Currently viewing the tag: "Gettysburg Times"

When it rains,It Pours

by James Rada, Jr.

A freak storm hit Frederick County and Adams County in Pennsylvania on June 18, 1996, and stalled over the region as it dumped rain. When the storm ended on June 19, it had dropped 11 inches of rain in Northern Frederick County.

“A series of storms, like boxcars, followed the same line, dumping all their rain on the same spot,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Rivers and creeks overran their banks. Water covered bridges and flooded into basements. The Frederick Post reported that residents near the Monocacy bridge at Bridgeport “woke to find their homes in the middle of an ocean.”

Farmers lost crops that were inundated in water and mud. Even some livestock in fields were floated away, often being found in neighboring farms, if found at all.

Police, fire, and ambulance units spent a busy day responding to calls. Both of Emmitsburg’s ambulances were disabled in the flooding, and one was missing for a while because the radio shorted out in the water, and the crew was unable to communicate.     

The Monocacy River reached a high-water mark of 24.45 feet, a record.

“In our nomenclature, it’s much greater than a 100-year flood,” USGS hydrologist, Bob James, said in an interview.

A Maryland State Police helicopter had to rescue one man stranded on top of his car at Flat Run. Four young women ran into a similar problem when their car stalled trying to cross over Owens Creek at Annandale Road. The helicopter was unable to reach them because of tree cover, so an air boat was sent to them. The water was 28 to 36 inches deep on the road. One firefighter was swept away during a rescue and had to be rescued himself.

“The entire town of Emmitsburg was closed to traffic for several hours Wednesday morning (June 19th) as overflow from Toms and Flat Run creeks virtually surrounded the Frederick County town,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

At least 47 basements reported flooding in Emmitsburg. Some had water as deep as five feet. Emmit Gardens, the lowest point in town, had to be evacuated.

“This place was like a little island to itself,” Art Damuth told the Gettysburg Times.

Four people died in the flood, but only one from the north county area.

The Red Cross set up at Mount St. Mary’s to provide food and shelter to displaced families.

As the water receded, people assessed the damage to their homes. The Town of Emmitsburg estimated that $100,000 to $200,000 damage had been done to municipal properties. Although the amount of damage didn’t reach a threshold for federal aid, the north county death apparently was enough for Congress to waive the threshold and offer aid to the north county area.

In the aftermath of the flood, officials from Emmitsburg and Frederick County looked at ways to mitigate future flood damage, such as dams or dredging Flat Run. In the end, the most cost effective option that helped the most people was to flood proof 20 homes in Emmitsburg by elevating the homes and building walls around them. The Frederick News reported it “is among the first and largest flood-control proposals advanced in western Maryland after three severe floods in the mountainous region this year.”

The plan also included the regular clearing of brush, fallen trees, and debris from Flat Run. The estimated cost for this plan was estimated to be around $100,000.

“Moving people out of their homes or building a dam are both impractical. This is a good plan,” Emmitsburg Mayor William Carr told the newspaper.

The Year is…1909

Were Emmitsburg Residents Pioneers in Aviation?

by James Rada, Jr.

On Friday morning, December 24, 1909, residents of Adams County looked up and saw something flying overhead in a northeasterly direction.

“They say the machine was flying high and fast and that it had a tail. Some thought it was a baloon (sic) but the tail mentioned indicates an airship,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

Although the Wright Brothers had successfully flown the first heavier-than-air powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, six years earlier, airplanes were still an uncommon sight. This airplane may have been a 1909 Wright military flyer, which was used to train U.S. Army aviators at College Park that year.

People had seen something, though. Reports came in from Emmitsburg, Gettysburg, Arendtsville, and Bonneauville of the flying machine. Workers on the Western Maryland Railroad reported that they had seen the airship. William H. Sharretts said that he had seen the plane on the way to school in Bonneauville and had followed it for two miles before it got too far away from him.

The Emmitsburg Chronicle then added to the confusion with a joking article that began “Discovered at last! Curses!” Editor Sterling Galt wrote the article identifying the mysterious airship.

“The truth is that the object that flew over Gettysburg on Friday was an airship, built, owned and navigated by Prof. Dan Shorb and Dr. ‘Bill’ Snyder, of the University of Harney. These men of science who had been working on Dr. Crook’s solar records for two months eleven and one-half days and a few nights completed their calculations and started on their airship journey from Poplar Ridge last Friday at 1 A. X.,” Galt wrote.

Shorb and Snyder were not professors, and there was no University of Harney, but this was probably just as good an explanation as any.

