Currently viewing the tag: "monocacy River"

James Rada, Jr.
November 29, 2004, was Army Specialist Erik Hayes last day alive. He didn’t know it. The decorated soldier had just turned twenty-four a couple of weeks earlier, and was a young man with dreams. He wanted to attend college and become a veterinarian; but most of all, he wanted to return home to his family.

As he sat on the roof of an Iraqi police station with Sgt. Daniel Hopson, watching the streets, Hopson posed a question. If Erik could go anywhere for a vacation, and money was no object, where would he go?

Hayes turned to his friend and said, “All I want to do is go home and work three jobs and get my brother home healthcare and get him taken care of.”

Bradley Hayes had been injured in a car accident two years earlier when he was only eighteen, and was being cared for in a Hagerstown facility.

Hopson, who has six sisters, was moved by how much Hayes loved his brother. “I need a brother like you,” he told Hayes.

Hayes looked at him with a bit of surprise and confusion in his expression. “Hopson, we are brothers, brothers in arms.”

Later that night, Hopson was with Hayes on the mortar tank that hit an improvised explosive device. Hayes died far from his home and became the sixth Marylander to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On Saturday, April 15, 2017, Hopson, Hayes’ family, friends, politicians, and Veterans gathered near the Monocacy River to celebrate Hayes’ life, remember his service, and honor his sacrifice.

More than one hundred people were at the State Highway Administration building, where Maryland 140 crosses the Monocacy, to take part in the dedication of the bridge sign for the nearby bridge in honor of Hayes. The sign that would be installed at the beginning of the bridge was unveiled, and Hayes’ parents were given miniature versions that they could keep with them.

Maryland State Delegate William Folden, who is also a Veteran, said getting the bill passed that allowed the bridge to be named in Hayes’ honor was the first bill he had ever introduced in the legislature. More than a “feel good” bill, he expressed that acts such as this mean something to servicemen and their families. He said the idea for the bill had been inspired by a trip that he and his son had taken to West Virginia, where many bridges and other structures have been named in honor of fallen West Virginians. His son had asked about the people named, which had led to him looking up information about the serviceman.

“I hope that every time someone crosses that bridge, they will keep in mind the sacrifice he [Hayes] made, and other young men and women are making for the freedom we have,” said Frederick County Commission President Bud Otis.

To date, 145 Marylanders have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter was the emcee at the event. Also in attendance were Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner; Carroll County Commissioners Stephen Wantz, Richard Weaver, and Dennis Frazier; Taneytown Mayor James McCarron; and members of the local VFWs and American Legions. Patriot Guard Riders and Desert Knights also escorted a procession of cars to the ceremony.

Hayes was born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but he grew up in Thurmont and Harney. He graduated in 1998 from the Living Word Academy in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. Before he had joined the military, he had worked at a dairy farm and trained to be an electrician.

He had enlisted in the army in 2001 to be able to use the GI Bill to get a college education when his duty was complete. He had trained at Fort Benning in Georgia, and served in Germany, Bosnia, and Kosovo before being trained in Iraq.

Hayes’ father, Daniel, said of his son, “He was a good boy. He loved people. He loved animals.”

Hayes was also an artist, drawing whenever inspiration hit him. His father remembers a drawing on the cover of one his son’s army notebooks that showed a camel smoking a cigarette out in the dessert.

His fellow soldiers also remember him with love and respect.

SSgt. Erik Pisauro of Charlotte, North Carolina, first met Hayes when he was eighteen and said that Hayes watched out for him and kept him from getting in too much trouble. “He was a big brother to a lot of us younger guys,” Pisauro said.

Sgt. Tim Grossman of Lexington, Kentucky, said, “Even though I outranked him, I learned to listen to what he said. He had a lot of wisdom for someone his age. When he spoke, you had to respect his answers; he wasn’t rash in his thinking.”

Grossman and others also noted that Hayes was generous to a fault. “He would give you the last five dollars he had until the next pay,” Grossman said.

SSgt. Andre Topaum of Raleigh, North Carolina, first met Hayes when he was eighteen. One memory that continued to shape his career in the military was something that Hayes said to him early on. “Dang it, Topaum, pay attention and take notes.” Topaum said it is something that he still continues to try and do.

Hopson, who is from Oklahoma, arrived in Iraq as a sergeant and didn’t have experience on mortar tanks where he was assigned. One of the first things Hayes said to him was, “I won’t ever let you get embarrassed, Sergeant; if you don’t know the answer to something, I’ll tell you.”

Hayes has touched the lives of these men so deeply that they were willing to travel hundreds of miles sixteen years after his death just to pay him one final honor.

“Just remember Erik’s name, and he will become a legend forever,” Hopson said.

(above) Army Spec. Erik Hayes’ parents, Debora Reckley and Douglas Hayes, stand next to the bridge sign for the MD 140 bridge over the Monocacy River that was named in honor of their son.

(below) The VFW Color Guard prepares to retire the colors during the April 15 ceremony that dedicated the MD 140 Monocacy River Bridge in honor of fallen Spec. Erik Hayes.

