I am delighted to welcome back my friend and guest blogger Kathleen Mae Schneider who is here with the latest chapter of
In-Dell-ible Memories, a chronicle of her mother Margaret's childhood at the Shady Dell in the early years of the 20th century.
The man who built the original Shady Dell is sometimes difficult to find. I should know because I've been searching for him these last three years. He was long gone by the time I was born, so all
I have to help me are my mother Margaret's and
my cousins' stories, archived documents and old tattered letters and photographs. Even if he
wasn't my grandfather, these remnants of his
life would still make me wonder what this man
was like and why he fell from such amazing wealth into abject poverty. The best way to know him is through these relics from Mother’s belongings.
Tantalizing clues paint at least a partial portrait of George Brown. From what I can tell
he was a handsome but rough-hewn man with large appetites, culinary and otherwise. He dreamed big and apparently felt there was nothing he couldn't do if he put his mind to it.
Possessing legendary stubbornness, George was nonetheless quite capable of deep tenderness and loyalty to his friends and family. He was a pro-
tective and caring father to his 10 surviving children. One of Mother’s stories proves this.
Once I asked her why we never ate seafood at our house. Her face filled with consternation as she described her father bringing fresh fish from the Baltimore, Maryland harbor and her family eating
it frequently at the Dell house. As a young child, she once complained of getting a fish’s bone in
her mouth during a meal. George took her plate
and put the pieces of fish into his mouth to
remove the sharp bones, then took them out and
put them back on her plate, sans bones, for her
to eat. Now this might have been a loving act,
but Mother could never eat fish for the rest of
her life, mainly because she remembered the taste
of the tobacco that her father regularly chewed
added to that of the fish!
old carriage by her
father and him pla-
cing his hat on her
to take her picture.
Of course it’s all
speculation on my
part, but it seems
like something my
have done. The
building next to
the carriage in
which little Mary Grace posed was the
shipping house for George’s animal business.
George loved his children and bought them many toys, at least in the early days at the Shady Dell house. I grew up with this wooden child's desk that originally belonged to the Brown children and was kept in their Dell house attic playroom.
Having seen much use from Mother's 3 children,
7 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren, it is now retired and in my proud possession! It holds many happy memories of my childhood spent preten-
ding that I was writing a book and illustrating it with my crayons while sitting at that little desk.
Like his father before him, George was a butcher and a prodigious hunter. He lived intimately with death and took pride in his skills as both a pro-
creator and a terminator of life.
trip with his sons and friends, posing in front of the Dell garage. Note the automobiles and an enclosed truck - the latest models at the time.
In spite of being vegetarian, I treasure another old artifact that belonged to my grandfather.
It's George's heavy steel butchering saw that he used for cutting sinew and bone, one of the
tools of his trade that helped to
build his fortune.
I imagine him wielding it with great confidence
The saw isn’t rusted after 100 years because its surface was protected by all the fat from the meat that it processed.
George was equally at ease whether he helped one of his purebred dogs deliver a litter of puppies or when he assisted his wife in labor with most of his twelve children. When my grandmother was asked why she had so many children to George she replied,
“I never refused him.” What a glimpse back to the early 20th century!
wives’ birth dates and those of his progeny. His first wife Annie died
young and five of his children did not survive infancy and childhood.
My grandfather loved beautiful things and was passionate about acquiring them, whether it was a beautiful woman who came into his butcher shop to buy dinner or a sweetly-scented rose garden he later planted for her when they married.
an expensive and comfortable new house boasting fashionable details, a large barn and additional outbuildings, he made it happen in a short time. He, along with his wife, older sons and daughters and their mates, established a profitable kennel,
a thriving automobile dealership and a homemade ailment-remedy business. For a while, it looked like he succeeded.
after the Browns left. Note the frame to the far left above the smaller
dark building. This is where game animals would be hung for butchering.
Known for his medicines to heal everything
from pneumonia to removing lice from poultry, George mixed and bottled the strange preparations in the Dell house’s kitchen and basement.
Mother remembers the odd smells, as well as her father's bitter-tasting cough syrup that probably saved her life from influenza when she was 6.
suggestions for use to the left. I wonder how many doctors today
would recommend medicine with turpentine as an ingredient!
Butchering was George's default profession,
but of course his favorite career was that of breeder and trainer of hunting dogs. He expanded that business by raising and selling other kinds
of dogs for use as pets and for other kinds of
work in addition to raising and selling other
types of animals.
showing the kinds of dogs offered for sale
St. Mary’s City, Md., Oct. 26, 1913
Gentlemen— The beagle which I bought from you
arrived in good condition and I am very much
pleased with it, and think it will make a
very fine hunter. I am very anxious to have
a coon hound, and what have you in that line.
Please let me know by return mail if possible,
as this is the coon hunting season.
From all of the above and much more that
I've discovered in my search for him, I’ve found that George was a complex and fascinating man who wore many hats and dealt with multiple triumphs
and tragedies in his 53 years. I wonder if, as
a doting father, he reached out with his scarred
and calloused hands for one-year-old Margaret's tiny ones as she took her first wobbly steps
toward him. Certainly I'll never know that
and so many other details of his life.
However, when I recently handed Mother her father's old butchering saw and she laid it gently across her lap, I was moved by the sight of her very old but beautiful hand resting on the saw’s wooden handle, summoning tender thoughts of my grandfather and of Mother’s life with him more
than a century ago at the Shady Dell.
You've met George Brown, the devoted father
and respected businessman, but was the man mother remembers the real George Brown? As it turns out George had a darker side and it contributed to
his financial ruin and the family's loss of their beloved Dell home.
Chapter 7: The Demise of the Dell, Pt. 2 Fighting City Hall
Chapter 7: The Demise of the Dell, Pt. 1 Harvest of Tears
Chapter 6: The Dream Becomes a Nightmare
Winter Count: Margaret's 2013 Birthday
Happy Birthday, Margaret! Oldest Living Dell Rat Turns 101
Chapter 5: Home Sweet Dell
Chapter 4: Allie's Rats, Pt 2: Margaret's Pig Tale
Chapter 4: Allie's Rats, Pt 1: Hill and Dell
Chapter 3: The House on the Hill
Chapter 2: Margaret is Born...and So Is the Dell
Chapter 1: The Beauty and the Butcher
Introduction: My Shady Dell "Roots"