“The expedition proceeded in a northerly course, but on reaching an altitude of 88 1-4 miles the clobhaggle on the hakiscope got tangled up with Dr. Snyder’s memory, throwing the machine off about twenty-three points to the Eastward,” Galt wrote.

Galt added that the plane’s destination was Gogenhaben.

Although it wasn’t ever confirmed in a non-satirical manner, Shorb and Snyder were actual people, so they may have created an airship of some sort. It is unlikely, though.

Shorb and Snyder pop up fairly often in the Emmitsburg Chronicle and usually in humorous ways. Besides being credited for inventing an airship, they also invented a rapid-fire noodle-soup gun and discovered new species of chickens and fish, among others.

So, does that make this incident the first report of an unidentified flying object (UFO) in Adams County? And, did Emmitsburg play a role in early aviation history?

An Arendtsville resident wrote to The Gettysburg Times, “It will not be many years till the sky will be so full of airships that they will darken the sun. Everybody will ride in an airship and the steam passenger cars will be abandoned.”

Air flight finally arrived in Adams County in 1921, when its first airport was built.

Wright Military Flyer

by James Rada, Jr.

The Pandemic to End All Pandemics — Part 2

Few people saw Spanish Flu as a threat at first. Although more people than usual got sick in the spring of 1918, they recovered for the most part.

That was the first wave. The second wave hit in the fall of 1918.

The Second Wave

Spanish Flu hit Frederick County on September 26, 1918, when the Frederick News reported 50 flu cases in the county. The following day, 10 more cases were reported. The first death from flu in the county, George Cronise of Buckeystown, occurred on September 29.

By October 2, more than 100 cases were reported in Buckeystown alone.

At this early stage, Thurmont, Emmitsburg, Urbana, New Market, and Buckeystown were the hardest-hit areas, according to Dr. T. Clyde Routson, the county health officer. He was against closing schools at first because the children would play and mingle with friends, and the result would be the same. He also said that it would be unfair to communities not affected to have their children deprived of education.

One Frederick Post headline on October 7 was “Physicians Believe That Epidemic Has Been Checked.” This was far from the truth. The flu had taken hold in all areas of the county. During the month of October, a flu story could be found on the front page of the Frederick Post every day it was published except for two days. Most of those headlines announced how many had died the previous day.


Pennsylvania enacted the strictest quarantine the state had ever seen, closing virtually every public meeting place. The Gettysburg Times announced on October 4 that Acting State Health Commissioner B. F. Royer ordered closed every moving picture house, every theater, every saloon, and every place of public amusement, including pool rooms and dance halls. The sick weren’t allowed to have visitors unless they were so desperately ill that they weren’t expected to live. And any visitors had to wear a gauze mask. All funerals had to be private. The Chambersburg Public Opinion called this “the most drastic quarantine order ever given in Pennsylvania.”

At this point, 60,000 people in the Philadelphia area were already sick with the flu. Camp Colt in Gettysburg had 21 deaths on October 2, bringing the total deaths there to 62. Yet, it wasn’t big news. Suddenly, with the issuance of the quarantine order, headlines were everywhere.

With Pennsylvania setting the example, Frederick County started talking about quarantines on October 7. It was too late. That day, 25 people in the county died from the flu, including Francis Dotterer in Catoctin Furnace, Mary Smith, Fleet Gall, and Lulu Smith in Thurmont.

Frederick County remained open, but then Maryland took actions similar to Pennsylvania, closing public meeting places on October 8. Camp Meade, which had been flu-free a few weeks earlier, had 277 deaths, more than 5 percent of its population. Three Daughters of Charity from Emmitsburg and three from Baltimore had been at Camp Meade since October 3, trying to fight the disease. The sisters reported back two days after arriving that there had been 100 deaths in one day and 30 deaths on their first night at Camp Meade.

Since the Crimean War the previous century, whenever there was a public health crisis, whether in peace or war, the Daughters had been called on to help. Around this time, the Daughters of Charity received telegraph and phone messages from sisters across the country, asking for their help.

Also, the first Daughter of Charity died from the flu around this time after being sick only four days. St. Joseph’s College in Emmitsburg reported that nearly all of the teachers were sick, and 31 of the students had the flu.

Suddenly, the flu began repeatedly appearing on the front page of the newspapers, although not the lead story, generally. WWI was winding down, and so the last battles and then the truce talks were the big stories of the day, supposedly.

