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Riach-Wade papers

Identifier: MS 3271


This collection contains papers belonging to Mrs. John Douglass Wade (Louisa Gilmor Riach) of Montgomery County, Maryland. The collection includes the correspondence of her parents, Alexander Fridge Riach and Louisa Gilmor Hoffman, as well as correspondence from her husband, John Douglas Wade, prior to his death in World War I. Also included is a travel journal written by Benjamin Chew Howard, describing his walking tour of Scotland in 1817. The journal contains narrative descriptions of the locations and its histories, as well as pencil sketches.


  • 1817 - 1952


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

Louisa Gilmor Hoffman (1835-1884) was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Louisa Airey Gilmor (1804-1881) and Peter Owings Hoffman (1801-1860). The only daughter among 5 children, her brothers included William (1827-), Robert (1832-), Alfred (1834-), and Charles (1840-). In May 1868, she became engaged to Alexander Fridge Riach (1825-1896), a merchant and immigrant from Forres, Scotland. The two were married on November 11, 1868 and had a daughter, Louisa Gilmor Riach, on August 12, 1870. The family lived for a time on Madison Avenue in New York City. Both the elder Louisa Riach and Alexander F. Riach died in Baltimore. The younger Louisa lived in Maryland for the rest of her life, first in Baltimore, and later in Montgomery County.

In March 1913, she married for the first time at the age of 42, to John Douglass Wade, who was ten years her junior. He was born on May 18, 1880 in Gaithersburg, Maryland to William H. Wade (1858-1934) and Ellen Maria Clopper (1858-1898). Prior to World War I, John Wade worked as an electrician in Baltimore, where the couple most likely met. He also served as the President of the Baltimore Camera Club in 1913. In 1917, he joined the 5th Maryland Infantry and trained at Camp McClellan before shipping out overseas to join the Allies in France in June 1918. Wade was killed in action on October 10, 1918, in Bois de Consenvoye, France, whilst fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. He was buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France, although a marker stone was placed in Saint Rose of Lima cemetery in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Widowed after only five years of marriage, Louisa was addressed as Mrs. John D. Wade for the remainder of her life. She never remarried, and spent the rest of her life travelling and engaged in personal pursuits. In May 1922, she updated her passport with the intention of visiting England, France, and Italy over the course of 18 months. According to passenger lists, Louisa sailed from Le Havre, France to Baltimore on several occassions throughout the 1930s. In 1951, at the age of 81, she visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Honolulu, Hawaii. Mrs. Wade died in August 1962 in Baltimore, Maryland, aged 92.


1.04 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of William C. Murphy, September 1997.

Scope and Contents

The Riach-Wade papers consists of three series: Riach family, Wade family, and Miscellaneous. The first two series are further arranged into subseries according to the individual about whom the records relate. Folders within each subseries are arranged according to date, followed up undated materials.

Series I, Riach family, contains materials related to Alexander Fridge Riach and his wife, Louisa Gilmor Hoffman Riach. Subseries A, records related to Alexander F. Riach, primarily contains correspondence to Louisa Gilmor Hoffman Riach, both before and after their marriage. The letters begin in February 1868, and the almost daily correspondence reveals Riach's deepending attachment for "Miss Louisa." After their marriage in November 1868, his letters pick up again during his absences on business in New York. In fact, he was there on August 12, 1870 when his daughter was born, and writes to his wife the very same day to discuss the weather.

Alexander Riach's papers also contain his letters to his daughter, Louisa Gilmor Riach (later Wade), written between 1893 to just before his death in 1896. He writes most of the letters to his daughter between 1895-1896 while she is overseas. Riach was, at this point, settled in Baltimore, and composes many letters on Maryland Club stationary. He writes often of his daily life, and encourages his daughter to write often as well. Between June and September 1896, Riach himself is overseas, and writes to Louisa first from Glasgow and Grantown-on-Spey in Scotand, then Liverpool, Chester, and London, England, before returning to Scotland. His trip appears to be one intended to visit family, as he mentions in a July 13th letter of a 50-mile journey to the "birthplace of the Riachs." His letters are full of endearments to his daughter, often addressing his letters to "My own darling" and entreating her to write frequently. The remainder of Alexander Riach's papers contain miscellaneous incoming correspondence and printed papers.