The Western Maryland Comes to Mechanicstown

by James Rada, Jr.

Photo Courtesy of

looking-back-columnThurmont’s stop on the Western Maryland Railway makes up only a paragraph in the history of the railroad. For Thurmont, however, it was a major event that not only helped shape the town’s future but also gave it its unique name.

The Western Maryland Railway began in 1852 as the Baltimore, Carroll, and Frederick Railroad. The goal at that time was to build a railroad from Baltimore to Washington County.

The Maryland General Assembly changed the name to the Western Maryland Rail Road Company the following year. For many years, the terminus of the railroad was at Union Bridge, where it had reached in 1862.

However, this was not the goal of the railroad. Mechanicstown knew that it was positioned along the proposed route of the railroad and wanted to see it completed, as did many other people. The original charter in 1852 called for the railroad to be built to the headwaters of the Monocacy River, which meant that the terminus would be at Mechanicstown or Rocky Ridge.

An 1871 article in the Catoctin Clarion noted, “May it not be said of the people of Mechanicstown that they have pinned their faith to the Western Maryland Railroad? This great artery of travel and commerce, hampered as it has been and still is, has done much for the section of the country through which it passes…”

Lobbying was begun to try and get construction to resume once more on the railroad, and on February 24, 1872, the Catoctin Clarion announced, “Rejoice, people of Mechanicstown!” A vote had been taken a few days earlier in Baltimore that was overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the construction of the Western Maryland Railway to Hagerstown and beyond.

“This vote is the harbinger of a new era for this great enterprise,” the newspaper reported.

The announcement brought with it some immediate economic activity in town. “Already on the strength of this news, several parties in our town and vicinity have commenced, sinking shafts in close proximity to the road for the discovery of ore and ore banks, which, we are persuaded, exist in quantities in our very midst,” according to the newspaper. These speculators were searching for iron that could be smelted into pig iron at Catoctin Furnace and used for making rails.

When the railroad opened to Mechanicstown later in 1872, George Wireman wrote in Gateway to the Mountains, “A group of civic-minded citizens arranged a reception and a banquet for the railroad officials and their guests. This event took place in the local warehouse and a gala celebration was enjoyed by all who attended.”

The depot was built on the site of an old cannery, and a water tower was built just to the north of it. The Mechanicstown Station also had a freight yard and engine house.

The railroad brought so much business and travelers into the area that a new depot and associated facilities eventually had to be built near Carroll Street.

“The new depot was built along the main line near Carroll Street and featured two waiting rooms, stationmaster and telegrapher’s office, and sanitary facilities. The grounds were graced with four large grass plots, one on the east, one on the west side of the station, and two in the front. These plots were beautified with ornamental grasses and flowers, protected by low guard rails. The front plots had large lawn vases in the center with blooming flowers,” Wireman described the new depot.

Besides the increased business, the Western Maryland Railway had another major change on Mechanicstown in 1894. Because of the number of towns along the line with names similar to Mechanicstown, the Post Office Department requested that the name be changed. Thurmont was chosen after much debate and a town vote.

The Western Maryland Railway served Thurmont until 1967 when the station closed.

Utica Mills
by “My Father’s Son”
Between Thurmont and Frederick has long laid the humbly-pleasant settlement of Utica Mills, marked on the map today with solely the charming title of Utica. Where such an enchanting name derives (though mystery part of its appeal) led to investigation learning Utica to mean “old town” – appropriately so, honoring the community’s historical value compiling since it was founded 200 years ago.

The center of Utica Mills was just that; a large, stone, gristmill along Fishing Creek constructed by Jacob Cronise in 1815. This mill, once on the corner of present-day Old Frederick and Utica Roads, was accompanied by Mr. Cronise’s house, “the mansion house” as some referred. The Cronise house, a three-bay, end-hall layout built of stone and finished with stucco parging was built between 1815 and 1817- the final year delightfully found on the backside of a mantel during renovations in the 1970s. Now enlarged by multiple additions (also dated), 10616 Old Frederick Road is an admirable residence with 6-over-6 sashes, louvre shutters, and a Tuscan-columned porch running the width of the front elevation part of which is a southward, lower-roofed wing matching the main house in material. Multiple surnames have claimed the deed of the Cronise home including Rogers (1887) – followed by the Stottlemyer, Pearl, Ziebell, and current Jeffries families- the last in their second generation of ownership.

The most prominent of names to reside at this residence are the two granting the mansion its title as the Cronise-Todd House. Jacob Cronise, who built the house and mill, maintained the 74-acre enterprise until 1825. At this time, for the sum of twelve-thousand dollars, Jacob sold to brother Simon Cronise and relocated to operate the former Williams & Stinchcomb Mill at Ceresville Manor alongside where the Monocacy River ferry crossing was situated on the road to Libertytown. Simon Cronise operated the mill until his death and in September 1835 the property was sold to William H. Todd for eight-thousand dollars. Born in Ireland in 1781, Todd moved to Pennsylvania with his parents in 1795. He married Rebecca Barnes of Pennsylvania in 1804 and settled at Utica Mills after his parents’ untimely deaths. William’s brother, James Todd, moved to Creagerstown at this time also, the sibling’s living ten miles apart for the rest of their lives. The Utica Mill was inherited by William H. Todd’s son of the same name and by 1882 was shipping flour to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. In 1886 the property was listed for sale, an ad in the Citizen stating the mill to be “located in one of the most productive, healthy, and picturesque sections of the country.” The brick mill, inclusive “11-room stone mansion” and 90-foot Switzer barn were all lost by Todd in 1887 to his mortgagors.