On October 8, Maryland issued a statewide ban that closed theaters, movies, schools, dance halls, and other public places. It was very similar to Pennsylvania’s quarantine.

Some people complained about the quarantine because they had developed their own remedy. Since alcohol was used to kill germs on the skin, they had increased their intake to kill the germs inside them. One newspaper pointed out that “while whiskey is a good medicine for a person ill with the disease and in fact may then be needed as a heart stimulant, it really lowers the resistance of the system of a person who is not infected and makes him still more susceptible.”

A Deadly October

By the middle of October, the Daughters of Charity had sent everyone they could spare from the Central House in Emmitsburg out to serve in the missions. However, sisters at the Central House were also suffering from the flu.

The first student at St. Joseph’s College died from the flu on October 18. It was the first pupil death since 1872. The following day, another student died. The following day, a sister serving at Soldier’s Home in Washington died, and another sister in Emmitsburg died the following day. It looks like four sisters eventually died from the flu, although there may have been more. Certainly, more were given the Last Rites.

The county fairs in both Frederick and Washington counties wound up being canceled that year, reluctantly. The directors argued that the fresh air would do people good. However, in the end, they must have realized that attendance would be down because people were sick, and many healthy people would be afraid to be part of a crowd for fear of catching the flu.

It was only the second time that the Great Frederick Fair had been canceled. The only time previously that the fair had been canceled was when a little spat called the Civil War happened.

Churches decided to prevent parishioners from being within close proximity to each other.

Also, volunteer nurses were being sent throughout the county to visit the homes where entire families were down with the flu. They would care for these families in their homes.

The B&O Railroad brought in its emergency hospital to help people in Brunswick, which apparently was one of the harder hit areas of the county. An emergency hospital run by the Red Cross was also set up at Montevue.

Things would still get worse.

Picture shows passengers and employees were required to wear face masks to ride on public transportation in many cities during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed 100 million people worldwide.

Wayne Powell

On October 18, 2019, a wonderful man, much loved by an extensive range of people, left us. His passing will have a profound impact on the greater Emmitsburg community for decades to come. His name was John S. Hollinger and his life’s journey touched many—in fact, many who likely never knew his name. Like his father, he managed the former Sperry Ford dealership in town, which at one time was the third oldest Ford dealership in America.

His family, including his late wife, Theresa, were fixtures in and around all of Northern Frederick County and southern Adams and Franklin Counties in Pennsylvania, too. And, just like his dad, John J. Hollinger served as Fire Chief of the Vigilant Hose Company (VHC), Emmitsburg’s local volunteer fire department. Both John and his dad later went on to also serve as presidents at VHC.

John owned residential rental properties that, for decades, provided affordable housing for hundreds of families and individuals. In fact, if not for his generosity, some of those folks could have been among the homeless that we hear so much about these days. No matter what one’s station in life, John treated everyone with respect and dignity. He was always willing to listen and to help whenever he could.

He collected anything and everything about the history of Emmitsburg and its inhabitants; plus, he once had one of the most amazing collections of old Ford parts that existed anywhere in America. Amazingly, a great many of those parts were brand new because rather than turning them back in for credit yearly, he, like his dad, simply kept them in an old building on South Seton Avenue. That building is as distinguishable as any in town due to the wording still visible, “Emmitsburg Motor Car Company.”

Some years ago, many of those vintage parts were sold at auction. When he sold off those parts, some 30 years ago now, people from all across the country came, hoping to find a new or slightly used part, unlikely to be found anywhere else.

John faithfully spent his mornings at the VHC fire station—the “fire hall” as many old-timers called it. His recall of area history was nothing short of amazing. John, often affectionately referred to as the “real” mayor of Emmitsburg, made it a daily practice to drive the streets and alleys of town, looking for things that needed repair. His efforts helped town officials, as well as area business owners and organizational entities, by alerting them to things needing attention of great importance, many of whom were unaware of the unsafe conditions or infrastructure issues that needed to be looked into. He read all area newspapers daily, cover to cover, including the Frederick News-Post, Gettysburg Times, The Catoctin Banner, Emmitsburg News-Journal, Record Herald, and others, to stay on top of the news that helped his beloved VHC fire company stay abreast of changing times and keep in step with timely events.

For over 70 years, John’s fingerprints were on nearly everything the VHC did, as he served on its board of directors for decades, as well as on nearly every major committee in the organization, while also staying close to evolving technologies in the field of emergency vehicles.

