Currently viewing the tag: "Lake Royer"

Over 50 participants gathered around Lake Royer in Cascade for the annual Fort Ritchie Community Center’s Bass Fishing Tournament on Saturday, May 18.

The event was sponsored by Cobblestone Hotel & Suites and included prizes for the largest bass caught by youth and adults. The winners were:

Adult Winners:

Steven Pinkley—17 ¼”

Steve Christian—16 ½”

Jason Saunders—15”

Youth Winners:

Ryan Rosenberry—15”

Carter Gauff—14”

John Gossard—13 ½”

Adult Winners: Steven Pinkley (center), Steve Christian (right), and Jason Saunders (left).

Youth Winners:  Ryan Rosenberry (center), Carter Gauff (left), and John Gossard (right).

The Woodpecker vs. Fort Ritchie

Sitting atop South Mountain, Fort Ritchie helped save the world from the Nazis during World War II. However, the camp didn’t fare as well against woodpeckers.

Fort Ritchie’s history dates back to 1889 when the Buena Vista Ice Company of Philadelphia purchased 400 acres on South Mountain. The company developed the land and built lakes where it planned to cut ice from to ship to the surrounding cities for use as the refrigeration source in ice boxes. The first lake was built in 1901 and named Lake Royer. Buena Vista shipped out the ice on the Western Maryland Railroad, which ran through the area.

Business continued until the demand for ice dropped off due to the development of electric refrigeration, and the Buena Vista Ice Company eventually closed.

In 1926, the Maryland National Guard was looking for a location for a summer training camp. It chose the Buena Vista Ice Company property. Not only was the location isolated enough for the National Guard’s training needs, it was located along the railroad, so it could be easily accessed and communications could be maintained using the telegraph line that already ran through the area.

The Maryland National Guard used the site from 1926 to 1942. On June 19, 1942, the U.S. Army took over the site for its Military Intelligence Training Center. During World War II, 19,600 intelligence troops trained at the camp.

Despite the vast knowledge and intelligence training of these soldiers, woodpeckers managed to sabotage the camp, even if the interference lasted a short time.

In 1948, newspapers in Maryland and Pennsylvania ran stories about how woodpeckers were frustrating Col. Leland T. Reckford, the fort commander, with their attacks on power line poles.

“One woodpecker was so diligent in his attack on a pole that the first hard gust of wind the other day sent it crashing to the ground,” the Hagerstown Morning Herald reported on November 9, 1948.

The 2,200-volt power line came down with the pole, causing outages in the area, including the camp.

“There are plenty of trees in the surrounding mountains, if the woodpeckers simply must release their emotions by pecking, camp officials point out,” according to the Morning Herald.

Woodpeckers peck for three reasons, according to It uncovers insects, insect eggs, and larvae, which the woodpeckers eat. They drill holes in dead or dying trees to create nests. The hammering also serves as a type of communication to mark territory.

“This is why you might see a flicker pounding on a metal power pole or your house siding–to make the loudest sound he can, not to look for food or drill a hole, but to make a statement,” according to the website.

Given the damage to the power line pole, it seems likely the woodpeckers used it create a nesting area, but instead, compromised the strength of the pole.

The newspapers don’t note how the camp solved its woodpecker problem, but it wasn’t mentioned again, nor were there any articles talking about additional falling power line poles.

Fort Ritchie closed in 1998 under the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

An old postcard view of Barrick Avenue at Fort Richie.

Over 60 participants turned out for the Fort Ritchie Community Center’s Spring Bass Fishing Tournament. The tournament, which is sponsored by Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, is held on Lake Royer located on the former Fort Ritchie property in Cascade.

Bobby Swomley of Williamsport won the event with a 15-inch bass. There was a three-way tie for second place: Gary Thomas of Sharpsburg, Brehon Sweeny of Thurmont, and Kody Brown of Waynesboro; each caught a 13.5-inch bass. Owen Cozort of Hagerstown took top honors in the youth division with a 15-inch catch, and Pierce French of Boonsboro was second with a 14-inch Bass. 

