The Presbyterian Cemetery

E.E. Downham: a Prominent Figure in Alexandria’s History and Development

Emanuel Ethelbert Downham was a prominent figure in Alexandria, commonly known as E.E. Downham (March 23, 1839 – September 17, 1921). Originally from New Jersey, he arrived in Alexandria in 1862, engaging in liquor distribution, mainly selling whiskey to Union Troops. In 1865, he married Sarah Miranda Price, the daughter of George E. Price, a respected Alexandria merchant and shoemaker, and Mary A. Price.

Member of the City Council and Board of Aldermen

Downham operated a store where he sold alcohol in large and small quantities on the lower part of King Street. His involvement in local politics was notable, having served on the city council twice before being elected to the Board of Aldermen for five consecutive two-year terms.

Alexandria Mayor

In an unexpected turn of events, when the incumbent Mayor John Smoot passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve in 1887, Downham was chosen to serve as the temporary mayor. His capable leadership earned him official election as the Mayor of Alexandria in 1890. He went on to serve a successful four-year term before eventually stepping down.

Presenting the E.E. Downham & Co. Advertisement, featuring images graciously provided by the Lee-Fendall House Museum.

Leader of Many Organizations

Beyond his political career, Downham’s family continued to make significant contributions to the community. His son, Robert Downham, acquired the historic Lee-Fendall House from Mary Fleming in 1903. During that very year, Downham took on the mantle of the presidency at the Friendship Fire Company. Furthermore, Emanuel was involved in various fraternal organizations, such as the Shriners and Knights Templar. He played a crucial role in fundraising efforts for the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, showcasing his dedication to supporting significant cultural landmarks.

E.E. Downham’s Funeral Service: A Tribute to a Remarkable Life.  From the Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia) · Tue, Sep 20, 1921, · Page 1 

Even after his passing in 1921, E.E. Downham’s legacy continued to resonate in Alexandria. His life and contributions have left an indelible mark on the city’s history and development. He found his eternal rest in Alexandria’s Presbyterian Cemetery.

beloved husband of
1839 – 1921
P.M. of A. J. Lodge No. 120, A.F. & A. M.
P.G.C. of Grand Commander, VA
Rep. of Acca Tample 23 years
Emeritus memnber of the
Imperial Counci of A.A.O.N.M.S
of North America
beloved wife of
1845 – 1937
Obelisk section 25:22

Sources of Information

Brockett, F. L., & Rock, G. W. (1883). A Concise History of the City of Alexandria, VA, from 1669 to 1883 with a Directory of Reliable Business Houses in the City. Printed by the Gazette Book and Job Office. Alexandria, VA.

Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1. Family Line Publications; Heritage Books, Inc.

Dahmann, D. C. (2002). The Roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House [Unpublished raw material].

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By David

As a public historian, I am dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Alexandria, Virginia, and the surrounding region. With a deep passion for bringing the past to life, I serve my community in this meaningful role.

Before this, I enjoyed a fulfilling career as a businessman and entrepreneur. Now retired, I have found a new sense of purpose in my work as a public historian.

Since 2015, I have had the privilege of serving as the Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria. This cemetery holds a special place in my family's history, as it was started in the early 1800s by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, a historic congregation dating back to 1772 that is situated one mile east in the heart of Old Town. The cemetery is the final resting place of my parents, and the Meeting House is where I have worshipped for over 60 years.

As a public historian, I am thrilled to lead tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery, which has thirteen cemeteries in a complex with over 35,000 interments. It is considered the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States. These sacred grounds offer a fascinating glimpse into the story of Alexandria and its people. I also enjoy guiding tours of nearby Civil War battlefields, combining my passion for history with the compelling narratives of those who fought and fell on these hallowed grounds, bringing their stories to life. I primarily lead tours of Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and the Antietam Battlefields, along with tracing the footsteps of those involved in the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. I am also a licensed tour guide in Washington, D.C.

To further engage the community, I manage a blog focused on Alexandria's cemeteries, where the many souls buried across the city are memorialized. I am also an active Board Member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, I invite you to explore Alexandria's rich history by joining one of my cemetery or battlefield tours, reading my blog, or connecting with me on social media. It is my sincere pleasure to bring the city's captivating past to life and serve my community meaningfully.

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