|Title||Old Bethesda - Bethesda Not So Old|
|Author||Doree Germaine Holman and Gertrude D. Bradley|
Old Bethesda by Doree Germaine Holman (includes chapters 4 to 14 and 18 to 22)
Bethesda Not So Old by Gertrude D. Bradley (includes Chapters 25 to 37)
Franklin Press, Gaithersburg, MD
Published by the Board of Trustees of the Bethesda Public Library Association as a Public Service
Clean Drinking Manor
Until a few years ago two old brick chimneys stood as sentinels over the site of the only true manor erected in the Bethesda Chevy Chase area-Clean Drinking Manor on Jones Mill Road, Chevy Chase.
Now the chimneys have disappeared, as did the old manor house, leaving only the historical fact of the manor's existence to link this area with Maryland's colonial past.
Clean Drinking Manor was built in 1750 by Charles Jones on land obtained from Mr. Jones' grandfather, Col. John Coates (or Courts). The Colonel had received a Royal manorial grant of 1,400 acres from the English rulers William and Mary in 1680 and had the acres surveyed in 1699. Clean Drinking never functioned as a true manor, however.
Legend has it that the surveyors had "drunk clean" all the liquor on the place and then had to drink water from the spring. Hence the name Clean Drinking.
Charles Jones was an important figure in Maryland. He built the mill bearing his name on the creek. He was a judge in Frederick County in 1765 and his name heads the list of justices in Montgomery County after it was severed from Frederick County in 1776. He was a close friend of the Rev. Alexander Williamson of "Hayes." In fact Mr. Williamson bought half of Clean Drinking as a site for his home.
George Washington is said to have stopped at the Clean Drinking spring on his return from Fort Duquesne in 1755 before going to the house to greet the Jones family.
When the British invaded Washington in 1814, Clean Drinking again came into the limelight. "Postmaster Monroe and his wife" took refuge at the manor. "He kept the post office open there until the enemy had gone, the mails being left at a log house opposite."
The property remained in the Jones family for many years but the old manor gradually deteriorated and finally was torn down. The house built in its place was burned to the ground, according to one historian.
Between the years 1916 and 1923 the late Captain Chester Wells purchased 80 acres of land in the immediate vicinity of the old manor house. He built a handsome mansion on a high point in the rear of the property. After the Captain's death in 1949, his widow sold part of the property to a real estate developer but retained the mansion.
In the reign of William and Mary, Maryland became a Royal Colony and Clean Drinking Manor is referred to as a royal grant. The proprietary government was restored in 1715 and between that time and the Revolution the land patents again bore the name of the Lords Baltimore.
OTHER EARLY GRANTS
The earliest grant of land in the Bethesda section was Leeke Forest in 1688, which ran from Rock Creek west and included what is now Locust Hills and the Old Bethesda Presbyterian Church. "Friendship," granted in 1711, extended from the District Line to what is now Pumphrey's Funeral Home, and another "Friendship" was north of that.
"Chevie Chase" was patented to Colonel Belt in 1725. Clagett's Purchase, 1715, was west of Clean Drinking and south of Leeke Forest nearly to the intersection of the Georgetown Pike and Old Road. And that brings us back to Five Points.
The Rector Builds a Home
Other fields always look greener, and so Montgomery Countians are prone to go traveling to Williamsburg or Charleston to study interesting old homes. They either forget or do not know that they have here in Chevy Chase an excellent example of the aristocratic home of pre-Revolutionary days.
I refer to "Hayes," the home of Rev. Alexander Williamson, last rector of "Prince George's Parrish in Frederick and Prince George's County" under the English rule. Located on Manor Road, overlooking Columbia Country Club golf course, Hayes is so closely tucked in behind venerable trees and shrubbery that few people know of its existence.
Moreover, Hayes has never had to be restored. It has simply grown. The two-story center of the present house is the original building.
A man of wealth, Mr. Williamson brought 700 acres of the Clean Drinking tract and in 1762 built a brick mansion half way between his church in Rock Creek, St Paul's, and his chapel in Rockville. He called it Hayes in honor of the English home of his powerful friend, Lord Chatham (William Pitt, the elder), who was then prime minister of England. This was the rector's home for 30 years. In it he entertained lavishly as became the wealthy minister of a wealthy parish.
Historians describe Mr. Williamson as "witty, Learned and eloquent." He followed the pattern of his period by hunting, horse racing and lavish living.
The post of rector, to which Mr Williamson was appointed by Governor Horatio Sharpe in 1762, carried with it more than ecclesiastical duties and emoluments. The Governor's letter of appointment contained the following pertinent paragraph: ". . . To have, hold and enjoy the said church together with all the Rights, profits and advantages Whatsoever appertaining to a minister of the said parish and I do hereby require all the Church Wardens, vestrymen and all others, Parishioners of said Parish, to receive, acknowledge and assist you."
Prince George's was a rich parish and Mr. Williamson must have acquired a more than satisfactory living. Under the date line of Tuesday, August, 1772, the following note was inserted in the minutes: "The Reverend Alexander Williamson this day acquaints the vestry that he is desirous of going to the Island of Barbados for the recovery of his health and that he has Indeavored to Imploy a curate to Afficiate in his stead while absent together with Mr. Bowie but if he can't get one before his departure he is willing and desirous the vestry should Imploy one at his Expense. . . "
With the outbreak of the Revolution, Mr. Williamson resigned his position as rector of Prince George's Parish. An ardent Tory, his allegiance to King George prevented his swearing fidelity to the new American government. However, he continued to live at "Hayes" until his death in 1787 and was buried in the garden there.
The rector's heirs sold "Hayes" to Mr. James Dunlop in 1792 and it has remained in the hands of the Laird-Dunlop family ever since. Mr. Dunlop, who had been Laird of Garnkirke near Glasgow, Scotland, left that country about 1780 and came first to New York and later to Georgetown where he engaged in the tobacco business. His cousin, Robert Peter, was already there, and Mr. Dunlop married Mr. Peter's eldest daughter Elizabeth. He bought Hayes for a summer residence and eventually made it his permanent home.
At that time all this section was open country with wide fields planted in tobacco. Mr. Dunlop had quite a long ride down Jones Bridge Road to the Frederick Town Road and on to Georgetown when he went to transact his business as a director of the Bank of Columbia.
Mr. Dunlop died in 1823 and was buried on the place. His wife and children continued to live at Hayes and it was from this place that Henry Dunlop led a cavalry troop of Montgomery County men to Bladensburg to escort General Lafayette into the city of Washington.
During the Civil War, Robert Dunlop, who had been practicing law in Tennessee, returned to take up his residence at Hayes. Upon his death the property was bought by his sister's son, William Laird Jr., who was cashier of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank, Georgetown (now Riggs) for 40 years. He used Hayes for a summer home.
In 1892 William Laird died. His brother, James Dunlop Laird, was the next proprietor and after him Hayes became the property of George T. Dunlop, his cousin. This Mr. Dunlop was the first president of the Capitol Traction Company.
The present owner is Mr. Thomas G. Dunlop, who inherited Hayes from his father. Through the years the house has been greatly enlarged, while the grounds have been whittled down.
The late Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, rented Hayes for a short time, but now Mr. Dunlop has made it his permanent home. He added the west wing, conservatory and garage and greatly improved the grounds. There is a rose garden of exceptional beauty. The home and grounds are open periodically for Garden Club visitors.
Today Hayes stands as a perfect example of the adaptability of good colonial architecture, for it meets the demands of 20th century living as easily as it did those of the successive generations of owners.
(The writer wishes to acknowledge the generous help of Mrs. Walter Peter, author of _A Portrait of Georgetown_, in preparing this article about her childhood home.)
Just Before the Revolution
This thriving section of attractive home which we know as Bethesda-Chevy Chase was just wilderness when the land grants of the 17th century were given.
By 1748, however, it was beginning to feel the influx of home loving people and the Assembly decided the area then embraced in Prince George's county was too large for efficient government. And so the western part was made into a new county called Frederick. The area now called Montgomery and Frederick counties and all the western part of the province were included.
Where 100 or more residential communities are now located, the people of the 18th saw woods and tobacco fields.
Tobacco was the medium of exchange and the plantations operated on a one-crop plan. Since tobacco was so all important in the economy of colony, the laws in regard to its price, quality and disposition were very strict.
Inspection Houses were located at places relatively easy to reach. The planters of this section took their tobacco to Gordon's Inspection House. Some authorities locate it on the southwest corner of the intersection of what we know as Wisconsin Avenue and M Street.
Sometimes Inspection Houses were called Rolling Houses. The tobacco had to be transported over rough trails and some clever person had hit upon the ingenious plan of fitting axle and shafts to the hogshead. It could then be rolled to its destination.
In 1751 the Assembly appointed a committee to lay out a town near the Gordon Rolling House in New Scottish land Hundred. That was the section of Frederick County about where the District of Columbia is at present. What is now the Bethesda election district of Montgomery County was in Lower Potomac Hundred of Frederick. A Hundred, by the way, was a political division smaller than a county with special civil officers to enforce laws, command militia, collect customs, etc.
When the land near George's Inspection House was surveyed, that part belonging to George Gordon and George Beall was found "most convenient" for a town site. So Georgetown was created. Until the Federal government was established 1791 in the District of Columbia, Georgetown was the largest town in Montgomery County.
Here came the big sailing vessels with their cargoes of silks and satins, furnitures and wines, music, books, laces, hardware and spices. Travellers going north and south in the colonies patronized the ferry across the Potomac.
Planters from the Five Points area went to Georgetown to sell their tobacco and get supplies in return. They also got the news. It was not always pleasant. Consider the predicament of the young men when they learned that the Assembly had voted a tax upon marriage licenses and followed that with a tax upon bachelors!
The records of St. Paul's Church, Rock Creek, show that the vestrymen had to make up the list of bachelors and the amount each was to pay. This was to raise funds to defend the colony against the French and Indians.
It was at this time that Gov. Horatio Sharpe ordered Col. Joseph Belt of Chevy Chase to send 100 of his militiamen to Fort Frederick. He soon reported that the men were on their way and all were volunteers.
When the news of the annulment of the Charter of Massachusetts and the closing of the port of Boston reached Maryland, meetings were held in the, counties. One of first was held in our own county at Hungerford Tavern in what is now Rockville, June 11, 1774.
Resolutions were adopted: "that Boston was suffering in the common cause of America..." ..."a copy of these our sentiments be immediately transmitted to Annapolis and inserted in the Maryland Gazette."
It took courage to take that stand. Frederick County proper did not call a similar meeting until the 20th of June, nine days later.
Two battalions for the relief of Boston were required of this state and both were selected from Frederick County.
Letters written at Frederick Town tell of men of exceptional physique and great skill in markmanship. Their endurance is attested by the fact that they walked the 550 miles to Cambridge, Mass. in about 22 days. Their only supplies were a blanket and some parched corn. Game shot on the way provided the remainder of food.
"The times are Dreadful, Dismal, Doleful, Dolorous, and Dollar-less." -MARYLAND GAZETTE
The people of Old Frederick County had many puzzling questions to answer in the days between 1774 and 1776. The quotation above expressed popular sentiment very neatly. Communication was difficult and men had to depend upon their own judgment and act upon information which we would consider meager.
There were no roads comparable to ours and practically all travel was done on horseback. News passed from person to person. If the master of say "Clean Drinking" wanted to confer with a friend whose plantation was on Captain John Creek he had to get on his horse and wind his way by the route he thought the shortest. If there was a road all right. If not the horse could go across fields, wade a stream and maybe jump a log or fence.
In those days of isolated homes company was always welcome, but at that period welcome must have been tempered by anxiety. The mistress of thought to herself: "There is some coming up the lane. Wonder what he wants us to sign this time?"
There had been a number of men around with papers to sign. In 1775 the Convention had decided to pledge to each freeman in the colony (it was still a colony). The members signed it themselves and ordered the Committee of Observation in each county to present it to the freemen of their respective districts.
It was undoubtedly dangerous, both for those who undertook to visit the plantations with the documents and those who signed.
