Editor's note: This is the eighth in a 12-part series about Washington County Historical Society's founders.
Celebrating 100 years of organized advocacy for historic preservation, the Washington County Historical Society has the enviable record of having preserved Fort Frederick, Washington Monument on South Mountain, the Hager House, the Dunker Church, Burnside Bridge, Maryland Heights (the Maryland overlook of Harpers Ferry), and, cooperatively with the Frederick County Historical Society, the War Correspondents Arch.
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The society maintains two museums where tours are offered, the Miller House in Hagerstown, housing the offices of the society and the Simms Jamieson research library on the lower level, and the Beaver Creek School. The Miller House provides space for special exhibits of Bell and other makers' pottery, silver, clocks, dolls and toys, early maps of Hagerstown and Washington County, and the newly refurbished Civil War collection from Antietam and Hagerstown.
A rotating exhibit of baseball memorabilia remains on display until Saturday, June 11, and will be followed by an exhibit from Pen Mar, Cascade and Fort Ritchie in mid-June. An exhibit on the founders of the society is planned for late summer through fall. The schoolhouse has one classroom interpreting early 1900s education and the other with old musical instruments, tools, clothing and parlor décor. Call 301-797-8782 to arrange a tour.
As we continue to recall the society's 29 signatories of the Articles of Incorporation, this week we meet Vernon N. Simmons and Dr. John McPherson Scott.
Vernon N. Simmons
Vernon Nelson Simmons descended from a family who left England and who arrived in 1634 with Leonard Calvert at St. Mary's, Md. The family migrated first to Frederick County and then to Washington County. Simmons was born in Hagerstown, but grew up in Charles Town, W.Va., graduating from Charles Town Academy.
He taught school while learning the law with the firm Baylor and Wilson. Admitted to the West Virginia State Bar in 1890, he practiced there and then in Virginia, returning to Brunswick, Md., and then to Hagerstown in 1893.
In 1895, he joined the management of the Hagerstown Daily News, which merged with The Morning Herald in 1896. He remained as the editor and manager of the new company.
Simmons was the son of Dr. J. V. Simmons, a civil engineer and prominent businessman of Charles Town and Harriet Burrows Neill Simmons, who was raised in Hagerstown. Harriet's father, Alexander Neill II, was the second owner of 135 W. Washington St. (the Miller House), now the headquarters of the Washington County Historical Society. His wife was the former May Barr.
Among his ancestors were a general in the Revolutionary War, a naval commander in the War of 1812, the first U.S. attorney general and the first two governors of Maryland, elected by the legislature.
J. McP. Scott
Dr. John McPherson Scott, elected as one of the original seven directors of the Washington County Historical Society, tutored and mentored Dr. V. Milton Reichard, another of the founders. Scott, a native of Hagerstown, entered the practice of his father, Dr. Norman Scott, after receiving his medical degree in 1873.
He was president of Potomac Valley Stone and Lime Co., which had its quarries at Pinesburg and was a director of Peoples National Bank of Hagerstown and of Rose Hill Cemetery. He was elected in 1876 and again 1880, serving two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates and was mayor of Hagers-town, elected to that office four times.
It was during his administrations that City Park was opened, the city purchased its water system and began methodically providing sewer service. After leaving the office of mayor, Scott continued his interest in improving the public utilities, thus public health, by serving as president of the Board of Water Commissioners.
In addition to membership in the American Academy of Medicine, he was one of the original members of the Maryland State Board of Medical Examiners, its formation established in 1892. He also served as president of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Maryland in 1901 and 1902.
At the time of Scott's sudden death in 1923, he was working toward erecting a statue honoring President Warren G. Harding.
Harding visited Washington County, notably Hagerstown and Funkstown, as part of a 1921 camping trip with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. The party arrived in a fleet of trucks, with 20 tents for the excursion on the banks of Licking Creek, a spot now known as Camp Harding in Pectonville, west of Clear Spring.
Linda C. Irvin-Craig is executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. She can be reached at 301-797-8782 or firstname.lastname@example.org.