As I carefully open the envelope, the
unmistakable smell of summer strawberries knocked me to
the floor. When I awoke, I found the content of the
packages spread all around me. Dizzy, I picked up the
closest story and began to read ...
Back in the days before
refrigerators, ice was a precious commodity. Because of
its value, ice was harvested all winter long from Tom's
Creek and its tributaries. Once the ice had achieved
sufficient thickness (usually 6 inches), it was cut into
sheets and carted off to ice barns. Ice barns, or ice
cellars to be more accurate, were large pits in the
ground below normal barns, surrounded by thick layers of
straw for insulation. Once the pit was full, another
thick layer of straw was placed over the cold treasure.
Ice, of sufficient quantity, and properly insulated,
would last well into the hot summer months.
For the better part of the 1800's,
the Zacharias' family was known for their ice cream.
Mathias Zacharias discovered the recipe for ice cream
back in 1805 when he was experimenting with methods to
improve the time milk could be keep fresh. Well aware
that salt was effective in maintaining meats, Mathias
took the bold step of mixing salt with crushed ice, and
packed the mixture around an old sugar canister which he
had filled with cream. Mathias instructed his children
Mathias, Christian, John, and Mary, to stir the milk
aggressively once an hour and headed off to do his farm
The following day as Mathias loaded
his canisters of milk onto the wagon for his daily trip
into town, the cap fell off the canister of cream that
had been chilled, spilling a thick goo all over the buck
board. When Mathias returned with a pail of water to
wash the spill away, he discovered his children fighting
over the goo. Mathias, always quick on the uptake,
realized that he might be onto something.
Over the ensuing year, Mathias
fine-tuned his process for making his "ice
cream". The most significant advancement, the idea
of adding fruits to flavor it, is credited to his wife
Ann. Over the years, Ann tried many fruits, with varying
degrees of success. Her strawberries however, which she
cultivated in a special little patch on the northeast
corner of the farm, were renowned for their sweetness
and were always a hit when added to Mathias' ice cream.
In 1814, the Zacharias family summer
ice cream socials were interrupted by the British
invasion of Maryland and the capture of Washington D.C.
Having been present at Cornwallis' surrender at
Yorktown, Mathias could not restrain himself, and joined
in the effort to recapture the capitol. As fate would
have it, Mathias arrived just as the British were
withdrawing. Being one of the first soldiers on the
scene, Mathias was requested to inspect the President's
house, which the British had attempted to burn.
On completing his assignment, Mathias
was greeted by a grateful Dolly Madison, who rewarded
his courage with a keg of rum that the British had
forgotten. While humble by nature, Mathias was
nevertheless flattered at being recognized by an
individual of such importance. Feeling the need to
return her kindness, Mathias was chagrined that the only
thing he thought worth offering was his recipe for ice
cream. However, Dolly, who was known for the lavish
parties she gave, was always on the lookout for new ways
to entertain. She listened attentively and took notes as
Mathias told his tale.
When he was finally done, Mathias
felt a little embarrassed, as if he had not given
enough. Almost as an after thought, Mathias turned to
the burnt Presidential house and remarked that a coat of
white paint would make it look good as new. Dolly turned
to the house, nodded her head and agreed "Yes,
white would look nice."
As he started to leave, Mathias
turned one last time, "Up in our parts, we name our
houses, you should give it a grand name after you paint
Dolly smiled at Mathias and thought
for a minute. "How about something grandiose, like
um, Thurmont House?"
Mathias caught himself as he was
about to laugh. "I'm not sure that would work, how
would someone out of town know what to look for?"
Mathias looked about him at the many colors that adorned
the surrounding houses and after reflecting for a minute
proposed: "How about simply calling it the White
House. It will be the only white one on the block, so it
will be easy to find."
The presidentís wife shook here
head in amazement at his lack of imagination, but
wishing not to offend him, agreed to consider his
suggestion and take it up with the President.
With Washington safely back in
American hands, Mathias returned to his farm. As for his
ice cream recipe, it was a hit in the Washington social
scene, and as everyone knows, Dolly Madison was given
credit for inventing it.
The story now fast-forwards to June
1863. Christian Zacharias, who had inherited Single
Delight, the family farm, was carrying on the family
tradition of ice cream socials. With tension high over
rumors that the south was planning to invade Maryland,
conversations turned to incidents that occurred the last
time Maryland was invaded. Christian's rendition of his
father's chance meeting with Dolly Madison and his claim
that ice cream had been invented by the Zacharias
family, met with hoots and hollers from the assembled
neighbors and friends.