At first no one thought of independence. This was shown in the first pledge which, after reviewing events and stating determination to oppose unjust laws, said: "until a reconciliation with Great Britain, on constitutional principles, is effected (an event we most ardently wish may soon take place) , the energy of government may be greatly impaired, so that even zeal unrestrained may be productive of anarchy and confusion: we do in like manner unite, associate and solemnly engage in maintenance of good order and the public peace . . . . to support the civil power in the due execution of the laws...."
On June 28, 1776, the Maryland Convention "gave its delegates in Congress power to 'concur with the other United Colonies, or a majority of them, in declaring the said United Colonies free and independent States'." (Passano)
After this Declaration another pledge was required of the citizens of the state disavowing loyalty to Great Britain and swearing loyalty to the State of Maryland. This oath was considered so important that a man who had not taken it or who could not give good reason for not doing so, was unable to conduct business.
Montgomery County is Born
At about the time the Declaration was being signed it became obvious that Frederick County was too large for able civil administration. So on September 6, 1776 the western and southern sections were divided into new counties and named respectively Washington and Montgomery.
These were the first counties in the tate named for citizens of the colonies. Up to that time all colonies, except St. Mary's, had been named for people or places in England connected with the proprietary or the Monarchy.
There are said to be 18 counties in the United States named for General Richard Montgomery. Ours was the first to honor his memory. (Lantz)
General Richard Montgomery was born in Ireland, entered the British Army and became a valued officer at a very early age. The colonies knew him through his service here under Wolfe. He evidently liked the New World for he resigned his commission, came to New York and there married a Miss Janet Livingston.
When trouble arose between England and the colonies he threw his lot with the Americans. In 1775 he was elected to the Provincial Congress. In June of that year he was appointed second in rank of the eight brigadier generals, then designed by the Continental Congress.
Serving as second in command under General Philip Schuyler, who was too ill to assume the responsibility, he headed the expedition to Montreal. Due to his abilities and experience, he was just the man for the job. He took the raw, inexperienced and proudly independent New Englanders under his command and turned them into a fighting force that captured Fort Chambly and St. Johns. They had the honor of taking the first British colors, those of the 7th Fusiliers, in the war.
With his objective of capturing Montreal accomplished, General Montgomery turned to Quebec, joining the forces of Benedict Arnold.
Recently we found this account of his last battle: "Montgomery arrived (at point Aux Trembles near Quebec) on the first of December and took command of the forces, which amounted only to 900 men. After clothing the half-naked troops of Arnold with garments which he had brought with him, the whole force set forward together for Quebec.
"On their march thither, they were now exposed to all the severities of a Canadian winter; the driving sleet beat fiercely in their faces, the road was cumbered with huge drifts of snow, and in the open and unsheltered country the cold was almost beyond endurance."
"Such was the season when the American troops commenced the siege of Quebec, furnished with only a few guns, which were reared on batteries of snow and ice, and produced no effect whatever on the solid ramparts that confronted them."
After three weeks of such weather, expiring terms of enlistments and small pox caused discontent, Montgomery decided some vigorous action was necessary. Assault was the answer.
"It was on the last day of the year (1775), in the thick gloom of an early morning, while the snow was falling fast, and the cutting wind whirling it about in heavy drifts, that Montgomery at the head of his New York troops proceeded along the narrow road leading under the foot of the precipes from Wolfe's Cove into the lower town of Quebec. At the entry of the street ...was planted a block house, its guns pointed carefully so as to sweep the approach.
"As Montgomery approached along a roadway encumbered with heaps of ice and snow, he encountered a line of stockades part of which he sawed through with own hands, and having at length opened a passage, exclaiming to the troops, 'Men of New York you will not fear to follow where your General leads,' he rushed forward to storm the block house. But....when they were within a few paces .... a hurricane of grape shot swept the pass, and the gallant Montgomery fell dead upon the spot." (Spencer, 1858)
Forty-three years later, in 1818, General Montgomery's body was identified and returned to New York.
Now back to our new county of Montgomery. When the Convention erected the county, it appointed commissioners "to purchase a lot of land not exceeding four acres, at a place to be selected by a majority of votes for the purpose of building there on a Court House and prison for said county."
The place selected was known variously as "Williamsburg" and "Montgomery Court House" but an Act of designated it as Rockville.
A Court House was built shortly after this. A second Court House replaced the old one in 1840 and the third was erected in 1891. This last building is still standing beside the present Court House built in 1931. A new seven-story County Building was opened in 1952.
COUNTY LOSES ONLY CITY
Montgomery County was 15 years old when in December, 1791 the Maryland General Assembly passed an act ceding to the United States government 64 square miles to be used as a capital site. Virginia ceded 36 square miles at the same time, which were later given back to her.
With this gift of land, Montgomery County lost its only city-Georgetown-and the people Georgetown were relieved of the necessity of jogging to Montgomery County Court House to transact legal business.
Georgetown residents also lost the right to vote, if they had it. Not every man had it, for the franchise was limited to freemen residents of the State having a freehold of 50 acres of land in the county in which they offered to vote, or having property in the State above the value of 30 pounds, current money, and having resided in the county one whole year preceding the election.
To this day the residents of Georgetown and of the entire District of Columbia are without a vote.
The Ballad of "Chevie Chace"
It takes a strong imagination to sweep away the houses, churches, roads and fields know as Chevy Chase and restore wild condition of 1725 when Joseph Belt's land patent for "Chevie Chace" was signed.
Joseph Belt, the third generation of his family in this country, was born in Anne Arundel County in the year 1680. He was 41 years old when a warrant was issued to him for 500 acres, "with 60 acres additional in compliance with certain requirements on the part of Charles .... Lord Baltimore." The patent for "Chevie Chace 560 acres," was signed by Richard Tilghman, Keeper of the Greater Seal, on July 10, 1725. This property was later enlarged to 1000 acres.
The name of Chevy Chase is an illustration of the longevity of folk lore, for it has been familiar to English speaking people for centuries. According to John Franklin, Esq., who published a book on the subject in 1836, the Cheviot Hills form a natural barrier between England and Scotland. By an old law of the marches or boundaries each nation was prohibited from hunting on the borders the borders of the other without consent of the proprietors. Hence Chevaux Chase, a restricted hunt or chase.
An ancient ballad of 67 verses describes the rivalry between the English Percy family and the Scottish Douglasses, who controlled the border. Mr. Franklin recalls that "the Percy" became reckless one day and vowed he would hunt three days within the out permission of "the Douglasses." Of course Douglas heard of this and set forth to defend his territory. A terrific battle ensued. Stanza 57 says that "of fifteen hundred Englishmen, went home but fifty-three; the rest were slain in Chevie Chace, under the greenwood tree."
Joseph Belt evidently was familiar with this ballad and named his property in its honor.
The year Joseph Belt received the patent for his land he built his house, became a member of the House of Burgesses and a lieutenant colonel of Militia. The house was of brick, two and a half stories high, and stood about 200 yards southeast of the spot we know as Chevy Chase Circle, in the vicinity of Connecticut Avenue and Oliver Street. The frame addition familiar to the people of that area in the 1890's was probably of later construction. This house was torn down in 1907.
In 1726 Colonel Belt became a justice of Prince George's County which then included "all points west." At one time he served as one of the Prince George's trustees of the free academies established by the legislature. These free schools eventually became our public school system. The Colonel died July 2, 1861.
The estate of Colonel Belt was gradually broken up and the family connection with the place ended when the Chevy Chase Land Company began to buy up property in that part of the county. The death of Mrs. Ellen Victoria Kent on January 5, 1923 occasioned a notice in the Evening Star that she and her brothers and sisters were descendants of Colonel Belt and "the last owners of the property before it became a subdivision."
The Bradleys and Chevy Chase
When the Federal government moved from Philadelphia to Washington in 1800 the task of transferring the records of the Post Office Department was entrusted to the man who was at that time First Assistant Postmaster General, Abraham Bradley. Mr. Bradley seems to have been one of the few persons who liked the embryo city of Washington. His letters telling about arrival in the city, the difficulty in finding living quarters and the costs of commodities have been preserved.
After Mr. Bradley became Postmaster General he found his duties at the expanding department very exacting, and, as he liked country life, he decided to move out of the city. In 1814 he bought from Philip Barton Key and John W. Clagett 218 acres of land which Colonel Joseph Belt had named Chevy Chase in 1725. In 1818 he acquired 15 additional acres.
After the Bradley family took up residence at Montgomery farm, it became famous for its quiet, cordial hospitality. We can be sure that men in official life became familiar with the hills and turns in the road leading out to the farm. Doubtless the most exciting period of wholesale entertaining was occasion when the Chevy Chase farm house became the refuge of several cabinet members during the British invasion in 1814. It is said that the officials stayed at the farm while the British were burning public buildings and that many valuable papers from several department were stored at the farm during those anxious days.
An old edition of the Evening Star recalls the esteem given General Lafayette by his
contemporaries in United States. When he visited Washington in 1825 he was escorted from Bladensburg to the Capital by a troop of cavalry from Montgomery County led by Robert Dunlop, who lived at Hayes, a short distance from the Bradley home. The _Evening Star_ story said that on this occasion the saddle cloths for the cavalry had been cut out and embroidered by the Misses Mary and Abrahamia Bradley. Quite a task for two young girls!
Abraham Bradley died in 1838 and the farm became the property of his son, Joseph, who loved it as much as did his father. He became one of the prominent men of his time and his hospitality was enjoyed by a large circle of friends. He sold the farm shortly before his death, which occurred in 1887.
A few years after that the Chevy Chase Land Company began to buy up property and the character of the neighborhood changed. Where tobacco had been replaced by corn and wheat, the corn and wheat were replaced by houses and lawns and, at the Bradley place, by the appurtenances of a country club.
In the beginning the club was more concerned with riding and hunting. Men in pink coats and women in their long habits could be seen almost any day "riding the hounds" over the fields where the U. S. Naval Hospital now stands and across most of the farms in the Bethesda District.
Sport, wealth and fashion pooled their interests at the Chevy Chase Club to create a place that has acquired international fame. In its very earliest days Chevy Chase Club was the scene of an attempt to have cricket supplant baseball in the hearts of the local boys. An Englishman living in the neighborhood did his best for his native sport, but after a couple of years his players returned to their first love. It would seem that cricket was not fast enough for the young men of Montgomery.
Their love of speed was gratified by the introduction of polo. This, "the most ancient of games with the ball and stick" was rather new to the United States when the Chevy Chase Club was organized as a hunt club in 1892.
The following year the club was incorporated as the Chevy Chase Club and ceased to function as a hunt club. Golf became the most popular feature with tennis as a close second.
According to club officials "The Bradley House, which was the first club house, was not moved when the new building was constructed . . . .Most of the old club house burned after the new club was built. A portion of the old house still remains and is incorporated in what is known as the Bradley House, a wing to the south of main building."
Civil War Comes to Bethesda
There is probably no one living in Bethesda today with personal memories of the Civil war, but there are many who heard of the experiences of their parents or grandparents.
Many people have forgotten that Maryland was under military rule and that many civil rights were suspended. Elections were practically dictated and voters were required to answer test
questions. Many petty regulations and annoyances were enforced.
As Maryland was a border state the sympathies of its people were divided. The Federal government was afraid that bridges and railroads might be destroyed and the movement of troops and supplies from the north cut off. When Union troops occupied Annapolis in April, 1861, feeling ran so high that the State Legislature met in Frederick.
Here in Montgomery it was not at all unusual to find men living on adjoining farms supporting opposite sides. Not that they could do much but talk.
During the Civil War days there was a constant passage of wagon trains, soldiers and civilians up and down our roads. At any time roads leading into a national capital are important, but in time of war their importance multiplies and the people living on the side of these roads lived in a state of anxiety.
Maryland was invaded three times-in 1862, 1863 and 1864-the Confederate armies operating from the "valley of Virginia." The first time only rumors reached this part of Montgomery, but the second time the famous Raiders of General J. E. B. Stuart got as far as the old church on the pike.
