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I grew up on my critter-loving grandmother’s stories about Major Nicholas Snowden Hill, her adored, indulgent grandfather, and most of those stories were about animals. Grandfather Hill took her to the circus, and soon after, he bought her Mars, the circus pony. He told her he had a surprise, and to pick a pocket in his overcoat. There was a puppy in each pocket. Granny’s stories were magical to a granddaughter who was equally animal crazed.

Nicholas Hill was a colorful figure in Baltimore. His family was among the earliest, Catholic settlers of the Maryland colony. He was raised in what is now Upper Marlboro, on one of Prince George’s County’s large tobacco farms. Sadly, his father, Charles, had many enslaved workers there. (A topic for further research). After serving in the Confederate Army in Arkansas as “Commissary of Subsistence,” he worked for many years as purchasing agent for the B & O Railroad, and later was managing director of the Carrollton Hotel and the Merchants’ Club.

I was curious about the Merchants’ Club, and a quick search led to this treasure:

Muskrat article

This 1896 article from the Baltimore Sun went viral. It was reprinted in publications ranging from The Annals of Hygiene, a medical journal; to Good Houskeeping, to the Scranton Republican, which expanded on the unappetizing muskrat, “its flesh is fat and greasy unto nastiness.”

Part of my family history search always includes looking for the places as well as the people, and up popped this wonderful image of the Merchants’ Club, site of the muskrat luncheon.


Design for Merchant’s Club Building on German St., Baltimore, MD
J. A. and W. J. Wilson, architect(s). From the American Architect and Building News, August 19, 1882

The Baltimore architectural firm of John Appleton Wilson and his cousin, William Thomas Wilson designed the Merchants’ Club. They were active from the late 19th century through 1907, and designed many private homes in and around Baltimore, many in the Queen Anne style, along with public and commercial buildings.

Baltimore’s Great Fire of 1904 destroyed both the Merchants’ Club and the Carrollton Hotel, and most certainly had a profound impact on Nicholas Hill’s life. To be continued…


The Annals of Hygiene, Volume 11, p. 383

American Architect and Building News, August 19, 1882

J. Appleton Wilson , MSA SC 3520-13819 at http://www.msa.md.gov



Major Nicholas Snowden Hill (1839-1912) – 2nd great grandfather

Mary (Hill) Mills (1875-c.1936) – great grandmother

Elsie (Mills) Oliver (1899-1993) grandmother

My mum