Stately Building Anchors Part of Downtown Elkton

The Elkton Odd Fellows Hall, 1867

The Elkton Odd Fellows Hall, 1867

Before the Civil War distracted everyone, it was widely noted that Elkton needed a large public hall, a place to hold public and social events.  So in 1863 the Odd Fellows Lodge developed a plan to provide the town with such a convenience.  The entire community had an interest in such a structure, which could be supported by renting commercial and retail space, the group remarked.

The specifications called for a brick, three story structure with basement.  On the lower level there would be offices for the Mutual Insurance Company of Cecil County and the Post Office.   The first floor was to be rented to merchants.  On the 2nd floor there was a large public hall, an auditorium, and the third floor would be reserved for the lodge.  This would be the most commodious hall beyond the limits of Baltimore, the Cecil Democrat proudly reported.

Construction started in 1863, but stalled after the foundation and cellar were dug.  However, once the distraction of the Civil War was removed, the work kicked off again in 1867.  The contract for the brick work went to Mr. Flinn of Wilmington and P. C. Strickland of Elkton was the successful bidder for the carpentry work.

Workmen started clearing the foundation, in preparation for the setting of stone and the laying of brick.  By summer, this section of North Street was “busy with activity rarely witnessed” in the “quiet town,” the Cecil Democrat observed.  A number of workmen were hammering, digging, hauling and doing everything necessary for erection of the large building.

The laying of the cornerstone took place at the Odd Fellows’ Hall in August 1867.  Members of Cecil Lodge No. 62, I.O.O.F. hosted a grand ceremony, placing various lodge records, along with newspapers and coins of the day in the tin-box, which was sealed in the cavity of the stone.

By September this important symbol of “art and evidence of enterprise” was assuming the form of a building.  Its walls were towering upward in a commanding height and were still rising, the Democrat told readers.

The “New Hall” was nearly complete as the holidays approached and W. C. Rambo rushed to finish the installation of two large furnaces.  The community held a Christmas Fair in the new structure, which had cost about $23,000 to complete

The building proved too costly for the fraternal group, and by May of 1869 the Odd Fellows negotiated with Cecil County to purchase it as a courthouse.    The Cecil Whig remarked that the editor regretted that the sale had to occur, but still it was a prudent measure for the county to secure a court-house at a very low price, $30,000 on easy terms.  The terms were so convenient, as the county only had to pay $5,000 down and the residue as its pleasure.

Soon the building became more commonly known as the Opera House.  On the second floor, Charles G. Wells installed his soundless moving picture equipment in 1908, Rodney Frazer wrote in Parts of Elkton as I Remember it in 1918.  On the stage of the second floor auditorium many visiting performers and local students played to audiences.   “But the movies from 1908 on packed the house night after night even though the reels often broke and darkness was broken by catcalls, whistles, and stamping feet,” Frazer wrote.

In the later years, various offices occupied the grand downtown structure, which the Maryland Historical Trust said “is one of the most vigorous Victorian structures in Elkton . . . . It provides evidence of the growth that Elkton experienced nearly a century after its founding.”  Today it is known as the Clayton Building.

Additional Photo

Today it is known as the Clayton Building.

Today it is known as the Clayton Building.

“Operation of 1865 – 1912” by Stella Graves, R.N.

union hospital 698

union hospital 700

A poem: “Operation of 1865-1912” by Stella Graves, R.N. Source: in the collection of the Historical Society of Cecil County. Donated from the estate of Dorothy Robinson.

Thoroughly Modern Early 20th Century Nurses Meet the Old Civil War Surgeon

It wasn’t exactly the most daring escape, but on a Friday evening in November 1912 four young jailbirds charged with illegally hitching a ride on a freight train decided they weren’t waiting around for the trail.  Opting instead for “leg bail,” they carried bedsteads from cells and tied the frame together with strips of blankets.  This wobbly, makeshift ladder, the county’s bed linen being turned into ropes to serve as steps, was placed against the 30-foot stone wall surrounding the jail.  Three prisoners hurriedly scaled the barrier, sprinting to liberty.  But the improvised frame fell as the fourth one reached the top of the wall.