It is possible that Stuart knew many wagon trains of supplies passed over the pike, but on this occasion he had better luck than he could have hoped for.
He reached Rockville about noon on June 28, 1863, and there got information that a big supply train was setting out for General Meade's army. Stuart's biographer gave that as the destination of the supply wagons and says Stuart was able to take 125 wagons to Lee's army.
An old friend told us a few years ago that the wagon train was going to a camp near Germantown in this county. The road sign at Rockville says 150 wagons were captured. It is possible that about 25 were destroyed in the fight. That was a small loss to Stuart for he captured the Union payroll.
The friend quoted above was a boy of ten at that time and living at his grandfather's place on the Pike, now the Georgetown Preparatory School.
Apparently the wagons were ambling along at a comfortable walk and the drivers possibly dozing when a small group of Confederate cavalrymen suddenly appeared.
There were shouting and shooting, frightened animals plunging and running . . . . and the wagons started again to a new destination.
In those days the Pike was rough, so rough that people in light conveyances took to the sides of the road, which were much lower than the middle. In places the difference in height was such that people going south could not see those going north. Naturally in the excitement of that June fight many wagons were overturned and fell off the Pike. We were told that the injured horses were shot and the wrecked wagons burned.
At that time Mr. Samuel Perry lived opposite the Old Bethesda church. He was a Union man and had no idea that the Confederates were in front of his door. He protested the burning of good wagons and for his expression of opinion was compelled to walk to Rockville, his gait being speeded up now and then by a sword Prick.
Horses were such prizes that anyone having an animal worth anything at all tried to keep it out of sight of soldiers-any soldiers. The late Mr W. Vincent M. Magruder told us that there was a time when all the horses on his father's place were hidden in the thickest pines in the neighborhood. After nightfall someone would lead them to the branch for water and put feed where hidden in the thickest pines in the neighborhood. After nightfall someone would lead get it. Then they were left alone until the next night.
Many of the farms in this area had Federal troops quartered on them. It must have been trying for all concerned. The late Miss Hester Counselman used to tell us of the time she grabbed a sentry's bayonet. The counselman home stood on what is now the greens of the Kenwood Golf Club. A company of the Union soldiers was camped in the field near the house. One evening a brash young sentry stuck his gun into the open window of the parlor.
That made little Miss Hester mad. She took hold of the gun and held on in spite of the sentry's protests. Her father had to go hastily for the captain before a truce was effected.
Like many of her neighbors, Miss Hester found target practice from the forts near the district Line very trying. She used to tell the writer: "The cannon balls went flying over our heads."
Perhaps the greatest apprehension of the war years was felt here in July 1864. The Confederate General Jubal Early had invaded Maryland and his Cavalry, under General McCausland had taken possession of Hagerstown. He gave the people of Hagerstown four hours to deliver to him $20,000 cash and 1,500 suits of clothes, hats, shoes, shirts, drawers and socks. He got the money, but only a few hundred of the articles of clothing. Frederick also had to pay a big ransom.
When the Confederate forces reached Rockville, General Early took command of that part of the army which went down Seventh Street Pike and General McCausland's army came down Rockville Pike.
There was skirmishing along the way and by night Confederate troops had again reached our little Bethesda church.
At that time Mr. Perry's daughter and son in law, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Bohrer, were living on the part of his farm to the south. Their house stood where the tower section of the Naval Hospital is at present. To the north of the house was a grove of pine trees. Headquarters was established in this patch of pine trees and soldiers swarmed all over the place, even appropriating Mrs. Bohrer's dining room for sleeping quarters.
Four men were killed on the farm and were buried in a little patch of locust trees not far from the pike. One shell from Ft. Reno burst in the field between the house and the pike.
At that time the hills of lower Montgomery County were higher than at present, as building construction has caused much grading. Ft. Reno stood near where Sears Roebuck store is now on Tennallytown Hill. It commanded the surrounding countryside and was considered one of the strongest units in the defense of Washington.
General Early wrote that his men were exhausted by the long march in heat and dust, and that all the timber around the forts, especially Ft. Reno, had been felled and left lying. That made it impossible to bring up his guns. In addition he had been told that General Grant had thrown a large army into the city. Retreat was the only alternative to useless sacrifice of his men.
In connection with that retreat we have heard this story: Some of the Confederate troops went back up Old Georgetown Road. When they reached a low place near what is now the Bethesda Fire Department one of their guns became stuck in a suckhole. They tried desperately to get it out because the Confederacy needed all the cannon it could get. But they had to leave the gun.
After Lincoln's assassination, our people found themselves under more restrictions than ever. People could go into the District but they could not come out without a military pass. The lid was clamped down so suddenly that some who had not heard of it got to the District Line on their way home from the market and had to go back into the city to get a pass.
It took a long time for our State to get used to the economic and social changes brought on by the Civil War, but the growth of the national capital was an important factor in the development of our particular section.
Early Schools of the Area
Anyone who has stood at Bethesda's Five Points and watched the juvenile population going to and from school will find it hard to believe that it was not until 1763 that there were enough people in all Frederick County to warrant the establishment of one free school. Frederick at that time embraced all of the state west and north of Prince George's.
In that year the State Assembly authorized the appointment of "visitors" to purchase one acre of land in Frederick Town for the purpose of erecting a school building. These "visitors" were instructed to attend to the details of employment of teachers and all matters relating to the school.
Even in early colonial days attempt were made to provide opportunity for schooling, but distance and transportation difficulties nullified the attempts. Education was in the hands of the clergymen of various denominations, parents, or tutors.
These home teachers must have done remarkably well in spite of difficulties, for the records show that only a small proportion of the men had to make a mark in place of their signature.
The tutors or "schoolmasters" were more often than not indentured servants. As such their services were for sale by their masters. This sounds very strange to us. It is necessary to emphasize that the "indentured servant" of the 18th century was frequently a well-born, well-educated man. He was working a debt, paying for transportation to the New World, or a victim of the fortunes of war.
Some of the prominent men of the colonial period came to these shores because they backed the wrong side! Cromwell's treatment of a defeated army was severe. This accounted for the presence of many Scotchmen here and in Ireland. Cromwell had a certain number of privates and officers executed, a few were allowed to return home and others were condemned to 8 years of servitude in the British plantations, which at that time included northern Ireland, the West Indies and the Atlantic Coast of North America.
Sons of wealthy families went from the home school or the small denominational school to the colleges of Europe. They returned to Maryland to become leaders in the establishment of our country.
Here in Montgomery County the colonial pattern seems to have been followed up to the Revolution.
The first grammar school in the county was established toward the end of the Revolution by the Rev. James Hunt, a Presbyterian minister who came here from Philadelphia. The school was on the present site of the Potomac Methodist Church. Mr. Hunt was buried in the cemetery beside that church.
The first secondary school in the county was also established by Mr. Hunt. It attracted young men and boys from quite a distance. This was Tusculum Academy, located on Mr. Hunt's farm "Tusculum" on what is now Green Tree Road, Bethesda. The WMAL radio towers are approximately on the site of the old Academy.
Apparently the house could not hold all of the students, for some of them had living quarters and board in the neighborhood. One of those was William Wirt, who was accommodated at the home of Major Samuel Wade Magruder, "Locust Grove."
Although the Rev. Mr. Hunt was a man of unusual vision and ability, his accomplishments in the line of education would have been completely forgotten long ago if Wirt had not written in detail of his life at Tusculum Academy. Wirt wrote one of the best sellers of his generation, "The British Spy." He was well known as a man of letters and served as Attorney General of the United States from 1817 to 1829. It was the inspiration provided by Mr. Hunt that caused Mr. Wirt to choose the law as a profession.
In this connection an interesting story has come down through the years. Mr. Hunt evidently thought law students should see at first hand what they were getting into, so he and the boys walked to Montgomery Courthouse (Rockville) to observe the Circuit Court in action. And who can say that Mr. Hunt didn't get in a little botany as they strolled through the woods and crossed the crystal streamlets?
After Tusculum Academy passed into oblivion, the school history of Bethesda is quite vague. We have been told that a Grange Hall, which stood in the southwest corner of what is now Bradley Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue, was also used as a school in the 1870's. The lower floor was the school and the upper floor the Grange meeting place.
Later on a school house was built on Old Georgetown Road next door to what is now the Beth El Synagogue. There are many people living in Bethesda today whose education was obtained there. This school was abandoned in 1905 when a new school house was built on Wilson Lane at the present site of the Bethesda Elementary School. The old building was bought at auction by the late Mr. J. Henderson Peter, who converted it into a dwelling. It is still being used by others for that purpose.
The first Bethesda school, like the majority of schools in the county at that time, was a one room one teacher affair. Since the teacher had all grades to instruct and keep relatively busy, she had to be good to succeed.
There were illustrations in the textbooks used in our first Bethesda school and blackboard work was a regular part of the program. The distance from other schools prohibited organized sports, but there were games of many kinds. Since these were the days before radios and movies, amusements in the community were strictly home made and the school house was often used for social gatherings.
In the latter part of the 19th century our teacher's pay averaged 35 dollars a month and was paid quarterly. If the amount of taxes paid into the county was less than anticipated, the teachers received a warrant in place of cash. That was sometimes a calamity, for some merchants asked a percentage for cashing the script.
The new four room, frame school on Wilson Lane, built in 1905, was the only educational institution in Bethesda for many years. Like Mrs. Finney's turnip, it grew and grew until it finally housed everything from kindergarten through two years of high school. Students who wanted a high school diploma had to go to the Rockville High School.
By the late 1920's there was such a need for our own high school that the Board of Education bought a tract of vacant land east of Wisconsin Avenue and northwest of Leland Street. In 1928 the new high school was opened under the principalship of Mr. Thomas W. Pyle. It had an enrollment of 350 and a faculty of 18. The following year it graduated its first class of 12 high school students.
The junior senior high schools were separated in 1935 when the senior high school was moved to a new building on East West highway. Mr. Pyle was transferred to the new school as principal. Since the school was to serve the entire Bethesda Election District it was called Bethesda Chevy Chase High School.
Survey of Bethesda in 1865
An Act of Congress in 1865 authorized Simon J. Martenet, Civil Engineer, of Baltimore, to make a map of Montgomery County showing the location of all homes, business houses, churches and schools. The following election appear on the portion of the map covering the Bethesda Election District (too indistinct for reproduction):
Ball Shoe Mfg.
Baptist Church (Mt. Zion)
Bean (3 families)
Bethesda Church (Bethesda Presbyterian)
Birch, W. H.
Bohrer, Lewis and John G.
Brooke (5 families)
Buckey (2 families)
Camp, Rev. F.
Counselman (2 families)
Darcy's Store-Post Office
Davidson (2 families)
Dodge (2 families)
Duffie, Tom S.
Dunlop, Robert and James
Flack's Blacksmith Shop Franck's Store
Gingell (3 families)
Greenfield (2 families)
Harris, Jack and James
Hawkins, Miss E.
Huddleson (2 families)
Hodges, B. T.
Jones, Capt. and Robert C.
Lansdale (3 families)
Lodge, Mrs. M.
Luftborough (2 families)
Miller, Dr. w.
Moore, John W. and Joseph
Naylor, A. A.
Perry, Sam S., Erasmus and Joseph
Piles (2 families)
Posey, Peter D.
Renshaw, W., Thomas and Charles
School Houses (3)
Shoemaker (8 families)
Talbott (2 families)
Wilson, w. S. and O.
Williams (3 families)
Bethesda's Only Railroad
In delving into the records of the past one is frequently amazed at the workings of the law of supply and demand.
Consider our freight service, the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio R. R. system. The line entered Chevy Chase in the year 1892 and stayed right there for 18 years! It did not enter Bethesda until 1910. Prior to that hauling freight from the Chevy Chase siding by horse and wagon was quite a job.
This 11 mile road is in reality three roads: 1. The Metropolitan Southern Railroad. 2. The Washington and Western Maryland Railroad, and 3. The Georgetown Barge, Dock, Elevator and Railroad Company.
The first, a corporation existing under the laws of Maryland, was chartered in 1890, comprises 6.7 miles of line and extends from Linden through Chevy Chase and Bethesda to the District Line.
