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Murder or Suicide, An Unanswered Question

by James Rada, Jr.

Elmer K. Buhrman hadn’t heard from his son, Melvin Cletus Buhrman, over the weekend of January 19-21, 1923. It was unusual because Melvin’s house in Foxville didn’t have running water. He had to visit his father’s house regularly to fill buckets and bottles with water.

Elmer walked the 500 feet between the two houses and knocked on the door. When there was no answer, he tried the doorknob. The door was locked. He used his key to enter the house, thinking he would fill up the buckets with water to help Cletus.

Inside, he found Cletus sprawled on the floor dead from a shot through the chest. Elmer ran back to his house and called the police and a doctor. Dr. E. C. Kefauver drove up from Thurmont and examined the body.

Dr. Kefauver deduced that Buhrman had pressed the butt of a 20-guage shotgun against the wall and the barrel against his chest. Then he had used a stick to pull the trigger. Death was instantaneous.

Melvin had last been seen Friday afternoon on January 19, so he died somewhere between that time and the time Elmer found his son.

For the doctor, it was a clear case of suicide. Justice Robert Cadow didn’t even call for an inquest in the case.

However, rumors soon spread through Foxville. “While no evidence indicating that the young man had been murdered had been brought to light, persons living in the neighborhood of his home declare considerable mystery surrounds the circumstances of his death and the tragedy has been the sole theme of conversation in the mountain town since the body was found,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The fact that Elmer hadn’t heard the killing shot when he lived so close to his son made people suspicious.

Although Melvin was found in a locked room, doubters pointed out that a key was found on the ground outside of the house. The killer could have entered the home, killed Melvin, and locked the door behind him.

Despite the rumors, States Attorney Aaron R. Sanders said that no investigation of murder had been performed or even asked for. Sheriff James Jones was asked why he hadn’t investigated the death. He said the same thing that Anders had.             

Officials seemed to believe the suicide resulted from domestic problems. “It is thought that worry over his domestic affairs caused him to end his life,” the Frederick News reported.

Melvin had been living alone for the previous three weeks after his wife, Lillian, left him with their two children. He had married his wife six years earlier when she was just 13 years old.

The Frederick News reported, “Friday morning Buhrman went there [to his in-laws’ home] and choked his wife severely during a quarrel, in which he is said to have threatened her life if she did not return.” Lillian broke away from her husband, ran into the house, and locked herself inside.

While this supported the suicide story, it also provided a motive for anyone in Lillian’s family to have killed Melvin.

Melvin was buried in the Mount Moriah Lutheran Church Cemetery in Foxville. Meanwhile, the rumors lingered, although it never reached a point where the Buhrmans asked for an investigation or the sheriff felt the need to investigate.

by James Rada, Jr.

The Year Catoctin Mountain Burned

During 1920, Catoctin Mountain was plagued by fires that burned thousands of acres across both the eastern and western sides of the mountain.

The first fires started at the end of March. “It is said that the flames started along the Jefferson road and attracted very little attention until about 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon,” the Frederick News reported. “Passengers on the late train stated that the fire extended east and west across the mountain, a distance of nearly two miles.”

One fire started near the land of Harry Hickman near Point of Rocks and burned north. It was reported to be at least a mile wide. Meanwhile, a second fire started near Weverton and also burned north.

Individual farms and Hall Town, a small town where African Americans lived, were threatened by the spreading fires.

“The reflection was seen for miles and vivid along the road leading from Jefferson in Point of Rocks,” the Frederick Post reported.

That evening, people in the area took matters into their own hands. “Early in the evening, the fire became so threatening that a number of tenants on mountain farms went out and fought the flames,” the Frederick Post reported.

They succeeded and got the fire under control. It was estimated that over 100 acres burned. The following month, another fire broke out beyond Catoctin Fire. Fire Warden Martin Freshour noticed a cloud of smoke on May 9. He investigated the source and discovered the fire. The problem was the wind was fanning the flames.

He called for help, and he and 50 assistants established a two-mile-long fire line to check the fire’s advance, as they worked to put it out. They were hampered in their efforts when another smaller fire broke out near Foxville on May 10.

The fire wardens managed to bring the fire under control on May 12, but not before more than 2,500 acres burned.

In June, another fire broke out on the mountain in an area called Rattlesnake Hill.

