The Fairground's Caretaker
The annual “summer to fall passage” includes the period when kids go back to school, football season kicks off, and Market Street is closed off to pedestrians for “In the Street.” The true punctuation mark that summer is yielding to the splendor of fall and pumpkin-flavored novelties is our beloved county fair, a hometown tradition—as nothing says home like the Great Frederick Fair! For those old enough to remember, the fair itself formerly was held in October (and fall itself) to correspond with the yearly harvesttime.
It may not be a largely publicized fact, but this year marks the 200th anniversary of an event that occurred in May of 1822. This was the first exhibition and cattle show in Frederick’s history. It was put on by the newly formed Frederick Agricultural Society and took place on May 23rd and 24th, 1822 at George Creager's Tavern near the Monocacy Bridge, two miles east of Frederick on the Old Baltimore Turnpike Road.
I performed some research on the Great Frederick Fair’s earliest origins a decade ago and found that the tavern in question was actually called the Monocacy Bridge Hotel, owned by Levi Hughes. Mr. Creager apparently rented from Hughes and eventually ran into financial hardships resulting in him being sued for funds owed his landlord. The old hotel once faced south, overlooking the current Park & Ride facility that sits off MD144 two miles east of Downtown Frederick (and roughly a mile and a half from the present fairgrounds property). The original cattle exhibition was held on grounds just west of the Monocacy River and the original Jug Bridge built in 1808.
1900 vintage postcard looking west across the Monocacy River and famed Jug Bridge. The first cattle show was held on the farmland to the left of the Old National Pike that bisects the image. The Old Monocacy Bridge Hotel can be seen in the distance (white house fronting pike and to the left of the red barn)
To my knowledge, cows haven’t been on this property in years, but retail vehicles and golf balls abound (thanks to an rv sales dealer and driving range) in this unique triangle formed between the mighty Monocacy, I-70, the Old National Pike (MD144).
I was able to piece together the agricultural event's colorful history of the 1800s, and was honored to have the Fair Board “exhibit” my findings (complete with appropriate visuals) in the form of a large interpretive mural display. It can be found in the east entrance to the Null Building at the fairgrounds. It's a tapestry of sorts, actually printed on fabric and pulled taut by a metal frame. If anything else, it makes great reading while waiting in line for the public restrooms found adjacent the exhibit.
Mount Olivet has many connections to the best, and brightest, fair in the state, and we have done a number of stories under this blog heading to highlight some of the folks who have played significant roles in making the fair so successful and special. A few years ago, I even conducted a special walking tour at Mount Olivet on what has been called “Fair Day,” traditionally the second Friday while the event is in session. This was an unofficial, local holiday of sorts throughout my youth and beyond as kids used to get the full day off school. Today it’s simply an early dismissal situation, but the opportunity is still offered for children of all ages to come out to enjoy the spectacle on a weekday.
One of the stops on our cemetery walking tour included a name once keenly associated with the fairgrounds—Charles N. Daugherty. At first, you may think he was the originator of a bustling breakfast haven that sits up on the northeast loop of the track, not far from Hemps. However, this vendor is Dougherty’s County Kitchen, and not Daugherty’s. It is named for Harry Baxter Dougherty, Jr. (1935-2018), a legendary concessionaire from Taneytown who was here at the Frederick Fair with his Country Kitchen for 48 years. He owned a successful ice company, Ice Cream Shack and real Estate operation.
Even after Harry Dougherty's death, the Country Kitchen remains in residence here for the elongated "Fair Week." Meanwhile, Charles Daugherty was a permanent, year-round fixture of the Frederick Fairgrounds. This familiar figure served as the property’s caretaker.
Charles N. Daugherty came to Frederick via Gettysburg in the year 1909, at which time he was appointed caretaker. The fairground was only 40 acres in size, but would be enlarged to 60 during his tenure. He had a hand in building, re-building and supervising construction of all the structures on the premises before his retirement in 1950. He has been described as a “versatile artisan” and spent nights here when the grounds were bustling with fairgoers in the heart of fall, all major holidays and the darkest/coldest days of winter.
Charles Norman Daugherty was born on February 18th, 1879, the son of Jacob L. and Mary (Pfeffer) Daugherty. He spent his youth on the family farm in Cumberland Township, Adams County, PA. He was married on December 8th, 1901 at the Mount Joy Lutheran Parsonage in Barlow, Adams County, PA. His bride was a Frederick girl named Mary Maud Solt, daughter of Jacob Berry Solt, the then-caretaker of the Frederick Fairgrounds on East Patrick Street.
The young couple lived in Cumberland Township after their nuptials and would have three children: Margaret (b. 1902), Edward (b. 1908), and Mary (b. 1911). They would move to the Frederick area before Edward's birth in 1908.
In 1909, Jacob B. Solt announced his intent of retiring from his position as keeper of the Frederick Fairgrounds. He asked the Fair’s Board of Directors if his son-in-law, Charles, would be permitted to take over his job. Mr. Solt went one step further in promising that if Mr. Daugherty did not perform job duties to a satisfactory manner, that he would re-assume duties as keeper.
Charles got the job and, sufficed to say, successfully passed his 90-day review and then some. By the year 1917, he was being paid $2.00/day for his services as groundskeeper.
From records we learn that his wage gradually increased over the next seven years to $75.00/month (basically $2.42/day in a 31-day month). The minutes reflect that he was required to give his time to the Frederick Agricultural Society, however a major perk included free residence in the keeper’s dwelling, complete with the “privilege” of raising 25 chickens confined to his yard.
When living on an agricultural fairgrounds, life among animals has its ups and downs as can be attested to from these articles found in the old newspaper archives.
Charles N. Daugherty faithfully served until April 1st, 1950, completing 41 years of service. His replacement would be a gentleman named Guy Wetzel (1900-1971) who is also buried in Mount Olivet with Charles' predecessor, father-in-law Jacob B. Solt who had died in 1925.
An event likely prompting Mr. Daugherty's retirement was the death of wife Maud on May 16th, 1949. She would be laid to rest just a few feet from her parents and her daughter Margaret who died at age seven back in March of 1910.
Charles took up residence off the fairgrounds property for the first time in 40+ years. He would move to 920 Motter Avenue across from Staley Park in the north end of Frederick City. His son Edward was living there in the 1940 and 1950 census records. Charles sold the property to Edward in 1949, and his grandson Edward Daugherty, Jr. still lives here. An alley that runs behind the house is called Daugherty Alley.
Charles died in August, 1964 and was buried in the Solt family lot in Mount Olivet's Area OO/Lot 26. Maud's parents Jacob and Elizabeth are buried directly behind the Daughertys. Daughters Margaret Elizabeth Daugherty (1902-1910) and Mary Helen Daugherty (1911-2003) are buried here also.
Charles N. Daugherty took good, or should I say great, care of the fair, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for being among those of Frederick's past who gave us the fruits of Frederick present that we enjoy today. The Great Frederick Fair is certainly one of our community's prized possessions to call our own.
To learn more about the history of the Great Frederick Fair, click the button below.
Come visit our Friends of Mount Olivet booth at the Frederick Fair (under the West Grandstand). Come visit Chris and other Mount Olivet staff and ask to play the "Stories in Stone" Trivia Challenge for an opportunity to win Mount Olivet history memorabilia.
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