Hearing noise and painful cries in the exercise yard, Sheriff J. Will Perkins rushed outside and discovered that three inmates had broken for freedom.  But the battered inmate on the ground, the fourth detainee, urgently needed medical help so he sent for the jail physician, Dr. John H. Jamar.  The old Civil War surgeon assessed his patient, determining that a finger had been caught in the frame as the man tumbled downward.  Badly mangled, it was bleeding uncontrollably so he advised the sheriff that the finger had to be cuff off.

Dr. Jamar, the jail physician for nearly 35 years, received his initial medical education, apprenticing under Dr. H. H. Mitchell of Elkton.  He finished his training, earning a degree from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in March 1861.  Immediately, the surgeon’s services were needed so he entered government practice as an assistant surgeon, serving at one of the largest federal military hospitals during the Civil War, the Mower General Hospital in Chestnut Hill, Pa.

The once youthful practitioner had plenty of opportunities to gain practical knowledge about the human body and develop professional skills as each day the railroads delivered fresh train loads of severely injured troops.  Chloroform was standard issue by this time, so patients could be anesthetized.  When Dr. Jamar put the maimed men under the knife,  he used the tools of his practice, sharp hooks, handsaws, knives and forceps.  Widespread use of antiseptic (clean) surgical methods emerged a few years after the Civil War, and there was only a limited understanding of the risk of infection.  After the war, Dr. Jamar followed the profession until he died in July 1923.

union hospital 697Nearly fifty years later, Union Hospital opened in 1908 with one registered nurse, Maida Campbell, on the staff.  In 1912, the hospital established a nursing school and six bright, eager young ladies enrolled in the first class. These women were in their second year of a three year program when the accident occurred.

When Mary King answered the phone at the hospital that Friday, she heard the chief bark, “I intend to operate right away.”  So with a mixture of excitement and nervousness the pupils, under Miss Campbell’s supervision, hustled, preparing the surgical suite for the emergency arrival.  Everything had to be perfect as the chief intended to operate without delay.

Here was their chance to watch the Civil War surgeon operate on the patient, an experience they wouldn’t soon forget.  It was a time to see the lessons they studied in physiology, bacteriology, hygiene, anesthetics, surgical technique, sterilization, and operating room practices, applied by the famous old  physician, the chief of the staff.

Soon the aging surgeon marched through the door, along with the sheriff and the emergency case.  Dr. Morrison joined them, preparing to administer ether.  And then the doctor, who had trained in war, learning about battlefield medicine, came forth with pride, preparing to do wonders while the audience sighted.  “But who was scared.”

What the girls saw made a lasting impression as the doctor amputated the finger.  It inspired one of them, Stella Graves, to pen a poem, “Operation of 1865-1912.” In the poetic, eyewitness account, she describes the procedure and expressed some of her feelings, as the modern, early 20th century nurse observed technique from another era.

“Asepsis to him was a term unknown and his knowledge of cleanliness he must have left home,” she wrote.  “The instruments, once sterile were scattered about and when his glassed slipped out down on his noise, he pushed them back into place with bloody hands. . . .  When a thread adhered to his finger fast, he would lick it off and resume his task.  Once or twice, the nurses were sent below for some bandages (and maybe a germ or so).

Stella and three of her classmates graduated next year, in June 1914.  In October, she married Dr. Victor L. Glover of Inwood. WV and they honeymooned in Penn-Mar.   The certified nurse died three years later, at her home in Imrod, WV on the Nov. 14, 1917, from tuberculosis.

Stella’s original stained and wrinkled hand-written copy of the poem has survived, being passed down through time.  The estate of Dorothy Robinson donated many items to the Society, including the poem.

