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

Hello. My journey has taken me through various paths, from owning businesses to delving deep into the annals of history. For many years, I dedicated myself to researching and leading tours of Civil War Battlefields, bringing the past to life for those eager to learn.

In 2015, I assumed the role of Superintendent of the Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria, Virginia. This cemetery holds a profoundly special place in my heart. It's owned by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, where I was baptized and raised, and my parents are laid to rest. It's also the place where I will one day be buried. This responsibility allowed me to assist families during pivotal moments and opened a unique avenue for me. Most Saturdays, I lead tours within the complex, combining my passion for teaching history with the stories of the 35,000 souls resting there. To further share these narratives, I established this blog focusing on the lives and tales of those buried in Alexandria.

In addition to my work at the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, I am honored to serve as a dedicated Board member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum. I am a Northern Virginia Cemetery Consortium member dedicated to preserving endangered cemeteries throughout the region, representing the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex.

If you're intrigued by history or curious about the stories that shaped Alexandria, I invite you to join me on my tours, read my writings, or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

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