Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

The Dern Family of Frederick County, Maryland

By Ed Bergh Jr

Part One

The Dern family was well established in Maryland by the mid 18th century. The Orner family connection to the Derns is through Herbert Orner's first wife, Birdie. Birdie was one of the daughters of Abraham Dern (1838-April 25, 1916) who lived in Frederick County, Maryland. Abraham Dern was one of Zacheus Dern's (1805-1849) sons. The father of Zacheus was William Dern (b. about 1776-1835). William's father was Frederick Dern (one of numerous Fredericks which dot the Frederick county historical landscape) and his mother was Sophia Kemp Dern.

The following was written about Frederick Dern (father of William, grandfather of Zacheus, great grandfather of Abraham, great-great-grandfather of Birdie Dern. "Frederick Dern was found living in Maryland according to the 1790 census. In his household were two white males under the age of 16, 4 males over the age of 16, and 4 females. From the official poll of the Presidential Election of 1796, in Frederick County, MD one finds that Frederick voted as a Federalist for candidate John Tyler. (Maryland Records: I: 282)" Frederick Dern would have supported the candidacy of John Adams as president.

The original placement of Zacheus Dern in the family tree appears to have been a difficult task when early family genealogies were being assembled. One writer stated:

"Since the genealogy of all of 4-Frederick' children except 81-William nearly complete, it seems certain that if a relationship to this branch of the Dern family did exist, as family records indicate, it must have occurred within the descendents of this 81-William Dern. But a family Bible in the possession of descendents of Zacheus Dern, now living in Baltimore, Maryland, makes it seem almost certain that this Zacheus was closely related to, if not actually a brother of, Isaac Dern."

At this point I am unclear about the names of all of Frederick Dern's children. One, however, was named William. William Dern was born in 1776 and baptized on December 17, 1777. He died 1835 in Maryland. He married Elizabeth Carmack in December 30, 1799 (License 30), the daughter of Evan Carmack. She was born circa 1771 and died in 1850. He was the son of Frederick Dern and Sophie Kemp. William was christened on May 8, 1777 at the German Reformed Church, Frederick, Frederick Co, Maryland.

Land Records, Frederick MD
Liber WR 13, Folio 618, F#13956
William Dern to George Albaugh

Examd Granted} At the request of George Albaugh the following deed was recorded 9 Novr 1796} 4th November 1795, to with

This Indenture made this fourth day of November one thousand seven hundred and ninety five Between William Dern of Frederick county and State of Maryland, Farmer of the one part and George Albaugh of the same county and state aforesaid of the other part.  Witnesseth that the said William Dern for and in consideration of the sum of fifteen pounds current money of Maryland to him in hand paid by the said George Albaugh at or before the ensealing and deliv. Of these presents the receipt whereof he the said William Dern doth hereby acknowledge Hath given granted bargained and sold aliened enfeoffed and confirmed, and by these presents doth give grant bargain and sell alien release enfeoff and confirm unto him the said George Albaugh his heirs and assigns forever All that piece of land or parcel of land lying and being in the county and State aforesaid being part of a Lot Number One which said Number One is part of a Tract called Monocacy Manor as conveyed by Nathaniel Rawsey and Clement Holliday two of the Commissioners appointed to sell confiscated British property to Thomas Johnson Esquire, and by him conveyed to the aforesaid William Dern for fifty four acres of Land.  Beginning for the part hereby intended to be conveyed at a Stone planted at the end of the fifth line of said Lot Number One running thence with the sixth line thereof as surveyed and laid out by George Dent in the year seventeen hundred and eighty two South eight degrees East twenty perches to a stone planted on the North seventy four degrees East line of said Monocacy Manor then with a said line revised as run at the time aforesaid South seventy three degrees West eight and a quarter perches to a Stone planted, then North four and three quarter degrees West twenty and one quarter perches to a Stone planted on the fifth line of Lott Number One aforesaid, thence by and with said line to the Beginning stone containing one acre of Land more or less Together with all and singular the Houses, Buildings, Improvements advantages and Appurtenances whatsoever to the above described piece part or parcel of land and premises belonging or in anywise appertaining.  And all the Estate Right Title property Interest Claim and Demand whatsoever of him the said William Dern of in and to the above described piece part or parcel of land and premises and every part thereof.  To have and to hold the said bargained and sold piece or parcel of land and premises with the appurtenances and every part thereof unto him the said George Albaugh his heirs or assigns to the only proper use Benefit and Behoof of him the said George Albaugh his heirs and Assigns forever and to and for no other use Intent and purpose whatsoever.  And the said William Dern for himself and his heirs the said piece part or parcel of land and premises with the Appurtenances and every part thereof against him and his heirs Executors and Administrators, and from and against all and every other person or persons whatsoever claiming or that shall or may hereafter claim any right or Title thereto from by or under him them or any of them to him the said George Albaugh his heirs and Assigns shall and will warrant and forever defend by there presents.  In Witness whereof he the said William Dern hath hereunto set his hand and affixed his seal the day and year first within written.                                                 William Dern (seal)

