Riley’s Picks December 2020

Club Minutes: Mutual Improvement Association, 1883-1889


It is very easy to feel a sort of “post-holiday” and “pre-holiday” daze this week, as one festive occasion ends and another marches closer and closer. Jumping back into the swing of life and work can feel impossible during this time.

I found this helpful quote by Frank Gassaway which was shared by M.W. Kirk during a Mutual Improvement Association’s meeting in 1888: “Do not look disheartened on the work you have to do. And say that such a might task you never can get through; but just endeavor, day by day and point to gain and so the mountain which you found will prove to be a plain!”

I must say, The Mutual Improvement Association minutes are absolutely filled with gems such as this, I sometimes cannot pick just one!

Club Minutes: The Neighbors, 1951



Found within the Neighbors Club minutes of 1951, members, Isabelle and Loften, showed off their majestic pictures from their trip to the Rockies – pictures taken as slides and shared with a projector.  I chose to highlight this particular entry because this Friday, December 11, is International Mountain Day, a day recognizing the ecological importance of mountains, as well as the peoples and cultures that call mountains around the world their home.

Diary:  Ellen Stabler, 1860



Ellen Stabler’s diaries (1852-1922) radiates a simple charm.  While lacking the flowery prose oftentimes found within the archives, Ellen Stabler details daily events in plain broad strokes.

Her writing is succinct in its descriptions and consistent in the topics written about. I found her entries to be refreshingly on point and direct.  For instance, on page five of her 1860 diary, her entry for the 14th read, “[A] sleety day; rained all day; nothing of any account transpired: (sic) we finished the quilt.”

No flourish at all, however, I found myself thinking about all the rainy days I’ve had where nothing really happened, and I felt that if I kept a diary, my writing might be very similar to that of Ellen Stabler—minus the quilt!

Dairy:  Joseph A. Gilpin, October 27, 1886, to August 25, 1895 



Sixteen-year-old Joseph A. Gilpin’s diary entry (1886-1895) describes his journey from Sandy Spring, Maryland to Denver, Colorado.

He wrote, “…over the hill that hides the dear old village of Sandy Spring from sight which I think I will not have the pleasure of seeing again for years and may be never.”  Joseph was to have many exciting adventures, which would include working for renowned painter and photographer, William Henry Jackson.

Whether or not Joseph ever made it back to Sandy Spring, I’ll leave it to our readers to find out for themselves!

Patricia’s Picks December 2020

Essay: Allan Farquhar


One might tend to believe that we are living in unprecedented times, but the assumption would be wrong. In coming across Allan Farquhar‘s essay, “Neighborhood Interests,” dated March 12, 1915, I now believe that assumption could be wrong.

In the essay, Mr. Farquhar discusses many issues being debated at the time, such as different types of governance, faith, taxation, and poverty to name a few – all of which resonate equally today. His “recommendations” are as beneficial to a contemporary reader as they were then. His suggestions included (1) “study the questions thoroughly and impartially on all sides…” (2) “you can do more good by working with others than by yourself,” (3) “they have just as good a right to their opinions as you have to yours,” and (4) “for Heaven’s sake dont (sic) become a nuisance by intruding your ideas on all occasions and at inappropriate times!”

I encourage you to take a look at this thoughtful and provocative essay, as the parallels between then and now are stark.

Letter:  Edward Kummer to Carrie Kummer, 1886


Each week, I am delighted to discover events from the past which would have eluded me had it not been for this weekly newsletter.  Today’s selection recounts the adventures and experiences attained by Edward Kummer during a trip to Massachusetts in 1886.

In a letter written to his sister, Carrie, he begins with a description of his visit to the site of the wreckage of the Hesperus at Norman’s Woe — the inspiration of Longfellow’s famous poem, “Wreck of Hesperus.”  I was drawn to this letter because I too spend much time on the water, however, I cannot say that I enjoy the “…constant up and down motion of the boat, with occasional extra lurches…feeling rocked in the cradle of the deep under such circumstance (sic) a most pleasurable sensation.”  I’m guessing that Mr. Kummer never sailed through a storm in the Atlantic Ocean!

Deed: John Cox (as Mayor of Georgetown) to Caleb Bentley, 1841


In 1841, two lots, No. 261 and No. 262, located in Georgetown, Washington D.C., were put up on the auction block.

Sandy Spring native, Caleb Bentley, paid $80 for both lots and after paying the tax due, which was an astounding $4.50, he was the new owner.  Can you imagine buying two lots in Georgetown for $80.00 today?!

I have a great interest in reading deeds from the past, due to the amazing information one can learn.  I challenge anyone to do the same—the deeds will not disappoint.

Letter: Harriett Long to Alice Hallowell, 1864


The holidays are upon us and they are unlike any other experienced in over a century.  Yet, thanks to the power of the human spirit, we carry on the traditions of the past, albeit slightly altered.

With this in mind, I turn to a letter written during another turbulent time, 1864.   America was nearing the end of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln was elected for a second term.  Wondering how Christmas was being celebrated at this time, I direct you to a letter written on December 29, 1864, by Harriett Long to Alice Hallowell discussing Christmas Day.

She described, “[J]ulia hugging a new doll.  Florence…ditto the rest of you with various pretty gifts.  Did you go to your Grandpa’s or did he dine with you?  I know you had a merry time anyhow.”  Being a student of history, I enjoy drawing parallels between the past and the present.  I’m guessing you do, as well.

