Cumberland Times-News

Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum

March 13, 2008

The desire still there to become a novelist

When I was 8 or so, just beginning to make two-fingered attacks on Daddy's typewriter, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

I expected to write stories, but some years later I realized that I don't have what it takes to plot, and develop, and complete a 300-page novel. Still, every now and then, I stumble across a real-life experience that could be spun-out to novel size.

I came across two such situations last week, when I was seriously researching the life of Thomas Johnson, Maryland's first elected governor (although it was the House of Delegates that elected him, not the population as a whole).

Books have been written about his long friendship with George Washington and the fact that he nominated George to become commander-in-chief of the Continental Armies.

They worked together on the Potowmak Canal project, and the president named Johnson to the Supreme Court. I was more interested in finding out how the Johnson family acquired more than 40,000 acres of land in what is now Garrett County. Was it by grant or by purchase?

I didn't find a firm answer to my question, but in the course of hunting, I came upon two other, more intriguing, questions.

The governor's English grandfather, another Thomas Johnson, eloped with young Mary Baker without the consent of her court-appointed guardian. Facing fines and possible imprisonment for contempt of court, the young couple fled the country, arriving in Maryland in 1690.

That much is historic fact - but then the would-be-novelist takes over. When they eloped, were the young couple followed by relatives and court officials in hot pursuit? Did the bride cut off her hair and put on boy's clothes? Did they sell her jewelry to pay for their voyage across the Atlantic? Were they married by a clergyman who had been hidden in the priest-hole of a stately home? There is room for all sorts of fascinating speculations.

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Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum
  • Happy 200th to St. Paul's Lutheran congregation Today is the 200th birthday of the Lutheran congregation in Frostburg!

    On Aug. 14, 1808, 24 people joined in a communion service in the New Church, a log structure on the edge of what is now called the Prichard Farm.

    August 14, 2008

  • Quality, attitude of people make 'Burg special A note in the newspaper a week or so ago mentioned that Oprah Winfrey was looking for "the best small towns in America.'' Frostburg is the best one I know of - but unfortunately Oprah asked for photos or videos supporting the nomination.

    August 7, 2008

  • There's always something new under the sun! The popular press has been devoting a good bit of space in recent weeks to the new swimsuit, introduced by Speedo, which supposedly has contributed to the record-breaking times posted in the Olympic tryouts.

    July 24, 2008

  • Ward and his mansion stand proud in 'Burg I've had questions recently - not for the first time! - about William Ward and the house he built at 73 W. Main St. here in Frostburg.

    July 17, 2008

  • July 4th: Finding our beliefs Independence Day, like Christmas, is one of the few national holidays that has not been moved to Monday, to provide a four-day break for working people. It holds its own as the Fourth of July.

    July 3, 2008

  • Berry-picking brings back many memories Last week I went to Wiley Ford to pick strawberries. I came home with enough for several packets of frozen berries, for three jars of strawberry jam, generous spoonfuls of fruit on my breakfast cereal and shortcake with real whipped cream.

    June 26, 2008

  • Ambulance service has key community role The Frostburg Area Ambulance Service is currently asking for our help in raising money for the protective clothing that new government regulations require.

    June 19, 2008

  • Planet continues to change; Big One on horizon? In a year that is not yet half over, 2008 has already written itself into the record books for extremes of hot and cold, rain and drought, tornadoes and floods and earthquakes. Our planet Earth has been in a constant state of change.

    June 12, 2008

  • In tennis, individuals face each other as equals I'm not a sports person, but I like to watch tennis. During the three big summer tournaments - Paris, London and New York, played on three different surfaces - my TV is on, and I check the newspaper for details that I have missed.

    June 5, 2008

  • Arts are obviously alive in Allegany County Last week I had the pleasure of attending the spring concert of the Allegany Community Symphony Orchestra. The program was free, and nicely varied, and the instrumentalists were competent.

    May 29, 2008

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