Friday, July 17, 2009

Who came through.....

Former General Robert E. Lee as he appeared as President of Washington College in 1869

On two occasions, following the Civil War the Ellicott City Station played host to former General Robert E. Lee. During his post-war tenure as President of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, Lee saw a critical need for a railroad connection to Lexington. When a visitor to Lexington once asked Lee about the best route to travel out of the town Lee replied: “It makes but little difference, for whichever route you select, you will wish you had taken the other.”
He and a delegation from Virginia came to Baltimore on April 20, 1869 to visit with John Work Garrett, president of the B&O and the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore to seek support for a rail connection. Three years prior, the B&O had summoned Col. James Randolph to survey possible routes down the Shenandoah Valley.
Following several meetings and affairs in Baltimore Lee took an afternoon train on April 28, 1869 from Camden Station to Ellicott City Station to visit relatives. From the station he took a carriage out the Frederick turnpike west of town to see Mrs. Samuel George or “Ella” as he called her. Ella was the daughter of Lee’s first cousin Charles Henry Carter. The next morning he was ushered back into Ellicott City, up Maryland Avenue on the heights above the railroad to the estate known as “Linwood” the home of Major Washington Peter. Major Peter was the first cousin of General Lee’s wife Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee.
"Linwood" the estate of Major Washington Peter as it appears today. The former mansion is now the Linwood Children's Center
Linwood, which still stands, was an imposing stone mansion originally built approximately 1835 and enlarged several times. Lee spent the morning with Major Peter before going down the hill to Ellicott City Station for the mid-day Baltimore-bound train.
Lee would return to “Linwood” about three and a half months prior to his death. On June 30, 1870 Lee arrived in Baltimore alone to consult a leading physician Dr. Thomas Hepburn Buckler concerning his failing health. Following various medical examinations he left from Camden Station on July 4, 1870 for Ellicott City Station to stay with his wife’s cousin Washington Peter. This time he lingered quietly in the countryside at the beautiful estate and on the morning of July 14th he took the early train from Ellicott City to Baltimore and then South to Lexington as General Robert E. Lee would cross the Potomac River for the last time. Lee passed away on October 12, 1870.
Courtney B. Wilson
Executive Director