Currently viewing the tag: "Western Maryland Railroad"

The Woodpecker vs. Fort Ritchie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An old postcard view of Barrick Avenue at Fort Richie.

Richard D. L. Fulton

There was a time in history when the country was laced with short-line railroads. In fact, almost all of the early railroads were short-line railroads, until many were absorbed through consolidation with larger railroads, years later.

Most short-line railroads were created to serve limited purposes, as dictated by local economies. Many also dabbled in providing passenger service, but overall, that effort was never really all that successful.

While it may seem that “short-line railroads” would take the name from the length of the railroads, the truth is that size varied widely. Their main distinguishing characteristic is that they served principally to deliver local goods to a connection with a larger railroad system/company.

The Emmitsburg Railroad serves as a prime example of a short-line railroad in all respects, in its length, and in its purpose.

The Rise of the Road

The Emmitsburg Railroad was granted its incorporation by an act of the Maryland Assembly on March 28, 1868, according to Emmitsburg Railroad, by W. R. Hicks (published by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society).

According to Hicks, the incorporators were Daniel George Adelsberger, Joseph Brawner, Joshua Walter, E. S. Taney, Joseph Byers, Dr. Andrew Annan, Isaac Hyder, George W. Rowe, Dr. James W. Bichelberger, Sr., Christian Zacharies, and Michael Adelsberger.

However, it would be three years before the actual work commenced for bringing the proposed railroad into existence, and without the aid of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph’s College, the railroad might never have actually been constructed.

The Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph’s College became involved in making the much sought-after railroad a reality with loans (the Sisters of Charity contributed more than half the capital needed to build the railroad, thereby, deeming them the majority bondholders) and rights-of-way (across Saint Joseph’s land). 

The (Hagerstown) Daily Mail reported on February 20, 1940, when the Western Maryland Railroad constructed its line in the wake of the Civil War, it bypassed Emmitsburg by seven miles. The Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph’s “decided to do something about that.”

Groundbreaking for the Emmitsburg Railroad was held on the morning of March 25,1871, at Rocky Ridge (sometimes referred to as Emmitsburg Junction)—the proposed final destination of the railroad (where it would connect with the Western Maryland Railroad).

The groundbreaking was attended by Emmitsburg Railroad President Joseph Motter and directors, representatives of the Western Maryland Railroad, and representatives of Saint Joseph’s College, as well as other guests.

The Catoctin Clarion concluded its April 1, 1871, report of the festivities, that when the first pick struck up the dirt at the commencement of the groundbreaking, “there came forth rocks and sand and reddish earth—and the birth of the Emmitsburg Railroad was announced,” and concluded with, “so the railroad (the peremptory work) passes into history. So, lookout for the locomotive!”

A second celebration took place on November 22, 1875, when the railroad was officially opened for business. 

The Baltimore Sun reported on November 23 that exactly when the railroad would be officially running was not released to the public until Saturday, November 20, that the decision to commence operations on the 22nd was made public.

Further, it was noted that the Emmitsburg Railroad would be offering free rides to the public on that day. The Sun reported that “the news spread through the town like wildfire, and nearly everybody, old and young, took advantage of this opportunity.”  As a result, hundreds of riders were transported back and forth from Emmitsburg to Rocky Ridge that day, according to the Sun.

The town adults, the newspaper noted, tended to regard the completion of the railroad as “the beginning of a new era for Emmitsburg.”

Assorted Misadventures

November 28, 1908, didn’t start off with a bang, but it could have very nearly ended in one. 

The Catoctin Clarion reported in their January 28, 1909, issue, “The Emmitsburg Railroad pleaded guilty in the United States District Court, in Baltimore, Tuesday, of transporting dynamite on a passenger train.” The Catoctin Clarion attributed their story to The Baltimore Sun.

The plea was entered after the United States Grand Jury had indicted the company the same morning. The guilty plea was submitted by the company attorney.

District Attorney John C. Rose told the newspaper that the Emmitsburg Railroad’s rolling stock “is very limited. It has no freight cars,” and all the freight is loaded into a combine.  He said the train during the incident consisted of the engine, a tender, a combination baggage and smoking car, and a passenger car. 