But, it’s his impact on people for which he will be most remembered. Several of his sons carried on the family tradition of community service with the VHC. One son, Steve, has faithfully served as company treasurer for some 35 years.

Back in the 1980s, John bought VHC’s ‘Old Engine 63’ (a 1945 Ford American pumper, which had served the community for nearly four decades) and set about restoring it.  Old 63 has been on display for years now at the Frederick County Fire Museum on South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg. Visitors from far and wide have treasured seeing it. For a great many years, that old engine proudly carried Santa Claus to the town’s annual holiday celebrations, arriving with lights and sirens ablaze to the amazement of youngsters and even their parents who once saw the identical spectacle back when they were kids.

In his last days with us, he graciously donated Old Engine 63 back to the VHC, where it will be lovingly cared for. A little-known fact is that John’s great-grandfather, also John S. Hollinger, a respected orchardist in this region, once ran a business in Chicago that was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (each October, National Fire Prevention Week commemorates that event from American history).

The VHC has always had a commitment to “it’s most important service”: Fire Prevention. So, it can be said that knowing the dangers of unwanted fire has long been in the DNA of the Hollinger family. The men and women of the VHC humbly and proudly salute our friend, Chief John S. Hollinger, and all that he did for our community. He is greatly missed.

Photo shows John J. Hollinger in the driver’s seat of the 1930 Engine, which was Emmitsburg’s first motorized Engine and which is now owned by the Rocky Ridge VFC.

Well-thrown Lasso Saves Boy from Icy Death

by James Rada, Jr.

Charlie Jones, a twelve-year-old Thurmont youth, spent one December afternoon in 1915 walking through the forests around Thurmont, gathering pine boughs and other greens to use to make Christmas decorations. With his bag full of greenery, he headed home.

Though young, Charles was the man of the family. His father had died in 1911, leaving Mary Ann Jones a widow to support four children. She taught high school, and Charles helped in the care of his two younger brothers and younger sister. He had wanted to do something special for his family and decorate their home.

It had been cold out; ice had formed on most of the creeks in the area, and it appeared thick. Charles decided that he would take a shortcut across the pond formed by the Thurmont Electric Light Dam. He started out onto the ice, carefully easing his weight onto it to make sure it would hold. It did, and he grew more confident and walked further out.

Suddenly, the ice cracked and disappeared beneath his feet. “As the youth shot toward the bottom of the dam, he flung his hands outward, grasping the jagged edge of the broken ice,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Luckily, the ice held. Charles screamed, but he was alone, and the nearest house was half a mile away. He tried to pull himself up, but his clothes were sodden with water, and his legs were starting to go numb in the freezing water.

He couldn’t swim in that condition, and if he let go, he would sink into the pond that was thirteen feet deep at that point.

His only option was to scream and hope that someone heard him before he lost his grip on the ice.

Charles had been in the water around fifteen minutes when Frank and Albert Harne of Foxville came riding along in their buggy. They heard Charles’ screams and saw the boy struggling to stay out of the water.

Frank jumped out of the buggy and unclipped the harness from the horse; he quickly fashioned a lasso. Then he edged himself out onto the ice, knowing that if it couldn’t hold the weight of the boy, it would give way under his weight at some point.

“Cautiously, but quickly, the man walked over the ice toward the youth, who gave indications of exhaustion and of relinquishing his grasp on the ice,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Eventually, he was close enough to throw the lasso. It landed around Charles’s neck on the first throw. The boy grabbed hold of the leather. Frank began backing up, pulling Charles out of the water.

The Harne Brothers bundled Charles up and took him to his grandmother’s house, who lived a mile away. He was so cold that his clothing was sticking to his body and couldn’t be removed. He was placed in a warm bed and kept warm to help bring up his body temperature.

Charles recovered from his ordeal and was soon as good as new.

He grew up to become a salesman who lived in different towns around the state. When he retired, he returned with his family to Thurmont. He died in 1977 at age seventy-four and is buried in Wellers Cemetery.

James Rada, Jr.

Emmitsburg Mayor Richard Sprankle’s remarks dedicating the VFW Memorial Community Pool in 1975 were all wet. Literally.
“At the close of the dedication ceremonies, Sprankle and new Park Commissioner Eugene Rosensteel were tossed into the new $250,000 Z-shaped pool, which has been named the ‘VFW Memorial Community Pool,’” the Frederick Post reported in 1975. The pool was named in honor of the VFW because the Emmitsburg VFW donated $40,000 to the project.

