“A prominent figure” forgotten: Dr. William Potter Shaw, Berlin, Pa.

Many–maybe most–people are forgotten. Some are remembered who ought to be obliterated, and some who should be recalled are lost to recollection.

So little is left of Dr. William Potter Shaw (1866-1933) that it is impossible to say what kind of man he was.  Here is what I know:

According to his obituary published in the Meyersdale Republican, William Potter Shaw, the son of Barton, Md. native George Shaw (1827-1912), was born “at the famous stone house along the National Highway, near Grantsville” (likely the Tomlinson Tavern and farm at Little Meadows). His mother was Harriet (Potter) Shaw (1832-1909).

Shaw was a teacher before entering the University of Maryland Medical School. He earned his MD in 1893 and settled down in Berlin, Pa. to practice medicine (Baltimore Sun 19 May 1893; Meyersdale Republican 16 March 1933).

He likely had this portrait taken as a memento of graduation; according to Ross Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers, Harry Lenfield Perkins (b. abt. 1854, Md.), son of photographer Palmer Lenfield Perkins, had a studio at 311 Baltimore Street between 1887 and 1897.

In 1903, Shaw married a girl from Middletown, in Frederick County, Md.: Miss Harriet Geisinger Shafer (1871-1949), daughter of school teacher Peter W. Shafer and Anne L. L. (Young) Shafer.

In their home at 401 Main Street, the Shaws raised  two daughters: Mary Elizabeth Shaw, a trained nurse who married accountant Robert B. Berkey, and Helen Louise Shaw, who remained single.

By 1910, the Shaws had enough money to keep a servant, whose occupation is given as “ostler, barn,” so they must have kept a horse and buggy for the doctor’s calls.

Although I haven’t found any evidence that Shaw was anything more than a competent country G.P., his obituary says that “Dr. Shaw was a prominent figure in the religious, social and civic life of the Berlin community.” He was a member of  Trinity Reformed Church, served on the Berlin Borough School Board and the Borough Council, and in 1931 was elected Burgess of Berlin Borough.

Although Dr. Shaw’s obituary does not mention his ancestry, my research strongly suggests he was descended from the Shaws who settled the Georges Creek area that became known as Barton, in Allegany County, Maryland. They mined coal, laid out towns, and amassed land and businesses.

Shaw’s father was George W. Shaw, and one family history researcher, Pat O’Toole, has a family tree that lists George W. Shaw’s father as being a grandson of English immigrant Rev. William Anthony Shaw (1757-1815) and Charlotte Trimble Shaw (1765-1844). Both are buried in Morrison Cemetery, Barton, Allegany Co., Md.

According to Pat O’Toole’s research, George Shaw’s parents were, Joseph and Francis Shaw.

I’ve traced them from Maryland to Barbour County, West Virginia. Descendants of George’s siblings, Benjamin, Samuel, and Harriett, settled there and in Buckhannon, Upshur County, West Virginia, where they were farmers and teachers.

Dr. Shaw’s brother, Henry Columbus Shaw (1852-1910), appears to have had both the popularity and business acumen of his forebears. H. C. Shaw, a coal mine owner and merchant, left a valuable estate in Somerset County, Pa. His funeral was said by the Meyersdale Republican to have been attended by hundreds.

Some years after Dr. Shaw’s death, his widow, their two daughters and son-in-law Robert Berkey left Berlin behind and moved to Long Beach, in Los Angeles, California, where descendants still live today. Nothing remains in Berlin of the Shaws to mark their approximately 40 years in the community.

I am grateful to the wonderful Meyersdale Public Library in Somerset, Pa., Pat O’Toole, Steve Colby’s amazing Cumberland Road Project, the digital archives of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, and the diligent researchers of the Allegany County, Md. Genweb for their resources and aid.

The “Artist Corps” at Work: Chase and Bachrach at Niagara Falls

After reading David Bachrach’s memories of outdoor work during and after the Civil War, it was exciting to acquire an actual image of him in the wild.

This stereoview of Bachrach (seated) and William Moody Chase (standing) shows them with their outdoor studio, the Niagara Falls railroad suspension bridge on the horizon. Upon the tent a sign reads “Artist Corps, Chase’s American Scenery.”

The scene gives life to Bachrach’s sketchy  recollections in volume 53 of The Photographic Journal of America:

“About a year after the war I fell in with Mr. William M. Chase, a former army officer of volunteers, afterward a sutler, from Massachusetts, who went into the publication of stereoscopic views, very popular at the time. I made the negatives for him for about two years, over 10,000 of them . . . We went all over Maryland, the Cumberland and Shenandoah Valleys, in the Alleghenies, Washington, D.C., on the Hudson and Niagara Falls” (“Over Fifty Years of Photography,” Part III, The Photographic Journal of America, Volume 53, February 1916, pg. 71).

