Former Owner of Landon House Was Mayor of Mobtown

Photo | Courtesy of “Stories in Stone.” Samuel Hinks (1815-1887) is buried at Mount Olivet cemetery, MSA SC 3520-12475.

Photo | Courtesy of “Stories in Stone.”
Samuel Hinks (1815-1887) is buried at Mount Olivet cemetery, MSA SC 3520-12475.

By Chris Haugh

This article is excerpted from one in a series, “Stories in Stone,” written by Mount Olivet historian—and one might say detective—Chris Haugh. For more “Stories in Stone,” visit www.mountolivetcemeteryinc.com/stories-in-stone-blog/stories-in-stone or “Like” the Facebook page www.facebook.com/MountOlivetCemeteryInc. “Stories in Stone” is part of the Mount Olivet Cemetery Preservation and Enhancement Fund, formed recently to preserve the historic records, structures and monuments of the cemetery.

Toward the end of April, I found myself walking around Area B, one of Mount Olivet’s oldest sections, not far from the cemetery’s main entrance. I was taking photographs of World War I veteran graves for our www.MountOlivetVets.com website when a large monument came clearly into view. It was roughly 12-foot tall and I had never really taken notice of it before. The memorial is a very attractive marble monument, with intricate architectural features and topped with a shaft with an urn at the top. Around the shaft is a sculpted laurel wreath.

I was not familiar with the surname on the monument—Hinks. The decedents in this case were Samuel Hinks (1815-1887) and his wife, Susan Hinks (1816-1909).

I did a quick Google search of the name and associated vital dates. I found a Wikipedia page for Samuel Hinks but opted instead to first visit an official biography compiled by the state archivist and staff of the Maryland Archives/Hall of Records in Annapolis. I found an essay extracted from Wilbur F. Coyle’s “The Mayors of Baltimore” (reprinted from The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), pgs. 89-90. In the essay, Hinks’ accomplishments as Mayor of Baltimore from Nov. 13, 1854 to Nov. 10, 1856 are noted, including authorizing erection of a new city jail, establishing a municipal water system, establishing a reservoir to supply the city with water, building a new Western Female High School and other schools and bridges, and opening The House of Refuge (Maryland School for Boys).

I was fascinated with the fact that we had a mayor of Baltimore buried here in Mount Olivet, something likely not known by cemetery staff and local historians over the last century. My questions now centered around the obvious: Why was he buried here in Frederick, and not Baltimore?

I knew I’d soon be looking at such local sources such as Mount Olivet’s cemetery records, Ancestry.com, T.J.C. Williams’ “History of Frederick County,” and Jacob Engelbrecht’s Diary. Before I did, however, I wanted to see what the Wikipedia page for Samuel Hinks had to say. It was definitely less flattering than the State Archives biography, possessing the innuendo that Hinks perhaps acquired his job by “mob rule,” both literally and figuratively.

Here is what Wikipedia had to say: “In 1854 Samuel Hinks was elected Mayor of Baltimore, standing as a candidate for the nationalist anti-Catholic “American Party.” Members of the party were popularly known as ‘Know-Nothings’ because, when asked about their secret organizations, their members were said to reply, ‘I know nothing’”

I learned that this led to something referred to as the Know-Nothing Riot of 1856. According to Wikipedia, “During the mid-1850s, public order in Baltimore had been threatened by the election of candidates of the American Party. As the 1856 Mayoral elections approached, Samuel Hinks was pressed by Baltimorians to order the militia of General George H. Steuart in readiness to maintain order, as widespread violence was anticipated. Hinks duly gave Steuart the order to ready the militia, but he soon rescinded it. In the event, violence broke out on polling day, with shots exchanged by competing mobs. In the 2nd and 8th wards, several citizens were killed, and many wounded. In the 6th ward, artillery was used, and a pitched battle fought on Orleans Street between gangs of Know Nothings and rival Democrats, raging for several hours. The result of the election, in which voter fraud was widespread, was a victory for the Know Nothing candidate, Thomas Swann, by around 9,000 votes. Swann duly succeeded Hinks as Mayor of Baltimore.”