Series I, Subseries B, contains papers related to Alexander Riach's wife, Louisa Gilmor Hoffman Riach. This subseries contains five folders, four of which consist of correspondence. There is one folder of letters from Louisa to her husband Alexander, dated 1868-1870, in the early days of their marriage when he often worked away from home. One letter of note penned by Louisa is dated August 18, 1870, five days after she gave birth to their daughter, also named Louisa. She writes, "I am glad to be able to tell you that both the Louisas are doing remarkably well- Old Louisa did not sleep very well the early part of last night, notwithstanding the Young one snoozed it profoundly, and was as good as gold." Four of Louisa's letters are dated with a month and day, but neglect the year. The remainder of letters consist of incoming correspondence to Louisa from various friends and family, including her mother, Louisa Airy Hoffman. One folder contains letters of congratulations to Louisa Gilmor Hoffman on her engagment in May 1868. The final folder in the subseries contains receipts and printed ephemera from an 1866-1867 trip to Paris.

Series II, Wade family, contains materials related to Louisa Gilmor Riach Wade and her husband, John Douglas Wade. Subseries A, records related to Louisa Gilmor Riach Wade, contains papers both from before and after her marriage to John Wade in 1913. One folder, dated 1884-1885, consists of letters she sent to her father, Alexander F. Riach, while away at Oldfields, a girls school in Glencoe, Maryland. In these letters she mainly discusses her life at school and the various activities in which she is engaged. In a letter dated October 5, 1884, she writes, "I have begun with my poetry, but find it impossible to give it more than half an hour a day. I am busy from morning to night, in school and out. So far I practice an hour in the afternoon and then we have serving hour and an hour for study so I have only about half an hour for a walk."

Subseries A also contains miscellaneous incoming correspondence to Louisa Gilmor Riach (Wade), including letters of condolence she received on the death of her father, between December 1896-January 1897. From the expressions of shock conveyed in the letters, Alexander Riach's death at the age of 71 was sudden, and he was in good heath immediately prior to his passing. "Aunt Chrissie" writes on December 17th, "I am thankful to think that your father never knew what old age was. Though you may feel too, dear, that we might have been long with you yet, he has been spared a weakness and dependence that would have been very trying to him." Many mentioned Louisa's close relationship with her father and the deep loss she suffered. This subseries also contains two folders of postcards sent to Louisa between roughly 1900-1950. Having traveled widely herself, she had a great deal of friends around the world who often sent postcards in a number of languages.

Series II, Subseries B, contains papers related to Louisa Gilmor Riach Wade's husband, John Douglas Wade. The bulk of this subseries consists of letters Wade wrote to his wife between 1911-1918. His earliest letter, dated August 7, 1911, was written two years before their marriage when they appear to have maintained a friendship. In these early letters he writes of leasing a new house in Baltimore, his work, and in 1912 he expresses jealousy at her upcoming trip to Europe. His letters are friendly until January 4, 1913, when he writes of his feelings for her. "I feel as if I have been away off somewhere, miles and years away, and I have thought constantly of you. So very big is it that most everything that I knew before has dwarfed." His letters after this point are very affectionate in nature, filled with endearments and expressions of his love and devotion. After their marriage in April 1913, he writes intermittently until 1916 when he is away on business.

In 1917, John D. Wade joined the 5th Maryland Infantry, and in September of that year he entered training at Camp McClellan, Alabama. At this point, his letters to Louisa consist of descriptions of his life at the camp and updates on future plans. On October 10, 1917, he writes to his wife after his recent promotion. "I am one of three first lieutenants in Co. M. 115th Inf., U.S.A., 58th Brigade, 29th Division. The Blue and Gray Division! We are a combination of Co. M., 5th Md,. and Co. M., 1st Md (Annapolis) with a few men from other companies to make up the 260 men. 6 officers...Just think, the 5th is no more. Well here's to the 115th!" John's final dated letter to his wife was written on February 3, 1918, while he was still at Camp McClellan. He was shipped out to France in June, and died in combat on October 9, 1918. The remainder of the records the subseries contains miscellaneous ingoing and outgoing correspondence, and a photocopy of an article from the Baltimore American listing the men of the Maryland 5th Regiment dated September 15, 1917.

Series III, Miscellaneous, contains various postcards, correspondence, and ephemera not directly attributed to the individuals in the first two series. The most notable item in this series is an 1817 travel journal from a walking tour of Scotland, most likely belonging to Benjamin Chew Howard. Titled "Journal of a Pedestrian Tour in Scotland," the journal is 125 pages in length, and entries are written by hand and intersperced with sketches of the landscape and natural wonders of the Scottish Highlands. The name inscribed inside the front cover is Howard Belvedere, which is believed to be a pseudonym for Benjamin Chew Howard. Listed below this are the names Louisa Gilmor Hoffman, Louisa Gilmor Riach, and Mrs. John Wade. Howard's wife, Jane Grant Gilmor, was the sister of Louisa Airey Gilmor Hoffman. This Louisa was the mother of Louisa Gilmor Hoffman Riach, and the grandmother of Louisa Gilmor Riach Wade. It is through these family connections that the travel journal was passed along.

Guide to the Riach-Wade papers
Mallory Harwerth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States