Cumberland Times-News

Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum

May 1, 2008

A recently-sold property recalls a family history

Oftentimes when properties in Frostburg change hands, the town is abuzz with speculation about the alterations the new owners might make, and memories of the people and events associated with the building. Some of what is said is history, much of it is mythology, but the stories are woven together in the fascinating tapestry of our town.

One house of particular interest, recently sold, is the frame building at 37 Frost Ave., where five generations of the Townsend-Smith family lived for almost 120 years.

The corner lot on which it was built was originally part of one of the 50-acre Military Lots which, unclaimed by any Revolutionary War soldier, was bought by Josiah Frost when he learned that the projected National Road would be built across it. Josiah's town was strung along our Main Street, while other acreage was timbered off or used as farmland until the B&O; Railroad made it practical to ship coal to eastern markets. Meshach Frost, the only one of Josiah's three sons who remained here, moved from his farm near Braddock Road to retire closer to town, in what we still call the Frost Mansion. He died in the 1850s, but his widow stayed on in the mansion until 1876, when none of her children was interested in living in the homestead, and the adjacent property was cut up into building lots.

Meshach Frost had named Daniel Bruce and Nelson Beall as trustees of his estate, and it is their names which appear on the deed to John Sheridan in January 1876. In that same year Sheridan sold what we know as 37 Frost Ave.. to M.E. Kern, widow, for $600.

Mrs. Kern, however, was not interested in living there. She bought the property for her daughters, Cousine and Anna, who had opened a small private school for girls on West Main Street. They saw the Frost Avenue address as a fine location for their classes, and planned a school building with classrooms on the first floor, living quarters for the staff ion the second, and "private apartments" to accommodate young ladies who enrolled as boarders. They proudly announced that Wheeler Hall, as they called it, would offer both Latin and Greek in the next semester.

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Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum
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