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by James Rada, Jr.

1922 – The marines Conquer Thurmont

The U.S. Marines fought valiantly in World War I in places like the Battle of Belleau Wood in France. After the deadly fighting there to drive the entrenched German troops from Belleau Wood, Army General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, said, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.”

However, that didn’t stop Pershing and others from wanting to disband the Marine Corps after the war had been won.

Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune understood that his Marine Corps needed to fight for survival in the political arena just as hard as they fought on the battlefield. After WWI, as the politicians began speaking about disbanding the Marines, Lejeune devised a campaign to raise public awareness about the Marine Corps.

One of the ways he did this was that instead of going to obscure places to conduct war games and train, he went to iconic places and put the Marines out in front of the public. At the time, the national military parks, such as Gettysburg, were still under control of the U.S. War Department, which meant the Marines could use the parks as a training ground. Lejeune chose to do just that with a series of annual training exercises, which commenced in 1921 with a re-enactment of the Battle of the Wilderness.

Early in the morning of Monday, June 19, 1922, more than 5,000 Marines at the Marine Camp Quantico—more than a quarter of the Corps—marched onto waiting barges supplied by the U.S. Navy. At 4:00 a.m., four Navy tug boats towed eight large barges up the Potomac River toward Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, tanks and artillery pieces towed by trucks rolled out along the Richmond Road, headed for the same destination. Unlike a typical invasion, the Marines gave consideration to any possible damage they might cause to the roads. They removed the steel cleats and spikes from the tractor and tank treads. Only the smooth steel under-surface of the belts would be in contact with the road.

The march involved the entire Fifth and Sixth Regiments, a squadron of the First Marine Air Wing and elements of the Tenth Marine Artillery. The (Baltimore) Sun noted that these Marines were ready for anything and had pretty much cleaned out Quantico of anything that could be moved. “The 5,000 men are carrying the equipment of a complete division of nearly 20,000. In the machine-gun outfits especially the personnel is skeletonized, while the material is complete. Companies of 88 men are carrying ammunition, range finders and other technical gear for companies of about 140,” the newspaper reported.

The Marines spent their first night at East Potomac Park, south of the Washington Monument. Once they had fully set up camp, they marched past the White House and were reviewed by President Warren G. Harding and other dignitaries.

“Observers declared that this is the first time that troops have passed in review through the White House grounds since the Civil War,” the Marine Corps Gazette reported.

It took half an hour for the Marines to pass, as the 134-piece combined Marine bands played music.

On June 20, the Marines marched to Bethesda. The following day, they marched to Gaithersburg, where they spent two nights. On June 23, they marched to Ridgeville. Then the next day, it was Frederick.

From Frederick, the Marines marched 18 miles to Thurmont. It was the longest hike of the entire march. Besides being the longest hike of the week, June 25 occurred on the hottest day of the march. The heat rippled above the macadam road, reflecting, and seemingly baking, the Marines.

A near accident at the camp in Thurmont was an omen for the problems the Marines would soon face. Lt. Goodyear Kirkman flew up to the Thurmont campsite early in the morning in one of the Marine airplanes. He experienced a hard landing on the field and sustained a broken tail skid and air-line to the plane, ruining the carburetor. He needed to return to Frederick, but he had no means of getting there if he didn’t fly. He quickly came up with a daring idea.

 “He took off from Thurmont, controlling his ship with one hand and pumping air with the other, using hand apparatus in place of the broken mechanism. He had to keep pumping furiously all the way. But he made Frederick, landed safely and collapsed from exhaustion,” The Sun reported.

The Marines sang when they left Frederick to say goodbye to the city, and they were singing as they entered Thurmont and the last mile of the hike around 1:45 p.m. It announced their arrival into the town, which was obvious since there were nearly five times as many Marines as there were town residents.

“Everyone from the small boy to the aged veteran was up and out to await and see the soldiers. Sunday School and church attendance suffered severely, and no doubt the few who did attend wished they were out on the street. Many persons remained in town preferring to miss their dinners rather than miss seeing this great military outfit arrive. Every porch along the State Road was crowded with people watching the passing trucks,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The Marines had arrived.

Marines arriving at Camp Haines in Thurmont, June 25, 1922.

Marine Troop movement through town.

by James Rada, Jr.

Rural Free Delivery

in Northern Frederick County

Better late than never, as they say.

The United States Post Office started experimenting with Rural Free Delivery in 1891. Despite starting in neighboring Carroll County, the home delivery of mail didn’t reach Frederick County until 1901.

However, it wasn’t as if the county was clamoring for it. The Catoctin Clarion reported in 1900, “The rural free delivery grows more unpopular every day, with our citizens. There are constantly being new disadvantages and inconveniences discovered which will never be made satisfactory under our present system.”

In February 1901, it looked like the system would be instituted in Frederick County in early 1902. The system employed mail wagons and carriers on foot to deliver mail to the homes of residents.

The Clarion reported, “Regarding the proposed extension of the system over the whole of Frederick County. Representative Pearre says, in a letter to The News: ‘It will put into Frederick county about $20,000 a year in the shape of salaries to letter carriers. In a nut shell, the system furnishes to the man in the rural district the same conveniences that the carrier system furnishes to a man in the city. I have absolutely no interest in the introduction of the rural free delivery system, except to give added conveniences and facilities to the people. Convinced as I am that the government is ready to furnish this great convenience to the farmer, I am going to try to introduce it.’”

As the year progressed, so did support for rural free delivery (RFD). In July, a group of Thurmont-area businessmen organized the Sweigart Manufacturing Company of Frederick County. Webster W. Sweigart had developed and patented a mailbox that the government approved for use on RFD routes.

An early problem with RFD was that people set out all sorts of boxes for their mail. The postal service issued a rule that all mailboxes had to be one of 14 approved designs. If a resident didn’t have an approved mailbox within 30 days of the start of the service, they wouldn’t receive mail.

The following month, orders were placed for blue mail wagons that would have yellow running gear and white canvas tops.

RFD came to Frederick County two months earlier than expected, starting on November 15, 1901. The new mail carriers were civil servants. “Appointments of them will be made from persons residents of the neighborhood, wholly for fitness and irrespective of political or personal considerations,” according to the Catoctin Clarion.

Thurmont had one mail wagon and three mail carriers. An additional mail carrier for Lewistown worked with the Thurmont carriers. C. C. Currens drove the mail wagon, and Morris Rouzer served as the Thurmont mail clerk. William H. Damuth, Frank Albaugh, J. H. Freeze, and W. P. Mohler (for Lewistown) were the mail carriers. The wagon’s route took nine hours, running from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The carriers walked their routes from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Emmitsburg had four mail carriers: James G. Bishop, Charles R. Lander, A. E. Weaver, and Vernon Lantz. Charles Gillelan served as a substitute carrier. The average route for the Emmitsburg carriers were 21 miles.

Some of the new regulations that the mail carriers had to get used to were, according to Carl V. Besore and Robert L. Ringer in A Reflection of the History of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania and Vicinity:

•   The mail carriers had to keep a count of all mail picked up on the route each day.

•   Any mail the carrier collected that could be delivered before returning to the post office, first had to have the carrier cancel the postage with an indelible pencil.

•   The carrier had to keep postage stamps, cards, stamped envelopes, and money order blanks with him. “If patrons entrusted him, the carrier could act as their agent, enclosing their money in the stamped addressed envelope given him by the patron,” Besore and Ringer wrote.

•   If carriers met one of the people on their route while they were driving, they could deliver their mail to them if requested, but only if it cost them no time on their route.

•   Carriers had to deliver registered mail and pension to the addressee’s home as long as their mailbox was less than a mile off the route. If the house was further away, a note would be left in the mailbox, explaining who could get the mail and where it could be obtained.

•              Special delivery letters would be delivered to the addressee’s house if it was within a mile of the mailbox. If the house was further away, the letter would be left in the mailbox as ordinary mail.

A mailman servicing an RFD in Pennsylvania.

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.

Frederick County’s Lost Cavern

by James Rada, Jr.

In February 1880, the Baltimore Sun reported, “A large cave is reported to have been discovered near Woodsboro, Frederick County, rivaling in extent and splendor the famous Luray cave.”

The cave was known as “fox den.” It was on the George L. Smith farm, north of Woodsboro. Who and how it was discovered that the den was actually a cave is not known, but someone found a reason to enter the den at some point and saw it hid more than foxes. Word spread quickly of the underground marvel.

The Sun sent a reporter to explore the cave and write up a report. A group of local men agreed to show him the cave. “Having procured picks, shovels, old clothing, candles, matches &c., the party proceeded on their way to the cave, and, who knows, perhaps to glory,” according to the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

What the group found was not another Luray Caverns, but something that left them disappointed and disgusted, according to the Chronicle.

A writer with the Chronicle calling himself “Nemo” remained curious about the caverns. He traveled to Woodboro and hired one of the men who had led the Sun reporter to the cavern. The entrance was located near an area that had been quarried at the base of a limestone bluff. The guide used a gushing spring at the base of the bluff as a landmark to find the entrance.

Nemo wrote, “…I put on my ‘crawling suit,’ and with a box of matches in one pocket and candles in another, we were ready to creep.”

To enter the cavern, they had to slide into the den feet first. Nemo wrote “had I been at all aldermanic, I could not have got through.” Aldermanic was a slang term at the time for having a pot belly.

The entrance sloped downward, and they slid about eight feet before dropping into the first room of the caverns.

The first room was about 10 feet by 15 feet with a height of 3 feet. It had an “unbroken limestone arch overhead.”

From this room, they squeezed through a short passage at the north end of the room. It led into another room of the same height, but this room was 25 feet by 30 feet. It was also filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

“The end of one stalagmite knocked loose from the floor, measured five inches in diameter, and had twenty-five clearly defined circles of alternate layers of magnesia,” Nemo wrote. He took it as a sample.

This room had two passages other than the one they had come through. The passage on the north end was too small to crawl through, so they went through the western passage. This room had stalactites and stalagmites in it and a cold pool of water that measured 3 feet by 10 feet.

Going through a southern passage from the chamber, they wound up in a room that was seven feet by eight feet, “this was coverly by a lofty arched ceiling thickly studded with stalactites and supported by rocks forming walls of other apartments,” Nemo wrote.

The only passage from this room they could pass through was one that led back to the original chamber. Once there, they squirmed back up the slope and outside.

Besides mineral samples, Nemo caught a bat hanging from the ceiling, although he didn’t note which room this was in. He also saw bones of animals that had slid into the cavern and had been unable to escape because they were too small.

He believed the cavern could be enlarged, but noted, “It is not likely that this cave, even after a thorough exploration, would rival Louray, or that more recently discovered in Pennsy’vania, but ‘tis a ‘big thing’ for Woodsboro.”

