John Black Graham (1822-1912) is my 3rd great uncle. His younger brother, Francis Dailor Lafayette Graham (1830-1912), is my great-great grandfather. John is well known to this day as one of the most famous duck decoy makers of the upper Chesapeake Bay. Recently Gerard William “Rod” Wittstadt, Jr., Esquire, published his online book “Cecil County Decoys”. Rod worked many years researching his subject and has done a remarkable job. I am very thankful that Rod has given me permission to publish here word for word Chapter 9 of that book. While this chapter focuses on John B. Graham in particular, it also provides an excellent history of my ancestors on my mother’s side, the Grahams of Cecil County, Maryland.
Any notations in the text in brackets [like this] are my words, and are not part of the original chapter. This material is copyrighted 2017 by Mr. Wittstadt.
To see the whole book, or to contact Mr. Wittstadt directly, please visit his website at: www.cecilcountydecoys.com.
Charlestown, Maryland 1862. John Black Graham would have been forty (40) years of age, having been born in Charlestown on September 5, 1822, the son of Zachariah Butcher Graham and Rebecca Lewis [My 3rd great-grandparents/Warren]. It is fair to say that by his fortieth birthday, John B. Graham had achieved success in Charlestown; at that time having succeeded his father in business after his death in 1854. Like his father before him, and his father’s father, John B. Graham was a carpenter, cabinet maker, and undertaker. John B. Graham was also a duck decoy maker. By the time of the Civil War, the making of decoys in Charlestown to support the market hunting on the North East River and Susquehanna Flats was in full production, and John B. Graham was the prominent maker, although he was not the first decoy maker in Charlestown, that distinction is held by Thomas E. Burnsides, who was making “stools” as early as 1836 in Charlestown.
John B. Graham’s grandfather was William Graham [My 4th great-grandfather/Warren], who was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1754. He moved to Charlestown in 1777, and appears in the Census of 1790 living in Charlestown with his family. William Graham’s first wife was Sarah Oldham, who died sometime after 1789 but before 1793. William and Sarah Graham had four (4) children: Casandra Graham (Jenkins) (b. 9/13/1777 d. 9/23/1832); Samuel Graham (b. 5/12/1779); Zachariah Butcher Graham (b. 7/1/1781 d. 1854); and Sarah Graham (Severson) (b. 12/15/1789 d. 1/3/1832).
William Graham’s second wife was Lydia Brown, whose parents were Rebecca (b.1745 d. 9/25/1809) and Jesse Brown (b.1744 d. 9/18/1823). Together, William and Lydia Graham had seven (7) children: Margaret Graham (b.8/30/1794); Hannah Graham (b.11/17/1776); William E.G. Graham (b. 1/26/1799 d. 4/30/1847); Rachel Graham (b. 6/26/1801 d. 5/27/1827); Mary Ann Graham (Richardson) (b.3/23/1804 d. 11/24/1887); Ellis C. Graham (b. 5/16/1807); and Rebecca Graham (Diffenderfer) (b. 12/30/1809 d. 9/8/1832).
John B. Graham’s father, Zachariah B. Graham married Rebecca Lewis on April 29, 1806. Her parents were Thomas Lewis and Catherine Cunningham, who sister Mary Ann Cunningham married Zachariah’s half-brother, William E. G. Graham. Zachariah and Rebecca Lewis had eleven (11) children: Barratt Graham; George Washington Graham; A. Lewis Graham (b. 6/18/1807 d. 10/19/1832); William Graham; Sarah Graham (b. 1822); Mary Ann Graham (b. 1819); Alfred Zachariah Graham (b. 1829 d. 4/20/1893); Evaline Graham (b. 2/19/1820); John Black Graham (b. 9/5/1822 d. 12/7/1912); Francis Dailor Lafayette Graham (b. 1929 d. 3/21/1912); and Charles Carroll Graham (b. 6/30/1826 d. 1/10/1907).
On June 25, 1845, John B. Graham married Elizabeth Cooper. Their only child was John Cooper Graham (b. 4/3/1845 d. 4/2/1931). Elizabeth Cooper died on November 4, 1846, and thereafter John B. Graham remarried on March 4, 1850. His second wife was Caroline M. Richardson (b. 8/29/1829 d. 10/3/1920). That union resulted in the birth of three (3) children: Rebecca Graham (b. 5/6/1851 d. 9/20/1852); Elizabeth Helen Graham (Mattingley) (b. 11/19/1853 d. 11/9/1941); and William Henry Graham (b. 1/15/1856 d. 8/11/1903).
