Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Spencer H. Cone: “I was baptized in the Patapsco… the ice having been cut for the purpose”

On Saturday morning, February 4th, 1814, I was baptized in the Patapsco, by Elder Lewis Richards, the ice having been cut for the purpose. It was more than a foot thick, and the spectators, with many of my old companions among them, stood on the ice within a few yards of where I was buried, and went away saying, ‘He is mad ; he’ll not stick to that long.’

A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Spencer Houghton Cone moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore in 1812. He left behind a successful career as a actor and found work as the treasurer and bookkeeper for the Baltimore American newspaper and soon, together with his brother-in-law John Norvell, decided to purchase the Baltimore Whig.

In November 1813, after months of religious reflection, Cone found a copy of the Works of John Newton at a local book auction. Inspired by John Newton (a former slave ship captain who composed the hymn Amazing Grace), Cone began to hear voices and pray intensely. One night in early February, he paced back and forth in his attic until finally he had a vision for his own salvation:

I felt as if plunged into a bath of blood divine — I was cleansed from head to foot — guilt and the apprehension of punishment were both put away ; tears of gratitude gushed from my eyes in copious streams.

Just a few days later, Spencer Cone joined the First Baptist Church and, undeterred by the cold weather, insisted on being baptized immediately in the frozen Patapsco River.

Spencer H. Cone
The life of Spencer H. Cone (1857)

On January 31, 1814, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the celebrated “Hero of Lake Erie,” arrived in Baltimore from Washington, DC on his way to Newport, Rhode Island. Planning for a celebratory public dinner had been underway for weeks but on the first evening of Perry’s visit to the city, he decided to visit the circus. John Thomas Scharf paints the scene for the evening:

“That spacious building was incompetent to receive the mighty crowd that rushed to greet him. The house was crammed long before the entertainment began; and when the hero of Lake Erie entered, he was received with deep, loud and continued cheering.”

Source: Scharf, John Thomas. The Chronicles of Baltimore. Turnbull Bros., 1874. p.346.

Advertisement: Public Dinner to Commodore Perry

Public Dinner to Commodore Perry
American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, January 24, 1814

On January 6, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry received a Congressional Gold Medal for his service at the Battle of Lake Erie. Make sure to sign up for our email newsletter to get more updates on Perry’s celebratory visit to Baltimore at the end of the January 1814.