A 1950 report titled The Caves of Maryland by William E. Davies lists the cave as the Centerville Cave. It is described as “A cave consisting of four small rooms is reported in an old quarry in the Wakefield marble, one-half mile east of Centerville, along the Coppermine road.”

However, the report notes that by this time, the cave seemed to have been lost and could not be located during the field work. Perhaps, it collapsed or maybe the entrance is so small it has become hidden.

Luray Caverns Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Bessie Darling’s Murder Haunts Us Still

by James Rada, Jr.

Editor’s Note: We thought we would tell the notorious local story of love and obsession in honor of Valentine’s Day. It’s not that we think every potential mate is a psychopathic killer, but not every relationship has a happy ending. Of course, we hope your Valentine’s Day is a happy one!

When the mail train from Baltimore stopped in Thurmont on Halloween, more than the mail was delivered. George F. Schultz, a 62-year-old employee with Maryland Health Department, left the train. Schultz hired Clarence Lidie and his taxi to give him a ride to the Valley View Hotel, which was 10 minutes away on the side of Catoctin Mountain.

As Schultz climbed into the car, Lidie noticed that he was carrying a .38-caliber revolver and mentioned it.

“Shultz laughed and remarked that ‘he didn’t know what he might run into’,” Edmund F. Wehrle wrote in a study about the history of Catoctin Mountain Park.

The Valley View Hotel was actually a summer boarding house, which had been run by Bessie Darling, a 48-year-old divorcee, since 1917. It was a large house built in 1907 that sat on a steep tract of land near Deerfield.

Darling, a Baltimore resident, had purchased the property from Mary E. Lent after Darling’s divorce in 1917.

“She generally managed the hotel in the summer and returned to Baltimore in winter, where she used her considerable social contacts to drum up summer business for her hotel,” Wehrle wrote. “Her skill at cooking and baking, as well as the scenic site, helped build her a solid clientele.”

In the early 20th century, people took the Western Maryland Railroad from Baltimore to Pen Mar Park to enjoy the cooler mountain temperatures and to get away from the stresses of the city. Such was the appeal of the Catoctin Mountain area as a summer retreat that visitors always needed a place to stay.

“These such boarding houses offered the women of the area a rare opportunity to operate businesses,” Wehrle wrote.

Schultz had known Darling since 1926. They had become so close that Schultz had even spent Christmas in 1930 with Darling’s family. Newspaper accounts at the time said they were romantically linked, and he often spent weekends at the hotel while Darling was there.

Darling, who was 14 years younger than Schultz, met a lot of people, both men and women, in her work. In the summer of 1933, Schultz had become convinced that Darling was seeing Charles Wolfe, a 63-year-old man who had lost his wife a year earlier. He also lived in Foxville, much closer to the boarding house than Baltimore. (Wolfe later told the Hagerstown Daily Mail that he and Darling had been little more than acquaintances.)

The thought of Darling with another man made Schultz angry, and he was known for his displays of temper.

“One Thurmont resident remembered that Schultz frequently drank, and, on one occasion, assaulted Darling during an argument in front of the Lantz post office,” Wehrle wrote.

While Darling forgave him that time, she was not so forgiving in this instance. Schultz and Darling got into a loud argument, apparently over Wolfe, which ended when Darling left the hotel. She went to a neighbor’s home to spend the night and told the neighbor that Schultz was no longer welcome in her home, according to newspaper accounts.

Darling didn’t return to the hotel until Schultz left for Baltimore, and Darling didn’t go back to Baltimore at the end of the tourist season. She decided that she would spend the winter in the hotel rather than have to deal with Schultz and his jealousy.

Around 7:00 a.m. on Halloween morning, Schultz came up to the rear entrance of the hotel as Maizie Willard, the 18-year-old maid, was coming out for firewood. Schultz demanded to see Darling. Willard said Darling was in her room and tried to close the door on the man.

Schultz forced his way inside. Willard hurried upstairs to Darling’s bedroom to warn Darling, with Schultz following. Willard entered the bedroom and locked the door behind her.

This didn’t stop Schultz for long. He forced the lock and opened the door. Then, he entered the bedroom and shot Darling who fell to the floor dead.

Schultz then calmly told Willard to make him coffee. She did, and when he finally let her leave the house to get help for Darling, he said to her, “When you come back, you’ll find two of us dead.”

Willard rushed out of the hotel to the nearest home with a phone. She called Frederick County Sheriff Charles Crum, who drove to the hotel with a deputy around 9:30 a.m.

They entered through the basement door because Schultz had locked all of the doors and windows. When they hurried into Darling’s bedroom, they found her lying dead at the foot of the bed.

They also found Schultz nearly dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to his chest. Crum brought Dr. Morris Bireley up from Thurmont to treat Schultz, who was then taken to the hospital in Frederick.

Once Schultz recovered from the wound, he was tried for murder on March 13, 1934. The prosecution called 26 witnesses in their case of first-degree murder. Schultz claimed that Darling had also had a pistol and his killing her had been an act of self-defense. The jury deliberated for an hour and found him guilty of second-degree murder. Schultz was sentenced to 18 years in the Maryland State Penitentiary in Baltimore.

Wehrle recounted the story of Charles Anders who had been in the courtroom when Schultz was sentenced, and 66 years later, still remembered watching Schultz sob as the verdict was read.

The drama of the murder fed into the tabloid-style journalism of the day and people followed the case with interest.

“Even today, the murder stirs an unusual amount of residual interest,” Wehrle wrote.

by James Rada, Jr.

How A Lincoln Conspirator Came to Call Emmitsburg Home

John Surratt Jr. hated life in Emmitsburg, but then he hated life in America. Maybe that was why he tried to kidnap the President of the United States.

Surratt was born April 13, 1844, in Washington, D.C., the youngest of John and Mary Surratt’s five children. When the Civil War broke out, Surratt was attending St. Charles College near Baltimore. His father died in 1862 while Surratt was home, and he did not return to complete his schooling. Instead, he was appointed U.S. Postmaster of Surrattsville, Maryland, but he also became a postmaster of sorts for the Confederacy. He carried letters and troop information to Confederate boats on the Potomac River.

“We had a regular established line from Washington to the Potomac, and I being the only unmarried man on the route, I had most of the hard riding to do. I devised various ways to carry the dispatches – sometimes in the heel of my boots, sometimes between the planks of the buggy,” Surratt said in an 1870 speech.

Samuel Mudd introduced Surratt to John Wilkes Booth on December 23, 1864, in Washington. Surratt willingly joined in Booth’s conspiracy to abduct President Abraham Lincoln by stopping his carriage while it was en route to a destination.

“To our great disappointment, however, the President was not there but one of the government officials – Mr. [Salmon P.] Chase, if I mistake not. We did not disturb him, as we wanted a bigger chase than he could have afforded us. It was certainly a bitter disappointment, but yet I think a most fortunate one for us. It was our last attempt,” Surratt said.

On the night Booth and some of Surratt’s other co-conspirators attempted a triple assassination of Lincoln, the vice president and the secretary of state, Surratt said he was in Elmira, N.Y., spying for the Confederacy. However, it was believed initially that Surratt attempted to assassinate the secretary of state. Surratt found himself a wanted man with a $25,000 bounty on his head.

Surratt fled to Canada. “A parish priest, Father Charles Boucher, gave sanctuary to the former Catholic seminarian, and Surratt remained there in hiding from mid-April through the trial, conviction, sentencing, and hanging of his mother. He followed the trial by reading the papers, and through secret correspondence with friends in Washington. In all that time, from the end of April to the first week of July, Surratt made no effort to save his mother from the gallows. Later, he blamed his friends for failing to inform him about the true peril that Mary Surratt faced,” James Swanson wrote in Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.

Mary Surratt was arrested tried and hanged with three other conspirators – George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, and David Herold.

From Canada, Surratt fled to England in September 1865 and then onto Rome, where he joined the Papal Zouaves, the army of the Papal States. On a trip to Egypt in 1866, Surratt was identified as a Lincoln conspirator and arrested.

He was returned to the United States where he stood trial in a civilian court that began on June 10, 1867. After testimony from 170 witnesses, the trial ended two months later with a hung jury. The government eventually dropped the charges and Surratt was freed in the summer of 1868.

“John Surratt was a free man. His mother was dead, he had been exposed as a leader in a plot to kidnap President Lincoln, and he had earned the reputation of a coward who had abandoned his mother to die. But at least he was alive. If he had been captured in 1865 and tried by military tribunal, he certainly would have been convicted, and would likely have been executed,” Swanson wrote.

Surratt sought to turn his experiences into a career on the lecture circuit. He readily admitted a part in the kidnapping but denied involvement in the assassination. When his speaking tour was canceled because of public outrage, Surratt took up teaching. Following a stint as a teacher at a school in Rockville, Md., he used his Catholic connections to secure a position in Emmitsburg.

One source puts Surratt in Emmitsburg as early as 1870, teaching at St. Joseph’s School, which was identified as being held in the old fire hall opposite St. Joseph’s Church.

“He rattled his classes and resorted to physical punishment to maintain discipline. On older boys, some of them twenty or twenty-one, he used his fists. The younger boys John would beat with a paddle after he had stretched them over a special punishment desk which he had designed,” according to a 1938 letter by Frederick Welty.

Sandra Walia with the Surratt House Museum’s James O. Hall Research Center doubts this could have been Surratt because his students nicknamed the man in Welty’s letter “Old Bear” and Surratt would have only been about 27 years old at the time, barely older than the oldest boys he taught.

Another account, which comes directly from Surratt, said he left his teaching position in Rockville in 1873 and took a job as principal at St. Vincent’s Academy in Emmitsburg with 60 students. This was probably St. Vincent’s Hall, which was built in 1857 as a combination school and literary and social center next to St. Joseph’s Church. The Daughters of Charity took over the teaching there in 1878, so the 1873 date for Surratt’s tenure would have been right.

During his time there, Surratt wrote to Father Jolivet who had sheltered him in England when he had fled Canada after Lincoln’s assassination. “My greatest desire, Father Jolivet is to leave this abominable country and go to Europe there to spend the balance of my days in peace and quiet,” Surratt wrote.

At the time Surratt wrote the letter, he had been married 11 months to Mary Victorine Hunter, a second cousin of Francis Scott Key. He was also the father of a newborn son. Shortly after that, the Surratts moved to Baltimore where Surratt took a job at the Baltimore Steam Packet Company.

When he died of pneumonia on April 21, 1916, at age 72, he was the last surviving member of the Lincoln conspiracy and the only one known to have called Emmitsburg home.