The Gettysburg Times reported that several hundred people turned out for the dedication. That first weekend the pool was open, the Frederick Post reported that it was filled to capacity, with 391 swimmers in the pool, and 49 kids in the wading area.

And every summer since then, area children and their families have been able to escape the heat of the summer in the cool waters of the community pool—except for this summer. In summer of 2017, there will be no local swimming pool. With the Emmitsburg Commissioners’ approval in February to build a new community pool, the timeline doesn’t work out for it to be open this summer.

The new pool is expected to cost around $369,500, which appears to be a bargain. The original pool cost $250,000, which is equivalent to about $1.1 million in today’s dollars. The town commissioners had initially only been planning on renovating the existing pool, but a pressure test of the plumbing showed that it needed to be replaced. Also, the beams beneath the pool were damaged and also need to be replaced.

“Once you got in there digging around, you saw where things were patched up for forty years,” Mayor Don Briggs said during an Emmitsburg town meeting.

The commissioners decided that it was worth the investment to rebuild the pool. It will be funded with the remainder of the money set aside for the renovations, money that is usually paid to a management company for the pool, and fund balances from other capital projects.

Last month, the commissioners started looking at the cost to put LED lights in the pool. They also considered a new diving board and a pool slide, but these two projects will have to wait until a future time.

The new pool is expected to be less expensive to run, primarily because water and chemicals won’t be leaking from the pool.

Makin’ Waves will be in charge of installing the new pool.

Although there will be no swimming pool this summer, the town will still be hosting three pool parties.

Although it is referred to as the Gettysburg casino, a newly proposed plan to place a racetrack and casino in Freedom Township would actually be closer to Emmitsburg than Gettysburg.

David LeVan, who has tried unsuccessfully twice before to put a casino in Adams County, has proposed a horse racetrack and casino called Mason-Dixon Downs at 4200 Emmitsburg Road. LeVan is an Adams County businessman who owns Battlefield Harley-Davidson, northeast of Gettysburg.

Besides gaming, the facility would also offer Standardbred harness racing. LeVan told the Gettysburg Times that Mason-Dixon Downs would be along the Mason-Dixon Line, less than a mile from the Emmitsburg Road. It is a 700-acre parcel that is 2.5 miles from the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center and 3.2 miles from Gettysburg National Military Park. He also told the newspaper that it would create hundreds of jobs.

In a press conference announcing the project, he said, “We’ve listened to those who were concerned about our previously proposed location. That’s why this project is located 2.5 miles further southeast, across a major highway and along the Maryland border.”

This also places the casino and racetrack closer to Emmitsburg. Mason-Dixon Downs could open as early as 2019.

Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs says that the people in town with whom he has spoken feel that the casino and racetrack would be a good thing for Emmitsburg.

“It’s speculative right now,” Briggs said “but the business people are very receptive to it. They feel if it did come about, it would have a positive effect on their businesses.”

Briggs said that although a portion of the property extends into Maryland, he doesn’t know if any state or county officials have been contacted about it, but town officials haven’t been. He believes that the project, if it happens, would have some impact on the town.

“We have 215 acres on the east side of U.S. Route 15,” Briggs said. “It could stimulate development there. That would be a good thing.”

In 2006, LeVan proposed placing a casino near the Route 15 and Route 30 intersection near his motorcycle business. It was rejected by the Pennsylvania State Gaming Control Board, in part, because of its nearness to the Gettysburg Battlefield. In 2010, LeVan proposed a second location at the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center. It was further away from the battlefield but about ten miles closer to Emmitsburg. The proposal was also denied.

LeVan will be applying for a category 1 gaming license, which is sometimes called a racino license. It allows racetracks to have up to 250 table games and 5,000 slot machines. Pennsylvania law allows for seven of these licenses. Six have been awarded so far.

For LeVan’s proposal, it would be a two-step process. The license was intended for existing racetracks, but allowances were made for new facilities. Mason-Dixon Downs would have to have hosted at 150 days of live racing by the second year of the license approval. However, Pennsylvania is currently considering softening this requirement.

It is expected that the project would benefit Hanover Shoe Farms near Littlestown, which is known for its breeding harness-racing horses.

This project is still in its early stages, and officials are waiting to see more details. The project already ran into its first delay when the Freedom Township Board of Supervisors failed to move the proposal forward to the planning commission until more details are received.