Signed sealed and delivered}  Jacob Young
In the presence of }  Geo. Murdock Which deed was thus endorsed to wit

Frederick County: On the day and year first within written came the within named William Dern before us the Subscribers two of the Justices of the Peace for said County and acknowledged the within Instrument of Writing to be his act and deed and the piece part or parcel of land and premises within described to be the right and Estate of the within named George Albaugh his Heirs and Assigns forever, according to the true intent and Meaning of the within deed and the Act of Assembly in such case made and provided Acknowledged before Jacob Young  Geo Murdock

From the official poll of the Presidential Election of 1796, in Frederick County, Maryland, one finds that William voted as a Democrat-Republican for candidate George Murdock. (Maryland Records: I: 280) This meant that William would have voted against John Adams for president in 1796. William was a Jeffersonian, less federal government, more local control.

During the course of their marriage Elizabeth and William had the following children: (This, of course, is open to correction)

  • Susan Elizabeth
  • Amy Dern
  • Isaac Dern
  • William Dern
  • Zacheus Dern (1805-1849) (This year conflicts with the date given Hezekiah)
  • Hezekiah Dern b: 14 January 1805
  • Mary Sophia Dern b: 25 August 1818


William Dern's family according to the census of 1820. The names have been added as speculation.

  • 1 male under 10 (Frederick?)
  • 2 males 10-16 (Hezekiah & Zacheus).
  • 1 male 16-26 (Isaac)
  • 1 male 45 and up (William Dern)
  • 2 females under 10 (Mary Sophia & ???)
  • 1 female 10-16
  • 1 female 16-26
  • 1 female 26-45 (Elizabeth Carmack Dern)
  • 1 female 45 and up


William's mother, Sophia Kemp Dern, died in 1831. According to her 1829 will (she made her mark on it), most of the family property was to go to Elizabeth Dern and her children. Elizabeth was the widow (?) of Frederick Dern, one of Sophia's and Frederick's sons. However, William was also included:

"I further give and bequest to my son William Dern, forty five dollars, and to my son Isaac Dern seventy five dollars, to be paid by Elizabeth Dern, wife of my son Frederick in one year after my death as a condition of the aforegoing device in trust for her and her children."

None of her sons were considered when dealing with another aspect of the will. This section read: "And lastly I do except from the aforegoing device of all of my property my negro woman Sucy and I do hereby give and bequeath my said woman Sucy to William Carmack, with the bequest that he will allow her in consideration of her faithful service to me, to live and hire herself as she may please, and to receive her own wages and earnings - And I do hereby revoke all other wills heretofore made."

This does seem to mean that Sucy was given her freedom, but she was going to live "like" a free person of color. In a statement made in October 1831, William Carmack refused to accept ("I do hereby decline accepting any bequest made to me by the last will and testament of Sophia Dern.") to take responsibility for Sucy according to the terms of the will. What became of Sucy is unclear.

William Dern died in 1835. By 1840 Zacheus Dern had moved to Carroll County and had started a family of his own. Zacheus was spelled "Takias" according to that census, but it must be him. Once again, the names have been added.

