Shriner Hall, the oldest residence hall at Hood College, opened its doors in the fall of 1915, one of the two new buildings on the sprawling 150-acre campus west of Frederick.
Built at a cost of $68,000 and originally known as Residence Hall A, it was later named in memory of Edward A. Shriner and his first wife. Margaret Elizabeth Derr Shriner, in recognition of the generosity of their son, Edward Derr Shriner, Sr., to Hood College.
Mrs. Shriner was a close friend of Margaret Scholl Hood, for whom Hood College is named, while her husband, Edward A. Shriner, was Mrs. Hood’s first cousin.
The oldest of seven children, Mrs. Shriner was born December 4, 1832, to John Derr, a descendant of German immigrants and a prominent local farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth Lugenbeel Shriner, on the family homestead on the west bank of the Monocacy River. Diaries kept in the 1850s by her friend, Mrs. Hood, and her sister, Mary, describe her as a kind woman, engaged in pursuits typical for a woman of her day. She sewed, gardened, canned, and cooked; she rode into town to call on friends and family; she attended church and taught Sunday School. She also kept a diary (no copies have survived) and regularly corresponded with family and friends.
Edward A. Shriner was the only son of Cornelius Shriner, a prominent miller and businessman, and Rebecca Scholl Shriner, the sister of Margaret Hood’s father, Christian. A descendant of German and Swiss immigrants, he was born on January 24, 1830, on the family homestead adjoining the family business, the Ceresville Mills, on the banks of the Monocacy River north of Frederick.
Mr. Shriner entered the milling business after completing his formal education at Mercersburg College. In 1850, his father sold him a partial interest in Ceresville Mills; after his father’s death in 1855 he bought the mills from the Cornelius Shriner estate for a cost of $14,600.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Ceresville Mills were thought to be the finest south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The mills ground sixty barrels of flour per day and were driven by water wheels powered by the waters of the Israel Creek which empties into the Monocacy River. As a result of the mills’ success, Mr. Shriner enjoyed substantial wealth.
Avidly interested in the welfare of his community, particularly its transportation system, he was instrumental in the early development of turnpikes in Frederick County, serving as president of the Frederick and Woodsboro Pike Company and the Liberty and Frederick Pike Company. He was a director of the Frederick County National Bank and was connected with a number of enterprises and institutions that were influential in the development of the county. He was an active member of the Reformed Church.
Margaret and Edward Shriner’s paths often crossed as children, for their fathers, John Derr and Cornelius Shriner, shared a common business, community and transportation interests. In 1858, following a long courtship, they were married. Mrs. Hood’s diaries indicate that the first years of their marriage were happy ones. Three years after their marriage, Margaret died at the age of 31, nine days after the birth of her son, Edward Derr Shriner, born January 13, 1862.
Edward Derr Shriner was raised by his mother’s sister, Mary Derr. Upon completion of his education, he entered the family mill at Ceresville as bookkeeper. After purchasing the business from his father, he established the E. A. Shriner Milling Company. Like his father he was a director of the Woodsboro Turnpike Company, the Frederick County National Bank, and was active in the Reformed Church. He also was well-known for his involvement with the Sons of the American Revolution. He was a generous contributor to Hood, and in 1916 the college named its first residence hall in honor of his parents.
The high value the Shriners placed on love for family and friends and their strong commitment to community is evident in all that has been written about them. Shriner Hall exemplifies their lives and is symbolic of Hood’s similar values.