The Egg Lady

Emma Staylor Pryor

1 April 1838- 2 November 1914

Baltimore, Maryland

decorated egg


It’s funny the things you learn from obituaries. I was collecting data in the Baltimore Sun for my long ago Staylor relatives and didn’t expect to find anything beyond the usual dates, possibly cemetery information, and maybe a new name or two. I didn’t expect to find a story that I would carry with me from Easter to Easter.

Little Sisters of the Poor opened their home for the aged and poor of Baltimore at the corner or Valley and Biddle Streets in the 1869. In the beginning, the home was dependent on charity – even for their food. The donations were generous; hotels and housekeepers both always purchased extra foods and made donations of it.

It came to Emma Staylor Pryor’s attention that the Sisters received all sorts of donations. Baltimoreans were generous, but there was one thing that was not donated – ever. Eggs.

In 1880, Aunt Emma enlisted the services of some friends and collected funds for the purchase of eggs for the residents. There were 30 men and women living there at the time. The eggs were a tremendous success with everyone and Aunt Emma collected money the following year as well. This gift went on for 34 years. Aunt Emma became known as the “Egg Lady”.

The residents were always thrilled to receive the eggs. Indeed, it was the one day of the year when they had fresh eggs and they could have as many as they wished. Some residents were reported to have eaten as many as half a dozen of them in one sitting.

By 1914, there were over 300 residents at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home. Over 300 dozen eggs were purchased that year and served for Easter.  Indeed, monetary donations were so generous that there was enough left to purchase many pounds of sausage (something considered easy for the elderly to eat).

My Aunt Emma died 2 November 1914. That 3,600-egg purchase in April was to be her last. But the Sisters and her charity were in her final thoughts. Among her last words she “cautioned” her children not to forget the Easter eggs.  And they didn’t. For Easter in 1915, over 350 dozen eggs were collected and sent for the residents’ enjoyment.

The eggs were soft boiled, hard boiled, made into omelets, and even rolled on the lawn. There were “picking contests” with the altar boys from St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, located on the same property. And after eating all the eggs, the residents enjoyed watching a baseball game on their lawn.

And yes, there were enough donations left for the purchase of 55 pounds sausage that year to be enjoyed with the eggs.

I’m not sure how long Aunt Emma’s charity continued on after her death, but it is certain that she made a great many people happy– especially on Easter morning.




“Obituary,” The Baltimore Sun, 7 November 1914, p. 5, col. 2.

“In ‘Egg Lady’s” Memory,” The Baltimore Sun, 2 April 1915, p. 7, col. 5.

“Old Folks Feast On Eggs,” The Baltimore Sun, 15 April 1915, p. 5, col. 4.





William Alexander Chilcote 1834-1902

William A. Chilcote Wedding photograph 1858

William Alexander Chilcote  – My Great Great Grandfather

November 2, 1834 – September 11, 1902

Residence: 1122 Argyle Avenue Baltimore, Maryland 1902

It was a clear, cool September morning. The weather was reminiscent of autumn rather than a late Baltimore summer morning.  The newspaper that day recommended wearing an overcoat. A northeasterly breeze was blowing and the humidity low. For most, it was going to be a fine day in Baltimore.

William Alexander Chilcote was the second son born to Richard Chilcote and Harriet Parks Chilcote on November 2, 1834 in Frederick, Maryland.  I don’t know anything about his early life, my knowledge begins with his moving to Tennessee to operate  mills for his father.

There, he met Kate Moore, the daughter of a farmer. They married on November 17, 1858 when he was 24 years old. They began their married life in Tennessee until just before the outbreak of the Civil War, when he family moved his family back to Frederick, Maryland.

He joined the Union Army on August 21, 1862, just before the battle of Antietam, which was close his home. According to his enlistment records, he stood 5’6” with dark hair and dark eyes. He enlisted for a three-year period in Company E, 8th Regiment Maryland and was a private. He mustered in September 21, 1862 near Hagerstown, Maryland, where he functioned as the company clerk until his discharge for kidney disease in April 1863 at Harpers Ferry – just seven months after his enlistment and less than 25 miles from his home.

His military service was short in miles but it was a journey that traveled with him for the rest of his life. He honored his brief service in the Union Army and became an active member in the Dushane Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Baltimore.

The Chilcote family stayed in Frederick until between 1870 and 1880, when they moved to Baltimore City. According to various public records, he supported his family by being a grocer, a butcher, and working weaving woolens as he had done for most of his life.

It was on that cool September morning in West Baltimore that was to be his last. He came down the white marble steps of his home and walked to the streetcar two blocks away to go to work.

According to accounts of the accident, he boarded the streetcar at about 6:45 in the morning from the front of the car and began walking toward to back when he slipped or fell while on the footboard, falling backwards and fracturing his skull on Pennsylvania Avenue. Some witnesses think they saw a small basket he was carrying on his arm become caught and he lost his footing as a result.

He was taken to the corner drugstore, attended by a physician who determined his injuries to be fatal and was then carried home to die. He died the next day at 11:00 a.m.

Although the streetcar conductor Mr. Silas Shipley was arrested, it was found that the incident was an accident and was subsequently released without charges that September evening.

The funeral was conducted from his home and he was interred in the National Cemetery where graveside services were preformed by his fellow GAR post members. He left a wife and six children.

There is not much left of that old neighborhood. It doesn’t resemble what was known during his life there. But, his house is still standing and is currently for sale. The interior has been gutted but the marble steps remain. The middle of the row unit is now a corner house, waiting to become a home again. The surrounding vacant lots in the block are clean and well kept. Cats walk freely in the grass and over stones without fear about the neighborhood. So did I two Sunday mornings ago. I was luck enough to be able to stand on the same steps as my great great grandfather, who died over 100 years ago.