The district attorney reported that six packages of dynamite were loaded into the baggage and smoking car at Rocky Ridge for delivery to Emmitsburg, and this was done by the baggage master without the knowledge of the other railroad officials.

The railroad was fined $100 (the equivalent of $3,611.46 in today’s money).

Then, there was the Great Emmitsburg Locomotive Chase, in which one of the steam engines bound for Rocky Ridge lost it brakes and was slow crawling its way towards the junction. Apparently, the journey was slow enough to allow one of the train crew to jump and run to a home or business and call Emmitsburg to report the problem.

A second train was dispatched from Emmitsburg to try and intercept the runaway steam engine, and couple onto it to break it, before it reached the end-of-the-line… literally.

The effort paid off, and the crippled engine was hauled back to the Emmitsburg shop for brakes.

The End of the Line

Only 26 years after the groundbreaking, the little railroad was in financial trouble. 

The Gettysburg Times reported on February 10, 1940, that on January 15, the directors of the Emmitsburg Railroad called for a vote among the existing stockholders to dissolve and abandon the Emmitsburg Railroad.  Out of some 1,000 votes, the motion was defeated by a mere 29 “no” votes.

The short-line was then sold into receivership “to a syndicate” and reorganized, according to the (Hagerstown) Daily Mail. Even then, by the mid-1930s, so little passenger traffic utilized the line that the State Public Service Commission restricted the railroad to handling freight only.

The Gettysburg Times reported on November 4, 1940, “The locomotive of the now-defunct Emmitsburg Railroad steamed out of town last Saturday morning, probably never to return.” The engine was sold to the Salzberg Company, New York.  This was probably Engine No. 8, which the (Hagerstown) Daily Mail was referring to when it stated on February 20, 1940, “But old (Emmitsburg) No. 8, the company’s last engine, hasn’t even turned a wheel since the motor truck took over in July (1939).”

*Author’s note:  This story is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of the Emmitsburg Railroad. Highly recommended, in spite of a few errors, a good starting place would be to read Emmitsburg Railroad, by W. R. Hicks, published by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.

Emmitsburg Railroad Company steam engine No. 6; From the collection of Eileen Catherine Curtis; Used with permission.

Documents of the Emmitsburg Railroad Company, 1886, 1892, 1896, 1898; From the collection of Eileen Catherine Curtis; Used with permission.

by James Rada, Jr.

1922 – The marines Conquer Thurmont

More than a quarter of the U.S. Marine Corps arrived in Thurmont on June 25, along with the equipment to outfit an even larger group. They had been on the march for six days. Their ultimate destination was Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but first, they had to get through Thurmont.

They ran into a slight snag as they passed north along Church Street. The Western Maryland Railway passed over the road about three blocks north of the downtown square, and there wasn’t enough clearance for the trucks carrying the tanks to pass under the bridge. Heavy timbers had to be placed on the back of the trucks to allow the tanks to be unloaded. The trucks and tanks then passed under the bridge separately. On the other side, the tanks were loaded onto the trucks again.

By 2:30 p.m., the Marines marched into a clover field about a mile north of Thurmont and sat down. Camp Haines was erected on the Hooker Lewis Farm. The Baltimore Sun reported that thousands of visitors came out to the camp to watch the evening movies showing the Marines on their march and to listen to the Expeditionary Force Marine Band play. They also joined in singing the Marine Hymn at the end of the concert.

One of the visitors to the camp was Henry Fleagle, a Civil War Veteran who had fought in 26 major engagements with the Seventh Maryland Infantry and emerged unscathed. Fleagle saw that the Marines had to carry very little during their march and remarked, “It is hard to get used to the new ways of doing things. We had to carry everything with us when we marched.”

“But you didn’t have to hike around like this,” one Marine told him.

“Didn’t, eh? Once we did 30 miles a day, and at the end of it, we had to double time three miles to cut off a part of Lee’s army, Son, you don’t know what hiking is,” Fleagle replied.

He told them about fighting in the Battle of Laurel Hill in Virginia during the Civil War when all but four men in his company were killed.

“Once a bullet took my hat away and another time a spent bullet hit me on the shoulder, but it didn’t have force enough to go in. I hope you boys will be as lucky as that if there’s another war,” Fleagle told the gathered Marines.

