Currently viewing the tag: "Catoctin Clarion"

James Rada, Jr.

Northern Frederick County is not known for growing tobacco, but it has had a cigar box manufacturer and a few cigar manufacturers who used cigar boxes to pack their products.

On May 1, 1905, the federal government made it illegal to give away, sell, or display empty cigar boxes. The reason for this ruling from the Internal Revenue Department was “It is alleged they frequently make cheap cigars and place them in empty boxes that contained high-priced cigars. Through unscrupulous dealers, it is an easy matter to get the cigars on the market,” according to the Hagerstown Morning Herald.

The reason that cigars were sold in boxes in the first place was because of the federal government. The Revenue Act of 1864 required all cigars to be packed in boxes in bundles of 25, 50, 100, or 250 cigars.

“Although the majority of cigar boxes were made of wood, examples can be found in numerous other materials, such as glass, plastic, aluminum, brass, tin, and china. They come in a range of shapes and sizes, from intricately carved and decorated wooden chests to cardboard boxes with bold, attention-grabbing advertising text,” according to Collector’s Weekly.

The most-common box was six pieces of wood nailed together to hold 50 cigars. As simple as this sounds, the Catoctin Clarion reported, “The construction of a cigar box passes through nineteen different processes before it is ready to receive the cigars.”

The wooden boxes could be decorated and carved to be more attractive. This is why tobacconists liked using the empty ones for displays.

According to the Catoctin Clarion in 1883, 35,000 to 40,000 cigar boxes were sold every year in the area and that number was only expected to increase.

The main reason for Internal Revenue Department’s decision about empty cigar boxes was the federal government wanted to make sure it got its cut of any cigar sales.

“A decision has been rendered in the matter of making use of empty boxes, containing the label, caution notice and brand, for window displays, to the effect that the use of such boxes is illegal, but the decision does not appear to include boxes that have been stamped and filled with cigars and then emptied in the regular retail way,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

However, when those boxes were emptied, the owner was supposed to destroy them. This typically wasn’t what happened. Tobacconists used the empty boxes in their store windows for display to attract more customers. These empty boxes all had the required revenue stamp and caution notices needed to sell cigars. Nothing stopped the retailer from simply refilling boxes with cigars and not paying the taxes on them.

For a retailer caught breaking this rule, the fine could be anywhere from $50 to $500. If the reuse of boxes was a deliberate attempt at fraud, the fine rose to up to $5,000 or six months in jail.

Retailers who only wanted to use the boxes as displays eventually realized they could get around this problem by scraping off the stamp and notice.

The Englar Cigar Box Company in Rocky Ridge was the best-known cigar box manufacturer in this area. The company’s motto was: “Superior quality, best lumber, neatly finished.” Operating from 1887 to 1920, the company made wooden cigar boxes.

Many of them would have been destroyed under this new law, which is why they are considered collector’s items now if you can find one.

by James Rada, Jr.

Things That Go “Boom” In the Night

January 2, 1887, was a cold day in Frederick County. Thermometers hovered around eight degrees. Fireplaces and stoves were stoked with roaring fires to fight back the cold that was pushing its way through every crack and crevice of a home.

Several inches of snow, hardened with a covering of ice, covered the ground, and sheets of ice coated the roofs of buildings. Moonlight reflected off the frozen snow, giving it a slight glow even at midnight.

“A young gentleman returning home in his sleigh about this time, says the cracking of the ice on a roof, by which he passed, was so loud and forcible, that it scared his horse,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported.

Although few people reported feeling anything, doors swung open, and objects toppled over “as if burglars were doing the houses,” according to the Clarion.

Many more people described hearing sounds that sounded like explosions. The Emmitsburg Chronicle compared it to the sound of a well being excavated.

“But mostly the sounds were above, as some describe them—like unto the clatter of tearing off a roof,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported.

The Catoctin Clarion reported, “At this point the report was sufficiently loud to suggest to Mr. J. W. Weast, a merchant at that point, that his safe had been blown up and he hurriedly dressed himself and visited his safe, only to find it intact.”

Reports came in from all over Frederick County and parts of Carroll County. Westminster residents seem to have felt the earthquake and experienced damage.

The Frederick Daily News reported that because no one in Emmitsburg felt any tremors, no one actually considered it an earthquake.

The Emmitsburg Chronicle offered a scientific reason for the noises not being an earthquake, writing “to one suddenly awaking in the night, and considering that there have not been received any accounts of clocks being stopped, or household things displaced, as in earthquake manifestations, together with the simultaneousness of the occurrences at points, miles apart, we infer the who matter was purely electrical. Indeed a writer not long ago undertook to prove that seismic phenomena were but electrical manifestations, on the earth’s surface and not from the interior.”

Although the county is not prone to earthquakes and doesn’t sit on a fault line, it was an earthquake—albeit an unusual one—that hit the county that night. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, east of the Rocky Mountains, fault lines are a poor indicator of where earthquakes will hit. The USGS website states, “In contrast, things are less straightforward east of the Rockies because it is rare for earthquakes to break the ground surface. In particular, east of the Rockies, most known faults and fault lines do not appear to have anything to do with modern earthquakes. We don’t know why. An earthquake is as likely to occur on an unknown fault as on a known fault, if not more likely. The result of all this is that fault lines east of the Rockies are unreliable guides to where earthquakes are likely to occur.”

Whatever the reason for the earthquake, it was a disturbing way for Frederick County residents to welcome in the new year on January 2, 1887.

by James Rada, Jr.

The End of Rocky Ridge

Rocky Ridge disappeared in 1913. “So far as railroad matters are concerned, Rocky Ridge does not exist and hereafter that station will be known as Emmitsburg Junction,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The Western Maryland Railroad (WMRR) station had opened in Rocky Ridge in 1870, with Sheridan Biggs serving as the first freight agent and telegraph operator. He served in that position until 1907. Over the years, he had had to deal with confusion over passengers knowing that they needed to switch trains in Rocky Ridge in order to get to Emmitsburg on the Emmitsburg Railroad. They boarded a small train made up of an engine, baggage car, smoker/mail car, and parlor car.

