Biography: An 1800 graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, where he earned both an A.B. and an A.M. degree. One of Baltimore's heroic "Old Defenders" who participated in the City's gallant repulse of the British in 1814, he was present inside the star fort at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. Later in life, having made a small fortune as an importer and dry goods merchant, he took an active interest in railroading and oversaw the construction and completion of the Baltimore & Susquehanna Railroad's Calvert Street Station, in 1850.
Military Service during the War of 1812: Private, Baltimore Fencibles (Nicholson's), 1st Regiment of Artillery, 3rd Brigade, Maryland Militia.
Life Sketch: Walter's mother died when he was six years old and his father died when he was eight, leaving him and his three siblings in the care of their step-mother, Chloe McPherson Farnandis. Per James Farnandis's 1790 will, Walter and his older brother Samuel were to "get a good education" and "be bound out, at Walter Stone's discretion, either to a trade or to any kind of business that sd (sic) Walter Stone [thought] proper." The only problem is ... Walter Stone died the very next year, in 1791! Thus, James Farnandis's final wish for his sons went unfulfilled—at least, initially. But someone must have seen to it that Walter got a good education, because his name is among those listed in the graduating Class of 1800 at St. John's College in Annapolis.
It seems as if Samuel went to Baltimore first, around the year 1799 or 1800 while Walter was still in school at St. John's. By July of 1800, Samuel was working with William Fulford as the other half of the firm "Fulford & Farnandis" which was operating out of No. 79 Market-street. Perhaps Walter joined his older brother in Baltimore City shortly after graduating, as the two Farnandises appear together in the public records shortly thereafter. In 1804, the brothers Farnandis broke out of their partnership with William Fulford and set out on their own. They opened a shop at No. 94 Market-street, but by the next August, Samuel and Walter had evidently bought out Fulford's store and moved their dry goods establishment back to No. 79 Market-street. By early September of 1805, business was going well enough that the two purchased their first property on Holliday-street. The next seven years passed rather uneventfully until, for unknown reasons, the brothers dissolved their business partnership "by mutual consent" in December of 1812.
Some sort of disagreement must have taken place—likely financial—because in rather short order, Walter prospered while Samuel became an insolvent debtor. (The difference is quite noticeable even in comparing their graves in Green Mount Cemetery: Walter's large obelisk vs. Samuel's small headstone...)
During the War of 1812, Walter served as a private in the Baltimore Fencibles, a militia artillery unit commanded by Joseph Hopper Nicholson. In those days, infantry militia duty was compulsory across the board, but men of means often opted to serve in self-equipping artillery and cavalry units that were generally considered a cut above the common infantry. Walter's unit was special because it was the *only* militia unit that was quartered with the regular army, inside the star fort at Fort McHenry. As such, in September of 1814, it participated in the Battle of Baltimore, defending the fort (and the famous Star-Spangled Banner) against the British Royal Navy during the non-stop 25-hour bombardment that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem.
After the war, in 1816, Walter married Mary Elizabeth Dorsey, daughter of Elizabeth Smithson Dorsey and Col. Harry Dorsey of Edw'd, the longtime clerk of the court in Harford County. The couple had ten children, eight of which lived to maturity.
Aside from his career in dry goods, Walter was a cultured fellow who enjoyed the arts. In the late 1820s he served on the board of trustees for the Baltimore Theatre Company. Toward the end of his life, he also took an active interest in rail travel, serving on the board of directors for the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad Company. In 1849-'50, he oversaw the construction (and completion) of Calvert Street Station in Baltimore City—the current site of The Baltimore Sun's building.
Upon his death in 1856, he split his wealth evenly among his eight living children, leaving them $10,000 each. Using an inflation calculator to convert his $80,000 in 1856 money to 2014 money, we see that he had a total net-worth of at least $1.8 million when he died—not bad for an orphan from Charles County.
His obituary from the 14 January 1856 edition of The Baltimore Sun:
Death of an Old Citizen.—The death of Walter Farnandis, Esq., in this city, last week, removes from amongst us one of our old and highly esteemed fellow citizens. He was for a great many years a merchant on Baltimore street, but some years since retired from active life, on an ample fortune, and has spent his life since in the social enjoyment of domestic life. He was in the 71st year of his age. [Page 1]
His death notice from the 11 January 1856 edition of The Baltimore Sun:
On the 9th instant, WALTER FARNANDIS, in the 74th year of his age.
The friends of the family are invited to attend the funeral, on tomorrow Saturday morning, at eleven o'clock, from his late residence, 48 Hanover street, without further invitation. [Page 2]
An article from the 23 September 1854 edition of The Daily National Intelligencer:
A LITTLE MATTER OF HISTORY.—Soon after the commencement of the last war with England, more than forty years ago, between eighty and ninety of the citizens of Baltimore enrolled their names in a volunteer artillery company, called the Fencibles, and elected JOS. H. NICHOLSON Captain, JOHN BARNEY and NATHANIEL F. WILLIAMS Lieutenants. Being thus organized, a tender of their services was made to the General Government to be placed in Fort McHenry in case of need as a part of its defence. The offer being accepted, the company was ordered to the fort for drill in the year 1813, and in 1814 occupied a part of the Star Fort, and during the bombardment lost two officers killed and several of the privates wounded. Of the men composing the entire company it is believed only sixteen are now living, viz. Samuel Harris, John Barney, Walter Farnandis, Nathaniel F. Williams, Wm. Child, John F. Poor, Chas. F. Mayer, Jacob I. Cohen, Jr., Isaac Munroe, Thomas Spicer, Samuel Etting, George Douglass, Mendis I. Cohen, Philip Reigart, Wm. O. Eichelberger, and Wm. S. Cooper.—Baltimore Patriot. [Page 2]
1782 + 1856.