Washington County Historical Society founders had rich history in county

September 23, 2011|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • T.A. Poffenberger, above, grew up on his family's estate, "Valencia. The property is undergoing extensive restoration work under the direction of his descendant, Mary Roulette Flowers.
Photos courtesy of Dick Roulette from Mary Roulette Flowers

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

The Washington County Historical Society has been celebrating its centennial year with special exhibits and lectures throughout 2011. An informational exhibit on the lives of the founders is currently on display, drawing attention to their county geographic roots, vocational choices and civic involvement.

The exhibit, which is on display at the the society's headquaters, the Miller House, 135 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown, also gives notice to the significant preservation efforts from the founders' time at the helm of the organization and of many of those who followed in leadership over the years.

As we continue to recall the society's founders, the 29 signatories of the Articles of Incorporation, signed on Aug. 31, 1911, and filed on Sept. 14, 1911, this week we meet D. Elmer Wolf, V. Milton Reichard and T. A. Poffenberger.

D. Elmer Wolf

D. Elmer Wolf, a lifelong resident of Washington County, twice married into old county families like his own. He first married Frances Barr, the daughter of Susan Reichard and Jacob Barr. She died young. Her mother was the sister of Dr. Valentine Reichard, who was partially paralyzed after a tree fell on him. Valentine Reichard was probably an uncle to V. Milton Reichard, another of the founders included below.

His second marriage was to Clara E. Fahrney whose ancestry dates into the 1700s in the Beaver Creek area. These early connections and his interest in education were part of the development of his dedication to the history of Washington County.

After completing his studies in the local public schools of Hagerstown, he matriculated to the Millersville State Normal School in Millersville, Pa., and returned to teach for several years. His next venture was in the operation of a hardware business in Hagerstown.

Then in 1888, he brought together his background in education and business and founded one of the first business schools in the state, known as Wolf's Business College, located in the Second National Bank Building in Hagerstown. Many in the Hagerstown community received their training at his institution. He remained in this career until his health forced him to retire. Wolf was also a deacon in the Church of the Brethren.

V. Milton Reichard

With a medical practice in his hometown of Fairplay beginning in 1882, Dr. Valentine Milton Reichard topped off an interesting list of vocations.

He first engaged with his brother in peach orchards at the Sandy Hook farm near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., known as the "old John Brown headquarters." Later, Reichard then turned to teaching in local schools.

After a term at a Pennsylvania Normal School and an internship with Dr. J. McPherson Scott in Hagerstown, he turned his attention to medicine, studying at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He was one of the original members of the Washington County Medical Association and a founder and president of the Cumberland Valley Medical Association. He was one of the signatories to the incorporation of the Washington County Historical Society.

Reichard became the medical attendant for students at the Saint James School and served as a lecturer on hygiene there. In addition, he was ordained a deacon in the Saint James Brethren Church, where he served as leader of the Sunday School Association. He was a prolific contributor to church publications and medical journals.

T. A. Poffenberger

Judge Thomas A. Poffenberger, from an old Sharpsburg family, spent his childhood and adult life on a farm in Fairplay. His ancestors were among the earliest settlers, arriving in the county about 1740. His wife, Annie Murray, was a native of the Tilghmanton District. He was elected one of the original seven directors for the Washington County Historical Society.

At the age of 17, he began teaching in Washington County schools and became supervisor for the Fairplay and Funks-town grammar schools. After spending 12 years in the field of education, he turned his attention to legal studies, his mentor being Alexander Armstrong, who served as Maryland's Attorney General.

Admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1892, he soon was appointed as examiner for equity cases and was nominated to the Sixth District Congressional seat in 1898. He was defeated for that position but won election as State's Attorney for Washington County in 1899. He was appointed by Gov. Emerson C. Harrington in 1919 to succeed Judge Martin Keedy to the Fourth Judicial Court.

The appointment to the bench caused him to decline to serve again as president of the Washington County Agricultural and Mechanical Association, which he had done for a number of terms.

The Poffenberger estate known as "Valencia," located along Poffenberger Road, is currently undergoing extensive restoration work under the direction of Mary Roulette Flowers, a descendant of Judge Poffenberger.

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

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