He shook hands with many of the Marines and officers and told them that there were only nine Civil War Veterans in the county. Then he thought for a moment, and corrected himself, saying that there may have been only eight left.

By the end of the evening, five other Civil War Veterans had visited the camp: Jacob Freeze, “Dad” Elower, Will Miller, William Stull, and Henry Cover.

After eight hours of marching, some of the Marines willingly hiked back into Thurmont to eat a meal that wasn’t camp rations.

“Until late, they could be seen walking by the roadside, while many stood on running boards of touring cars whose occupants had honored the uniform and given the sea soldiers desirous of ‘seeing the town’ a lift to shorten the journey on foot,” The Washington Post reported.

While in Thurmont, some confusion needed to be sorted out between the Marines and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order for the journey to continue past the Mason-Dixon Line. The Pennsylvania State Highway Department had been told that the Marines were using cleated trucks and tanks that would tear up the road surface. Highway Department officials traveled to Thurmont to inspect the vehicles and make sure that they complied with Pennsylvania law.

As night fell, lights flicked on across the fields, breaking up the darkness. Men made their way back to camp before “Taps” was played. Then they turned in, except for officers who worked on the next day’s plans and night couriers on motorcycles who carried messages north and south.

The next morning, June 26, the Marines made their final 15-mile march through Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, settling in at Camp Harding near the base of the Virginia Memorial on the Gettysburg battlefield. Once there, they would be able to rest somewhat before returning to Quantico.

The morning started off badly when three Marines were injured near Thurmont. The truck in which they were riding went off the road into a ditch on its way to Emmitsburg. The most severe injury sustained among the three men was a fractured shoulder blade.

As the Marines passed through Emmitsburg along Seton Avenue, local Civil War Veterans—Michael Hoke, Jame T. Hostleborn, John H. Mentzer, Thomas E. Frailey, all of whom had served with the First Maryland Cavalry—stood with flags. Mayor J. Henry Stokes, who had three sons who had served in WWI, also greeted the Marines.

At the state line just north of Emmitsburg, the two Maryland state troopers who had been traveling with the Marines to clear the roads in front of them since they had passed into Maryland from the District of Columbia, turned over their duties to seven Pennsylvania state troopers. The Pennsylvania State Police then escorted the East Coast Expeditionary Force on the last leg of their journey on Emmitsburg Road to Camp Harding

Marine Encampment

by Priscilla Rall

John Henry Lehman was born in Reed near Hagerstown in 1922 to J. Henry and Elizabeth Hege Lehman. His grandfather, a Mennonite, owned and operated the Lehman’s Mill on Marsh Creek, one mile south of the Mason Dixon Line. The mill, first built in 1869, had been rebuilt three times, the last time using bricks made at the mill by Marsh Creek. The mill ground corn, buckwheat, and wheat for human consumption and for animal feed. It still had the original stone-grinding stones imported from France. His grandfather was progressive for those days. He installed a telephone in the mill and got rid of his horses and wagon, buying a truck to deliver his wares.

This upset the elders of the church, but Grandfather Lehman insisted that he was running a business and needed the phone in the mill. This might have been the reason that John was raised in the Lutheran Church. Eventually, the mill was sold to a woman who removed all of the milling equipment and then sold items made by the local women.

John’s father worked for the Western Maryland Railroad until the Great Depression hit and he was laid off.

John and his two sisters attended the Bridgeport school on the Cavetown Pike by Antietam Creek. It had one room, one stove, and one teacher. Later, they went to school in Hagerstown. The family survived the Depression, as their grandfather hired his father for small jobs and such. The Mennonites did not lose their money when the banks failed, as they only dealt in cash, which they kept in their homes, not trusting banks. The Lehmans saw many hobos during this time. John’s mother would always find enough to feed them a meal before they journeyed on, looking for work.

The family had a half-acre garden where the children would help plant, pull weeds, and harvest. At this time, they lived along the Cavetown Pike. Sometimes they would go to Hagerstown to the movies, but that was all the entertainment they had.

After graduating from the old Hagerstown High School, John went to the Bliss Electrical School in Tacoma Park for one year. Amazingly enough, Mr. Bliss had once worked for Thomas Edison! John then briefly worked for the C&P Telephone Company, but the war caught up with him. Before he was to be drafted, John joined the U.S. Navy.  A naval officer had visited the Bliss School and encouraged the boys to complete the course, saying that they would then be very useful to the Navy. So, the Navy it was!