  • 2 males under five (John William Dern and Abraham Dern)
  • 1 female 5-10 (Sophia)
  • 1 male 30-40 (Zacheus Dern)
  • 1 female 20-30 (Mary Anders Dern)

There had been another daughter, Margaret Sophia Dern, born April 1836, d. June 12, 1837. Zacheus Dern died in 1849.

Mary Dern, widow, is found on the 1850 census, in the Woodsboro District of Frederick County, with her daughter Sarah (age unclear), son, John (15), and her youngest son Abraham (age 12). Mary listed no property of value and 15 year old John was working as a laborer. The Derns lived near the Edward Carmack family.


The Children of Zacheus Dern

  • i. Elizabeth Dern (1832-????). Sarah Elizabeth married Jacob Beacht, also of Frederick County. They were married on February 7, 1852. Sarah and Jacob had two children according to the census, Charles (6) and Margaret (2). (1860 census, 311/317)
  • ii. John William Dern (1834-1891) married Mary Elizabeth Smith.
  • iii. Abraham Dern (1838-1916)

In 1860, John and Abraham Dern were working on the Beacht farm. Also living there was Mary Anders Dern who by then was aged 56. Zacheus had been dead for over a decade. 1860, however, was a year for great events in the nation. Abraham Lincoln was elected president. By the time he took office in 1861, southern states had left the Union.

Abraham Dern in the Civil War (Read More about Private Dern)

Abraham Dern enlisted in the cavalry on August 10, 1861. This was early in the war and he had not been repulsed by stories of war or reports of defeat. There was no draft yet. He lived in a border state. Maryland was a slave owning state that had remained in the union. Two generations before Abraham's birth his family had owned slaves, but that was distant memory. He owned no land. He worked on his brother-in-law's farm where he lived with his brother and mother. He became a member of the First Regiment Potomac Home Brigade Cavalry. Eventually this unit would be known as Cole's Cavalry. In the course of the next three years Abraham would see the Shenandoah Valley, the inside of a southern prison, and see a lot of horse rear end during his constant maneuvering. Abraham Dern mustered out of the army on August 19, 1864. On August 24, 1865, Abraham married Ann Reddick at the Pleasant Glade Parsonage in Frederick County, by Rev. Steiner.

The Reddick Connection

Ann was the daughter Leonard Jr. (1800-1870) and Jemima Reddick (1816-1879). Her family can be found in the 1850 census. Leonard earned his living as a stonemason. Listed with them as the time were Sarah (9), Ann E. (7), James Z. (5), another Orra (3), and John L. (11 months)

Ann Elizabeth Reddick Dern b. December 21, 1842/43

Leonard Jr.'s grandfather, George Reddick came to the colonies sometime before 1758. He died on December 7, 1785, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. One of sons, Leonard Jr., moved to Maryland at some point, but the first record of his presence there was his purchase of 195.5 acres from Francis Brown Sappington for the sum of 1,125 pounds. What he used his land for is unclear, but he did make whiskey. Mary Rhoderick wrote: "Seems as though Leonard, Sr. operated a Whiskey Still and sold whiskey by the barrel in Baltimore and Washington. He never seemed to pay a bill until the constable came to him with a warrant. There are many of these warrants made out to him." Leonard Reddick Sr. died in 1827. His estate covered the cost of his $9.00 coffin. As part of the estate settlement Leonard Jr. sold his father's slave, Harriet, for $305.00. This was done on August 2, 1831. The slave was sold to his brother John Reddick.

Leonard Jr.'s family was described by Mary Rhoderick in the following:

"I do not know where Leonard is buried. Leonard Jr. and his wife Jemima are buried in the Chapel Cemetery on the Dayville Road, near Walkersville. He had two children not listed along with James Z., Orra, Celius B. (b. 1857) and Ann. They are buried in Rocky Hill Cemetery, near Woodsboro. One was a daughter, Sarah J., who died on October 1852 at the age of 11 years and 5 months. The other was a son, John L., who died February 18, 1854, sat the age of 4 years and 8 months. Also a son George, buried in ????ville, Maryland."