District Forester C. Cyril Klein summoned 15 assistants to help him fight the fire. He quickly realized that he needed more help. Joseph Thropp, owner of the Catoctin Furnace property brought in a dozen men to help, and Fire Warden Albert Hauver brought in another dozen men.

The problem with the fire was that it was driving hundreds, if not thousands, of animals away from the fire.

“The snakes became so numerous that District Forester C. Cyril Klein had difficulty in keeping the firefighters on the job,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The snakes became so distracting that three firefighters had to be diverted from fighting the fire to killing the rattlesnakes that came too close to the other firefighters.

By the time the men got the fire under control, more than 300 acres had been burned.

It was a dangerous year on Catoctin Mountain, and luckily, although timber and crops burned, no lives were lost.

Barbara Abraham

When we, or people visiting the area, think about the names of certain communities, thoughts jump to animals for being the origin. Why not think animals had an influence on the long-ago names? After all, back then, there were more animals than people populating the woods and meadows. But are these thoughts always right?

Wolfsville: It was a Wolf (Wolfe) by the name of Jacob who built the first house on the site of Wolfsville in Catoctin District, Frederick County, Maryland. It was Jacob for whom the place was named. He owned $3,100 worth of real estate and was a farmer (1850 Census). He married Catherine Main, and they had children. Jacob died in 1892 at the age of eighty-six, and lies buried in the old Reformed Cemetery (the church is no longer there) in Wolfsville.

One son of Jacob and Catherine Wolf, Samuel, was also a farmer. He rented until 1835, when he purchased 100 acres of farm and timber land from his father. He was one of the first to own and operate a saw mill in Frederick County, Maryland. In 1857, he disposed of his land and saw mill, bought seventy-five acres in Frederick City, Maryland, and moved there.

From route 77, at the intersection of Foxville Deerfield and Stottlemyer Roads, Wolfsville is located six miles south on Stottlemyer Road.

Thos. C. Fox - goes with article by Barb AbrahamFoxville: It was a Fox (Fuchs).          George Fuchs moved to Frederick County, Maryland, when he was a young man. He bought a tract of timber land, located in what is now known as Hauver’s District, named it “Foxes Ranges,” and afterward, Foxville. He cleared part of his land and erected buildings. Then, he opened a store. He purchased more large tracts of land, on which he farmed and felled timber. He attended Apples Church in Mechanicstown (Thurmont), where records show some of his children were baptized. He donated land for the first Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church in Foxville in 1830, the congregation having been formed in 1829.

George Phillip Fox (son of George Fox) was born in 1795. He purchased part of his father’s land, built various buildings, and spent the rest of his life farming and felling timber. He was magistrate of Hauver’s District, and was one of the first judges of the district.

Thomas Cline Fox (son of George Phillip Fox), remained at home in Hauver’s District until he married Ruth Ann Buhrman. After marriage, in 1863, he bought a small farm and store from his father-in-law and became a successful farmer and merchant. Some years later, he purchased the historical Plantation in Foxville, together with the old Colonial Tavern where George Oats (later changed his name to George Hauver) put up his first tavern sign, on April 3, 1803. After George Oats (Hauver), the next proprietor of the tavern was a Mr. Need, followed by David Wolf. It was here that many celebrated, people were entertained, and political meetings were held and addressed by prominent speakers from distant towns. It was here, also, that farmers rested while on their way to and from Baltimore via Manahan Road with their season’s yield of wheat.

Thomas C. remodeled the old tavern by replacing the plaster on the outside with wood siding, making changes on the inside, and erecting a new barn and store. He then moved into the tavern and lived there until his death. This old tavern was, and is, located on the right side, before entering Manahan Road at Foxville. (The old tavern’s interior has been modernized in the past few years, and the barn torn down.)

Thomas C. was one of the directors of Citizen’s Savings Bank (since demolished) of Thurmont, and a generous contributor to the second and third Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church buildings. Thomas C. and Ruth Ann Fox had six children, four of which reached adulthood. After the death of Ruth Ann, he remarried Clara Marker. They had no children. Thomas C. died at the age of eighty-six.

In 1882, Foxville was a busy community with two stores, two schools, two churches, a doctor, a post office, a blacksmith, two carpenters, two shoemakers, and a constable. Foxville is located on Foxville Deerfield Road north from Route 77. The intersection is west of Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park. Mail is now delivered from Sabillasville, Maryland.

