Read Past Columns:

by Jack Lynch, Editor


Why Not the Best?

A Tree Grows in Frederick for Anne Frank

The Tragedy of Kai Hagen

Frederick County's Gunslinger Slate, Fire from the Lip, shoot from the Hip!

A Visit to Tangier Island

Historic Snowfall, Road Salt, Watershed Protection and the Chesapeake Bay

Will It be Progress or Retrenchment in Frederick County?

Is This the End of Frederick Smart Growth?

A Series of Links Follows from the Air It Out with George political commentary website:

Chesapeake Blues on Tangier Island

July 4, 2008

Mass Burn

Appalachian Blues on Hillbilly Highway

Buying a Congressional Seat in Maryland's First District - Coming to the Sixth District?

Democratic Candidates on American Foreign Policy

All the King's Horses!

Campaign in Song: Bushie Head Out the Mixing Bowl

Democratic Campaign's Vertical Treadmill on Space Mission

A Bit of Olympic Political History

Obama for the Chesapeake Bay?

Politics is Personal: Repeat Three Times

Prediction: Bad News for Obama, The End of Post-Racial Politics

American Exceptionalism on the World Stage

Obama Speaking on March 18th - Political Equinox

Yee Haw! On to Pennsyltuckey!

American Blackface: Tragic Octoroon

Key to Success - Lesson for Frederick:

Republicrats Yes, Middlecrats No

Too Many Promises ...Loaves and Fishes

Identity Black and White in Frederick

Mashup 1968 - 2008: On to Texas, Out with Clinton?

Fat Tuesday!

Symbol, Sense and Substance

Eight More Years

The Dollar Bubble

Judging a Candidate By Their Website

Baby, We Were Born to Bun!

The subsequent links are again from older dates of The Frederick Citizen:

A Rememebrance: Beijing Spring, Interrupted

County Officials and Public Communications

The Snallygaster in Frederick County

Fourth Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

Frederick City Growth

American Promised Land - American All

Black Frederick and Matters of Race and Politics

Dumping on the Chesapeake Bay

Common Sense Writ Large

The Next Mayor of Frederick

Democracy in Action!

Ottawa: About a Greenbelt, Transit Oriented Development and Government FiatCountering Alderman Imhoff's Growth Beliefs

An Alternate View of Frederick CityGrowth Policy

An Acorn in the Bucket

Monocacy River Part II

Monocacy River Part I

New Market Regional Plan Affirmation

43 More!

Fish and Life

Talking Trash

Strike Three, Smoking Out!

A Green Fund Too Far, Or Not Far Enough?

Growth Back to the Future

Revisiting an Iraq War Opinion Four Years Later

Second Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

Unrepentant Cady

Sour Grapes and Fine Wine

There's Hope for Good Government

The Democratic Fifth

The County of Feel Good

Hypocrisy Indeed

The Alliance

The Growth Machine Slate

"The Issues are Bipartisan" - David Gray

The Importance of Jan Gardner's Campaign

Form Follows Function

Route 15 Scenic Walmart

Frederick Blue

The Curtain Rises

Housing Growth, Not Smart Growth, Not Progressive Planning

Understanding Lennie Thompson

Frederick's Tale of Two Rabbi's

Wellhead Protection

Make Believe, or Desperate Duncan?

A Progressive Concept Approved...then Defeated!

Hog Wild

Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

We're No Gwinnett County

"An Election, Not a Selection...!"  Indeed!

A Potpourri of Thoughts and Issues...

Now That the Smoke Has Cleared


How am I to Decide on Mayor of Frederick?

Doomed To Repeat It

Frantic Orthodoxy

Stealth Candidate

Another Perfect Day for Bananafish

This Summer Election

Building Issues

Just Powers

Death Defying Election?

In the Heat

Horse Sense for Frederick County?

Kudzu and Million Dollar Homes

Bartlett's Ozone Trip

Let the Games Begin

Blood in the Water

Coffee Klatch

Archaeology in Frederick

Bizarro World

Mr. O'Malley's March

Playing All the Cards

Who are Your Friends New Market?