Ann & Abraham Dern

According to the 1870 census, Abraham and Ann Dern were living with their son, Ernest M. (13), and Abraham's sixty year old mother Mary. Abraham was listed as a carpenter. Also living at the house was Sophia Barrick, who listed her property as valued at $1,000, while Abraham listed no property. Sophia Barrick's 13 year old daughter Ida was also living there. Nearby was the Edward Carmack family, Elizabeth Carmack had married Abraham's grandfather, William. Also, nearby is the farm of Randolph Dudrow. (Visit 235/242) According to the testimony collected for his pension fight, Abraham would have living on the property of C. B. Withers at that time.

In January 1878 a short notice appeared in a Frederick paper. "Departed this life on January 10, 1878 at the residence of her son, Abram Der[r], near Walkersville, after a brief illness, Mary Der[r], at the advanced age of 79 years, 10 months and 4 days." The Frederick Examiner Newspaper (January 23, 1878)

In the 1880 census there is no listing for Abraham Dern. This is a bit of a mystery since he was married and had already started a family.

Ann Elizabeth Reddick Dern died in 1885 and was buried in Shiloh Cemetery in Walkersville. The markers have been taken down and this cemetery is now a back yard to a private dwelling. I am told she had five babies buried along side of her. Her husband, Abraham Dern, is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Woodsboro.

The Wounds of War

In the fall of 1888, a federal worker named Black received a letter from Walkersville, a small town outside Frederick, Maryland. "A. Dern" had written him asking for his help. The short handwritten note concluded with two important sentences. The first identified the two doctors who had treating A. Dern. The other stated, "My disability has annulled of my managing my affairs by not allowing me to do much of constant manual labor." The Civil War veteran, Abraham Dern, had had enough. Three years earlier, in 1885, his wife Anne had died while giving birth to child which would live only a week. They had been married 20 years. During those years Anne had given birth to eleven children.

  • Ernest McClellan Dern b. June 28, 1866
  • Winfield May Dern b. May 9, 1868
  • Dudley Clifton Dern b. July 5. 1870
  • Gertrude Irene Dern b. December 3, 1871
  • Birdie Maude Dern b. March 21, 1874
  • Zoa Zululu Dern b. January 7, 1876
  • Carrie Grimm Dern b. September 13, 1878
  • Dixie Laroy Dern b. October 26, 1879
  • Ernie Gay Dern b. August 21, 1881
  • Goldie Snow Dern b. September 26, 1883
  • Dendie Tyler Dern b. December 12, 1885

Four of the children had died early in life. Winfield died on January 22, 1870 before he reached the age of two years. Dudley Clifton lived a little over a year and died on August 22, 1871. Carrie Grimm lived only four days and died on September 1878. Dendie Tyler appears to have died shortly after being born in December of 1885. When Anne had died, seven were still alive. The oldest was nineteen and the youngest, two. Abraham turned forty-seven that year. The ravages of war were then starting to make their presence known. By 1888, Abraham wanted help from the government which he believed was due him as a result of his service in the Army of the Potomac during the war. Dern wrote:

Dear Sir,

My place of residence has always been Woodsborough Frederick Md. my occupation has been until 1st April last carpentering and wagon-making I am now farming my disability began or found its origin at Libby Prison and Bell Island at which places I was from the 17th June 1863 was exchanged the latter part of August the same year my disability consists of cramps of ???? ???? some of physicians term is ???? and malnutrition for which I have been treat off and on since I left the army. I was treated whilst in prison by prison physician whose name I do not recollect.

The physicians who have treated me are Dr. S. S. Maynard of Frederick City Md and Dr. Chas Goldsborough of Walkersville Frederick Co. Md

My disability has annulled of my managing my affairs but not allowing me to do much of constant manual labor.

Yours Resp

A Dern. Woodsborough, Frederick Co. Md

Once the letter reached the government it made its way through the bureaucracy.