Sara’s Picks December 2020

Commonplace book


This commonplace book is an accumulation of various artworks, poetry, and quotations. It reminds me of my own journals in which I have recorded things or have affixed images and clippings that I want to remember and keep together in one place.

I think it is important to record the words or images that resonate with each of us personally, as they are something to look back on when we need encouragement or a reminder of the things that matter to us.

As cooler days of late fall and early winter approach, you can use many brightly colored flowers captured in stunning lithographic detail in this book as a reminder of the brightness and new life that will return in only a few more months. Something to look forward to as we reflect on the closing of this year of many changes and challenges.

Scrapbook and ledger, 1863-1865


Scrapbooks are always fascinating to me.  As you flip through the pages, you can see a variety of clippings, either as words or images.  One might wonder why those particular items stood out to the book’s creator. This week’s selection is no exception.  Found within the book are newspaper clippings, humorous poems, and anecdotes, which can be interpreted as life lessons to be learned.   I continually wonder about the person who created and saved such books.

Letter:  Eunice to Carrie Kummer, 1887


This correspondence between cousins is an excellent example of a writing style used over 155 years ago in order to conserve precious paper—crossed letter writing.  In order to use this method, the writer fills the page vertically and rotates the paper perpendicularly to fill the page with text horizontally.

It can be challenging to read, due to crosswise text along writing in cursive.  In order to read this text, you will have to rotate the page accordingly.  After a little practice, you will be surprised at how easy it becomes to decipher these documents.

Ledger:  Allan Farquhar in account with Sandy Spring Store, 1906-1910


This account book shows the personal tab for Allan Farquhar with the Sandy Spring Store.  Dated from a little over 100 years ago, it is interesting to see the items that he consistently purchased.  Because the purchases included food and household items, it is easy to imagine how these items were used on a daily basis and to envision what life was like at that time.

Lydia’s Picks December 2020

Club minutes: Sandy Spring Pigeon Club, 1910-1913


When I came across the minutes for the Sandy Spring Pigeon Club, a local youth organization dedicated to the keeping of these birds, my first reaction was one of amused interest in the quirky social networks of historic Sandy Spring.

A brief dig for details, however, led me to its adult sponsor, Reuben Brigham, and the realization of something much more profound at work than mere amusement.  Brigham, himself only 23 years-old at the club’s founding, was concerned about rural youth having few constructive social outlets so he sold his own pigeons to local teenaged boys and formed a club operated in a format similar to that of the community’s adult farmers’ clubs.

I find it remarkable that, when given the opportunity, a group of boys, ages thirteen through eighteen, voluntarily and enthusiastically dedicated every other Friday evening to such a productive endeavor. For Brigham, the experience seems to have planted a seed; he often credited the club for launching his career in agricultural outreach beginning with Maryland’s branch of the National 4-H Club in 1915.

Receipt:  Dr. W.G. Regester, State Vaccine Agent to Dr. C.E. Iddings, 1880


Being much attuned to the topic of vaccines these days, my eye was immediately caught when Dr. C.E. Iddings wrote in his diary on January 20, 1880, of receiving “vaccine quills from the State Agent.” Tucked in the back of the diary was this receipt for the very same.

While we typically associate vaccines with injections, apparently it wasn’t until the 20th century that this method became the overwhelming norm. Instructions on the back of this receipt indicate that the inoculating virus on the “quill slip” needed to be reconstituted and then applied to a patch of skin where the first layer had been scraped off with a lancet. It also indicated that all “quill slips” should ideally be used upon opening the package.

With today’s talk of ultra-cold storage and distribution strategies, I can’t help wonder if Dr. Iddings faced similar issues. How did he avoid spoilage upon opening a new batch? Did he keep the vaccine quill slips in a special place?

Letter: Henry Stabler to a cousin, 1853


Finding wayward letters and parcels in the 1850s was certainly more difficult than plunking a tracking number into a search bar. In this letter to an unnamed cousin, Henry Stabler speaks of some correspondence and a package that wend their way on a week’s journey around the county before finally finding him at his home, Roslyn, in Brighton.

He speaks of contacting multiple Post Masters in trying to have Roslyn’s mail routed correctly, alluding to an ongoing issue, and thanks his cousin for interceding on his behalf by “calling at the P.O. Department” in Washington. This letter makes me wonder at the source of the delivery hiccup. Could this correspondence be speaking to a new address for Stabler or of Roslyn becoming a mail delivery hub? Might this obscure little letter shed some light on the story of this historic property?

For me, such a discovery represents the everyday excitement and thrill of uncovering Sandy Spring Museum’s hidden treasures through digitization!

Store ledger:  Brookeville Store, December 23, 1851


On December 24, 1851, the Brookeville Store was shuttered and still as the storekeeper presumably enjoyed festivities; the day prior, however, was anything but quiet.

Typically, the store saw only a handful of customers daily but on Tuesday, December 23rd the store’s daybook records a whopping 15 transactions with the number of folks dropping by likely even higher.  The day leading up to the 23rd was a brisk business in hose, shoes, boots, ribbons, and, surprisingly, buttons.

On that day, however, the till rang mostly for molasses, sugar, raisins, figs, and candy speaking to sweet treats to be shared the next day.  It is easy to imagine the energy filling the store on that Tuesday as friends and neighbors greeted each other with well wishes and glad tidings.