First family returns to Union Mills Celebration: More than 300 ancestors of the town's founders celebrate its bicentennial with a family reunion, historical pageant and photo exhibit.

October 13, 1997|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

It was 200 years ago that brothers Andrew and David Shriver began a family dynasty in the Union Mills area.

Yesterday, Shrivers from the United States, Germany, Costa Rica and London celebrated that beginning with a family reunion, stamp cancellation, photo exhibit and Historical Bicentennial Pageant at Union Mills Homestead.

"Six hundred letters went out all over the country and that was just to [Shrivers] to contact their families," said Esther Shriver, executive director of Union Mills Homestead. She later estimated that more than 300 Shriver relatives attended the reunion.

On a large framed family tree, members traced their ancestors, starting with the Fierre family from France in 1685. Computer printouts, taped together around three walls of the tannery, showed the family history from Andrew and David. Parents and their children found names they knew and detailed how they were related.

"I just figure we're all cousins," joked Army Maj. Becky Jones, who came from Germany, where she is stationed. "My grandmother, Mary Jeanette Shriver, was born here across the road where Esther and Jim live."

She and her uncle, Baltimore resident Carberry Jones, traced their lineage from the trunk of the Fierre tree. Her sister, Carol Jones, also attended.

Helen Shriver, 89, James Jr.'s mother, married into the family in 1926. She and William Herbert Shriver Jr. bantered about their health problems while figuring out how many generations removed they were from younger relatives.

Peter Weidman drove to Union Mills from his home in Santa Fe, N.M., while Jim McSherry attended with 11 of his 12 children.

They picnicked, posed for a group photo, visited a post office station set up for the day, pored over old family photos in the gristmill and purchased souvenirs of the homestead.

Joe Fiore, a window clerk at Westminster Post Office, sold about 300 dated stamp cancellations of the homestead on postcards and envelopes.

"This was very, very popular today," he said. "Some even mailed postcards from here today. People were very happy with an economical souvenir and something with today's date on it."

Later, the historical pageant described the homestead's history in five vignettes, with local actors and historians portraying Shrivers.

In "Founding a Dynasty," Andrew Shriver returns to tell how he and his brother bought 200 acres of land and built the house, gristmill, sawmill, tannery, cooper's mill and blacksmith shop.

The final vignette, "Return to Unity," described some of the family through the eyes of Frederic Shriver Klein, a great-great-grandson of co-founder Andrew Shriver.

He recalled his childhood on the farm and how it was willed to him and two of his brothers in 1950. Unfortunately, the brothers had all moved to Pennsylvania, and factories had by this time replaced family-run businesses.

The Klein brothers used the farm as a summer home for 15 years. By the mid-1960s, they realized they couldn't maintain the property, but they wanted the family home preserved. Union Mills Homestead Foundation was created to preserve and care for a 20-acre parcel as a historical museum and site, which it remains today.

Pam Shriver, six generations from the original founders of the mill and an international tennis star, is honorary chairwoman of the 200th birthday party.

At the end of the pageant, a plaque was unveiled from the Carroll County Commissioners that honors the Klein brothers who gave their family property to the public as Union Mills Homestead.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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