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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

2by James Rada, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St.-Johns-appts-PastorThe congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Creagerstown wishes to announce the appointment of Wayne Blaser as interim pastor (pictured right). He is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Pastor Wayne was born in the Philadelphia area and was educated in the Princeton Seminary. He graduated in 1973. His first charge was in Hagerstown, where he met his wife Donna. He has served several congregations from Ohio, his last congregation being in Florida. His second calling was Poke Run in Pennsylvania, where he spent eighteen years ministering to a congregation that was established in 1785. He served in Bradenton, Florida, for three years as a congregational care minister, and eighteen months as interim pastor in two different churches. The life of an ordained Lutheran minister is quite different from that of a Presbyterian minister as far as the ruling body is concerned, but the message is the same to spread the word of God and minister to those in the congregation and community.

He retired and moved north to be near his children and grandchildren but retirement was not in the cards, and he is now a part-time minister. He is married to his wife, Donna, who is a reading specialist, and he is the father of two children and a grandfather to six. The congregation feels very fortunate that he chose St. John’s to continue his lifetime calling.

Pastor Wayne is usually at St. John’s on Tuesday or Thursday if you would like to talk to him or if you need help with a problem. You can also reach him at 941-932-5429. You can reach the church’s office at 301-898-5290 or by email at stjohnscreagerstown.com.

Deb Spalding

The Catoctin FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) Alumni sponsored an educational butchering fundraiser to raise money that will fund their annual banquet in May. The event took place on Friday, February 12, 2016, in the Catoctin High School agricultural area. It brought together an eagerness to learn the butchering process by as many as thirty-five students, paired with the talents and traditions taught by fifty-six volunteers from local farming families.

The day started at 6:30 a.m., when the hogs arrived already cut into halves from Horst Meats in Hagerstown. Pre-orders determined the number of hogs butchered. The number of hog’s butchered was up to twenty, from eighteen last year. From the point of pulling the halves off the truck, stations were set up where the various parts of the process were completed.

A long table was the center of the operation, where men and women were intent on cutting the large parts of the hog halves into smaller parts. The various parts were then taken to other stations for continued processing, weighing, and bagging.

Catoctin students, Madison Feltner and Lizzie Devilbiss, sorted rib and loin cuts into four-pound bags. Volunteers Steve Smith, Shea Smith, and Daryl Poffenberger bagged loose sausage. Catoctin students, Mackenzie Henderson, Carley Flora, and Josh Hubbard ground lard that would later be boiled in fired kettles to make cracklin’. Volunteer, Bernie Hobbs, and students, Cody Harmon and Megan Millison, separated cuts of lean meat and fats, passing them on to ground into sausage that would be sold loose or stuffed in casings.

Dave Shriver (Catoctin FFA Alumni member) volunteered his skills by cutting pork loins with bone into chops and cutting ribs into manageable pieces.

Outside, Bob Norwood and Rob McAfee, among many others, worked to tend fires under several cast-iron kettles, stirring the contents.

“We work with head meats and bony meats. Once meat leaves the bone, we strip it and grind it into puddin’ and scrapple,” explained Norwood.

Brian Hendrickson, Catoctin’s Ag Education Instructor, said, “Butchering is, for sure, an educational activity that teaches the science of butchering and the various parts of the process.”

This butchering event has been held annually at Catoctin for twenty-six years. The idea was suggested by then-FFA Alumni president, Gene Bollinger, and coordinated for many years by Catoctin’s former Ag teacher, Robert Beavan.

Denise Shriver, Catoctin FFA Alumni volunteer, has coordinated the butchering since 2010. Denise’s husband, Dave Shriver, who was manning the saw, gestured to the organized crowd of volunteers and said, “Many farmers just show up and volunteer. With a piece of mail they know to come on this day.” The butchering is always held on the second Friday in February.

The event was indeed an educational process, during which, generations of farmers passed along the process and traditions. Several families had as many as three generations represented at the event. Ashley McAfee (2012 Catoctin graduate, former FFA Ambassador, and former Maryland State FFA Officer), was there with her brother, Justin McAfee (current Catoctin senior), her father, Jeff McAfee (Catoctin FFA Alumni member), and her grandfather, Rob McAfee. Daniel Myers (2010 Catoctin graduate, former FFA Ambassador, and former Maryland State FFA Officer) was there with his father, Bobby Myers (Catoctin FFA Alumni member), and grandfather, Rodman Myers (Catoctin FFA Alumni member).

Shelby Hahn, a 2011 graduate of Catoctin, is now a junior at Penn State University, majoring in Animal Sciences. She said, “I’m happy to see that the program has grown. It’s something we use to educate the public, but it’s something that brings the community together and makes us special at Catoctin.”

Catoctin is the only school in the state of Maryland to host a full butchering. Maryland Public Television was on hand filming the butchering all day. The footage will be aired December 2016 in their Farm to Harvest series that highlights various unique agricultural events.

Matt Dellinger, FFA Alumni Association Vice President, was outside learning the kettles from “the older generation.”