Another hold up (this one known beforehand) was that the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission needed to work out the application process for a harness racing track.

by Brian R. Waesche

Twenty-nine years ago, on Wednesday night, December 30, 1987, a crowd gathered outside the Thurmont home at 108 Park Lane as firefighters from five Northern Frederick County companies reported to a blaze that engulfed the large, historic home. Among the crowd, Randy Waesche; Gettysburg Times reporter, Erin Dingle; and Thurmont natives, Diane Weant and Rick Eyler, witnessed the event burn into the story of what many referred as the “Waesche home-place,” a story beginning 152 years before the blaze.

Shortly before 1835, Henry Rouzer wed Catharine Schlosser, and in 1836, the couple welcomed their first child, Josiah. The young family resided with Henry’s father until he placed Henry in possession of a tract of land on the fringe of Mechanicstown. On the property existed a two-story log cabin—constructed in the earliest years of the 1800s—that Henry and Catharine made their home. Henry operated a tanning business on the property for fifty years, his tannery located where Thurmont’s 112 E. Main Street stands today. The tannery’s location alongside the stream, flowing through the Memorial Park today, lent the creek the name “Rouzer Run,” its final course winding through the Rouzer property before joining Hunting Creek.

Henry grew to make a comfortable living, and in 1847, he and his wife and children moved next to his tannery along Main Street to a stone mansion-house that Henry enlarged from a one-room stone cottage. After retirement in 1877, Henry devoted the attentions of his later years to improving his home property. He was an excellent farmer and his lands were made valuable by his care and hard, persistent work.

Another son, John Henry, was born to Henry and Catharine Rouzer in 1839. John Henry assisted greatly with his father’s tanning and farming enterprises and, in May of 1870, was granted “for the sum of $1,015 and labor and services rendered to me [Henry]” 59 acres of his father’s estate, containing the Rouzer’s former cabin, John Henry’s birthplace along the tannery road at the rear of the Rouzer Mansion lot. Separate from Henry’s conveyance to his son was his stone mansion and several lots fronting East Main Street. John Henry’s elder brother, Josiah, had passed away in 1857, at just twenty-two years of age.

Two years after John Henry acquired the majority of his father’s holdings, he married Martha Ellen “Ella” Clugston in 1872; by 1892, he had five children, resulting in three sons. Two daughters, Mary (1881-1883) and Ruth (1891-1892) did not survive. After Catharine Rouzer’s death in 1885 and Henry’s in 1887, John Henry, executor of his father’s estate, sold at public sale his parent’s mansion to Daniel Osler for $11,205, and to others several separate lots were sold. In time, the Rouzer mansion became the Creager Funeral Home, and later Stauffer Funeral Home, which it remains.

Costing $87,000, 108 Park Lane, built from the now unrecognizable Rouzer cabin, was sold to Luisa Faux-Burhans Allen in the summer of 1984. Luisa, the widow of Amos Denslow Burhans, and her second husband, Richard C. Allen, moved to Thurmont, where her sister Anna Faux White resided. At the time of his marriage to Luisa, Richard “Dick” Allen was, too, widowed, in 1966, by first wife, Helen Faux, the sister of his second wife, Luisa, and her sister, Anna White. Allen was the Editor of Hamburg, New York’s The Sun newspaper that he, his wife Helen, and sister-in-law Anna founded in 1945. Under Allen ownership, only three-and-a-half years after purchasing the home, a dropped cigarette was rumored to ignite a carpet in the couple’s second-story bedroom. Fire tore through the two upper floors of the house, destroying them from the inside, and causing severe water damage to the first floor. Allen and wife were both taken to the hospital where Luisa Faux-Burhans Allen passed after becoming ill. The notification of her death requested condolences may be forwarded to her husband at “Frederick Memorial Hospital, Wing 4B, Rm. 45” where he was recovering from burn-wounds. Over a year later, in June 1989, Allen’s newspaper reported “We talked to Sun editor emeritus Richard Allen recently and he is doing quite well. He has moved back into his house and is enjoying a new basset hound puppy. His address is 108 Park Lane, Thurmont, MD 21788. Phone 301-271-3262.”

Seventy-two-year-old Allen modestly repaired the home to the form that stands today. Retained was the unconventional five-bay window arrangement around an off-center entry and decorative concrete porches, whose material spared them from fire damage. The most recognizable change made by Allen was the remittance of the walk-up third floor, not replaced during reconstruction. Using steeply raked gables in place of the former hip-style roof, 108 Park Lane was instead finished with two uneven roof planes, the portion over the westward section of the home being slightly raised and forming a jog in the façade’s shingled construct. Previously, the step-up in the second floor, hinting at the higher log walls of the original Rouzer cabin within, was disguised beneath a uniform ceiling height. Allen covered the blackened stucco with typical vinyl siding, replaced the large six-over-six sashes with basic units of smaller size, and added a contrasting, 1980s-style sloped sunroom to the rear of the home, connecting a summer kitchen to the main house.

