“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.

Leo J. Beachy: A Southwest View of the Cove, Md.

Even without his name or the words “Mt. Nebo Studio” on the back, his distinctive handwriting marks this real photo postcard as the work of  Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927).

Following the wisdom of  RPPC  dating experts, “A Southwest View of the Cove, Md., From the Oakland State Road,” with its divided back and bordered CYKO stamp box, probably dates from ca. 1905.

Beachy seems never to have tired of the endlessly unfolding views from the State Road above the rolling farmland known as “the Cove,” and its vistas continue to be popular today.

Pinpointing the exact vantage point  near Oakland will have to wait for someone intimately familiar with this stretch of  US 219, aka Garrett Highway.

During the period Beachy took this photograph, 219 was still known as the State Road. South of Oakland, the road took a route different from its later incarnation: it snaked out of Oakland via 3rd Street, became Underwood Road, then swung east up Monte Vista Road.

For more about Beachy’s photography, life and the dramatic story of how his niece, Maxine Beachy Broadwater, rescued a portion of his almost forgotten work, see my earlier posts on Leo J. Beachy.

Then visit the online galleries of Beachy’s photos at the Garrett County Historical Society, where you can purchase prints of any of over 2,800 of his images. In them one glimpses the great and reverent affection Beachy  felt for the land and the people around him.

Leo J. Beachy: A Birdseye View of Grantsville Maryland

Grantsville, Maryland teacher, writer and photographer Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927) made and sold real photo postcards in his studio at “Mt. Nebo,” his parents’ Garrett County farm.

I can’t be sure, but I am  guessing this view of Grantsville is an early effort. Later postcards have his name and/or  “Mt. Nebo Studio Grantsville  MD” on the postal side.

According to what is known about Beachy’s life and work, he taught himself photography while still an instructor in local schools. A  brief biographical sketch of Beachy by the Maryland Historical Society says that Beachy began taking photographs in 1905 when he received a small Kodak camera and developing chemicals as a prize.

Beachy was frustrated that no professional photographer would come out  to make photographs of his school and environs, and he decided to take up the task himself. He took many photographs of country school classes, and then began turning his camera on the people, pastimes and landscapes of the place he loved.

In 1906, Eastman Kodak began marketing a folding pocket camera that made negatives the same size as post cards. The US Postal Service began allowing divided back postcards in 1907 (McCulloch, Card Photographs, A Guide to Their History and Value, p. 121) .

The Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City has an excellent collection of postage stamp imprints. This one has a postage stamp imprint used on Cyko bromide postcard papers produced by Ansco on its real photo post cards between 1903 and 1905.

Another source dates the availability of Cyko paper to 1906-1920.

The 3/-1/4″ x 4-1/2″ photograph has been printed on 3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″  paper, suggesting that Beachy used a smaller format camera and did not yet own an  enlarger (Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City). Eventually he was able to have a fully-equipped studio built on the family farm, and must have acquired a camera made specially for photo postcards.

The Cumberland Road Project has an example of a similar Beachy postcard entitled “The National Pike Eastward Through Grantsville Md” that helps pinpoint this view’s orientation.

Leo J. Beachy: Inauguration Day on the MD Hills 1917

Thanks to its title, we can date this photograph, a real photo postcard by acclaimed Garrett County, Maryland photographer Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927), to March 4th, 1917–the day President Woodrow Wilson was sworn into office.

Thanks to a Miss Ethel Handy, who probably bought this hand-made postcard in the town of Grantsville, we also know that it was mailed on August 23, 1917.

Beachy made postcards out of his thousands of glass plate negatives in a converted out building on his parents’ farm. He named it Mt. Nebo Studio, after the farm. A genuine vintage postcard will be identified on the postal side with “L. J. Beachy, Mt. Nebo Studio, Grantsville, Md.”

You can view an award-winning documentary, “Leo Beachy: A Legacy Nearly Lost,”  about his life, his work, and the miraculous story of the loss and recovery of his photographs on WQED’s website.

Thanks to the efforts of his niece, Maxine Beachy Broadwater, more than 2,700 of the glass plate negatives were digitized and restored and placed on line at the Garrett County Historical Society. Now, anyone can order a copy of one of Beachy’s beautiful photographs on line.

Leo Beachy: The Cove, Garrett County, Maryland

“Of all the early Maryland photographers whose work I have seen,” photographer Marion E. Warren said, “Leo Beachy had a sensitivity for human interest that was unique” (The Eye of the Beholder: Photographs by Marion E. Warren 1940-1988).

When I purchased this 5 x 7″ print of unknown vintage, a landscape entitled “The Cove Garrett Co., Md.,” I didn’t realize it was a photograph taken by the prolific Leo J. Beachy (1874-1927). It was the distinctive handwritten caption that made the connection.

Beachy, a teacher, writer and photographer who grew up in Garrett County, made a number of photographs of the Cove area. It may have been taken from Garrett Highway (US 219), which offers numerous viewpoints of the lovely country north of Accident. The lane that can be discerned snaking its way from the lower left toward the center of the photo may be Cove Road.

Beachy took many thousands of superb photographs of the area, its people and their pursuits during his life. He sold many as postcards at the Granstsville drug store. National Geographic even published one. But but his work was not fully recognized until decades after his death. His relations destroyed the majority of his glass plate negatives when they decided to turn his studio into a chicken house.

Through a remarkably fortuitous chain of events documented in WQED’s documentary “Leo Beachy: A Legacy Nearly Lost,” his niece, Maxine Beachy Broadwater, discovered and acquired 2,700 glass plates that had been kept by Leo’s sister, Kate Beachy.

Through her efforts and those of others who recognized Beachy’s remarkable body of work, the plates were conserved, digitized and painstakingly digitally repaired after years of neglect. Life magazine published a portfolio of his photographs in 1990.

Today the collection can be viewed at the Grantsville Museum in Grantsville, Maryland.

2,887 images can also be viewed on line via the Garrett County Historical Society website, and now, one can order prints on the web.

The Maryland Historical Society acquired a collection of Beachy’s real photo postcards, as well as 200 glass plate negatives, in 2010, and is engaged in cataloging the collection.

Beachy died from complications of multiple schlerosis on May 5th, 1927. He is buried, along with his devoted sister Kate, in Otto Cemetery, near Grantsville, Maryland.