No visible trace of the Cronise gristmill exists today in the pasture south of the Cronise-Todd House. Operated until 1900, the mill was demolished around 1924- the 1910 deed between Rogers and Stottlemyer mentioning the property’s improvements “excepting the old mill building” likely referencing its irreparable condition. At the time of the Maryland State Archive’s 1992 survey, residents of Utica relayed that the mill, in lesser form, is still present at its former site as the stone and rubble of the building were reused to raise Utica Road away from the active levels of Fishing Creek. Also untraceable at the site, though surviving longer than the mill until at least 1927, is the mill-race that broke away from Fishing Creek at a bend upstream from the nearby Utica Rd. covered bridge. This watercourse continued straight from the creek’s twist, running to the rear of the mansion house before flowing south past the mill and cooper shop to rejoin its tributary, powering two “overshot” mill-wheels.

North of the mansion house is the old Utica Mills General Store. Now a single-family home this was previously a two-story log cabin built before 1820 by Cronise as the village Post Office and Stage-stop. Originally on Cronise’s landholdings, this store was separated from the Mansion house at the time of the Jeffries’ 1975 purchase of the Cronise-Todd House from Peter & Betty Ziebell. The Ziebells retained the storehouse and 2.3 acres as their own, divided as to keep a c.1930-40 dairy barn and milk house built by Clarence W. Stottlemyer who lived in the manor-house from 1918 to 1965. Additions and modifications to the storehouse leave it today a long, narrow building mere feet from Old Frederick Road.

Franklin Stottlemyer purchased the Cronise-Todd property of 72 acres in 1910. “The farm at Utica” was sold to his son, aforementioned Clarence W. for $4,500.00 per Franklin’s Will. Franklin’s deed reflects the decrease in acreage by the previous Rogers’ donations of two plots: one to the Board of County School Commissioners for a school house (1891- part of a tract ironically called “The End of Trouble”), and another, adjoining the first; to the Utica Cemetery (1893). Both donated properties lay on the northern edge of Lenhart Road; the way to the stone, Baer farmhouse atop a knoll carved by the encircling Fishing Creek. Though John and Annie (Ramsburg) Baer moved after selling their farm to William and Jessie Lenhart in 1903, their daughter would return nearby when she wed Clarence W. Stottlemyer and lived in the mansion house opposite her parent’s old farm-road. The reputable Lenhart lineage continues to occupy the Baer farm 113 years later.

On the opposite corner of the Baer farm-road from the old school lot (now an extension of the Utica Cemetery) stands the Samuel Clem house. Reportedly built between 1820-40 this small home is erected in the German-vernacular style leading some to believe it may actually date to 1769. The childhood home of Augustus Clem, a forerunner in Frederick County’s print industry, Clem distributed reports like the “Little Sunbeam”, “Weekly Enterprise”, and “Monthly Visitor” from the 1850-90s from a single-level shop located immediately North of St. Paul’s Church. By 1886 Clem also printed the larger “Walkersville Enterprise.”

The grist mill, once the focal point of Utica Mills, was replaced as such in 1891 when the striking “Utica Mills Covered Bridge” was raised over Fishing Creek behind the Cronise-Todd House. This was not a new bridge! The 101-foot Utica Mills bridge is actually a fragment of the once double-span, Burr-arch, 250-foot covered “Devilbiss Bridge” that spanned the Monocacy on Devilbiss Bridge Road. Built in 1843, the original structure was washed away by the same storm causing the infamous 1889 Johnstown Flood. It is told that salvageable debris was gathered from the receded river’s banks and the surviving portion of the bridge dismantled and stored to be re-assembled 1.5 miles (as the bird flies) from its primary location. In 1978 the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in December 1996 an extensive, $337,000 restoration begun after an auto-accident exposed severe beetle and termite damage to the susceptible wood.

Utica has many valuable sites beyond the bridge that has long gained it recognition. The place is a perfect medium between city and country life – it’s quiet, open-space calm quickly transformed to the happenings of Frederick City by a short car-ride. In the last 30 years subdivisions like “Utica Mills” and “Mills Manor” have been added paying homage to their location. Many historic structures in proximity to the Cronise-Todd House remain and the majority of the names mentioned here pleasantly honored in the Utica Cemetery; particularly Rebecca Barnes Todd, whose memorial is embellished with a high-relief bouquet of roses & wildflowers and framed in elegant vines.

Layout of Utica Mills based off Maryland Land Records, local accounts, and historic descriptions.