Anna Ella Carroll day 2015 celebrated three county women

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Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
A gravesite remembrance celebrated the 200th birthday of Dorchester County heroine Anna Ella Carroll. Re-enactors Deby Fitzpatrick (2nd from right, front) and her husband Banning (4th from right rear) came from Fulton, Mo. and Joanne Shelby-Klein (1st from right, seated) came with her husband Michael (3rd from right rear) from Pittsburgh, Pa. Guests included Carroll biographer C. Kay Larson (5th from left front) and Tucson, Ariz. filmmaker Bruce Bridegroom (4th from left) from who wrote and produced the movie “Lost River” about Anna Ella Carroll’s life.

CHURCH CREEK — Anna Ella Carroll Day celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Dorchester County Civil War heroine’s birthday on Aug. 29. It was a clear summer day with a slight breeze that made Ms. Carroll’s gravesite at Old Trinity Episcopal Church a comfortable, comforting place to be for the guests who came to honor her.

The driving force of the Friends of Anna Ella Carroll, Frank Bittner, opened the graveside tribute with a brief history of the organization’s goal to recognize the important contributions Ms. Carroll made to her country.

He said, “As the story goes, shortly after her death in 1894 Union vets gathered at her gravesite, usually on her birthday. As their numbers dwindled they were replaced by veterans of other wars, the American Legion, and the DAR. Led by her niece Nelly Carroll, Anna Ella Carroll day continued well into the 1950s. After Nelly’s death it continued through the ‘60s and died out in the ‘70s.”

When Mr. Bittner moved to Dorchester County in 1996 he learned about “’a lady buried up the road who was very helpful to Abraham Lincoln.’ Some said she was even a silent member of his cabinet.” That started the ball rolling. Because many county residents were “irked that one of their own could have done so much and gotten so little recognition,” Mr. Bittner searched the internet for several years until he learned that someone had produced a movie about Ms. Carroll. Bruce Bridegroom, a Tucson, Ariz. historian and attorney, was the writer/producer.

Mr. Bittner explained that Mr. Bridegroom “came to our county, met the Friends group, and gave us the gift of having the world premiere of his movie here” in August, 2010. At first the film was going to be shown in a small venue, perhaps a high school. But one Friends’ member, Earl Brannock, said “no, we’re going first class.” So they went to the Hyatt. “Most people said ‘you’ll never get more than a couple hundred people.’ We rented the first floor ballroom with all partitions removed and we filled 1,197 seats. We are here again today to honor Anna Ella Carroll,” he said, and introduced original group members Mabel Potter Stevens and Claude Gootee.”

Old Trinity’s pastor, Dan Dunlap, said “One of the first things that my congregation pointed out to us when we first came was . . . this grave. It’s important to keep this memory going and teach the next generation of the sacrifices that were made not only on the battlefield but the great personal sacrifice here by a great patriot, a citizen who loved her county and the causes for which it stands.”

Mr. Bridgroom noted that Ms. Carroll was part of the Victorian era. “She was raised to be a politician and lawyer although women were not raised to be politicians and lawyers in her age. It was amazing how much she accomplished,” including keeping Maryland in the Union. “She has done so much and received so little recognition. I made the movie to highlight her accomplishments.”

Definitive Carroll biographer C. Kay Larson wrote a 700 page biography plus a shorter version that, said Mr. Bittner, “basically tells us what’s wrong with the other biographies and she has verified everything in it” using documentation from original sources.

Re-enactors Deby and Banning Fitzpatrick selected Dorchester County on the 200th anniversary of Anna Ella Carroll’s birthday to enjoy a second honeymoon. Speaking as Anna Carroll, Ms. Fitzpatrick presented a passionate overview of the legendary Civil War heroine’s life. It was a spellbinder from a guest who traveled to Maryland from Fulton, Mo.

Explaining why she was drawn to represent Ms. Carroll, re-enactor Joanne Shelby Klein noted the similarities between her and the Victorian era heroine. She said she has often portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln but is thrilled with her new role. Visiting from Pittsburgh, Pa, Ms. Klein said, “We were both born with hearing problems; both love to work and write; we both supported our families for a while when I got out of college; and we both seem to have a love of the country as a whole with the same patriotic feeling.”

To complete the day Mr. Bridegrooms’ movie “Lost River” was shown at the Dorchester County Historical Society preceded by an ice cream social. Part of the evening was devoted to the two other women who shared the day with Ms. Carroll: Harriet Tubman and Annie Oakley. Author Larson presented brief biographies of both. And suddenly, there was Annie Oakley – rifle and all. Walking through the group gathered on the porch, shaking hands with both Anna Carrolls, re-enactor Mary Handley offered glimpses into the personal and professional life of her character, including the history of her East New Market-born dog, Dave.
It was a memorable day.

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Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
Re-enactors Deby Fitzpatrick as Anna Ella Carroll and her husband Banning came to celebrate Anna Ella Carroll Day 2015 at Ms. Carroll’s gravesite in the cemetery of Old Trinity Episcopal Church. They visited the area from their home in Fulton, Mo.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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