The Birely family
There were two significant Birely families in Thurmont at the end of the 1800s – brothers, originally from the Woodsboro area. Samuel Birely was the oldest of five siblings and born in 1859. During Sam’s first and only year of college, his father died, and he subsequently left college to return home and take over the family land and business matters. Eventually, he started a produce and grain warehouse in Graceham in 1880 then began also manufacturing and selling fertilizer, which proved very successful. Sam married the widowed Belva Colliflower in November 1881. In February 1884, Birely sold his Graceham business and started anew in Thurmont. In 1886 Birely established himself as a real estate broker and insurance agent, then in 1889 he entered into a banking partnership with Van Osler, another successful, local merchant. The small, local bank thrived and two years later they built the large building at southwest corner square to house their operation – the bank occupied the street level and Birely and his family lived upstairs.
After Osler’s death in 1901, Birely invited several local men to become officers in the bank, including George Stocksdale, Vincent Sebold, Col John R Rouzer, and Birely’s younger brother, Morris. The bank officers subsequently won approval from the Federal Government to charter the first national bank in the County outside Frederick City, which they called The Thurmont National Bank; Samuel Birely became president. The new bank assumed the former Birely & Osler organization as well as its existing building. Samuel Birely also served as an officer at the town’s water company and for a time was a partner with J Wesley Creager in a fertilizer business. Unfortunately, Samuel Birely died on September 9, 1904 at just 45 years of age.
Samuel Birely’s youngest sibling, Morris, was the last of five children. He was born September 1, 1872. After public school in Thurmont, Morris graduated from Cumberland Valley State Normal School in Shippensburg, PA in 1890 then next graduated from the medical school at the University of Maryland in 1894. Immediately after finishing school, Morris returned to Thurmont to serve his neighbors, and his medical practice thrived. He married Bertha Bushey on June 7, 1900 and the union produced one son, Franklin.
Morris earned esteem in the community and the County; he was a director at Thurmont Bank and the Thurmont Land Improvement Company; he was among the organizers of the electric power company; he served as president of the water company, served on the board of Potomac Edison Company, and engaged in even more business and fraternal associations, including president of the Frederick County Medical Society. He also served as physician for the Western Maryland Railroad and Sisters of Charity (now Daughters of Charity) in Emmitsburg. Morris died October 5, 1947 having served his neighbors and community for over 50 years.
Incidentally, Franklin Birely also became a doctor and returned to Thurmont from New Jersey in May 1941 to practice medicine with his father. The Birely’s lived next to St. John’s Lutheran Church at 19 North Church Street. After Franklin died in 1961, the home sold to the Guardian Hose Company, which torn down the structure to expand the footprint for its building and parking area. Franklin is buried with his parents in Blue Ridge cemetery.
Photographs of the Birely brothers courtesy of TJC Williams’ History of Frederick County Maryland.