At the Naval Yard, John continued learning about radios, even building crystals sets and one-tube radios. He returned to Bliss, which by now was under the Navy, and learned more about the budding science of radar. He then traveled to San Francisco and spent six months studying radar. Then, he was off to New London, Connecticut, to learn specifically about radar used on submarines. After finishing these courses, he traveled back across the country to Mare Island, where he joined the crew of the USS Barb (SS-220). With Captain John Waterman, John made five combat patrols in the North Atlantic and sunk one German ship. The seventh patrol began with a trip through the Panama Canal, and then off to Pearl Harbor, where Eugene Fluckey joined the crew for his final training. Waterman was old-school, and Fluckey was from the new; they clashed repeatedly. John could hear this from where he was stationed. Finally, Waterman said, “Shut up…I’m the captain!”

Commander Fluckey captained the submarine during the next seven war patrols, between March 1944 and August 1945, when the Barb sunk 17 enemy vessels. In addition, when a “hell ship” carrying Australian and British POWs was unknowingly sunk (as she had no identification) by the SS Sea Lion, the Barb raced for five days to reach the survivors just before a typhoon hit. She was able to rescue 14 Allied POWs from the SS Rakuyo Maru.

Captain Fluckey considered Lehman one of the best radar men he sailed with, noting him several times in his book, Thunder Below.

The last two patrols were particularly impressive. The Barb sank four Japanese ships, including an aircraft carrier, in the East China Sea, off the coast of China. Next, with John constantly monitoring the radar, the Barb sailed up a busy harbor on the Chinese coast, launching her torpedoes at a convoy of 30 enemy ships at anchor. This was the easy part…getting out of the harbor safely to open water was the tricky part. Then, running on the surface, she retired at high speed through the uncharted harbor, full of mines and rocks. Seaman 1st Class Layman was at his station the entire time. For this audacious feat, Fluckey was awarded the Medal of Honor and the USS Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation.

After John left the Navy, he worked for the telephone company. In 1960, he married Anne Pearce and adopted her two children from a previous marriage. They had one son, William, together. They eventually retired to Frederick at Homewood. John passed away on March 5, 2021, the last crew member of the famous submarine, the USS Barb.

USN — Official U.S. Navy photo 19-N-83952 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Barb (SS-220)

Precipitated by a Fatal Prank in 1901

Earl Eyler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The late George Wireman was a long-time writer for The Catoctin Banner. He also wrote for several other newspapers. He was Thurmont’s honorary resident historian, a local WTHU radio broadcaster, a volunteer conductor for the Walkersville Southern Railroad, and quite a character to know. He took great pride in building a huge model railroad display that was housed in his basement. Every December, he hosted a model train display open house at his house in Thurmont. For the past several years, a model railroad display has been available in Thurmont, and this year it will be located in the Thurmont Plaza Shopping Center at 224 N. Church Street, Ste C, on select days in December. This is a courtesy of the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers. See the Holiday Train Display ad in this edition.

Taken from a December 1995 Banner Newspaper, adjusted for this printing.

Local model railroad enthusiast George Wireman would welcome the public to his house every December to see his model railroad set up. George was a long-time lover of trains, an interest he credits to his dad. “My dad worked for the Western Maryland Railroad. I guess that’s where I got the bug.” It probably helped, too, that George was a frequent railroad traveler. In 1939 and 1940, George attended Hagerstown Business College and would catch the train every morning in Thurmont and every evening after school in Hagerstown.

George’s model railroad setup, called the “Monocacy Valley,” was named after the railroad of the same name, a steam engine that ran from Frederick to Thurmont and was a branch of the Washington-Frederick-Gettysburg Railway.

George took his model railroad very seriously. It took up nearly his entire basement and included a mountain, representing Catoctin Mountain, that was three-feet high and eight-feet long with a tunnel for the train line. There was also a bridge over a canyon that took George three months to complete. “I could have put the bridge together in one night, but I decided to haul each piece of ‘lumber’ for the bridge on one of the freight trains. I then used a model crane to lower each piece of lumber—made it more fun that way.”