Alice Denver Trenholma

Alice Denver was a classmate of Stella’s. After graduating, she became a nurse in World War I. We have one more installment planned in this series, as we look into the story of the first four young nurses to graduate from Union Hospital. Source: John McDaniel.

First nursing class graduates.  L to R:  Mary King, Alice Denver, Stella Graves, Georgia Miller.  Source:  Union Hospital: Celebrating the first 100 years.

First nursing class graduates. L to R: Mary King, Alice Denver (photo above), Stella Graves, Georgia Miller. Source: Union Hospital: Celebrating the first 100 years.

The Graduates of the Union Hospital of Cecil County School of Nursing 1914 – 1926

The diploma for Mary Beers, awarded in 1917.  source:  Union Hospital, Celebrating the First 100 Years.

The diploma for Mary Beers, awarded in 1917. source: Union Hospital, Celebrating the First 100 Years.

Graduating Classes of the Union Hospital Nursing School, 1914-1927

Fourteen classes graduated from the Union Hospital of Cecil County School of Nursing.  Over a span of 17 years the hospital  certified that 43 young women had demonstrated the required skills and competencies, and they thus received the professional diploma of a nurse.

Here is a list of the graduates as published in a book celebrating the hospital’s centennial, “Union Hospital:  Celebrating the First 100 Years.”

1914 — Stella Graves, Alice Denver, Georgie Miller, Mary King

1915 — Ethel Porter, Marie Shilling

1916 — Rose Suter, Rebecca Tyson

1917 — Adelia McGready, Anna Broadwater, Alice Suter, Mary Beers

1918 — Grace McCormick, Jenna May Todd, Ella Alderson, Laura Storey

1919 — Mabel Larzelere, Ella Cochran

1920 — Helen Stewart, Elizabeth McDaniel, Ada King

1921 — Annetta Creus, Sara Whitlock

1922 — No Class

1923 — Sarah Simmons, Margaret Gatchell, Mary Corcoran, Mazie Smith

1924 — Evelyn Pierson, Mary Boyd, Ann Racine, Ann Bolinjar

1925 — Marian Bakevon, Agnea Hlebak

1926 — Beulah Bailiff, Lillian Russell, Evelyn Stewart, Leah Algard, Ruth Bostic, Olive Mann, Ida Lair.

1927 — Leah Elizabeth Algard, Lillian Ruth Russell, Evelyn Kathryn Stewart.

See article on the school.

Union Hospital of Cecil County.  A postcard, circa 1916.  source:  personal collection.

Union Hospital of Cecil County. A postcard, circa 1916. source: personal collection.

Nursing Careers for Young Ladies Offered by Union Hospital in 1911

The first class of the Union Hospital School of Nursing in 1911.  source:  Union Hospital Annual Report in the collection of the Historical Society of Cecil County

The first class of the Union Hospital School of Nursing in 1911. source: Union Hospital Annual Report in the collection of the Historical Society of Cecil County

The first two decades of the 20th century were a time of rapid innovation for health care delivery in northeastern Maryland.  First, Union Hospital of Cecil County opened its doors to the community in 1908, filling a critical medical gap since inpatient care required travel to Baltimore, Wilmington,or Philadelphia.

As local doctors moved from treating the sick and injured at home to hospitalizing people, it became rapidly evident that the hospital needed trained caregivers to assist in the operation of the facility.  Once the medical staff pointed out the shortage of aides to provide around-the-clock care, supervise patients, and assist in medical procedures, the Board agreed to another enhancement, the opening of a training school for nurses.

Young women 20 to 30 years old who had completed one year of high school were invited to apply for admission to the inaugural class.  Candidates provided three references, including one from a clergyman who could attest to good moral character.

Pupils participated in a three year course of instruction leading to a diploma in nursing.  In exchange for the education, lectures, practical experience, and room and board, each trainee received a monthly stipend of $5 (about $125 today) and a three-week summer vacation annually.  There was no charge for tuition as the students exchanged their labor for the clinical experience.

