Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Emma Nicodemus Warfield (1858-1923)
MSA SC 3520-2285
First Lady of Maryland, 1904-1908

[Picture of Emma Nicodemus Warfield]

Emma Nicodemus Warfield, artist unknown
The Warfield Scrapbooks, Maryland State Archives,
Special Collections, MSA SC G 445

Emma Nicodemus Warfield, the wife of Governor Edwin Warfield, was the First Lady of Maryland from 1904 until 1908. Although born in Baltimore City on June 12, 1858, Miss Nicodemus' family was originally from Cumberland Valley, Maryland. Nicodemus family lore describes her earliest ancestors in America as purported "Indian fighters" and "Revolutionary patriots."1 Her father, Josiah Courtney Nicodemus was a prominent merchant in Baltimore and was a partner with Samuel R. Smith in the firm "Smith and Nicodemus."2 In addition to Emma, Josiah and his wife, Mary Jane Montandon Nicodemus, had seven other children including Mary Louise, Margaret, Angelia, Carrie, Virginia, Frank, and Harry.3

Emma Warfield married Edwin Warfield on November 24, 1886, and their union produced four children: Edwin, Jr., Caroline, Louise, and Emma. The Warfields lived at "Oakdale," their estate in Howard County, Maryland, until Mr. Warfield was elected Governor of Maryland in 1904.4 During his inaugural address, Governor Warfield promised to keep the executive mansion occupied at all times. True to his word, the family moved to Annapolis and lived in Government House for the duration of his four year term, except for summer vacations spent at "Oakdale." During the Warfields' absences from Government House, the Secretary of State, Colonel Oswald Tilghman, occupied the executive mansion so that the residence could remain open at all times.5

Although living in the capital city was a priority during the Warfield administration, Mrs. Warfield continued to "enjoy the pleasantries of country living."6  While summering at "Oakdale," Emma was able to indulge her passion for horseback riding which she shared with her husband. In fact, in order to ease their transition to city life, the family brought five of their horses to Annapolis to use while they occupied Government House.

Mrs. Warfield was quite the equestrienne, for she completed in numerous local horse shows and occasionally took home awards for her riding prowess.8  These competitions not only afforded Emma the opportunity to enjoy her avocation, but also presented her with a means to remain involved in her community. On December 11, 1905, Mrs. Warfield's hobby almost turned to tragedy when she was involved in a runaway carriage accident. Fortunately, the driver was experienced and was able to get the spooked horses under control. Mrs. Warfield escaped the accident practically unscathed, but the Governor was so concerned about his wife's welfare, he sent the horses back to their country estate. However, even such a psychological scare did not diminish Mrs. Warfield's desire to ride whenever the family visited "Oakdale."9

In addition to affording the family time to enjoy the countryside, the Warfields' summers at "Oakdale" allowed for necessary repairs, renovations, and redecorations in Government House. These improvements contributed to another of Edwin Warfield's goals---making the governor's residence into a source of pride for all state citizens.10  Also, toward this goal, both Mr. and Mrs. Warfield sought to enlarge the state's art collection during the administration.11

After the family enjoyed their summer at "Oakdale," the Warfields returned to the capital in early September each year. While they lived in Government House, the Warfields' son, Edwin, studied at St. John's College in Annapolis. Their youngest daughter, Emma lived at home "to govern the governor," as the local press proclaimed. The middle daughters, Carrie and Louise, attended school in New York, but they frequently returned home to Government House for social events.12

As a result of the Warfields' commitment to being active and visible members of the Annapolis community, the family hosted numerous receptions at Government House. Mrs. Warfield acted as the state's Official Hostess to many visitors, including prominent Annapolitans, members of the legislature, and even a national celebrity.13  Although contemporary author Margie Luckett characterized the First Lady as somewhat shy and more eager to entertain a close circle of friends than a large gathering, Luckett acknowledges that Emma Warfield took up the role of hostess with grace and charm.14

