"Looking Backward"
Some Interesting Chat About the Days That Were
In Local Departments
When Government Workshops Were Few and Force Small
And History In The Making
Old Washington Families Feel Proud of
Traditions Dating Back to Good Old Days

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, August 2, 1908 [pt. 4, p. 1]

When the War Department took up its work in this city on the removal of the government here in 1800 it was under Secretary Samuel Dexter of Massachusetts, and did not have a force of two dozen. Nearly half were of the accountant's division, whose duties later became those of the second and third auditors of the Treasury. Though small was the personnel under Mr. Dexter and under Gen. Henry Dearborn, who followed for eight years, there were some here of large influence, and a number of old families today feel proud of the traditions dating back to those days. Not a few of them, aside from the important work of the department, figured otherwise in the nation's history, to say nothing of local annals covering a half century.

Think! Only Ten Clerks
Among the ten clerks was John Newman, who occupied the chief clerkship, and later figured in the Lewis and Clark expedition to the northwest, in which his services were meritorious. Hezekiah Rogers was another, and afterward as a military storekeeper had much to do with the shops and stores at Greenleafs point and the establishment of the Washington arsenal prior to the war of 1812, and Israel Loring had been a merchant in Philadelphia. The accountant was William Simmons, one of Washington's appointees originally as chief clerk of the auditor for the Treasury. Mr. Simmons was the chief accountant through the war of 1812. There were nine assistants, headed by the well known Peter Hagner, who entered the service in Washington's day, serving through all successive administration till 1850, then resigning by reason of age, having held the third auditorship from its creation in 1817. Mr. Hagner settled near Pennsylvania avenue and 18th after a service of forty years. The elder was one of the found as of St. John's Episcopal Church, and the family name has been continuous on its register.

John Abbott of Georgetown went from the accountant’s office to the third auditor's office, long serving there, and the family name was long continued here, Robert Ellis, living in the Seven buildings, went from her to the second auditor's office, as did James Eakin, who was long the chief clerk there.

Mighty Few Changes
George Graham succeeded to the chief clerkship of the Secretary’s office and during the eventful days of the war was the acting secretary. In the twenties Mr. Graham succeeded Josiah Meigs as commissioner of the general land office.

But little change had been made in the personnel other than by addition, as will be seen.

In this building in the twenties, when John C. Calhoun headed the office, were the following bureaus: Engineers, Gen. Alexander Macomb, in which were George T. Rhodes, chief clerk, J.S. Smith and G.A. Bibby, Ordnance corps, Col. George Bomford with Reuben Burdine, W. Riddell and John Morton, clerks. Topographical engineers, Col. Isaac Roberdeau. Paymaster general, Gen. Nathan Towson, with whom were Timothy P. Andrews and N. Frye, both reaching the head of the office, and Allen Ramsey, long a resident of the first ward, whose sons each attained high rank in the army and navy. Commissary general, Col. George Gibson, with whom were Capt. J.H. Hook, Lieut. Thomas Hunt and James Mitchell, Quartermaster general, Gen. Thomas S. Jesup with Majs. Truman Cross and J.L. Gardiner.

The Secretary's office included C. Vanderventer, chief clerk; B.L. Beall and Thomas B. Addison of Geoergetown; E. Stevens, John E. Frost, Gideon Davis, Lewis Edwards, S.S. Hamilton, J.P. Fenner and H. Miller. William Markward, who lived on G street near 21st street, was the first messenger, and after John McCarty, Jacob Hines and Francis Datcher, the latter serving nearly fifty years.

In the Indian Office
The Indian office, prior to the twenties under the supervision of the department, was in charge of Col. Thomas L. McKinney of Georgetown, and the office there located. Jeremiah W. Bronaugh, J.W. Rich, M. Fitzhugh, J.M. Bronaugh and W. Mites constituted the force.

The pension business of the army was conducted in the office of the Secretary of War, but about 1820 Mr. James L. Edwards, long a resident of the West End, who was in charge of the business, had some assistants appointed.