While in the program these women carried out most patient care activities, as the institution had a small number of employees.  In 1914, the Superintendent  was Maida G. Campbell., R.N.  and the nursing staff consisted of a matron, Isabella W. Peterson, and an orderly, William S. Moore.  The superintendent also served as the head nurse, supervising 11 “pupil nurses.” These trainees did the bulk of the work, taking on everything from housekeeping, food service, and laundry to supervised care.

This apprenticeship approach was a common model in that era.  It flourished throughout the United States as it offered women an opportunity for a vocation, improved care of the sick, and decreased operational cost, as  students provided care for a minimal cost, according to the Journal of Nursing.

To fulfill their obligations eager students juggled floor duty, classes, and studying for exams.  Classroom activities included lectures, recitations, and demonstrations, the daily instruction taking place from 4 to 5 p.m.    The local physicians provided theoretical and applied lectures while the Superintendent, Miss Campbell, provided practical instruction.  Most student learning occurred at beside, as this practical experience supplemented the daily lecture.

This was all taking place at a time when it was rare for women to live or work outside the family home.  But this route provided a professional career, and these early pioneers helped open new opportunities for women as time went on.

The first six students enrolled in October 1911.  Three years later, the Cecil County News observed that an “event in local history took place in Elkton” on June 17, 1914, “when the first class of the Training School for Nurses of Union Hospital graduated and diplomas were presented to four young ladies who had completed the course.”

At the ceremony, the credentialed professionals, Alice Mary Denver, Stella Sanbourn Graves, Mary Turner King, and Georgia May Miller, proudly dressed in white uniforms received the coveted Union Hospital Cap and diploma while standing on the stage of the Opera House in Elkton.   “All commencements are interesting, but this one was unusually so, marking the entrance of our local hospital into a new sphere of usefulness.”  These professional nurses had learned the hospital routine, sat in classes, and observed surgical and obstetrical procedures.

The institution admitted a class annually, except for 1922.  The last cohort to graduate from the school received diplomas in 1927, apparently.  After that year, a commencement exercise has not been located and it is assumed that the school closed.

By the time the hospital sent its last class out into the world, professional diplomas in hand, 40 nurses had learned the practice by providing service to the hospital and demonstrating the required competencies.  They thus received the Union Hospital School of Nursing Diploma as they began a professional career.

First nursing class graduates.  L to R:  Mary King, Alice Denver, Stella Graves, Georgia Miller.  Source:  Union Hospital: Celebrating the first 100 years.

First nursing class graduates. L to R: Mary King, Alice Denver, Stella Graves, Georgia Miller. Source: Union Hospital: Celebrating the first 100 years.

Application for enrollment.  Source:  The annual report, 1911 in the collection of the Historical Society of Cecil County.

Application for enrollment. Source: The annual report, 1911 in the collection of the Historical Society of Cecil County.

94-Year Old Relative of Officer Killed in Line of Duty in 1915 Attends Wilmington Police Ceremony

94-Year-Old Francis J. Tierney, the nephew of Wilmington Officer Francis X. Tierney attended the ceremony. Patrolman Tierney’s end of watch was March 1915.

May 8, 2015, the Wilmington Police Department unveiled a memorial wall honoring the ten members of the Wilmington Police Force who have been killed in the line of duty .  A member of the current police academy, the 96th class, read the roll call of WPD’s fallen officers, as the individual plaques were uncovered.

The young recruit, who will soon be patrolling city streets, solemnly read each name.   About half-way through the roll call he announced in a deep voice, Police Officer Francis X. Tierney, End of Watch, Saturday, March 6, 1915.  Died from gunfire.

Patrolman Tierney, 31, was shot and killed as he and three other lawmen attempted to arrest two suspicious men who were attempting to pawn two watches.  When the officers arrived the men fled and exchanged shots with the authorities.  The patrolmen chased the suspects into a nearby stable where Patrolman Tierney was shot and killed and the other officers were wounded.  The two suspets were taken into custody and the man who killed the patrolman was executed on May 14, 1915.  Patrolman Tierney had served with the agency for only three months.

