A unique surname that can be found in Mount Olivet is Firestone. Of course, this name is synonymous with a popular local restaurant/bar in downtown Frederick, but more so, it’s a name known nationally thanks to the tire industry. Interestingly, the Firestones (interred) here are most definitely connected to a local restaurateur, and the legendary tire family, and I found it fascinating that just like a tire, the family, in a way, has come “full circle” here in sleepy little Frederick, Maryland.
I was reminded of this fact back in early August as my son and I were heading to the NFL Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Canton. Twenty minutes north of our destination, we went through Akron, “the Rubber Capital of the World” and birthplace of numerous brands of American tires from Goodrich to Goodyear, Firestone to General.
A “fire-stone” is one that can withstand fire and great heat, and were once common in the building of furnaces and ovens. The family name in question derives from the German “Feuerstein,” of course meaning “firestone,” and was Anglicized to such by second-generation members of this family that immigrated to America. Our earliest of inhabitant of Mount Olivet with this name is one, Jacob Firestone (1775-1830). He can be found in Area H/Lot 92. His wife, Mary Madeline (Hummell) Firestone (1780-1832), is buried at his side.
I can’t tell you a great deal about Jacob other than he was a millwright by profession and was born in Frederick. His father, Mathias Feuerstein (1744-1829), hailed from Thal-près-Marmoutier, Bas-Rhin, Alsace, France. This German immigrant journeyed to America with his parents, Nicholas and Catharina (Nunnemacher) Feuerstein, at the age of nine.
Mathias Feuerstein, known to us as Mathias Firestone, sailed from Rotterdam (Holland) on the ship Peggy, arriving in Philadelphia on September 24th, 1753. The Firestones came as indentured servants but eventually started their own farmstead near Lancaster (PA). During the American Revolution, Mathias served as a private in Captain Thomas White's company, York County, Pennsylvania militia. His father and siblings also took part in the fight for independence.
Mathias married Anna Maria Bieber (1752-1827) in Paradise Township, York, Pennsylvania on April 4th, 1774. The couple had 14 children. They would re-settle on a farm in Frederick County, Maryland, sometime before March 31st, 1787, thanks to a land deed from a local named Richard Wood. In 1790, the first-ever US census shows that Mathias Firestone was head of a family with his wife, four sons under the age of sixteen, and four daughters.
Mathias Firestone would relocate to Ohio and became one of the early pioneering settlers of Columbiana County after the war. He would die here in 1829. Some of Mathias’ siblings had gone to Ohio as well, including a brother, John. It was this gentleman’s great-great grandson, Harvey S. Firestone, who would make the name iconic through his work as an American businessman, and the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tires.
Our primary subject, Jacob Firestone, remained in Frederick to live out his life. He is associated with the properties on, or near, Little Tuscarora Creek situated just northwest of the City of Frederick. These included “Hedges Delight,” “Yellow Spring,” “Chestnut Ridge,” and land that would eventually fall into the hands of relatives named Zimmerman who called their property “The Paper Factory.” This last parcel was originally tied to another Mathias, named Mathias Bartgis who in 1778 began publishing a newspaper here in Frederick, and would later branch out to Winchester, Virginia as well. In 1788, Bartgis established a regular bi-weekly private mail system which stretched from York to Winchester to facilitate the delivery of his paper entitled the Bartgis Gazette among other names.
Jacob Firestone took part in the War of 1812, serving under Captain John Brengle. He served from August 25-September 19th, 1814, being recruited by Brengle and Rev. David F. Schaefer of the Lutheran Church as both these men rode through the streets in an effort to recruit a company which would eventually participate in the Battle of Baltimore. This included the bombardment of Fort McHenry which, in a round-about way brought eternal fame to Francis Scott Key.
I decided to search Jacob Firestone’s name in Jacob Engelbrecht’s famed diary, a key resource in Frederick history pursuits of the early to late 19th century. I found an entry relating to Mr. Firestone dated April 13th, 1830:
Died yesterday in the 56th year of his age, Mr. Jacob Firestone (Feuerstein) of this county. Buried on Lutheran graveyard.
Ironically, Engelbrecht made another entry the very next day (April 14th, 1830), this one though possessed a bittersweet nature knowing now the first entry:
Married on Thursday last 8 instant by Reverend D. F. Schaeffer, Mr. Joshua Firestone to a Miss Christiana Stull, all of this County.
Jacob and Mary were first buried in the original Lutheran burying ground which once stretched from behind the church (fronting on E. Church Street) and stretched to E. 2nd Street. The couple would be re-interred in Mount Olivet on April 1st, 1907.
Firestones off the Old Block
Jacob and Mary Firestone had six sons as far as records show on Ancestry.com. Half of these boys are buried here in Mount Olivet and include Joshua Firestone (1802-1883), Henry M. Firestone (1804-1869) and Frederick Hummell Firestone (1819-1856). All three seemed to be engaged in continued operation of the family farm and mill on Tuscarora Creek under the original leadership of brother George (1811-1891). George would live out the rest of his life in Fredericksburg, Wayne County, Ohio, as would two additional brothers named John (1808-1887) and David (1805-1894). George and John are buried in the aptly named Fredericksburg, and John was laid to rest in Barnes County, Ohio.