Though only a few miles long, the railroad was well run. The Adams County News noted in 1916, “…there is to-day a short distance from Gettysburg a railroad planned, built and financed through the efforts of women, a road which was built some 40 years ago and which to-day untroubled by strikes and other unpleasantness, is paying steadily 4 per cent on the original investment.”

The Daughters of Charity owned 70 percent of the stock in the railroad, according to the Adams County News. This is not surprising since one of the stops on the line was at St. Joseph College. Students traveling to Mount St. Mary’s College also used the railroad traveling to and from school.

“It is probably the only road in existence where the possession of an ordinary ticket entitles one to parlor-car accommodations,” the Adams County News reported.

But something about the location confused passengers, despite the conductor often calling out, “Rocky Ridge, change for Emmitsburg.”

A.V.D. Watterson, Esq., a Pittsburgh attorney and president of the Mount St. Mary’s Alumni Association, lobbied to the Western Maryland Railroad for years to change the name of Rocky Ridge to Emmitsburg Junction to make it clearer that the station was a changing point for passengers.

In 1913, he wrote the directors of the WMRR again. This time, he noted in his letter, “Since a through line is now established from Pittsburgh to Baltimore, which will permit of persons going through to Emmitsburg with only one change of cars, it is important to your Company to make a change of this kind, and I, therefore, again call your attention to it.”

This time, the directors agreed with his reasoning and renamed Rocky Ridge Emmitsburg Junction on all of its documentation and schedules. However, the post office remained Rocky Ridge, so anything being mailed to Emmitsburg Junction had to be sent to Rocky Ridge.

The Clarion noted that the change might have come too late. Thurmont might soon become the transfer point for rail travelers if the Frederick and Hagerstown Railway continued to grow.

“It is hoped a trolley road will soon be built from Thurmont to Mt. St. Mary’s for the benefit and convenience of the hundreds of students attending college at that place, and also for the benefit of the many people residing between these two points,” the newspaper reported.

This did not happen, but with the growth of automobile travel, so few people were using the Emmitsburg Railroad by 1935 that it became freight only. It ceased operation in 1940.

Even then, not all the stations along the Western Maryland line were alerted to the change.

In 1959, Mrs. James Tucker and her daughter, both from Boston, traveled to New York City, where they purchased a ticket to Emmitsburg via Emmitsburg Junction. They boarded the train for the five-hour trip to St. Joseph College.

When the New Englanders arrived at Emmitsburg Junction, they found a worn out railway station but no railroad, not even a track,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Luckily, they met Guy Baker, who was driving a mail and express truck. He offered to take the ladies to the college.

Emmitsburg Junction still continues to pop up on modern maps from time to time, although it should have ceased to exist along the railroad. A 1992 Frederick County trash map showed Emmitsburg Junction as north of MD 77, while Rocky Ridge was south of the highway. Even today, if you type Emmitsburg Junction into Mapquest, it will take you to Rocky Ridge.

Rocky Ridge WM Station.

Frederick County hides a wealth of natural resources underground. It is mined for iron, copper, gold, lead, silver, zinc, aluminum, stone, limestone, silica, calcium, and clay. At one time, Frederick County also had a short-lived coal mine or did it?

In October 1877, coal was discovered on the farm of Mary Ann Cretin near Motter’s Station. This was an amazing find. Maps of Maryland coal resources with the Maryland Department of the Environment show the state’s coal deposits are in the Western Maryland mountains, beginning beneath the mountains that run along the border between Garrett and Allegany counties.

After the mine opened, the Catoctin Clarion announced that it “is really amounting to something and coal in large quantities is being taken from it.”

People were apparently visiting the farm just to see the coal mine in operation. They said that the coal seam being mined was about a foot thick.

Samples of the coal were tested by a blacksmith whose last name was Weaver “who pronounces it equal to any he ever used for his purposes. All who have seen the specimens taken from the vein pronounce it genuine coal and the owner of the land is in high glee in anticipation of a big fortune,” according to the newspaper.

Many people were comparing it to the high-quality bituminous coal mined in Allegany County. Coal mining was a major industry in that county, and some hoped it could become so in Frederick County.

“This will be a big thing in Frederick County and the cost of coal in the future will be lessened a great deal,” the Catoctin Clarion reported. “It will also cause others to make an examination of their lands and probably bring to light some richer minerals, which must be about in this region so close to the mountains.”

Despite the hoopla, the newspaper announced that mining on the property had ceased in November after less than two months in operation.

“The proprietor is still hopeful, however, that a big let lies buried under the ground, but he doesn’t feel justified in digging for it just now,” the newspaper reported.

A letter that appeared later in the Catoctin Clarion suggested the coal mine might not have been what it seemed. The letter writer said that a man named Harris Bush had been hauling coal to Emmitsburg years ago when the load proved to be heavy to pull. Bush unloaded much of the coal to make it easier for his horses to pull the remainder. The letter writer believed this to be the source of the coal mine. Although the letter writer said the coal had been dumped near Motter’s Station, it doesn’t seem likely that it would have been the coal mine on Cretin’s farm. For one thing, the coal wasn’t found near a road. Also, witnesses saw the coal seam and coal being dug from the ground. Bush’s excess coal would have sat on top of the ground.

However, the Motter’s Station coal mine is improbable. It was found in a region where coal has not been found, even today. The coal seam also petered out quickly.

So, was there a coal mine in Northern Frederick County?

Cretin believed so, but when she died in 1899, no other coal had been found on her farm or in the county for that matter.

Although coal seams are only known to be found in Western Maryland, Motters Station once had a short-lived coal mine in the late 1800s.

