Maryland's General Assembly made Frederick the county seat of Frederick County in 1742 and by 1745 land speculator and lawyer Daniel Dulany had laid out the town. The first people to settle in the town were a group of German Reformed (Calvanist) immigrants led by schoolmaster Johann Thomas Schley. Other German groups followed as well as Scots, French and Irish immigrants. Several important wagon trails passed through the town, so during the Revolutionary War the British stationed Hessian (German mercenary) troops in the town to control the trails. Many of these remained in Frederick after the end of the war, enhancing the German character of the town. During the Civil War the town was never far from the front line. With many people having German ancestry, a majority of its citizens supported the Union side but both armies marched through the town numerous times and there were several battles in the surrounding area. In July 1864 Confederate troops led by Lieutenant General Jubal Early marched into Frederick and demanded a payment of $200,000 otherwise they would burn it down. Reluctantly, the citizens paid up and the Confederate troop left without carrying out their threat. Modern Frederick has plenty of historic buildings from all stages of its colourful history.
Schifferstadt Architectural Museum
Joseph Bruner was a German immigrant who purchased 122 hectares (300 acres) of forest land in 1746. He cleared the land for farming and built a timber home for him and his family. Bruner named his farm Schifferstadt after his home town in South Western Germany. In 1753 youngest son Elias Bruner bought the farm from his father. He ran the farm very successfully and by 1758 he had enough money to built this stone farmhouse to replace the timber farm house. The house passed through many hands over the years and underwent many alterations. In 1974 it was sold to Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, Inc. who restored it to reflect its origins as a Colonial German Stone House. As the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum, it is open to the public weekends in season. Click Tab 2 to see a view of the interior, taken through a window because the museum was closed when we visited.
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Trail Mansion, 106 East Church Street
Charles Edward Trail was a native of Frederick, born in 1826. He trained as a lawyer and in 1851 he married Ariana McElfresh, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. In 1852 he built this Italianate mansion in the middle of Frederick as their marital home. Trail chose not to serve in the military during the Civil War, instead he was charge of recruitment for the Union side in Maryland with the rank of Colonel. He also entered politics, serving in both the State House of Delegates and State Senate. In 1877 Charles Trail was nearly killed in an horrific accident on the B&O railroad near Point of Rocks, Maryland. The train he was on collided with another locomotive and several cars ‘telescoped’. Five people were killed and many seriously injured. Trail recovered from his injuries and lived to the age of 84. His mansion has been a funeral home since 1939.
City Hall, West Church Street
One major building dates back to the Civil War despite Frederick being in the middle of the war. This Italianate building was originally the third county courthouse. In May 1861 fire had broken out in the cupola of the second courthouse, burning it to the ground. Sympathizers on the opposing sides of the Civil War accused each other of arson. Despite the difficult conditions work started to build a new county courthouse, which opened in 1864. It continued in use until 1982 when the county’s fourth courthouse was completed. The third courthouse was refurbished and reopened as the City Hall on May 15, 1986.
Roger Brooke Taney House
While the Barbara Fritchie House is about the Union side of the Civil War, this house was once owned by someone who had very different views on slavery. Roger Brooke Taney was born in 1777, the second son of slave owning Maryland tobacco planters. As the second son he was unlikely to inherit the plantation so he trained as a lawyer. In 1836 he became the fifth Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and in that role he delivered one of the most controversial rulings that it ever made. The Dred Scott case in 1857 resulted in a ruling that African-Americans could not be considered citizens of the US. This majority decision caused uproar in the northern states and amongst abolitionists. When the Civil War began Taney remained in the Supreme Court rather than heading to Confederate territory and he became a thorn in Lincoln’s side, quashing his suspension of habeas corpus in Maryland. The Lincoln administration ignored his ruling. He died in office in 1864 at the age of 87. He lived in Adelina, Maryland, but in 1815 Taney bought this house in Frederick. He never lived in it instead the previous owner Elizabeth Luckett continued to live there and his reasons for buying the house are unclear. The Roger Brooke Taney House is now a museum of Taney’s life and of middle-class life in 19th century Frederick. It is open Saturdays and Sundays in season.
The Hessian Barracks
At times during the Revolutionary War Britain did not have enough troops of its own, so it would rent additional troops from German princelings. The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel supplied many of these troops, so German troops in the pay of the British became known as ‘Hessians’. However, unlike the Trenton, New Jersey barracks, these barracks were not built by the British to house Hessian troops but by the Americans to house British and Hessian prisoners of war from the battles of Saratoga, Trenton, and Yorktown. The barracks were built by the prisoners of war between 1777 and 1780. They were used as barracks by US forces during the War of 1812. During the Civil War the barracks were used as a hospital for both Confederate and Union troops. The barracks are open once a month in season, unsurprisingly they were not open when we visited Frederick.
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Barbara Fritchie House
In 1863 John Greenleaf Whittier published a poem called ‘Barbara Frietchie’ which immortalised the turmoil that the Civil War brought to Frederick. It told the story of Confederate troops marching through Frederick in September 1862 en route to their historic defeat at Antietam. As they passed the house of 95 year old Barbara Frietchie she waved a Union flag from her upstairs window saying ‘Shoot if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country's flag’. A Barbara Fritchie aged 95 did indeed live here at that time (Greenleaf Whittier used the Germanic spelling of her name) and she died in December 1862. News reports from the era confirm that flag waving incident took place but they state that that the brave flag waver was actually a neighbour of Fritchie named Mary Quantrell. A very clear case of poetic licence. And Fritchie’s house? Well that was destroyed by a storm in 1869. The building that you see here is a replica built in 1927. So, the Barbara Fritchie House, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Frederick, is not quite what it seems.