Currently viewing the tag: "Blue Ridge Summit"

Part 2 of 3

Submitted by Joan Bittner Fry

The Sabillasville Charge was formed in May 1886 by detaching St. John’s congregation of Sabillasville and Jacob’s from the Mechanicstown Charge. Jacob’s congregation (originally Herbach’s) was with the Emmitsburg Charge after 1842 until 1853, when Jacob’s and Millerstown were made into a charge. Rev. A. B Stoner, pastor at Mechanicstown, was instructed to supply the charge until a pastor could be secured.  Classis granted charge sustentation to the amount of $200 for a year.  The charge received the sum of $600 for its interest in the parsonage in Mechanicstown.

Rev. E. Welty, M.D., was called during the year 1886, but left before he could be received into Classis or installed.

At the annual meeting of 1887, James W. Meyer was called and was ordained and installed June 12 of that year. He was authorized to organize a new congregation in the vicinity of Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, if possible, as Classis realized that some new material must be found if the charge was to survive. The territory around Blue Ridge Summit and Highfield was rapidly being developed as a summer resort and appeared to be a promising place for a congregation.

In November 1888, Meyer resigned, and on that date, Classis cited him for trial. Meyer was tried on January 20, 1889, found guilty of immorality and suspended. He later made several unsuccessful requests for reinstatement.

In 1889, Rev. H. W. Hoffmeier, who had supplied the charge on several occasions, was elected but declined the call. The charge was vacant until September 1891, when Rev. James R. Lewis became pastor of the Sabillasville Charge. Lewis resigned in May 1896 and was succeeded in August 1896 by Rev. Cyrus Cort, whose service ended in 1900.

The charge was then vacant for several years.

During these years, the affairs of the Highfield Congregation occupied much of the time and attention of the pastors and of Classis. In 1891, a special committee on the interests of the Sabillasville Charge recommended the building of a church at Highfield, making it the center of the charge. It was reported that an option had been taken on a lot to cost $300, toward which the sum of $167 was already on hand. Classis instructed the committee to complete payment on the lot, to organize a congregation at Highfield, and to secure a pastor for the charge. Classis promised charge sustentation for the first year to the amount of $300 as soon as a pastor could be called.

As soon as Pastor Lewis came, he proceeded, under the instruction of Classis, to take possession of the lot, toward the purchase price of which Mr. Wantz, from whom the lot was purchased, contributed $100. The pastor and the trustees were also instructed to have plans prepared for a building to seat 250 or 300, the cost not to exceed $2,500.

At the session of 1892, it was reported that the building was being erected and that the cornerstone would be laid May 8. Classis voted to charge sustentation of $500 for the year, and instructed the trustees to borrow $1,600 toward the cost of the building.

After the resignation of Dr. Cyrus Cort in June 1900, the Sabillasville Charge was vacant until May 1903, when Rev. Charles A. Bushong was called to the pastorate. Bushong resigned January 1906. The next pastor, Rev. Milton H Sangree, began his service in the charge in May 1906.

In May 1909, part of St. Stephen’s lot at Highfield was sold for $100.  Sangree resigned in January 1910, and the charge was vacant for three years. During the vacancy, a committee was appointed by Classis to study conditions in the community with a view of strengthening the charge by the addition of other congregations if possible.

A proposal made to the Lutheran Church in Sabillasville to bring about a union of the two denominations in the community was refused by the Lutherans. Nor was there an opportunity for a union with any other congregations of the Reformed Church. While the charge was vacant, Rev. J.B. Shontz served the charge as supply pastor during the years 1911 and 1912. In July 1912, Rev. M.L. Firor became the pastor.

At the annual session of 1914, the Highfield Congregation asked for a deed to their church property.  The request was granted on condition that the congregation pay to the pastor at least $100 a year for five years, above the regular salary.  The condition was accepted, and it was reported in 1918 that the full amount had been paid.

During his pastorate at Sabillasville, Firor gave a great deal of pastoral service to the patients of the Maryland State Sanatorium near Sabillasville. The service was so acceptable and evidently so necessary that Classis proposed that he be appointed chaplain to the sanatorium at a salary of $840 a year, of which amount Classis agreed to pay $240 if the Baltimore Federation of Churches and the Protestant Churches in Maryland would furnish the balance. The Baltimore Federation was not willing, however, to assume any financial responsibility, and the whole matter was dropped when Firor resigned the pastorate of the Sabillasville Charge September 1919 to accept a call to Burkittsville.

Rev. Walter D. Mehrling, the next pastor, began work in the charge June 7, 1920, but remained only until September 26, the same year. The charge was then vacant for several years.

In 1924, Jacob’s congregation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the erection of its church, although the congregation was organized some years before 1824.  Dr. F. B. Bahner served as Supply Pastor for the charge from 1922 until 1927.  In July 1927 at a special meeting it was reported that the affairs of the charge were at a low ebb; that there had been no pastor for seven years, and that no elders or deacons had been elected for more than six years.  But a brighter day was in prospect.