The model railroad had two running lines of track, with various switches along the route to send the train into the railyard or onto a different track. His collection of trains included over one hundred freight cars; five different sets of passenger cars, including replicas of the Western Maryland Railroad and popular Amtrak; and numerous old-type coaches and locomotives.

What made the “Monocacy Valley” railroad even more interesting was the village in-between the lines of track. You’d find a vast array of familiar businesses, people, cars, trucks, and even an airport complete with planes and a terminal tower. George explained that “the village is not modeled after a particular community; instead, it pertains to things of my lifetime,” such as The Cozy Inn, where he used to be a host; Zentz Chevrolet-Buick because he used to go to school with Carroll Zentz; Nations Bank, where George did his banking; the WTHU radio tower, representing his involvement with our local radio station; a building for the Glade-Times Mirror, for whom George was a journalist; and even one for The Catoctin Banner since he also wrote for it.

You would see Hobb’s Hardware, the Thurmont Co-op, the police station, fire station, and even a very special Eisenhower memorial, built because of George’s fondness for this former president. There were billboards along the railroad and throughout the village to advertise local establishments, such as Hoffman’s Market, Kountry Kitchen, and the (then) Catoctin Mountain Trains and Hobbies.

There was so much to enjoy about George’s railroad that it was a must-see event.

George said, “I thoroughly enjoy working on the railroad; the work is never done. It’s a barrel of fun for me, and I enjoy sharing it with others.”

Maybe George’s railroad will put the railroad “bug” into someone else.

Hunting a Killer Across the Country

by James Rada, Jr.

Note: This is the second of two articles about the murder of Leo Creager and the pursuit of his murderer.

While trying to escape from Frederick and the robberies they committed there on October 18, 1923, Clarence Wallace and George Williams rode the trolley to Thurmont, planning to take the Western Maryland Railroad to Baltimore. However, law enforcement was watching for them.

Dep. Sheriff C. W. Lidie arrested them, but Williams managed to escape, but not before shooting and killing Leo Creager, who had been trying to help Dep. Lidie catch the fleeing Williams.

Frederick County Sheriff Charles Klipp placed guards on the bridges over the Monocacy River to watch for Wallace. He hid in honeysuckle near the bridge and saw the guards. Wallace supposedly evaded them by swimming and wading across the rivers and creeks so that the guards and other searchers wouldn’t see him. They didn’t realize this, though.

The next morning, the sheriff had two bloodhounds brought in from Virginia to track Wallace. They could find nothing. It was later learned that the posse had been close to him several times during that first day, and if the bloodhounds had been on the scene the first day, he probably would have been caught.

The Frederick County Commissioners offered a $1,000 reward for Williams’ capture, dead or alive.

Meanwhile, Wallace traveled at night so he was less likely to be seen, and walked more than 70 miles to Highlandtown on the east side of Baltimore City. He and Williams had rented rooms in a boarding house run by Mrs. Thomas J. Graft.

When Wallace reached the house, he met Florence Graft and asked her if she had read about Leo Creager’s murder in the newspapers. She told him she had, and she thought it was horrible. Wallace then admitted that he was the murderer.

“She informed him that she intended to tell the police at once, at which threat he drew a revolver and made her go upstairs and stay in the room with him while he shaved himself,” the Frederick Post reported. “While he was shaving, he had the revolver laying on the bureau in front of him, and told her he would use it if she uttered a word.”

He ate some food from the kitchen, gathered his things, and left. Graft called the police and told them what had happened. Police were able to identify Wallace through a watch he had left behind at the house and had pawned twice in the past. Baltimore Police tracked the address on the pawn ticket and verified that Clarence Wallace had been living at the house. Baltimore Police then circulated his picture.

He was originally from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, but he had been living in Baltimore for work as a pipefitter. He had previously helped build one building on the Hood Campus and Thurmont High School. However, he had also served a term in Eastern Penitentiary in Philadelphia for robbery.

Wallace then disappeared for two months, but this did not mean the police stopped looking for him.

Police eventually traced Wallace to Santa Barbara, living under the name H.P. Dailey. However, they could not find him within the city. Finally, detectives mailed him a letter via general delivery and advertised it in the newspaper for several days. The detectives then staked out the post office when it was open and waited for Wallace to come for his letter.