“It brings community together with tenured farmers, community members, students, and businesses,” expressed Dellinger.

Much appreciation is extended to all of the volunteers who contributed to the success of the event.

Special thanks to the following: Hillside Turkey Farm and Jubilee Foods for donating the use of refrigerated trucks, Norman and Sandy Shriver for donating the bags used for packaging the meat, Mrs. Ruth Lenhart for the use of her family’s equipment, Robert Wiles for use of his equipment, and Paul Dennis for the use of his equipment.

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Mackenzie Henderson, Carley Flora, and Josh Hubbard are shown volunteering during the Catoctin FFA Alumni Educational Butchering Fundraiser.

by Chris O’Connor

There’s More to Bonnie than Postage Stamps

Sabillasville resident Bonnie DeLauter is a self-described social butterfly who loves to talk.

Many know her as a hard-working employee of the United States Postal Service (USPS), who runs the post office in Cascade and who is a member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Sabillasville.

I know about her talkative side. She was the first person to befriend me over a decade ago when transferring my then-second grader to Sabillasville Elementary School. We met many times there to join our daughters at lunch. Early on, Bonnie’s gift of gab must have left me looking a bit bewildered while she attempted to fill me in on the lay of the land. Bonnie’s late husband, Steve, noticed the bemused expression on my face. He glanced at me and said, “Confusin’ ain’t it?” I chuckled, but Bonnie didn’t miss a beat and continued to educate me on what to expect in the days to come.

Bonnie and Steve met when she was just fourteen. They dated for close to a decade before marrying in 1982. She worked as a bus driver before taking the civil service exam some thirty years ago and was hired by the USPS, working at post offices ranging from rural post offices on the other side of Hagerstown to Libertytown.

Her only sister, Linda, passed away in 2001, but Bonnie treasures and appreciates the company of her Aunt Virginia in Thurmont, and her aunt and uncle, Dorothy and Richard Valentine of Emmitsburg.

Her husband, Steve, worked for a couple of years in the late 1970s for the Western Maryland/Chessie Railroad, until he turned his full attention to the family farm in Sabillasville, producing grains, hay, fruit, and raising cattle until his passing in 2004. Bonnie and her still young daughter, Karen, returned to her parents place, Donald Harbaugh and her late mom Betty Green Harbaugh’s Sabillasville farm. They resided with her dad, Donald, until building a house on the home place in April 2006.

Bonnie is active in a variety of organizations, including the Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Cascade Post 239, of which she is obviously proud. The Legion sponsors many activities to raise money for Veterans who have served our country and philanthropic organizations such as the Patty Pollatos Fund, a non-profit that helps to financially benefit individuals and families in need while in the throes of devastating illnesses and injuries.

One upcoming fundraiser is a gun raffle on September 26. Bonnie helps out by selling tickets to the raffle and lending a hand the day before with food preparation. Raffle tickets are available to the public for $10.00, and can be obtained from Bonnie at the Cascade Post Office or the Legion Hall on McAfee Hill Road.

The Legion’s Mr. and Mrs. Cascade event is being held on October 10 (Colorfest weekend). The light-hearted occasion finds men and women dressed as the opposite sex, participating in a talent showcase. Bonnie’s description of past contests made the coronation sound like more fun than a barrel of monkeys. It is open to the public.

Local businesses donate products, time, and talents for the Spa Day on October 18, which is also a public event. One can enjoy a massage, makeup, manicure, and hair styling. A donation to the Legion is welcomed and ultimately benefits someone in need, especially those who have honored us with their service.

The wide-reaching significance of the Legion to Veterans and residents of the Cascade area is hard to quantify, but Bonnie conveys a perspective that hints at the reach of the Legion’s helping hand. Profits benefit Veterans of our Armed Forces, as well as children for a back-to-school get-together. At Christmas, members attempt to fulfill the wishes of children at Cascade Elementary, whose families might find purchasing a particular gift unaffordable.

Bonnie recounted many touching, heart-warming deeds accomplished by the Legion’s members, which I hope to recount in a future column.

Some years ago, I was a beneficiary of the Legion’s generosity after breaking my leg and receiving a loaner wheelchair from them, thanks to Bonnie’s intervention on my behalf.

She is also a member the Ladies Auxiliary of South Mountain Rod and Gun Club, located on Rt. 77 in Smithsburg, which opens its doors to non-members during holiday celebrations throughout the year.

One tradition Bonnie revisits is cruising to her childhood stomping grounds in Rocky Ridge, helping out wherever needed at the annual Rocky Ridge Carnival. It also affords her the opportunity to chat with friends she can’t see as frequently as she’d like.

Another of her local haunts is Blue Ridge Sportsmen’s Association in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, where she plays shuffleboard and enjoys a meal and the camaraderie of friends.

Travel is another of Bonnie’s favorite pursuits, though she bemoans the fact that it’s been more than a few years since she has been able to get away. She loves visiting friends in Florida, Oklahoma, and Ohio, while squeezing in one of her favorite spectator sports: bull riding. There’s been a Caribbean cruise or two, and horseback riding at John Flaugher’s place in Florida. John was a great friend to Bonnie’s husband, Steve, and is Karen’s godfather.

