Historical Figure: Judge William J. Stoner

William Stoner was a son of John and Martha Stansbury Stoner. He was born on a farm near Thurmont and attended school in town. He completed a business course in Baltimore after high school but returned to work on his father’s farm, and on his twenty-second birthday married Gertrude Rouzer, who remained his companion until his death. After his marriage, Stoner was employed by his father-in-law, Daniel R. Rouzer, in the latter’s successful dry-goods store in town.

In his youth, Stoner was known to love fast horses and often challenged friends and rivals to races over country roads. He also was one of the pillars of the Frederick County Baseball League and managed several of Thurmont’s championship teams. He maintained a strong interest in baseball and regularly listened to radio broadcasts of major league games.

Judge Stoner served as Thurmont’s local Trial Magistrate for 18 years. In addition to his court duties, he also handled the sale of hunting, fishing, and dog licenses. Despite his role as adjudicator, even those against whom he ruled viewed Stoner as fair and reasonable. He held court in the basement of his house on East Main Street.

He was a life-long Democrat and for many years the head of that party in the Thurmont District. In 1919 he was elected treasurer of the Thurmont Board of Commissioners and served in that capacity until 1924 when he became president, which made him mayor. He remained mayor until 1928 then declined to serve further. In 1935, he was appointed to fill an unexpired term as mayor, which he held until 1945 when he was defeated in a close election. It was Stoner’s only lost election in 21 tries. He started losing his sight in 1931 and became completely blind in January 1936. Despite the incapacity, he managed to get around town during his latter terms as mayor and carried on his duties as magistrate with efficiency.

Stoner died at his home in November 1950 after suffering a heart attack a few days prior. The Stoner house once was among the stateliest in town, but Gertrude sold it in 1961 and it was demolished. Hobbs Hardware and Lumber occupies the same location today. Interestingly, before Gertrude’s parents bought the house in 1891 it belonged to a successful tanner named William Jones. As a demonstration of his stature, Jones installed unique panoramic wallpaper from France, which was called “Scenic America.” Before she sold the house, Mrs. Stoner sold off furniture and antiques, and one of the gentlemen who came to the sale recognized the significance of the wallpaper. Peter Hill paid $50 for the paper then spent three days removing it. Through a mutual friend at the Smithsonian Institute, Hill showed the find to Jacqueline Kennedy, who was overseeing the remodeling of the White House at the same time. Mrs. Kennedy and Hill arranged for a sale of the wallpaper to the National Society of Interior Decorators, which hung the paper in the Diplomatic Reception Room.

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