Classis secured the promise of the Board of Home Missions to enroll the charge as a mission, and an every-member canvass was held after which the congregation pledged the annual sum of $800 for pastoral support and Classis promised an additional amount of $350, provided the Home Missions Board would give a similar sum. 

On May 23, 1927, Rev. Wilmer H. Long began a successful pastorate.  The charge began to pay the apportionment in full and in 1929 the pastor reported that St. John‘s Church at Sabillasville had been improved at considerable cost. 

Long resigned on December 31, 1929, and was succeeded by Rev. Claude H. Corl, who began his pastorate May 1930 to continue until December 1936. 

From 1937 to 1940, Rev. Darwin X. Gass accepted a Call to the Sabillasville Charge. In 1937, a parish hall was erected in Sabillasville at a cost of $2,000.

Rev. Edwin L. Werner served the Sabillasville Charge from 1940-1947 (Rev. Claude Corl returned to the Sabillasville Charge in 1947 after serving in the Army Chaplain Corps in the African and European Theaters. The second time, he served from 1947 until his retirement in 1974.)

From History of Maryland Classis of the Reformed Church in Maryland by Rev. Guy P. Bready (1938)

The Sabillasville Charge (Jacob’s, St. John’s, St. Stephen’s)

St. John’s Elders; C.B. Harbaugh, D.A. Wagaman, Thomas Wagaman, Howard R. Wagaman, Lester Bittner. Deacons; Roy C. Pryor, Paul Wagaman, Harold Bittner, Edgar McClain, and Paul Fry.

St. Stephen’s Elders; C.C. McGlaughlin, Victor L. Pryor, William Happel and A.L. Happel.

Deacons; John A. Zimmerman, Lawrence Walter, Theodore Zimmerman, S.P. Bittner, Charles E. Keckler, and T.O. Eyler.

Jacob’s Elders; George E. Harbaugh, and Jerry Miller.

Deacons; Ernest Gladhill and Paul Gladhill.

Deb Abraham Spalding

Christy Hawkins and Damanda Forrest are in the shoe groove, and that’s why they’re the ShoeGurus! A grand opening was held on May 15, 2021, at their store located at 14961B East Buchanan Trail (directly behind the Blue Ridge Summit Post Office) in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.

“It was always our dream to own a shoe store,” Christy said, “We both have a love for sneakers. There’s nothing with this variety in the area.”

ShoeGurus is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The duo plans a food truck once a month at the store to bring in people. In June, during store hours, stop by for Stillwood BBQ on the 19th and Antietam Dairy on the 26th.

ShoeGurus sells brand-new shoes with a limited supply of retail “resale” shoes. “Resale” shoes have been worn once or twice but are basically new. They sell at a cheaper price than the brand new version. Christy explained, “We’ll either pay you for your resale shoes or give you a discount off a pair of shoes in the store.”

ShoeGurus saves footwork for shoe customers by carrying work boots, Muck Boots, kid’s shoes, ladies casual,  sought-out-brand sneakers, and much more—in the store and online at

If you have a specific shoe you’re looking for, ShoeGurus will find it, and might even sell it to you for a better price than you’ll find online or elsewhere.

During this interview, a new release Nike Uptempo was in the store. It is in high demand and can be found online for $400. ShoeGurus has a $220 price tag on this sneaker in the store.

For your shoes that have been worn more repeatedly but still have some wear in them, ShoeGurus will clean them up and donate them to an appropriate charity.

Call 717-785-1189 for more information or with shoe questions. You’ll find ShoeGurus on Facebook (, on Instagram (, and online at

Christy said, “Come in and see what we have!”

The Year is…1896

An English Dutchess Born at Blue Ridge Summit

by James Rada, Jr.

When Alice Montague and Teakle Wallis Warfield were married in 1895, Alice was already pregnant, and Teakle was dying. He had tuberculosis, which is probably why they traveled to Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1896. Besides being a popular summer resort, it was also believed the fresh air was good for a person’s health.

The Warfields stayed in Square Cottage at the Monterey Inn in Blue Ridge Summit. It was the town’s largest hotel at the time, and featured not only a central building but also wooden cottages.

While staying there, Alice went into labor, and Bessie Wallis Warfield was born on June 19, 1896, seven months after her parents had been married in Baltimore.

Wallis would never remember her father, though. He died on November 15 of that year, before she was even five months old.

Wallis and her mother were taken in by Wallis’ uncle, Solomon Davies Warfield. He was the postmaster of Baltimore and a wealthy bachelor. They lived in a four-story row home on Preston Street.

Alice Warfield married John Freeman Rasin in 1908. Wallis was confirmed in 1910 at the Christ Episcopal Church.