The Catoctin Outlaws and the Origins of Blue Blazes

Years before the Blue Blazes became part of Thurmont’s history due to the 1929 raid on the county’s largest moonshining operation, it made the newspapers for another raid, but this one was to capture wanted criminals.

In 1913, the Catoctin Clarion reported “a gang of this character has been in our midst for some time; walking around town, making purchases at our stores, talking freely to citizens, and making trips through the country at night relieving people of feed, poultry and other articles.”

The “outlaw gang” turned out to be two men, but “one of them known as a desperate character.”

They were camping on Catoctin Mountain in a heavily wooded area to the right of Blue Blazes and a mile from the old Harman Mill. “It is said that so dense was the growth of small trees that it was almost impossible to see the camp up until within a few feet of it,” the Clarion reported.

In nearly every local story, Blue Blazes refers to the massive still that county deputies raided in 1929. The still is said to have been named Blue Blazes after the color that moonshine burned when it was ready. The 1913 story does not involve a still, and it is before Prohibition. Blue Blazes was the name originally given to a section on Hunting Creek in the mid-1800s.            As the story goes, a group of men was “gigging” in the creek using torches to see by since it was nighttime. One of the men slipped, and his torch fell into the water. The Clarion reported, “the party was terrified at finding that it had set on fire the entire surface of the stream as far up and down as they could see and that it burned with a Blue Blaze.”

In 1888, the Clarion asked its readers what could have caused the phenomenon. Some readers suggested it was burning coal oil from beneath Chimney Rock that leaked into the stream. One reader wrote that coal oil wouldn’t have burned that color. He suggested “the party might have broken its jug or decanted its keg of whiskey, which the torches ignited, and in their condition of exhilaration, the flames seemed more extended than they actually were.”

Whatever the scientific explanation was, the name stuck to that area, eventually spreading to include the area around that section of Hunting Creek.

Once the authorities located the camp near Blue Blazes, Thurmont Police conducted a joint raid with Waynesboro Police.

“Both men were there, but the fine big bay horse they had in their possession put them wise that some one was coming by neighing,” according to the Clarion.

The men in the camp ran for theirs as the officers rushed in. One man gave himself up. The other man got away.

The captured man was Sparon Gaugher, who, according to the Clarion, “It is claimed he has killed a number of men, and it is thought he and his companion are the ones who assaulted a man at the ‘Blue Goose’ saloon near Pen-Mar a short time ago.”

The other man was named John Toms and was wanted for escaping jail in Gettysburg for stealing chickens and other property.

The police found a stolen horse, buggy, feed, and new clothing at the campsite. The prisoner was taken to jail in Waynesboro.

Gaugher was convicted of horse stealing in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and given a prison term.

His companion turned out to be wanted in three Pennsylvania counties. He had served time in the state penitentiary for shooting a man at the Leland Hotel in Waynesboro.

The Jinx of Old Frederick Road

by James Rada, Jr.

Old Frederick Road used to be the main thoroughfare between Thurmont and Frederick in 1917. It wasn’t the safest roadway, though. The Catoctin Clarion claimed it had a “jinx” on it. As evidence, it offered four different mishaps suffered on the road during a  September weekend. Not only were they different accidents, they were different types of accidents.

The first problem happened Saturday evening when a car struck Thomas Baker while he was crossing the road. Baker was thrown back over the front-wheel fender, and the only injuries he suffered was when he scratched his face on the road surface. The apparent cause of the accident was that the driver of the vehicle couldn’t see Baker, because the lights from oncoming traffic were too bright and blinded him.

Near midnight on Saturday, Charles Fogle was driving a seven-passenger Overland automobile, carrying Archie Elrode, Clarence School, Grayson Schell, and Arthur Clabaugh. He crashed into a carriage carrying Mr. and Mrs. Frank Angle and Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Cramer, all of Walkersville.

No one was seriously hurt, although the carriage was completely destroyed and the car badly damaged. According to the Clarion, “The tires were stripped from both right wheels and the front axle forced back under the center of the car. The fenders on the right side were crushed.”

On Sunday during the day, two cars hooked their front wheels together somehow while traveling down the state road about a half mile south of Thurmont. Because neither car could drive properly, they both wound up in a ditch.

The drivers weren’t injured, and the cars were driveable once they were pulled from the ditch and disconnected.

The final incident was the most-unusual of the four. Late Sunday afternoon, G. W. Shoemaker was driving a car carrying Harry Trout, Earl Heifleigh, Hallie Crum, and Bertha Crum. Near Catoctin Furnace, a cow made a sudden turn and walked into the road before Shoemaker could avoid it. The car hit the cow, knocking it down, and the front tires of the car passed over the animal.

“Objecting to being underneath, the cow gave a hump and tossed the car to the side of the road and into a ditch,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

One of the female passengers flew through the roof of the car while Shoemaker was trapped beneath it.

  1. W. Lidie was passing nearby and saw the accident. He stopped his own car and rushed over to help Shoemaker out from beneath his vehicle and administer first aid. The car was damaged, although it was salvageable. No one was seriously injured except the cow.

Lidie sent his family home to Thurmont while he drove the passengers of the wrecked car to their homes in Liberty.

Car vs. person, car vs. carriage, car vs. car, and car vs. cow. The road jinx didn’t discriminate. Luckily, no one was killed in any of these accidents, which may be because the cars weren’t traveling at the speeds they do nowadays.

by James Rada, Jr.

Celebrating Independence During the Country’s Centennial

When America celebrated its first one hundred years in 1876, Mechanicstown threw the country a grand party.

“The old saying that the people of Mechanicstown could never get up anything of a startling nature was beautifully knocked in the head last Tuesday—the 4th of July—by one of the largest demonstrations ever held in this place, and we doubt if its equal was ever seen in a town of twice the inhabitants,” the Catoctin Clarion proclaimed.

The event had been in the works for months and went off as planned, with the weather providing a beautiful day to celebrate.