John Surratt in his uniform as a Papal Zouave in Rome.

by James Rada, Jr.

The Mount During the Civil War

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Mount St. Mary’s College enjoyed prosperity. The college celebrated its golden anniversary in 1858, and student enrollment was around 200 young men.

“The Mount was thriving, as was most of the South thriving before the Civil War,” Father Michael Roach, said on the DVD Mount St. Mary’s: The Spirit Continues…

This changed with the outbreak of war in 1860. The school lost student and faculty who were sympathetic to the southern cause. The college had to support southern students who stayed behind because funds from their parents could not make it north. The college’s expenses increased while its income fell. In the 1859-1860 school year, Mount St. Mary’s had 173 students, not including the seminarians. Two years later, the enrollment had fallen to 67 students, its lowest number in 50 years.

Mount President John McCaffrey was known for his Confederate sympathies and refused to let the U.S. flag fly. “When Lincoln was shot, Federal orders were issued ‘for every house to display some sign of mourning. An officer visited the college, but there was no sign visible,’ until Dr. McCaffrey produced ‘a small piece of crepe’ on a door which had been opened back so that it would not be visible until closed,” according to the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

McCaffrey may have represented both the prevailing sentiment of the campus and the county. Steve Whitman, associate professor of history at the Mount, said on the DVD. “McCaffrey eventually, and some of his professors, were monitored, observed, by President Lincoln’s loyalty police. These were men appointed all over the country to keep an eye on folks who might be or were suspected of being Confederate sympathizers.”

It should not be surprising that the prevailing sympathies on campus were predominantly southern, since more than half of the students before the war had been from the South.

Though Confederate in his sympathies, McCaffrey was not hostile to the Union. A Pennsylvania officer wrote, “Two miles from Emmitsburg we passed Mount Saint Mary’s and taking advantage of a moment’s halt a party of three or four rode up to the main entrance… We were cordially received by the president and with characteristic hospitality a collation was in preparation for us.”

After the battle of Antietam in September 1862, six of the seven seniors remaining in the school slipped away to visit the battlefield. When they returned three days later, McCaffrey expelled them. However, within a month, he changed his mind and reinstated them.

In the spring of 1863, Union soldiers arrested Mount student Maurice Burn for sedition. Burn, who was from Louisiana, had written his father and expressed his southern sympathies. Burn was jailed when he refused to sign an oath of loyalty to the Union. McCaffrey wrote Lincoln pleading Burn’s case, and the youth was released to McCaffrey’s custody.

That year, the college also held an early graduation in order to get the students away from the area. A troop build-up had been seen, and the faculty believed the students would be safer with their families. The battle turned out to be Gettysburg.

Three students were killed during the war, according to Mount St. Mary’s: The Spirit Continues… One of those young men was Maurice Burn. Those young men were buried at the college cemetery on the mountain.

Picture shows the student body at the Mount in July 1863.

by James Rada, Jr.

More Accomplishments of HARNEY UNIVERSITY

Note: This is the third in a series about the “achievements” of Harney University.

While Harney University achieved legendary status in just about every field of study in the early 1900s, things didn’t start off that way.

The faculty, which included Jacob Turner, Jerry Overholser, Daniel Shorb, Sterling Galt, and Bill Snyder, wasn’t always known for their professorial skills. However, even before Harney University became famous, the group of men who met regularly at the Slagle Hotel in Emmitsburg were showing off their storytelling skills in the pages of the Emmitsburg Chronicle and planting the seeds for the future university.

Uncle Bill’s Column seems to be the forerunner to Harney University and boasts the same mock seriousness that the university would come to use. The column, “Uncle Bill,” answered such curious questions and requests as: “Please give in, in the Aztec language, a portion of Mrs. Roosevelt’s remarks about Mr. Harriman,” and “What noted fish are found in the Hongaloonbink River?”

In a 1909 story in the Emmitsburg Chronicle, Dan Shorb, Bill Snider, Ed Brown, and Nathan Hoke added to the Frederick County legend of the snallygaster monster by recounting their encounter with the beast. The men fought with it for hours, chasing it to Carroll County. It was described as having “ghost-like wings,” bristles that stuck from its snout, and “its hide was the color of the down side of a catfish.” It could also breathe fire.

“Bill Snider says it sounded for all the world like Flat Run at high tide where the waters rush over the rocks at Whitmore’s Wharf, only more so,” the Chronicle reported. “The air was charged with some peculiar smell, rather loud too for it wakened the man in the signal tower at Dry Bridge.”

During 1910, a number of articles talked about the airship that Dan Shorb built. It was 130 feet long and 16 feet wide and carried “two auto-magneto-bi-sparking generators, a cogless centripedal concussion plane and three wireless rudders,” according to the Chronicle. It had an 87-horsepower engine, fueled with horse mint oil. Its maiden voyage was to include dignitaries who would accompany the inventors “on this, the initial, and most likely, the final trip,” according to the Chronicle.

While that flight apparently went smoothly, one that followed two months later did not. Shorb admitted there was an explosion during the flight. “He had just fed his airship and put it in his stable and was about to take the gears from his clothes’ horse when a snow burst full of robins (some of which escaped to Leitersburg) collided with the gyroscope and ignited the spaker in his silo which exploded with terrific force, and as the wind blowing in an easterly direction, it struck the fodder and carried the shock to Westminster by way of Thurmont,” according to the Chronicle.

By 1912, Shorb was beginning to be called a doctor in the newspaper, a hint at what was to come. In May, the Chronicle ran a short piece about him proclaiming that he would not run for the presidential nomination of either political party.

The following piece ran in the Chronicle in September 1912. Although it doesn’t mention any of the typical members of the Harney University faculty, it definitely has the feel of one of their stories.

“After many months of careful experimenting and the expenditure of $16,547 in real stage money, Drs. Herr Van Mueller and John E. Davidson have perfected a flying apparatus, called by them the Gyro Scutoplane. It is propelled by an eight-cylinder hexagonal engine using monkey feathers for fuel and is capable of attaining a speed of 85.6 miles a minute. A diagram and full particulars of this invention may be seen in the current issue of the Pallbearer’s Review. Decorations have been given to both the scientists and each has received a medal of the Order of the Plush Ladle, conferred by the Sultan of Slush.”

By this time, Harney University had already started being mentioned in the pages of the newspaper, and a legend was born.

The building drawing is from the Emmitsburg Chronicle and supposedly showed the Harney University Science Hall that Dr. John Culp, Professor Emeritus of the Science of Pingpongology, presented the university.

Courtesy Photo of the front of a postcard

More Accomplishments of HARNEY UNIVERSITY

by James Rada, Jr.

During the early part of the 20th century, the highly successful Harney University was known for the many great achievements of its faculty. If it was to be believed, the reputation of the school outshone any other college in the country.

If it was to be believed. Which it wasn’t.

The faculty, as it were, consisted of Jacob Turner, Jerry Overholser, Daniel Shorb, and Bill Snyder, who met regularly at the Slagle Hotel in Emmitsburg. The staff would have also had to include Sterling Galt, editor of the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

The adventures of the Harney University faculty wasn’t an attempt to fool readers of the newspaper. The stories were too outrageous to be believed. It was a way to inject humor into the news and bring a smile to faces of readers.

Here are some of the fantastical achievements of Harney University and its faculty.

January 24, 1913: The Khedive of Egypt sent Dr. Dan Shorb a wireless message that consisted of four lines of gibberish made up of letters (some upside down) mixed with numbers (including fractions) and a few odd characters. Translated, the message was supposedly talking about how the parcel post system in Egypt was so successful and required so many camels that the manufacturing of camel-hair brushes, camel hair shawls, and “camelopards” had ceased.

July 25, 1913: Harney University now had a War College, which the federal government was consulting over how to handle tensions with Mexico. The recommendation of the War College was that seven airplanes loaded with molasses be sent to the border, along with troops from Zora, Four Points, and Poplar Ridge, who would be armed with 800,000 rounds of Limburger bullets.

According to the Emmitsburg Chronicle, the plan was simple. “The molasses will be released from the aero-planes, about 100 tons from each machine. This will have the same effect on the enemy as tangle-foot flypaper has on flies. When the opposing forces are rendered incapable of marching or standing erect, Limburger bullets will be discharged at them at a rate of 10,000 a second. Death will be instantaneous due to the smell of the cheese. An important feature of this mode of warfare is that death will be so horrible that no further recruiting will be possible—no one will enlist in the Mexican army.”

August 8, 1913: Jacob Turner was appointed the chair of snakeology at the University of Harney. He wanted to offer a correspondence course in snake charming. “The professor now has 28 snakes of different varieties fully trained and he says he has no difficulty in making them do anything he asked. In the collection, there are two copperheads which he has taught to dance the tango and a black snake taught to walk the slack wire blindfolded,” the Chronicle reported.

September 12, 1913: Twenty-seven men, under the direction of Dr. Jerry Overholser and Dr. Daniel Shorb from the University of Harney, built an airship underwater. “The main feature of the engine, which is of the complex eccentric type, is the simplicity of the duplicidentate. The meta centre articulates with the friction real and top burtons on the warping chock. This flutes the suction pipe in such a manner as to lap joint the back gear. The lubricator, connecting with a center balance spring, throws the pinch cock under the carburetor, at the same time opening the muffler cutout near the nephoscope. This feeds the silo juice through the bunghole and sparks the fifth wheel near the gunwale. The cloud anchor, which is regulated by a heliograph, is so adjusted on the pinochle deck that it releases automatically from the whiffletree, making it possible to stop and remain stationary by putting on the reverse clutch while going at the rate of 184 knots a second.”

They planned to take the ship on a test flight from the Popular Ridge standpipe to the Eiffel Tower, stopping for lunch at the Sandwich Islands.

September 27, 1913: Dr. John Glass of Harney University came out against the Federal Reserve issuing smaller bank notes. Instead, he had a formula using rubber and yeast that he wanted currency printed on. He told the Emmitsburg Chronicle, “Expandable bills will allow local residents to stretch their dollars further, allowing more to be bought with each bill.”

October 15, 1915: James Arnold and Howard Harbaugh went hunting with Shorb and brought back a Gnukokukua Hen, three Aviskovis Hawks, and a Night Heron, which were supposedly displayed in the Chronicle’s front window.

October 8, 1915: Daniel Shorb of the “Board of Strategy, of Harney University” invented a rapid-fire noodle soup gun for the French Government. The gun fired noodles to entangle the legs of enemies and feed them when they were your prisoner. The French ordered five million of them and awarded Shorb the Order of the Imperial Soup Ladle and granted him a lifetime pension of 450,000 francs annually. He was also working on a macaroni tent that would both feed and shelter prisoners.