Funds raised through the Bass Fishing Tournaments support the youth programs offered by the Community Center, such as Summer Camp, Kids Club, Sports Saturday, and special events like the annual community Halloween Party and Breakfast with Santa.

The Community Center is in Cascade, located on the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army Post property. For more information on the Community Center or to sign up for the September 16 Bass Tournament, visit or call 301-241-5085.

Janet Sweeny, general manager of the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Waynesboro, PA, (left) pictured with Brehon Sweeny, Kody Brown, Gary Thomas, and Bobby Swomley at the Spring 2023 Bass Fishing Tournament.

Pierce French took second-place honors (left), and Owen Cozort (middle) was the winner in the youth division. Janet Sweeny (right) is general manager of the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Waynesboro, PA, which sponsors the tournament.

The Mountain Seaside

by James Rada, Jr.

It was supposed to be a Maryland seashore on a mountaintop.

In 1889, the Buena Vista Ice Company bought 400 acres of land where Fort Ritchie would eventually be built, and set aside 20 acres for a lake.

“The business had counterparts on the East Coast below the Mason-Dixon Line,” according to the Hagerstown Morning Herald.

Perhaps forgetting that the purpose of the lake was to freeze in the winter, so the ice could be cut into blocks and sold, people were more interested in its summertime uses. They began picturing the area as the next Ocean City.

The Catoctin Clarion reported in August 1901, shortly after Lake Royer opened, “They now have a miniature ‘shore’ up on top of the mountain: by feeding at proper intervals, several barrels of fish salt into the stream that feeds the ‘lake,’ sea water may be imitated; by hiring a small boy to teeter a log in the water, modest breakers may be fashioned; high and low tides may be accomplished by lowering into and hoisting from the lake kegs of nails, twice in every twenty-four hours; the rattles taken from the rattlesnake skins that the mountain belles are wearing for belts, might be scattered about the beach to represent sea shells…”

The writer envisioned Blue Ridge Summit becoming the ultimate summer destination. Of course, Pen-Mar was already a popular summer getaway, and the lake would only cement its reputation.

“Lake Royer is a lovely sheet of water, covering about 21 acres, and is located near Buena Vista Station, and within easy reach of Pen-Mar, Blue Ridge, Monterey and Blue Mountain,” the Frederick News reported.

Col. John Mifflin Hood, president of the Western Maryland Railway, created Pen-Mar Park in August 1877 as a way to attract people to use the railroad to get out of the heat of the city during the summer. The park offered a view of over 2,000 square miles and two mountain ranges at an altitude of 1,400 feet. It is located on the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, hence the name.

“From here on a clear day, one could see the town clock in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, at a distance of 24 miles—with binoculars, of course,” Frank and Suanne Woodring wrote in the book, Images of America: Pen-Mar.

Pen-Mar Park featured a dancing pavilion and a dining room that could seat 450 people. An observation tower was added in 1878. Lake Royer’s opening in 1901 allowed the park to offer one more attraction.

Trains heading to Blue Ridge Summit left Baltimore daily at 9:15 a.m. and advertised the new lake. Tickets cost $1, plus an extra 50 cents if you wanted to eat dinner at Pen-Mar.

“The popularity of Lake Royer is shown by the big supply of bathing costumes hanging up to dry every day. Last Sunday, nearly 100 were strung up at one time,” the Baltimore Sun reported in August 1901.

Pleasure boats were allowed on the water, and bathhouses had been erected allowing visitors to go swimming. They could even rent a bath “costume” for 25 cents.

The park quickly became a popular destination for tourists who traveled on the railroad from towns and cities all over the East Coast to the Maryland and Pennsylvania mountains. The peak single-day attendance at the park was 20,000 people.

Demand for natural ice declined over the years as refrigeration technology improved, and the Buena Vista Ice Company discontinued operations at the site in the mid-1920s.

In 1926, the State of Maryland purchased 580 acres to establish Camp Ritchie as a Maryland National Guard training area. Acquisition of additional property increased the camp to 638 acres by 1940.

