The Year is…1879
A Pleasant Fall Ride Through Emmitsburg
by James Rada, Jr.
In early October 1879, Samuel Motter, publisher of the Emmitsburg Chronicle, took a ride around Emmitsburg with a friend.
“All the world knows that the drives, calculated to afford pleasure and delight, are very numerous around Emmitsburg, and the heart which is not alive to the beauty of the scenery and the unexampled loveliness everywhere around must be wanting in refined sensibilities,” Motter wrote in the newspaper.
It was a lovely day for a ride. Although it was October, it was 80 degrees out. He wrote, “You who used to sit by glowing stoves, at this time of year, with buttoned-up coats and with sensible forebodings of winter’s approach, think ye of us, riding in an open buggy, with straw hats, and the high temperature we have mentioned!”
They rode down the old “Dutch Lane” to Poplar Ridge Road. The road at the time was old, but it had been widened, leveled, and was kept in excellent condition. His only complaint was that the road had some steep hills. It started at Carlisle Street (North Seton Ave.) continuing from a broad alley. It went uphill to a ridge where the last of a stand of poplar trees stood. This last tree was “lonely and grand in its position, the last of the giant tribe which gave the name ‘Poplar Ridge’ to those heights, and which from its well-defined proportions, its symmetrical top and proud form, being visible over all the plain for miles to the southward, a lady of taste called ‘Stonewall Jackson.’”
Silver Run and the old brick schoolhouse could be seen from the ridge. Looking toward Emmitsburg, the first thing Motter saw was the old Elias Lutheran Church “with its whitened sepulchers glinting in the sun-light, where rest the remains of so much worth and goodness and such wealth of tender associations as cling to the memories of those who once gave direction and life and influence to the living forces of the neighborhood.”
To the right of the church, he saw another church, the Church of the Incarnation (Reformed) “with its golden cross at the top, about 100 feet high erected in the year 1868, on the lot once known as John Nickum’s.”
He also noted how the relatively new Presbyterian Church towered above its surroundings.
Finally, he wrote, “And there to the east and southward is St. Joseph’s Church (Roman Catholic) with its massive walls and solid spire. Here too the cemetery shows forth the white light reflected from the monuments that commemorate, much of the worth which gave active exercise to itself in the earlier as well as the latter history of Emmitsburg.”
As he moved south, he enjoyed the view, writing, “Beautifully the prospect opens, the autumnal hues everywhere meet the eye, here are the sumach shrubs, there a lone gum tree, yonder a clump of trees, farther off a whole grove appears, end erewhile the eyes rests upon the pile of ‘St. Joseph’s House,’ the groves among—ornamenting the plain, and whose metal roofs and radiant crosses dart forth scintillations of light athwart the valley.”
Off to the southwest, he could see Mount St. Mary’s College, although it was almost obscured among the autumn foliage. Motter described it as “the venerable old church perched upon the hillside and sending forth its reflected light to the far distant horizon.”
Motter and his friend crossed the Taneytown Road bridge over Flat Run. He noted that when the bridge was being built, that water level was so flat that not enough water could be drawn to mix mortar for the bridge. It had to be hauled from another location.
He also mentions a haunted house in Emmitsburg. It was the home of a man named Patrick Savage, who may have lived north of town, along the Gettysburg Road. Motter wrote that Savage was dead, but his “ghost had been said to appear there since his death, not seldom.”
All in all, it was a pleasant ride for Motter and his friend, and it gives readers a look at Emmitsburg as it was 141 years ago.
Picture of Emmitsburg Courtesy of Thurmontimages.com