The second, a corporation of the District of Columbia created by an act of Congress in March 1889, is 3.5 miles long, was built during 1908-9, and extends from its junction with line No. 1 to Georgetown where it connects with No. 3. Line No. 3 is only .7 of a mile long, was incorporated in 1888 and constructed in 1889.
Whoever would have thought that 11 miles of railroad could have such a complicated legal make up, or that it could take so long for the ends to meet the middle?
For a short time only Bethesda had another railroad. In the year 1914 the late Thomas Hampton and his son, Thomas Earl Hampton built the Chevy Chase and Great Falls Railroad in order to give a means of transportation to the newly opened Bradley Hills development. This trolley line started at Wisconsin Avenue and Bradley Lane, meandered through Edgemoor, back to Bradley Boulevard and on to the Falls. All that remains of that road today is the stone power plant out near the Weathered Oak Herb Farm, which has been converted into a residence.
The County's First Roads
The first roads in Maryland were Indian trails or paths made by deer and buffalo. They could be traveled on foot or horseback but were not wide enough for wagons or carriages. Most of the early settlers used the water courses for their highways. Boats were their only conveyances.
It was only natural then that the first settlements were built on the shores of the bays and tidal rivers where ships could find a safe harbor. As the land near the waterways filled up with settlers, newcomers began to cut paths into the interior in search of homesites.
By the time Montgomery County was founded roads had become an important means of transportation. The new government recognized this in 1777 when it laid out a series of roads covering the entire county and appointed overseers to keep them in condition.
The road leading westward from Washington to Frederick Town followed an old Indian trail. In Montgomery County it followed what is now Wisconsin Avenue to Five Points where it veered to the left on the Old Road (later called Old Georgetown Road), and northward through Rockville. Along this highway Major General Edward Braddock marched on April 14, 1775 on his way to Fort Duquesne.
This road had been recognized as of prime importance from the day the new national capital was established in Washington. In 1805 the Maryland Assembly passed "An Act to incorporate a company to make a turnpike road from the line of the District of Columbia where it crosses the post road leading from Georgetown to Frederick Town through Montgomery and Frederick Counties to Frederick Town." The necessary funds were to be raised by subscription and the subscribers would receive a return on their money by the collection of tolls.
Nothing was done immediately to carry out the purpose of this act. There was the usual
dilly-dallying before the Federal Government and the State of Maryland got together about construction of the road from the District Line into Georgetown. President Madison signed a bill in 1813 authorizing action and the road was completed in 1823.
The road was one of those new fangled ones invented by the Scotchman John McAdam. Born in Ayr, Scotland, McAdam lived in this country during the Revolution and made a fortune as agent for the sale of prizes. He returned to Scotland in 1783 and became interested in road building. His method was quite simple, although it met with bitter opposition in the beginning. He advocated laying small stones on top of larger ones so that traffic packed the surface into a hard, all-weather road. They were pretty rough affairs in those days before steam rollers, but even so they filled a great need.
Toll gates were placed on the new pike between Georgetown and Frederick Town in 1829. There was a toll gate at Tennallytown in the District, another in Bethesda where the Bridge Market is today, and still another out near Garrett Park.
Very minute directions were given in regard to the collection of tolls, toll-gatherers and the fees they were to collect. The toll-gatherers were directed "to stop any person or persons riding, leading or driving any horses, cattle, hogs, sheep sulky, chair, chaise, phaeton, coach, coachee, wagon, wain, sleigh, sled or other carriage of pleasure or burthen from passing until .... same have been paid."
The scale of charges was in part: "score of sheep, 1/ 8of a dollar; horse and rider, or led horse, 1/16 of a dollar; score of hogs 1/8 of a dollar" and so on. There must have been an awful amount of noise, dust and confusion when droves of livestock, stage coaches, riders, dogs and pedestrians met at the toll gate!
The toll houses were abandoned in 1887.
As early as 1800 there had been a stage from Georgetown to Frederick Town. This left Georgetown at 4 a. m. A mail stage left Washington three times a week at 2 a. m. and arrived in Frederick Town "at an early hour." On alternate days it left Frederick Town at 9 a. m.
Publications of the U. S. Bureau of Ethnology:
Andrews, History of Maryland
Andrews, The Founding of Maryland
Passano, History of Maryland
Scharf, History of Western Maryland
Hall, Narratives of Early Maryland
Wilstach, Tidewater Maryland
Wilstach, Potomac Landings
Earle, Chesapeake Bay Country
Centennial Celebration of Montgomery County, MD.
Lantz, The Spirit of Maryland
Kraut, Completion of Independence
Riley, History of the General Assembly of Maryland
Beall, The Beall and Bell Families
Woodward, The Way Our People Lived
Baltimore and Ohio, Railroad
Spencer, History of the United States
Kennedy, Life of William Wirt
Nevils, Miniatures of Georgetown
Ecker, A Portrait of Old Georgetown
Old maps, magazines, and newspaper articles in various libraries have been consulted and the writer has had the privilege of using certain private papers and photographs.
Miss Holman Comes to Aid of Cub Scout History Test
When Miss Holman was living in Bethesda she was constantly besieged by anxious Cub Scouts and their parents who wanted historical information about the community in order to answer the 11-question Cub Scout History Test.
In self defense Miss Holman finally wrote the answers to the scout quiz and had them published in the local newspapers. As a help to present and future cubs the questions and answers are here reproduced:
1. When was the town first settled and by whom?
Bethesda is not a town. It is an election district of Montgomery County and contains nearly a hundred subdivisions. The boundary line follows Rock Creek on the east to the District of Columbia; the D. C. Line and Potomac River on the south to a point slightly west of Cabin John sub division; on the west a line running part way on Persimmon Tree Road to Thomas Creek and Bell's Mill Road; on the north Bell's Mill Road to Beane and across to Rockville Pike where the road crosses a branch of Rock Creek a few yards north of Grosvenor Lane.
The islands of the Potomac, where it forms the boundary, belong to this District and so does the Potomac itself to the tidewater mark on the Virginia shore.
All of this area was part of Prince George's County from 1695 to 1748 (after that until 1776 it was Frederick County) and before that part of Charles and St. Mary's in that order.
The first settlers in this part of Colonial Maryland were mostly Scotch and English and the early records show land grants were given for parcels of land in this particular section prior to 1690.
The District as it now stands contains approximately 35 square miles.
2. Where did these settlers come from?
Mostly England, Scotland and Ireland.
3. What was the population then and now?
Since Bethesda is not a town it is impossible to answer this question accurately. Some idea of growth can be obtained by a comparison; a writer of 1879 credited the little settlement around Bethesda with a population of 25. The Chamber of Commerce figures show the population as approximately 70,000 in 1956.
4. Where is the oldest building?
There are several old houses in this District, some of which were built in Colonial and Revolutionary days. Among them are the Posey house on what is now the Kenwood Country Club grounds; the Loughboroh house on River Road; the old Magruder place on Bell's Mill Road; "Hayes" on Jones Mill Road, built by the Rev. Alexander Williamson, last rector of Rock Creek Parish before the Revolution.
5. Where is the oldest church?
The writer is not sure which is the oldest church in the Bethesda District. Concord Methodist Church on River Road is quite old. Bethesda takes its name from the Bethesda Presbyterian Church which stands on Rockville Pike a little north of the Naval Hospital. This was built in 1850 to replace the church on the site which was built in 1820 and destroyed by fire. It is now occupied by the Temple Hill Baptist Church.
6. The first school house stood where?
The first school we know of in this District was the very well known Tusculum Academy conducted by the Rev. James Hunt on his farm of the same name. This was located on old Cedar Lane, now called Green Tree Road. The building is said to have been about where the WMAL radio towers now stand. Mr. Hunt is also said to have conducted a grammar school in the site of the present Potomac Methodist Church in 1760.
In the neighborhood of the Bethesda Post Office the first school was held in the Grange Building which stood at the corner of what is now Wisconsin Avenue and Bradley Boulevard. The school was held downstairs and the Grange meetings upstairs.
The first school house was on Old Georgetown Road and is now a private residence. It stands just west of the Beth El Tabernacle. About 1905 a four room building was erected on Wilson Lane and has now grown into the Bethesda Elementary School.
7. What was the first municipal building?
The County Building at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Montgomery Avenue, built in 1928.
8. What was the first newspaper; when and where?
Colonial citizens read Georgetown papers as Georgetown was part of this county until 1791. The first paper published under Bethesda heading is the Tribune, which appeared under present ownership in April 1937.
9. Birthplaces of noted people?
There are great many famous people who have resided in this District and a great many other famous ones now living here, but their birthplaces are elsewhere.
10. What historical tablets are near the town?
There are memorials erected by the DAR Chapters at the Bethesda Post Office (the Pioneer Woman marking the site of Braddock's Trail), the District Line at both Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues; a tablet to veterans of World War I erected on Wisconsin Avenue near Bradley Boulevard by the American Legion, and one at Potomac erected to the memory of the Rev. Mr. Hunt.
11. What Indians were nearby before the white man came?
There were various names given to the small bands of Indians residing around this section, but all belonged to the Pascataway Confederation.
Washington's First Suburb
By THOMAS E. ROBERTSON
The dream of Chevy Chase as a suburb happened nearly 70 years ago when Congressman (afterwards Senator) Newlands, son-in-law of the wealthy former Senator Sharon of California, accompanied by Senator Stewart of Nevada, visited the lonely home of Major George Armes far out in the country-about 5 miles beyond Dupont Circle. At that time practically all beyond the "Boundary" of the city, as Florida Avenue was called, consisted of farms. There were only two or three houses between the Armes home, known as "Fairfield" and what is now 18th Street and Columbia Road. Senator Stewart had built his "Castle" at Dupont Circle which was so far from the residences of Washington that it was dubbed "Stewart's Folly."
When the gentlemen referred to were taken to the upper floor of Fairfield to see the view of the city miles away, they could see the White House, the recently completed Washington Monument and beyond those the Potomac River.
One more thing these gentlemen observed was that if a highway was built in front of Fairfield it would be in a direct line with that part of Connecticut Avenue in downtown Washington. Having made these observations these gentlemen talked over what seemed a dream, to wit: the building of Washington's most beautiful suburb, far out where the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland joined each other.
But this would necessitate the building of a highway six miles long-the present Connecticut Avenue. Such a highway would be useless unless two bridges were built also-one of which would be as high above Rock Creek as the Brooklyn Bridge is above East River. Nevertheless these undaunted men from beyond the Rocky Mountains were not to be discouraged by such obstacles. With the backing of the wealthy Sharon estate they started purchasing, quietly, all the parcels of land they could get hold of from Florida Avenue to what is now known as Chevy Chase Lake.
When all these farms were purchased in the names of trustees, the entire holdings, for a distance of nearly 7 miles, were transferred to the newly formed Chevy Chase Land Company incorporated in 1890.
But there were other obstacles to overcome, since the entire risky adventure would be a dismal failure unless they built a trolley line to connect with the city lines running into downtown Washington. So they incorporated the Rock Creek Railway Company, the stock of which was owned by the Chevy Chase Land Company, and built the electric railway from 7th and U Streets out to the 18th Street, up that street to what is now Calvert Street, thence over the bridge they had built over Rock Creek to the new highway called Connecticut Avenue, then out to the new suburb starting at Chevy Chase Circle, and then northward to Chevy Chase Lake.
This trolley line also necessitated the building of a power house and car barn at Chevy Chase Lake. But in the building of this trolley line the company had to overcome still another obstacle. Congress had passed a law forbidding any more overhead wires in the city of Washington and as yet there were no substitutes for the overhead trolley. They finally contracted for the construction of an underground trolley and built what was perhaps the first such in the country.
All these things accomplished, the company in 1893 opened its new suburb "Chevy Chase," which extended from Chevy Chase Circle to Bradley Lane.
The suburb was built around the idea of restrictions in the deeds-an innovation in those days. Homes were required to meet certain minimum costs, row houses were forbidden, houses were to be set back 25 feet from the street (35 on Connecticut Avenue) and stores, business places and apartment houses were forbidden.