When he did on December 15, the police confronted him as he left the post office. Wallace resisted arrested and tried to run. The police shot him three times, killing him.

His body was sent to Baltimore for identification, and justice finally came for Leo Creager’s murderer.

Note: This is the first of two articles about the murder of Leo Creager and the pursuit of his murderer.

by James Rada, Jr.

Note: This is the first of two articles about the murder of Leo Creager and the pursuit of his murderer.

In the early morning hours of October 18, 1919, Clarence Wallace and George Williams went on a crime spree. They broke into four Frederick businesses in the dead of night, stealing whatever valuables they could find. They came prepared, too, because when they encountered two safes that promised hidden valuables, they used nitroglycerine to blow the doors off and raid the contents.

Then, as the day was dawning, the men boarded the trolley at Montevue and headed out of town. As this was the first trolley of the day, it went only so far as Lewistown. The men had to disembark and wait for a trolley going through to Thurmont, where they hoped to catch a train out of the area.

“During the interval of 20 minutes, the news of the burglaries at Frederick had reached Lewistown, and the two men were suspected, but not until the last minute did any person take courage enough to report to Frederick that two suspicious characters had arrived there,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

When Frederick County Sheriff Charles Klipp heard the news, he called Dep. Sheriff C. W. Lidie in Thurmont and let him know to watch out for the two robbers arriving on the trolley. Lidie also had to deliver and pick-up the mail off the eastbound Western Maryland Railroad train.

Lidie met the trolley first and saw the suspicious men. He approached them and told them they were under arrest. “They evidently had heard the same story before, as they paid little attention to the information,” the Clarion reported.

The Western Maryland Railroad train arrived. Lidie put Wallace on board and ordered William Harbaugh to watch him while Lidie got Williams from his car. “In the meantime, the other fellow [Wallace] started to run, Lidie firing several shots at him, but the shots made him run the faster,” the Clarion reported.

Lidie called for help. Leo Creager, Samuel Vanhorn, and William Foreman were nearby and sought to help. The men got in Creager’s car and tried to cut Wallace off as he ran across a field, as Charles Spalding pursued the man on foot.

Lidie started to pursue on foot, but he turned back to take control of the remaining prisoner, so he wouldn’t make a break for freedom.

Wallace stayed ahead of Spalding and reached Apples Church Road, where he could run easier. When Spalding reached the road, he jumped on the running board of Creager’s car, which had reached the road taking a longer route. Creager sped up, attempting to overtake Wallace. Seeing the approaching vehicle, Wallace jumped to the side of the road. The car tried to follow and slid off the road into a ditch.

Wallace ran into a peach orchard with the men pursuing him on foot.

Creager had nearly reached him when the “the latter [Wallace] suddenly stopped and fired directly at Leo, the bullet striking him in the left side below the heart and he fell to the ground,” reported the Clarion.

As Creager fell, he called out to Spalding. “Get him, Charlie. He’s got me!”

Among Wallace’s pursuers, Spalding was the only one with a gun. He drew it and fired at Wallace, but the gun misfired. Wallace pointed his pistol at the men holding them off. It gave him time to put distance between himself and the other men. At some point, he turned and ran off. The others didn’t pursue, but instead, went to help Creager.

Dr. E. C. Kefauver was called and arrived on the scene. He tried to treat Creager’s wound, but the man died within a half hour of being shot. His body was taken to his mother’s house.

Wallace was last seen heading north across a field where the undergrowth was so dense that cattle couldn’t penetrate it.

“As soon as the news of the shooting reached town, almost every man and boy grabbed a gun, rifle, and revolver and went into the woods, but to the best of our knowledge, neither sheriff, his deputies nor citizens ventured in the briars and bushes,” the Clarion reported. The crowd was even starting to call for a rope to lynch Williams with.

Lidie, who still had Williams in custody, grew nervous with the angry crowd. He drove Williams into Frederick and turned him over to the sheriff. The sheriff opened the small valise that Williams had carried with him and found it was full of burglar’s tools, dynamite, and nitroglycerine. It was also embossed with the name of one business Williams and Wallace had robbed.

Sheriff Klipp placed guards on the bridges over the Monocacy River to watch for Wallace. The next morning, the sheriff had two bloodhounds brought in from Virginia to track Wallace. They could not find anything.