Today, the home remains a 4 bedroom, 2.5 Bath, 3,000-plus square-foot dwelling, as Allen refashioned it. It features a decorative “U”-shaped stairway, partially exposed log interior, expansive attic accessible through a pull-down hatch, and a two-story summer kitchen with a walk-in fireplace. The home deteriorated during the late 1990s after Mr. Allen moved in with his nephew, late wife Luisa’s son, Amos D. “Den” Faux-Burhans, near Urbana in 1994. Neglected and rented until sale (at one point to several Mount Saint Mary’s students), it passed into the trust of Den Faux-Burhans in 1999 after his uncle’s death. Diane Weant and Rick Eyler, the same couple that watched the home burn twelve years prior, purchased the residence at 108 days before the new millennium. Rick, a skilled builder, immediately began to remedy the underlying problems that come with any old home. Siding was replaced, roof repaired, porches patched, surfaces refinished, stone foundations strengthened, and a concrete floor poured in the dirt cellar during his tenure. The Eyler family greatly improved the home, accomplishing a fine cosmetic result, with raised panel shutters, fresh colors, and the simple warmth of family that does a home so well.

The Eyler’s sold 108 Park Lane when they sub-divided and built a new home on the property, placing their former home in the care of Becky Brashear and Jenny Hankey for the past nine years. Brashear and Hankey tastefully adorn the home throughout the holidays and seasons, while continuing to make improvements. Since purchase, the original, bark-covered timbers holding up the original cabin have been checked for integrity, and stanchions installed to re-level the settling, kitchen floor framing. Avid entertainers, several outdoor living spaces, tiered patios, and decks, and a 3,300-gallon quoi pond have been added to the property as well. Becky states “We’ve worked hard to maintain the historical integrity of the home: the original wood floors in the living room and dining room, the deep windowsills, and the front porch.”

She and Jenny also spoke of some of the oddities of the home. The continual appearance of pennies found inside, outside, and in the strangest of places has become common on Park Lane, and more curiously (initially unaware that a cigarette may have caused the great fire at their home) is the scent of cigarette smoke that sometimes materializes in the air. Nine-year old Australian Shepherd “Parker,” named after his address, and Ms. Brashear’s mother also enjoy the lovely home.

Returned to more resemble a Maryland-farmhouse for the last thirty years, 108 Park Lane contrasts drastically to the pre-1987 federal-style appearance the home displayed for the majority of the twentieth century. Perhaps more interesting than how the once-stucco manor became the house we know today, may be how a three-room log-cabin transformed into a ten-room estate house, the events of which will be the subject of next month’s issue.

The December 31, 1987, Frederick News Post cover story showing the fire that occurred at the home at 108 Park Lane. Photo by Kelly Hahn








The house at Park Lane as repaired by Richard C. Allen. Photo taken by author, Fall 1999


Jet Explodes Over Emmitsburg

by James Rada, Jr.

On the evening of August 30, 1950, a thunderstorm rolled into the area, but above the rumbling of thunder, many people heard something else.

John Hilbert’s farm was 2.5 miles northeast of Emmitsburg, along what is now MD 140. His wife heard the wind whipping up around 9:30 p.m. and went to the door of her home to close it; however, before she got there, she heard a loud roar.

“I thought lightning had hit the house, and went upstairs to get the children up,” she told the Gettysburg Times. “When we went outside, we found the house all right, but three fires were burning in the corn field, and there were sparks all over the place.”

On another nearby farm, Lloyd Leatherman heard a loud noise that shook his house.

“I ran out and saw the plane explode,” Leatherman said. “I thought the explosion was closer to my home than it was.”

He said that the plane was about tree height when he saw it going down. He ran to his neighbor’s farm. Carrol Prock had a phone, and Leatherman used it to call the Pennsylvania State Police, because he believed that the plane had gone down in Adams County.

Prock had also seen the plane explode. He told the Gettysburg Times that it looked like “a haystack on fire in the air.”

Hilbert called the Maryland State Police to report the crash, and his farm was soon swarming with state troopers from both Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as volunteers from the Barlow Fire Department, Frederick County sheriff’s deputies, volunteers from the Gettysburg Fire Department, and volunteers with the Emmitsburg VFW ambulance.
They started a search for the pilot and passengers. Unfortunately, they only found pieces. The largest piece of the pilot found, according to the newspaper, was the pilot’s left hand and wrist, which was still in a glove.

