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.
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.
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.
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
SARAH M. DOWNHAM
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
SARAH M. DOWNHAM
beloved wife of
1845 – 1937
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].