The earliest document of record referring to John B. Graham is the 1850 Census, in which his occupation is listed as a carpenter. It is interesting to note that by 1850, John B. Graham’s first wife had died, although his son. John Cooper Graham, who in 1850 was five (5) years of age was living with Mary Graham, the widow of John B. Graham’s brother William E.G. Graham.
At about 1853, just before the death of his father, John B. Graham began his undertakers’ business in Charlestown. The Methodists, until the dedication of the present church in town, had used a frame building at the corner of Caroline and Bladen Streets for their meeting. That building was sold to John B. Graham were he continued his undertakers’ business until about 1895. That building burned in 1932.
In the 1870 Census, John B. Graham is listed as a “cabinet maker.” His wife, Caroline and each of his three (3) children are with him at home, as is his brother, Alfred Zachariah Graham. Interestingly, a fourteen (14) year old Negro girl, Cornelia Johnson, who is listed as a “house keeper” is also living in the household. John C. Graham, who in 1870 was twenty-five (25) years old is listed as a carpenter, and is still living at home.
In the 1878 publication of The Maryland Directory, published by J. Frank Lewis & Co. of Baltimore, John B. Graham and his brother Francis D. L. Graham [My 2nd great-grandfather/Warren] are both listed as carpenters in Charlestown, and John B. Graham is also listed as an undertaker. The publication, in addition to listing the various patrons from Charlestown and their occupation, describes Charlestown as: “Is near a station on the P. W. & B. R. R. Of that name, 40 miles from Baltimore. It is beautifully [sic] located on the west bank of the North East River, and commands a picturesque view of the Chesapeake Bay for over 20 miles. It is regularly laid out into streets and squares, and is one of the most pleasant locations in the State for a town. You can in almost any part take in at a glance the North East, Elk , Sassafras and Susquehanna Rivers, with their hundreds of sails. It is healthy at all seasons; the farms are highly productive and worked by intelligent and enterprising men; fishing is carried on to a considerable extent from the waters in the vicinity which abound in fish of several varieties. The land is clay and sandy loam, principally cleared; can be bought at from $25 to $40 per acre, and yields 20 bus wheat, 50 oats, 100 potatoes, 40-50 corn, and 1 1/2 tons hey. M. E. Church, Rev. Samuel Logan. Public School, Geo. S. Mattingley and Miss Jennie Killough, teachers. Population 250. Wm. T. Richardson, Postmaster.”
Two (2) years later in the 1880 Census, John B. Graham is still making cabinets in Charlestown. The Graham’s house keeper, Cornelia Johnson, has had a child, Charles, who is two (2) years old; and George S. Mattingley, a twenty-seven (27) year-old school teacher is living with the rest of the family. Alfred Zachariah Graham, too, is living in his brother’s home.
On October 20, 1881, Helen Graham and George S. Mattingley (b. 12/12/1850 d. 1/28/1925) were married at the home of John B. Graham in Charlestown. The Elkton, Maryland based newspaper, the Cecil Whig announced the wedding:
On Thursday, the 20th inst., a bright and cheerful day, a pleasant party invited for the occasion were assembled to witness the marriage ceremony of Mr. George S. Mattingley, the gentlemanly Principal of the public school at Warwick, and Miss Helen Graham, the accomplished daughter of Mr. John B. Graham of Charlestown, in this county. The guests, friends and relatives of the family were from Wilmington, Del., Rising Sun and other places, and to the number of twenty couples were assembled in the parlor. At one o’clock the hour appointed for the ceremony, the bridal party, preceded by Miss Kate B. Richardson and W. H. Graham, the cousin and brother of the bride entered the room. The bride looking very sweet and handsome was tastefully dressed in silk, decorated with a few choice and beautiful natural flowers. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Mr. Hammersley, pastor of Charlestown Circuit assisted by Rev. J. D. Kemp, of Rising Sun. After the accustomed congratulations were over, all were seated at the splendid banquet, to which they did ample honor, and at its close the bride and groom took their departure for Baltimore, on their wedding tour, and the guests to their several homes. No more happy and joyous occasion has been witnessed in Charlestown for years.” Continue reading