R.C. Drum's letter to the Bureau of Pensions concerning the Dern matter read:

"Prisoner of war records show him captured and paroled at Harper's Ferry, Va. September 15, 1862 disposition not stated. Again captured at Point of Rocks, Md June 17,c 1863, confined at Richmond, Va. June 23, 1863 Paroled at City Point, Va. July 21, 1863. Report at College Green Bks, Md, July 24, 1863 sent to Camp Parole, Md. August 2, 1863 when he reported the same day and was sent to Washington, D.C. September 24." The letter concluded, "The records of this office furnish no evidence of disability."

The records showed that Abraham Dern was a private in Company A, 1st Regiment , Potomac Home Brigade, Maryland Volunteer Cavalry. Taken to Libby prison, Abraham contracted rheumatism of bowels and at the time of exchange was described as being "helpless." The letter then asked for a of search regimental hospital records for information about his war related illnesses.

Those records were reported from the Adjutant General's office on October 8, 1888. During the course of the war Private Dern had been absent on three occasions. Two of them were the result of his being taken prisoner. He had been mustered out, August 19, 1864, at Harper's Ferry, scene of Cole's Cavalry's daring escape, nearly two years before. The report concluded, however, that there were no hospital records on file. Building his case would be more difficult.

If Abraham was to receive any type of financial relief from the government he needed to support his contention that war related medical problems were proving to be too debilitating for him to work full time. To accomplish this end Abraham secured the affidavits of friends, physicians, and former comrades in arms. With the help of the attorney, Chas Donnelly of Washington, DC, that Abraham hired on January 21, 1889, a case for compensation began being assembled. Out in Jefferson County, Kansas, C. B. Withers signed an affidavit on April 16, 1889 in which he helped support Abraham's case. Withers wrote:

"Met in winter 1865 knew nothing of him before enlistment he lived on my farm for nine years. He had rheumatism of the back. He worked at his trade of wagon maker. He was only able to make about half a hand. The last I knew of him (1888) he was farming. He always been since I knew him a full and industrious man. But could scarcely make a living on account of his disability. He was my tenant and when I left I put him on my father's place to farm."

Dern and Withers had first met in 1865 and for nine years Abraham had lived on Withers farm in Frederick County. This paints an early picture of Abraham Dern's lack of prosperity.

Withers account corroborated a letter received the previous month from Dr. S. S. Maynard. In his affidavit Dr. Maynard stated that he had known Abraham for twenty-five years and that he had been his doctor for twelve of those years. From July 1864, a month before Abraham's mustering out date, Maynard had treated Abraham for cramps of the bowels and diarrhea. Maynard testified: "During this period I was satisfied he was not able to perform manual labor more than of his time. It frequent happened that he was wholly unfit to work for a whole week following his attack of diarrhea."

Another doctor, Dr. Charles Goldsborough, also contributed a "Physicians Affidavit" on April 18, 1889. For twenty nine years the doctor had known Abraham Dern. At one time their houses were only one hundred yards apart, so that his knowledge of Abraham was more than merely his nine year professional relationship. "For the last nine years he has been suffering with violent cramps followed by diarrhea," wrote Dr. Goldsborough. Striking a patriotic note, the doctor wrote, "If this soldier does a day's work he is certain to have a spell . . "[that keeps] him in house a week to ten days."

Another affidavit from A. Dern reached the U.S. government on April 24, 1889 affidavit. In it he recounted,

"Received no treatment from any army surgeon except such as was given in prison at Libby and Belle Isle and that from the time of his exchange till Dr. S. S. Maynard's commenced treating [him] for the disease ???? [he] made use of such remedies as different persons would recommend."

Further support for Abraham's request came from man living at 15 Plymouth Ave. Woodberry, Baltimore City, Maryland. At that address, on September 4, 1890, a little over twenty nine years they had enlisted together, Walter H. Keedy, recalled their imprisonment after being captured by Confederate forces shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg. Keedy wrote:


In reply to the within, I have the honor to say that I was a prisoner of war confined in Libby Prison and Belle Isle and, was captured near point of rocks, while en route to Gettysburg, about June 1863, together with, I think, some fourteen others among them was Abraham Dern. I was well acquainted with Mr. Dern, who was a member of Coles P.H.B. Cav. And of my company "A" we were together during the long tramp to Richmond, and while in Libby and Belle Isle, I had no knowledge of his having dysentery or diarrhea, until we reached the latter place, he was there taken with diarrhea. He was so weakened with this that he could not walk alone, I myself, helped him often to and from the water closet. I think we reached Camp Parole in August 63, was with Mr. Dern and intimate with him up to this time, and for this reason know that he was then suffering with the disease mentioned."