Beartown: It was a Bear (Baer, Bare, Barr, Bair, Bayer). This Bear family was of Swiss origin. Jacob T. Bear was born in 1783 in Pennsylvania. He owned land and lived in what was called “The Mansion House” (no longer there) at Beartown, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He served in the War of 1812, married Elizabeth Grimm, and they had eleven children. He died in 1863 and was buried in Union Cemetery, Fountaindale, Adams County, Pennsylvania.

Jacob Daniel Baer (son of Jacob T. Bear) was born in 1844 in Beartown, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, the second son and seventh child in order of birth. He served in the Civil War. He enlisted in Company E, 126th Pennsylvania Infantry and was attached to the Third Division, Fifth Army Corps under Fitz John Porter. His first hard fought battle was at Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his corps lost half its force. He also participated in the battle of Chancellorsville. His term of enlistment had expired before the battle, but he prolonged the time to nine months and twelve days to cover this engagement.

Being discharged from the regular service, he for a time occupied positions in the Quartermaster’s department and in the commissary department, but desiring more active service he re-enlisted, this time in Company G, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and was mustered in on August 24, 1864. He was then in the first Division, Cavalry Corps, under General Sheridan, and was one of the company who escorted Sheridan to the fort at Cedar Creek on his heroic ride from Winchester, Virginia. From here, he followed up Cumberland Valley, and at Gordonsville, he had a horse shot under him. His command reached Waynesboro, Virginia, too late to effect Early’s capture. From here, the cavalry was sent to join Grant at Petersburg. Jacob D. Baer was mustered out of service at Washington, D.C. and he returned to his home in Pennsylvania in June 1865. In December 1867, he married Anna Maria Miller, of Washington County, Maryland. Five children were born before they removed to near Bellwood, Butler County, Nebraska where Jacob D. filed a homestead claim in 1876. Six more children were born in Nebraska. (From a Butler County, Nebraska, newspaper.)

In July 1913, Jacob D. Baer returned to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, for the semi-centennial observance of the battle of Gettysburg. A Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, newspaper, Blue Ridge Zephyr, published an article regarding his visit and comments he made. He said he was an orderly for General Sheridan at times, and once or twice he was the only soldier with the great cavalry leader.

An excerpt from the newspaper, mentioned that Jacob D. Baer was with General Kilpatrick.

“Mr. Baer, after the battle of Gettysburg, was on his way to Beartown, to help protect his people from the retreating confederates. A dozen confederates in blue uniforms captured him near Monterey and he and David Miller, of Clermont House, sent Miss Susan Lookabaugh to tell the late Chas. H. Buhrman of their capture…

Miss Lookabaugh walked past the confederate pickets about 3:30 o’clock. At dusk Kilpatrick’s men came hurrying along.

The confederates had a piece of artillery in the middle of the road in front of the Clermont house.

When the union cavalry appeared they loaded this with grape and canister and discharged it. The union troopers, however, rode on the side of the road and the shot went whizzing between them.

The confederates left without their gun…

Soon General Kilpatrick rode up and dismounted at the Clermont house. He spent time on the porch, in conversation with Mr. Baer, getting from him information as to the roads.

While thus engaged, a messenger from General Custer rode up and presented the latter’s request for more men. “Tell General Custer he has enough men. Tell him to lick h— out of them!” was Kilpatrick’s reply.

Fifteen minutes later General Custer appeared with three stands of colors.

“I’ve got them, General,” was his salutation. He had cut to pieces a long line of Lee’s wagon train.

Beartown is located on Mentzer Gap Road, off of Route 16, west from Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. It has no post office. Mail is delivered from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

 

Deb Spalding

Sab Kids“Quality education,” “a comfortable learning environment,” and “friendly atmosphere” are some of the descriptions former students have used to reference the education they received at Sabillasville Elementary School (SES). Current student, Lillian Coles of Foxville, who experienced her first day of kindergarten at SES on August 24, said, “It’s fun and I like to paint.” Although she had just arrived at school and hadn’t yet had the opportunity to paint, she was definitely having fun.

SES is a single-level school that sits amongst a beautiful mountain setting in Sabillasville. When construction on the school was completed in 1965, Frederick News-Post writer, Richard Shafer, reported, “Residents of Sabillasville won their fight with local officials to get funds approved for a new elementary school, and they are happy about it. The struggle to get plans and appropriation okayed has taken at least ten years, said one Sabillasville resident. Foxville residents are happy about the new school. Their children had attended the new Wolfsville school, but traveled by bus over a dangerous mountain road.