Soon, airmen from Andrews Air Force Base in Washington joined the search. It was learned that the plane had been an F-84 Republic Thunderbolt that had crashed, along with its pilot, twenty-two-year-old Michael Alkire of Washington, D.C. He had been a 2nd lieutenant with the Air National Guard and a member of the 121st Fighter Squadron, based at Andrews.

F-84s were the primary attack jets used during the Korean War. They flew 86,408 missions and destroyed 60 percent of all ground targets in the war. While early versions of the jet had structural problems, by 1950, the Thunderbolt was a dependable aircraft.

Alkire had recently completed jet fighter training school and was flying on the wing of his element leader, 1st Lt. William Hall. They had been on a training flight that had taken them up to Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania. They were on their way back and trying to avoid the storm by climbing higher into a cloud formation. The Hagerstown Mail reported that when Hall “came out of the cloud, he could not find Alkire’s plane.”

It was not Alkire’s first crash that year. At the end of June, Alkire’s F-84 had crashed against a river dyke at the end of the Olmsted Air Base runway. In that incident, he either ran out of fuel or had a “flame out,” according to the UPI report. He walked away from that crash with only minor injuries.

Volunteers searched the Hilbert’s 10-acre cornfield, which was illuminated with flood lights. Debris was found scattered over a half mile.

Bernard Miller from Gettysburg was one of the searchers. He said that when the search ended at 2:30 a.m., they had found “enough of the pilot to fill a bushel basket and almost enough of the plane to fill a pick-up truck.”

The largest pieces of the plane were only eight to ten inches in length.

Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Korea.

by James Rada, Jr.

1909Emmitsburg’s Third Great Fire

Emmitsburg has a long history of both fires and fire protection. The Great Emmitsburg Fire of 1863 is considered the most serious fire in the town’s history. By the time the flames sputtered out, twenty-eight houses and nine businesses had been damaged or destroyed. Three of the four corners of the town square were black with fire, and three of the towns four blocks were fire damaged. Other reports put the number of damaged buildings at fifty, and half of the town destroyed. In actuality, probably about a quarter of the town burned, based on a population of slightly less than 1,000.

Firefighting efforts improved in 1884, when water from the town’s newly built reservoir was piped under the street to fire hydrants. This provided a more-dependable supply of water to the engines.

When the reservoir was dug and the water lines put in, The Emmitsburg Chronicle reported, “When it is considered that the reservoir is located 224 feet above the level of the square, any person can estimate the advantages that must accrue to the village when the improvement is completed. With proper hose at hand, it will scarce be possible for any great fire to occur here, and this security lessening the risks, must diminish the rates of insurance, and we trust that in due time the water power will be availed of for manufacturing purposes.”

Unfortunately, this did not prove to be true, because Emmitsburg had its second great fire the following year.

Fire broke out in St. Joseph’s College just before noon on March 20, 1885, and quickly spread. Fighting fires in the large college buildings was too much for the firefighters with Vigilant Hose Company, who were doing “grand work, but their efforts were of course unequal to the requirements,” according to The Frederick Daily News. Someone telegraphed for the help of fire companies from Frederick and Hagerstown. At the time, St. Joseph’s College was valued at $1 million and the total damage calculated at about $60,000.

What could be considered Emmitsburg’s third most-serious fire happened in December 1909, just days before Christmas. Shortly before noon, the roof of the Rowe property caught fire, which at the time was occupied by the Home Bakery, Harry Hopp, and Mr. Peters.

“The alarm was sounded, but by the time a stream of water could be made to play on the burning roof, the adjoining properties, the Reformed Church parsonage and the house occupied by Mrs. Virginia Gillelan were ablaze,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

Vigilant Hose Company combated the fire, but “A high wind aided the flames, and for a time it was thought that nothing could be done to save the Rowe property, although every effort was being made in that direction.”

Lulu Patterson then discovered that the Motter building occupied by Motter and Ruth Gillelan’s store was on fire. This split the efforts of the fire company as they now battled two fires. If that wasn’t enough, it was then discovered that the homes of H.W. Eyster and George T. Eyster were also on fire.

The firefighters didn’t give up, though.

“Inside of an hour, the flames had been overcome and Emmitsburg, at least part of it, was saved,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

In all, ten buildings were lost or damaged in the blaze.