Professionals each had a hand in creating historical society

March 25, 2011|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • C. Harry Keller planned to become a missionary before a long illness played a role in his choosing a different path.
C. Harry Keller planned to become a missionary before a long illness played a role in his choosing a different path.

Editor's note: This is the sixth 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 are due Tuesday, March 29.

As we continue to recall the society's 29 signatories of the Articles of Incorporation, this week we continue with Charles Wagaman, J.W. Humrichouse and C. Harry Keller.

Charles D. Wagaman

Born at Beaver Creek, Charles Dahlgren Wagaman initially followed in his father's footsteps as a teacher in Washington County schools. He aspired to a career in law and began reading and studying under the guidance of Judge Edward Stake. In 1891, Wagaman was admitted to the Washington County Bar.

In 1895, Wagaman was elected state's attorney for Washington County and subsequently sought other political offices, for which he was defeated, once by only two votes. In 1914, he began a long-time commitment to the work of the Maryland Industrial Accident Commission, forerunner of the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Act (MOSHA), becoming chairman of the commission in 1917.  

He was initially appointed by Gov. Phillips  Goldsborough and re-appointed by both Govs. Emerson Harrington and Albert Ritchie. Wagaman's several terms on this commission represent the creation of many of the precepts governing safety in the workplace and served as a model for other states to follow.

Both Wagaman and his wife, Lula M. (Gantz) Wagaman, came from old county families and shared an interest in the preservation efforts of the Washington County Historical Society, he being a signatory to the incorporation of the organization.

J. W. Humrichouse

Dr. James Walker Humrichouse was educated at St. James College in Washington County, and later graduated from Pennsylvania College in Gettysburg in 1869. He continued his studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and followed that with five years abroad in Wurtzburg, Strassburg, Vienna and Berlin, providing him with some highly specialized training for his medical practice as he returned to Hagerstown.

Humrichouse's offices were on West Washington Street, just across from the Miller House. There he  introduced the use of diphtheria antitoxin to the Hagerstown area. He later took an interest in the specialty of caring for the eyes.

He served as one of the organizers of the Medical Society of Washington County and the Cumberland Valley Medical Association. He served as vice president and trustee of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland and was a Medical Expert Examiner for the U.S. Bureau of Pensions.

Although from Baltimore, Humrichouse had family connections to Williamsport. An ancestor had served as Officer of the Day, appointed by Gen. George Washington, who re-crossed the Delaware River following the defeat of the British at Trenton, N.J., to arrange burial details for the casualties.  

The lineage of his wife, Bessie, daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Sarah (Jacques) Roman of Green Spring Furnace, also gave him strong ties to local history The Jacques family dates to some of the earliest settlers in Washington County.

C. Harry Keller  

Best known as the head of the Keller-Stonebraker Insurance Agency, C. Harry Keller's early intention to become a missionary to Japan was cut short when a long illness in his 20s interrupted his training at the theological seminary.

Born and reared in Funkstown just after the close of the Civil War, Keller's high school years were taken at the Hagerstown Academy to which he walked each day.

Keller graduated early from Franklin and Marshall College, spent several years teaching and then serving as vice principal at Mercersburg College, before he attempted his dream to become a missionary.

Education being his primary goal, he returned to teaching in Pennsylvania schools, once he recovered from his illness, and later opened his own college preparatory school.

He returned to Hagerstown when his father died and opened his first insurance office in the Hagerstown Trust building, paying $3 a month in rent in 1900. Not long after, he joined in the partnership that would bear his name and remained in the insurance business for 50 years. His mother's maiden name was Stonebraker.

Keller served as an elder of Zion Reformed Church for more than 50 years and was treasurer and director for the Washington County Public Health Association. He also served as president of the Washington County Orphans Home.  

He had been known to admonish others about "frittering away time and the need to contribute to the welfare of society beyond personal gain." He was one of the incorporators of the Washington County Historical Society.

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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