Mixed Use

Beijing Spring, Interrupted

Passion, People and Politics in Frederick City

Millennium project

A Frederick Leader of Distinction

APFO Under Attack

State Lands Sale

Frederick Water Sourcing

Frederick Water










The Frederick Citizen Logo

June 3, 2011 with updates 6/10/11

Abraham Faw, Frederick County, and the American Revolution - Builder of the Hessian Barracks, agent of Amelung Glass, and Legislator

Tribulations and Joys of Researching Genealogy

by Jack Lynch

By the time you trace your family back to the seventh generation, you now have over three thousands competing persons and stories to cull and promote, yet for every proud ancestor we want to promote, we’ve probably overlooked a couple dozen scoundrels and miscreant ancestors.  Now we begin.  As the Roman Plutarch said, “It is indeed a desirable thing to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors.”

Such an engagement was no ordinary enterprise for me, having been born and bred into family matters that stretched back over two hundred years in oral tradition through my maternal grandmother and extended family in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, where all were somehow pretty much related, and the towns small and familiar, the daily stories filled with connections – in one breath as a child you overheard about an event that day, in the next it had taken a sharp sequeway into a story from a hundred fifty years ago, both told with a sense of similar immediacy and currency.  Faulkner famously said that the past is still with us, in fact it’s not even past, and I knew exactly what he meant!

In my case, one of the lines much attended traces itself back to Swiss Germans who immigrated and made their way to Frederick County in the 1750’s.  Partly because of knowing a couple brief paragraphs about them being here, I first drove up to see the city during my summer after my senior year of high school in 1977 in a 63 Ford Galaxie finding some of the remnants of local history such as the Schifferstadt house museum. 

At least that was authentic, unlike much of our revered traditions and classy fakeries – to which I subscribe the Taney and Freitchie sites, and also the claimed pewter flagon of 1747 whose supposed Monocacy log church fame yields an interesting story of an earlier such pewter vessel found in the same church steeple but dated 1732 and as far as can be noted, lost.  As soon as horse carriages left the Frederick scene we scraped real history off our shoes and moved on to pave it over quite completely.

But I’ll quit complaining and be glad that from my own lost past survives the Hessian Barracks, which my ancestor Abraham Faw saw constructed during the Revolution, one of a pair of which still stands anyway.  And which thankfully has a complement of current stewards with a true sense of authentic and restorative management, along with an appreciative host in the Maryland School for the Deaf. He also built a Powder House along Shookstown Road jusr prior to the Barracks.

Sadly, I can point to no actual house or structure of a period attributed to Pfau, though Abraham Faw lived at 6 East Church Street, and had the Amelung glass warehouse in Frederick, whether at that location, or elsewhere.  I can also not show a gravestone anymore, the last noted and transcribed in Alexandria, Va in 1955.  Yes, the graves can be untended over time, but how do so many stones get removed or destroyed?  We also see graveyards missing from historic Frederick streets, though hopefully some of those were moved.  If you wonder about or doubt that fact, just look at the 1858 Map of Frederick City from the Library of Congress.

My Pfau family, further back, has a murky assumed history not clearly documented by expert analysis, but mixed up by multiple marriages and children lacking named delineations, affairs and illegitimate heirs, etc.  However, it does claim a rich legacy.  It details a glory derived by a long chain down from a Count who was deposed from his suzerainty by a mob, driven from his castle, and burned out for good, who then fled to France and another family castle, perhaps explaining any Swiss sense of superiority to the French.

The Pfau line may also include the family of famous artists, potters and oven makers in Switzerlkand at Wintherthur in the 1600's. Examples survive in castles and museums. But the family connection is uncertain and needs a researcher who can negotiate the language and social hurdles.

In addition to my immigrant line, a number of intriguing Pfau family immigrants could be interrelated, but for a variety of reasons have not yet been clearly connected, some family names ending up as Fah or Poe in America.  Of interest to me is also an earlier immigrant Pfau family who came on the ship Friendship, which was also the name given the Pfau farm near Johnsville in Frederick County.  It may only be coincidental however, there were several Friendship tracts. An earlier ship carrying Pfau and other local families lost sixty of its passengers, nearly half, to disease and a sea storm they feared would sink them.

Abraham’s father, Jacob Pfau,  does not appear much in the record, as he stayed true to the German language, lastly signing a Carolina deed with a witnessed “X”.  Not in the Frederick Courthouse however, where the original deeds were long ago tossed in the trash if no one claimed them.