December 12, 1918: George Sanders sued the Emmitsburg Motor Car Company because the company sold a car to Rebecca Shorb, who then proceeded to get into an accident with Sander’s horse-drawn wagon. The Chronicle reported, “Mr. Sanders, citing evidence recently published by the University of Harney that women’s brains did not have sufficient capacity to master the art of driving, feels that the Emmitsburg Motor Car Company should not have sold Miss Shorb the car. ‘By selling a car to a woman,’ Mr. Sanders said, ‘they have endangered all hard working men who have to use the roads to make a living, and thus are liable for any damage they produce. Women should stick to their proper roles—namely cooking, cleaning and taking care of youngins, and leave complex tasks that require thinking to men.’”

The building drawing is from the Emmitsburg Chronicle and supposedly showed the Harney University Science Hall that Dr. John Culp, Professor Emeritus of the Science of Pingpongology, presented the university.


by James Rada, Jr.

Note: This is the first in a series about the “achievements” of Harney University.

Emmitsburg is known for being the home of Mount St. Mary’s University, but for a while, another nearby university regularly made the newspaper with stories of great innovations in science and technology that its learned professors developed.

That university? The esteemed Harney University.

Never heard of it? That’s not surprising since despite all of the achievements credited to its faculty in the Emmitsburg Chronicle, the university didn’t exist…at least not as an educational institution.

A group of residents met regularly at the Hotel Slagle and came up with unusual stories that the newspaper published.

The faculty, as it were, consisted of Jacob Turner, Jerry Overholser, Daniel Shorb, and Bill Snyder, who met regularly at the Slagle Hotel in Emmitsburg. The staff would have also had to include Sterling Galt, editor of the Emmitsburg Chronicle. Whether the group came up with the goings-on at the university or it was something Galt did alone is not known.

What is known is that the stories provided readers of the Chronicle a lot of smiles and laughs in the early 1900s.

Here are some of the fantastical achievements of Harney University and its faculty.

October 7, 1910: The Harney University football team won a game against a team from Pigs Misery. The game was played on Musk Rat Field, which was a gift to the university from Dan Shorb. Shorb was listed as a former professor of “Propaeduetics and a John Glass lecturer on the Theory of Aviation.” The newspaper reported that 11,000 people attended the game and seven different bands played between quarters. One player named Murky Suds made a daring play. “This professional in a daring dash of 90 years with eighteen men on his neck, dislocated the goal post and tore away the gunwale and three hatchways on the port side of his physiognomy,” according to the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

March 15, 1912: Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole. The Emmitsburg Chronicle disputed his claim, saying that Dr. John Glass and Dr. Bill Snyder of Harney University had found the pole two years earlier at 3 a.m., “brought it back to Harney, and preserved it in alcohol.” The paper went on to further note, “Dr. Glass is not even willing to concede that Amundsen got to the farthest point south unless he is able to produce the lawn mower which Dr. Snider left on the front lawn under the cherry tree near the house which they lived while in those southern parts.”

November 15, 1912: Dr. Dan Shorb received the election returns using an intricate machine so that “long before the telegraph instruments of the county had ticked the news, Prof. Bushman, who had his airship anchored on the prairie dog house nearby, was on his way to Emmitsburg with bushel baskets filled with the correct information,” according to the Chronicle. He also claimed not to need his wireless device to get the returns from Thurmont, Harney, and Jimtown. His eyesight was so good, “He simply looked over the shoulders of the clerks, from his private office at Pigs Misery, and wrote down the results. Some slight difficulty was experienced in reading the tally sheet at Poplar Ridge, owing, the doctor said, to a bad wick in one of the lamps at that place,” the Chronicle reported.

November 29, 1912: President Woodrow Wilson was planning on appointing Dr. John Glass and Professor Dan Shorb of Harney University to help revise the tariff code on codfish balls. “Clarence Buckingham, brother of the Duke of Buckingham, will also revise the tariff on dill pickles. In an unrelated note, Col. Stonebottle, one of the most prominent citizens of Emmitsburg, painted his overalls on Saturday,” the Chronicle reported.

December 13, 1912: The Harney University faculty held a pinochle tournament, competing for a trophy. It had been a dill pickle in 1911. “The trophy this year will be a loving cup filled with spinach, presented for this event by the Young Lady Society for the Prevention of the Use of the Denatured Alcohol and Strawberry Shortcake,” according to the Chronicle.

The Slagle Hotel where the esteemed faculty of Harney University met to discuss matters of world-changing importance.

Rocky Ridge Woman Becomes POW

by James Rada, Jr.

Edna E. Miller of Rocky Ridge was a young, idealistic teacher in 1940. The graduate of Western Maryland College (McDaniel College) had taught at schools in Rocky Ridge and Thurmont, but her life changed when she joined the faculty of a school outside of Washington, D.C. and was sent to teach at the Brent School in Baguio in the Philippines. Charles Henry Brent founded the boarding school in 1909 for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.

The Japanese invaded the Philippines the day after they attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and Edna’s family and friends lost contact with Edna. The Japanese, meanwhile, installed a Council of State to direct civil affairs in the Philippines. They abused the civilians, forcing many young women to act as “comfort women” for the Japanese soldiers.

Edna escaped this fate, but the Japanese imprisoned her. The Brent School closed during the war. It became a Japanese hospital and officers’ residential area. The Japanese Army sent the Brent School faculty and staff to a concentration camp called Camp Holmes in La Trinidad, according to the Brent International School website.

Back in the United States, “An attempt was made to learn of her whereabouts through the International Red Cross, but without success. She had been in the Philippines about three and a half years,” the Frederick Post reported in 1945.

Edna later told the press, “In all that time I received one 25-word message from my family and one package from the Red Cross.”

That 47-pound package came near Christmas 1943. “You should have seen the children scamper out on the green in broad daylight dressed in pajamas and shoes, the first they had had for many a long shoeless month. And Bagnio (sic) is not a place to be without warm clothing with its 200-inch rainfall and its coolness-70 degrees or less,” Edna said.

More importantly, the packages contained food and medicine that helped keep the prisoners alive in 1944, when their daily food allotment from the Japanese was 800 grams of moldy rice or corn.

“Conditions were so bad in camp with no medicine to stem the diarrhea, dysentery, anemia and malnutrition that even the doctors and nurses were sick. What those vitamins and sulfa drugs did for us, only the thousands of suffering internees could tell you,” Edna said.

The prisoners used the food and medicine they had received in their Red Cross packages sparingly since no one knew if they would receive another package.

Edna said the women shed tears over receiving bobby pins and powder, things they considered luxuries at the time. They were having to hammer out homemade pins from old iron on a forge or use bamboo pins.

Although the Millers hadn’t heard from their daughter in years, they prayed she was still alive.

The tide of the war began turning. American forces began retaking the Philippines in late 1944. Most of the Japanese in the Philippines surrendered on February 23, 1945. However, Gen. Douglas MacArthur continued routing the Japanese from other parts of the country until it was declared free of the Japanese on July 4, 1945.

In the meantime, the War Department announced on February 21, 1945, that Edna was one of the American prisoners freed as the American forces took Luzon. The Frederick Post encouraged friends and family to write to her, care of the Red Cross, but they cautioned people to mail more than one letter because getting mail to and from the islands still took weeks and could be unreliable.         

“The night that we were liberated we had to leave our Bilibid prison to escape the fire surrounding it, and we were asked to leave all, save a handbag and we would come back for our other things,” Edna said.

It was during this time the Red Cross impressed Edna. The volunteers stepped in to help take care of the freed prisoners. They had even arranged for them to cable their families and let them know they were safe.

Edna was so impressed that she didn’t return immediately to the United States. She stayed to volunteer with the Red Cross and help others.

According to information the United States released years after the war, U.S. casualties in the Philippines were 10,380 dead and 36,550 wounded; Japanese dead were 255,795. Filipino deaths during the occupation was estimated to be 527,000 (27,000 military dead, 141,000 massacred, 22,500 forced labor deaths and 336,500 deaths due to war-related famine).

Prisoners liberated from a prison camp in Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands, line up for their first square meal in over three years of Japanese imprisonment.

Courtesy Photos

T h e Y e a r i s…1 9 02

by James Rada, Jr.

Courtesy Photo of Gravemarker

The Story of the Barefoot Wanderer

Amanda Wisensale handed the lunch pail to her daughter, Ellen, and sent her off to deliver the lunch to William Wisensale. Amanda let her daughter know not to dawdle. Although Ellen was 14 years old, she had mental problems, so Amanda had to be specific with her.

Ellen took her responsibility seriously and set off to the limestone quarry along the Hanover Turnpike, where her father worked. It was June 1902, and Ellen walked barefoot from the family home near Hanover to the quarry along the dirt roads in the area.

William was hauling a load of limestone in a wagon when his daughter reached the quarry. Missing him, but knowing he would want his lunch, the girl followed where she thought the wagon had gone along the turnpike.

As the time grew later, Amanda realized her daughter hadn’t returned home. Assuming Ellen had gotten distracted and was playing, Amanda found one of her other children and sent him to the quarry to fetch his sister and make sure William had his lunch.

No one at the quarry had seen Ellen, and the boy hadn’t seen her on his way there. When William heard this, he stopped work for the day. He returned home to talk with his wife and then started searching for his daughter.

“He followed her to Littlestown, and from there, two miles out the Taneytown road, where all trace of her was lost. A number of people noticed her as she went through Westminster,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, Ellen kept walking. “The road was rough and she was barefooted, and the sharp gravel cut her feet,” the Washington Post reported. “Still, she had set out to find her father, and she did not wish him to go hungry a minute longer than necessary; so, she trudged along, looking to the right and left, but seeing nothing of him.”

Ellen reached Westminster around 9:00 p.m. Joseph U. Smith saw the young girl walk past his office. He walked outside to see why the youngster was out so late. “She appeared bewildered and could not tell who she was or where she was going,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported.

He took her into his office and started gently questioning her. Smith noticed Ellen was carrying a basket full of food. He asked her why she hadn’t eaten it.

“This is papa’s dinner,” she answered.

He eventually learned she was from Hanover and what her father’s name was. Smith called Hanover and was connected with William Wisensale.

“How the child managed to get from the Taneytown road to the Littlestown turnpike is a mystery,” the Chronicle reported. “She trudged the whole distance without shoes, and the bottom of her feet were full of blisters.”

When William reached Westminster, 18 miles away from Littlestown, he thanked Smith profusely. He explained that his daughter had been “suffering mentally for several years,” the Chronicle reported.

Because of Ellen’s diminished capacity, she could never live on her own. She lived with her parents until they grew too old to care for her. She was admitted to the Adams County Home in 1917 and remained there for another 11 years.

