James Henry Gambrill, Jr. was born on March 9, 1866 in Baltimore, Md., the third son of five sons and four daughters of James Henry and Antoinett Frances Staley Gambrill. Raised in Frederick County, he was educated in the local public schools, the Frederick Academy and Frederick City College.
On October 31, 1889 he married Susan May Winebrener, the eldest daughter of Col. D. C. Winebrener, a leading citizen of Frederick. She died 13 years later, in 1902. The couple had two children, James Henry Gambrill III and Susan May Gambrill.
Mr. Gambrill was a prominent and well-respected businessman, who had a productive career in the milling and grain business. An avid agriculturalist, he helped in 1898 to organize a farmer’s truck association to improve the marketing and distribution of the county’s agricultural products. In 1902 he helped to organize the Frederick County Farmer’s Exchange, which operated a grain, flour, feed, fertilizer, and implement business. He was general manager of the prosperous Mountain City Mill and of the G.L. Baking Company, a successful wholesale bakery. He was president of Dietrich and Gambrill, Inc., the Frederick Hotel Company, the Glade Valley Garber Company, the Maryland Milling and Supply Company, and the Gambrill Grain Products Company, and was vice president of the Garber Baking Company, the Monocacy Broadcasting Company, and A.C. Krumm Company.
Mr. Gambrill served as a director of the Citizens National Bank, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Home for the Aged, and was a member of the Governor’s Commission to study relief and old age pension matters. He was active in the Frederick Chamber of Commerce, Federated Charities, the Community Chest, the Monocacy Battlefield Association, the Frederick City Park Board, and the Rotary Club.
He was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church and served many years as a church vestryman. In 1946, a wing in Frederick Memorial Hospital was named in Mr. Gambrill’s honor.
Active in politics, he was a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, the Frederick City Board of Zoning Appeals, the Frederick Board of Alderman, and the commission to revise the charter of the City of Frederick in 1910.
Mr. Gambrill was an avid sportsman. He served as chairman of the State Game and Inland Fish Commission and was active in the Woodmont Rod and Gun Club. As the state’s leading conservationist, he was a strong advocate for soil and water conservation as well as forest preservation. He was president of the Confederation of Western Maryland Communities, Inc., which fought to preserve the area’s natural resources and beauty. Gambrill State Park, the site of many Hood outings, was named in his honor.
Mr. Gambrill was elected to the Hood College Board of Trustees in 1916, was named vice president in 1942, and served until his death in 1951. At the time Gambrill Gymnasium was being built, he served as chairman of the building and grounds committee. It was his 33 years of service and devotion to Hood that led the College to name the gymnasium in his honor in November 1949.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held April 17, 1947. Built at a cost of $420,000, a substantial portion of the money came from gifts of alumnae over a 25-year period prior to the building’s construction.
A number of Mr. Gambrill’s descendants attended Hood: Virginia Gambrill Hendrickson ’44, Eleanor Gambrill Bowers ’72, Virginia Bowers Bachtell ’83, and Phillip W. Bowers ’83.
Hood and the people of Maryland owe a great deal to the foresight of James Henry Gambrill, Jr.