Wow. I would have been simply satisfied with his accomplishments as mayor, but I had learned that this was a man embroiled in an amazing time in our history—the eve of the American Civil War. Baltimore would serve as a microcosm of what was taking place on the national stage.

So what was Baltimore like at the time of Samuel Hinks’ rise to power in the 1850s? Well, I checked another source to learn more about Baltimore’s earlier nickname, the one before “Charm City.” It was known as “Mobtown.” The earliest print documentation of the term Mobtown occurs in an 1838 copy of The Baltimore Sun; yet, it is said that by that time the name was already well established.

One of the earliest tales comes from the turmoil of the American Revolution in 1777. A group of anti-British Baltimoreans called the Whig Club congregated outside the home of William Goddard, editor of the Maryland Journal who expressed pro-British sentiments. The mob forcefully removed him from his home and tarred and feathered him in the street. A similar attack was made on Federalist publisher Alexander Contee Hanson who successfully warded off a mob during the War of 1812. Baltimore would erupt in riot and protest again in 1835 and 1839, in addition to the 1856 unfortunate event—all connected with local and national political developments.

As a Know Nothing, Hinks was associated with a group known for its gang tactics. Know Nothings got their name because they answered that they “knew nothing” when questioned by authorities regarding their aggressive activities. Particularly strong in Baltimore where they included groups in the majority of wards, Know Nothings operated with such unusual and colorful names as the Blood Tubs, McGonigan’s Rip Raps, Natives, Rough Skins, Tigers, Black Snakes, Wampanoags, Regulators, Double-Pumps, Hunters, American Rattlers, Butt Enders, Plug Uglies, Blackguards and so on.

The Plug Uglies were the most notorious of the lot and known to help elect or run out political candidates. In 1854, the Know Nothings felt confident enough to put up their own candidate for the Baltimore Mayoral Race of 1854. That man was Samuel Hinks, and he had the support of the Plug Uglies.

Up to this point, Hinks had never held a public office. He had announced his candidacy only two weeks before the mid-October election and did practically no campaigning. Even the convention that nominated him was held in secret. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, Hinks won by a margin of 2,741 votes—13,845 to 11,104 over Democratic challenger William G. Thomas. Hinks’ victory came as an utter shock to the Democrats who had controlled the city for the past decade.

Hinks immediately went to work for the Know Nothings. One year later, the Know Nothings scored a series of major victories by electing a comptroller, a lottery commissioner, four of six U.S. congressmen, 54 of the 74 open Maryland delegate seats and eight of 11 contested Senate seats.

Hinks would give his seat to Thomas Swann, a fellow Know-Nothing colleague in the 1856 municipal election. As mentioned earlier, Hinks foresaw the coming trouble associated with election day. He wasn’t wrong as Nov. 4, 1856 was one of the bloodiest and most corrupt in state history as Swann allegedly defeated Democratic challenger Robert Clinton Wright by more than a thousand votes.

After his mayoral term, Hinks was elected Water Registrar of Baltimore and worked as a director of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Health issues forced him to give up his municipal post in 1863.

So why is he buried here in Frederick? Hinks was married a local Frederick woman, Susan Nixdorf. Thinking that country life would help him to regain his health, the family moved to the former 128-acre estate owned by Susan’s Nixdorf family, more recently known as the Dudderar Farm. Today, this comprises the Villages at Urbana subdivision. For his domicile, Hinks purchased the neighboring Landon Academy structure (Landon House).

Samuel Hinks died on Nov. 30, 1887 and many attended his funeral service at Mount Olivet on Dec. 3. Susan would live to the age of 92, joining her husband under the shadow of their fine monument on May 5, 1909.

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