She died there on October 20, 1928. The cause of her death was listed as dropsy, an old term for edema. This is a swelling of soft tissue because of water accumulation. Although any soft tissue could swell, it’s likely she died from congestive heart failure brought on by the edema.

Her funeral was held in one of her brothers’ homes in Hanover, and she was interred with her parents at Christ Church Cemetery near Littlestown.

T h e Y e a r i s…1 9 2 8

by James Rada, Jr.

She Wa s the F i r s t L ine in Fire Defense

Photo Courtesy of

Alice Willard knew all about struggling to get by. The Foxville resident was a 30-year-old single mother of an 11-year-old son, living in a rural area. Even though she had family who could help watch her son, Atley, Alice still needed to earn a living to support the both of them.

In April 1928, she became the only female “lookout” in Maryland. C. Cyril Klein, the district forester for Western Maryland, appointed her the lookout for the Foxville fire tower. A lifelong resident of Foxville who lived in a house her father built the year she was born, Alice knew the area she was to watch over.

“She went on duty Wednesday [April 4] and for the next eight weeks, until about June 1, she will occupy a small room at the top of a 60-foot steel tower in the heart of the Catoctin mountains, about 12 hours a day, on the lookout for mountain fires,” the Frederick Post reported.

Her pay for this job was $60 a month (about $925 in today’s dollars). It was a low-paying job, even among common laborers at the time, but it helped pay her bills.

From the fire tower, Alice had a 12-mile view in every direction.

“At the first indication of fire or smoke, she will telephone to the nearest warden, who in turn will investigate the fire. If it is of a threatening nature, a force sufficient to combat the flames will be summoned and efforts will not be relaxed until the blaze is extinguished,” the Frederick Post reported.

She had experience with the job. She had substituted when her brother needed time off from the job years earlier.

“While she will be some distance from the nearest house, Mr. Klein said she is courageous and he added that she knows how to shoot,” the newspaper reported.

Not only was Alice the only female lookout in Maryland at the time, she was the first woman put in charge of a fire tower in the state. Women had done the work before, but only as a substitute or an assistant.

She said of her experience years later in a Frederick News Post article, “Indeed there were lots of fires! And no lightning ever set those fires. Men set fires! Tossing a cigarette or some other fool thing, that’s what done it. Many’s the fire that was set on purpose, too. Did you know that? I’ll tell you just why! They’d set fires to burn off a clearing in the woods. Then the huckleberries would grow up thick in the burned out places. Huckleberries were a big cash crop here in those days. Many a berry’s been picked and sold for three cents a quart. Every child on the mountain’s picked huckleberries at one time or other.”

In 1930, she was mentioned in an article talking about a rash of fires on Catoctin and South mountains. She had been the first lookout to identify some of them.

She was named an assistant fire warden in 1931.

In 1933, she had a near-fatal encounter with a copperhead that the Hagerstown Morning Herald said she handled with “remarkable coolness and bravery.” She was burning brush while on the job when the snake bit her above the ankle. “She cut open the wound and applied a tourniquet to stop the circulation of blood, then walked to a neighbor’s house, where she secured medical attention.”

She left her job with the State of Maryland in 1934.

The Frederick News noted in 1971 that Alice was still driving a tractor, chopping wood, farming, feeding livestock, keeping house, quilting, sewing clothes, baking, and canning at age 76.

She was also living alone. She had never married, and her son had died from cancer in 1962 at 45 years of age.

“She values her privacy, resents any encroachment upon her land or her rights, and is the personification of the attitudes and traditions of the mountain folk for over two centuries,” Ann Burnside Love wrote for the Frederick News.

Alice died in 1993, a week before her 98th birthday. She is buried in the Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church cemetery.

The Year is…1925

The Summer Blue Ridge Summit Burned

Blue Ridge Summit was not a heavily populated area in 1925. Only a few hundred people lived there year-round, but that summer the small community suffered three fires that caused a lot of damage to the town.

On June 16, the engine house of the Monterey Hotel caught fire and burned to the ground. The loss was put at $1,000 (roughly $13,500 in 2016 dollars).

Three days later, the Chambersburg, Greencastle and Waynesboro Trolley station caught on fire. Luckily, there weren’t any people there. Trolleys had been slowly falling into disuse as the popularity of cars grew. The Chambersburg, Greencastle and Waynesboro Trolley would end its service in 1928.

“The fire at Highfield Tuesday completely destroyed the confectionary store, pool room, and barber shop owned by John Flautt, adjoining the station,” the Hagerstown Morning Herald reported.

The fire department responded as quickly as it could and Rev. Charles Niles, rector of the Episcopal Church drove the fire truck. The problem was notifying enough people that help was needed to fight the fire. The Gettysburg Times called the alert system inadequate. “The old fire rings, huge iron circles with iron hammers, which were placed at various points on the mountain years ago, are now overgrown with weeds and brush and are practically useless for putting in fire calls,” the newspaper reported.

The blaze was out of control by the time the firemen arrived and they concentrated on keeping the fire from spreading to nearby homes and businesses.

The trolley station suffered $1,000 in damage, while Flautt had $2,500 in damage. It also caused some of the few businesses in the town to be closed for a time.

Both of these fires were reported as being suspicious in origin.

Then in the afternoon of July 13, the shout of fire went up in one of the oldest boarding houses on the mountain, according to The Gettysburg Times. The boarders quickly left except for Bertha Barr who was ill and couldn’t leave her bed.

The fire department responded as quickly as they could to the scene.

“Fighting their way through stifling smoke and flames to the third story, J. M. Detrow and Dr. H. C. Bridges, of Blue Ridge Summit, yesterday afternoon rescued Miss Bertha Barr, of Baltimore, from a fire which destroyed the boarding house owned by Mrs. Mae Truitt, for a time threatened the heart of the fashionable Blue Ridge Summit summer colony, and fought by a bucket brigade including girls summering at the resort,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

The entire building burned to the ground in half an hour. Sparks from the fire set a nearby vacation lodge on fire and threatened to catch other buildings on fire, but the Waynesboro Fire Department arrived on scene and helped the Blue Ridge Summit firefighters get the fire under control.

The boarding house had recently undergone a number of repairs and was valued at $18,000 (roughly $244,000 in 2016 dollars). The loss was only partially covered by insurance, and Truitt had a loss of $12,000. The fire was believed to have been caused by a defective flue in the chimney by the roof.

If there was a silver lining to all of the fires that summer, it is that enough money was raised to purchase a new siren for the Blue Ridge Summit Fire Department.

“It was bought after several destructive fires had threatened the entire mountain settlement because of an inadequate alarm system,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

The new electric alarm weighed 550 pounds and was installed on a steel tower in the plaza at Blue Ridge Summit in mid-August.

The Monterey Inn suffered a major fire in 1925, one of three large fires that summer in Blue Ridge Summit.

The Year is…1879

A Pleasant Fall Ride Through Emmitsburg

by James Rada, Jr.

In early October 1879, Samuel Motter, publisher of the Emmitsburg Chronicle, took a ride around Emmitsburg with a friend.

“All the world knows that the drives, calculated to afford pleasure and delight, are very numerous around Emmitsburg, and the heart which is not alive to the beauty of the scenery and the unexampled loveliness everywhere around must be wanting in refined sensibilities,” Motter wrote in the newspaper.

It was a lovely day for a ride. Although it was October, it was 80 degrees out. He wrote, “You who used to sit by glowing stoves, at this time of year, with buttoned-up coats and with sensible forebodings of winter’s approach, think ye of us, riding in an open buggy, with straw hats, and the high temperature we have mentioned!”

They rode down the old “Dutch Lane” to Poplar Ridge Road. The road at the time was old, but it had been widened, leveled, and was kept in excellent condition. His only complaint was that the road had some steep hills. It started at Carlisle Street (North Seton Ave.) continuing from a broad alley. It went uphill to a ridge where the last of a stand of poplar trees stood. This last tree was “lonely and grand in its position, the last of the giant tribe which gave the name ‘Poplar Ridge’ to those heights, and which from its well-defined proportions, its symmetrical top and proud form, being visible over all the plain for miles to the southward, a lady of taste called ‘Stonewall Jackson.’”

Silver Run and the old brick schoolhouse could be seen from the ridge. Looking toward Emmitsburg, the first thing Motter saw was the old Elias Lutheran Church “with its whitened sepulchers glinting in the sun-light, where rest the remains of so much worth and goodness and such wealth of tender associations as cling to the memories of those who once gave direction and life and influence to the living forces of the neighborhood.”

To the right of the church, he saw another church, the Church of the Incarnation (Reformed) “with its golden cross at the top, about 100 feet high erected in the year 1868, on the lot once known as John Nickum’s.”

He also noted how the relatively new Presbyterian Church towered above its surroundings.

Finally, he wrote, “And there to the east and southward is St. Joseph’s Church (Roman Catholic) with its massive walls and solid spire. Here too the cemetery shows forth the white light reflected from the monuments that commemorate, much of the worth which gave active exercise to itself in the earlier as well as the latter history of Emmitsburg.”

As he moved south, he enjoyed the view, writing, “Beautifully the prospect opens, the autumnal hues everywhere meet the eye, here are the sumach shrubs, there a lone gum tree, yonder a clump of trees, farther off a whole grove appears, end erewhile the eyes rests upon the pile of ‘St. Joseph’s House,’ the groves among—ornamenting the plain, and whose metal roofs and radiant crosses dart forth scintillations of light athwart the valley.”

Off to the southwest, he could see Mount St. Mary’s College, although it was almost obscured among the autumn foliage. Motter described it as “the venerable old church perched upon the hillside and sending forth its reflected light to the far distant horizon.”

Motter and his friend crossed the Taneytown Road bridge over Flat Run. He noted that when the bridge was being built, that water level was so flat that not enough water could be drawn to mix mortar for the bridge. It had to be hauled from another location.

He also mentions a haunted house in Emmitsburg. It was the home of a man named Patrick Savage, who may have lived north of town, along the Gettysburg Road. Motter wrote that Savage was dead, but his “ghost had been said to appear there since his death, not seldom.”

All in all, it was a pleasant ride for Motter and his friend, and it gives readers a look at Emmitsburg as it was 141 years ago.

Picture of Emmitsburg Courtesy of

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

The Year is…1853

by James Rada, Jr.

Cholera Kills Dozens in Emmitsburg

In July 1853, Emmitsburg residents started getting sick and dying. According to James Helman’s History of Emmitsburg, the first victim was an African American, named Isaac Norris.

