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During Civil War, many notables recuperate in county

January 24, 2013|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • Henry Stanley became close friends with the Baker family who nursed him back to health during the war.
Submitted photo

Ezra Baker owned a farm with a front gate that opened along the pike between Boonsboro and Keedysville near the Great Cave, or what we know today as Crystal Grottoes. 

The family cemetery, located on the farm, is the final resting place of his two wives, Rosanna and Ann Barbara, and his grandfather, John Samuel Baker (born May 12, 1729-died April 12, 1819).

It was to this farm that Henry Stanley "stumbled on his quest for Hagerstown after being dismissed from a prisoner of war camp near Harpers Ferry," according to descendants of the Baker family.

 The Confederates operating the POW camp basically put him out, either because they felt he was beyond their capabilities to care for or because they thought he was contagious. This was the state of illness and emaciation in which Ezra's oldest son, Samuel, found Stanley unconscious by their farm gate.

The illness story is accurate; the circumstances might be less so. Stanley, who was born in 1841 in Wales as John Rowlands, came to New Orleans in 1859, and was known to tell his life stories with much embellishment. He changed his name to Henry Morton Stanley, naming himself after the childless New Orleans merchant who took in the young Welsh cabin boy there. At some point, young Stanley joined the Confederate Army. He might also have used the name William Stanley.

Stanley was captured by the Union Army and held in Illinois, where he was persuaded to change sides. But 18 days later, his illness made him unfit for service and so he was dismissed. The Baker family took him in and proceeded to nurse him back to health, thus, they became dear friends over the many months of convalescence. 

Part of Stanley's story reports that after his recuperation, he joined the American Navy and claims were made that he was the only individual who had served in three different military branches during the Civil War. He also spent years exploring the American west and writing about the various American Indian tribes he encountered along his journeys as a journalist.

This Stanley came to be the famous adventurer, explorer and author who went to find the great missionary Dr. David Livingstone in Africa. Once he found Livingstone, he returned to make report but was not able to persuade Livingstone to return to England. Livingstone died while still in Africa. Several movies and TV specials have featured this aspect of Stanley's life.

John Baker

John Samuel Baker immigrated to the Colonies in 1750 as a part of the wave of Europeans coming to access the freedom to worship "under their own vine and fig tree." After a stay in Frederick, Md., and venturing into Virginia to explore those lands, Baker settled into what became Washington County.

He and his wives raised a family of three sons: Samuel, Frederick and David; and five daughters, Mary, Magdalena, Rapaka (Rebecca), Roseanna and Elizabeth, on the farm which also had road access on what is called Dog Street Road. The second son, Frederick, was Ezra's father. Members of the Baker family remained on these lands until 1950, when the farm was sold out of the family to Roy Reeder.

Baker descendants were also connected to the Keedy family, one of whom, Ralph Baker Taylor Jr., known as "Sallie," served as mayor of Keedysville for 32 years. Many other descendants remain in Washington County. The Baker family genealogy is available in the Simms Jamieson Library in the lower level of the Miller House, 135 W. Washington St., Hagerstown.

Kennedy Home opened to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Anna Howell Kennedy Findlay, at the urging of John B. Ferguson, president of the local chamber of commerce, published in 1935 a book of her personal recollections of her 70 years of living at the Rochester House in Hagerstown.

In this little book, "The Rochester House, Built 1789," Findlay relates, among other things, information about the three summer invasions of Hagerstown from 1862 to 1864.

The stately mansion that sat at the corner of Washington and Prospect streets became the Kennedy family home in 1850, following a chain of ownership from Jonathan Hager when the two lots were sold to Thomas Hart in 1784 and Nathaniel Morgan in 1786. Hart sold his interest to Nathaniel Rochester soon after this, since the house was supposedly built about 1789. Two other families, Lawrence in 1803 and Bell in 1831, owned the property in the interim. The Kennedys made many improvements to the house during the years they lived there.

During the Civil War, Mrs. Howard Kennedy came to the aid of soldiers passing by looking for food, lodging or nursing. She prepared food daily for the wounded housed at the Hagerstown Academy that was just down the street on South Prospect Street. Her sons carried the soups and other meals to what had become an active hospital, where their mother visited with patients. 

Overflow from that facility and a similar hospital, Female Seminary (later Washington County Hospital) was the beginning of the nursing routines at the Kennedy home.

 The Sanitary Commission and private individuals sent supplies following the Battle of Antietam to aid the work. Mrs. Findlay remembers working for hours as a child preparing wound dressings from strips torn from old linens and cotton lint for packing.  She notes that they did not yet know about the need to sterilize the materials.

Direct text from this little book states, "Three days after the battle we were all standing at the gate on Washington Street watching some soldiers marching up the street.

"Two young officers walked up on the other side of the street. One of them evidently was wounded as his throat was bandaged and he walked very feebly. They sat on the porch steps of a house. My mother's sympathies were excited and she sent my brother, who was fourteen years old, across the street to ask him if she could do anything for him.

"He came over to thank her, said he had been wounded by a ball, which had gone through his throat just missing the spine. He was from Boston and was waiting to feel well enough to make the journey home."

It seems the "tall and very good-looking" gentleman was forced to stay in "wretched quarters" as no hotel or hospital space was available in Hagerstown. Mrs. Kennedy offered him a room and care in her home until he was able to travel. 

On making his formal introduction as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the family realized he was the son of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the well-known author. Of course, this young man went on to greatness of his own as a justice of the United States Supreme Court. A short stay under the care of Mrs. Kennedy made him well enough to begin his journey home.

Mrs. Findlay's father, Dr. Kennedy, who died in 1855, was a son of Thomas Kennedy, a Scottish immigrant resident of Washington County and the Maryland legislator who authored what has long been called the Jew Bill, possibly the first piece of civil rights legislation in the country.  This legislation removed the impediment to Jews of holding either military or political office in the state.

The Kennedy family maintained a long correspondence with Capt.Holmes and other dignitaries of the times. These letters and a number of documents are part of a large archival collection kept by the Washington County Historical Society as resource materials in its Simms Jamieson Research Library.

A mural depicting the Rochester House is shown on the wall around the parking lot that the City of Hagerstown created by tearing down the Rochester House at that corner.  A painting of the house is located within the Miller House Museum and photos are in the archival collection.

Clara Barton discovers Mary Galloway

Mary Galloway might not have achieved fame through her life after the Battle of Antietam, but her presence there fits into an interesting aspect of the Civil War, that of women masquerading as men to serve as soldiers. Most of these women remained in disguise until they had been killed or received serious wounds.

The latter was the case when Clara Barton, who went on to found the American Red Cross, literally uncovered the correct gender of the "soft-faced" boy with a chest wound. The patient's reluctance to have "his" wounds treated and "his" overall appearance first aroused Barton's suspicions. Galloway had concealed her identity in order to follow her husband-to-be into battle. 

Barton shielded Galloway, helped her to locate her true love in a Washington Hospital and then coaxed her to return to her home for recuperation. Barton later learned that the couple named a daughter after her.

According to the National Archives, at least four women were identified at Antietam. Other records put the number at eight, seven Union and one Confederate.

Linda Irvin-Craig is executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. For more information, go to

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