“Camp Albert C. Ritchie was built and the last ice houses razed. One of them was still two-thirds full of ice,” according to the Hagerstown Morning Herald.

The new camp also ended the public use of Maryland’s mountain seashore.

(above) Historic postcard view of Lake Royer.

(below) Aerial view of Lake Royer.

Precipitated by a Fatal Prank in 1901

Earl Eyler

On a pleasant summer morning, August 18, 1901, Mary Finnefrock, with her companion, Mrs. Lewis Wecker, boarded an excursion train at York, Pennsylvania, bound for a day of fun and relaxation at the celebrated Pen Mar Park, not aware it would be the last day of her young life.

Mary was the 18-year-old unmarried daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Finnefrock of York, Pennsylvania, and worked there as a box trimmer in a paper box factory, helping to support her family financially. She looked forward to this trip as a day of rest and relaxation. It was reported her parents did not want her to go on this trip, but she had a will of her own and persisted.

Pen Mar Park was opened by the Western Maryland Railroad in 1877 as a tourist attraction in order to increase train ridership and proved to be immensely successful. Thousands would flock to the popular resort to enjoy the mountain breezes and the beautiful view of the Cumberland Valley, which stretched miles before them to the west. It offered amusement rides, picnicking and dancing, and was the site of countless reunions and social gatherings. Sunday excursions to Pen Mar and Lake Royer were advertised in The York Dispatch as leaving at 8:30 a.m. and returning at 6:30 p.m. for a one-dollar fare.

Miss Finnefrock and Mrs.Wecker were joined by York businessman, John Burkheimer, at the park. They were also joined by a young man named Frank Rinehart, of Smithsburg, whom they met at one of the nearby hotels. At some point, the group hired a hack to take them to Lake Royer, which lay a mile to the east at the foot of Mt. Quirauk, where they ate dinner at the Hotel Mellview, then decided to boat across the lake to the bathhouses on the other side. Rowboats were available to rent on Lake Royer, as well as bathing suits (for 25 cents). After securing these items, they ventured onto the lake.

 The Buena Vista Ice Company built Lake Royer, intending to use it to harvest ice in the winter and for recreational purposes in the summer. Construction had only been completed the previous month, and it had only just recently opened.

According to testimony later given to the grand jury, when just offshore, in waist-deep water, Frank Rinehart, who sat in the bow, began rocking the boat to the degree it finally capsized. Rinehart was admonished by people ashore not to repeat his behavior, and the group was allowed to take the boat on the lake once again; although, Miss Finnefrock, who could not swim, was very reluctant to go. She was, however, coaxed and finally agreed.

About a third of the way across the 21-acre lake, and in water 15-feet deep, Rinehart resumed rocking the boat as he perched on the bow with his feet dangling over both sides. With a hand on each side, he threw his weight from side to side, again overturning the boat, throwing all aboard into the water. Rinehart saved himself by clinging to the overturned boat. Other boaters nearby saved Mrs. Wecker and Burkheimer. While the other members of the party survived, Mary Finnefrock did not surface.

 A concerted search ensued. Lake Royer was dragged for days without success. At 5:45 a.m., two days later, as a last resort, dynamite was used to raise the body to the surface. It appeared about 50 feet from the site of the accident.

An inquest was held lakeside, and numerous witnesses testified, including Rinehart, who denied rocking the boat. However, the coroner’s jury concluded by charging Frank Rinehart with willfully and feloniously killing and murdering Mary Finnifrock. A grand jury later indicted him for manslaughter.

Rinehart disappeared immediately after the inquest but was arrested the following Saturday in Smithsburg. He was taken to Hagerstown on the noon train and committed to jail. He was shortly released, however, on $1,000 bail and returned to his home in Smithsburg to await trial in November. His mother was said to be prostrated with grief.

The story was carried in newspapers nationwide and resulted in calls for holding all “boat-rockers” legally responsible. However, in Smithsburg, Rinehart’s hometown, there were opposing views on his responsibility. Rinehart was a member of a prominent family, and a significant defense was organized in his support. According to The York Gazette of August 27, 1901, “the people of Smithsburg, the home of Rinehart, … held an indignation meeting and passed resolutions denouncing” the coroner and district attorney of Washington County for being too harsh.