Helman wrote, “…he was taken early in the night in a stable and died there; black men attended him, not knowing the disease; whether the doctor did or not, I am not prepared to say. Suffice it to say, he died during the night and was buried in Dr. Patterson’s field.”

Five people died during the first week as officials tried to determine the cause. They realized it was cholera, an intestinal infection. The most common symptom is a lot of watery diarrhea that lasts for days. The diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. These symptoms can result in sunken eyes, cold skin, a wrinkling of the hands and feet, and bluish skin.

The cause of cholera is often unsafe water or food that has been contaminated by the bacteria. Poor sanitation and insufficient clean drinking water often led to cholera outbreaks in the 1800s.

The Gettysburg Compiler reported that 45 people in town and the surrounding area died. Victims included Dr. A. Taney and his wife; Joseph Moritz; Mrs. Agnew, a resident in the Eagle hotel; Rev. Thomas McCaffery; George Mentzer; and Samuel Morrison, according to Helman.

Rev. Thomas McCaffrey was a professor at Mount St. Mary’s College. The Story of the Mountain notes “…when the cholera broke out, he went to visit some of his former parishioners and townsmen who were taken down. He caught the disorder and died at the College, a martyr of charity, the glory of the Mountain village. Strange to say, his death was the only one on this side of Tom’s Creek.”

Besides the dying, many people were left sick and in a weak condition.

Some people tried to downplay the severity of the problem. A resident wrote a letter to the Adams County Sentinel saying, “Emmitsburg and the country around are as healthy as they ever were, fully as healthy as any other place in the Union.” The writer also tried to find other explanations of why people were dying, noting that George Mentzer had a stroke and Agnes Brown died of dropsy.

As the outbreak stretched into August, it became obvious that Emmitsburg had a problem.

Those who weren’t sick tried their best to help those who were sick. The Emmitsburg Chronicle noted in a 1951 article that the Rev. G. W. Aughinbaugh of the Reformed Church “evinced no small degree of courage and self-sacrifice in ministering to the suffering during its entire course.”

The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer reported on August 23, “A physician recently returned from Emmitsburg states that during the prevalence of the Cholera at that place, of which nearly forty persons have perished, but which is now abating, the water of several wells was found to be deleteriously affected, and also that a number of lower animals, reptiles, etc, have been found dead.”

“It continued dry the entire summer and very hot until the middle of September, when a very severe thunderstorm passed this way, drenching the earth and washing the surface as it had not been for many months. After this rain, no new cases occurred,” Helman wrote.

Helman notes the problem was in the well water and that once the town started relying on mountain water, such problems were overcome.

In early September, the Adams County Sentinel reported, “There have been no cases of cholera here for two weeks. Our town is very healthy at present, and most all of those who had left have returned. There were about forty-five deaths in all—town and country—from the commencement of the disease till the decline.”

The Chronicle noted in 1911 that the cholera epidemic was “instrumental in reducing our population from 700 to 350.” It was a drop in population that the town didn’t recover from until the early 1880s, according to U.S. Census data.

Cholera Bacteria Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Year is…1899

A Spurned Love Affair Turns Deadly

by James Rada, Jr.

On April 22, 1899, 16-year-old Orpha Harshman of Wolfsville started off on a two-mile walk to her sister’s house. She took a shortcut across a field that would cut the journey in half.

Her stepbrother, Edward Morgan, 25, watched and followed. He caught up to her on a mountain ridge out of sight of any houses.

Although there were no witnesses to what happened next, the Emmitsburg Chronicle presented this version of events:

“As she arrived at the rocks, Morgan sprang out and called upon her to offer up her last prayer, as her time had come. He, at the same time, thrust a revolver in her face. She begged him to spare her life, but to no purpose. It is said that, finding her pleadings were fruitless, she summoned all her courage and attempted to strike the weapon from his hand, when he quickly placed it to her temple and fired, the bullet entering the right side of the head and passing out on the left. In attempting to ward off the weapon, the sleeve of her dress took fire from the powder and was burned off, as well as a portion of the dress over her bosom, under which her arm lay where she fell. Her arm was badly burned, and her bosom seared from the fire.

“Feeling satisfied he had killed her, Morgan then placed the revolver to his own head and attempted to send a bullet into his brain, but the leaden missile struck the right cheekbone, and glancing came out of his eye. He then fired a bullet into his left leg. Finding these two ineffectual, he placed the barrel of the revolver against his abdomen and emptied the two remaining chambers into his bowels and fell over by the side of his innocent victim.”

Peter Baer lived nearby. He heard the pistol shots and a scream. More shots, in quick succession, followed a few minutes later, but Baer paid them no mind, according to the Catoctin Clarion.

Charles Kline was driving his mother home in a buggy when he heard the shots. He drove toward the shots and found Morgan’s and Harshman’s bodies lying in pools of blood. The sight upset Kline so much that he didn’t recognize the bodies. He thought they were tramps.

Kline drove his buggy to Scott Martin’s house and told Martin to get a doctor. Kline then drove back to the bodies with some other people who were at Martin’s house.

They examined the bodies, and surprisingly, found them both alive. However, Harshman died a short time later. Morgan’s body was loaded onto a wagon and taken to his home. The doctor could do nothing, and Morgan died five hours later.

The story soon came out that Morgan had been obsessed with his stepsister (Morgan’s father married Harshman’s mother).

“The family had been living happily and contented until about six months ago, when Mrs. Morgan observed her husband’s son was paying what she considered too much attention to her daughter,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported. “The more she resisted, the stronger became his attachment for her.”

Morgan became so desperate that he asked Harshman to elope with him. She refused him and said if he didn’t leave her alone, she would leave home.

“Seeing she was determined in her purpose, he told her that unless she married him, she would never live to be the bride of another,” according to the Chronicle.

Instead, Morgan’s father told him he needed to move out. Morgan did, but he stayed in a building near his family home. He also spent a lot of time in Hagerstown getting drunk, and a week before the murder-suicide, he purchased the pistol he would use to kill Harshman and himself.

Both Harshman and Morgan were buried in separate cemeteries. Harshman was buried in the Grossnickle Dunkard Church cemetery and Morgan in the Wolfsville Reformed Church cemetery.

Even in death, Morgan still could not be near Harshman.

The Year is…1877

The Archbishop Who Was Buried in Emmitsburg

by James Rada, Jr.

To those who knew Archbishop of Baltimore James Roosevelt Bayley, it didn’t come as a great surprise when he died on October 3. He had been in ill health for months. It was said he died from liver and kidney problems.

What was a surprise is where the current Archbishop of Baltimore and former Archbishop of Newark, Del., chose to be buried. 

“By request of his Grace, the most Rev. Archbishop of Baltimore, James Roosevelt Bayley, the Sisters of Charity of St. Josephs convent had prepared in the vault in the memorial Chapel erected over the remains of Mother Seton (sic) the Foundress of the order in the United States, a final resting place for all that was mortal of the distinguished divine,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

Bayley wanted to be buried with Elizabeth Ann Seton because she was his aunt. His father, Dr. Richard Bayley, was Seton’s brother.

Bayley had originally been ordained a minister in the Episcopal Church and preached in Harlem and Hagerstown. However, like his aunt, Bayley converted to Catholicism. He was baptized in Rome and trained for the priesthood in Paris before being ordained in New York on March 2, 1842. Upon doing so, he gave up his family fortune because his maternal grandfather removed him from his will.

He taught at St. John’s College in Fordham, New Jersey, and served as the college president from 1845-1846. From 1846-1853, he worked as a secretary for Archbishop John Hughes, who had ordained him a priest.

On October 30, 1853, he became the first bishop of Newark, New Jersey, which “under his administration became one of the most prosperous in the United States,” according to the Richmond Daily Dispatch. The diocese comprised all of New Jersey. He had more than 40,000 Catholics, mainly of Irish and German extraction, with only 25 priests to minister to them. He founded Seton Hall College in Madison, New Jersey, as well as other schools, convents, and churches.

He became the Archbishop of Baltimore on July 31, 1872.

After a funeral Mass in Baltimore on October 9, Bayley’s casket was loaded onto a Western Maryland Railroad train at 2:00 p.m., and then onto the Emmitsburg Railroad train in Rocky Ridge. It arrived at the station in front of St. Joseph’s College at 4:20 p.m.

“Outside the depot building on the broad avenue leading to the institution, the Sisters of Charity and pupils of the school formed in line, on the south pavement. Opposite on the north pavement were the Professors and students of Mt. St. Mary’s,” the Clarion reported.

A seminarian with the cross and censer led the funeral procession from the train, which included friends, family, and Cardinal John McCloskey.

“The scene was one never to be forgotten, the Revs., Clergy in vestments of their several orders, the Seminarians with black cassocks and white surplices, with Sisters of Charity in their flowing white cornets, the pupils of St. Joseph’s in long white veils, the beautiful cemetery of the Sisters radient (sic) with the bloom of autumn flowers, the soft misty haze of an October sunset combined to make a picture rarely to be seen,” according to the Clarion.

They entered the cemetery and proceeded to the chapel behind the old White House, where Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton had lived more than a half century ago. The chapel was in a grove surrounded by oak trees.

“As you enter the chapel to the right of the altar, a Tablet with the proper inscription indicates the spot where all that is mortal life of the venerated Foundress. To the left, another table to mark the spot of her illustrious nephew,” the newspaper reported.

Cardinal McCloskey pronounced the last absolution, and the coffin was lowered into the ground.

Afterward, the crowd moved to the St. Joseph’s exhibition hall for a reception until the train whistle blew at 6:00 p.m. The group from Baltimore then headed back to the station to be aboard the train by the time it left for Baltimore at 6:30 p.m. Archbishop of Baltimore James Roosevelt Bayley

The Year is…1918

by James Rada, Jr.

The Pandemic to End All Pandemics — Part 3

Spanish Flu rampaged through Frederick County and the world in the fall of 1918. During October 1918, the State of Maryland shut down public venues and businesses, and those places that could still open had trouble finding healthy workers.

On October 11, the Frederick Post reported that 50 people in the county had died from the flu; however, this seems too low just looking at the daily numbers it was reporting. The newspaper noted on October 12, “There are homes in this city where entire families are ill and bed-ridden with influenza and nobody to help care for them.”

County Health Officer T. C. Routson and the Red Cross called on student nurses to help care for the sick. They only had mixed success because many young women were afraid to help. Afterall, they didn’t want to catch the flu themselves.

On October 14, the Frederick Post tried a good news, bad news thing. New cases of the flu had “slumped.” Yea! However, more people who already had the flu were dying.

