Clarksburg Historical Society, Inc.
Keeping History Alive
King Family History
By Gloria King Winter
I have lived in Clarksburg, MD my entire life and currently live on the remaining few acres of my parent’s farm. I’ve seen Clarksburg change from a tiny rural town into a still-growing, busy suburb of Washington, DC. In this family history, I describe how the King family came to live in this area and what it was like to grow up in a small community where you knew everyone, the folks worked hard, and money was hard to come by.
My family originated mostly from Great Britain where the surname of King is quite common.
The earliest known member of my line of the King family to live in Montgomery County (part of Frederick County until 1776) was Edward King (1740-1784). He was married to Rebecca Duckett (b. 1742) and had 8 children. He and his wife moved to an area between Clarksburg and Damascus which eventually became known as King’s Valley. Although there are no land records that bear his name, his children including my great, great grandfather, John Duckett King, (1778-1856) were born on a farm in King’s Valley. John Duckett King married Jemima Miles (1782-1861) and also took up farming in the area. He and his wife are buried in a family cemetery on Kingstead Farm, located in the King’s Valley region.
John Duckett King and Jemima Miles had fourteen children. Their son Charles Miles King (1814-1886) was my great-grandfather. He married Harriet Brewer (1830-1877). They had nine children, also farmed in King’s Valley, and were buried at Kingstead Farm.
The youngest son of Charles Miles King and Harriet Brewer was my grandfather, Elias Vincent King (1869-1937). He married Jemima Elizabeth Purdum (1874-1935) and bought a farm in Clarksburg just one-quarter mile south of the center of town. This farm was once part of a very large land tract called Garnkirk which was owned by the mayor of Georgetown, Robert Peter, a friend of George Washington. He was a wealthy businessman and plantation owner who raised tobacco in Clarksburg and Poolesville. A portion of the Garnkirk tract was sold to John Belt then later to the Linthicum family. In 1893, Elias and Jemima (Lizzie) King bought this land, consisting of approximately 230 acres. There was a large farmhouse, built in the early 1800s, a tobacco barn, ice house, smokehouse, wagon shed, and other outbuildings, including remnants of slave quarters, presumably built by the original owner, Robert Peter, or possibly later by John Belt.
Elias and Lizzie attended the Methodist Church in Clarksburg. Elias was one of the trustees and helped build the current church, which was completed in 1909. Previously, a two-story brick church served the community from 1853 until its destruction by fire. From 1788 to 1853, the old Ebenezer log chapel served as the first church in Clarksburg, making this location the oldest site of continuing worship in Montgomery Co. As the Civil War neared, the church became divided as did the town of Clarksburg with some townspeople favoring the north and some sympathizing with the south. After the congregation split over the issue of slavery, the northern faction retained ownership of the brick church in an angry dispute with the southern faction. The southern Methodist members organized in 1865 and six years later built The Clarksburg Methodist Episcopal Church South at the corner of Frederick Road and Spire Street. In 1940, both factions of this church reunited and renamed themselves The Clarksburg United Methodist Church. The southern church building became the social hall.
Elias and Lizzie had three children, Charles M. King (1896-1978) who was called Maury, a baby girl who died eight days after birth, and my father Ora H. King (1910-1968). Maury was an extremely, shy nervous child and although he loved to read, he did not like school and only completed the third grade. Even though his mother placed a high value on education, she allowed him to stay home. The school he attended at that time was the Clarksburg Academy, located on Stringtown Road, near its intersection with Frederick Road. Maury was drafted into the army during WWI but due to health concerns and a letter from his congressman, he was given an honorable discharge after only a short time in uniform. As an adult, his shy manner continued. He stayed on the farm and didn’t socialize with others or attend church. He enjoyed family gatherings, although he usually observed the activities quietly from the background. With only one or two family members around, Maury became comfortable and would discuss for hours his favorite topic, politics. His childhood love of reading remained with him and he read The Washington Post daily in its entirety. He loved classical music, particularly Mozart.