Between 1912 and 1914, Wallis attended the most-expensive school in Maryland: Oldfields School. According to Charles Higham in his book, Mrs. Simpson, this is where she became friends with Renée du Pont, a member of the DuPont Family, and Mary Kirk, whose family founded Kirk Silverware.

Wallis married Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., a Navy aviator, in 1916. The marriage was marked by long periods apart, as Spencer was stationed at different postings. She began traveling in Europe and China during the 1920s. She also began a number of affairs with men she met during her travels.

Higham wrote that an Italian diplomat said of Wallis, “Her conversation was brilliant, and she had the habit of bringing up the right subject of conversation with anyone she came in contact with and entertaining them on that subject.”

Not surprisingly, Wallis and Spencer divorced at the end of 1927. She was already having an affair with a shipping executive named Ernest Aldrich Simpson. He divorced his wife, Dorothea, to marry Wallis on July 21, 1928. They lived in England, which is where Wallis came to meet Edward, Prince of Wales, at different house parties hosted by members of the upper class.

It is believed that Wallis and Prince Edward began an affair in 1934, while his current mistress was traveling abroad. By the end of the year, he was deeply in love with Wallis, and she with him.

However, his family was against the pairing, primarily because of Wallis’ marital history. Things became even more complicated when George V died on January 20, 1936. Edward became Edward VIII, the king of England. He watched the proclamation of his accession with Wallis from a window in St. James’s Palace, which was a break from royal protocol.

Heavier attention now fell on his relationship with Wallis. Most of British royalty seemed against the relationship.

When it became apparent that Edward wanted to marry Wallis, it became a legal issue because the Church of England, which the British monarch headed, did not permit the remarriage of divorced people with living spouses.

To make matters worse, Wallis would be a two-time divorcee, since she had filed for divorce from her second husband on October 27, 1936.

As the English public became more aware of the affair, it became a scandal. Under pressure from the British government, Wallis announced that she was willing to give up her newest love, but Edward was not ready.   

He abdicated the throne on December 10, 1936, and his brother, the Duke of York, became King George VI the next day.

Edward addressed his country via radio and said, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”

He and Wallis stayed apart until her divorce was finalized in May 1937. She took on her maiden name and the couple reunited. They married on June 3, 1937, and the child born at Blue Ridge Summit became the Dutchess of Windsor.

Blair Garrett

Capturing scenery is easy.

Today, anyone can pick up their cell phone and digitally capture a moment in time at the push of a button. Breathtaking mountaintops, nights out with friends, and everything in between lies at your fingertips. 

Capturing the emotion, vivid color, and beauty of a scene is a much more difficult task. Nobody does that better than Steve Burdette, 64, of Blue Ridge Summit, an artist and master of his craft, who effectively uses each brush stroke to convey feeling and meaning in every one of his paintings

Burdette’s artwork covers a variety of subjects, but he draws upon his inspiration of local scenery to build vivid recreations with a personal touch.

Burdette’s journey as an artist started just as he entered his teenage years, and has been going strong now for over 50 years. “I was 13 when I started my classes,” Burdette said. “The instructor said he didn’t take kids in his class. Then he looked at my work and [decided to] take me in.”

That leap into a class where a 13-year-old typically wouldn’t belong catapulted Burdette’s budding interests in art into a flourishing career; however, in order to get where he is today, he had to put in years of intense practice.

“That class turned into a 13-year apprenticeship,” Burdette said.

For years, Burdette would attend this oil painting class, learning the ins and outs of how to create oils and how to perfect a composition that he could be proud of. And even as the numbers of students in the class dwindled, Burdette’s commitment to his craft never waned.  

“It was every Tuesday night as long as I wanted to stay,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

Despite being an oils-only class, the group did not hit the ground running with oil painting from the start.

“For the first two or three months, we just drew geometric shapes,” Burdette said. “By the end of that, there were only three of us left in the class.” Charles Jones, Burdette’s teacher and mentor, purposely made students learn to walk before they run, to weed out the students attending for fun from the students truly there to learn.

“Sure, I got bored with just drawing geometric shapes, oh my word,” Burdette recalled. “After that, it got interesting, and I loved it. I was so glad I stayed.”

The commitment to improving his work is something that has stuck with him through all avenues of drawing and painting, and the passion for perfection has made an appearance in every artwork since his early apprenticeship.  

There is a significant duality in Burdette’s painting styles, with his decades of defined and learned practices with oil painting, along with years of personal experimentation and trials with watercolors.

“I learned everything I know on watercolors from just doing my own stuff,” Burdette said. “I never took any classes or anything because oils and watercolors are completely different.”

Just as Burdette’s experiences learning how to perfect oil painting and watercolors are opposites, the two painting styles are just as converse. “With oils, you put your darker values on first because then you can work your lighter values on top,” he said. “With watercolors, it’s completely reversed.”

