olivet Cemetery is more than just a burying ground, it’s a “museum without walls.” This fund, and future support will ensure that it continues to thrive and stay relevant into eternity as these life “Stories in Stone” are certainly worth preserving.
For more information on giving, please contact the Community Foundation by clicking on the logo below.