During the Civil War two Confederate Officers were killed in the action in Westminster,
Maryland, on June 29, 1863, under other than normal circumstances. Lieutenants John
William Murray and William Saint Pierre Gibson, both of the 4th Virginia Cavalry.
According to Miss Mary B. Shellman, of Westminster, who witnessed the battle, a governess
from out of town came into town after the day's action and is said to have recognized the
two Confederate Officers killed that day. She said, "one was a relative and the other a
friend." I have discovered that the governess was Rebecca or Louisa Denton of the
Thomas Emory Van Bibber family.
The bodies of Lieutenant's Murray and Gibson were buried on July 1, 1863, at 9 A.M., in
Union Meeting House Yard and taken up and buried in the Ascension Episcopal Church
Parish Yard on August 13, 1863.
Interring Murray and Gibson in the Ascension Episcopal Church Yard would have taken time
for proper arrangements to be made. Many stumbling blocks had to be overcome, because
on August 3, 1863, the Ascension Episcopal Church passed very stringent rules as to who
could be buried in the Parish Yard. If one were not a church member, permission had to be
granted by the Rector and the Custodians. Based upon these new rules, how is it that
Lieutenants Murray and Gibson were moved from the Union Meeting House to the
Ascension Episcopal Church Parish Yard? Someone of exceptional influence must have
been responsible to effect the movement. The individual responsible for this move would
have to have wielded unprecedented power in the Ascension Episcopal Church.
This person would have to have had absolute influence and control in the Ascension
Episcopal Church to have them buried there. Who paid for the unearthing, movement, and
reburial in the Parish Yard? Circumstantial evidence would suggest that the individual
responsible for these actions can be none other than Thomas Emory Van Bibber. Mr. Van
Bibber's governess was from Virginia and possibly Mr. Van Bibber might have had southern
sympathies or the governess exerted pressure to have Murray and Gibson moved to a
more acceptable site. According to an entry in the Ascension Episcopal Church records,
Thomas Emory Van Bibber, Senior, was appointed Warden in the Ascension Episcopal
Church on April 3, 1863. This would have granted additional power to Mr. Van Bibber.
The Van Bibbers were originally from Utrecht, Holland, and settled on part of Bohemia
Manor in Cecil County. Some of thedescendants of these settlers moved to Baltimore,
and went into the shipping business at Felts Point, then a rival of Baltimore, but now part
of it. They were very successful and built a handsome house on Thames Street. After
having amassed a considerable fortune at Fells Point, Washington Van Bibber (1778-1849)
and his wife Lucretia Emory, moved to Avondale in Carroll County, two miles southwest of
Westminster, and purchased the home of LeghMaster.
Legh Master had an infamous reputation. He reportedly became enamored of his black
servant girl and was infuriated with the intrusion of Sam, her sweetheart, and had him
thrown into an iron furnace. He then proceed to brick the girl up in an oven, alive. When
the kitchen in the house was torn apart due to a fire in the 1930's, it was found to contain
a human skeleton. Other stores tell of Master dressing in a white sheet at night and
running around his grounds crying, "stick, stuck."
Isaac Van Bibber, son of Washington Van Bibber, was born January 17. 1810, studied law in
Winchester, Virginia, and was admitted to the bar. He spent three years in European travel,
and returned to Avondale, and died there September 28, 1847.
From the Diary of Isaac Van Bibber, "In the evening, I took a long stroll with Brent along the
banks of the Patapsco. During our ramble we talked over all our reminiscences and
adventures in Winchester, Va, where we had both studied law together." This must be the
Van Bibber Virginia connection! Thomas Emory Van Bibber was the brother of Isaac.
While at Avondale, the Van Bibbers, through Isaac Van Bibber, as a result of his collections
in March 1844, built the Ascension Episcopal Church in Westminster. Two years later the
Ascension Church was consecrated on Ascension Day, 1846. And therethe Van Bibbers
reinterred the body of Legh Master, originally buried at Avondale. No wonder. Who would
like to have this man in their backyard?
The Van Bibbers would have encountered little opposition, if any, in the burial of the
infamous Legh Master in the Ascension Church Yard. Why should they, they built the
church. The movement of Murray and Gibson would not have presented any obstacle, but
might have caused some problems later after the citizens of Westminster realized what
had been done. Thus, more than likely, the sudden return of the governess (Dentons) to
Virginia in August 1863. The "scapegoats?"
It is curious that not one of Thomas Emory Van Bibber's immediate family members was
buried at the Ascension Church Yard after August 13, 1863. And Thomas is notably absent
from the church records after the burial of Murray and Gibson on August 13, 1863. Does
this mean that Thomas was in disfavor with the church hierarchy after this date? We may
never know the extent of the problems caused by the burial of Murray and Gibson, but can
only surmise the problems created were significant and far-reaching. In support of this
conclusion, Thomas is not buried in this Church Yard next to his wife Elizabeth, who died
on October 24, 1853. Why would one not be buried next to his wife, father, and brothers