Historical Society founders had resumes that were impressive

February 25, 2011|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • Having lived in Elmira, N.Y., and Williamsport, Pa., Edmund Pendleton Cohill came to Washington County when he married Mary Ellen Rinehart, who was the daughter of a Hancock merchant.
Submitted photo

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

The Washington County Historical Society will celebrate its centennial year with special exhibits and lectures throughout 2011. A Mad Hatter's Ball will kick off the season at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, with a gala birthday event at Fountain Head Country Club. Tickets cost $100. Reservations for tickets and sponsorships are now available by calling 301-797-8782.

As we continue to recall the society's 29 signatories of the Articles of Incorporation, this week we meet Col. William P. Lane, E.P. Cohill and W.R. Hamilton.

Col. William P. Lane

Col. William Preston Lane Sr., father of the future attorney general and governor of the State of Maryland, commanded the first Maryland Regiment in the Spanish-American War.

Lane came from a family with a strong military tradition and saw all four of his sons serve as officers in World War I. The family came to be known as the "Fighting Lanes." He had served earlier in the Maryland National Guard, under Henry Kyd Douglas, and was one of the original seven directors of the Washington County Historical Society.

After graduating from Princeton University, Lane continued his legal studies under Henry H. Keedy and was admitted to the bar. His interests soon expanded and he became manager for the Hagerstown Steam Engine Co. and then served as postmaster for Hagerstown from 1887 to 1892. At that time, he began a career in banking with the firm later to be known as Eavey, Lane & Co. Bank

He and his wife were directly involved in many community pursuits throughout their lifetimes, including service to Washington County Hospital, he as a trustee and a charter member of the Hagerstown Rotary Club. He instilled a sense of responsibility in his offspring and was followed by his son and namesake with dedication to the mission of the historical society. His son, Gov. William Preston Lane Jr., was on the board for more than 25 years and helped to shepherd the preservation and restoration of the Jonathan Hager House.

E.P. Cohill

Hailing from Elmira, N.Y., and later Williamsport, Pa., Edmund Pendleton Cohill married Mary Ellen Rinehart, daughter of a Hancock merchant. Cohill engaged in the mercantile and milling business with his father-in-law. His interest in the orchards came from preparing much of the local apple crop for shipment.

According to his 1943 obituary in the Hancock News, the quality of Hancock apples inspired him to plant the Tonoloway Orchards of 750 acres with 53,000 trees, taking the orchard business to a commercial volume enterprise. At one time, dealers in New York and Great Britain were bidding on his crop. New York won.

Cohill served as president of the Maryland Horticulture Society, Eastern Fruit Growers Association and many other agricultural related organizations. He was credited as being the father of the Maryland Farm Bureau. He was also a director of the Baltimore Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

He served as a school commissioner for Washington County, was president of the Hancock Bank and the Hancock Bridge Co., which erected the first bridge across the Potomac at Hancock, and served on the board of the Washington County Hospital.

W.R. Hamilton

Sharing the interest of preserving the history of Washington County was William Robert Hamilton who was elected secretary of the first temporary organization of the founders of the Washington County Historical Society. A journalist by profession, he was known for his remarkable vocabulary and able use of it.

Leaving Hagerstown for Cumberland, Md., in 1898, Hamilton worked for the Cumberland News first, and then proceeded to cover the Maryland State Legislature at different times for many of the metropolitan newspapers including the Washington Times, Baltimore American, Washington Post, Baltimore News and the Philadelphia Ledger.  

He later returned to his birthplace and published his own paper, The Hagerstown Builder, for a while and worked for the Waynesboro Herald. The latter part of his life was spent as an editorial writer for the Hagerstown Morning Herald and he continued to freelance for Washington, D.C., area press.

Linda C. Irvin-Craig is executive director for the Washington County Historical Society. She can be reached at 301-797-8782 or

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