Frederick Hummel Firestone appears to have been the first of his family to enter Mount Olivet. Originally laid to rest in the Lutheran Church graveyard with his parents, his body would be moved to Mount Olivet on October 12th, 1863 by direction of his wife Rebecca in her Whitter family plot located in Area A/Lot 25. Jacob and Mary’s son Henry was also buried in the Lutheran graveyard but was moved along with the remains of his parents in 1907. Joshua Firestone seems to have been the instigator in having his parents and brother buried in a lot purchased for his own burial and located in Area H/Lot 92. He would be placed here upon his death on December 5th, 1883.
A third generation of Firestones are also buried here in Mount Olivet. They include two grandchildren of Jacob Firestone: Oscar Frederick Firestone and Martin Luther Firestone. Oscar, (1852-1933), the son of the aforementioned Frederick Hummell Firestone and wife Rebecca Whitter, married Fannie E. Steiner and moved to Baltimore, living at 1711 W. Fayette Street. Oscar worked as a traveling salesman of machinery supplies. The couple never had any children. Oscar’s grave can be found in Area Q/Lot 70.
Martin Luther Firestone (1832-1920) was the son of Joshua Firestone and wife Christiana Stull, the union mentioned by Jacob Engelbrecht in his diary. Martin Luther continued the family tradition as a millwright on the old farmstead. He also worked at the Pampel Iron Foundry in town and was a participant of the American Civil War, serving in the Potomac Home Brigade, Company A in the Union Cavalry under Col. Henry Cole. He received an honorable discharge after a horse fell on him at Harpers Ferry in July, 1862. He suffered for the rest of his life with a debility involving his hip. Martin would live until 1920, and was subsequently laid to rest in the Firestone plot in Area H.
Martin married Katherine Virginia Galle (1837-1917) and the couple had four children: Bion Hunter Firestone, Charles W. Firestone, Chrisse Byrd Dell Firestone (Bowers) and Sarah C. Firestone (Miller). Of these, only Bion Firestone can be found in the main Firestone lot on Area H, representing four generations of this family. Bion had a remarkable career as a musician in Frederick County during the late 1800's and early 1900's. He would earn a living as a professor of music, as a conductor in the Frederick Philharmonic Orchestra, and as an accomplished violinist, organist, and pianist. Some of his many involvements were working for the Signor Hazazer School of Dance and the Lutheran Sunday School Orchestra.
A fine picture of Bion can be found in the archives of Heritage Frederick for all to admire. He died on December 30th, 1962 at the age of 98. One of our loyal readers of “Stories in Stone,” Pete Bowers recently stated that Bion Firestone was his great uncle, one of his grandmother’s (Chrisse B. (Firestone) Bowers—Mrs. Grayson E. Bowers) brothers who lived a part of his adult life in the first-floor apartment at 22 North Market Street. Pete said that what he remembered about Bion was that “he was a very distinguished and reserved gentleman, talented about all things musical and possessed a huge sense of humor. In his early days he studied in Europe, mainly in Berlin.”
Another sidenote, Pete's father was Grayson Hunter Bowers, who served on Mount Olivet's cemetery board from 1941 through his death in 1996. This man, the son of Chrisse (Firestone) Bowers, spent 26 years as our board president.
So where does Frederick’s Firestone’s Culinary Tavern (as it’s called) come into the story? Well, the eatery was opened in 1999 by a California transplant that actually grew up in Beverly Hills by the name of Kimball C. Firestone. Kim is the son of Leonard K. Firestone, one of five sons of Harvey S. Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company.
Apparently, after further exploration, I discovered that the impetus for the tire company occurred when Harvey (Kim’s grandfather) left a job with a Columbus, Ohio buggy company to start a small enterprise based on a central tenet—replacing hard rubber wheels found on buggies with pneumatic tires that could be mounted on wheels, which in turn could be attached to motor cars. It also didn’t hurt that Harvey had forged a close relationship with pioneer car manufacturer Henry Ford.
You may recall, from earlier in this piece, that Harvey’s great-great grandfather was John Firestone, making him restauranteur Kim Firestone’s GGGG Grandfather. And to review, John Firestone was an older brother to Mount Olivet’s Jacob Firestone. The common relative was the father of John and Jacob, Mathias Firestone, German immigrant to America and son of progenitor Nicholas Feuerstein.
Lastly, a prime local “Firestone” family connection can be made by mainstay eateries in our beautiful Downtown Frederick. We’ve explained the connection to the self-named restaurant (Firestones Culinary Tavern), but we have several others that were once owned and operated by Fountain Rock Management headed by Phil Bowers including Brewer’s Alley, Isabella’s, and the former Acacia. Phil’s ancestors include the Frederick Firestone family members through his great-grandmother, Chrisse (Firestone) Bowers, the wife of Grayson E. Bowers.
I guess when somebody asks about our culinary scene here, it would be appropriate to use Firestone’s famed slogan and tagline as it’s “Where the rubber meets the road.”