While Burdette did not initially build his foundation as an artist on watercolors, they have found a place on many of his canvases, and often are the method of choice on many of his commissions.

“When I got bored with oils, that’s when I picked up watercolors, which is an awesome medium,” he said. “I love it because it’s a challenge. If you mess it up, chances are, you’re going to have to throw it in the trash, because there’s almost no going back.”

The way colors can bleed poses a unique test, even for an artist of Burdette’s calibre. “You can go after a certain look, but it can have a mind of its own, which can be a neat effect but not always what you meant it to be.”

Today, Burdette sells drawings, oil paintings, watercolor paintings, pastels, acrylics, and more. Many of the commissions and sales he has made over the past 20 years have stemmed from drawing upon the rich fire history in Northern Frederick County. 

“About 18 years ago, I put out a few generic prints for fire departments, and that just exploded and went all across the country,” Burdette said. “It’s amazing, and sometimes it keeps me busier than I need to be.”

Burdette’s art for fire companies in particular has piggybacked off of his successes teaching art, owning his own studio, and many other experiences that formed the backbone for his talents over the course of his career. And though selling art is not so easy for everyone, Burdette firmly believes that it’s an industry worth not giving up on.

“Never stop, and don’t quit,” Burdette said. “The minute you quit, something great might happen.”

Come December, you can catch Burdette’s artwork at his open gallery viewing, where you can see and purchase his works. His open gallery will be held on December 14, 2019, at 15221 Wyndham Avenue in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.

Although Edward Bowman Coleman was born in Port Republic, Virginia, in 1924, he has lived most of his life in the Blue Ridge Summit and Sabillasville areas.

In the early 1920s, his father rented a farm in Virginia, earning $1.00 a month, two hogs, and a house to live in. Later, the family moved north and rented farms that the banks had foreclosed on during the hard times of the Great Depression. When the farm was sold, the Colemans moved on to another foreclosed farm. Once the Colemans lived next to the Browns, the mothers would do their Monday laundry together because Edward’s mother had a gas-powered washer! Edward did not notice at the time the Bowman’s 13-year-old daughter….but he would later!

Edward’s father worked at the Crown, Cork and Seal Co. until he broke his leg, resulting in one leg being shorter than the other. His father then moved to Baltimore to work at the Martin Marietta Plant and would return home to Sabillasville on the weekends. Edward attended the brick school at Sabillasville through seventh grade, and then went on to Thurmont High School, where he graduated in 1942.

Edward followed his father to Baltimore to work at Martin Marietta as well, but with war engulfing the entire world, the U.S. Army drafted Edward in February 1943. After training, he was assigned to Company A, 149th Infantry, 38th Division, nick-named the Cyclone Division. In January 1944, the division shipped out as part of a large convoy that traveled through the Panama Canal on its way to Hawaii. The wrecks of the ships the Japanese sunk on December 7, 1941, were still visible, and his company patrolled the beaches until they were sent to New Guinea for “mopping up” operations. Luckily, they did not encounter any enemy troops, but Edward did notice that the native women did not wear bras!

Then they traveled to the Philippine Island of Leyte, where the American troops first invaded the island nation. Ironically, Leyte is where a Japanese sniper severely injured Graceham native, Sterling Seiss. Before Edward arrived, they encountered a bizarre quirk of nature: a fine white powder that reduced visibility to zero suddenly engulfed their ship. Without warning, their ship beached on a coral outcropping just beneath the sea with no land in sight! Unable to get the ship off the coral, the troops boarded other smaller landing crafts. They eventually discovered a volcanic eruption miles away that caused the white cloud.

Once again, Edward’s company performed “mopping up” operations. The enemy had abandoned a strategic landing strip, and Edward’s company was there to protect it. Edward and a comrade dug a foxhole and two slit trenches to rest in while another soldier kept guard. They switched jobs every two hours. Edward had just finished his duty and was trying to get a little rest when a grenade exploded right in front of his buddy, killing him instantly. In the battle that followed, Japanese paratroopers attempted to regain the airstrips. They failed, but the Japanese killed 18 men in Edward’s company.

With Leyte finally secure, the 149th was loaded up and sent to Subic Bay in Luzon. Manila had finally fallen, and 100,000 Filipinos died in the horrific fighting there. Gen. Douglas MacArthur then declared the Philippines secure, neglecting to mention the thousands of enemy troops still in the mountainous north. Once more, Edward’s regiment was sent to “mop up” northern Luzon. They were still fighting when the Japanese surrendered after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because of their battles on the Bataan peninsula, they are called the Avengers of Bataan.

After spending nearly two years abroad, Coleman was finally discharged in November 1945, having earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star. He returned home to meet his youngest sibling, a sister, born when he was in the Pacific.