In fact, she showed quite a talent for her role as Official Hostess. Almost immediately after the inauguration, Mrs. Warfield held the first of her "Thursdays at Home" in the Executive Mansion on January 21, 1904 between 4 and 6 o'clock in the afternoon. This event was a weekly open house inaugurated by Mary Frances Richardson Smith, First Lady from 1900 to 1904 during the administration of Governor John Walter Smith. The "Thursdays at Home" offered both members of the Annapolis community and visitors to the state capital the opportunity to meet the First Lady and to tour the residence.15  This custom was observed by several First Ladies of the twentieth century. During the "Thursdays at Home," as well as many other Government House functions, Mrs. Warfield was assisted in hosting by the Governor's sister, Mrs. Herman Hoopes, who was also Emma's dear friend.16

In the course of her first public reception, Emma promised that Government House would be host to large card parties, brilliant receptions, and elaborate musicales. She even hinted that, as a former church organist, she would serve as the accompanist herself. True to her social ambitions, the Warfields' first evening reception was extremely well received by the community, and the state's Official Hostess was lauded by both The Evening Capital and The Advertiser-Republican newspapers as "handsome, bright and animated . . . well fitted for the high position she is to fill."17  As a result of their renowned hospitality and congeniality, the Warfields were well-loved by the local press throughout their administration, and social events in the executive mansion were covered in great detail including the type of flowers used for decoration, the style of clothing worn by the guests, and the order in which the hosts stood in the receiving line.18

While the Baltimore fire in February 1904 postponed many gatherings, receptions continued throughout the Governor's entire term. In addition to public receptions, Mrs. Warfield hosted lavish official functions, including a dinner party for the Judges of the Court of Appeals and an evening for four hundred members of the Senate, Assembly, and other state officials. Mrs. Warfield showed her support for the capital city by insisting that all purchases for the receptions be made from Annapolis vendors.19

In addition to the official receptions, Mrs. Warfield hosted events in support of local community organizations, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Teacher's Literary Club, St. Anne's Protestant Episcopal Church, and the Young Women's Christian Association.20  On one occasion, she invited twenty-five members of a southern Baltimore bible class to visit the executive mansion for a lecture about the portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, for whom the state was named.21  She also threw a children's party for the sons and daughters of the Baltimore and Ohio's railroad workers.22

Throughout the Governor's term, Mrs. Warfield continued to entertain constantly. This flair for hosting events culminated in the 1907 visit of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. After extensive correspondence and an opportunity to dine with Mr. Twain at his New York home, Mrs. Warfield personally invited the popular author and humorist to Annapolis, asking him to appear in a benefit to support the First Presbyterian Church.23  Mr. Twain accepted this invitation, and entertained in the House of Delegates chamber on the evening of May 10, 1907. This was his first public appearance in eleven years, and during his remarks, he promised that it would be his last.24  Although he had originally been invited to speak in the drawing room of Government House, the presentation was moved to the State House due to the enormous audience in attendance.25  As a result of Mrs. Warfield's skill as a hostess and Mr. Twain's immense popularity, the benefit added six hundred dollars to the church treasury.26

While Clemens was perhaps the most celebrated visitor of the term, the family also hosted the Rear Admiral of the British Navy, Prince Louis of Battenburg in November 1905, the Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan on June 4, 1907, and the officers of the Maryland National Guard on January 1, 1908.27  In addition to these honored guests, the First Lady also orchestrated her daughter, Caroline's, elaborate debutante ball in Government House on November 11, 1906. This event was the first "coming out" celebration to ever be held in the executive mansion.28  Also, Mrs. Warfield continued her weekly entertaining on Thursday afternoons until the retirement of the Governor in 1908.

After the Governor's term had ended, the Warfield family traveled extensively in Europe on a four month tour which included Great Britain, Ireland, and the Continent.29  Upon returning to Maryland, the Warfields resumed their private life at "Oakdale." Mrs. Warfield remained at her country home until her death on March 2, 1923, at which time she was laid to rest in the Jennings Chapel United Methodist Church Cemetery in Howard County.30

Notes on sources

Return to Mrs. Warfield's biographical profile

Return to Mrs. Warfield's introductory page