Later in June 1890, Walter Keedy wrote again about their captivity at Belle Isle. "There he was taken with the dysentery, and know he was so weakened down that he could not walk alone and had to be assisted by his comrades, I know this, for I helped him myself, and never expected to see him reach his home alive."

When census takers found Abraham and his brother, John William, in 1890, each listed the maladies they attributed to their term of service. Abraham wrote dysentery, while John was suffering from consumption.

H. Clay Stauffer, of Walkersville, wrote a compelling letter in support of Abraham Dern's request for financial support. Writing from Walkersville, Feb 19, 1894, Stauffer described the plight of his friend this way:

"I have known Abraham Dern for over 20 years, living near him most of the time and know him to be an industrious man when his health would permit. I have had him employed to haul milk to creamery last year, he had not been able to do any heavy work, and was frequently made to drive the milk wagon on account of his disability which seemed to be nervous prostration. I know him to have a family of children to support, his wife having died about 8 years ago and he has not remarried and his physical condition is not such as to be able to earn a support for himself and family by his manual labor and I consider him disabled fully from his ability to earn a support when in health." Still, there was no financial redress from the government.

From a document dated September 2, 1888, we get a snapshot of Abraham Dern. He was fifty that year. He stood five foot seven inches tall and weighed 127 pounds. During the next several years his weight would fluctuate between 125 and 137 pounds. His respiration and pulse were considered normal. The doctors who would give him a physical for his pension increase application usually found less wrong with him than those who doctored him back home. For a number of years, any increase in his eight dollars a month pension was rejected. In an attempt to "quantify" his ailments a scale of 1-18 was established. As one's numerical rating increased, so did one's chances for receiving a larger pension. Despite testimonials, from those that knew him, detailing his infirmities, Abraham's disability was only regarded as a 4/18.

The source of Abraham's disability was the dysentery he contracted during his second captivity. During the course of Abraham's pension appeals he was described as suffering from a variety of ailments. These included chronic diarrhea, disease of the heart, rectal ailments, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, cramps of the bowels, a hernia, and dysentery.

His neighbors described these problems in a variety of ways. David Martz, who stated he lived next to Abraham, in an affidavit dated February 17, 1894, wrote that he "[knew] him to be very much disabled and not able to do any work necessary to his occupation of farming more than hitching up a horse or light work and very often not able to do any thing at all and further know that he has no other means of support except his own manual labor." In 1895, Martz wrote again this time swearing that Dern was, "Not able to do anything - taken sick about January 2, 1895 and lasted seven weeks."

Presley Barrick had known Abraham for 35 years. He had first met Abraham in 1865, a year after his captivity and his return from prison. From that time on he was familiar with Dern's "troubles." Barrick recalled that "one time last year I took him from my place to his home a distance of 3 miles because he was unable to get there of himself on account of said troubles." Joseph Stauffer, who lived "in sight" of Abraham believed things were getting worse. "I have often seen him make the attempt to render some assistance on the farm but would soon break down and then would be in the doctors hands for some time. I think his disability grows worse as he grows older." Stauffer wanted to leave no doubt as to the source of these ills by adding that Abraham was "a man of temperate and steady habits during all these ten years." He was not lazy or alcoholic. Also, in 1897, John Gesrey testified that Abraham could only do of the labor needed to pursue his vocation as wheelwright. This, interestingly, infers that he was still attempting to perform his craft. Gesrey went on to say that Abraham's mental faculties were also in decline. His mind was not even "1/8" of a normal man. Those dire descriptions that year were further supported by Charles Goldsboro who believed that Abraham was not able to work 7/8 of the time. By 1900, Abraham was rated as 14/18. Still, his petition to increase his pension was rejected.

Read Part Two