Jobs were hard to come by after the War, and Edward worked at Fairchild in Hagerstown and at Martin Marietta. Then, using the GI Bill, he attended an aeronautic mechanic’s school. Martin Marietta rehired him, and he spent the rest of his career with the company, even moving to Orlando, Florida, in order to keep his job.

In 1949, he married the now-grown-up Doris Brown, whom he had met so long ago. They had three daughters: Denise, Donna, and Darlene.

When Edward’s father died, Edward bought his house in Sabillasville, where he now spends the summer enjoying the peace of the Catoctin Mountains. However, when the cool winds begin to blow, the family returns to their home in Orlando. In good health, Edward enjoys the mountains and still gardens with the help of his nephew. He revels in the love of his family that now includes four grandchildren.

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at

James Rada, Jr.

In the days before air conditioning, Washington D.C. could be nearly unbearable in the summer. Those who could would travel to summer homes in more-agreeable climates. It wasn’t always possible for federal officials, though.

In 1915, some of the towns surrounding the capital city began making their case to serve as the summer capital for the United States, in a similar way to the way President Dwight D. Eisenhower would use his Gettysburg home as a temporary White House while he was recovering from a heart attack. They were generally towns within a couple hours of Washington, D.C., and at a higher elevation.

In August, the Waynesboro Board of Trade appointed a committee to open communications with Congressman D. K. Focht “and urge him to use his influence in having the summer capital located in this section,” according to the Gettysburg Times.

W. H. Doll of the traffic department of the Western Maryland Railway traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with one of President Woodrow Wilson’s secretaries to show the railroad’s support for having Blue Ridge Summit be the summer capital.

“Mr. Doll called attention to the fact that Blue Ridge Summit is now more or less a ‘summer capital’ on account of the large number of government officials and members of the diplomatic corps who spend the heated season there,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Diplomatic delegations from Argentina, Norway, Japan, and Uruguay already had many of their members spending the summer in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. The Washington Post even noted in 1915 that Viscountess Chinda, the wife of Japanese Ambassador Chinda, had traveled to Japanese property in Blue Ridge Summit, calling the summer embassy. The U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Comptroller of the Currency also spent much of the summer in the mountains.

Some of the diplomats and officials had homes, but others simply stayed the summer in the Monterey Inn. The Monterey Inn was probably the most famous of the inns of Blue Ridge Summit. It was built in 1848 and attracted visitors from all over the region. The inn would burn to the ground in 1941, but in 1915, it was the jewel of Blue Ridge Summit.

For a while, it seemed that the government was considering officially designating the town as the summer capital. Engineers from Washington traveled to Blue Ridge Summit in October to take elevations and measurements of the town and surrounding area. Local officials took it as a sign that the government was collecting data on where to build government buildings.

It wasn’t the first time towns had made an appeal to be the summer capital. Earlier in the year, Braddock Heights in Frederick County had made its case only to see nothing come of it. It doesn’t seem that the town fathers made much of persuasive appeal other than offering cooler summer weather within a fairly close location to Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Virginia Congressman Charles Carlin was making the case for the summer capital being in the Virginia mountains, not far from Washington. The basis of his appeal was that he would submit a bill for designating a summer capital, but only if it was located in his district in Virginia.

Although Blue Ridge Summit’s official recognition as the summer capital failed, the town continued to appeal to foreign delegations. Even as late as 1940, about a dozen foreign embassies maintained summer legations in Blue Ridge, many at Monterey, occasioning it to be called often “the summer capital of the United States,” according to the Living Places webpage for the Monterey Historic District.

Japanese Ambassador Chinda and wife Viscountess Chinda.

Courtesy Photo

2by James Rada, Jr.

Note: This is the second of three articles about the wreck of the Blue Mountain Express between Thurmont and Sabillasville in 1915.

high-bridges-wreck-003-firOn June 25, 1915, the Blue Mountain Express, bound for Hagerstown, crashed head-on with a mail train traveling east from Hagerstown, crumpling the two engines and sending a baggage car off the bridge, where the crash occurred, and into the ravine below.

Thomas B. South of Hagerstown was in the passenger car next to the baggage car that crashed into the ravine. He felt a “grating sensation before the crash came.” The impact threw him forward against the seat in front of him.

“Mr. South said he could feel the car in which he was riding turn almost completely around and that it then tilted, as if it was going into the ravine,” reported the Herald Mail. “Women screamed and children cried when the awful impact came, and great difficulty was experienced in getting them out of the cars.”

Harry Smith of Hagerstown was seated in a passenger car of the Blue Mountain Express and “he felt the car topple and pieces of glass flew in every direction and many persons were badly cut,” according to the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

The two trains hit head-on. The baggage car on the Blue Mountain Express fell into the ravine, carrying with it two passengers: Mrs. W. C. Chipchase and her son, Walter.