The Frederick County Commissioners offered a $1,000 reward for Williams’ capture, dead or alive.

Creager was the second son of the late J. Wesley Creager. He ran a coal and lumber business in Thurmont. He also ran the Gem Theater for a time.

Creager was no stranger to heroism. Years before, he had worked as a telegraph operator when thieves attempted to rob the business. Creager had “remained at the key long enough to summon help and his assailant was caught before leaving the office,” according to the Clarion.

He was survived by his wife and mother, both of whom lived on Lombard Street.

Funeral services were held at Creager’s home on Monday, October 20. Rev. W. C. Waltemyer of the Lutheran Church was in charge of the service. Rev. Strohmeier of the Graceham Moravian Church and Rev. Dr. Heimer of the Reformed Church assisted. Creager was buried in the United Brethren Cemetery.

A pair of thieves used the Thurmont Trolley as a getaway vehicle. They left Frederick and tried to reach the Western Maryland Railroad in Thurmont in 1919.

by James Rada, Jr.

Thurmont’s Part in the 50th Gettysburg Reunion

Three hundred cavalrymen rode through Thurmont on June 25, 1913. They arrived on Western Maryland Railroad from Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. They unloaded their mounts from the train and rode through the town on Wednesday morning.

They were part of the second invasion of Gettysburg.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Civil War Veterans were aging into their sixties and seventies when the average lifespan of an American was around forty-seven years.

Acting on an idea from Henry Shippen Huidekoper, who had been wounded during the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Governor Edwin Stuart urged the state legislature to remember the Veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg during the 50th anniversary.

Gettysburg had hosted battlefield reunions before, but they were relatively small events. For this milestone reunion, people envisioned an immense event with an abundance of people in town and the surrounding countryside as hadn’t been seen since the battle itself.

State legislatures responded positively and appointed representatives to participate in the planning. They would serve as liaisons between their states and the Pennsylvania Battle of Gettysburg Commission.

Seeing the nationwide interest in the event, the U.S. Congress appointed a committee of three U.S. senators and three congressmen to assist the Pennsylvania Commission in June 1910.

Much of the federal assistance came in the form of U.S. Army personnel to plan how to run the camp and army equipment. The cavalrymen from Fort Myer were part of the federal support of the Gettysburg reunion. Capt. Dean, adjutant of the troop, and Lt. Surles, quartermaster, were the first to arrive in Thurmont. They made the arrangements with Col. John R. Rouzer to occupy Camp Field along Hunting Creek.

The men were members of the 15th U.S. Cavalry with Troops A, B, C, and D under the command of Maj. Charles D. Rhodes. Then the food and horses arrived.

“Nearly a carload of feed was shipped to Thurmont over the Western Maryland railroad for the use of the horses and about half a ton of meat and provisions for the men while in camp here,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The cavalrymen stayed one night before reboarding the train and heading to Gettysburg the next day.

The reunion lasted for a week, with nearly 57,000 Veterans returning to Gettysburg. They stayed in a temporary military camp the army erected. Although the Veterans were grouped by their states, they mixed during the day as they walked miles each day covering the battlefield where they had once fought.

During the reunion, monuments were dedicated, the cyclorama opened for the first time, and a silent film about the battle premiered. Senators, congressmen, governors, and the president attended as special guests.

A group of Civil War Veterans from Thurmont also attended the reunion. The men from the Jason Damuth Post No. 89 of the G. A. R. left town on July 1 to be part of the reunion. They were Rev. W. L. Martin, John Tomes, William Jones, Jacob Freeze, Jeremiah Dutrow, Charles Carrens, W. T. Miller, George Elower, C. I. Creager, Charlton Fogle, William Freeze, Maj. George A. Castle, and George W. Miller.

The Gettysburg reunion was the largest reunion of Civil War Veterans ever held.

Confederate survivors of Pickett’s Charge re-enact the charge at the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Survivors of Pickett’s Charge shake hands across the wall where they fought so desperately fifty years earlier.

A Union and Confederate veteran goof around showing they can still fight at the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Veteran encampment at Gettysburg housed around 57,000 Veterans at the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Joan Bittner Fry

The railroad through Sabillasville has always been a part of my life.  In the ‘40s and ‘50s, we would pick up Uncle Ned at the state sanatorium station, where he would visit our family from Baltimore. I recall a time when the train was stopped at Manahan’s Store. We were on our way home from school. The engineer said we could get on and see inside.  I was the only kid who wouldn’t get on. It was so big!

