The deplorable actions that took place alongside a desolate country road outside Myersville in July 1924 briefly thrust Frederick County in the national spotlight.
Dorothy Grandon, 21, and her friend Mabel Mills had been in Myersville for about a week, calling on a friend. During their stay, there was talk that the young women had been “visited by men,” mainly strangers, and “…were offensive in terms of how they acted and what they said,” The News reported.
Their arrival and actions shook up the town: “Soon after the arrival of the two, the peaceful mountain settlement became a seething hotbed of resentment as the result of the girls’ alleged actions,” according to a front page article in The News.
Because of the stir the young women were causing, the sheriff sent them a letter, encouraging them to leave. They did not act quickly enough for some in the town, and those residents took matters into their own hands.
The actions taken against Dorothy on the night of July 24, 1924 made news in several papers across the country, and even shared news space some days with the infamous Leopold and Loeb trial.
Accounts differ regarding that night’s events, but this much is known: Dorothy was walking along the Myersville-Middletown Road between 10 and 11 p.m., leaving town, when a group of townsfolk approached her.
Resident Mary Shank was especially upset with Dorothy, as she believed Dorothy had been intimate with her husband Lloyd. And she came armed with a club, prepared to show her anger. Mary, who later pleaded guilty, testified that she had the club in case she found Dorothy and her husband together.
But that night, she only found Dorothy.
Dorothy testified that Mary hit her several times with the club, then she was stripped, tarred and feathered. “I got on my knees and pleaded for mercy, but they laughed at me. All I got was jeers,” Dorothy said according to an article in The News.
Later, Mary attempted to paint herself as a victim as well; she said that she did not want to harm Dorothy, and the men in the mob made her by threatening her with the same treatment if she did not comply.
Many of the men claimed they were just tagging along to watch the fight and didn’t have an active role in the events of the evening.
Judge Hammon Urner presided over the trial. According to a news article, he told the court: “This is an extraordinary and a most deplorable case. It is concerned with an impulsive and needless act of mob violence, committed in a law abiding community by persons whose previous conduct appears to have been above reproach.”
But he seemed to also have a soft spot for Mary Shank: “The defendant who committed the actual assault and applied the tar and feathers furnished by the other defendants is a wife whose domestic peace was disturbed by the woman she attacked.”
In all, 12 people were sentenced for their roles in the attack; five other men were found not guilty, and two were given suspended sentences.
Mary served 9 months in the county jail for her role in the assault. Two men, Harry Leatherman and Arthur Rice, were convicted for rioting and tarring and feathering and were sentenced to two years in the Maryland House of Correction.
Governor Arthur Ritchie later pardoned nine men involved in the incident; they had served five months of their 1-year sentence.