“Mrs. Chipchase was going to be admitted to a sanitarium, was reclining in a baggage car, son and nurse with her…nurse left to stroll through the train, which probably saved her,” the Adams County News reported.

Mrs. Chipchase died in the fall, but Walter was found unconscious and groaning when rescuers reached him.

The Frederick News reported that Walter was taken to a cottage at Blue Ridge Summit, where his sister, Ethel, had been waiting for her brother and mother to arrive. He died around midnight.

The engines of the two trains had locked together on impact, “appearing as almost one engine to the horrified rescuers who quickly gathered on the scene. Had the engines ricocheted off of one another, there undoubtedly would have been more causalities,” according to a historical study of Catoctin National Park.

Eyler said, “Coals were falling from one of the boilers and for a time threatened to set fire to the wooden structure of the bridge. The whistle on one of the engines had stuck in an open position and kept blowing until all of the steam was gone.”

Within minutes of the crash, about one hundred people had gathered to help the survivors and find the dead amid the debris.

As the passengers and crew were located and pulled from the wreckage, two bodies were seen that could not be reached easily. Fireman Hayes’ body could be seen hanging from the train’s cab, but no one could reach it because the cab was hanging out over the ravine.

“It was impossible to move the body for fear that the slightest motion would hurl it to the bottom of the ravine nearly 100 feet below,” the Frederick News reported.

Dr. Morris Birely of Thurmont was the first doctor on the scene. He went to work treating the wounded as best he could. He worked into the night, using gas lanterns for light.

The Western Maryland Railroad sent two special trains to help in transporting the dead and wounded from the area. One train came from the east and the other the west.

All of the wreckage, except the connected locomotives, had been cleared from the bridge by morning.

“People were still wondering the next day how the two engines had stayed on the rails. But it was easy to see how the wreck had occurred. The bridge is ‘blind’ from both directions. From the east, a train passes out of a deep, curving cut right onto the bridge. From the west, an engineer had a little more visibility but was also on a curve and was traveling down-hill, making a quick stop impossible,” Eyler wrote.

In the end, six died in the crash of the Blue Mountain Express. They were: Coleman Cook, engineer; Luther Hull, fireman; J. R. Hayes, fireman; Mrs. W. C. Chipchase, Baltimore; Walter Chipchase, Baltimore. Twelve others suffered serious injuries. An investigation revealed that a mix-up in the all-important right-of-way orders issued from Hagerstown had caused the crash.

Bloom, “Pale and worn, the unmistakable signs of the worry he has experienced since hearing the result of his mistake,” according to the Adams County News, accepted responsibility for the accident.

Oddly, there were three Western Maryland Railroad officials on the Blue Mountain Express on their way to a meeting about the prevention of wrecks.

A fire above Thurmont between Route 550 and Kelbaugh Road consumed seven acres on Sunday, November 21, 2016. The fire started around 2:00 p.m., was contained by 5:00 p.m., and fully extinguished by 8:00 p.m. It was started by downed power lines.

Ironically a new fire broke out around 1:00 a.m. the following morning near the same area. It is believed that the second fire started when a spark from the first fire was carried by the wind to the new location.

Initially, Thurmont’s Guardian Hose Company responded to the second fire, and by 7:30 a.m. fifty to seventy-five fire fighters were involved. Responders from Thurmont, Graceham, Emmitsburg, Rocky Ridge, Wolfsville, Smithsburg, Leitersburg, Frederick City, Camp David, Lewistown, Greenmount, Middletown, Blue Ridge Summit, Raven Rock, and more reported to help. Route 550 was closed to traffic during these fires.

Graceham Fire Company’s Assistant Chief, Louie Powell, was in command at the base of the mountain on Route 550 where water, gas, food, and holding tanks were set up. A canteen truck was brought in from Independence Fire Company to feed the responders.

Powell explained that to pump water up the mountain to fight the fire, a fire truck from Rocky Ridge had a 5” supply line pumping from the holding tanks to an engine from Vigilant Hose Company, and then that engine pumped through to another engine, and so on, to reach the fire higher up the mountain. He said, “It’s a neat operation.”

Neither of these fires resulted in a threat to human life, nor was there damage to homes or buildings. The second fire consumed approximately ten more acres of forest before being fully extinguished sometime in the afternoon on Monday.

Thanks to the many residents who provided assistance to the firefighters by opening access routes, allowing access to your property, and allowing the use of your private ponds for water. Good job to everyone who pulled together to successfully beat these fires!


Photo of fire by Donna Sweeney,


photo of basecamp by Deb Spalding

Joan Bittner Fry

In 1964, my family and I bought and later moved into a house in Sabillasville, where the late Tom and Annie Harbaugh had lived. I still live there. My mother helped pack up the Harbaugh’s household goods for public sale at the Blue Ridge Summit fire hall, but the family didn’t want to sell Annie’s diaries. When asked if she would accept them, my mother agreed that she would. At that time, I had no idea that I would move into the house and end up with the diaries.

