Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Andrew K. Syester (1828-1891)
MSA SC 3520-1506

Born Andrew Kershner Syester on March 11, 1828 in Berkeley County, Virginia.  Son of Daniel Syester and Sarah (Moudy) Syester.  Attended Hagerstown Academy, 1842-43; Marshall College, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, 1844-49, graduated 1849.  Studied law under Jervis Spencer, James Dixon Roman and Zachariah Claggett.  Admitted to the Washington County bar, 1853.  Married Catharine G. Harry (born c. 1831) on November 17, 1852.  Children:  Elizabeth ("Lillie;" m. Frank Baush, d. 1879), Andrew K. (born c. 1857), Nesbit (born c. 1859), Mollie K. (born c. 1863, m. Joseph  Coxe), Lewis Duffield (b. 1869), and Louise D. (born c. 1874).  Resided on Prospect Street, Hagerstown, Washington County.  Died in Hagerstown, March 25, 1891.  Buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown.

Syester was appointed a committee clerk of the Maryland House of Delegates in January 1850 and served during that legislative session.  He became a lawyer and was a law partner of A. C. Bond of Westminster, Maryland.  He was a member and speaker pro tem in the Maryland House of Delegates for Washington County as a member of the Whig party in 1854.  He changed political parties to the American or Know-Nothing party and was elected state's attorney for Washington County and served in 1854.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, he again changed political parties and became a Democrat.  In 1867 he was a delegate for Washington County to the Constitutional Convention of Maryland, and in the following year he again represented Washington County in the Maryland House of Delegates.  He was also a delegate to the 1868 Democratic National Convention.  From 1871 to 1875 he served as attorney general of Maryland.  He last professional position was that of associate judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties), where he sat from 1882 to 1889, when ill health forced his retirement.

As attorney general of Maryland in 1871, Governor Oden Bowie called upon Syester to assist in the prosecution of Mrs. Elizabeth (or Ellen) G. Wharton.  A resident of Baltimore, Mrs. Wharton was on trial in Annapolis in December 1871 and January 1872 for the murder by tartar emetic poisoning of retired U.S. Army General W. S. (William Scott) Ketchum and of the attempted murder by poisoning of Mr. Eugene Van Ness, a bookkeeper for Alexander Brown and Sons.  In a case that drew nation-wide attention, the prosecution presented an array of conflicting medical evidence and attempted to show a financial relationship between Mrs. Wharton and General Ketchum in which he owed her money.  The defense argued that General Ketchum died of natural causes and that the case against Mrs. Wharton was purely circumstantial.  A jury found Mrs. Wharton not guilty.

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