Mechanicstown wasted no time in beginning its celebration with Charles Harman firing off a cannon at midnight on July 3, “which had the desired effect of awakening our citizens from their sound slumbers.” This was followed by a parade of the Mulligan Guards, under the command of Capt. William L. Lynn. They marched through town in the early hours of July 4. The Mulligan Guards were a militia group, which had started in New York but gained popularity after the musical comedies of Ed Harrigan. Different branches of the organization had sprung up across the country.

The parade continued until 4:00 a.m., when the churches in Mechanicstown began ringing their bells. The chiming ended only after dawn.

“After the firing of the first gun, all chances for sleep were banished and most of the people got up and commenced trimming their houses with evergreens and flags prepared the day before,” the newspaper reported.

Nearly every house and building in town was decorated with patriotic colors for the occasion.

The first train of the morning brought the Rouzerville Band to town, along with throngs of people who had boarded the Western Maryland Railroad train at each stop along the route. The Woodsboro Band arrived in town in its band wagon around 8:30 a.m. “which occasioned a general stampede down Main street to receive them. After dismounting, they played several lively aires, which was highly appreciated by the crowd and largely appreciated,” according to the Clarion.

With the inflow of spectators, the population of Mechanicstown swelled to around 3,000, which was five times more than the town’s total population. The newspaper even noted that although Emmitsburg was holding its own Independence Day celebration, a large crowd of Emmitsburg residents had chosen to attend the festivities in Mechanicstown instead.

The town’s grand parade then began forming. Parade Marshal Dr. J. J. Henshaw and aides “mounted on fiery chargers, with sashes and rosettes, then made their appearance and commenced forming the procession, which was found to be no easy job, as the crowd was so large and at times ungovernable,” the newspaper reported.

The International Order of Odd Fellows dressed in their full regalia was the first group in the parade. This fraternal organization of roughly two hundred members was headed by the Rouzerville Band and led by John H. Rouzer.

The next group was students and teachers from the various Sunday Schools in town. Each class carried a banner identifying their school. The group of two hundred students and teachers was headed by Col. J. R. Rouzer.

They were followed by the “Goddess of Liberty,” played by Kate Stokes, “beautifully dressed and seated on a richly adorned throne and drawn by two white horses, with four gallant escorts at her side, in the person of Marshall Gaugh, Joe Freeze, Anderson Polly and W. T. Weller,” according to the newspaper.

Next in the parade came a wagon filled with men playing the Founding Fathers of 1776. It was followed by two Veterans of the War of 1812 riding in a buggy.

The band wagons of the Woodsboro and Lewistown bands followed, filled with women dressed in straw hats and red and white sashes. Each woman represented one of the thirty-eight states in the country at the time.

The final group in the parade was buggies and carriages filled with patriotic citizens “who have in many instances given proof of their loyalty and strong attachment to the country so dearly bought by the blood of our forefathers,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The parade ended at a large grove, where a stand with a podium had been erected. For the rest of the morning, the crowd listened to speakers and music.

At noon, there was an hour intermission for lunch. Many people ate a picnic lunch at the grove. One local merchant made $200 that afternoon. He sold four barrels of lemonade, fifty gallons of ice creams, and a number of cakes.

When events resumed in the afternoon, spectators heard more music and talks. They were also entertained by different sketches: The Signing of the Declaration, The Cradle of Liberty, Centennial Visitors, Centennial Trunk, and a comedy sketch.

After a dinner break, the crowd formed up on the town square to enjoy a fireworks show.

“We predicted some time ago that this would be the crowning event in the history of our town and verily were our predictions realized,” the Clarion reported.

by James Rada, Jr.

When the men of the Thurmont District of Frederick County began returning home from World War I, they were feted with a parade through Thurmont. People lined the streets to see their returning heroes. They cheered, and they cried.

In that, Thurmont was not unusual. Just about every town in the country celebrated its returning soldiers from The War to End All Wars.

It wasn’t enough for Thurmont, though. Some citizens realized that those who had given the most weren’t there to march in the parade. Eleven men from the district had died in the fighting of World War I.

Rosa Waters, whose son James died from Spanish Flu while serving in the military during the war, led a community group that wanted to create a lasting memorial to the town’s servicemen.

The Grimes Estate donated a piece of land on East Main Street for a memorial park. Ground was broken in the spring of 1922, and “The work of transforming the meadow into Memorial Park was begun and there will be no let-up until it is finished,” reported the Catoctin Clarion.

Committee members began soliciting donations for the landscaping and construction work of the park. More than $3,000 was raised (around $44,000 in today’s dollars), which more than paid for the initial expenses of the park.

On Armistice Day 1922, a parade that included Veterans and students from Thurmont High School marched through Thurmont. “The town was in holiday attire for the occasion. Flags were displayed from every business place and private home, many of the private homes becoming elaborately decorated with the national colors,” the Frederick Daily News reported.

The parade passed under the stone arch that marked the entrance to the park. Hundreds of citizens watched the parade pass and then followed it to the park.

The speakers and special guests sat on the rostrum, which had been built from native stone. Surrounding the rostrum were eleven scarlet oaks that had been planted in memory of the young men who had died in the war. They were: Louis R. Adams, Murry S. Baker, Benjamin E. Cline, Edgar J. Eyler, William T. Fraley, Roy O. Kelbaugh, Jesse M. Pryor, Clifford M. Stitely, Raymond L. Stull, Stanley M. Toms, and James S. Waters.

The park also featured four bronze tablets, three of which had names of Thurmont Veterans inscribed on them. The widow of Lt. Edgar Eyler, who had died in the war and for whom the Thurmont American Legion was named, unveiled the tablets.

The Frederick Daily News reported that “Frederick County’s first memorial to war heroes and the first in the state it is said, was dedicated with appropriate and interesting ceremonies at Thurmont Saturday morning.”

One of the speakers at the event was Folger McKinsey, the “Bentztown Bard.” He told the crowd, “You have paid more attention to Armistice Day than any other town in the state; you have great reason to be proud of yourselves.”