Following are excerpts from Annie’s diaries. As you can see, there are many references to whitewash, which was a low-cost type of paint. A general recipe for whitewash is hydrated lime, water, and salt. I have no idea what proportions Annie and her friends used, but they sure whitewashed a lot. It is claimed that whitewash disinfects, repels insects, and preserves by sealing surfaces. 

Also added is a photo (top right) that I took of my cellar, showing the whitewashed wall that was done many years ago. If Annie had known that whitewash would last so long, perhaps she wouldn’t have done it so often. Maybe it was a social thing back then.


May 9. I whitewashed the hen house this morning. Fannie Brown and the little boy, Margaret and Glenn’s wife all took dinner with me today. Mr. Sheffer died at 2 p.m. today.  Buried Saturday at 2 p.m. in Fairfield.



April 23. This was a cloudy morning but it cleared away at 9 a.m. Mr. Fogle whitewashed the hog pen and made garden in the afternoon. Mr. Cal Stem had a light stroke this morning.



April 26. This was another lovely day. We cleaned the yard and walk at the back of the house. I mowed the inside lawn this afternoon. Mr. Wierman mowed the outside lawn this evening. Lizzie started to whitewash the fence this afternoon.

May 2. This is a cool rainy morning, temp 44 degrees at 6:30. I enameled the refrigerator today. I received the living room curtains today. They certainly look nice. Mabel sent me two crepe myrtle bushes this morning. One red and one lavender.

May 15. Lizzie and I whitewashed the fence all of the day. It was a beautiful day and not so hot.

May 16. This was another lovely day to finish the fence and the buildings.



April 1. This was a cold day, 38 degrees at 6:30. Maud Working and I cleaned the summer house today.

May 1. This was a warm day. Maud whitewashed the fence all of the day.  Temperature 82 at 2 p.m.

May 6. This is a grand cool morning to clean house. Maud and I cleaned the living room today. We scrubbed down the front porch in the afternoon.

May 7. This was a hot day, 82 at 3 p.m. Maud finished whitewashing and we cleaned the two back porches. I received 25 of my little chicks this morning.

May 17. I went to Sunday school this morning. It was so hot in the church I wished I had not gone. Alvin (Anderson) had fire in the furnace.

December 10. This is a cloudy rainy day. King Edward abdicated the throne today.

Army Chaplain, Family Man, Pastor, and Artist

by Chris O’Connor

Col. Bill Hammann of Blue Ridge Summit retired in 1999 after two and a half decades in the U.S. Army, where he served as a chaplain, rising through the ranks, ministering to the spiritual needs of American patriots and their families.

His service to our nation spanned the Cold War years, continuing throughout Desert Storm and Desert Shield.  He was stationed in Germany just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall—something he thought would never happen during his lifetime.

He was stationed at bases from Korea to Germany, as well as stateside posts, including Ft. Hood in Texas, Ft. Sill in Oklahoma, Ft. Knox in Kentucky, and the Presidio in California. 

After retirement, he returned to Pennsylvania, because he has family in Carlisle. 

Now he is in what he jokingly calls his “second retirement,” after serving as pastor at Hawley’s Memorial Presbyterian Church in Blue Ridge Summit. The decision to retire didn’t come easily, for he grew to love his congregation over a span of ten years. His family was the main driver of his difficult choice. He and his wife Lucy have a blended brood of six children and ten grandchildren, with whom they want to spend more time.

Though some might question if Bill isn’t already entrenched in a third career, for he has grown quite accomplished in the centuries-old German form of artistic expression called scherenschnitte or “scissors cutting,” brought to our shores by German immigrants who settled mostly in colonial Pennsylvania.

Sherenschnitte—in its simplest form—is most easily described as silhouettes or stencil-like patterns cut from paper. The colonists used them as a means to decorate their homes for things such as shelf liners, doilies, birth and wedding announcements, or other embellishments to enhance the home environment. The colonial style designs were more simplistic by virtue of the available tools of that time. Many sherenschnitte designs, such as heart-shaped ones, predated our modern valentines, with space left in the center for messages penned in calligraphy.

Its modern incarnation is elaborate, intricately detailed works of art depicting a limitless variety of subjects, where the artist is only limited by his or her imagination.

Bill decided to learn the art form following his retirement from the Army in 1999 at the urging of his brother, who had acquired some pieces by other artists. Bill acquired some books and dove right in. 

While many might consider patience the requisite to create such intricate pieces, Bill saw it differently and, in fact, found it relaxing and therapeutic. He had lingering back pain resulting from a Jeep rollover accident that occurred while he was still in the Army, and the pain often left him sleepless. Working on his earliest pieces were painstaking in more ways than one, helping distract him from the discomfort of his injury.

