Old newspaper recounts monument's construction

May 06, 1999

Washington MonumentBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

While some Frederick County residents stood watching, emotional and patriotic Boonsboro residents built less than half of a stone monument in honor of George Washington on July 4, 1827, according to a recently discovered newspaper account.

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Working together, Boonsboro residents erected a 15-foot monument that day in honor of the nation's first president, George I. Hardy wrote in a letter that appeared in the July 12, 1827, issue of The Torch Light and Public Advertiser newspaper.

"We contemplate raising it 30 feet after the busy season shall be passed," he wrote. The "busy season" is believed to be a reference to the harvest season.


The newspaper item was discovered this week by Marsha Fuller a historical newspaper indexer at the Western Maryland Room of Washington County Free Library.

No newspaper reports have been found yet indicating exactly when the monument was extended to 34 feet on top of South Mountain, but it is believed to be in the fall of 1827.

Hardy wrote the newspaper letter on behalf of those who built the monument. The foundation for the monument was laid down July 3.

"As it was raised in much haste, we cannot boast the regular accuracy of perfect beauty yet it possesses both solidity and durability, two important qualities - it has such strength as I think will preserve it for ages," he wrote.

The monument in the Washington Monument State Park stands on Monument Knob, originally called The Blue Rock, a 1,550-foot peak of South Mountain on the Frederick-Washington County line four miles east of Boonsboro.

John Frye, director of the Western Maryland Room, said he was quite surprised by the letter since many people believe the monument was built essentially in one day.

However, it does not change the fact that the monument was the first one completed to honor George Washington, he said. Work on a Baltimore monument began earlier, in 1815, but was not finished until 1829.

The Boonsboro volunteers were serious about their work, Hardy wrote.

"Our thoughts and food were both highly spiced with the contemplation of our work, thereby needing no stimulants to excite an artificial appetite," he wrote.

Hardy described the workers: "Though a majority of the men were from that class of society who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, yet I can safely, and do proudly say, that not one of them returned home intoxicated, so much superior was their desire to accomplish the work undertaken, than the love of self-gratification."

Hardy's account includes a slight criticism of some Frederick County residents.

"All (except a few accidental visitors from the adjoining county, who ate and drank, but stood aloof from the work) seemed influenced by a vigorous principle of emulation, that promised a speedy termination of that day's work."

About 500 volunteers originally built the monument without mortar and using stone found on the site. The monument had to be rebuilt in 1882 and 1935 after it fell into disrepair. The 1930 repair was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps and included mortar.

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