A Thurmont Family’s Dangerous Ride on the National Road

On June 1, 1915, the Brenamans drove their Ford along the National Road, which had passed its first century of service a few years before. The road had improved a lot since the days of it being a graded dirt path, but it was still a rough ride.

William and his wife, Cora, rode up front as they drove home to Thurmont from Baltimore. William was a cigar salesman, who had previously lived in Baltimore and still had many family members living in the city. Two-year-old Omar sat in his mother’s lap. He didn’t mind the rough ride. He enjoyed seeing the landscape pass by.

The car started to slide. Suddenly, a rear tire blew out while the family was in Howard County. The back corner of the car dropped and rolled along the hub, which was ripped apart by the weight of the car pressing it against the road surface.

“The accident was caused by the machine skidding on the slippery road, which had just been oiled a few hours previously,” The Frederick Post reported. “The front wheel broke off (left rear wheel we are told) and the car turned turtle into a yard of a farmer.”

Residents who lived nearby heard the crash and rushed to the scene of the accident. They heard the Brenamans crying and yelling and lifted the car off of them. William was badly bruised across his thighs, and he had cuts on his head. Sarah was bruised on one of her legs. Omar was worse off.

“The skull of the child was fractured and the side of its head laid open,” The Frederick Post reported.

Dr. John Hebb was one of the residents who heard the crash and came to see what had happened. He treated Omar and wrapped the child’s head so that he could be taken to the Frederick City Hospital.

Doctors at the hospital rushed the boy into an operating room and worked on him for over an hour before admitting nothing could be done to save Omar’s life. One doctor said it was remarkable that Omar had survived as long as he did.

Omar’s 17-year-old brother, Charles, was attending Class Day at the Thurmont Town Hall when he was told the news. L. R. Waesche took him to Frederick to meet his family. Two other Brenaman boys, Cheston, who was 14, and Stuart, who was 8, stayed home to await news. Their sister, 20-year-old Sarah, was notified of the accident where she was staying with family in Baltimore.

The Brenaman Family left for Baltimore on the following day to take Omar to Loudon Park Cemetery for burial in a family lot.

“The accident was a shock to the community,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

Photo shows a stretch of the National Road in Maryland during the early 20th century.

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