"Study of an Orange"
Making comparisons, we do it all the time. Being employed in the field of research, public history, and memorialization, I often find myself measuring persons’ lives according to the times in which they lived, and the things in which they experienced and accomplished. In many situations, I encounter what I believe to be unfair analogies of persons who cannot fairly be matched to one another, life stories that are completely different yet sharing like things such as generation, education, profession, and military experience. And the greatest likenesses of all, especially in our specific context here, are the givens of once having lived in Frederick and afterwards being laid to rest here in Mount Olivet. Many know that I’m an idiot for idioms, and I can’t help using the old fruit-themed adage of “apples to oranges.”
Maybe you’ve heard of this expression before, maybe you haven’t. In doing a little research on the saying’s origin, I found that the idiom “apples to oranges” was first known as “apples to oysters” in John Ray’s proverb collection of 1670. The original expression referred to oysters on behalf of oranges as something which can never be compared with the apples. This seems a little random and blunt, but does express the definition at hand of items possessing non-identical attributes.
Leave it to the purveyors of Romance languages to “class-up” the old idiom as the French are credited with using the expression “apples to oranges” dating back to 1889. Meanwhile, the Spanish used another member of the fruit group, with their variation “apples to pears.”
While on a sojourn in the cemetery a few weeks back, my attention was drawn to a large, granite stone in Mount Olivet’s Area A, the oldest known section of the cemetery. This locale naturally hosted the cemetery’s first burial in late May, 1854, that of a woman named Ann Crawford. Only 15 yards away, I was intrigued by the decedent whose name was etched on this large block of stone.
That’s right, Mr. Orange Scott Firmin, now that is a unique first name if ever there was one. I also liked the middle name of Scott, having a fitting, patriotic ring to it for some unknown reason. I immediately took a few pictures and thought this worthy of further exploration.
I did have to laugh to myself as I had written a former “Story in Stone,” on a gentleman buried in Area CC who also boasted a “fruity” name if you will, Dr. Joseph Henry Apple, whose name is “immortal” and can be found easily within the annals of Frederick’s rich history. The first president of the Frederick Woman’s College and builder of its successor, Hood College, Dr. Apple also has a street named for him on Frederick’s west side. (Dr. Apple's Story in Stone from January, 2018)
Sadly, I would safely bet that no one has ever heard of our new person of interest O. S. Firmin, save a handful of family historians perhaps. Regardless, he will serve as our subject du jour.
The cemetery is filled with tens of thousands of monuments, markers and plaques at the very least keeping the names of their decedents above ground while their mortal remains remain below, or a crypt and urn does the same behind a plaque or nameplate in a mausoleum or columbarium. I’ve shared the adage in which it has been said that we all experience two deaths. The first is when we encounter physical death and thus require the services of places like Mount Olivet. The second, and final death, is when no one ever says our name, or remembers our face. Our time and accomplishments (big or small) on earth are forgotten. The markers and monuments can lead us to these “lost souls” if we take the time to notice.
Well I would certainly hate to compare “Apples and Oranges,” because Mr. Firmin seems to be in clear need of “resuscitation” with a brief life history lesson. I find myself once again having the responsibility to operate the proverbial “defibrillator,” but it definitely falls on you readers to assist me in this biographical séance.
I must say though, that I was selfishly hoping to find that a contributing factor to Mr. Firmin’s death was scurvy, but I couldn’t have been that lucky! Here goes anyway.
Orange Scott Firmin
Orange Scott Firmin was born on March 28th, 1841, in Richfield, Summit County, Ohio. I went to a website called behindthename.com and found the following about the moniker “Orange”:
First found as a girl's name in medieval times, in the forms Orenge and Orengia. The etymology is uncertain, and may be after the place in France named Orange. This is a corruption of Arausio, the name of a Celtic water god whose name meant "temple (of the forehead)." Later it was conflated with the name of the fruit, which comes from the Sanskrit for "orange tree," naranga. The word was used to describe the fruit's color in the 16th century.
