Eliza Jane (Maddox) Scott had a talent for inserting herself into a broader historical narrative. Three unusual stories were passed down through her family concerning her brushes with history.
The first (totally unproven and very questionable) assertion is that she is a great-granddaughter of General David Wooster of Revolutionary War fame. The second is that she sometimes strolled the neighborhood with Johns Hopkins and he discussed his plans for a hospital with her. This is slightly more believable in that both Eliza’s homes were within two miles of Hopkins’ Clifton estate (now Clifton Park). Also, Hopkins was a Quaker and rumor has it Eliza Jane dabbled in the Society of Friends for a time (also unproven to date).
Her most enduring story however, and the one mentioned in her obituary and that of her daughter Georgianna, goes like this:
Eliza Jane and her sister met General Lafayette on his visit to Baltimore. The nobleman “as she was fond of relating” placed his hand on her head and said “Bless you my child.”
The Marquis de Lafayette was a celebrity. Beloved by all Americans for his role in the American Revolution, he returned to the U.S. in August of 1824, as the honored guest of President James Monroe. He went on a multi-city tour, visiting people who had been close to him during the war.
Baltimore went all out for their turn with the General. According to Thomas Scharf’s Chronicles of Baltimore, the General was conducted through the decorated streets of Baltimore and “was greeted everywhere with the huzzas of the citizens and the waving of handkerchiefs, from every position which afforded the least prospect of beholding him.”
He then attended several large reunion events, while lodging at the Fountain Inn (then on Light and Redwood Streets). He greeted Revolutionary Veterans and prominent citizens at dinners and balls…and one night he spent an evening at the Inn shaking hands with ordinary citizens.
I think Eliza would like us to believe that she met Lafayette when presented as an honored guest– with the families of Revolutionary Patriots–and maybe she did. But her story, that “with her sister” she met him (not with her parents), invites us to imagine two little girls slipping through the twilight streets to the Fountain Inn, pushing their way to the front of the crowd to get a glimpse of their hero, and then meeting him face to face.
In Eliza’s story, it is she who is blessed–not her sister– letting us imagine that 10- year-old Eliza conceived of this adventure on her own (either convincing an older sister to accompany her, or a younger sister to some along), and Eliza who captured the momentary attention of a national hero.