The trial opened on November 29. Three of the ablest lawyers in the state defended him in court, and there was considerable difficulty in securing a jury. During the trial, Rinehart said he was never warned after the first capsize and denied tipping the boat either time; in short, he took no responsibility for his actions.

On December 2, 1901, the jury was unable to reach an agreement after 41 hours of deliberation and was discharged by Judge Stake. Rumor had it that in the last ballot, the vote was eleven for acquittal and one for conviction. Later, the state agreed to drop the case, reportedly due to several important witnesses refusing to return from Pennsylvania to testify. Rinehart was released.

The New Oxford Item newspaper reported that Mary’s parents had not wanted her to go on this trip, “but she had a will of her own and paid the penalty of death by her disobedience.”

Rinehart, on the other hand, was a free man and paid no legal price for his “fun” that beautiful summer day on Lake Royer.

According to The San Francisco Examiner, the white cross marks the spot near the shore where the boat was first upset; the black cross shows where the second upset took place and where Miss Finnefrock was drowned.

Aaron Shaw of Frederick took the top honors in both the spring and fall 2018 bass tournaments, hosted by Cobblestone Hotel & Suites and held on Lake Royer at the former Fort Ritchie property in Cascade. The events featured adult and youth divisions.

Joining Shaw on the podium for the fall tournament, held on Saturday, September 22, were Jacob Martin (second place), along with Dave Fisher and Josh Smith (tied for third place). Cash prizes were awarded for the top three finishers. In the youth division, Jesse Leisinger of Smithsburg took first place, followed by Chad Moser with second place. Youth division winners earned gift cards. Shaw’s winning fish was 13.25 inches, and Leisinger’s measured 13.5 inches.

The Cobblestone Hotel & Suites’ Bass Fishing Tournaments are held annually in the spring and fall, with proceeds benefitting the programs of the Fort Ritchie Community Center. Cobblestone Hotel & Suites has more than one hundred facilities across the United States, with the closest location to Fort Ritchie being in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. For more information on the community center, please visit

Aaron Shaw (far right) won both tournaments in 2018; pictured with Shaw are (from left): Josh Smith, David Fisher, and Jacob Martin.

Jessie Leisinger (right) won the youth division, and Chad Smith earned second place.

M&T Bank contributed $6,000 to the Fort Ritchie Community Center in Cascade. The funds helped sponsor the 2016 Mountaintop Heritage Days event that celebrated the 90th anniversary of Camp Ritchie.

“M&T Bank’s investment in the community goes beyond sponsoring Mountaintop Heritage Days,” said Buck Browning, executive director of the Community Center. “All of our programs and events are better off because of M&T Bank’s support of our area,” he added.

Mountaintop Heritage Days brings crafts and food vendors, carnival rides and games, and performances by groups such as the U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps to the former military post located in Cascade. The event concluded with a fireworks show over Lake Royer. The event has been restarted after a two year hiatus with hopes to restore its prominence throughout the region. An estimated crowd of more than 3,000 people visited the event this year.

The Fort Ritchie Community Center provides programs and activities for people of all ages. For more information on how you can get involved in the Community Center, visit
Anthony Bagley (back row, left) and Neil Davidson (back row, right) of M & T bank present Buck Browning, director of the community center, and three community center summer camp participants, with a ceremonial check in the amount of $6,000 to support activities and programs that serve local residents.

Holiday Craft Bazaar at Fort Ritchie Community Center

By Chris O’Connor

Nothing says, “Let’s go Christmas shopping,” like balmy, seventy-degree weather on a Saturday in mid-December.

Beverly Coyle, Fort Ritchie Community Center’s event organizer, stated that the turnout for the annual Holiday Craft Bazaar was impressive, though it generally is the best-attended of the three arts and crafts shows held at the Community Center throughout the year.

