Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Lingan Gaither (1813-1858)
MSA SC 3520-1594


Birth: 13 February 1813, Locust Grove, Montgomery County, Maryland. Never married.

William Lingan Gaither was the only child of Henry Chew Gaither and Eliza Worthington of Montgomery County, Maryland. The Gaither family had already become prominent politicians of Maryland; Henry Chew Gaither in 1808-1810 and 1833-1834 and his brother Ephraim Gaither in 1817-1820 and 1827 both served in Maryland's House of Delegates. William Lingan Gaither was educated at Thornton Hills, Virginia and in Hagerstown, Maryland, before beginning a successful political career.[1]

Gaither served as Montgomery County's representative in the House of Delegates from 1839 to 1841, serving on several committees including the Committee on Insolvency, Committee on Manufacture, Committee on Election and Priveges for which he was chairman, and Committee on Corporations along with joint committee service for St. John's College.[2] From 1842 until his death, Gaither served on the Maryland Senate. During his time as Senator, Gaither was elected as President of Senate during the 1849 and 1854 sessions, and, as a Senatorial Elector of the Whig Party, supported the Henry Clay/Frelinghausen ticket and Zachary Taylor/Fillmore ticket for the 1844 and 1848 presidental campaigns, respectively.[3/4] Gaither served on several standing committees in the Senate including Corporations, Internal Improvements, Invalid Deeds and Defective Proceedings, Finance, Executive Nominations, Elections, Constitution, Colored Population, Agriculture, and Militia. Alongside fellow Senators, Samuel Owings Hoffman and James Wallace, William Lingan Gaither served on a committee in 1857 to commission a painting in honor of Washington's resignation in the Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House. Hoffman, Wallace, and Gaither ultimately selected American artist Edwin White, whose painting, Washington Resigning His Commission as Commander-in-Chief continues to hang in the State House today.[5]

Apart from his work in the Senate and House, Gaither was also appointed to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy in 1851 and as Director on behalf of the state in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad between 1856 and 1857.[6] When visiting Baltimore on business for the B&O Railroad, Gaither caught typhoid fever at the Barnum's Hotel. William Lingan Gaither died a year later on August 2, 1858 at Berkeley Springs, Virginia where he had hoped to recover from his illness.[7] In their February 1860 session, the Maryland Senate agreed to honor Gaither by wearing crapes on their left arm for a month in mourning and to adjourn until the following Monday. In his obituary, the Montgomery County Sentinel said of Gaither, "In his death the State has lost a most useful and efficient servant; his country one of her very best and most serviceable citizens; his party a strong arm whose power was felt in every contest; the Legislature its chiefest strength in all rusters of precedent and experience; society the ornament of a good citizen and an honorable man; and his friends one of those rare, pure, reliable and strong spirits, whose life is the salt of the earth, and whose friendship is one of the main blessings which we meet in a calluous and selfish world."[8]

William Lingan Gaither is buried at his ancestral home of Pleasant Fields (or the Henry Chew Gaither House) in Cracklin (now Laytonsville), Maryland. He left his entire estate to his cousin, Lucy A. B. Worthington, which amounted to $8,160.42 and included 1116 acres of land and 18 slaves.[9]

[1] Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske, ed., Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888, p.573.
Legislative History Project Collection, William Lingan Gaither (1813-1858) Biographical File, MSA SC 1138-001-1594.
[3] ELECTORAL COLLEGE (Maryland Proceedings), 1844-1848, MSA S81-1, vol. 208, p.95. See also p.89, 90, 2.
[4] "The Whigs of Maryland," National Aegis (Worchester, MA), 21 February 1844.
[5] "Painting for the Old Senate Chamber," Annapolis Gazette, 29 January 1857.
[6] Legislative History Project Collection, William Lingan Gaither (1813-1858) Biographical File, MSA SC 1138-001-1594.
[7] "Death of Senator Gaither," Sun (Baltimore, MD), 4 August 1858.
[8] "The Late Gen. Gaither," Montgomery Sentinel, 27 August 1858, MSA SC2813 M475-3.
[9] Farquhar, Roger Brooke, Historic Montgomery County Maryland, Old Homes and History. Silver Spring, MD: 1952, p.246.

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