The Worthingtons

Left: middle-aged man with beard. Right: middle-aged woman with 1860s style hair and clothing.
John and Mary Worthington purchased Clifton Farm in 1862 and renamed it Riverside Farm. Today the farm is known as Worthington Farm.

John T. Worthington was born in 1826 into an extended Frederick County family of prominent farmers. John married Mary Ruth Delilah Simmons in 1856 and the couple eventually had four children, three sons (John, Glenn, and Clark) who survived childhood and a daughter (Florence) that died in infancy.

Worthington's prosperity is reflected in his 1862 purchase of the 300-acre “Clifton Farm” adjacent to the Monocacy River. Worthington renamed it “Riverside Farm.” In addition to owning land, the 1860 Slave Schedule for Frederick County records Worthington as enslaving seven people. Slave schedules recorded only the names of the enslavers and the sexes and ages of the enslaved. Under Worthington's name the list included: female age 30, male age 32, male age 19, male age 19, female age 15, male age 13, and male age 13. Two of the males on the list were almost certainly John Ephraim Tyler Butler and Thomas Palm that Glenn Worthington names in his account of the battle, but the names and the identities of other individuals are unknown.

The morning of July 9, 1864, was spent preparing for the impending battle. Hoping to minimize his loss of property, Worthington instructed the family’s enslaved laborers to gather wheat from the field. As the boom of cannons began in the distance, John Worthington sent two of his enslaved laborers, John Ephraim Tyler Butler and Thomas Palm, to take the horses to nearby Sugar Loaf Mountain and hide them in the “darkest and loneliest place you can find.” Even with this precaution, Confederate soldiers discovered and confiscated all nine horses.

After salvaging as much of the wheat harvest as possible, Worthington prepared the house and family for the battle. Worthington had two-inch thick oak boards put across the cellar windows. Tubs and a barrel of water were placed in the cellar. As the fighting drew nearer, the Worthington family and their enslaved laborers took refuge in the cellar. Around 11 am they are joined by the wife of the B&O Railroad station manager and their four children.

During the Battle of Monocacy, Confederate troops crossed the Monocacy River onto the Worthington Farm, initiating three attacks from the farm fields. Worthington and his family took refuge in the cellar, and through the boarded-up windows, six-year-old Glenn Worthington watched intently as the fighting raged in front of the house. In his account of the battle, Fighting For Time, Glenn Worthington recalls that, “Glimpses of blue could be seen as they passed windows. More than one received his death wound close to the house and fell there to die, in Worthington yard.”

Two young children: on the left a boy wearing a dark sailor-style suit and on the right a girl in a white dress.
Young Glenn Worthington and a cousin.

After the battle, John Worthington and his family assisted with the care of the wounded soldiers. Glenn and his seven-year-old brother Harry were sent into the nearby fields to gather sheaves of wheat for use as a bed for a wounded Confederate soldier.

While the wounded were being cared for, other Confederate soldiers gathered the muskets that had been thrown away by the retreating Union soldiers. The muskets were placed in a pile in Worthington’s back yard and set on fire, leaving only the gun barrels and bayonets. Glenn desired one of these bayonets as a souvenir. He procured a stick and began to drag the bayonet from the embers, and as he stooped to retrieve his prize, an ember touched a discarded paper cartridge which exploded in his face. A Confederate soldier carried him, blinded and yelling, into the house. Luckily Glenn’s eyesight was not damaged by the explosion and he made a full recovery.

Following the battle, Monocacy Junction continued to be a focal point of military activity. In August 1864, Union generals Grant, Hunter, Ricketts, Crook, and Sheridan used the Thomas House to plan the Shenandoah Valley campaign. While Grant stayed at the Thomas's, General Crook set up his headquarters at the Worthingtons. General Hunter's troops also appear to have camped on the Worthington's land. A decade later, John Worthington submitted a claim to the U.S. Quartermaster General for 60 acres of corn in the field, 30 bushels of wheat stock, and 360 fence rails consumed by Union troops in August 1864. Among the witnesses vouching for John Worthington were Thomas Palm, John Ephraim Tyler Butler, C.K. Thomas, and J.H. Gambrill.

After the Civil War, John Worthington continued to be a successful farmer, transitioning from reliance on enslaved labor to paid labor. The 1870 census reveals that in addition to the immediate members of the Worthington family, there were five additional people living at Riverside Farm. Rolander Sides is listed as a 14-year-old, white farm laborer. The census records that Rolander had attended school in the last 12 months. Fanny Rollins is recorded as a 16-year-old black domestic servant. Below her is listed one-year old John T. Rollins who was presumably her son. Estelle Garnet is listed as an 18-year-old, mulatto domestic servant. She may have been literate since the record does not list her as illiterate. Estelle's place of birth is recorded as Virginia. James Gray is listed as 19-year-old and a farm laborer. None of the seven people enslaved by Worthington in 1860 appears to still live on the Worthington household/farm in 1870.

By the 1890s, John T. Worthington had stopped farming. In his 60s, John Worthington's health was declining. Two widowed family members moved into Riverside Farm to help care for John and Mary. In the 1900 Census, John's health had declined to the point that he is no longer listed as the head of the household. A cousin, Lavinia Worthington, is listed as operating a boarding house and the head of the household.

Mary Worthington died on June 5, 1902. John Worthington followed her three years later on March 28, 1905. After the deaths of their parents, Glenn and Clarke Worthington inherited the property. They did not take up residence, but leased the farm to tenants.

A water color drawing showing a proposed Monocacy National Battlefield.
Glenn Worthington spent the final years of his life advocating for the creation of a Monocacy Battlefield to commemorate the battle that defined his childhood.

Impressed with the scene that was forever etched in his memory, Glenn grew up with a strong interest in the battle and its importance in saving Washington, D.C. In the late 1920s, he began to work for the creation of Monocacy as a battlefield park. He joined with others to form the Monocacy Battlefield Association and wrote a history of the battle entitled Fighting for Time. Worthington saw his dream of a battlefield park become a reality shortly before his death in 1934, when Congress established the park “to commemorate the Battle of Monocacy.” Due to a lack of funds, however, Monocacy Battlefield was a park in name only.

Due to increasing development pressure, in the 1970s the National Park Service was finally authorized to establish the battlefield boundary, and began purchasing land after 1980. The Worthington Farm became part of the park in 1982, preserving for future generations the stories of both the soldiers who fought here and the family that called the farm home.


Last updated: May 4, 2024

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