Taunted with "prove its", a
jury of men were selected to view his evidence. After
swearing an oath of secrecy, Christian led the group
down into the basement of his ice barn. Much to the
amazement of the group, Christian pulled away a false
wall, behind which sat a keg of rum, stamped with a
Royal Navy seal dated 1813. Returning to the social, the
jury unanimously voted in front of all that the evidence
they had seen proved conclusively that Christian's claim
that Zacharias had invented ice cream was indeed true.
And true to their oath, the jury refused to divulge the
nature of the evidence they had seen.
For the following week, Christian and
his neighbors worked feverishly to bring in the year's
first cutting of hay, all the while however, their minds
were on that keg of rum. With the hay safely put away,
Christian and his friends gathered at the appointed hour
in the woods next to his mother's old strawberry patch,
which his wife Sarah was now tending. The keg of rum was
quickly tapped and a portion of its contents passed
around to all the celebrants. Being prohibitionists by
nature, the rum brought on much coughing, gasping, and
The record gets a little bit fuzzy
here but sometime during that evening it was supposedly
suggested by someone that fruit should be added to
'smooth' the taste of the rum. All eyes turned in
unison, to the well-tended strawberry patch.
'Hey Christian, your wife's
strawberries tasted pretty sweet in that ice cream last
week, do you think she'll notice if we take any."
Christian hemmed and hawed. Stealing
away and drinking rum with his friends was one thing but
plundering his wife's strawberry patch was another,
especially if they were going to be added to the rum.
The rum however got the better of him, and within
minutes of giving his go ahead, the group descended upon
the patch like locust upon a wheat field.
Once securely back in the woods, the
strawberries were mashed and mixed with the rum and ice.
The addition of the strawberries met with everyone's
approval, and over the ensuing evening, the quantity of
the various ingredients were altered and tested to
produce the 'perfect smoothness'. As the evening
progressed, the conversation turned to the war and the
talk of Lee's intended invasion of Maryland and the
Union's intention to block the advancement at
Unbeknownst to the party
participants, James Welty had been recruited as a spy
for the Confederacy. Because of his handsome appearance,
and debonair style, he had drawn the attention of the
French officers advising General Lee and was given the
code name 'Daiquiri' by them. While James' neighbors
fell under the influence of the rum, James sat back and
listened, gathering valuable intelligence on local food
supplies, foraging conditions, union troop strength, and
possible union fortification sites.
It was late in the evening when the
last drop of the rum was consumed. Those who could still
manage to walk, loaded those unable to, into wagons.
Swearing an oath never to reveal the night's debauchery,
all headed off in their own direction. The wagon train
back to Emmitsburg was long and boisterous, much to the
dismay of the other party goers, who were trying to
sneak back into their own farm houses.
That evening, June 15, 1863, the
great Emmitsburg fire occurred, starting in the livery
stables of Gunther & Beam, the final destination of
the boisterous wagon train. The origins of the fire and
its relationship to the first Stony Branch Daiquiri
party I'll leave to the reader's imagination. Suffice it
to say, the next day, party participants were
universally mum about their activities the night before.
The final recipe for the strawberry
rum drink invented that night would have been lost to
antiquity if not for the efforts of James Welty. Being
the only one sober of mind throughout most of the
evening, James recognized a great business when he saw
one, or in this case, drank one. James wrote the final
recipe down, shoved it into his pocket and then joined
the others in polishing off the rum. Unfortunately for
James, the rum obliterated his memory of all the
intelligence he had gathered on the union positions
around Emmitsburg and Gettysburg. Without his vital
information, a frustrated Lee proceeded into the North
blind, and stumbled into Gettysburg. Following the
defeat at Gettysburg, their paths crossed one last time,
Lee's only comment to Emmitsburg's Confederate spy was
"Gettysburg, the war, all lost because of
A disgraced James returned to the
south where, to make ends meet, he began marketing the
strawberry and rum mixture under his code name:
Daiquiri. It became an instant success. The fortune
James made however was short lived. The collapse of the
southern cause, and with it the Confederate currency,
erased all his profits. The Strawberry Daiquiri,
however, lived on, and as we know, became the mainstay
of many a Southern social party.
Before he died James passed the
original recipe for Stony Branch Strawberry Daiquiris
onto his niece Mary A. Welty, who in 1888, purchased the
windy meadow upon which lay the strawberry patch planted
by Mary Zacharias one hundred years before. Before
selling her home to James Schealy in 1918, Mary
documented for prosperity, the above story and sealed it
in a wall, along with seeds from the original plot and a
treasure trove of other memorable stories and folklore.