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  • Writer's pictureBeltsville News

The John Ulle Family of Beltsville

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

This is the story of a man, John Abraham Ulle, who came to Beltsville to raise a family, run a business, and be a good citizen. He was born July 7, 1827, in Gerthausen, Germany.

In 1849, at 22 years of age, he booked passage aboard the immigration bark Jason to travel from Germany to New York City. The trip in those days, via sailing ship, took from 6 to 14 weeks, depending on weather conditions.

In July, 1853, at age 26, he married Margaret Magle, 18, in Washington, DC.

They moved to Beltsville the following year. Ulle was the first blacksmith in Beltsville, and he established a blacksmith shop on Old Baltimore Pike where it crossed the railroad tracks. He built a home close to the blacksmith shop, and the first of their 11 children, daughter Elizabeth, was born on August 15, 1854.

The U.S. Federal census of 1860 lists John Ulle as a blacksmith living in Beltsville with his wife and three children. By January 1863, the Ulles had five children: Elizabeth, 8; Edward, 6; Margaret, 4; Rosa, 2; and Catherine, 5 months. Tragically, in April 1863, Catherine and Margaret passed away within 8 days of each other.

In July 1863, Ulle was drafted into the Union Army. To put it in context, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought during the first three days of July 1963. Ulle’s duties were to keep the B&O railroad tracks operable using his capabilities as a blacksmith.

One year later, on July 12, 1864, there was a Civil War raid in Beltsville. It was part of a plan to attack Washington, DC, by Confederate forces under the overall command of Confederate General Jubal Early

The Beltsville raid involved Company B of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, CSA, led by Beltsville resident and Confederate Cavalry Major George Emack. Emack’s 21st birthday would be on July 29. The raiders blockaded the railroad tracks in Beltsville with burning railroad ties. They cut telegraph lines and set fire to railroad cars. Some railroad cars were close enough to the Ulle property that fire spread to the home, and blacksmith shop and both were destroyed.

Ironically, Major Emack’s home was not far from the Ulle’s. It was across from St. John’s Episcopal Church near the site of the current COSTCO store.

Emack’s older brother, James, a Confederate cavalry 2nd lieutenant, was killed at the battle of Chancellorsville, VA, just two months earlier on 3 May 1863. James was first buried in Richmond, VA. His remains were moved to the Emack family plot in St. John’s Episcopal cemetery after the war.

After their home was destroyed, the Ulles rented an apartment in the nearby Simm’s General Store and rebuilt the blacksmith shop.

In May 1879, near age 52, Ulle bought a 72-acre farm in Beltsville at $18.50 per acre. Shortly thereafter, he sold all but 10 acres back to the original owner.

The 10 acres he retained were mostly on the west side of Rhode Island Avenue, across from the current location of the Good Knight Kingdom. The property occupied by the Kingdom was also part of the farm. The road past the farm was named Ulle Road, later changed to Sellman Road.

On November 23, 1895, the Ulles sold land on both sides of Rhode Island Avenue to the Columbia and Maryland Railway. The land was for a 66-foot-wide right of way for the street car extension to Laurel. Today, we can see from the embankment on both sides of Rhode Island Avenue near Powder Mill Road that it was necessary to cut through the high ground.

Ulle was active in the Beltsville community. He served as a school commissioner for Prince George’s County in 1898, for example, and also served as an election judge in Beltsville during the Presidential election of 1908.

On July 27, 1903, the Ulles celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at Ulle Farm. The society page of the July 31, 1903, issue of The Washington Star carried a glowing description of the celebration. It cited tables laden with delicious food set up on the spacious grounds surrounding the Ulle mansion for many guests, most of them related to John and Margaret. Guests included eight children, sixteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. The article continued, “There are few families so well and favorably known to Prince George’s County.”

John Ulle passed away at Ulle Farm on November 13, 1912, at age 85. His obituary noted, “Until a short time before his death, he retained his physical and mental vigor to a remarkable degree.”

His wife, Margaret, passed away on March 20, 1919, at 83. John and Margaret are buried in the family plot in St. John’s Episcopal Church cemetery. At the time of her death, Margaret was survived by 8 children, 16 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

John and Margaret Ulle and family were members of St. John’s Episcopal Church. There is a beautiful memorial stained-glass window in the church in honor of the Ulle family.

Photo Caption: John Ulle's grave.

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