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Library donor's family has rich history in town

July 03, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - The most generous individual donor to the Smithsburg library fund boasted a family heritage worthy of history books.

The late Arthur Jacques, who died in 1980 at 87, bequeathed about $100,000 to the Smithsburg branch of the Washington County Free Library, Library Board President Judith Ferro said.

The funds anchor a capital campaign now under way to raise money for the construction of a bigger library to serve the area's burgeoning population.

Smithsburg didn't exist when Arthur Jacques' forefathers moved to Washington County from England in the 1750s. The town was founded in 1813, Smithsburg historian Charlie Slick said.

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French Huguenots Lancelot Jacques and his three nephews settled near Clear Spring after securing a 15,000-acre land grant from Lord Baltimore, said Arthur Jacques' niece, Julia Hayes of Smithsburg.

Lancelot Jacques partnered with Thomas Johnson, Maryland's first governor, to operate the Catoctin Furnace before branching out with nephew Denton to launch the Green Spring Furnace in 1776, Hayes said.

Lancelot Jacques and Green Spring Furnace are mentioned numerous times in correspondence to and from George Washington, according to "The Papers of George Washington," a lengthy collection of the first U.S. president's paperwork compiled by the University of Virginia.

Jacques and his nephew manufactured cannon balls for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. They shipped their wares via the Potomac River, Hayes said.

Descendant Arthur Jacques was also industrious.

He attended public schools in Smithsburg and Hagerstown, served as a page in the U.S. Senate, and graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis. Jacques then joined the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of major and serving in Haiti during World War I, Hayes said.

Her uncle worked in land development with his father, Lancelot Jacques, soon after his military service ended, Hayes said. She remembers the "gripe session" that ensued when her grandfather gave the City of Hagerstown land for a new high school in the North End because some city officials "said Hagerstown would never extend that far."

Arthur Jacques also taught language at the old Smithsburg High School and served briefly as the school's principal before starting his career as a traffic supervisor with the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. He retired from C&P Telephone in 1958 after 30 years with the company, his niece said.

Jacques married three times. His only child died in infancy, Hayes said.

His library bequest was released to the library board in late May following the April death of Jacques' widow, Alice Jacques Sieck, Ferro said.

Family members aren't sure why he willed funds to the library, said Hayes, who would like to see a room in the new building dedicated to her late uncle.

Library project supporters in March secured a site for the new and improved branch to be built in the town's Veterans Park. Friends of Smithsburg Library, a group that includes library board members and other project proponents, are now trying to raise the estimated $1 million it will cost to build a 10,000-square-foot library, Ferro has said.

The group has secured about $566,000 in pledges and donations thus far, she said.

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