Francis Scott Key
Born in what was then northeast Frederick County, Key's parents first brought him to "Frederick-Town" to be baptized. His parents often rode to the county seat here. Key walked these streets whenever the family came to Frederick.
After attending school in Annapolis and studying law for four years, Key opened a law office near here. He argued cases in the old court house where today's City Hall is located. He later appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, and practiced law until the end of his life.
Key's legal skills led him to a daring role during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 where he negotiated the release of an American prisoner. His eloquence as a writer and poet gave us the "Star-Spangled Banner."
Early Life of Francis Scott Key1779
Francis Scott Key is born at Terra Rubra, his parent's estate, in what was then northeast Frederick County.
After ten years growing up in Frederick County, Key attends St. John's Grammar School and then St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland.
Key graduates from St. John's College at the top of his class, then studies law.
Key begins his law career in Frederick. His college friend, Robert Brooke Taney, also practices law in Frederick, and later marries Key's sister Anne.
Key marries Mary Tayloe Lloyd in Annapolis.
Key moves to Washington, D.C., to become a partner in the law practice of his uncle, Phillip Barton Key.
Key writes "The Star-Spangled Banner" which would become the national anthem of the United States in 1931.
In 1840, Key, at age 61, came here to visit his aged cousin Eleanor Potts who was then totally blind. She lived on Council Street across the courtyard. Key promised her a poem, and she listened as he read the stanzas which included these lines:
The "light of other days" was hers,
Of happy days now past and gone,
It called up friends long lov'd and mourn'd,
And sweetly round her shone.
Twas the, as by her side I sat,
She softly touch'd the light guitar,
And tones that had my childhood charm'd,
Fell sweetly, sadly on my ear.
Key as a youth
Frederick in 1854
Trinity Chapel, visible to your right, marks the probable site of Key's baptism. In 1779 it was the German Reformed Church
Frederick County's second courthouse—the one Key knew—was built here in 1785, but burned in 1861. The third courthouse, completed in 1862, is the building here today. It became Frederick's City Hall in 1985.