Rev. Claude Corl, St. John’s Reformed Church, thinks area residents will be satisfied with the eight-room school. The new school will enroll an estimated 200 students and will relieve crowded conditions at Thurmont.”

In the coming months, generations of students who have attended the school since its opening will share memories and reconnect in celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary. SES’s Principal, Kate Kreitz, said, “I’m very excited for this wonderful celebration, where we will pay tribute to fifty years of quality education of several generations of students from the Sabillasville-area community.”

Fourth grader Garret Worth’s dad, Jason, attended SES, and Garret’s grandmother, Faye Worth, is a volunteer there. Garret said, “I like having a fun teacher (he has Mrs. Mortensen this year), playing with all the kids and stuff.”

Mason Newcomer, in third grade this year, said, “I like the teachers, learning new things, and meeting all my friends.” His mother, Barb Messner, also attended the school and serves on the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).

Another PTO volunteer, Angie Hahn, said that her husband, Gus, and his siblings attended SES. Their two children, Nathanael and Elizabeth, currently attend the school. Jen Mullenex is the current president of the PTO.

Tradition has always been important for staff and students at the school. Many students may recall a single sapling of pine that was given to each student on Arbor Day, others remember the hand-made Christmas ornaments that are still hung on some student’s Christmas Trees each year. Some of these, and other traditions (including the paddle that hung on the principal’s wall), have been removed as our world has changed politically and spiritually.

The school’s custodian, Jody Miller, holds the honor of assuming the position that his late father, Jack Miller, held for over thirty years. Jody’s brother, Rick, also worked in the position, and Jody has been at SES for fifteen of his twenty years with FCPS. Jody said, “There have been three Millers in the fifty-year history of the school. It’s my honor to continue the legacy that my father started.” Some may remember the maze Jack Miller made out of boxes during the school’s Fall Bazaar. Boy was that fun!

For a long time, SES had staff cooks in the kitchen. Locals Millie Eyler and Imogene Smith served savory meals for students every school day. Students who experienced their cooking still yearn for a favorite dish. Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) switched to centralized meal distribution years ago. Since then, the meals have been prepared in Frederick and trucked to schools throughout the county.

Despite the replacement of Millie’s and Imogene’s personal touch at lunch, the underlying family feel, overlaid with a relaxed kindness, can still be felt. Perhaps the feeling exists because of the school’s location in such a serene place. But for many, their memories of the place where they learned their arithmetic and ABCs are special. In recent years, the school has been on the chopping block to close for FCPS budget cuts. The general consensus of the community is that the school is much too valuable to close. If you stroll through SES on a normal school day, it is evident on the students’ faces that they are happy and comfortable in their classes. They are meeting and exceeding education benchmarks set by the Frederick County Board of Education. Their teachers are effective in nurturing a supportive, family-like learning atmosphere.

History of the Present Sabillasville Elementary School from 1924

by Joan Fry (article is part of her book, Part 2 Plus — The State Sanatorium At Sabillasville From 1908)

Sabillasville Elementary School was the culmination of years of work and hope for residents of the area. Actually, students from two former elementary schools in the area, Sabillasville and Foxville, were served by the new school. Foxville School, built in 1924, was closed in 1961. The 60 students enrolled there were transferred to Wolfsville Elementary School until a suitable facility could be provided for the Sabillasville-Foxville area. The former school building at Sabillasville, erected in 1927 with an addition in 1934, housed 140 students through the close of the 1964-1965 school year. Because of the limitations of the basic building, many services, which have come to be regarded as necessary and desirable, were unavailable to these students.

It was with great enthusiasm, therefore, that residents of the area greeted the announcement that a new school would be built. The school opened in 1965. This school is still serving area students currently despite multiple attempts from Frederick County Public Schools to close the school. Each time, support from residents and students has helped save the school from being closed.

sabillasville school in 1964The present (1965) Sabillasville Elementary School building is pictured. It combined the top two schools pictured left.

 

sabillasville school up to 1964

 

 

(right) Sabillasville School is pictured. It was built in 1927 with an addition in 1934, and served students through the close of the 1964 school year.

 

foxville school to 1964(left) The Foxville School is pictured. It was built in 1924 and closed in 1961.

 

 

 

 

sabillasville school to 1927The building pictured far left (now a house on Harbaugh Valley Road) served as Sabillasville School until the next school house was constructed in 1927.