Bill is concerned that scherenschnitte is becoming a lost art. He is proud that some members of his family are continuing in the tradition. He has also held classes at Renfrew and a group at his church.

Anyone with an interest in the art form should start with simple designs and scissors, or Bill’s cutting tool of choice, an X-Acto knife. His best advice is to have an ample supply of sharp blades available.  As soon as the blade begins to pull the paper while cutting, change the blade. 

Besides the paper used for the design and knife blades, supplies are largely minimal.   

Early on, Bill used old catalogs as cutting mats. While it was a creative way to protect the tabletop, it was arguably a false economy since extra layer of catalog pages further dulled the knife blades, not to mention the wee bits of catalog paper that had to be cleaned up.

Chasing infinitesimal bits of catalog pages was something akin to herding cats, sweeping down from a pillow with a hole in it while a ceiling fan’s going, or like raking dry autumn leaves in shifting winds.

Bill is not chasing bits of old catalogs these days. He uses a so-called “self-healing” mat as a base for his paper cutting. The paper rests on its stable surface and protects both the tabletop and also lengthens the life of the cutting blade.

To enable Bill to make the extremely miniscule cuts on his most-detailed designs, he acquired an architectural lamp, a high-powered magnifying glass with a light that clamps on the side of his table and brightly illuminates his work surface.

Another technique he has recently chosen to implement in his work is “pin-pricking,” where pins of varying gauges are used to augment dimension and texture of the original design.

Having seen an extensive array of Bill Hammann’s exquisite art work, learned about his early service in gang ministry, about his striving to help dropouts before he joined the Army, his service to our military for over two decades, all followed by his  jumping back into civilian life and striving to enhance folks spiritual life yet more…I’m left wondering, “Who does all that?”

That would be Col. Bill Hammann: U.S. Army (Ret.), parent, pastor, patriot…and artist, here on the Mountain.

That would be Col. Bill Hammann: U.S. Army (Ret.), parent, pastor, patriot…and artist, here on the Mountain.

Col. Bill Hammann can be reached via email at


Bill Hammann is shown working on a silhouette scherenschnitte art piece.

Photo by Chris O’Connor



Pictured is one of Bill Harmmann’s detailed and intricate pieces of scherenschnitte art work.

Photo by Bill Hammann


James Rada, Jr.

museumAs the Confederate Army retreated from Gettysburg on July 4, 1863, they encountered Union troops in the area of Blue Ridge Summit. A two-day battle ensued in the middle of a thunderstorm that eventually spilled over the Mason-Dixon Line into Maryland.

“It is the only battle fought on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line,” said John Miller, Director of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Museum in Blue Ridge Summit.

While lots of books, movies, and stories have focused on the importance of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, little light has been shed on how the Confederate Army made its retreat south from the battlefield through enemy troops with weary men. The Battle of Monterey Pass involved about 4,500 men with 1,300 of them winding up as Union prisoners and 43 soldiers being killed, wounded, or missing. Major Charles K. Capehart of the 1st West Virginia also earned his Medal of Honor during the battle.

Through the efforts of Miller and other volunteers and supporters, Blue Ridge Summit has a small museum and a growing area of protected land dedicated to educating the public about the battlefield.

The museum opened last October on 1.25 acres along Route 16 in Blue Ridge Summit. The Monterey Pass Battlefield Museum displays a collection of artifacts related to the Battle of Monterey Pass. It has galleries that look at different aspects of the battle, such as the overall Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania and Washington Township at the time of the battle. Outside the museum is a marker erected by the State of Michigan commemorating the participation of Michigan troops in the battle.

“It is one of only five such markers outside of the state of Michigan,” Miller said.

Most of the uniforms, weapons, pictures, and other artifacts were donated to the museum, and the attractive building was built through the hard work of volunteers.

“The purpose of the museum is to educate people about the battle,” Miller said, “but it also can set a standard for other community organizations along the retreat route that want to see how they can do it.”

Places like Hagerstown and Falling Waters are among the towns looking at doing something similar in their communities.

Although the museum wasn’t open in time to catch a lot of the tourist traffic in 2014, more than 300 did visit.

“It’s been slow at first, but the number of visitors will grow as more people learn about it,” said Miller.

The Friends of Monterey Pass have been working with tourism councils in the surrounding counties to tie the museum into the counties’ Civil War tourism plans.

When it reopens in April, the Friends of Monterey Pass hope to add 116 acres of land over which the battle was fought to the museum. Miller said that before the museum reopens for 2015, he hopes to have some additional displays in the museum as well as some interpretive panels for a driving tour of the new piece of land.

Monterey Pass Battlefield Park is located at 14325 Buchanan Trail East, Waynesboro, PA 17268. For more information, visit their website at