He also read a poem inspired by the event that was published in the Baltimore Sun a few days later. It read in part:

And they shall turn and read these carven names,

And they shall see again the battle-flames,

And tell again the story of the strife

And gaze again as if across the seas

To those old fields of Flanders and Argonne,

The poppied fields, the shattered Picardy,

Belleau and Meuse – and be so glad that we

In our own time of golden memory,

Looking beyond the tumult and the wave,

Have planted here this tribute to the brave,

The true, the fine, the noble and the fond!


George Wireman noted in his book, Gateway to the Mountains, “Although the memorial was a community project, it did not officially become a part of community property until November 11, 1928, when it was turned over to the Town Commissioners and accepted on behalf of the citizens, by Mayor Frank L. Cady.”

The park continues to serve Thurmont today as a memorial to its sons and daughters who serve in the Armed Forces.

The undated photo is believed to be from the end of WWI, but it may show the original arch entry for Memorial Park.

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

On June 25, 1915, the Blue Mountain Express bound for Hagerstown crashed head-on with a mail train coming east from Hagerstown, crumpling the two engines and sending a baggage car off the bridge where the wreck occurred and into the ravine below. Coleman Cook, engineer; Luther Hull, fireman; J. R. Hayes, fireman; Mrs. W. C. Chipchase, Baltimore; and Walter Chipchase, Baltimore, all died in the crash. Twelve others suffered serious injuries.

Edgar Bloom, a dispatcher for the Western Maryland Railroad, took responsibility for mixing up the right-of-way orders issued from Hagerstown that had caused the crash.

What if there was another contributing factor in the accident that no one realized because it had happened months earlier?

William H. Webb was a sixty-five-year-old watchman on the bridges west of Thurmont. Each day, he would walk to his shanty next to the bridges from his home on Kelbaugh Road. Every day, his wife, Sarah, would have one of their children or grandchildren take William his lunch.

“As watchman of those bridges, Mr. Webb’s position was an important one. The safety of many passengers and trains depended upon his watchfulness during the hours of the night. He walked those bridges at regular intervals during all hours of the night,” the Frederick Post reported.

By 1915, he’d been an employee of the Western Maryland Railroad for thirty-five years. His job was isolated, but he enjoyed it.

Webb was Roger Troxell’s great-grandfather. According to stories that his mother told him, “One of the children or grandchildren took him his lunch one day. It was pouring down rain and he found him (Webb) sitting on the railing holding his umbrella, and he was dead.”

This differs from the accounts in the Frederick Post and Catoctin Clarion. They reported that the day watchman had found William lying beside the cross-tie block on February 24, 1915.

“When found his overcoat was drawn up over his shoulders, and a raised umbrella lay beside him,” the Frederick Post reported.

The Catoctin Clarion explained that it appeared as if Webb had come east from his shack, across the iron bridge to “signal” the Fast Mail train going west soon after 6 o’clock, and while walking to his post east of the bridge was stricken with heart trouble and died.

The day watchman telephoned to Thurmont and Dr. Morris Birely, and Magistrate E. E. Black came out to the bridges to examine the body. No marks were found on it, and Birely said that heart failure was the cause of death.

Although this was months before the summer wreck, there’s no indication that another watchman was hired to replace Webb. Also, one of the trains that wrecked was the fast mail train that Webb usually signaled.

Had Webb still been alive and on the job, he may have been able to signal the trains to stop before they wrecked on the bridges. Bloom may also have been able to call the shanty directly about the mix-up, rather than telegraphing a message to the Western Maryland Railroad Station in Thurmont in the hopes to stop the train before it left the station.

William H. Webb

The Western Maryland Comes to Mechanicstown

by James Rada, Jr.

Photo Courtesy of

looking-back-columnThurmont’s stop on the Western Maryland Railway makes up only a paragraph in the history of the railroad. For Thurmont, however, it was a major event that not only helped shape the town’s future but also gave it its unique name.

The Western Maryland Railway began in 1852 as the Baltimore, Carroll, and Frederick Railroad. The goal at that time was to build a railroad from Baltimore to Washington County.

The Maryland General Assembly changed the name to the Western Maryland Rail Road Company the following year. For many years, the terminus of the railroad was at Union Bridge, where it had reached in 1862.

However, this was not the goal of the railroad. Mechanicstown knew that it was positioned along the proposed route of the railroad and wanted to see it completed, as did many other people. The original charter in 1852 called for the railroad to be built to the headwaters of the Monocacy River, which meant that the terminus would be at Mechanicstown or Rocky Ridge.

An 1871 article in the Catoctin Clarion noted, “May it not be said of the people of Mechanicstown that they have pinned their faith to the Western Maryland Railroad? This great artery of travel and commerce, hampered as it has been and still is, has done much for the section of the country through which it passes…”

Lobbying was begun to try and get construction to resume once more on the railroad, and on February 24, 1872, the Catoctin Clarion announced, “Rejoice, people of Mechanicstown!” A vote had been taken a few days earlier in Baltimore that was overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the construction of the Western Maryland Railway to Hagerstown and beyond.

“This vote is the harbinger of a new era for this great enterprise,” the newspaper reported.

The announcement brought with it some immediate economic activity in town. “Already on the strength of this news, several parties in our town and vicinity have commenced, sinking shafts in close proximity to the road for the discovery of ore and ore banks, which, we are persuaded, exist in quantities in our very midst,” according to the newspaper. These speculators were searching for iron that could be smelted into pig iron at Catoctin Furnace and used for making rails.

When the railroad opened to Mechanicstown later in 1872, George Wireman wrote in Gateway to the Mountains, “A group of civic-minded citizens arranged a reception and a banquet for the railroad officials and their guests. This event took place in the local warehouse and a gala celebration was enjoyed by all who attended.”

The depot was built on the site of an old cannery, and a water tower was built just to the north of it. The Mechanicstown Station also had a freight yard and engine house.

