Washington County Historical Society celebrates 100th anniversary with exhibit

August 20, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Linda Irvin-Craig, center, Exec. Director of Washington County Historical Society talks about the founding fathers of the Society to John and Janice Rowse at the Miller House on Saturday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

There were no couch potatoes among the ranks.

The 29 individuals who founded the Washington County Historical Society in 1911 had varying interests and occupations. They represented physicians and recipe book authors, soldiers and teachers, and more.

But each of the founders seems to have been characterized by passion and action, and now their lives have become documented history themselves.

The Washington County Historical Society is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an exhibit featuring each of its founding members. The exhibit opened Saturday afternoon with a reception at the Miller House in Hagerstown.

Linda Irvin-Craig, executive director of the society, said the exhibit pays tribute to the founders.

"The founding members served in important roles in the community, not just as founders of the historical society, but as leaders in many facets of life," Irvin-Craig said. "It was a busy, talented group of people."

A number of illustrious individuals have served within the society throughout the years, Irvin-Craig said. But the exhibit focuses specifically on the 29 people who signed its articles of incorporation. Each member is presented, and most are highlighted with photos and artifacts.

Founding member William Preston Lane Sr. was an attorney, banker and railroad industrialist who served as commander of the First Maryland Regiment in the Spanish-American War. Lane had four sons, Irvin-Craig said, all of whom served in the military, and one of whom became governor of Maryland.

Artifacts accompanying Lane's display include an original bank note from his bank, Eavey, Lane & Co., and a quirky 1916 photo of him and fellow Hagerstown Rotary Club members at a theme party.

"I have no idea what type of party it was, but they were all wearing sombreros and neckerchiefs," Irvin-Craig said. "It's cute."

Another focal point of the exhibit is a sketch with John Van Lear of Williamsport, who was one of just six officers who stood guard over Abraham Lincoln's body as he lay in state at the White House. The sketch depicts that scene.

Maude Ada Bomberger of Boonsboro was one of just three women who signed the society's articles of incorporation. Bomberger assisted well-known theatrical producer David Belasco with his 1895 piece, "The Heart of Maryland," a production that ran three seasons in New York before moving on to London.

Artifacts pertinent to Bomberger include a signed copy of a cookbook she authored titled "Colonial Recipes."

Current historical society member Janice Rowse of Hagerstown said she looked forward to learning more about founding member Alexander Neill IV through the exhibit.

Neill served as notary for the incorporation of the society. He lived in the Miller House, which serves as the society's headquarters, after his grandfather and father. Just one month after his father died and Neill inherited the home, he died of a brain tumor.

"He inherited this beautiful home, then only lived here for one month as master," Rowse said.

Attendance at the reception was sparse, but Irvin-Craig said she believes the exhibit will generate interest as word of it spreads.

"I think people will receive this well," she said.

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