Casper Ezra Cline: Entrepreneurial Prodigy

By John W. Ashbury | Posted on 08.03.13 – History, Reflections

Throughout Frederick’s history, outstanding men of accomplishment rose to the occasion and planted the seeds that grew into a city known and loved by anyone who lived here— or just visited.

Casper Ezra Cline made his mark early in life, graduating from the old Frederick Academy at 14. He immediately got a job as delivery clerk for Charles E. Thomas, who operated a carpet store on North Market Street. To everyone’s surprise, upon the death of Mr. Thomas, young Cline bought the business, his mother signing the legal papers because he was still a “juvenile.” It was 1888.

Born July 31, 1872, on the “Locust Level Farm” south of town, he was the son of Nicholas O. and Annie A. Michael Cline. The thought of leaving this community never entered his mind. Until the 1970s, the Cline name was associated with a thriving community, delivering quality furniture from several locations near the Square Corner.

But that isn’t even a small part of his investments in Frederick.

When Marshall L. Etchison died in 1914, Mr. Cline purchased his funeral business, leaving it in the hands of his store manager William Griffin while he went to school to learn the embalming trade. The Cline Funeral Home, which operated from 8 E. Patrick St., having been in business for 44 years, was sold to Robert E. Dailey in 1958.

Always thinking of expanding his business, Mr. Cline moved several time before ending up at 10-12 S. Market. At one time his furniture store was located on the southwest corner of Market and Patrick streets, now Colonial Jewelry.

In 1914 he led the formation of Commercial State Bank, becoming the institution’s first president. He remodeled the property at 1 S. Market into a bank and moved across the street. The bank fell victim to the bank holiday in 1933.

After moving into the L-shaped building (8 E. Patrick connecting with 10-12 S. Market), Mr. Cline became the first local merchandiser to offer a motorized delivery vehicle, the second to install an elevator, the second to add electricity to a store, and the first with a motorized hearse, which doubled as an ambulance. In 1940, Cline Furniture was the oldest continuous business to advertise in The News and The Frederick Post.

Commercial enterprises were not his only interests. When Frederick’s Board of Trade was issued the first charter of the fledgling national Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Cline was among the original members who made the transition and was the first president of the new organization.

His compelling and abiding influence on the youth of the community was demonstrated prominently when he succeeded Dr. Joseph H. Apple as president of the Young Men’s Christian Association.

As Braddock Heights flourished as an amusement park and vacation destination, Mr. and Mrs. Cline lived there during the summers for many years.

Due to his prominence in the community, he was invited to serve other local institutions, including the Mutual Insurance Company and the Frederick City Hospital. He was a member of the Frederick Rotary Club and the state and national funeral directors’ associations. He was also a member of Calvary Methodist Church, serving more than 25 years as Sunday school superintendent.

Mr. Cline was married Sept. 5, 1893, to Minerva I. Frost. They were the parents of five daughters and a son, Casper E. Cline Jr., who joined his father’s furniture and undertaking business in 1929. On April 7, 1947, following six months of ill health, Mr. Cline succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage at the home of his daughter on Rockwell Terrace. He was buried two days later at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Mrs. Cline predeceased him in 1941.