The railroad brought so much business and travelers into the area that a new depot and associated facilities eventually had to be built near Carroll Street.

“The new depot was built along the main line near Carroll Street and featured two waiting rooms, stationmaster and telegrapher’s office, and sanitary facilities. The grounds were graced with four large grass plots, one on the east, one on the west side of the station, and two in the front. These plots were beautified with ornamental grasses and flowers, protected by low guard rails. The front plots had large lawn vases in the center with blooming flowers,” Wireman described the new depot.

Besides the increased business, the Western Maryland Railway had another major change on Mechanicstown in 1894. Because of the number of towns along the line with names similar to Mechanicstown, the Post Office Department requested that the name be changed. Thurmont was chosen after much debate and a town vote.

The Western Maryland Railway served Thurmont until 1967 when the station closed.

A House Divided –Part 1-

by “My Father’s Son”

Present-Past-COLUMN---Old-ASallie K. Harrison-Boyce-Auginbaugh-Boyce may have never figured out exactly what she wanted in a husband, but she certainly knew what she fancied from a house. In early 1902, the Catoctin Clarion and Star and Sentinel, published “A Matrimonial Mix,” an article explaining how Sallie Boyce first married and divorced a man named Harrison, wed Harrison’s new wife’s father, surname Boyce, to be left a widow, and lastly wed Thurmont’s Water Street Jeweler Eber E. Auginbaugh. Marital mishaps aside, Sallie’s union to Auginbaugh brought Thurmont its most unique and recognizable residence, located at 513 East Main Street.

After the death of her second husband, Sallie moved to Thurmont and, perhaps while scrutinizing gemstones in Mr. Auginbaugh’s store for a specimen fitting of her exquisite taste, became involved with the jeweler. Sallie would soon be Mrs. Eber Auginbaugh, but only after a pre-nuptial agreement was drawn and endorsed by husband-to-be number three. In 1894, Sallie purchased a plot of land on the periphery of town, just west of the road to Apples Church. That autumn saw the start of what would become the spectacular home.

Between 1894 and 1895, the Catoctin Clarion newspaper provided regular reports on the home’s construction. The outcome rendered a fine example of “Queen Anne”/“Eastlake” architecture unseen throughout Thurmont. Depending upon the historian, Queen Anne and Eastlake may be combined together or kept categorized as two styles, either stance supported by Mrs. Auginbaugh’s address. Queen Anne architecture quickly became in-vogue when introduced to America in the 1880s. “Eastlake” was a term born from the book Hints on Household Taste, published in the United Kingdom during 1872 by British painter, collector, writer, architect, and designer, Charles Locke Eastlake. Eastlake, the style, is identified by intricate ornamentation added to a home, commonly of Queen Anne-style. The consistency of geometric and larger-scale forms within Eastlake ideology is what some believe makes it an independent style rather than a contributing schematic.

From the exterior, Auginbaugh’s home had a cross-gable roofline, embellished wall surfaces of varying textures, and a large veranda around a central protrusion beneath a crowning front gable, all being Queen Anne characteristics. Also, on queue were decorative horizontal bands, raised wood adornments, fish scale shingles, diamond shaped detailing, truss ornamentation, and elaborate windows like the stained glass piece between the porch and reception area.

Living in the home only briefly, the Auginbaugh’s marriage, too, ended in divorce. By May 1896, Sallie’s home—on the “high ground east of town” as described by the Clarion—was for sale. Sallie’s former husband, Eber, quietly closed shop and left town later that year, Sallie already gone and reclaiming the name Boyce.

September 1897 ran the first ad for “Aurora Cottage.” Along with a request for all Clarion readers to assist “in filling the house with guests,” the ad highlighted two acres of shade, bathrooms with hot and cold water, and “all the comforts of home,” address: Mr. & Mrs. Chas. E. Cassell, Aurora Cottage.

Charles Ellsworth Cassell came to Mechanicstown in 1871 and operated a lumber company with his two cousins, sons of father Abraham Cassell’s sister Catherine. Charles was also a land man who purchased tracts to subdivide and resell. Cassell resold many holdings of Col. John C. Rouzer as the lots of West Main, North (now N. Church), and East Streets, for example. Cassell was a distinguished figure involved in many business ventures, lived in many fine homes, and most famously recommended the change from Mechanicstown to Thurmont, a name made official by the Maryland General Assembly on January 18, 1894. Cassell was publisher and editor of the Catoctin Clarion and a Real Estate and Insurance broker partnered with Fredericktown’s Charles Cramer Waters.

Born in Lewistown to Dr. James K. Waters, Charles Waters returned from Military Academy at age eighteen to engage in the drug business with his father. In 1896, Waters married Rosa L.R. Jones and, more importantly, to our interests, purchased a house in Thurmont with Charles Cassell. The June Clarion of 1897 informed that Waters “purchased the Mrs. S.K. Boyce property in the east end and is erecting an eight-room addition. Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Cassell will take the property and keep summer boarders this season.”

The addition by Cassell and Waters, known as the “Annex,” resembled a large block. In agreement with the adjoining home, the front of the Annex had a sizeable gable, complete with twin ocular window and decorative band between the upper levels. Expanded to accommodate twenty-five boarders, the property was christened “Aurora Cottage.” Reason unknown, Cassell, having cleverly renamed the town, is probably also liable for this moniker, but is a fact that cannot be said for sure. Current owner Debbie Cochran has her own theory concerning the designation of her home; being that the house was located on the “high ground east of town,” it received day’s first light before its western-lying municipality. Language and legend hold “Aurora” as the Latin translation of “dawn” and, respectively, the Roman Goddess of the Morning.

Beyond the house, Aurora Cottage had a two-story carriage house (present today), a barn, chicken house, and sheds, some still standing on neighboring properties. The driveway, marked by sculptural, pyramid-topped masonry pillars, arrived at the front entrance but also accessed a western entry en route to the carriage house. This secondary entry, now removed entirely, was comparable to a porte-cochere, sheltered by an oriel window, extending from the second floor, used by guests arriving during poor weather.

