The One Where We Begin to Say Goodbye-2017

The following is taken from remarks that SSFS Head of School Tom Gibian made during our 2017 End of Year All-School Assembly on Tuesday, May 30. 

Our gathering here is in keeping with our School’s tradition where We Begin to Say Goodbye. It is a sweet time, a sad time, a time of reflection, a time of joy and a time that we share thoughts and feelings, memories and lessons learned.

Traditions centered on teaching, learning, collaboration and having fun have been a part of Sandy Spring for almost 300 years. I’ll explain:

The story begins in 1728 with James Brooke deciding to build the first house in Sandy Spring with his wife Deborah. He was 23 years old, the son of Roger Brooke who was of Catholic ancestry and had become a convinced Friend, probably by his wife Elizabeth who was from a Quaker family. Deborah was the 18 year old daughter of Richard Snowden the Younger, a Quaker, successful in the iron business with a large landholding near present day Laurel. Richard Snowden had been one of the early land speculators looking to push the boundaries of the western frontier.

James and Deborah traveled on horseback through the borderless wilderness of Prince George’s County which, at the time, stretched all the way to the Alleghenies. They built the western most framed house in America south of Canada. At that time, all dwellings west of here were wigwams. A year later Deborah’s sister Elizabeth and her husband John Thomas built their house and called it Cherry Grove. Within 10 years James is in the biscuit making business just north of Gold Mine Road. His brother-in-law John has done ok too because in 1742 he builds Clifton, not our barn here on campus, rather the oldest intact surviving home in the eastern Piedmont located a few miles from here on New Hampshire Avenue.

By 1745, Friends were conducting meeting for worship near the fresh water spring in what was probably a tobacco barn; the Meeting graveyard’s first occupant was from the Thomas clan, a teenager who died in 1754. The Brooke and Thomas families continued to expand in Sandy Spring. In fact, it wasn’t until 1777 that the Meeting recorded a member who wasn’t either a Brooke or a Thomas when a Quaker couple from Virginia moved into the area.

The next generation of Sandy Spring Quakers were a distinguished lot.

Caleb Bentley, a silversmith and friend of Dolly Madison, welcomed President James Madison to spend the night in his Brookeville home following the British torching of the White House in 1814. His great grandson Jack grew up on a Sandy Spring farm and pitched in the seventh game of the 1924 World Series; the last time the Washington baseball team became world champions. Jack threw the walk off pitch as a member of the New York Giants. Jack’s wife Helen gave the land where our Sandy Spring Museum was built. That building was designed by Miche Booz formerly of our faculty who has now been commissioned to design the expansion of our meeting house here on campus.

In 1803, Thomas Moore was awarded the patent for the refrigerator, which he also named. He hosted Thomas Jefferson who rode out to Sandy Spring to discuss this and other inventions. May the record note that S. Brooke Moore, a woodworker, tinkerer, ultralight pilot, the founder of Sandy Spring Friends School and all round rebel was a direct descendent.

And then there was Isaac Briggs who was appointed by President Jefferson as Surveyor General for the Louisiana Purchase.

Bentley, Moore and Briggs were brothers-in-law; all were husbands of Brooke daughters.

These farmers, artists, scientists, inventors, and makers were the start of an unbroken story of innovation, generosity, and invention fueled by curiosity, scientific method and spirit. Succeeding chapters to the Sandy Spring story are no less amazing. Which brings us to today, and the realization that we are now the culture carriers; an intimidating prospect made easier when we recognize that we have inherited the playbook from the early Quakers, gently handed down through generations.

The threads that bind us are not just to the past but to each other as we journey together. Silence is meaningful when we are together; the Inner Light illuminates when we recognize it in others, continuing revelation is transformative when freely shared.

And traditions like this one is what Sandy Springers have been doing for 300 years.

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