Since the bazaar’s inception in 2008, Beverly has noticed the show’s growing popularity, including the variety of arts and crafts, the number of vendors, and the public interest in the event.

The Holiday Bazaar was a convenient venue to do some shopping on the Mountain, with ample free parking and good food. There were a variety of handmade items and crafts, local distributors for Mary Kay cosmetics, palm oil scented candles and soaps by Mia Bella, and others too numerous to mention.

This year, there were seventy vendors, with ten on a waiting list for a space. If Beverly had known the weather was going to be so mild, she said she could have easily accommodated additional artists and vendors on the patio outdoors.

Instead, the exterior patio held tables and chairs, overlooking a wide field’s park-like atmosphere with folks walking their dogs or playing fetch; just beyond, the backdrop of Lake Royer was a picturesque and convenient place for buyers and sellers alike to enjoy fare served by the Sons of the American Legion, Cascade, Post 239.

Their menu included eggs and breakfast meats and lunch items, such as hot dogs, steamers, chili, chicken salad, and nachos, as well as an assortment of snacks and beverages. I wanted to order a quart of their chili after enjoying a chili dog on the aforementioned Fort Ritchie Community Center patio, while watching folks toss a ball back and forth.

The beauty of the Sons of the American Legion’s participation in the Fort Ritchie Community Center Holiday Bazaar is their magnanimous financial contribution to helping folks in need on the mountain.

Mtn Talk 2There were many vendors with treats available, including Pamela Wars of Sweet Blessings Cookies, a former elementary school teacher from Frederick, Maryland. Among her confections were peanut brittle, cake pops, and individually wrapped, exquisite Christmas cookies that might be edible works of art or double as Christmas tree ornaments.

Sometimes a craft show can be ho-hum for children, but all that changed when Santa visited to delight kids from 10:00 a.m.-noon.

Another attraction for kids was face-painting by artist Carolyn (Smith) Fogelsonger of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Carolyn, a member of Waynesboro (PA) Studio Art Club, works primarily in oils and acrylics and is known for her fine art paintings, which include an array of subjects from old buildings and other architecture to landscapes and nature.

She lived much of her life in Smithsburg, Maryland, finding ample inspiration for her works there. A print of a painting of the town of Smithsburg could be found at the presidential retreat at Camp David during the Bush administration.

Her works are available at Lotus Moon Gallery and on display at the Copper Kettle Restaurant, both located in Chambersburg. She has donated prints of her interpretation of the Civil War Battle of Monterey Pass, Blue Ridge Summit.

Some vendors carried handmade products, especially suited for children.

Mary Beth Chang of Sunberry Boutique in Hagerstown had an eye-catching array of handmade kids’ items that included a rainbow of tutus, hair bows, head bands, small purses, and pouches. Before we chatted about her products, she proffered an unsolicited shout-out to the Fort Ritchie Community Center staff, whom she described as ever helpful and the reason why she’s returned with her wares year after year.

She describes her products as an eclectic array, with varying fibers, which she enjoys changing up from time to time. There seems to be few limits to her knack with a sewing machine, let alone her imagination, recently introducing a line of children’s sun hats.

On the face of it, Mary Beth’s products seemed attuned to little boys and girls, but at some juncture during our conversation, I wondered aloud if I could get my dogs to wear tutus and hair bows—without diminishing their dignity, of course.

She said she occasionally dresses up her toy breed doggies and has designed, sewn, and dressed dogs included in their human’s weddings.

Craft shows are a dime a dozen. They pop up everywhere, but aren’t always worth attending, whether it’s because it’s a mob-scene, parking is a challenge, or the show doesn’t have anything one seeks.

Sometimes, though, one might take some time to attend a craft show and end up being pleasantly surprised by what is found there.

For myself? This show was close to home and convenient beyond compare.

But my heart was won by the delicious chili from the Sons of the American Legion Post 239, and the knowledge that they donate so much to our neighbors in need throughout the year.

They embody the meaning of “Christmas spirit.”

For further information regarding contact information for the vendors, call Fort Ritchie Community Center at 301-241-5085 or visit their website at

Photos by Chris O’Connor