Bonnie’s benevolent nature, sense of humor, and easy laugh is testament to her favorite saying, “Life is what you make it.”

Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS 1st Annual Picnic at North Point Home

by Jim Houck, Jr.

COLUMN-Jim-Houck--North-PoiSaturday, June 5, 2015, started out as a dreary, rainy day to have a picnic—especially the very first one—for the immediate residents of North Point Home in Hagerstown. The Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS), led by representative Jim Payne and aided by National AMVETS appointed Deputy VAVS representatives Dick Fleagle and Jim Houck Jr., along with Ed Stely, our Department of Maryland Commander, and Bob Stouffer, our Department of Maryland Adjutant, had been planning the picnic for a long time and were hoping for a beautiful day to have it. The food was purchased and prepared, the drinks were chilling. Dr. Mudcat’s Medicine Show Karaoke and DJ, operated by Mike Mahoney, was being set up. Things were set to kick off at high noon, and Director of North Point Home Jennifer Drake, along with her staff and the residents, were anxiously awaiting the event. Suddenly the skies cleared and the sun appeared; it was clear that God had heard our silent prayers. The crew arrived and began to set up all the tents, tables, and chairs, as well as getting the grill ready and bringing out the ice chests, filled with soda pop and water. We could tell it was going to turn into a great day and a great picnic. Mike (Dr. Mudcat) got his medicine show going to start off the fun. The Department of Maryland AMVETS Auxiliary was represented by their President, Mary McKinnon. We had three Sons of AMVETS Squadrons, three AMVETS Auxiliary Units, and two AMVETS Veteran Post Members from Maryland represented at the picnic: Sons of AMVETS Squadrons— Squadron 7 from Thurmont, Squadron 9 from Middletown, and Squadron 10 from Hagerstown; AMVETS Auxiliary Units—Unit 7 from Thurmont, Unit 9 from Middletown, and Unit 10 from Hagerstown; AMVETS Veteran Post Members—AMVETS Post 7 from Thurmont and AMVETS Post 10 from Hagerstown. Jim Payne had certainly done his job well; everything was in place and everyone was enjoying themselves. The Catoctin Hollow Boys even made an appearance and sang a few songs. Donny McKinnon was in fine voice as he sang Sinatra and Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) and some other songs. Mike Mahoney sang a few songs while he attended the equipment. The music and festivities soon began to draw in the neighborhood children, and they were all invited to join in the festivities. The kids soon wanted to sing karaoke; several of them did, and they really enjoyed being in the spotlight. Bobby Stouffer had the hot dogs and burgers grilled, and it was time to eat. All food was taken inside and laid out, and what a layout it was! There was a fruit tray, a vegetable tray, a cheese tray, a meat tray, baked beans, potato salad, macaroni salad, slaw, rolls, and cookies. Everyone filled their plates and found a seat inside or outside. Everyone really seemed to enjoy all the delicious food. When everyone had satisfied their appetite, the festivities resumed outside. Commander Ed Stely and VAVS Representative Jim Payne presented an award to Brett Brown from Gladhill’s Furniture warehouse for allowing us to store our used furniture, which is donated by generous people from around the state of Maryland, to be used by the homeless Veterans, who are helped to become independent and lead fruitful lives on their own, to furnish their apartments. Commander Ed Stely also presented the plaque to Jim Nicholson, the general manager of Gladhill’s Furniture. Thank you Brett and Jim for all you have done to help our Veterans. The festivities began again after the presentation of the award and a bit of excitement was felt by all when Jim Payne came through the door with a large clothes basket filled with water balloons. We could tell by the way the kids eyes lit up that if you wanted to stay dry, hide. The kids had a ball with the water balloons that Jennifer Drake filled, and they commenced to throw them at all the guests, giving some a good soaking. Mary Mahoney and Sandi Burns joined in, trying to soak the kids and got pretty well soaked themselves. I think it was decided that the water balloons will not make an appearance at the next annual picnic. I took over 150 photos. If you would like to see them, go to Facebook: Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS, and you will be able to view them. The 1st Annual Picnic at North Point Home was a huge success, and we will strive to make each one in the future equally as successful. We give thanks to Jennifer Drake and her staff, the residents of North Point Home, and all who participated from the AMVETS family, for their help and support to keep this great institution open for our homeless Veterans living on the streets of our great nation, and for helping to give them a so-deserving second chance at independent living. If you have furniture you no longer use or need, please consider giving it for this worthwhile cause. Contact Jim Payne at 240-446-7183 or Ed Stely at 301-524-9333 to make arrangements for a pick-up at your convenience. We also need items such as toilet paper, paper towels, wash cloths, bath towels, small kitchen appliances, plates, silverware—basically everything to start housekeeping from the start. Due to state laws, the only item we cannot accept is used mattresses. All those who participated in the 1st Annual Picnic at North Point Home should give themselves a big pat on the back for helping to make it a tremendously successful event. Thank you! God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the American Veterans, and God Bless You.

James Rada, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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