Frederick in Frederick County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Frederick’s Poet Lawyer
Francis Scott Key
After attending school in Annapolis and studying law for four years, Key opened a law office near here. He argued cases in the old court house where today’s City Hall is located. He later appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, and practiced law until the end of his life.
Key’s legal skills led him to a daring role during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 where he negotiated the release of an American prisoner. His eloquence as a writer and poet gave us the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Early Life of Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key is born at Terra Rubra, his parent’s estate, in what was then northeast Frederick County.
After ten years growing up in Frederick County, Key attends St. John’s Grammar School and then St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.
Key graduates from St. John’s
Key begins his law career in Frederick. His college friend, Robert Brooke Taney, also practices law in Frederick, and later marries Key’s sister Anne.
Key marries Mary Tayloe Lloyd in Annapolis.
Key moves to Washington, D.C., to become a partner in the law practice of his uncle, Phillip Barton Key.
Key writes “The Star-Spangled Banner” which would become the national anthem of the United States in 1931.
In 1840, Key, at age 61, came here to visit his aged cousin Eleanor Potts who was then totally blind. She lived on Council Street across the courtyard. Key promised her a poem, and she listened as he read the stanzas which included these lines:
The “light of other days” was hers,
Of happy days now past and gone,
It called up friends long lov’d and mourn’d,
And sweetly round her shone.
Twas the, as by her side I sat,
She softly touch’d the light guitar,
And tones that had my childhood charm’d,
Fell sweetly, sadly on my ear.
Key as a youth
Frederick in 1854
Trinity Chapel, visible to your right, marks the probable site of Key’s baptism. In 1779 it was
Frederick County’s second courthouse—the one Key knew—was built here in 1785, but burned in 1861. The third courthouse, completed in 1862, is the building here today. It became Frederick’s City Hall in 1985.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • Patriots & Patriotism • War of 1812.
Location. 39° 24.932′ N, 77° 24.732′ W. Marker is in Frederick, Maryland, in Frederick County. Marker is at the intersection of West Church Street and North Court Street, on the right when traveling west on West Church Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Frederick MD 21701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. “South Magnetic” (here, next to this marker); Unanimous Resolution (a few steps from this marker); Site of Frederick County's First Y.M.C.A. (within shouting distance of this marker); The Congregation in Frederick (within shouting distance of this marker); City Hall (within shouting distance of this marker); No to the Stamp! (within shouting distance of this marker); The Ross Home (within shouting distance of this marker); Tyler’s-Spite House (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Frederick.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on August 3, 2013, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 544 times since then and 7 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 3, 2013, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on October 14, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.