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Historical Society founders provided bookmobile, headquarters

December 22, 2010|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • Mary Lemist Titcomb came to Hagerstown in 1901 to head the second working county library in the United States.
Submitted photo

Editor's note: This is the third part of a 12-part series about the founders of the Washington County Historical Society.

The Washington County Historical Society will celebrate its centennial year with special exhibits and lectures throughout 2011. A Mad Hatter's Ball, planned for April Fool's Day, will kick off the season with a gala birthday event.

As we continue to recall the society's 29 signatories of the Articles of Incorporation, this week we meet Mary Lemist Titcomb and D.C.R. Miller.

 
Mary Lemist Titcomb

Another library connection for the historical society includes co-founder Mary Lemist Titcomb, who served as librarian for the Washington County Free Library for 30 years.  She is nationally recognized for her vision in starting a very early "bookmobile" in Washington County.  

Initially the "bookmobile" was a horse-drawn wagon that carried books from the main library to 22 rural deposit stations all over the county, beginning in 1904. This library system was handled by automobile by 1916.

Born in New Hampshire in 1857, Titcomb came to Hagerstown in 1901 to head the second working county library in the United States. She observed that many of the residents here were "more interested in arguing about church-related disputes than to other cultural or intellectual pursuits."

In a 1976 publication by the local chapter of American Association of University Women titled "Outstanding Women of Washington County," Titcomb is described as an early proponent of adult education. She often recruited girls who could not afford or access more formal education and helped them prepare to enter library-training schools.

The essay on Titcomb asserts that her "plan led to county library systems all over the country, although other Maryland counties were slow to introduce it; and it helped the country in its transition from an agricultural to an industrial society."

D.C.R. Miller

DeWitt Clinton Rench Miller was a physician, like his father before him and two of his brothers. He lived all of his life at the Mason-Dixon farm of his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Victor D. Miller Sr. His father was the Civil War surgeon whose surgical kit is on display in the Civil War exhibit at the Miller House and his brother was Dr. Victor Davis Miller Jr., who had his medical offices in the eastern wing of the house museum specifically added for that purpose.

D.C.R. Miller practiced medicine from his substantial brick home on the south side of Mason Dixon Road, just west of the railroad crossing, presumably putting the residence in Washington County. He and his wife, Elizabeth Angle, had no children so the bulk of their estate went to building the Washington County Free Library. Col. Henry Miller, a nephew, presented the Washington County Historical Society with two of his day books for the archives.

Col. Miller and his brother, Victor Miller III, provided the historical society with its current headquarters at 135 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown as a gift.  The lives of the three families who occupied the Miller House were so intertwined that it is not surprising that several generations of the Millers were directly involved in the evolution of the Washington County Historical Society. Three Millers were practicing medicine in Hagerstown at the same time.

The Millers had a direct ancestral tie to the Price family, who were the builders and first owners of the house. The Neills, the family who owned and occupied the Miller house between the Prices and the Millers, obviously were close associates, with a Margaret Neill attending the bride of Dr. Victor Miller Jr. as one of her bridesmaids.

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