Keeping the Family Together: Elizabeth Gaither Summers

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Old photograph albums are continually being sold, their contents removed and re-sold piecemeal. An album owned by Elizabeth J. Gaither Summers (b. abt. 1866), wife of Baltimore carpenter Charles D. Summers (b. abt. 1870), recently met the same fate.

When a number of identified cabinet card photographs came up for auction on the web recently, I felt a strong desire to keep as many of them together as possible. I began to build a Summers-Gaither family tree (available to registered members on ancestry.com), and to add portraits there.

With the tree and clues from the i.d.’d photos, I’m attempting to reconstruct something of the family’s history.

Elizabeth was the daughter of carpenter Vachel H. Gaither (b. 1824, Anne Arundel Co., Md.) and Margaret Robinson Gaither (b. abt. 1830, Md.).

The Gaithers go back to the very beginning of Anne Arundel County; Vachel’s grandfather and namesake was a Captain in the Severn Battalion of the Maryland Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Intriguingly, it’s the building trade that links the Summers and the Gaithers in Baltimore. Young Vachel brought his family to Baltimore after the Civil War, probably to take advantage of building work as the city boomed.

The Summers family probably came to Baltimore for much the same reasons. Charles’ father, Samuel A. Summers (b. abt. 1832) had been a furniture-maker in Trappe, in south Talbot County.

Son Charles D. Summers took up the house carpentry trade and came to Baltimore with his mother, Anna Louise Ross Summers (b. abt. 1850), daughter of Trappe shoemaker Charles H. Ross and Ellen M. Bullen; probably Samuel’s second wife), and siblings sometime between 1880 and 1900.

The studio of photographer James S. Cummins has been documented at 106 N. Charles Street in Baltimore 1888-1890 and 1893-1899 (Kelbaugh, Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900). Under this assumption, the oldest that Elizabeth Gaither Summers could be in this cabinet card photograph would be about 39 years of age.

All photographs from the Elizabeth J. Gaither Summers album were acquired on ebay from jbatro (johnscollectibles@att.net).

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