Library attracts various visitors to historical society

June 27, 2013|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • Vertical files at the Washington County Historical Society contain documents, photos and maps of the area.
Submitted photo

The library of the Washington County Historical Society was so busy in May of 1979 that there was not enough seating for the combination of volunteers researching for those who could not come and for the patrons who did come to use the resources. 

The majority of gifts during the late 1970s and 1980s coming to WCHS were books filled with local historical information, maps, documents, photos and other archival items. 

Admittedly, the library was a small space and remains so today. However, it is still one of the major resources maintained by WCHS. An additional room was added later to house the extensive archival materials. 

Those materials include the original handwritten rosters of Joseph Chapline’s call up of troops in 1757 for the French and Indian War and Capt. John Miller’s call up in 1813 for the War of 1812.  

Ledgers from Miller, which gave physical descriptions of his troops and the troop movements from Patapsco to North Point to Fort McHenry, also exist within the collection. Two original George Washington signatures are on display, as well as signatures of many other illustrious individuals of national acclaim are part of the two books of Kennedy correspondence relating to events before and after the Civil War.


Many books, relevant to local history, track development through the people, transportation modes, schools, churches, businesses and documents. Vertical files contain larger documents, photos and maps of the area through many periods of time.

Researchers come from all over the United States seeking their genealogical roots and many local entities —government agencies, businesses, media, authors and students —use the facility to gather historic information about the county’s people, historic sites and homes, happenings and the economic impact of business and industry on the development of the community.

Happenings begin

The Washington County Historical Society opened its 1977 season praising those who had worked so hard on local bicentennial productions during the previous year. The library report indicated that many significant gifts to the library and archival collection had been recorded.

New policies were developed for responding to genealogical inquiries to the library. Rachael Schwartz, who had served as the resource for this work, had notified the group that she could no longer continue. 

She and Simms Jamieson, the original librarian, each continued to enrich the references there by contributing materials to the collection after they had stepped down. But a year after she left, Schwartz died. 

Howard Spessard took over responding to library genealogical requests. Jane McCafferty helped to file the inquiries and responses. Additional assistance was provided by Norman Reed and Margaret DuVernet. Some items had disappeared from the library, so each increased their vigilance.

Then the copy machine failed and it took several months to get it repaired. Library patrons and staff were very glad to have it functional, but then it failed again. Numerous issues with the copy machine plagued operations in the library off and on and finally a new one was purchased in June 1979, but it didn’t take kindly to recycled paper.

None of the above is intended to say that nothing was happening within the rest of the facilities owned or operated by the society. You can’t own old buildings and objects without there being maintenance and exhibit needs cropping up frequently.

More in 1978

January 1978 weather issues prompted a move to change the annual meeting to the fall. The national energy crisis had caused closing of the society’s facilities during January and February, with March under consideration.

A massive, antique dry sink was added to the old kitchen in the Miller House and a major collection of 30 to 40 oil lamps was given by Fred Remsburg from the Edgar and Helen Remsburg Estate. One room at the Miller House was given over to a quilt display, one became the clock room and one was a Victorian bedroom.  A new policy was instituted to accept only unrestricted artifacts in October 1978. 

The purchase of items to replace thefts from the Hager House in 1971 remained an issue.  

Repairs were needed at the Mansion House. Beaver Creek School experienced issues with the heating system and needed exterior painting. The group planned to ask the County Commissioners to help with the paint. A new oil tank and security system were installed at Beaver Creek with funds from the Mary K. Bowman Trust.  

The potential of installing a brick sidewalk in front of the Miller House and issues of the brick garden walls and walkways were discussed briefly in August 1978. Ralph Giffin worked with the garden sidewalk repairs, as well as many other repairs and painting projects. Some deterioration in the wall bricks, where a number needed to be replaced, was evident. This, too, was accomplished. 

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