Wilmington Patrolman Francis X. Tierney, EOD March 6, 1915  source:  Delaware Police Chief's Council

Wilmington Patrolman Francis X. Tierney, EOD March 6, 1915 source: Delaware Police Chief’s Council

The recruit added that a relative of the patrolman, Mr. Francis J. Tierney, 94, was present for the ceremony. After the memorial was over I made my way to the front of the room and talked to Mr. Tierney.  He had been named for the young city policeman and we talked about that.

I also inquired so to whether he knew Dr. Helen Tierney and he said, yes that was his sister.  There were 11 children in his family. So I mentioned how much I had enjoyed working with the retired professor and scholar of women’s studies as she returned back home to Newark, DE and eventually started living in the family cottage along the Elk River.  He said, you know I built that house on the River.

At least I had a chance to let him know that in local history circles Dr. Tierney’s work hasn’t been forgotten.

The Memorial Plaque for Officer Francis X. Tierney, End of Watch, March 6, 1915.

The Memorial Plaque for Officer Francis X. Tierney, End of Watch, March 6, 1915.


Dr. Tierney Published Highly Acclaimed Women’s Studies Encyclopedia

Since 2015 marks the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, I have been examining the topic of extending the right to vote to women.  While investigating the regional perspective, I recalled the work of Helen Tierney, professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin (UW).  A women’s studies scholar, she helped establish the program at UW-Platteville as the discipline grew out of the resurgence of the women’s movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Scholarship was scarce “in the brand-new world of women’s studies” and what was available on “the other half of humanity” was scattered in various academic fields, Dr. Tierney observed.  Thus she decided to publish the Women’s Studies Encyclopedia to meet the needs for an authoritative reference.  When the title appeared in 1989, the Library Journal called the first edition a “best reference book,” adding that it “was a landmark achievement providing concise definitions and historical context for students and scholars alike.”

Upon retiring from academia in the mid-1990s as the dean of the history department, Dr. Tierney returned home to the Newark area.  After a period, she started volunteering at the Historical Society of Cecil County about the time we reactivated the Society’s newsletter to provide members with a value added product.  Dr. Tierney took on the task of managing our serial publication since we didn’t have an assigned editor and for a number of years she carefully produced a quarterly, bringing high quality, original articles to readers.

During her retirement she also decided to update and expand the Encyclopedia since research on women had proceeded rapidly, feminist thought had grown and branched out, and conditions for women had “changed markedly in some area of life, for good and for ill, and little in others.”  While editing submissions, the professor added new entries to the expanding body of knowledge, and she was interested in how the women’s suffrage movement had evolved in Maryland and Delaware.

I recall Helen studying those old Delmarva newspapers to see what elusive leads could be uncovered.  It can be challenging to find evidence of emerging social movements and civil disobedience that are centered outside the regional norms in local weeklies.  Of course, the highly respected academic with a doctoral degree in ancient Greek history from the University of Chicago was fully aware of the limitations of her sources.  But, research requires a careful study to validate or rule out the availability of traces to the past, and I remember those long ago conversations as she unearthed elusive pieces of surviving evidence.

Helen died October 31, 1997, just days after she penned the introduction to the new volume, but her colleagues, family and publisher arranged for the second edition, a three volume work, to be brought to term.  The family donated Dr. Tierney’s papers to the Historical Society of Cecil County, so as my research interest turned to this civil disobedience movement, I recently examined her field notes to follow her line of investigation on the regional perspective. The data is scarce as anyone working with social movements in rural areas will recognize, but the surviving materials from Dr. Tierney’s labors nearly twenty years ago gave me the perspective of the nationally recognized scholar on this untapped regional subject.  She would be pleased to see that her scholarship is tapped for regional studies.