After the land company provided a water and sewage system and an electric light plant, laid out macademized streets with proper sidewalks, and employed a landscape gardener to ornament the parkways, the suburb became recognized as the most beautiful in the area of the Nation's Capital.
To give a proper start to the new suburb the land company built a number of fine homes for sale. We (the Robertsons) moved into our new home in 1895. Others have followed us in rapid succession.
Later on Harry Martin bought land east of Brookeville Road and called it "Martin's Addition to Chevy Chase." Still later the Chevy Chase Land Company opened up its property north of Bradley Lane to Chevy Chase Lake.
The Land Company cared well for the early home owners to whom it sold lots. As there were no stores nearer than Bethesda, the land company had an electric freight car make two trips daily and then delivered the provisions by horse and wagon. Merchandise, ranging from a paper of pins to the heaviest pieces of furniture, was delivered to the homes free of charge.
This splendid service, as well as the care of the parkings, the sidewalks, the streets and the sewage plant, was maintained for at least a dozen years, or until Chevy Chase was large enough to take care of its own needs.
Chevy Chase Has Own Government
By THOMAS E. ROBERTSON
In 1910 Chevy Chase obtained from the State Assembly a town charter. The town was governed by an elected mayor until 1914 when the charter was declared invalid and a new law was passed setting up Chevy Chase as a special taxing area in which the citizens were permitted to elect their own village committee. This has given such uniformly satisfactory service that subsequently sections beyond Bradley Lane were given similar governing privileges.
One of the early features of Chevy Chase was an Inn built by the land company on Connecticut Avenue. It served the purpose of an inn during the summer months but in winter was used as a "French" school for girls. It later became Chevy Chase Junior College. (Several years ago it was bought by the National 4 H Foundation and is now sub-let to the Johns Hopkins Research Laboratory.)
Back of the inn in the early days were fine bowling alleys which during the winter months were turned over to the community free of charge.
In 1896 the two younger daughters of Senator Newlands and the older daughter of the Birney family started the Chevy Chase Library Association. The members met once each month at the homes of residents to read and raise funds for a building. Finally the Library Building was erected on a lot donated by the Chevy Chase Land Company. Later the Library Building became the center of the civic and religious meetings of the village and still later a part of it was leased to the U. S. Government as a Post Office.
At the very beginning of its operations the Land Company built a one room school house at the Circle, opposite what is now All Saints Church. Later the company presented to the county a lot on Bradley Lane on which the county was asked to build a larger school. Senator Newlands gave the county $1,000 with which to make the front of the building attractive.
Some years later when the District of Columbia built a school south of the Circle, most of the students deserted the small Maryland school and went to "Miss Given's School." Thereupon the county sold the Bradley Lane lot and building and used the funds elsewhere.
A few years later, in 1912, this became a calamity when Congress passed legislation compelling Maryland and Virginia students to pay tuition fees when attending District Schools.
For a short time the Montgomery County Board provided a temporary school in a rented dwelling on Delaware Street. This was not satisfactory and a number of the citizens borrowed $5,000 on their own personal notes and had built a four-room school on the site of the present Rosemary Street School. The county board first rented and later bought this school building. Through the years it has been added to at great cost. It has housed a majority of the elementary school children of Chevy Chase for the past 30 or 40 years.
The first church in Chevy Chase was All Saints, which held its services in the one-room school at the Circle. Later it built at its present site on ground donated by the Land Company.
No history of Chevy Chase would be complete without reference to the Woman's Club which was organized in 1913. Originally limiting its membership to 30, the club later enlarged, built its own Club House on Connecticut Avenue, and now counts among its members more than 800 women.
Shoemakers Early Settlers
Mr. Martenet's map, spoken of earlier, shows 7 different Shoemaker families living in the Bethesda District in 1865. All of these were descendants of Samuel Shoemaker who, in 1819, with his wife and several children, came to Montgomery County, Md., from Montgomery County, Penna., where his ancestors had lived as Quakers since 1683.
Mr. Shoemaker purchased from Clement Smith, who was then president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Georgetown, a tract of 102 acres. This property included what is now Yorketown Village and a part of Westmoreland Hills. The family dwelling was in Yorketown Village and just north of the house was the Shoemaker burying ground. This is still intact because of the following clause in Samuel Shoemaker's will:
"And I do hereby dedicate for a graveyard for my family the following piece of ground containing 61/4 square perches, and shall never be appropriated to any other purpose, and there shall be at all times a convenient right of way to and from the same."
Two large boxwood, near the gate of the fence enclosing the plot, mark the graves of Samuel Shoemaker and his wife.
Samuel Shoemaker's two sons bought additional acreage through the years. At one time they owned most of the land bordering Western Avenue in the Bethesda District.
Two of the Shoemaker heirs, Mr. Rudolph Bopp and Miss Ruth Shoemaker, still live on original Shoemaker land in the triangle east of River Road and Western Avenue.
One of the oldest houses in the Bethesda area is the Loughborough (also spelled Luftborough) house on River Road. The Nathan Loughborough family bought the tract of land on which the original house was located in 1808 and five generations of that family lived on it until 1925 when the greater portion of the estate was sold to a real estate developer.
In 1847 the Loughboroughs added a large wing to the original house, which was said to have been built in 1700.
The old house was bought by Mordecai Ezekiel, technical adviser to the Secretary of Agriculture during the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration. When he remodeled the house he retained the original architectural plan as nearly as possible.
Loughborough was a part of the original Friendship tract of 3,124 acres which was a gift from the King of England in 1713 to Thomas Addison and James Stoddard. In November 1776 Addison sold his half of the patent to John Murdock, who in turn in 1790 sold to John Threlkeld, a wealthy Georgetown man. Threlkeld heirs sold to Loughborough.
FARM WOMEN'S MARKET
The Farm Women's Cooperative Market was organized in 1930 as an outlet for farm produce. Originally housed in a tent, the market today owns one of the most valuable pieces of property in Bethesda. In addition it has helped Montgomery County farm families send their children to college, pay off mortgages, and stock and equip new farms.
Scientists Settle Somerset
Seeking quiet and privacy for themselves and their families, five Government scientists in 1895 bought 40 acres of the Friendship tract lying to the west of the old Pike, and built five pleasant, rambling homes among the song birds and the trees.
Two years earlier the fashionable suburb of Chevy Chase had been opened and now had a dozen or so houses.
Naming their little village "Somerset", the five scientists set about to provide themselves with public utilities. Water was obtained from a community windmill atop Somerset hill. Old timers recall many a long, grim winter when the pipes froze and shivering householders had to haul their drinking water in buckets. It was several years before an electric pump was installed to pump water from the spring in Railroad Valley to Somerset homes.
Mud was Somerset's worst enemy. Their roads were dirt and in order to protect their shoes and clothing the original settlers built wooden sidewalks. These were continually breaking and sinking into the mire. For the purpose of keeping them in repair the first Somerset Citizen's association was established among the pioneering families. Its main function was sidewalk fixing by the menfolk on Sundays.
The little village was incorporated in 1905 and to this day has its own mayor and town council. It also has had a number of illustrious citizens, among them the late Dr. Harvey Wiley, father of the U.S. Food and Drug Act; Kathleen Wheeler, distinguished sculptress, and Marquis Childs, author and columnist.
To the south, near the District Line, the community of Friendship was springing up. The late William Tyler Page, clerk to the House of Representatives for nearly half a century and author of The American's Creed, moved to Friendship in 1905. Mr. Page described the place as a Dutch
village because each house had its own windmill on which it depended for its water supply.
To the north of Somerset was "Langdrum," the estate of General Drum, who served as Adjutant General of the U.S. Army under five Presidents. It was at "Langdrum" that the late Judge Henry Hunt, grandson of General Drum, spent his boyhood. After the death of the General parts of the farm were sold for the real estate developments of Drummond, Chevy Chase Gardens and Chevy Chase Terrace.
Out Battery Lane way, near the Pike, the Fred Keplingers in 1909 had built a new home on a
2-acre plot. Others began to build homes on the same street. Land was plentiful in those days and lots were large, most of them 2 acres.
Alta Vista was started about the same time and the grounds around these homes were spacious. Highland Park (the section immediately to the north and east of the Bethesda County Building) followed in 1910. Cyrus Keiser was its developer.
Edgemoor was the brain child of Walter Tuckerman who still lives on a small estate within that development. Mr. Tuckerman moved his family to the 180-acre farm in what is now the heart of Bethesda in 1912. Two years later he started selling off part of his land for a fashionable real estate development and Edgemoor was under way.
A Community of Many Churches
The early settlers in the Bethesda District were devout church goers. This is evident from the number of churches in relation to the population. At the turn of the century there probably were not more than 150 families in the entire District, yet there were at least four churches.
The first of these was the Bethesda Presbyterian Church built in 1820 as a branch of the much older Captain John Church or Presbyterian Meeting House (1716) in the Potomac District. The Bethesda church is described more fully in the chapter "Whence Came the Name Bethesda?"
This was followed by the establishment in 1859 of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Old Georgetown Road as a branch of the Rockville Baptist Church. The new church resulted from a series of protracted meetings held a year earlier in the Magruder school house at Bean. So lively were the meetings that it was decided to build a "meeting house" in the immediate vicinity. A committee from the Rockville Church was named to "take up money by subscription" to build a new church. The fund drive was highly successful and construction was started the same year. The building was very simple in lines and had a gallery at the rear for the use of slaves.
By 1881 the congregation had grown so rapidly it was decided to organize as a separate church. The first pastor was the Rev. J. S. Teasdale.
The present building was erected in 1910 and enlarged a few years ago.
As the population of lower Montgomery County grew the Episcopalian families found a need for a place of worship nearer than St. Paul's in Rock Creek. So in 1873 St. John's was organized in the home of Mr. J. Heath Dodge and a new chapel was consecrated in the autumn of 1874.
This congregation was at first a part of the old Labyrinth Parish which had been formed from the Prince Georges Parish in 1864. Labyrinth was renamed Silver Spring Parish in 1875.
The name Norwood was given to the new parish in 1903 in honor of Col. Robert Dodge, who donated the land for the chapel. The first rector was the Rev. James Battle Avirett, who served until 1886.
A disastrous fire destroyed the original St. John's in 1913. This was replaced by a stone building a year later. When the present building was constructed in 1948 it incorporated the stone chapel.
All Saints Episcopal Church was established as a mission of St. John's in 1897. For several years services were held in the one room school house at the Circle. Afterward they moved into what was for many years the Peele home, and still later into the Chevy Chase Library building.
The stone Parish Hall at the present location was built on land donated by the Chevy Chase Land Company. A number of years later, the present beautiful church building was constructed. In 1903 All Saints Mission became a separate Parish.
C. C. PRESBYTERIANS
The Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church was composed originally of 23 members who met in each other's homes for worship services. That was back in 1908. A bit later they transferred to the Chevy Chase Library until they were able to convince the Washington City Presbytery that there was a growing need for a church in Washington's most fashionable suburb. Their first building (which is almost on the line separating Montgomery County and the District of Columbia) was dedicated in 1911. The present church was completed in 1924.
CHAPEL OF THE REDEEMER
The Chapel of the Redeemer, (Fairway Hills) was established as a mission of St. John's in 1903 and continued in that capacity until 1923 when it became a Diocesan Mission.
C. C. METHODISTS
The first Methodist Church of Chevy Chase was organized in 1912 with the help of Dr. Lucien Clark, a retired minister. The following year the congregation purchased a church home from the Chevy Chase Baptists on Connecticut Avenue at Shepard Street.
Because of the steady growth in membership the original brown shingled building was enlarged in 1921 and a parsonage built on the lot next door. In 1935 the new sanctuary and educational building were completed. These have been enlarged through the years.
A tent on a Fairmont Street lot in Woodmont housed the initial congregation of the first Bethesda Methodist Church in 1914. Their preacher was the Rev. Gaither Warfield of Rockville. They were beset by many difficulties. A wind blew down the tent and the congregation erected a temporary building in its place. The lot under the building was sold and the congregation had to move their little church across the street in 1916.