My father was fourteen years younger than Maury and had a completely different upbringing. He was born prematurely. The story I always heard was that he was so tiny, the midwife wrapped him up and placed him in a pie pan. There were no scales but it was estimated that he was less than two pounds. It’s quite remarkable that my father survived. Lizzie had been suffering from poor health and was unable to care for him so my father was raised by Mrs. Green who lived on the farm with her family and worked for my grandparents. Ora had some health problems himself such as badly bowed legs from rickets, causing him to be very short, only 5’ 4”. He was colorblind and was so nearsighted in one eye, he was considered blind in that eye. Despite this, he grew to be very self-reliant, teaching himself how to read at age four. He also attempted to teach himself how to play the piano by trying to follow the keys from the old player piano. His mother said all the noise made her nervous, so that was the end of his musical career. As he grew, Ora became as outgoing and venturesome as his brother was shy and retiring. I always imagined this was because of his very different upbringing.
In 1909, the same year the current Methodist church was built, the new two-room Clarksburg School was built. This was the school my father attended. Ora later went to Gaithersburg High School. After graduation, he wanted to study science and meteorology but honored his mother’s request that he go to Maryland State Normal School and get a teaching degree. After a short time there, he contracted measles and missed most of a year of school. He then transferred to UMD and received his degree in education. He taught math for two years at a school in Cabin John and came to the realization that teaching was not his calling. He took a job as a title searcher in Rockville, MD and there discovered that the land tract name of the family farm was Garnkirk, Scottish for church in the garden. By that time both Elias and Lizzie had passed away so Ora, with Maury’s help, now ran the farm. Ora was quite industrious and continued to work full-time in Rockville while working the farm. In addition, he did income tax for other folks from January to April every year until his death. I can still remember hearing his adding machine clicking away well into the night during the tax seasons.
He met and married my mother, Iris Rebecca Watkins in 1939. She was no stranger to farm life, having grown up on a farm in Browningsville. She began contributing to their earnings by growing produce and flowers to sell at the Farm Woman’s Market in Bethesda. This was something she had been doing with her mother since 1936. Ora and Iris named their farm Garnkirk Gardens after the original land tract. Iris was also an accomplished musician and stepped right in to become the choir director and pianist for the Methodist Church in Clarksburg. They had their first child, Oliver Henry King in 1941. He had some serious health scares, nearly dying during infancy, then nearly dying from complications from a burst appendix at the age of three. This happened during WWII, while medicines were in short supply. Penicillin was not available, so he was given a massive dose of sulfa drug but was not expected to live. Incredibly, he pulled through and after a long, difficult recovery, grew into a healthy child.
Because of shortages of basic necessities during WWII, Iris and Ora received ration books to buy food such as meat, flour, and sugar, or items like automobile tires and gas. They raised chickens and turkeys and sold the meat at the market. They didn’t need meat ration tickets so they would trade with customers for sugar ration tickets. People were desperate for meat and my parents needed the sugar for canning and preserving foods for the winter.
My father was unable to buy new tires during the war years so he had to drive to work on tires so thin, he had a flat nearly every day. His cousin, Johnny Glaze and his wife, Connie, also lived on the farm and my father would give Connie a ride to her work in Rockville. She later told my parents she was worried she’d be fired because she was so frequently late from all the flat tires. Of course, back then, tires had inner tubes which meant my father had to repair an inner tube with a patch practically every evening after work. There were also shortages of metal during the war years so Ora and Maury gathered a large pile of iron slave shackles, chains, and balls that were left in the farm cellar from the time of slavery. They gave these items to the metal drives, glad to be rid of things that represented an ugly time in our country’s history. One might think they would have gotten rid of them sooner, but in those days, it was not easy to dispose of items, especially heavy ones. There were no nearby dumps and no trash collection. Kitchen waste was fed to the animals, and trash was burned or tossed into trash piles. Large items like vehicles or farming equipment were hauled off into the woods or just left along the edges of the fields. Farms in those days often had old unused equipment rusting away, but the metal drives during the war prompted many farmers to get rid of such objects.