By October 17, Mount St. Mary’s College alone had 160 students and faculty sick with the flu, after first appearing on campus the previous week. Two Daughters of Charity were on the campus trying to help, but it wasn’t enough. The situation at the college was so serious that Monsignor Bradley, president of the college, asked Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower at Camp Colt in Gettysburg for medical assistance. The camp was experiencing its own problems with the flu, but Eisenhower did send two doctors to help. The doctors placed the college under military quarantine, and no one was allowed off the grounds.

The Mountaineer noted, “In consequence of this quarantine, all students who were free from any sign of the disease were sent to their homes early in December and did not return until January was well advanced.”

With only eight deaths on the 17th, the Frederick Post declared that the flu was “waning.” It noted in the article that the death rate was lower, but you don’t see the higher death rates in the paper except for the one instance. The paper reported on October 18, “With only four deaths yesterday, the average death rate per day, which is usually about nine or ten, has been cut down less than half.”

A week later, the newspaper reported that there had only been two flu deaths in the county the previous day. “This is the smallest number of victims for a single day since the influenza became an epidemic.” Sadly, the doctor in charge of the main Red Cross hospital had fallen victim to the flu and died.

The Perfect Storm

Many communities were already shorthanded medically because doctors had been drafted to serve in WWI. Then, along came the flu, which intensified by the shortage, making many of the remaining doctors sick at a time when the workload was drastically increasing. The remaining doctors found themselves working longer hours with contagious people. This would wear them down and make them susceptible to flu and the process would repeat.

One example of this can be seen with Dr. Brown and Dr. Kuhlman in Jefferson. They had 30 patients sick with the flu, but they were sick themselves and bedridden. Dr. Brown tried to help his patients over the phone without much luck.

Routson noted that Thurmont’s efforts to fight the flu were hampered because all of the doctors there were sick with the flu. At its peak, Thurmont doctors were seeing 50 to 60 patients a day.

Other professions faced similar problems. An ad in the Frederick Post urged residents not to make unnecessary phone calls. “The influenza epidemic had brought a heavy overload of calls to our wires. It has caused a serious shortage in our operating force. Calls other than those concerning important government work, and those compelled by the epidemic, embarrass the country’s war program and place lives in jeopardy.”

Even newspaper delivery was affected because many of the carriers were sickened with the flu. In Brunswick, rail service was crippled because “about half of the population has the flu,” according to the Frederick Post.

The Third Wave

Halloween passed on October 31 without any celebration.

Maryland listed its closure order on November 4. There was a resurgence of the flu in December in Washington County, but it didn’t kill anyone. Parts of Frederick County also saw a resurgence. The Catoctin Clarion in late December reported, “Influenza, a disease dreaded by a big majority of people, is not disappearing very rapidly at this time, the number of cases increasing rather than decreasing in various communities.”

The third wave of Spanish Flu hit particularly hard in the Fairfield, Pennsylvania, area, as well as the eastern part of the county. One doctor was quoted in the Star and Sentinel as saying, “I have just come from four homes. Three or four people were sick in every one of them. One of the families had both parents and the two children ill. I have another family in which there were six cases.”

Reports said the second outbreak wasn’t as pervasive, but it could still be deadly. This is typical of locations where there was a third outbreak.

Christmas 1918 was somber. A lot of people had lost someone they knew to the flu. Officials urged people to do their shopping early when fewer people would be in the stores. Church Christmas programs were canceled for fear of having too many people in a confined space.

Determining Impact

Maryland conducted a door-to-door survey in March 1919 in Baltimore, Cumberland, Lonaconing, Frederick, Salisbury, and three rural districts in Frederick, Washington, and Wicomico counties. The information is useful, but not conclusive, something that the survey noted when it acknowledged some of the shortfalls.

Although deaths in Maryland didn’t exceed births in 1918, it came close with 32,183 deaths, which was about 10,000 more than five years in either direction. The death rate was 2,257 per 100,000 or about 700 more than the years on either side. No other year from 1902 to the present day comes close.

The U.S. Census also reported that the decade between 1910 and 1920 is the only decade since 1900 that Frederick County lost population, to which Spanish Flu certainly contributed.

Looking at the Maryland survey, newspaper reports, surrounding county information, and county reports, it appears about 350 people or .7 percent of the county’s population died from the flu. However, this might be underestimated because it is known that during the pandemic’s peak, some doctors were so overwhelmed that they couldn’t fill out death certificates until days later, sometimes leaving the cause of death blank.

What is known is that Spanish Flu was the worst disease to hit Frederick County.

Employees needed to wear facemasks while at work during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.

The 39th Regiment on its way to France, marching through Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross made masks for them. 

The Year is…1918

The Pandemic to End All Pandemics — Part 1

by James Rada, Jr.

Although the country essentially quarantined itself state by state this spring, it’s not the first time such a thing has happened. However, when it happened in 1918, 675,000 Americans died in roughly two months. Worldwide, the death toll may have reached 100 million people, or 1 person out of every 20.

The Spanish Flu is the worst disease the world has ever known.

The First Wave

Much like COVID-19, when the Spanish Flu was noticed and when it began are two different times. It first appeared in Spain in February 1918, hence, the name. However, because Spain was a neutral country during World War I, the press was free to report on the flu, although other places were said to be having troubles with the disease. One historian believes he traced the flu back to a Chinese avian flu in 1917.

With this first wave of the Spanish Flu, people got fever, chills, and aches for three days, and then they would be fine. It was 1918’s seasonal flu, and there was nothing to be concerned about except that more people than usual caught the disease. The odd thing about the flu of 1918 is that rather than attacking the very old and very young with weaker immune systems, it also attacked healthy adults in their 30s and 40s.

By May, 8 million Spaniards had or had recovered from the flu. Not only did the flu attack people of all ages, it attacked people at all social levels. King Alfonso XIII of Spain and King George V of England caught it.

The flu spread worldwide, including the United States, when it appeared at Camp Funston in Kansas in March. Because flu was not a reportable disease, it’s uncertain how many cases there were, but 233 soldiers developed pneumonia, and 48 doughboys died. Given the number of soldiers in camp, this was not considered a remarkable mortality rate.

With a virulent flu sidelining so many soldiers across the world, it affected the progress of World War I.

In one instance, the 15th U.S. Cavalry contracted the disease while at sea. They called it the “three-day fever.” Doctors noted that while the disease lasted three days, it often took a week or two for the victim to recover fully.

King George’s Grand Fleet could not put to sea for three weeks in May because 10,313 men were sick. The British Army’s 29th Division had planned to attack La Becque on June 30, but had to put off the operation because too many soldiers were sick with the flu to mount an effective offensive. German General Erich von Ludendorff blamed the flu for his failure to mount offensives.

Then the flu vanished as temperatures warmed.

The Second Wave

Spanish Flu appeared again in late August. This time, it was even more contagious and much more deadly.

One physician wrote that patients rapidly “develop the most vicious type of pneumonia that has ever been seen,” and later when cyanosis appeared in patients “it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate.” Another doctor said the influenza patients “died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their mouth and nose.”

The second wave first appeared in America at Boston. On August 28, 1918, eight sailors reported sick with the flu. The next day, the number was 58, and by day four, it was 81. After another week, the number was 119, and civilians were getting sick. On September 8, three people died.

By this time, it had spread beyond Boston. Flu reports were coming in along the East Coast.

On September 26, 50,000 residents of Massachusetts had the flu; in Boston alone, 133 died that day from flu and 33 from pneumonia.

In Frederick County

Spanish Flu first appeared in Frederick County around the end of September 1918. On September 20, local newspapers warned that an outbreak was coming. At that time, only one known case of the flu was in Maryland. By September 25, hundreds of cases had been reported, mostly soldiers at Camp Meade, although there was no reference to any in Frederick County.

Given the headlines, Spanish Flu struck suddenly, although not unexpected, in Frederick County. “Spanish Flu Sweeps Co.; Fifty Cases,” read a Frederick News headline on September 26. The article notes one thing thwarted researchers trying to get an accurate count, and that is that all flu cases weren’t being reported to the health officer, either because the doctors were too busy working or because influenza wasn’t a disease that they were required to report. By the way, that changed after the Spanish Flu outbreak, at least in Maryland.

The following day, 10 more cases were reported. The first death from flu in the county, George Cronise of Buckeystown, occurred on September 29. He was a young man of 23, but his resistance had been compromised because he had been sick for two weeks with a slight case of typhoid fever.

The Spanish Flu had arrived in Frederick County and was starting to kill.

The St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

The 39th Regiment on its way to France, marching through Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross made masks for them. 

The Year is…1896

An English Dutchess Born at Blue Ridge Summit

by James Rada, Jr.

When Alice Montague and Teakle Wallis Warfield were married in 1895, Alice was already pregnant, and Teakle was dying. He had tuberculosis, which is probably why they traveled to Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1896. Besides being a popular summer resort, it was also believed the fresh air was good for a person’s health.

The Warfields stayed in Square Cottage at the Monterey Inn in Blue Ridge Summit. It was the town’s largest hotel at the time, and featured not only a central building but also wooden cottages.

While staying there, Alice went into labor, and Bessie Wallis Warfield was born on June 19, 1896, seven months after her parents had been married in Baltimore.

Wallis would never remember her father, though. He died on November 15 of that year, before she was even five months old.

Wallis and her mother were taken in by Wallis’ uncle, Solomon Davies Warfield. He was the postmaster of Baltimore and a wealthy bachelor. They lived in a four-story row home on Preston Street.

Alice Warfield married John Freeman Rasin in 1908. Wallis was confirmed in 1910 at the Christ Episcopal Church.

Between 1912 and 1914, Wallis attended the most-expensive school in Maryland: Oldfields School. According to Charles Higham in his book, Mrs. Simpson, this is where she became friends with Renée du Pont, a member of the DuPont Family, and Mary Kirk, whose family founded Kirk Silverware.

Wallis married Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., a Navy aviator, in 1916. The marriage was marked by long periods apart, as Spencer was stationed at different postings. She began traveling in Europe and China during the 1920s. She also began a number of affairs with men she met during her travels.

Higham wrote that an Italian diplomat said of Wallis, “Her conversation was brilliant, and she had the habit of bringing up the right subject of conversation with anyone she came in contact with and entertaining them on that subject.”

Not surprisingly, Wallis and Spencer divorced at the end of 1927. She was already having an affair with a shipping executive named Ernest Aldrich Simpson. He divorced his wife, Dorothea, to marry Wallis on July 21, 1928. They lived in England, which is where Wallis came to meet Edward, Prince of Wales, at different house parties hosted by members of the upper class.

It is believed that Wallis and Prince Edward began an affair in 1934, while his current mistress was traveling abroad. By the end of the year, he was deeply in love with Wallis, and she with him.