While Cassell, his wife Julia, and their six children lived on the property, Aurora was the site of many dances, socials, and parties; some hosted by daughter Mary Phoebe for her whist bridge club, who had the evening outside the formidable home illuminated with hanging Japanese lanterns on at least one occasion. The Cassell’s home was also the site of the first private tennis court in Northern Maryland, where many local and inner city matches were viewed.

In 1907, the Cassell family left Aurora Cottage. It was sold to the Roddy family, who refurbished the home and temporarily boarded crews in the home’s excess space while Thurmont was wired for telephone service. In 1911, Chas. C. Waters repurchased the home and relocated wife Rosa and twelve-year-old son James from Fredericktown to become permanent residents of Aurora Cottage in 1912. Multiple town Inns could no longer be filled, so arrangements to rid the Waters’ home of its eastern Annex—returning the structure to Sallie Boyce’s vision of what stands today—were made.

Long owned since 1986 by James and Debra Cochran, Aurora Cottage has received the devotion and preservation many older homes are not paid. The one hundred twenty-two years bonded to Aurora Cottage and, more greatly, Mrs. Cochran’s invaluable interest in the happenings of these dozen decades, leaves much light to be shed on the estate’s story.

As this Part I ends in 1912, some readers may be aware of the fate ahead for the Annex, even less of the tragedy looming to occur in 1918, or the consequential court ruling to forever change the home’s imminent use, among other events. Much more remains on the pages of Aurora Cottage to be shelved only momentarily and revisited here with the arrival of The Catoctin Banner’s May issue.

by James Rada, Jr.

1908 — Let There Be Light

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879, and soon thereafter, companies began forming to provide electricity and light to homes and communities. Larger cities were the first recipients, but eventually, it became a feasible project for smaller communities.

However, as community after community turned on their lights, Thurmont remained in the dark.

A small blurb in a 1907 Catoctin Clarion read, “Rumor has it that certain parties have been in town this week looking up the question of installing an electric lighting plant, who knows anything about the fact in this matter? Assuredly we will not get anything better until some strangers come to town and start the ball rolling, for it seems that we don’t have enough enterprising spirit in town to have anything other than what we have now, which is next to no light at all. Come on Mr. Man whoever you may be, the field is yours, with no competitor but the Moon.”

Although the town of Thurmont had no authority under its charter to build an electric lighting plant, some local citizens did decide to step up to the challenge. Peter Hammaker, Charles Mackley, Lester Birely, and Morris Birely created The Citizens’ Electric Light and Power Company of Thurmont. Working with the town government, the company made plans for bringing electricity to the town.

However, as the company began purchasing rights of way that were needed to run the plant, it ran into some problems. A right of way was needed to bring the water from Hunting Creek to the turbine wheel to generate the power. Two landowners decided to try and gouge the company, asking three times as much as the right of way was worth.

Eventually, they were convinced to sell the right of ways, but a second problem wasn’t so easily addressed. As the project to use the water from Hunting Creek to power Thurmont started, the creek entered a drought period and the water flow began falling off. Questions were raised as to whether the plant would be able to deliver on its promises.

An article in the Catoctin Clarion noted, “I think all will agree that the present drought is unprecedented, except perhaps last year.” The article then went on to explain that it was estimated that 102 horsepower hours was needed each day to light the town. Even at the lower water flow, not only could the town’s lighting needs be met, but “We will still have 163 horsepower hours for commercial purposes or day load, even at the small flow of the stream,” the newspaper reported.

The project went forward, and citizens of the town could purchase stock in the company in $100 shares (about $3,100 in 2015). Although expensive, the idea was to keep the money in town. Local stockholders would own the company and the company would in turn power the town where the stockholders lived. In addition, it was expected that the town would eventually take over the company and the stock would be exchanged for municipal bonds that paid five percent interest annually.

The Clarion, which had been an early supporter of the plant turned against it for this reason. The editors saw that even though the bonds were a good deal for the stockholders, it was believed that the cost of paying off those bonds would require an increase in town taxes. The newspaper reported, “the town is about to take a step that will mean a burden to its people for the next twenty years in attempting to get a lighting system that will prove a most costly experiment to the town.” The newspaper projected that taxes would jump from 30 cents per $100 to at least 80 cents.

This fear did not come to be, and the plant was built. It began furnishing power to the town.

During the 1910 legislative session, Thurmont commissioners asked for and received the authority needed to allow the town to run and maintain an electric plant. It also received the authority to buy the existing plant and to pay the stockholders with municipal bonds.

The following year’s budget showed that the entire cost of the purchase of the plant (not including annual interest payments) amounted to $21,100.83, and the annual operating expense was $1,074.40. The town also maintained a separate light bulb account of $628.17 to sell light bulbs to residents who needed them once their homes and businesses were wired for power.

The plant served Thurmont for fifteen years, but then because of town growth and intermittent dry periods for Hunting Creek, Thurmont had to start buying current from Potomac Edison until a new power system was constructed.

The outside of the old Thurmont Electric Power Plant.

Looking Back - Electric Company Building

Pictured is the generator that was located on the inside of the old Thurmont Electric Power Plant.

Looking Back --Electric Company Generator BK 92

by James Rada, Jr.

1871 — Catoctin County, Maryland

Can you imagine a Catoctin County, Maryland? It would have included Frederick County, north of Walkersville, and Mechanicstown would have been the county seat.

It was a dream that some people in the northern Frederick County area pursued throughout 1871 and 1872. The Catoctin Clarion was only on its tenth issue when it carried a long front-page article signed with the pen name Phocion. Phocion was an Athenian politician, statesman, and strategos in Ancient Greece.

The issue had been talked about within groups of people for a while, and it was time to garner support by taking the issue to a larger, general audience.

