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Celebration in Townsend draws record crowd

By Henry Timman • Jun 8, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Last week I discussed George Washington and his home at Mount Vernon with the promise of more local connections this week. The year of 1932 was the bicentennial of our first president’s birth and celebrations went on all that year around the United States.

On July 4, there was a special celebration at Townsend Center in Townsend Township, with a record crowd of 800 during the day. It was believed to be the largest crowd ever. Usually at Townsend’s July 4th ceremonies, A.B. Kittinger read the Declaration of Independence, but at this special gathering there was a “scholarly and inspiring” address by Norwalk attorney G. Ray Craig. The morning was filled by a baseball game between the Townsend and Hartland local teams, with Townsend winning 12 to 10.

In the afternoon there was dancing, along with games, races and other events. This day was a prelude to the following Sunday when a Washington pageant was scheduled to be given on the public square. The cast included 150 characters in period costume, with a replica of the Washington Monument in the background.

Speaking of the Washington Monument on the National Mall, it was built over a long period of time. In 1853, a block of Egyptain granite was placed in a wall. That block of granite was obtained in Alexandria, Egypt, by Dr. George G. Baker of Norwalk. Baker was not only a successful physician, but he managed to be appointed U.S. consul in Malaga, Spain, and later in Genoa, Italy...and perhaps in Athens, Greece, too. It was after his sojourn in Genoa that he traveled to Alexandria and obtained the block of granite for the Washington Monument. He reported that the stone came from the ruins of the Library at Alexandria, and may have been used in building the original city of Memphis more than 3,000 years ago. I’m not saying that’s a fact, but that’s what was stated at the time!

Ann Pamela Cunningham formed the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union in 1853, with the aim of raising sufficient funds to purchase Mount Vernon from the Washington heirs. The heirs had failed at trying to sell the property to the federal government or to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Two hundred thousand dollars was raised by 1858, and the historic home and acreage was purchased. The Association still owns and operates the property and has always done so without assistance from any governmental body.

Early in 1859 after the initial purchase, contact was made in about every town in the U.S., hoping to have local committees formed to raise funds to pay off the mortgage and begin restoration of the old mansion, the oldest part of which may have been built in the 1730s or earlier. Norwalk’s chair lady for the Association was Mrs. Mary F. C. Worcester, who lived at 124 W. Main St. Her husband, Samuel, was a local attorney and political activist.

A dozen Norwalk ladies (including Mrs. Dr. Baker, nee Mary Anna Crane) became the local committee for the Mount Vernon Ladies, and kept busy selling $1 memberships to benefit Mount Vernon. Their efforts and the efforts of countless others have helped Mount Vernon to look as fine as it does today.

If you’re ever able to visit Mount Vernon, you’ll not regret it, believe me.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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