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Colonel John R. Rouzer
An Extraordinary Man

A. W. Cissel

Thurmont has been blessed with many men of ability and achievement, but few have risen so far from simple beginnings or overcome such personal tragedies as "Colonel" John R. Rouzer. A military hero, state legislator, presidential appointee and civic leader, he remained a beloved, respected figure in his hometown all his life.

John R. Rouzer was born May 9, 1839 on one of his grandfather's farms just up the hill from Apples Church. He was the tenth child of schoolmaster Peter and Rachel Martin Rouzer and grandson of Daniel Rouzer the tanner. When he was just a year old his mother died. John was raised by his eldest sister, Mary Elizabeth married to harness and saddle-maker Joseph Freeze. As John grew to manhood he was learning the skilled trade of his brother-in-law when the Civil War broke out to change his life.

In August, 1862 Company D of the Sixth Regiment was formed from the local boys with John Rouzer as a First Lieutenant. Over the course of the next two years, Lt. Rouzer would be promoted twice for gallant conduct in several engagements. He was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, captured at Winchester and endured several months of imprisonment before being paroled. He was brevetted Lt. Col. before the war ended.

Col. Rouzer returned to Mechanicstown to resume his hometown life, but the citizens of Frederick County recognized his leadership by electing him to the General Assembly in 1867. The tragic death of his wife in childbirth in 1868, followed 4 months later by the death of his infant son, persuaded Col. Rouzer to refuse renomination, but he did accept the position of Register of Wills for Frederick County an office he would hold for 11 years.

In 1871 Col. John married his sister-in-law Julia Wilhide Willman, who had lost her own husband at Gettysburg. Julia came with 2 children and together they raised 3 of their own all were treated equally; the boys educated at Western Maryland College. In 1868 Col. Rouzer had purchased an old family-owned log house on Church Street. After his second marriage, the Rouzers contemplated a home in Frederick, but instead decided to enlarge and modernize the Church Street house. In 1876 the house was remodeled and enclosed in brick. A two-story washhouse and a carriage house were built. This was his home for nearly 40 years and is now the headquarters of the Thurmont Historical Society.

Col. Rouzer was a Trustee for the town schools for 43 years, Director of the Bank, one of the founders of the Water Company, and an active participant in the town's business and civic affairs. The Rouzers were faithful and active members of St. Johns Lutheran Church, so much so that Mrs. Rouzer had a gate cut in the fence between the Rouzer house and the parsonage, to facilitate their daily visits.

Public service called again for Col. Rouzer to represent Frederick County with his election to the House of Delegates in 1894, 1896 and 1898. At the end of that term, President McKinley appointed him to be Deputy Register of Wills for Washington D.C. During this time, Julia died of leukemia in 1902.

Col. Rouzer died March 25, 1914 at his home on Church Street. Active in town affairs and vigorous to the end, he was mourned by the whole county, but especially by Thurmont, for which he had given so much. And while his old home (now known as "The Creeger House") has no ghosts, when I am its halls, it gives me pleasure to imagine him there 100 years ago surrounded by his law books, his organ and piano, his family mementoes; a man who could look back on a life well-lived.

Read Col. Rouszer's auto-biography in Williams Frederick County Backgrounds

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Read more articles by Anne Cissel