In 1870 Alice Key Howard [the author’s aunt], a daughter of Mrs. Charles Howard, bought from a man named Stabler a four room hunting lodge with separate kitchens, standing in a dense grove of oaks, many of whose survivors still surround the present house.
Even in my memory there was an oak grove with a path through it where the present Shafer house now stands. Several additions and wings were built before the original four room lodge became the low rambling red structure, now known as 79 Alder Street.
Willed by Alice Key Howard to her niece, Elizabeth B. Howard, its present owner, it was for eighty years the summer home of many of Francis Scott Key’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.
One grandson, John Ross Key, a notable painter, especially of mountain scenery, was a frequent visitor, and one of his paintings of “The Old County Bridge” was long in the possession of an Oakland family.
McHenry Howard, father of Elizabeth G. Howard, was a passionate fisherman, and with his first cousin, Dr. James Mchenry Howard, went by horseback, or by horse and buggy, over then all but impossible roads, on month long fishing trips to the Cheat and Elk Rivers. His diary, illustrated in part by his own sketches, is immediately destined to the Garrett County Historical Society.
Another granddaughter of Francis Scott Key’s, Mrs. Edward Lloyd of Wye House, Talbot County, spent much time with her mother in Oakland, as did Mrs. Charlton Morgan (Ellen Key Howard) of Lexington, Kentucky. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Charlton Morgan and their children spent several winters in Oakland, one at least at 79 Alder Street.
A notable group of boys played together in Oakland in those days. Cal Crim, Henry McComas, Charles McHenry Howard and Thomas Hunt Morgan. Thomas Hunt Morgan, winner of the Nobel Prize for biology in 1933, and known before his death several years ago as the greatest living biologist in the world, received his first schooling in what I understand was a log cabin schoolhouse in Oakland. He and his cousin, Charles McHenry, were great rattlesnake hunters and amassed a trophy of rattles which I still own.
In 1893, Mrs. Charles Howard (Elizabeth Phoebe Key) celebrated her 90th birthday in Oakland. All day a stream of visitors poured in, people from Oakland and Deer Park. (I have her letter written to an absent member of her family which also, with her picture, will go to the Garrett County Historical Society.) In the evening, a large dinner party was given and I vividly remember the long table decorated with ferns and with ninety candles blazing.
In 1897 she died there, and again I remember the American Flag in red, white and blue flowers which covered the coffin, sent by “Doctor McComas.”
Many members of the family have died at 79 Alder Street, the little daughter of Dr. Edward Lloyd Howard and Laura Maynard Howard first, in 1894. Since then, Mrs. McHenry Howard in 1908, McHenry Howard in 1923, and their daughter May Howard in 1943.
A very deep love for Oakland and Garrett County is born into, and inherited by, all the descendants of Francis Scott Key, who have spent their summers at 79 Alder Street, and though for the past two years the present writer is the only member of the family to get there, and that, in all too short a stay, yet it is always with a deep sense of homecoming, of belonging in great part to Garrett County, that I return.
“A Summer Home in the Mountains,” by Julia McHenry Howard, Tableland Trails magazine, Summer 1953, pp 2-4, Felix G. Robinson, publisher
Julia McHenry Howard (1886-1959) was a great-granddaughter of Francis Scott Key, composer of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
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