Exhibit will focus on early years and people

July 22, 2011|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • Henry A. McComas had a long relationship with the Hagerstown Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association, assisting the group in purchasing an additional 33 acres to put in a race track.
Henry A. McComas had a long relationship with the Hagerstown Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association, assisting the group in purchasing an additional 33 acres to put in a race track.

Editor's note: This is the 10th in a 12-part series about Washington County Historical Society's founders.

In late August, the Washington County Historical Society plans to open a Founders' Exhibit on the many accomplishments of the 29 men and women, who came together from all over the county 100 years ago to establish the society.

Jointly, the society began an extraordinary journey of preservation, saving some of the most important historic sites within the county.

The Miller House, headquarters of the Society, currently hosts a special exhibit on Camp Ritchie, the Civil War Battle of Monterey Pass and ice harvesting from Lake Royer, all located in the northeast sector of the county. The exhibit will close Saturday, Aug. 13.

Focusing on its goals for the centennial year, the society is looking to add new members and volunteers for both library assistance and museum tours. Additionally, the society will continue to seek financial support for the many opportunities that the organization presents to those working with specific research projects and with a general thirst for local history.

WCHS will offer a free, one-year membership to those who pay dues to a local community historical society and are not WCHS members. It is a birthday gift from WCHS to those already demonstrating a commitment to preservation of history. To qualify, individuals must provide necessary contact information no later than Dec. 31, 2011.

Member benefits include free admission to all special exhibits and tours, the member holiday reception in December, the quarterly newsletter and reduced admission to other special events and programs.

As we continue to recall the society's signatories to the Articles of Incorporation, this week we present Henry A. McComas, George A. Davis and Henry Davis.

Henry A. McComas

Although born in Springfield, Ill., Henry Angle McComas was a descendant of an old Williamsport family. His father was a minister and returned his entire family to Washington County just six months after Henry was born, raising him in the Williamsport farming community.

Henry McComas began his career as a clerk for Updegraff & Auginbaugh, general merchants in Williamsport, and then later for his uncle, John E. McComas in Hagerstown. McComas then went to Baltimore to take business courses and was appointed by Gov. Thomas Swann as a grain inspector at the Port of Baltimore. It was in Baltimore that he developed an interest in the insurance business and later formed a partnership under his own name in Washington, D.C.

It was that profession that brought him back to Hagerstown, opening a firm to serve general insurance needs here for 38 years. He was also founder and treasurer for two successful building and loan associations.

Most remarkable was his long relationship with the Hagerstown Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association. He first became a director in 1873 and general manager in 1875. The 1877 Industrial and Fireman's Fair was held on the grounds west of Hagerstown. The success of the venture proved that the existing space was too small.

Through his efforts, the group purchased 33 acres from George W. Harris and built the original stalls, exhibition halls and grand stand. The race track was laid out and trees were added for beautification. By the time McComas declined to serve as an officer again, the stock in the company had gone from $2.50 per share to $25 per share and the organization was debt-free.

He later served as director for the Baltimore and Cumberland Valley Railroad and as a school commissioner, appointed by two consecutive governors, Frank Brown and Lloyd Lowndes to that position.

George A. Davis

George A. Davis served as Secretary to the U.S. Senate in Washington during the term of U.S. Sen. Louis E. McComas, who had been his mentor in the study of the law. Portraits of the senator and his wife hang at the Miller House, and Davis was one of the original seven directors of the Washington County Historical Society.

After completing his requirements of the public schools at Boonsboro, he gained early entry to Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, where he followed a classical and scientific course of study. He graduated from the academy in 1874 and was admitted to the bar in 1880, remaining a Boonsboro resident throughout his life.

In 1882, he was elected to the Maryland Legislature and later served two terms as counsel to the Washington County Commissioners.

Henry Davis

Henry Davis was brother to George A. Davis. They were both sons of District Judge Elias Davis, a Civil War veteran of the Battle of Monocacy, and his second wife, Margaret A. Strouse of Boonsboro. Henry was first a teacher.

His career in public education brought him to Hagerstown, where he took a great interest in the functions of the municipal government. Establishing his residence on East North Street, Davis spent much time involved in public affairs and developed a special identity with his new hometown.

It was through his citizen participation that he drew the attention of Mayor J. McPherson Scott, who appointed him to the position of city clerk, where he stayed for a number of years. A shift in political affiliations of the elected officials ended his service.

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

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