DENTON — Comptroller Peter Franchot is one step closer to collecting a portrait of every Maryland comptroller who preceded him in office.
Franchot visited the Museum of Rural Life in Denton on Wednesday, Aug. 13, to officially accept a portrait of Robert John Jump, a Caroline County native who served as the state’s ninth comptroller from 1864 to 1867.
Jump’s portrait will join a permanent display in the Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis.
Franchot is still missing one portrait, that of Thomas James Keating, a Queen Anne’s County native who was the 12th comptroller.
Jump’s portrait was discovered in Temple Lodge 128, A.F. and A.M. Masonic Lodge in Denton. Jump joined the Denton lodge when it was founded in 1866, was one of its fourth master masons and served as its fourth head official, known as a worshipful master.
Dr. Christian Jensen found the portrait hanging on a wall after he and fellow Mason Frank Bradley were asked to look through records by Caroline County Register of Wills Jim Phelps, Phelps had been contacted by Barb Sauers of the comptroller’s office, who noticed in Jump’s obituary he was a member.
The labeled portrait was on the wall the whole time, Jensen said, but it was in a room packed with heaps of jumbled records.
Franchot said he was delighted to receive the portrait of the elusive Jump thanks to Sauers’ detective work.
“She’s my Nancy Drew,” Franchot said.
For their roles in locating the portrait of Jump, Jensen, Phelps and Bradley would be treated to dinner on the comptroller’s dime, a promise he made when he asked for help finding the missing portraits. Franchot said he would be taking them to Mason’s in Easton.
“Taxpayers won’t be footing the bill on this one,” Franchot said.
Elaine Bachmann of the Maryland State Archives said she has cared for the state’s art collection for the past 20 years.
“I’m used to politicians being interested of portraits of themselves, not others,” Bachmann joked.
Caroline County Historical Society President J.O.K. Walsh said Jump left school in 1846, at age 13, and began working as an assistant in the clerk of the circuit court’s office.
Jensen said Jump’s father had died that same year, and Jump probably left school in order to earn money to support his siblings.
Jump lived with Joseph Rochester, the clerk of the court, for 10 years while serving as an assistant, Walsh said, until Rochester died in 1857. It so happened the home that houses the front section of the Museum of Rural Life was the one in which Jump lived with Rochester and his family, Walsh said.
When Rochester, who was also a lawyer, died, he had more than 100 creditors in the county, Walsh said, as the county was in the midst of “the long depression” that lasted from 1819 to 1895.
This probably was what led Jump, who had started reading law under Rochester in 1850, to pursue the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, rather than exclusively work toward being a lawyer, Walsh said.
Eventually, Jump was nominated by the American Party and won a three-year term in 1864, Walsh said.
Jump declined to run for a second term in 1867 and instead ran for a seat in the state Senate, but lost. It would be another 20 years before he won another elected office.
Jump had another connection to the home that makes up part of the museum, Walsh said. In April 1864, he bought it, but sold it four months later to John Emerson, “the most hated man in Caroline County,” Walsh said.
Walsh said Emerson was the editor of one of two Denton newspapers. Emerson supported the Union in the ongoing Civil War, while the other newspaper supported the Confederacy. It just so happened the man from whom Jump had bought the house was married to the sister of the editor of the other newspaper.
By selling the house to Emerson, Jump clearly showed his support for the Union, Walsh said.
Walsh said Jump was a man to be admired.
“He stayed in Caroline County through the long depression when a lot of others left,” Walsh said. “He was on the right side of the issues of slavery and preserving the Union.
“His story tells a lot about both his character and the times,” Walsh said.
Jensen found more details about Jump’s life in Masonic archives.
He said Jump’s father, John Jump, was the sheriff of Caroline County from 1844 until his death in 1847.
As an attorney, Jump was often appointed a trustee on behalf of people going through bankruptcies, orphans, widows and anyone else who could not manage their own affairs, Jensen said. He saw the effect the long depression had on the legal world — lots of foreclosures and bankruptcies, as well as the manumission, or freeing, of lots of slaves, so they could serve in the Union Army.
Jump owned two farms off what is now state Route 328 between Denton and Easton, Jensen said, as well as several properties in Denton. He was also a trustee at St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Denton.
“He meant business about what he believed in,” Jensen said. “I think he’s an important figure in our history.”
Franchot also presented two comptroller’s medallions, for “Marylanders who make a difference,” to Walsh and State Sen. Richard Colburn, R-37-Mid-Shore, who helped get the historical home moved to its current location at the corner of Gay and Second streets to be used for the museum.