When Judith Welles moved to the Carderock Springs area of Bethesda in the 1970s, living on Lilystone Drive, she thought the street name conjured up a bucolic setting of flowers and lots of rock — after all, Carderock Springs was just across River Road from the Stoneyhurst Quarry.
A decade later the street signs were corrected to read Lilly Stone Drive.
“Not many streets are named for women,” Welles said. “I wanted to know who she was.”
What Welles learned about Lilly Stone and the history of Montgomery County is the subject of a new book, “Lilly Stone,” written by Welles and published in September.
Stone was born Lilly Catherine Moore on July 20, 1861, the night before the Battle of Manassas on her family farm in Cabin John.
She lived until 1960, when, at age 99, she died during the Cold War, Welles said.
During those years, most notably during the last half of her life, Stone started Stoneyhurst Quarry, launched the Montgomery County Historical Society, created an early version of the Montgomery County flag and designed a three-cent postage stamp issued in 1948 honoring Francis Scott Key.
Stone could trace her ancestry back to the Revolutionary War and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Welles said.
When members of the DAR were asked to bring their county flags to the group’s general meeting of 1935, Stone learned that Montgomery didn’t have a flag. She immediately organized a committee to create one. The flag was officially dedicated May 3, 1944, and remained in use until a redesigned Montgomery flag was dedicated in 1976.
Stone showed the same determination in getting a stamp published to honor Francis Scott Key, leading the effort in 1942 to design the “National Anthem Stamp.” It was approved in 1944.
“Her ancestry is fascinating. Her family helped build the [C&O] Canal. Her father, J.D.W. Moore, established the first school in the area, Friendship School, on what is now Persimmon Tree Road near the Beltway,” Welles said.
Her father also helped found Hermon Presbyterian Church, which has been operating since 1874 on Persimmon Tree Lane.
Stone’s granddaughter, Lilly Stone Lievsay, 84, who lives in Bethesda, has been a member of Hermon Church all her life. She said the church was part of her grandmother’s life, too.
Lievsay and her family had a close relationship with Stone.
“I lived with her until I was 24,” Lievsay said. “So I remember the early times. She was an active woman, a strong woman, a determined woman.”
She also was a grandmother, Lievsay said, with her own sense of humor.
“She used to hide candy that was given to her, and my brother would find it,” Lievsay said. “She would pretend to be annoyed, but I think she kind of enjoyed it.”
Lilly Moore married Frank Stone in 1892 after a long courtship, during which Stone traveled west and south as far as Mexico looking for a way to earn his fortune, Welles said.
After the wedding, he settled into farming, but it was a difficult life. The couple had two children, Frank Pelham Stone Jr., who only lived two weeks, and John Dunbar Stone, the father of Lievsay.
Frank Stone died in 1921 at the age of 75. Lily was in her early 60s and continued with the farm with the help of her son and hired workers.
In her book, Welles quotes one of Stone’s diaries to describe what happened two years after her husband’s death:
“I was desperate and prayed to God for guidance but had no thought of the quarry when a gentleman I had never seen rode up to me on the lawn and said, ‘Mrs. Stone, you have fine stone on your place. If you will have it quarried and delivered, I will buy it,’ ” she wrote.
Stone opened Stoneyhurst Quarry in 1924 on the north side of River Road, just west of Seven Locks Road.
“She started the quarry at age 63. She was broke and she was brave,” Welles said.
It was a move that changed the family’s fortunes and had a lasting effect on Montgomery County, Welles said.
“I think she helped build the county. Thousands of houses used her stone, as did the National Cathedral and the National Zoo. The old Bethesda Post Office on Wisconsin Avenue was made from her stone,” Welles said.
Stone not only helped the county expand with the products of her quarry, but she also sought to preserve its history by starting the Montgomery County Historical Society in 1944.
“I think she could see that rural Montgomery County was going to change, and she didn’t want it to lose its history,” said Tom Kuehhas, executive director of the group. “Thank God for people with foresight like that. That’s what got us on the right track.”
Welles’s book, “Lilly Stone,” can be purchased for $15 at the Bethesda Co-op, 6500 Seven Locks Rd., Cabin John; at Strosniders Hardware, 10110 River Rd., Potomac; or through her Web site, www.judithwelles.com.