By this time the congregation had begun to swell and there was need for a larger building, so the congregation determined to build with their own hands. Luckily they had two experienced builders in their church membership-George and Henry Broadhurst. George built the stone work and Henry constructed the framework of the church at his own expense. Later the rest of the congregation built a parsonage.
In the late 1940's the Bethesda Methodists moved to their new red brick church on Georgetown Road and sold the old one in Woodmont to the Seventh Day Adventists.
OUR LADY OF LOURDES
Property for the first Catholic Church in Bethesda was acquired in 1926 by the late Rev. James J. O'Connor. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the first time on December 12 of that year. There were about 30 known parishioners in the area at that time.
For the first few years church services were held in the rectory until a church was built accommodating 300 people. The Rev. Joseph A. Little came to the church in 1933. With the growth of Bethesda there came a proportionate growth of Catholics. Under Father Little's guidance a combination church, school and convent was completed in January, 1940.
The present new church was opened in 1951.
MORE NEW CHURCHES
After the early 1930's there was a stream of new churches. The Bethesda First Baptist was organized in 1934; Christ Lutheran the same year; the first Church of Christ, Scientist, Chevy Chase, in 1940 and the Bethesda Christian the same year. All of these churches and many more of other denominations now have beautiful church homes in the Bethesda area. Bethesdans are still ardent church goers.
BETHESDA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Bethesda Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1929 with B. W. Parker as its first president. Its objectives were two fold: 1. To maintain the area's development as one of high residential values. 2. To encourage and aid business to serve a rapidly growing area.
The two objectives often seemed to clash as the chamber through the years tried desperately to have more land zoned for business expansion so the business district could better serve the residential area.
The chamber has done far more than it has ever been credited with. Highlights of these accomplishments have been in the improvement of public transportation, street paving, and lighting, the planting of cherry trees on Wisconsin Avenue from the D. C. line to the northern boundary of the business district, and the generous donation of time, effort and money to every worthwhile project in the residential community.
A MAN'S DREAM OF BEAUTY
The glory of 3,000 cherry trees in bloom along the streets of beautiful Kenwood has brought more than 100,000 visitors to Bethesda each spring for the past 25 years.
It all started back in 1928 when Donal Chamberlin, a young engineer fresh out of Princeton, and his partner Mr. Kennedy, bought a 200-acre farm north of River Road for a fine residential development. Mr. Chamberlin held the belief that the truly beautiful residential community consisted of something more than expensive, artistically built homes on well kept estates. Their setting should be one of beauty also.
As Kenwood developed the streets were lined with flowering cherry trees. When one died, it was replaced. Through the years trees have been carefully tended Today the breath-taking beauty of Kenwood in cherry blossom time is Donal Chamberlin's dream of loveliness come true.
BETHESDA'S FIRST BANK
Bethesda's first bank was organized September 25, 1919 with Walter Tuckerman as president and S. Walter Bogley as cashier. Named the Bank of Bethesda, it was located in two small rooms on the rear of what is now People's Drug Store. In 1926 it moved to its present home across the street. This building was remodeled in 1940 and again in 1954.
The Women Band Together
After the turn of the last Century women had more leisure time on their hands. They began to think about woman suffrage, laws affecting women and children, the educational problems of the day, and the need for more cultural pursuits. As a result women's clubs began to spring up throughout the country. The Bethesda District got its share of these women's groups.
The earliest of these was the Newcomb Club, founded in 1906 by Mrs. Harry T. Newcomb. Original object of the club was "to develop the minds" of its members. Later, as the club grew, more thought and time were given to civic affairs and problems of the day.
The Newcomb Club, whose membership is limited to 50, was responsible for Bethesda's first library-a forerunner of the Bethesda Public Library. The first public kindergarten in the State outside of Baltimore City was started in Bethesda largely through the efforts of this club. The group also established one of the first scholarship loan funds in the county and has been instrumental in aiding many young women to obtain a college education.
The Bethesda Woman's Club was organized in 1911 at the home of Mrs. Franklin Getzendanner. During its first few years club members studied the history of Maryland, its famous men and women, and its literature and art. To this group goes the honor of building the first club house in the county at Old Georgetown and Sonoma Roads in 1930. This attractive English type building has served as a community meeting place for many groups throughout the years.
This club also established and still maintains the Patients' Library at Suburban Hospital.
A vital part of the life of Chevy Chase for several decades has been the Woman's Club of Chevy Chase. Organized in 1913 with a limit of 30 members, the club raised this limitation a few years ago to 800. There is always a waiting list. Membership includes District of Columbia as well as Chevy Chase women, with the ratio of 60 percent favoring the latter.
The club's beautiful home at Connecticut Avenue and Dunlop Street was completed in 1938. Since that time it has served as a meeting place for hundreds of social, civic and religious groups. The club is widely known for its generous support of educational projects and for its fine music and art sections.
The Somerset Woman's Club came into existence in 1916 to fill the need of the women of that community. Mrs. Ralph E. Howell was the first president and the club had 37 charter members, many of whom are still active.
A highlight of the club's activities is its annual Christmas Party for the entire Somerset community. Another interest is the National Symphony Orchestra. Club members assist each year in the orchestra's drive for funds.
Bethesda's first theatre was called the State. Organized in 1928 it was a failure until taken over a few months later by Henry Hiser, who had just opened bowling alleys under the theatre. Mr. Hiser renamed the theatre after himself following a remodeling job in 1939.
First Telephone In 1893
Unlike many telephone exchanges in the state of Maryland, the present Wisconsin Avenue Center grew from a few scattered rural area stations of the old Washington Central Exchange (later called Cleveland). No record can be found of an independent telephone company.
The first telephone in the area was ordered by the Chevy Chase Land Company for the Rock Creek Electric Car Line when the trolley was extended to Chevy Chase Lake. The installation was made in the summer months of 1893 and the following spring an extension of this service was installed in the residence of Robert Dunlop, which overlooked Chevy Chase Lake.
The telephone directory of February, 1895 lists 9 subscribers in the Bethesda Center: Cabin John Hotel, Chevy Chase Club, Chevy Chase Inn, Chevy Chase Land Company, H. Bradley Davidson, John E. Beall, A. T. Bretton, A. B. Browne and Amanda Counselman. The Cabin John Hotel, with its proximity to the busy C. & 0. Canal, had a private line while other subscribers shared many partied rural lines.
In the spring of 1910 development had reached the point where it was no longer practical to serve the community from the Cleveland Exchange. Work was therefore started in the fall of 1910 on the Bethesda Central. A new common battery board was put into operation in the spring of 1911 with a total of 50 subscribers.
The exchange was located in the living room of Mrs. Ada E. Cunningham's home at 106 Melrose Avenue. Mrs. Cunningham acted as agent for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company and also handled its switchboard and all clerical work. She received the munificent sum of $35 monthly for her services, including the hiring of relief operators.
Telephones were not considered a business necessity back in those days. Mr. Walter Perry had one on the wall of his feed store, but when he moved the store to another location he forgot the telephone. He claims he was reminded with a jolt when the monthly bill was received. It seems the only polling place for the entire area was located next door to the abandoned store. From the size of his bill Mr. Perry thinks every ballot box counting in the State of Maryland was reported over his telephone.
World War I caused a housing shortage in Washington and Bethesda got some of the overflow. By 1920 the number of telephones had jumped from 50 to 1000. When the Exchange was moved in 1928 from Mrs. Cunningham's home to its present location, 2,855 stations were in service. When the company went to dial operation in 1940 the stations had jumped to 11,635.
Preparatory to fitting this area into the nationwide scheme of direct distance dialing, the old familiar Bradley and Wisconsin central office names were discarded in favor of Oliver 2, 4 and 6.
Today the Bethesda Center serves approximately 24,000 customers, using about 45,000 telephones. To meet the continuing demand, some of the area now served from the Bethesda Center will soon be transferred to the office at Viers Mill Road and Connecticut Avenue, more will be served from a new center now under construction at Rockville, and a new center to serve the western portions of the area is in the company's plans for the future.
The National Institutes of Health
The most important factor in the transformation of Bethesda from a sleepy village to a closely built area of 70,000 people was the establishment here of the National Institutes of Health.
One of our own residents, the late Mr. Luke I. Wilson, was directly responsible for the Institutes' location. Shortly before his death in the mid 1930's he wrote President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking if he knew of a worthy institution which would appreciate and benefit by a portion of his estate. This letter was the beginning of a chain of events which, after Mr. Wilson's death, led to the dedication by Mrs. Wilson of 45 acres of their Bethesda estate to the U. S. Public Health Service.
The National Institute of Health (it was singular then) was only 5 years old when the dedication took place in 1935. Its predecessor, however, dated back to 1887. The May 31, 1955 issue of NIH RECORD tells the story of what followed the dedication: "The Administration Building and Buildings 2 and 3 were constructed soon afterward. In 1937 Congress authorized the first of the National Institutes-Cancer, which moved into Building 6 in September of 1939. Between 1937 and 1942, Buildings 4, 5, 9, 8, T 6 and the Officers Quarters were erected.
"The problems of World War II required tremendous expansion of fundamental medical research in this country. The momentum was continued after the war when Congress increased the appropriations and made funds available for aid to medical research on a nationwide basis through research grants. To accomplish the basic objectives, the Surgeon General established the Division of Research Grants, the Clinical Center and six new research institutes-Heart, Microbiological, Dental Research, Mental Health, Neurological Diseases and Blindness, and Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases."
"To keep pace with the growing structure of NIH, additional tracts of land were purchased, increasing the size of the Bethesda reservation to its present total of 305 acres. The Memorial Laboratory (Building 7) was completed in 1946 and construction was started soon afterward on the Clinical Center and the service buildings."
"With the opening of the Clinical Center in 1953, NIH entered a new period of expansion-both in scope of research and in physical size. Today approximately 850 research projects are under way at NIH, while more than 3,350 are being supported by NIH grants in research institutions the country over. Total personnel at Bethesda and at field stations in various parts of the world now numbers 4,856."
"After 25 years, NIH has become one of the world's largest and most productive institutions devoted entirely to research in the medical and related sciences."
National Naval Medical Center
The 18-story tower of the administration building of the National Naval Medical Center dominates the Bethesda landscape for many miles in all directions. It is a monumental reminder that Bethesda is rapidly becoming the health research center of the world.
Located on a 242 acre tract on Rockville Pike opposite the National Institutes of Health, the center was officially commissioned on February 5, 1942 and dedicated by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt in August of that year. President Roosevelt personally chose the site for the center after looking over more than 80 in the District of Columbia and nearby Virginia and Maryland. He also suggested the architectural style of the building.
The tower of the administration building rises to a height of 558 feet above sea level and 270 feet above Rockville Pike. It is devoted to wards and sick rooms. The entire 18th floor is given over to lounge and solaria for patients.
The Medical Center consists of a central group of buildings which house the administrative offices, laboratories, classrooms, surgical pavilion, two ward buildings, commissary, and an auditorium with a seating capacity of 600. All of these facilities may be said to be under one roof, since they are all intercommunicating.
The Naval Hospital, Naval Medical School and Naval Dental School are housed principally in the central group of buildings. War time expansion of activities necessitated the addition of temporary ward buildings adjacent to the main building.
Separated from the central group are utility buildings, officers' quarters, nurses' quarters, Hospital Corps quarters, Naval Medical Research Institute, Naval School of Hospital Administration, occupational therapy and recreation buildings.
A nine-hole golf course completely encircles the buildings, adding to the natural contour and beauty of the grounds and providing a popular outdoor recreation facility for patients and staff.
A "carillon" chimes system broadcasts chimes and recorded programs daily through batteries of huge amplifiers mounted on the tower roof.
Current personnel figures are not available, but the personnel as of 1949 consisted of 448 officers, 1,124 enlisted men, 21 enlisted women, 902 patients, 1014 Civil Service employees and 21 Red Cross employees.
These figures must have increased considerably in the past seven years.
