Pry Family Artifacts
Originally published in 2014 in the Surgeon’s Call, Volume 19, No. 2
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine (NMCWM) recently received the donation of a collection of artifacts associated with the Pry House Field Hospital Museum. Our interpretation there focuses on Philip Pry and his family, since they were the owners and residents of the property. However, the recently-donated artifacts are associated with Philip’s brother, Samuel Pry.
It is difficult to tell the story of the Pry House Field Hospital Museum without including both Philip and Samuel Pry. They built the Pry House together in 1844. In 1847 they bought a nearby grist mill, but a few years later Samuel was the sole owner of the mill. The Pry brothers even married sisters. Philip married Elizabeth Cost, and Samuel married Mary Cost. Additionally, both of these Pry families had their properties taken over for use as Union hospitals during the Battle of Antietam in 1862.
Samuel and Mary Pry’s daughter was Alice Cost Deaner, and Alice’s daughter was Parepa Deaner Jesser. The donated artifacts are items which Samuel’s granddaughter, Parepa, took with her to California when she left Keedysville, MD, in 1901. We were fortunate that along with the Pry artifacts, we also received accounts of some of Parepa’s recollections of her grandparents. Her memories of Samuel and Mary Pry give a few interesting details about their lives:
Grandpa was short, with a beard. He owned a flour mill. Grandma was little, married at 15. Gave us hot chocolate in the morning. Everybody called her Aunt Mary Pry because she would always help when people were sick.
The collection includes a John Birge eight-day weight clock; a handle-less teacup and saucer; a mulberry flow pattern plate; Alice Deaner’s hymnal; the Deaner family Bible; a china teapot and pitcher; Parepa Deaner’s wedding dress; some mourning clothing; a white linen and lace tablecloth; and several articles written by Parepa’s father, H.F. Deaner, about his recollections of the Civil War.
The teacup was accompanied by some fascinating information. Betsy Web, granddaughter of Parepa Deaner, writes:
My grandmother always spoke of stories her grandmother, Mary Cost Pry, told of caring for the wounded during and after the Battle of Antietam. She used handle-less teacups to help feed sips of broth to the soldiers.
The donated handle-less ironstone teacup and saucer were manufactured by the Livesley, Powell Company in England, in the mid-nineteenth century. The green, red, & yellow floral pattern is called “Paradise.” The cup and the saucer show minor signs of wear, but overall are in excellent condition.
The donated shelf clock was manufactured by John Birge and Company in Bristol, CT, in the early 1830s. It has a large triple-decker case, with a carved eagle on top, columns on the sides, and round feet on the base. The case measures 36 ½” tall, 17 ½” wide, and 5” deep. The top tier contains the clock face with a mirrored, sliding cover just above the center, which can be lifted to reveal the clock’s works; a mirrored middle-tier; and a hand-painted glass door on the bottom tier, with a heart-shaped window in the center to view the pendulum. There are doors on the top and bottom tiers, which lock. The label is behind the pendulum on the bottom tier, and reads (in part), “PATENT BRASS EIGHT DAY CLOCKS, MANUFACTURED BY JOHN BIRGE, BRISTOL, Conn., AND SOLD Wholesale and Retail. Warranted, if Well Used.” The label also includes instructions for winding and setting the clock. It has a brass strap movement and two weights – one for the time and one for the chime. There are some scratches on the clock face and wood case, and some minor loss of paint on the scene in the bottom door. There is a crack in the lower third of the back of the case. The label is quite yellowed. The clock still runs and chimes on the hour. Overall, it is in very good condition.
Two of Parepa Deaner Jesser’s granddaughters, Betsy Web and Robin Jackson, generously donated this collection to the NMCWM. We are very grateful to them, and we are looking forward to displaying these artifacts at the PHFHM.