Yet, Jacob wrote an interesting letter back home to relatives feeling they must also come over to this land of milk and honey, the family’s passage, the infant daughter’s illness and death during the journey and burial in England, the earlier immigrant neighbor’s help with wife’s illness upon arrival, and in moving inland by wagons to Fredericktown (Winchester, Va) – the name changed later that year.  He describes riding three hundred miles to find family and get money to release the family from the ship in Philadelphia and apparently Germans living at Manackasy. George washington may have noted him in his 1756 ledger, "Faw brought beef from Goose Creek."

It is the community aspect that was paramount in their movement, settling, and survival, all interconnected by home places and welcoming kinship.

The sons however made a different mark.  My lineal ancestor Jacob Faw II, became a leading minister in the Winston Salem area Fraternity Church of the Brethren, as did his son.  They picked up the mantle of the pioneering faith leadership of that church and launched it farther west by progeny and adherent families.

But gleaned out of those couple paragraphs, I began to find that Abraham Faw was indeed the truly exceptional Uncle, a brother to my lineal ancestor Jacob II.  He not only moved beyond the two hundred acre farms prevalent of the times for his lot, became a successful Frederick businessman, transitioned to the English language, education sources unknown, and by assumption studied law as he became an attorney here, was a Revolutionary patriot serving on the Committee of Observation and managing supplies for the troops, and was a trusted friend and resource for our noted first Governor from Frederick, Thomas Johnson.

Now my Abraham yields some uncertainty and genealogical controversy himself.  Some recorded notations, and Boyer family descriptors, place him as marrying first into their line, which I cannot collaborate with any original documents, nor which I can assent to given what I have found true.

About twenty years ago, my greatest discovery on Faw was a 1930 typescript by a noteworthy lady from Southern Maryland associated with the Maryland Historical Society who recorded the contents of an old Lowe family Bible in the possession of a Prince Georges County descendent. 

Despite the Boyer marriage claims, here said to be written in Abraham’s own hand was listed under Marriages  “…my first wife, Julianna Lowe, March 16, 1770.”  Plus, a first son, Jonathan, was born in 1773, three years before the Boyer clan claims Abraham married their Julianna. 

Of the dates, children, and grandchildren and spouses listed, all have proven correct in every regard, and a great revelation on Abraham Faw’s life. I trust that until I see original documentation otherwise.

OK, so Faw built the Barracks in Frederick.  What more distinguishes him? 

Well, after joining the English half of society, and by language serving the German half as an interlocular, he served the county three terms as a Delegate and one as a Senator at the statehouse in Annapolis. 

Not long prior, Germans were unable to serve in the legislature, Faw was an early transitional figure in a western edge society quite unlike the tobacco driven English plantation model of the eastern parts of Maryland. 

The eastern tobacco pantation culture was an English plantation culture, little replicated in the Frederick german frontier, and the English natives often considered the "Deutsch" ignorant and hard to deal amongst, impossible to communicate with, religious to a fault, though split by factions and sects and varied belief systems.

Frederick County farms led the nation in wheat production by 1790, and they modeled a broad based market oriented trade of farm goods that gave wealth from Europe after the Revolution, bringing home not only glass, but china table wares  and silver goods, books and an array of livestock and wagons, all to eventually lead some farther west, along the dream paths of Washington and Johnson.

Just as community defined the Germans immigration experience to Frederick County and the Faw family extension to North Carolina, the story of western maryland became an American story of diversity and assimilation during the timeline of Abraham Faw.

And it was the disruption and threat of community dissolution that defined the American Revolution with its minority support, long years of social turmoil and fatigue, coming off seven years of French and Indian war.

Frederick City saw itself transformed from a quiet wagon town of crop markets, commodities and goods grew scarse, prices inflated, paper money near worthless, twenty-five percent of the men engaged in war, a town of only a few hundred homes and 1700 souls saw an influx of 700 German prisoners. The number of taverns grew three hundred percent during this period. Labor was scarse, raising troops difficult after the initial revolutionary fervor, and supply depended on a loose coalition of the willing.

He signed Maryland’s copy of the U.S. Constitution. A Federalist, he served on the Elections committee that helped Johnson ram the Constitutional vote through to assuage Washington's fears and make the sixth approving state over Anti-Federalist fears and eventual amendments.