“Some sober sided citizens in our valley are quietly discussing the question among themselves, shall Frederick county be divided and the new county of Catoctin be erected into a separate organization?” the newspaper reported. Wicomico County had been formed in 1867 from portions of Somerset and Worcester counties, so the idea of another new Maryland county was not far-fetched. In fact, Garrett County would be formed from the western portion of Allegany County in 1872.

The main reason put forth for creating a new county was the distance and expense of traveling to Frederick to register deeds and attend court. Opponents argued that creating a new county would be costly for the citizens in the new county. New county buildings would have to be constructed and county positions filled. All of this financial burden would have to be absorbed by the smaller population in the new county.

“Our neighbors across the Monocacy in the Taneytown District have but a short distance to go to attend Carroll County Court. Why shall we on this side be deprived privileges which were granted to them? Shall the people on one side of the Monocacy be granted immunities which are to be withheld from citizens residing on the other side?” the Clarion reported.

Besides northern Frederick County, Phocion said that in Carroll County, residents of Middleburg, Pipe Creek, and Sam’s Creek were also interested in becoming part of Catoctin County.

“If a majority of the citizens residing in Frederick, Carroll, and Washington counties (within the limits of the proposed new county) favor a division, I see no reason why it should not be accomplished,” the newspaper reported.

In deciding on what the boundaries of the new county would be, there were three conditions that needed to be met in Maryland: (1) The majority of citizens in the areas that would make up the new county would have to vote to create the county; (2) The population of white inhabitants in the proposed county could not be less than 10,000; (3) The population in the counties losing land could not be less than 10,000 white residents.

Interest reached the point where a public meeting was held on January 6, 1872, at the Mechanicstown Academy “for the purpose of taking the preliminary steps for the formation of a New County out of portions of Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties,” the Clarion reported.

Dr. William White was appointed the chairman of the committee, with Joseph A. Gernand and Isaiah E. Hahn, vice presidents, and Capt. Martin Rouzer and Joseph W. Davidson, secretaries.

By January 1872, the Clarion was declaring, “We are as near united up this way on the New County Question as people generally are on any mooted project—New County, Railroad, iron and coal mines, or any other issue of public importance.”

Despite this interest in a new county, by February the idea had vanished inexplicably from the newspapers. It wasn’t until ten years later that a few articles made allusions as to what had happened. An 1882 article noted, “It was to this town principally that all looked for the men who would do the hard fighting and stand the brunt of the battle, for to her would come the reward, the court house of the new county. The cause of the sudden cessation of all interest is too well known to require notices and only comment necessary is, that an interest in the general good was not, by far, to account for the death of the ‘New County’ movement. Frederick city, in her finesse in that matter, gave herself a record for shrewdness that few players ever achieve.”

A letter to the editor the following year said that the men leading the New County Movement had been “bought off, so to speak, by the promises of office, elective at the hand of one party, appointive at the hands of the other, and thus the very backbone taken out of the movement.” The letter also noted that the taxes in Frederick County were now higher than they had been when a new county had been talked about, and that they wouldn’t have been any higher than that in the new county. “And advantages would have been nearer and communication more direct,” the letter writer noted.

A Hero Dies Saving His Parents

by James Rada, Jr.

The Stackhouses lived the simple life of a hard-working family. They didn’t have much, but their family was happy. Christmas 1937 had been one of those happy times, with the family getting together to share gifts and hearty meals.

Early in the morning on December 27, 1937, the happiness of the season was destroyed.

Twenty-six-year-old Bernard Stackhouse lived with his parents in a four-room home in Catoctin Furnace. Something woke him up that morning, and Bernard realized that the house was on fire. His first thoughts were to get to safety, but then he didn’t know if his parents were awake or not. It was around 1:00 a.m.

The Catoctin Clarion reported, “After heroically warning his parents, who were sleeping in a room above, young Stackhouse found his exit blocked in the rear by a stone wall and in the front by a searing sheet of flames. The cries of the victim were audible to his parents standing helplessly without.”

Louise McPherson was up late on December 26, 1937. She remained awaked as the late night turned into the early morning of December 27. That was when she wondered at what seemed to be light flickering in the night. She looked out her window and saw that a quarter mile away a building was burning. She thought that it was the barn on the Stackhouse property and called the fire into the Guardian Hose Company in Thurmont.

The fire company, which was incorporated two years earlier when it joined the Frederick County Volunteer Fireman’s Association, was using a 1933 Hudson sedan for one of its fire trucks. Mayor William Stoner (who was also a member of the fire company) had been the previous owner, and the firemen had it converted to a fire truck and added a 40-gallon chemical tank to it. The other truck was a 1927 chain-driven Mack pumper.

When McPherson hung up the phone, she “rushed to the scene but the conflagration had already demolished the greater part of the structure, together with the personal belongings of the family,” reported the Catoctin Clarion.

Carl Stackhouse and his wife were outside, but they were in a panic, because their son hadn’t gotten out and they had stopped hearing him yell from inside the house.

When the firefighters arrived on the scene, they poured water onto the flames, but the site remained too hot to enter to try and find Bernard’s body. It was not until 9:30 a.m. that firefighters were able to rake out the debris and find Bernard’s body.

Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed. Bernard had burned to death after saving his parents. The Stackhouses were taken to a neighbor’s house, where they received first aid.

The body was viewed by Stoner in his role of Justice of the Peace and Dr. M.A. Birely. Stoner said that a coroner’s inquest would not be necessary and listed the cause of death as accidental burning, which Birely supported.

According to the Catoctin Clarion, two theories were put forward as the cause of the fire. The first was that Bernard had been smoking, and his cigarette caught something on fire. The second was that a new stove that the Stackhouses had received as a Christmas present had overheated and caught something on fire.

Besides his parents, Bernard was survived by three sisters and two brothers. His younger brother, Warren, also lived in the house, but he had luckily been away from home, spending the night with relatives.