Other clerks were William Hickey, afterward prominent in local military affairs, reaching the rank of general, and for some years filling the position of executive clerk of the Senate. Others then here were William Gordon, who in the forties was clerk in the bounty land division and John H. Henshaw.

The second auditor's office on the first floor of the War Department was established with Mr. William Lee at the head. Mr. Lee then resided in the Six buildings on the avenue west of 21st street, and Messrs. Eakin and Ellis from the accountants' office and William Michlin, an original clerk, were neighbors as well as clerks in his office. Among others were Brooke Williams of Georgetown, Thomas Barclay of G street, John Wells of 15th and K streets, R.M. Boyer, Brooke Mackall, J.D. Hayden, Leonard Mackall and William Stewart of Georgetown, John Peters from the foot of G street, R.B. Maury, E street near 14th street, Jonathan Sevier, 7th street north of D street, and Ignatius Boone of North Capitol and I streets.

Back in the Forties
In the forties there remained in the building the offices of the Secretary, the second auditor, quartermaster general and Indian office, and the others were located in the neighborhood. There had, too, been much change in the personnel, Gen. Macomb having from the death of Gen. Brown, in 1828, served till 1841, when he died, Gen. Winfield Scott was the commander-in-chief; Gen. Roger Jones was the adjutant general. Among the clerks in the offices, which had been in the building since the death of Gen. Brown, were Edward Brewer, James Lowry of I street and Thomas M. Hanson of Capitol Hill. The quartermaster general's office included Capt. A.R. Hetsel, who was killed in the Mexican war shortly after, and also included in the force were W.A. Gordon, chief clerk; James Gosier, L.A. Fleury, W.L. Bailey and Thomas J. Abbott, clerks. The names of Richard Gott, Columbus Monroe of the subsistence department. F.N. Harbarin of Georgetown, J. Eveleth and H. Cruickshanks, engineers, under Col. J.G. Totten, George Bender, Morris Adler, ordnance, under Capt. Talcott; J. Goldsboro Bruff, J.P. Keller, Charles Tschiffely of the topographical engineers, Col. J.J. Abert, are some who had long service, as well as the messengers, Joseph Williamson, Charles Baker, George Phelps, Joseph Schwartz, James H. Collins, O.B. Denham, George Thompson and Nathan Mulliken. Several of the latter came through detail from the army.

Mr. Baker long lived at the southwest corner of 12th and L streets where he erected a frame cottage, which is still standing. Messrs. Phelps, on 20th street; Williamson, on I street; Schwartz, on 18th street, were well known residents of the first ward. Mr. Thompson had long served on the works of the engineers and was the father of the late John W. Thompson of the Navy Yard section. For many years he was a member of McKendree Church, in which he died while attending a meeting nearly thirty years ago. Mr. Mulliken long lived on G street east of 14th street, and for years was a member of Foundry M.E. Church and also prominent as an Odd Fellow. Mr. Denham was one of several brothers born and reared on 14th street south of the avenue.

Spent Life in Service
Gen. Daniel Parker, who had before resided on 20th street near G street, was then living on F street near the Treasury, and, under Gov. Marcy, was chief clerk. There were less than a dozen clerks, some of whom were Archibald Campbell, Nathan Rice of F street east of 7th street, Charles Calvert and John Potts, living near 19th and I streets. Mr. Calvert as a boy was in the military service, and spent his entire manhood in the department, rearing here a large family, of which Mr. F.G. Calvert survives.

The Indian bureau had grown in some fifteen clerks under Commissioner Medell. Among these were Samuel H. Porter, Hezekiah Miller, Charles E. Mix, Samuel J. Potts, W.H. and Townsend Waugh and L.H. Berryman. Mr. Mix had then been but a few years here, but saw much service, becoming afterward chief clerk and commissioner.

Mr. Edwards was at the head of the pension office then, with George W. Crump as chief clerk, and ten others. Mr. Crump then lived on 9th street near G street, and of the others Daniel Brown was on 18th near I street, Rev. F.S. Evans on M street east of 10th street; W. Ogden Niles, 17th street near I street, Charles Hibbs of Massachusetts avenue west of 4th street was the messenger.