Tracking Down Our First President

On September 18, University Archives staff members Anne Turkos, Jason Speck, and Amanda Hawk had the chance to spend the day walking in the footsteps of the first president of the Maryland Agricultural College, Benjamin Hallowell.

Hallowell portrait

The trio first visited the Sandy Spring Museum, close to Hallowell’s home, to examine documentation relating to Hallowell and his family that appears in the museum’s collections.  Museum archivist Marge Huang assembled a wide range of materials, including obituaries, records from the school the family ran in their home, Rockland, educational materials Hallowell created, correspondence, and various genealogical charts.  In one of the obituaries, Turkos, Speck, and Hawk discovered what might have been the primary cause for Benjamin Hallowell’s ill health that led him to resign from the presidency of the Maryland Agricultural College after only one month–he had been poisoned!!  One of the obituaries for Hallowell, who died in 1877 at the age of 78, states that “Some twenty years ago a druggist in Alexandria made a mistake in compounding a physician’s prescription and Prof. Hallowell swallowed a poisonous mixture that came near terminating his life. He never fully recovered from the effects of the poison…”  This information was a great surprise and a very exciting find! They also learned a great deal more about Hallowell’s career as an educator and his role in the founding of Swarthmore College.

Sandy Spring Museum
Sandy Spring Museum

Ms. Huang also assisted her fellow archivists in finding President Hallowell’s grave, in the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting House Cemetery, close to the sixth largest tulip poplar tree in the state of Maryland.

Turkos, Speck, and Hawk ended the day with a visit to Hallowell’s home, Rockland, now a private residence owned by two Terps!

Rockland

It was terrific to learn a bit more about a very important figure in the history of the University of Maryland, and who knows, a road trip to Swarthmore, where many more of Hallowell’s papers are held may be in the University Archives’ future!

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