Bachrach had developed his skills at outdoor work during the war, “in portable dark rooms, both with horse teams and for small work with those carried by hand.”

Success often required what he calls “dodges”–improvised methods for keeping the plates wet and for capturing the spray of falls and rapids.

Bachrach’s memoir places these two years between 1865 and 1868, when he and Chase traveled to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis to photograph the graduating class there–the first time such as thing had been done.

David J. Bachrach (1845-1921) is buried in Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery, Baltimore, Md.; William M. Chase (1817-1901) is buried in Worcester Rural Cemetery, Worcester Co., Massachusetts.

Read  three parts of David Bachrach’s four-part memoir, “Over Fifty Years of Photography,” free on google books, in The Photographic Journal of America and Wilson’s Photographic Magazine. Part I is found in The Photographic Journal of America, volume 52, December 1915, pp. 578-579; Part II in volume 53 pp. 18-20, January 1916; Part III in volume 53 pp. 71-73 February 1916;  and Part IV in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, volume 53 pp. 117-119 March 1916.

© waldonia 2012

“A lovable and strong man”: Dr. Charles T. Harper, Wilmington, North Carolina

A young Dr. Charles Thomas Harper (1872-1915) had his photograph taken at the studio of William Ashman, whose establishment was located at 17 W. Lexington Street ca. 1889-1904 (Kelbaugh, Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900).

Harper might  have made a present of his cabinet card portrait to a friend while studying medicine in Baltimore.

After a period of pre-med study at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, Harper earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1894. He married Jessie Glenora Zimmerman in 1895,  and they remained in Baltimore for a number of years.

He was  “Demonstrator of Anatomy at the Woman’s Medical College in 1895, and also during that year Assistant Demonstrator of Histology at Baltimore Medical College. In 1896 he was Chief of Clinics of Surgery at Baltimore University, and in 1897 lecturer on Minor Surgery and Bandages at Baltimore University” (Henry E. Shepherd, History of Baltimore, Maryland, p. 91).

By 1900, Harper and his wife and daughter Jessie returned to Wilmington, North Carolina. Dr. Harper’s family was prominent and prosperous. His father, Capt. James Thomas Harper, ran a tugboat service, was a partner in the  Boney & Harper Milling Company and proprietor of the Wilmington Steam Laundry.

Capt. Harper built a home at 5 Church Street, today known as the Harper-Newbold house,  in 1905.  He also owned the Wessel-Harper house, 508 Front Street.

But it was at 1 Church Street, a sprawling 1828 house backing onto the Cape Fear River, that Charles Harper grew up.

Dr. Harper’s granddaughter, Anne Newbold Perkins, remembered the house, which remained in the family from 1882 to 1992,  as a center of activity for the neighborhood children,  “a big old house . . . a wonderful house, fourteen rooms- no central heat. So you were either freezing or burning up. And we just had a good time there” (2006 oral history of Anne Newbold Perkins, William Madison Randall  Library, University of North Carolina Wilmington).

Charles and his family moved back into the big Harper home with his parents and sisters, Mary and Anna.

Once settled back in Wilmington, Dr. Harper took a leading role in matters of municipal health as well as county and state medical affairs. He served as port physican and superintendent of health for the City of Wilmington and was a member of the North Carolina State Board of Medical Examiners.

In 1910 Harper founded a small sanitorium, in a Second Empire-style building at Front and Castle streets, where, ironically, he died of complications from an appendectomy in 1915.

After his death, the Association of Seaboard, Airline and Railway Surgeons published a memorial  to Dr. Harper in the  International Journal of Surgery:

“Dr. Harper was a lovable and strong man, and was always willing to bear the infirmities of the weak and lowly. His genial personality and bright disposition endeared him to all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance  . . . Among the profession he was universally popular” (International Journal of Surgery, v. 28, 1915).

Charles T. Harper and his wife Jessie are buried in Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, North Carolina, along with their daughter, Jessie Harper Newbold.

Ashman’s operator used the very popular vignette style, which burned out the background so that the figure seems to float. Curiously, Harper’s bow tie remains the most vivid thing in the photo–the tie seems so real you can almost imagine reaching in and touching its shiny folds.

View a portrait of an older Dr. Harper at the New Hanover County Public Library Digital Archives.