Suburban-A Community Hospital
When the Federal Government agreed in 1943 to build Suburban Hospital at a cost of nearly a million dollars, to serve a wartime need, it did so with the understanding that the community would cooperate in the hospital's equipment, furnishings, management and support.
Not once in the 13 years of the hospital's existence has the community failed to fulfill its part of the agreement.
Anyone who makes a gift of $2.00 or more to Suburban Hospital is a member of the Suburban Hospital Association. At annual meetings the association elects ten members to the Board of Trustees for terms of three years. The terms expire at different times so there are always hold overs on the 30 member board which sets the policy of the hospital and directs its management through the administrator.
As the years passed, it became evident that the hospital was no longer a wartime expedient, but a basic need. So the Suburban Hospital Association purchased the hospital in 1950 for $125,000 and assumed full responsibility for its future.
When the Government withdrew its financial support it became the board's responsibility to find ways and means of meeting the hospital's operating deficit. The board also assumed the responsibility of borrowing money to finance the purchase of the hospital. The community was permitted to share these responsibilities and privileges through an annual fund campaign.
In the beginning the Federal Government was willing to finance only the minimum in equipment and furnishings. It relied on the community to supply the difference between a bare minimum and a standard that would be acceptable to the public to be served. The community responded generously.
Through the years the community has continued to respond, not only with money and gifts of equipment, but with volunteer services of many kinds. The Board of Trustees has acknowledged on several occasions that Suburban could not carry on without its volunteers. All volunteer activities within the hospital are channeled through the Woman's Auxiliary. It would take a book to outline all of these activities.
Two years ago it became evident that Suburban Hospital must be enlarged if it were to continue meeting the needs of the community. The population of the area had almost doubled in the ten years of the hospital's existence, and estimates indicate that it will have tripled by 1970. During these ten years, hospital admissions had climbed 166%, births 172%, while such important facilities as surgery and X ray had tripled. Use of the hospital had increased so fast that the walls, built to house 100 beds, were bulging.
A Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees was appointed to find a solution to the problems of overcrowding. After careful consultation with qualified hospital architects and experts, and with government authorities at the county, state and federal levels, the committee recommended a master plan to meet the needs of the community for a generation to come. This master plan contemplates a "Y" plan of construction, with 3 four story wings which can eventually provide 200 new beds.
Because of the prohibitive cost of a complete new hospital, it was decided that the immediate objective should be the construction of one wing of the proposed "Y" at a cost of $1,500,000. Again the community stood behind its hospital. During 1955 and 1956, residents and business firms in the area contributed almost $500,000 toward the building fund. Federal Hill Burton funds provided another $480,000. With these monies, hospital reserves, and some bank loans, construction started in July, 1955.
The new wing, which adjoins the original 125-bed hospital, will be completed in the fall of 1956. It will be a completely air-conditioned, four-story brick structure providing 75 additional beds in private and semi private rooms, an entire new surgery floor, and a new pharmacy and central sterile supply suite. Space will be released in the old building for much needed expansion of laboratory, X-ray and emergency rooms. A Ford Foundation grant of $68,700 in 1956 supplied funds for additional facilities for these departments.
The community has lived up to the old American tradition of self-reliance. Through the concerted efforts of neighbors and government, Suburban Hospital has been expanded from modest beginnings into a fine modern hospital offering the latest and best in health protection. The community's investment in its hospital is now conservatively estimated to be worth $2,700,000.
Suburban Hospital is located on a tract of land originally known as "Needham's Discovery." A part of this tract was bought in 1900 by Mr. and Mrs. Jed Gittings. This later became the property of their daughter, Mrs. B. Payton Whalen, and her husband, who lived there for many years. The Whalens sold the property to the U. S. Government in 1942 as a site for Suburban Hospital.
ONE STORE IN 1900
Bethesda's only store in 1900 was that of Alfred Wilson which stood where the Community Paint & Hardware is now located. It contained a post office in one corner, a grocery counter on one side, a dry goods and hardware counter on another, and a fuel and feed supply in the rear. The store carried a full line of everything from nails to cheese and bedding; no green vegetables or milk, however. You grew your own in those days or bought from a neighbor.
A second store was set up on Melrose Avenue a few years later and operated by the Widow Lane. Still later a third store was built on Georgetown Road near Wilson Lane. Mrs. Grace Nash was its first proprietor, Evan A. Condon the second and L. W. Beall the third. Mr. Beall moved the store across the street to his present location.
BETHESDA'S FIRST INDUSTRY
One of the first industries in Bethesda was the ice plant which stood in the early 1900's on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue just north of the railroad bridge. Mechanical refrigerators were unknown in those days and ice was very important. The well which supplied the plant was very deep and the water so good that people in the neighborhood sent there for drinking water.
Cyrus Keiser, his son Lewis, and W. H. Larman and his son Oscar operated this plant.
Thomas W. Pyle, Educator
There is a man living in Bethesda today who has touched the lives of many thousands of our people and left with them an influence for good. That man is Thomas W. Pyle, principal of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School from the time of its creation in 1928 until his resignation in June 1949.
No man can live in a community that long and not make some enemies; but there are few men who can boast as many friendships as this modest, unassuming administrator. Wherein lies his greatness?
Mrs. Florence Massey Black, one of Mr. Pyle's teachers, struck the theme of his greatness, I believe, in a little poem she wrote several years ago:
"His leadership lies in opening minds To a larger world, where each one finds His better self in a far off star...."
Mr. Pyle's leadership was applied in four fields: through his staff, through the students, through the parents, and through the community as a whole.
The greatest compliment that could be paid to Mr. Pyle was paid by his teachers during the war years. When other systems were losing their teachers at the rate of more than 50 percent to defense work, higher government pay, or more remunerative business, Mr. Pyle's staff of more than 40 teachers stood by him with practically no turnover.
This loyalty didn't just happen. It was inspired. As Mrs. Mary B. Mohler, another of his teachers, remarked: "No teacher who has worked with him has wanted to leave: all respect, admire or love him, depending on the length of time they stayed on the staff."
The students who profited most from Mr. Pyle's leadership were those who found themselves in trouble at some time or other. Mr. Pyle "believed in the child" and his belief was so strong that he made the child believe in himself. With such encouragement the student went ahead and worked out his own problems.
Boys who came face to face with death on the battlefield, girls who got into serious trouble during their high school days, students who couldn't "make the grade" in school but found themselves in some trade-all have testified to Mr. Pyle's practical and inspirational guidance.
Parents who went to Mr. Pyle for counsel may not have been impressed with their first visit: may have gone away without an answer. But they got something.
Mr. Pyle was a wise principal. He knew that no one person knew all the answers. He believed in every individual's ability to find the answers workable for himself, given the opportunity to work them out.
Parents who paid Mr. Pyle a second visit came away with a feeling of deep respect; their third visit convinced them their children were in good hands.
The community has felt the strength of Mr. Pyle's leadership, from the little section in which he has lived so many years, through the county, the State and the Nation. Almost every worthwhile movement in Bethesda for the past 30 years has had his counsel and advice. He has served in the Montgomery County Civic Federation, the Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, the Bethesda Chevy Chase Educational Foundation, the Bethesda Rotary Club, the County and State Teachers Associations, and has been president of the latter four groups. He has been affiliated with hundreds of other groups working for community betterment during the past 30 years.
Product of a one-room country school in Harford County, Md., Mr. Pyle went into the teaching profession because he believed he could serve best in that field. He never regretted it, though other professions would have paid higher material profits. Intangible dividends have more that repaid him for any sacrifices he may have made.
Graduating at an early age from West Chester Normal, he taught six years in Delaware before entering the University of Pennsylvania where he obtained his bachelor's degree.
Mr. Pyle came to Montgomery County in 1921 as principal of the Poolesville High School and in 1926 was transferred to the Bethesda School on Wilson Lane. The school's course at that time ranged from kindergarten through the first two years of high school. In 1929, under Mr. Pyle's principalship, it graduated its first class of 12 high school students. Later, when the town began to grow, the high school was transferred to Leland and Mr. Pyle went along as its principal; and still later, when the junior and senior high schools were separated, he took over the principalship of the senior high in the new building on East West Highway.
All those years while the town and the school were growing, Mr. Pyle was growing too. He has kept up with the most advanced ideas in education through graduate work at Columbia, where he earned his master's degree, at Harvard and the University of Maryland.
In 1949 Mr. Pyle asked to be relieved of the principalship at B.C. C. The school was getting too large for him, he believed, and needed a younger administrator. He was brought to this realization partly by the fact that the daughter of one of his first graduates was a member of his 1949 graduating class.
Since retiring from the principalship he has been an assistant to the county superintendent of schools.
Bethesda's Most Distinguished Couple
Dr. and Mrs. Gilbert Grosvenor are Bethesda's most distinguished couple. Since 1928 they have lived at "Wild Acres," a beautiful estate just south of Grosvenor Lane. Previous to that for 20 years they maintained a summer place at the site of their present home.
Both Dr. and Mrs. Grosvenor were born abroad; she in England where her telephone inventor father, Alexander Graham Bell, and his wife had been called for an audience with Queen Victoria; and he in Constantinople where his father was a professor at Roberts College.
The young couple met and fell in love in the United States but were married in London where the Bells were again visiting. After a short honeymoon they came to Washington where Dr. Grosvenor a year previously had taken over the editorship of a small magazine known at the National Geographic. This magazine had a subscription list of 800, liabilities of $2,000 and not enough business to pay the editor's salary of $100 a month. Its sole asset was an idea-the establishment of a society for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge, a $3 membership in which would enable the little man, while sitting at home by his fireside, to share with kings and scientists the fun of sending an expedition to Tibet or an explorer to the North Pole. The magazine was one of the means by which these things were to be accomplished.
Today the magazine has a circulation of more than two million and the National Geographic Society owns and occupies one of the most important groups of buildings in Washington.
As editor of the National Geographic, Dr. Grosvenor has been largely instrumental in breaking down the drab term "geography" into its fascinating component parts of adventure, romance, drama and exploration, and always Mrs. Grosvenor has been by his side furnishing ideas and inspiration.
Dr. Grosvenor set to work on his "idea"-that of giving his readers the living, breathing, human interest truth about the world in which they lived. He made the truth more interesting by illustrating it profusely with pictures. He switched to color photography when that became available.
Covering almost the entire range of nature, from ant to elephant, the National Geographic deals with every part of the earth, from the teeming pavements of New York to the equatorial jungle and polar wastes.
To obtain the geographic knowledge which is disseminated by the magazine, the National Geographic Society has sponsored expeditions to every part of the globe, from the north and south poles to the wildest jungles and deserts, from 3,028 feet below the surface of the ocean to 73,395 feet into the stratosphere.
Together Dr. and Mrs. Grosvenor have combed the world for ideas to bring before their readers in the National Geographic. Both love to travel and no country is too remote, no mountain too high, no road too rough, no means of conveyance too ancient or modern to discourage them.
But no matter where they travel the Grosvenors always come back to their Bethesda home, which is filled with treasures from all parts of the earth. Built of native stone and timber in an English design, "Wild Acres" is one of the show places of the countryside, but it is seldom seen because of its secluded location.
Dr. Grosvenor recently resigned as. editor of the National Geographic and president of the Society, but still retains his chairmanship of the Board.
Both Dr. and Mrs. Grosvenor have always been interested in the civic, educational and philanthropic affairs of the community. For many years Mrs. Grosvenor has been a member of the Woman's Club of Bethesda and she served one term as the club's president.
MADONNA HONORS PIONEER MOTHERS
The "Madonna of the Trail" monument at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Montgomery Lane, Bethesda, was erected in honor of the Pioneer Mothers of the Covered Wagon days. Sponsored by the National Society, DAR, the monument was unveiled on April 19, 1929. The plot of ground on which it stands was deeded to the society by a Bethesda woman, Mrs. Walter Tuckerman.
Bethesda had a distinguished visitor the day the monument was dedicated-Judge Harry S. Truman, of Missouri, president of the National Old Trails Association. The Judge gave a talk on "Old Trails".