Faw ran for the first U.S. Congress, but lost in a statewide race where political dirty tricks painted him an Anti-Federalist against the local majority. Rumors and dirty tricks abounded. I'd like to know much more about this issue.

Faw entered a design for the U.S. Capitol competition under Jefferson.

His land and tavern and mills were numerous in the deed records in several states, and letter accounts. His Cumberland tavern was used as the first Courthouse. His Uniontown, Pa tavern property included a schoolhouse and blacksmith.

He encouraged our first printer/publisher in Frederick, Bartgis, who had both German and English language editions.

Faw also set up Amelung in land to make glass near Sugarloaf, and Baker Johnson an ironworks in that area. His Seneca creek mills were well noted.

As Revolutionary Clothing Collector in Frederick County, Faw's purchase of coarse German shirt cloth became controversial, but Johnson eventually found it faultless. The two men traded many surviving letters about prices, deals and supplies for Revolutionary troops. Faw reported enemy intelligence, and also hired a substitute, perhaps out of religious tradition, but certainly a reasonable act given his service behind the scenes and his useful local influence.

Faw attended the first meeting of the Potomac Canal Company in Alexandria alongside George Washington as Thomas Johnson's proxy and a stockholder, it led to the C&O Canal.

After the Amelung fire, Faw emerged from bankruptcy caused by glass supply debts, repaid the loans fully, and had a second long, successful public life in Alexandria, Va until he died in 1828.  I grew up in Alexandria, and he was barely noted there as well, so living there and learning about him there was quite a revelation as well.
He outlived three marriages, the briefest being twelve years long.  His descendents moved into Kentucky, and a grandson married into the family of the brother of Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir plantation in Mississippi, and ran a Whig newspaper after a Princeton law degree.

There is much more to tell about Abraham Faw that I already know today, but I’ll save some of the details for now, and doubtless there is much more to learn at the Maryland Archives one day. 

I’ve suggested to the State Archivist, who first fleshed out much of Faw’s biography from my work twenty years ago, that what is needed is a graduate student to put an expert reviewed touch on all the elements of Abraham Faw’s life for us all. 

His name is remembered, but only in small part anywhere, not in the full story line of his life, nor commemorated to the degree I think he deserves given his record.

Well, I’m proud of what I know about Faw, but humbled by it too.

After years of hearing that "...our ancestor in Frederick two hundred years ago, Abraham Faw, built the Barracks..." my daughter came to appreciate the connection this year in seventh grade, and asked me to come to her class and present on Faw as part of their American Revolution studies.

I loved challenging those young minds! Nowhere else had they learned much about the Revolution in Frederick County, nor the geopolitics of it with France and Spain and the oceans, or my suggestion that the British lost much as we lost the Vietnam war, capitulated before a weaker native foe because of other concerns.

And Frederick, 1700 souls, sent twenty-five percent of its men from it's farms and families to fight, then took in seven hundred Hessians, taverns tripled, do we sense a social dischord? Paper money was so inflated as to be worthless and unacceptable, meat was scarce. It was difficult to get prisoners guarded. Hired labor hard to find.

Frederick also executed three conspirators, a court order given to hang until dead, draw and quarter, tear the limbs apart and bury them seperately, though that is thought not to have been carried out.

I was also led by the study of the persons and vital relationships to a greater and an adult mentality admiration for George Washington, a fromer childhood cartoon figure - now to me a real person, the vital leader. He lost most battles and was nearly captured, and nearly the war with support uncertain, a public minority, risking hanging, a long, long engagement while waiting for supply and troops from the individual colony/states.

He was reported to weep when he learned that friend Bendict Arnold was a traitor. He was a great spymaster of the Culpers. He learned much in the Seven Years or French and Indian war, bullets touched him, two horse fell beneath him, and saferetreat after Braddock's death was fortunate.

After twenty years, I dug back in and refined my thoughts, then also presented them to our local Monocacy Archeological Society last month.

If you enjoy the vagaries of ancestors, I suggest reading the humorous story by Fred Chappell in his recent book called Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories – where an imagined government Bureau of Ancestors allows you to rent your ancestor in person and learn about them in your home.  Our story couple find the first a despicable slob, the second Civil War ancestor too drunkenly inspired to tales of battlefield gore, and, well…the full tenor of it, and the rest, is in the book!