However, his family was against the pairing, primarily because of Wallis’ marital history. Things became even more complicated when George V died on January 20, 1936. Edward became Edward VIII, the king of England. He watched the proclamation of his accession with Wallis from a window in St. James’s Palace, which was a break from royal protocol.

Heavier attention now fell on his relationship with Wallis. Most of British royalty seemed against the relationship.

When it became apparent that Edward wanted to marry Wallis, it became a legal issue because the Church of England, which the British monarch headed, did not permit the remarriage of divorced people with living spouses.

To make matters worse, Wallis would be a two-time divorcee, since she had filed for divorce from her second husband on October 27, 1936.

As the English public became more aware of the affair, it became a scandal. Under pressure from the British government, Wallis announced that she was willing to give up her newest love, but Edward was not ready.   

He abdicated the throne on December 10, 1936, and his brother, the Duke of York, became King George VI the next day.

Edward addressed his country via radio and said, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”

He and Wallis stayed apart until her divorce was finalized in May 1937. She took on her maiden name and the couple reunited. They married on June 3, 1937, and the child born at Blue Ridge Summit became the Dutchess of Windsor.

The Year is…1953

by James Rada, Jr.

Being a Good Neighbor on Catoctin Mountain

It’s nice to have good neighbors. It’s even nicer when the neighbor is the President of the United States.

Works Progress Administration laborers built the 22 camp buildings at Camp Greentop between 1934 and 1938. The log buildings were a mix of sleeping cabins, administrative buildings, and lodges. The plan was for Camp Greentop to look the same as Camp Misty Mount, but it was changed during construction so that the League for Crippled Children in Baltimore could use the buildings. According to the National Park Service, the camp was one of the first handicap-accessible facilities in the country.

Although the camp was built to house 150 children, 94 children—53 girls and 41 boys (ages 7 to 15)—were enjoying the outdoors there in June 1953. Most of them suffered from cerebral palsy or polio. On the morning of June 28, their neighbors, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, came to visit.

“Responding to an invitation sent to him by some of the children, the President turned up at the camp about 9:30 a.m.,” the Frederick News reported. “The children had not been told that Eisenhower and the first lady were coming, and they cut loose with squeals of delight as their distinguished guests drove up.”

The first couple had been staying at Camp David, the presidential retreat near Camp Greentop on Catoctin Mountain, and were on their way back to Washington, D.C.

The Eisenhowers spent a half-hour at the camp, meeting and talking with the children. Although the visit surprised the children, they gathered and sung a couple of songs for the Eisenhowers.

“Do you know what the President did this morning?” Mamie asked one little girl. “He got up and made hotcakes.”

One boy said to the President, “Hello, President Eisenhower, I saw you on television.”

Eisenhower chuckled and replied. “You ought to be looking at Gary Cooper on television.”

As the visit wound down, Eisenhower looked around for his wife, who had been led away by a group of children. “I think I’d better go and get my little gal,” he told the group of children near him.

He located Mamie and helped her into the car, but before they left, the President found Fred Volland, the camp business manager. He asked what the children’s favorite dessert was. Then he slipped Volland some money and said with a grin, “Give them the dessert on me.”

From Catoctin Mountain, the couple continued on to Washington, D.C.

Camp Greentop Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Photograph shows a pair of campers at Camp Greentop in 1937.

The Year is … 1871

There’s Gold in Them There Hills!

by James Rada, Jr.

With the arrival of the railroad in Thurmont, you would have thought that attention would have been focused on how it connected Thurmont with the world and the economic development opportunities it brought with it.

“The sound of the steam whistle twice a day in the suburbs of our hitherto quiet little town has awakened everything up to newness of life, and a spirit of ‘go-aheadativeness’ which is quite refreshing,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

However, attentions shift quickly, and the same page of the March newspaper that printed the above quote also had three articles about mining and the possibility of finding gold in Catoctin Mountain.

One article headlined “Gold! Gold! Gold!” talked about the gold strikes in North Carolina, Georgia, and California in the early 1800s. The writer then noted that the place where gold had been found had been in California, “bears a strong resemblance to the Red Land curve beginning at the dividing sections near ‘Spitzenberger’s Tavern,’ and gravitating to near Graceham and Emmittsburg. —The question comes up can it be that gold may be found in this locality?”

The article noted that an old miner had noted this and other markers that indicated to him the high probability of gold in the area.

“Has the country from Fishing creek to Flat Run been thoroughly ‘prospected?’” the Catoctin Clarion asked.

If not gold, then the article suggested that there might be other useful metals, such as iron, copper, zinc, or silver.

A second article supported Maryland’s proposal to do a statewide geological survey, as this would be the best way to determine what mineral resources were in Northern Frederick County.

The editorial praising the Western Maryland Railroad even called for prospecting in the area. “We must develop the bowels of the earth.”

Yet another article talked about prospectors coming to the area. “As the snow disappears from the mountains, our active prospectors for valuable minerals, which are believed to be embedded in the hills and canons of the Catoctin base, will be on the alert in search of the rich treasures.”

Although no gold was found on Catoctin Mountain at this time, a gold mine was eventually worked on the mountain. It was located close to Braddock Heights in the 1930s. Samples from the mine assayed at .22 ounces of gold per ton. With gold trading at $35 per ounce (about $620 per ounce in today’s dollars), this meant that there was about $7.70 (about $136 in today’s dollars) in gold per ton of raw material. Gold was first found in Maryland in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t commercially mined until after the Civil War, according to

“The majority of the gold that has been recovered here is found in the northern and central parts of the state. Unlike much of the gold on the East Coast, which are limited to glacial deposits, there are actually lode gold deposits present here, with several dozen mines that have been worked since the original discovery of gold,” according to the website.

The state’s peak production was in the 1940s, and it was only 1,000 ounces of gold. Besides Frederick, gold in Maryland was found in the Catonsville area, the Liberty area, the Simpsonville area, the Woodbine area, and the Great Falls area.

by James Rada, Jr.

In November of 1973, flocks of blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds, and starlings discovered the 60-acre white pine forest owned by Edgar Emrich of Graceham. Emrich had no trouble sharing his trees with the birds.

There were thousands of trees that he had originally planned to sell as Christmas trees when he had planted them in 1957. He hadn’t, and the tree farm had turned into a forest.

“I remember we’d go outside and make a game of trying to dodge the droppings,” Mrs. Austin Young told the New York Times about the birds. “Of course, there were only thousands of them then.”

As the months passed, more and more birds decided to call Graceham home, and by March 1974, an estimated ten million birds had migrated there. Graceham was becoming known as Bird Land.

“Their problem apparently stems from a quirk in the migratory patterns of the birds. They flew south from their warmer-weather homes in New England and southern Canada, but something about Graceham suited them perfectly—Mr. Emrich’s pine trees or perhaps the rolling acres of fields nearby—and they settled in,” the New York Times reported.

And the birds were causing problems. Dead birds abounded, droppings could be measured in inches, and the whole area had a foul odor. Residents had trouble sleeping because of all the chirping and shrieking from the birds at night. “Their flappingly thunderous comings and goings are frightening the children, unsettling the dogs, and scaring the cows,” according to the New York Times.

“Our dog, Herman, shakes when they fly by,” Clare Myers told a reporter. “They go into his dog house, chase him out and eat his food. We need help to stop this or otherwise we’re going to turn into the world’s biggest bird cage.”    

The birds ate the chicken and cattle feed before the animals it was meant for could get to it, and they even got into fights with cats and dogs. The birds also affected the local flora and fauna.

“Now, virtually every tree is dead or dying. The droppings, at least three inches thick after the last five months, have deadened the trees’ roots,” the Abilene Reporter noted.

Dr. Kenneth Crawford, a veterinarian with the Maryland Department of Health said, “No robins, no pheasants, no rabbits—no wildlife of any kind is left in the grove. Those birds chased everything else away.”

More importantly, the millions of birds represented a possible health hazard for the four hundred residents of the town. The excessive droppings could cause histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that occurs in the soil where there is a large amount of bird or bat droppings.

Dr. Charles Spicknall, Frederick County chief public health officer “toured the bird roosting area at sunset just as the flock of an estimated several million blackbirds, starlings, and grackles soared and swooped in from daytime feeding grounds up to fifty miles from the little hamlet of Graceham,” the Frederick Post reported.

The town held a meeting in Graceham Moravian Church to discuss what to do about the birds. Poison was suggested, and Emrich even volunteered to dig a mass grave for the bodies.

Ornithologists said that birds would head north again during the spring and summer, but they also said they would probably return in the fall.

Graceham wasn’t the only town experiencing problems with large numbers of birds. Hopkinsville, Kentucky; Albany, New York; Frankfort, Kentucky; and New York City were all having problems to one degree or another.

However, Graceham had another problem besides millions of birds, and that was dozens of media. Reporters, photographers, and the wire services were all driving to Graceham to report on the invasion of birds, and their cars and trucks blocked the roads in the small town. Graceham was written about in newspapers all over the country.

A county meeting held on March 20 laid out a three-phase plan for getting rid of the birds. Phase 1 would use loud noises and explosive devices to scare the birds away. Phase 2 involved thinning out the pine grove to make it less attractive to the birds. Phase 3 was to develop a long-range program to ensure the birds didn’t come back. Poison was once again mentioned, but only as a last resort.

Frederick County Commissioner Don Lewis said, “I’ll not be a part to the mass killing of birds. We don’t want to create a slaughter ground in Graceham.”

Phase 1 was put into play the next evening. It began around 5:30 p.m., with shotgun blasts and explosive devices sounding off around the perimeter of the pine grove. Loud recordings of bird distress calls and high-frequency sounds played in the grove. Around 7:30 p.m., it appeared that the birds were being discouraged and flying off elsewhere. “Within twenty minutes, the tide shifted as the birds caught Crawford short of firepower on the southeastern perimeter and larger numbers of them began flying through the break,” the Cumberland News reported.

Not to be discouraged, Phase 1 continued for five days. Crawford reported a 90 percent success rate, although residents were skeptical.

“We’ve won the battle but not the war,” Crawford said. “We won’t win the war until we eliminate the unbelievably dense forest that’s there.”

For Phase 2, every third row of trees in the pine grove was removed.

By the end of April, the birds were gone, though whether it was the natural time to leave or they had been driven off by the noise was unknown.

Unfortunately, the birds returned again in October.

Emrich said, “The birds are returning to my trees in increasingly large flocks. We don’t have the big, long streams we had last winter but they’re increasing. They started coming back about two months ago, and it looks like they’re young birds who were born here last winter.”

Luckily, they did not return in the millions, and fewer returned each season as the migratory patterns returned to normal.

This shot from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, typified how Graceham looked in 1973.

Courtesy Photo