The monument was the last of 12 markers erected by the DAR on the National Old Trails Road between Washington and the West Coast. The first link in this trail was the old Braddock Road in Maryland which ran from Georgetown to Rockville. It followed the route of what is now called Old Georgetown Road .
Along this highway Major General Edward Braddock marched on April 14, 1775 on his way to Fort Duquesne.
Mrs. Lilly C. Stone, Historian
No history of Bethesda would be complete without mention of Mrs. Lilly Coltman Stone, who was born on the farm "Glenmore", where she still lives at the age of 94.
Mrs. Stone's father was John Wellington Moore, whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War as Maryland soldiers. Her mother was the daughter of Charles Lilly Coltman, U.S. Commissioner of Grounds and Public Buildings under Andrew Jackson, who supervised the building of the U.S. Treasury.
Mrs. Stone attended a one room log school near her home (which adjoins the Congressional Country Club) and "finished" at the Ladies Academy in Greenwich, Va. She married Frank Pelham Stone, a neighbor boy, and they went to live at "Stonyhurst" on River Road, which had been built in 1767. Soon after the birth of their son, Dunbar, Mr. Stone died and it was necessary for Mrs. Stone to make a living for herself and family. So she opened the Stonyhurst Quarries which had once been operated by her grandfather.
The success of Mrs. Stone's venture is attested by the fact that most of the important buildings in Bethesda today and many in Washington were built of stone from her quarries.
When her son was old enough he took over the management of the quarries and Mrs. Stone turned her hand to local history, which had always interested her greatly. She was instrumental in having a Montgomery County flag designed and adopted by the County Commissioners through an Act of the Maryland Assembly. The flag, of gold silk, bears the coat of arms of General Richard Montgomery. Mrs. Stone was also one of the founders of the Montgomery County Historical Society and served as its president for several years.
A member of the Herman Presbyterian Church near her home, Mrs. Stone played the organ there for 50 years.
After the death of Mrs. Stone's parents Glenmore was uninhabited for many years until she restored it in 1936 and moved back there with her son and his family; She had the original frame structure veneered with stone and the interior rebuilt and modernized. Located in a beautiful grove of trees on a knoll overlooking the Congressional and Burning Tree Golf Courses, Glenmore has a magnificent view of the countryside.
Bethesda Public Library
The beautiful Bethesda Branch of the Montgomery County Library System did not spring up full grown when the Bethesda Public Library joined the county system. To the contrary, it was the result of long years of work, planning and taxation on the part of many people.
The library had its origin in a small circulating library within the Newcomb Club of Bethesda in 1930. The store of books gradually increased to such proportions that it seemed a shame not to let the public have the benefit of them. Through the generosity of Walter Tuckerman two rooms were secured behind what is now People's Drug Store. At the time these rooms were the remains of the first Bank of Bethesda, which had moved across the street into a new building.
The members of the Newcomb Club, under the chairmanship of Mrs. A. B. Foster, readied the building for occupancy and the business men of Bethesda donated material, heating equipment and fuel. The library was opened to the public in December, 1931, with over a hundred people taking out library cards the opening day.
In 1932 the library was moved to the basement of the Masonic Building across the street in order to accommodate its rapidly growing list of patrons and to provide room for the 4,000 books which had boon accumulated.
An effort was made to secure a special tax to support the library, but the movement failed. So the Newcomb Club carried on valiantly with volunteer assistance until 1936 when the project became too expensive for the club's treasury. In despair the library was closed and its books were given to the local schools.
Sometimes a noble failure serves the world as well as a distinguished success. The failure of Bethesda's first library pointed up the need for a tax supported public library.
So Mrs. Foster decided to try again. She enlisted the aid of Mrs. Walter E. Perry, Mrs. William H. Winkler, Mrs. Mary B. Mohler, the late Major Samuel Syme and Henry Hiser, and together they worked out a plan for establishing a tax-supported library.
A public meeting was called for November 18, 1938, with Miss Ruth Shoemaker, member of the House of Delegates, as presiding officer. Seventy five citizens were in attendance and Miss Shoemaker was sufficiently impressed with the interest displayed to appoint a steering committee to further the development of a library. On this committee were Carey Quinn, Frederic P. Lee, Mrs. Foster, Mrs. John Werner, Anthony Gould, James Fieser, John Overholt, Mrs. B. Peyton Whalen, Mrs. Louis Abbott and Mrs. Perry.
This committee enlisted the interest of various civic and religious groups and made preliminary plans for financing a library. From these community groups an advisory committee of 40 was formed to organize support for the project.
Response to a questionnaire circulated throughout the area showed a greater demand for library service from Bethesda than Chevy Chase (the latter was nearer D. C. library branches). Responses also showed the reading interests of the community to be broad in scope, leaning toward books of the intellectual type.
It was decided to limit the library area to that covered by the Bethesda Fire Board. Other areas could be included later through special legislation, if they so desired, but none ever came in.
After providing a tentative constitution and budget the steering committee turned over its work to the legally incorporated Bethesda Public Library Association in January, 1939. A board of trustees was elected by the association to manage the affairs of the library and Emory Bogley was named president of this first board.
A bill drafted by Mr. Lee, authorizing collection of a library tax, was introduced by Miss Shoemaker and passed the Maryland Assembly in May, 1939. Permission was given to levy a tax of 5 mills the first year, 4 the second and 3 thereafter.
Quarters were provided, rent free, by the Board of Education on the ground floor of the Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. The formal opening of the library took place February 13, 1940. Miss Dorothy Annable was the first librarian.
From the beginning the library was highly successful. The need for books became more and more urgent, and as these books were supplied by donations and purchases the quarters in the high school became more and more cramped. A library building was imperative!
On April 25, 1947, an Act of the Maryland Assembly amended the original Act by giving permission to raise the levy from 3 to 9 mills. The board set the rate at 6 mills in an effort to accumulate funds for construction of a library building.
Clarence Keiser was named chairman of a committee to locate a site for a library building. A dozen or more locations were considered before the board finally settled on a tract of two contiguous lots on Moorland Lane in the rear of the Bethesda Elementary School. These were purchased in January 1950.
The following May a law was enacted by the County Council establishing a Department of Public Libraries.
Under the terms of this Act libraries already established in the county could remain outside the county system if they chose, but the people served by them would be subject to double taxation, since the overall county system would be financed from general county funds and the local library would continue to be financed by a special tax.
Although in sympathy with the County Library system, the board was in a quandary because of the tax funds it had accumulated toward a building. After a great deal of deliberation it decided, with the approval of the association, to negotiate with the county for transfer of the library to the county system.
The county agreed to match funds of the Bethesda board toward the construction and equipment of a library building on the Moorland Lane lots. A contract was signed whereby the county would take over the library on July 1, 1952, and "maintain thenceforth in the area now served by the association, library facilities and services equal to or better than present facilities and services." At the same time the county agreed to hire all persons then in the employ of the association on a 6 months probationary period. At the expiration of this period those qualifying would be extended the coverage of the county merit system.
Following the signing of the contract between the county and the association, a contract for the library building was let and on November 10, 1952, the library was ready for occupancy.
Under this arrangement it was possible for the board, working with George Moreland, Director of County Libraries, to determine, within the means available, the kind of library building that would be acceptable to the community.
After the building contract had been signed, but before the county took over the library, the board received a substantial sum from the county treasurer, representing last minute taxes collected under the special taxing arrangement. Because of the increased tax base that year the sum was greater than had been anticipated.
It therefore became necessary for the board to continue its existence until such time as these funds had been expended to the benefit of the taxing area.
A rigid budget prohibited the county from landscaping the library grounds, furnishing the staff room, providing furniture for the garden terrace, and curtaining the windows in a manner acceptable to the board. The board therefore took over the financing of these items.
Once the library was completed it became evident that air conditioning was imperative, so the board underwrote this cost. To give the library a reference shelf worthy of the community the board appropriated $2,500 for the purchase of reference books for adults and $1,000 for children's books. An expenditure of $1,500 was made to build a phonograph record collection. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to add to this collection.
To meet a strong demand for historical material about the Bethesda area, the board, as a final gesture, underwrote the publication of a history of Bethesda. This book is a result of the board's last act before dissolution.
Few people realize the vast amount of voluntary time and effort on the part of many, many people that is necessary for the development of such a project as it public library. Space will not permit mentioning the names of all those who contributed to the success of the Bethesda Library, even if all of them were known. Those interested in a more detailed history of the library's background will find it in the minutes of the Bethesda Public Library Association, on file in the Library.
It seems fitting, however, to name the presidents of the Boards of Trustees who guided the destiny of the library through the years to final fulfillment in a beautiful building of its own as a part of the county library system. In the order of their service, these were: Emory Bogley, Mrs. Walter E. Perry, Robert C. Owers, Arthur Hilland, Mrs. Mary B. Mohler, John C. Reid, Robison Heap and Mrs. J. Reed Bradley.
The final board, which authorized the publication of this history, is composed of Mrs. Bradley, president; Walter Moorman, vice president; George Cornell, treasurer; Mrs. Joseph Guandolo, secretary; Mrs. Mary B. Mohler, John C. Reid, Robison Heap, Burrell Marsh and Clarence Keiser.
A comparison of the library's circulation figures for the years 1952 and 1955 shows the public's response to the new building and the library's association with the county system. In 1952, 108,219 books were circulated. In 1955 the circulation figures were 351,842, an increase of 300 per cent. The staff had been stepped up too from 5 to 91/2.
The county is living up to its contract with the Bethesda Public Library Association.
Western Gateway to Nation's Capital
There was a time, before the era of high taxes, when Rockville Pike was spoken of with pride as the Western Gateway to the Nation's Capital.
Before World War II this pride was warranted. Stretching from the northern boundary of the Bethesda Business District to within a few miles of Rockville were eight beautiful, well kept estates and one country club. It was indeed a pleasure to take a Sunday afternoon drive to Rockville in those days.
Starting with the Woodmont Country Club just north of Bethesda on the west side of the Pike one passed Dr. Freeland Peter's huge mansion with its beautifully trimmed grounds. Next came the Luke I. Wilson estate where oil lamps glowed hospitably at night from the entrance gates; then Brainerd Parker's magnificent home on the hill overlooking Cedar Lane with close cropped meadows on each side of the long driveway. Beyond Parkers was the old Bethesda Presbyterian Church and the Victorian manse next door. Their owner, Mrs. William Fitch Kelley, took pride in maintaining the old church grounds and cemetery in attractive condition.
Moving northward one passed next the Charles Hawley place with its beautiful stone wall facing the Pike and the row of lovely old trees bordering the driveway. Just beyond was the 150 acre Pooks Hill estate of Merle Thorpe. The castle at the top of the hill had such it fascination for Princess Martha of Norway that she wasn't content until President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a personal appeal to the Thorpes to sell the place to the Norwegian Government. The Princess and her three children spent several happy years there while her country was overrun by the Germans.
On the other side of the Pike, near Bethesda, was the George Hamilton estate with acres and acres of beautiful lawns and greenhouses. Further out was the Charles Corby home overlooking the grounds of the Georgetown Preparatory School. The Corby estate had its own private swimming pool and a lovely boxwood garden.
Where are they now-these beautiful estates of a bygone era?
Most of them passed into oblivion during World War II. With Federal, State and county taxes mounting higher and higher it was no longer possible for their owners to live in such luxury. The Woodmont Country Club sold its land to the Federal Government and developed a new location farther out in the country. Dr. Peter's place was taken over by the Public Health Service, as were the gift acres of the Luke I. Wilson estate. The Parker home has been boarded up for eight years while repeated attempts have been made to turn the land to apartment use. The Hawley estate has also applied for apartment zoning. Pooks Hill was bought by a real estate developer with the intention of turning the whole estate into apartments, but the development was stopped short with one apartment building when zoning action on the tract was reversed.
The Hamilton and Corby estates have been taken over by tax free Catholic schools.
No longer is Rockville Pike lined with beautiful estates. But the Western Gateway to the Nation's Capital is still imposing with the stately spire of the National Naval Medical Center on one side of the Pike and the National Institutes of Health on the other.