Shortly before I was born in 1951, my grandmother moved into the farmhouse into the upstairs apartment which previously housed the Glazes. It consisted of two rooms with a small kitchen area. My uncle and parents had the other two bedrooms. My brother had to sleep in a sitting alcove at the top of the stairs and I had to share my parent’s bedroom. The lower level of the farmhouse had a large kitchen with a pantry, dining room, living room, and a central hallway with a staircase. There were no closets or bathrooms. There was a large front and back porch and a side porch with a stairway to the upstairs apartment. Although there was a narrow stairway from the kitchen to the apartment, the outdoor entry was added to the house after the upper rooms were configured to create an apartment.
Both of my parents worked extremely hard in the hopes that one day they would be able to build a modern house. The old farmhouse had no plumbing or heat. The only water available was from a cold water line to the kitchen or from a hand pump outside. The kitchen and living rooms were heated by space heaters and the bedrooms upstairs were icy cold in the winter. Over the exterior wood clapboard siding, asphalt shingles were added. They provided a little insulation to a very cold house and created a covering that didn’t need to be painted. Although the farmhouse didn’t compare to the tidy, warm, and efficient homes many folks in the community were building, it had a lot of nice features such as a wide staircase, broad porches, and large high-ceilinged rooms. Each room had a fancy fireplace with an elaborately carved mantel. The fireplaces, however, were sealed off as they created more heat loss than they could provide.
The house was so cold in the winter, we spent our time at home in the kitchen during the day and then in the living room around the TV during the evenings. Maury bought one of the first TVs in the area. It was actually the sixth one sold in Montgomery County. It cost around six hundred dollars which was a lot of money for the time. He used all the money he earned that year, working to bring in and sell a tobacco crop with his cousin, Johnny Glaze. My mother thought it was a great waste of money, but later on, had to admit how much she enjoyed certain shows, especially if they featured music. There were not many programs in the early days of TV, so a postcard would be sent to let owners know when a show was being aired. Boxing matches were one of the most popular shows in the forties and on those nights, the house would be filled with friends and neighbors.
I particularly remember the children’s shows of the ’50s and early '60s such as Mickey Mouse Club, Howdy Doody, Beanie and Cecil, and my favorite, Captain Kangaroo. There were also some locally produced shows such as Pick Temple, a cowboy-themed show where area children could go to the station and actually appear on television. They sat in rows of seats called the peanut gallery and some were chosen to participate in on-air activities with Pick Temple. A few of my lucky classmates actually did that, which made the rest of us very envious.
As I played and explored around the farm, I distinctly remember the remnants of one very old log cabin, located a short distance from a creek that went through the farm. It had partial log walls still standing. The broad floor timbers were still in place, but the floorboards and roof had rotted away. A pile of stones only indicated where a fireplace and chimney once stood. This old structure fascinated me and I often went there to look around and search for old coins. My uncle once found in the rubble an old penny with the date worn off. It was made of copper but was much larger than today’s penny. Large cents like that were made in the late 1700s to the mid-1800s. I would also spend many hours in the creek searching for minnows in the clear water and crayfish under the rocks.
Arrowheads and other Native American scraping tools were frequently found on the farm after the fields were plowed. They were made of white quartz and were easy to spot against the dark soil, especially after a rain. They were given to me as a curiosity; however, I was too young to understand their significance and carelessly lost them. I found out years later that The Great Seneca Trail, a well-used Native American footpath went through our farm and was most likely the reason those artifacts were found on our farm. This trail was the predecessor of The Great Road, the main road leading north from Georgetown through Clarksburg during colonial times.
