For one family, fort history is personal

May 28, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

BIG POOL - Granted, everyone who came to Fort Frederick State Park for the 250th anniversary weekend celebration was surrounded by the history of the place.

But for the Williams family, it wasn't just any history - it is their history, too.

For 54 years beginning just before the Civil War and lasting into the early 1900s, the Nathan Williams family owned and farmed the land on which Fort Frederick stands.

"We came here for this from New Jersey," said Jean Johnson, wife of Donald Johnson, whose mother was a Williams. "I wouldn't miss it for anything."

Queen Esther Jones, whose mother also was a Williams, was accompanied from Philadelphia by her husband, James F. Jones, to a pre-celebration luncheon Saturday for members of the family.


Named for a heroic biblical figure, Queen Esther Jones said she is proud of her name as well as her heritage, which is woven into the tapestry of Fort Frederick.

From the oldest to the youngest, stories were shared as well as archival pictures, including one showing the family patriarch and some of his family members sitting and standing next to the wall of the fort in the 1800s.

In contrast, new pictures of grandchildren and great-grandchildren also were passed around at the luncheon at the Hampton Inn on Dual Highway.

Carolyn Brooks is Nathan Williams' great-granddaughter, and helped organize the family celebration in conjunction with Fort Frederick's anniversary.

In a 2000 interview, Brooks said Nathan Williams bought the fort and some surrounding land in 1857 for $7,000. The family farmed the land and provided food to the Union army during the Civil War.

She said the family lost the property in 1911 to unpaid taxes.

Brooks' daughter, Whytne, said in the 2000 interview that she first learned about her family's connection to the fort when she did a report on the subject in the third grade.

Now in her last year of college, Whytne, 20, mingled among her family members at the luncheon Saturday and got the chance to see many family pictures, new and old.

After lunch, the extended Williams family headed west to the fort and the afternoon's celebration, where they were available to talk with visitors and enjoy the day's events.

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