NORTH EAST — Cecil County cannot lay claim to a host of congressmen from within its borders representing the county in the House of Representatives. But the county is certainly the final resting place to many such elected officials, including a man who was known in Washington’s vaunted circles in the pre-Beltway days as “The Fighting Quaker.”
John Conard was born in Chester Valley, Pa., in 1773, and was elected as a Democratic-Republican, also known as a Jeffersonian Republican, to the 13th Congress serving from March 4, 1813, to March 3, 1815. Quakers are known to avow to a peace testimony, refraining from violence, but Conard spoke in favor of going to war against England in 1812, earning him his nickname. According to historians, that opinion gave cause for the Quaker Meeting to vote him out of the flock.
He declined to be a candidate for re-nomination in 1814, but was then appointed associate judge of the district court and subsequently U.S. Marshal for the eastern district of Pennsylvania by President James Monroe. He would be reappointed by President John Quincy Adams and served two years under President Andrew Jackson before retiring altogether from public life in 1832.
Two years after retiring, Conard moved south to Maryland, settling in Port Deposit where he participated actively and successfully in the lumber trade until 1851, when he returned to his home in Philadelphia. It was there that he died on May 9, 1857, but his remains were returned to Cecil County, and he is at rest at St. Mary Anne’s Church Cemetery in North East.
Conard’s entire life was centered in the Philadelphia area, save for his brief 17-year sojourn in Port Deposit to make his fortune. In this endeavor, he was not unlike other Pennsylvanians like Jacob Tome and David C. Rinehart, who hailed from the Keystone State but came to Port Deposit during the town’s heyday to capitalize on commerce. Rinehart, like Conard, returned to Pennsylvania, Tome of course remained in Port Deposit for the rest of his life.
John Conard was a descendant of Thones and Elin Kunders, who were among the 13 original families who founded Germantown, Pa., in 1683. Their descendants remained in the area and spelled their name in a variety of ways from Conard to Cunard (like the shipping line) to Connard and Cunred. Quakers from Crefeld, Germany, a city near the border of Holland, they were deeply concerned with education in the new world and soon founded schools in Germantown.
Thones on June 18, 1683, before starting for America, purchased from Lenart Arets, a weaver in the town of Crefeld, a warrant for 500 acres of land in Pennsylvania, which Arets had purchased from William Penn. It is believed Thones was, like most of the Crefeld immigrants, a weaver making fine German linen.
He was educated at one of the Friends Schools and settled in Germantown about 1795 where he studied law and was admitted to the bar and practiced. He later became a professor of mathematics at the Germantown Academy.
The Conards, or originally Kunders family, maintained a close adherence to the Quaker faith, but it appears that John Conard at some point became an Anglican, later known as Episcopalian. As there was no Anglican edifice of substance in the area of Port Deposit when he lived there, and the chapel of ease nearby was little used at that point, Conard attended St. Mary Anne’s and seems to have acquired a burial plot within the cemetery before returning to Philadelphia. His will expressly requested his burial in that plot for his executors.