On the farm, I grew up isolated from other children, so I would follow my Uncle Maury about and pester him with questions. He would tell me about the early days of Clarksburg and about the flora and fauna of the area. He would identify the cultivated plants and weeds on the farm and tell me about native wildlife and the care of the farm animals. My family mostly raised crops, flowering plants, and produce. We had only a small flock of chickens and a few cows and hogs to provide meat, milk, and eggs for our household. Another crop my parents once raised was tobacco despite their dislike of smoking. It was profitable, but was a difficult crop to grow and required a lot of work. It also stripped the land of nutrients, therefore my parents discontinued raising it well before I was born. Johnny Glaze, however, raised tobacco into the 1970s and used our barn to hang and cure his tobacco. He and his brother were the last tobacco farmers in Montgomery County. As a child, I thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant smell of tobacco drying in the barn, yet found the odor of smoked tobacco products offensive.
In the mid-1950s, mky parents finally started building their dream house, one with plumbing, baseboard heat, a modern kitchen, closets, bathrooms, and a bedroom for each of us. I would no longer share my parent’s bedroom and my brother would no longer sleep in an alcove. Doing much of the work themselves and acting as their own general contractor, the house took about five years to build. Shortly before its completion, my parents sold the farm to The Capitol Land Development Company. They kept back ten acres so my mother could continue to raise crops for the Farm Woman’s Market. They dug up new gardens and managed to make the hard, rocky ground productive. I don’t know how she did it, but my mother was able to raise abundant produce, and plants to sell plus put up enough vegetables and fruit to last through the winter.
My parents were extremely active in the church and the community. Ora served as the church lay leader, Sunday school superintendent, and teacher. He also organized and led the youth fellowship, served on nearly every committee, and was either part of or in charge of nearly all church activities. He was PTA president at Clarksburg Elementary School for a term and volunteered at many school and community organizations. He was a member of the Lions Club and the Optimists Club. My mother was the church pianist, organist, director of both adult and youth choirs, taught Sunday school, and organized the musical programs for the children. She also provided a floral arrangement from her gardens for the sanctuary every Sunday, often searching the woods in the dead of winter for greenery and berries. She also helped my father with much of his school and community volunteer work. Every year, my parents organized the school’s Spring Fair plant sale, donating most of the plants and flowers from their own greenhouses and gardens.
Being in a modern house and reducing the size of the farm made life easier in some ways for my parents. My father became the postmaster of Clarksburg after the new post office was built in 1963. He found out though it was not an easy job. He was expected to open the post office daily at 7:00 am and then close it at 6:00 pm on the weekdays then at noon on Saturdays. He was also expected to do all indoor and outdoor maintenance and cleaning, especially in preparation for inspections. He managed one mail carrier, a substitute carrier, plus two part-time clerks whose time was closely monitored and could not work any extra hours. He was expected to fill in wherever necessary. It was actually a far more stressful job than working full-time and running a large farm. Ora passed away in 1968. He had a stroke while sitting at his desk, alone in the post office. He was found, unable to move and barely speaking, yet would not allow the ambulance to take him to the hospital until one of the clerks could get in to take over.
Widowhood was especially difficult for Iris as she did not drive a car. She gave up going to the market, but she continued to raise produce. Her cousin, Esther Haney, also sold at the market and took my mother’s produce to Bethesda. That way she was able to continue earning a little money. I started college the next year, and even though I commuted to school, I was away from home more and could not help much with market preparations. I attended Montgomery College, then later received a degree in graphic design from American University. At that time, my brother was a pharmacist in Gaithersburg having received his degree from George Washington University. He was married to Donna Crown and had two children, Karen King Earp and Michael King. He later married Linda Smith and had two more children, Quinton King and Jeanette King. Oliver passed away in 2018 and is survived by Linda, his four children, a stepson, and six grandchildren.
My mother married Emory Edwards in 1977 and my husband, Philip Winter, and I bought her house. My mother still owned the land around the house. When she passed away in 1984, my brother and I inherited the land. He was uninterested in it so we bought his share of the remaining acres.
We raised our two children, Laura Winter Roy and Thomas Winter on that land. We now have three grandchildren and Philip and I still live on a little piece of Garnkirk.