Orange can be used as a surname, which may be derived from the medieval female name, or directly from the French place name. First used with the modern spelling in the 17th century, apparently due to William, Prince of Orange, who later became William III. His title is from the French place name.
Orange Firmin was the second oldest of seven children born to Frances Bugbee Firmin (1809-1881) and wife Mary Colby Chapin (1817-1903). He lived the majority of his youth and teenage years in Wilbraham, Hampden County, Massachusetts, today an eastern suburb of Springfield. The Bay State had served home for previous generations of his Firmin relatives dating back to the early 1600s. Orange’s 5th great-grandfather (John Firmin 1588-1642) had come to Massachusetts with his parents from Nayland, Sussex, England. As one can imagine, he possessed a number of direct ancestors from Massachusetts who participated in the American Revolution.
Mr. Firmin would serve in the American Civil War with his native Union. He was a Private in Company B., 7th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, from Aug. 19th, 1861 to September 7th, 1864. Immediately following his military service, he was given employment by the War Department where he served as a clerk and auditor.
Orange married Amanda Susan Ada Clingan (b. August 7, 1844) on October 24th, 1882, in Washington, DC. Amanda worked in the US Treasury Office in DC, but was born in Frederick back in 1844. She is our portal to Mount Olivet as the Firmins are buried in a lot owned by her parents. As early as the 1870 census, Amanda can be found boarding at the house of William Farrow, a clerk at the US Treasury in Washington, DC, and husband of her sister Ann.
Both members of this couple, Orange and Amanda, had great jobs with the US Government and appear to have been paid handsomely. They resided in northwest DC and in late October, 1886, became the proud parents of John Clingan Firmin.
Mr. Firmin was quite active in the Sons of the American Revolution and Freemasonry. He remained quite active in his working career, celebrated for his above-average dedication to the US Government, his employer. An article in a Washington newspaper in 1905 recognized Mr. Firmin on the occasion of his 40th anniversary with the War Department.
Amanda died on August 27th, 1909. She would be buried in her parents' burial plot, not far from the noted monument dedicated to the memory of Francis Scott Key just 11 years prior. As for Orange, he would never re-marry as he seemed to keep himself more than ever with his dedicated service to the US Government.
In 1919, ten years later, another article would appear in a December issue of the Washington Evening Times. A few more details were brought forward on our subject.
Orange Scott Firmin died of pneumonia on December 28th, 1933. The previous year, I found a small mention in the Frederick News that Mr. Firmin had traveled to Orlando, Florida to spend some time. I assume this visit was recreational in nature and likely more so taken for health reasons. I just find it interesting since Orlando is the county seat of Orange County, so named because of the prized fruit industry that took hold there long before a guy named Disney showed up with a mouse in tow from California.
Although Frederick, Maryland was never his home in life, it would serve as Orange's home in death as he has been here for over 87 years now.
Orange and Amanda's only child John would die in June of 1942. He enjoyed an early career as a draftsman, and finished his working days as a trademark examiner for the federal government. John would not be buried in Mount Olivet, being laid to rest in Fort Lincoln Cemetery located in Brentwood in Prince Georges County, Maryland.
Mount Olivet has decedents who worked as lawyers and doctors, served as politicians and captains of industry, ran businesses, won awards and accolades, served in the military and acted on stage and played sports. There should be no need to compare apples or oranges here, as we should be judged the same in the end, simply as humans who lived a life the best they could. A higher power will take care of the rest. As long as you lived a life, you should take solace in knowing when it comes to cemeteries, you will be memorialized for that "body of work" that comprises the dash between your birth and death years on a gravestone's face. And, suffice it to say, Mr. Firmin did just fine.
5/21/2022 01:15:10 pm
The original expression referred to oysters on behalf of oranges as something which can never be compared with the apples. Thank you, amazing post!
2/1/2023 07:42:29 pm
Wow I never knew that someone would tak such a deep look into the origins of a phrase, but it really made some interesting reading so thanks a lot for posting this! I would like to recommend my favorite house cleaning in columbus indiana
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