The Western Maryland Railroad had been transforming Western Maryland since the 1830s. The Baltimore and Ohio connected Frederick City and points west to Baltimore, creating tremendous economic opportunity; but the area north of Frederick City had to wait over forty years to connect with the railroad. The challenges of building in mountainous areas slowed progress.

On May 17, 1862, the builders of the Western Maryland Railroad caused “quite a stir” in Graceham by laying track near the outskirts of town, but the Civil War slowed all progress. It was not until later in the decade that the railroad pushed into Graceham. Not until 1871 did the railroad finally arrive in Mechanicstown (now Thurmont) and press through the rest of Frederick County. Its arrival brought monumental changes to Mechanicstown, according to the local newspaper:

“The sound of 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.  We begin to put on city airs and learn city fashions; Baltimore is brought close to our doors and oysters and cav-back (canvasback) ducks and fresh fish can be produced and eaten daily as at one of the largest restaurants in the Monumental City (Baltimore).”

After its expansion to Mechanicstown, railroad workers began laying tracks westward to Sabillasville. The brand new Mechanicstown newspaper, The Catoctin Clarion, predicted that the new railroad would “whistle the inhabitants of Sabillasville from the Rip Van Winkle sleep into a new and creative existence.” Once completed, the railroad took a leisurely semi-circular route around Sabillasville, a ride that quickly became known as “Horseshoe Curve.”

The entire Horseshoe Curve could be seen from many vantage points around Sabillasville, especially the State Sanatorium TB Hospital. My siblings and neighbors crossed the tracks of Horseshoe Curve every day to and from the former Sabillasville Elementary School. The road is now the treacherous Fort Ritchie Road from Sabillasville to Route 491.  My biggest fear in those days was a train being parked on the track getting water from the tank. I can still remember those huge wheels as we crawled beneath or between the cars to get to the other side. A first grader’s legs are pretty short. I guess my brother Jim’s legs were even shorter than mine.

The Western Maryland main line pushed west across South Mountain from Union Bridge, and by August 28, 1871, it had reached Sabillasville. At Blue Ridge Summit, engineers encountered very hard rock and found it necessary to run the line into Pennsylvania. Rather than go through the time-consuming process of getting the Pennsylvania Legislature to grant a charter, the company purchased the land and laid the tracks on its own property. This amounted to several hundred yards of line at the station at Blue Ridge Summit and again at Pen Mar at the highway bridge.

In the spring of 1871, a strike by workers, demanding $1.75 per day and a ten-hour day, temporarily halted plans to extend the railroad to Smithsburg; but, soon, labor and management settled the strike and the new railroad was pressing onward toward Hagerstown. It reached Hagerstown in August of 1872.

On March 24, 1874, John Mifflin Hood became president of Western Maryland Railroad, a position he held until he resigned on February 27, 1902. When Hood became president, the railroad had but 90 miles of track, a basically muddy roadbed, worn-out rusting rail, and 12 mechanically exhausted locomotives that were inadequate for freight and passenger trade. During Hood’s presidency, the Western Maryland track grew to 270 miles of steel track. From Baltimore, the Pen Mar Express train left Hillen Station at 9:15 a.m. and reached Pen Mar Park before noon, with the trip returning at 9:15 p.m. It was said that the passengers would cheer when they reached the curve. After circling Sabillasville, the railroad briefly went into Pennsylvania at the top of the grade at Blue Ridge Summit.

Passenger stations along the line were also telegraph offices that provided communication over wires owned and maintained by the railroad. My late neighbor, Charles E. Shields, was a telegraph operator at Blue Ridge Summit.

The first Blue Ridge Station was built in 1871. From 1872 to 1957, passenger service was provided to Blue Ridge Summit. The second station was built in 1891. Later, a train shed was constructed at Blue Ridge Summit, along the station side of the track, to protect boarding and alighting passengers from the weather. Pen Mar Station had a similar shed.

In 1958, the railroad presented the deed to this station and one and one-half acres of land to Mrs. Robert Hearne, president of the board of directors of the library at that time, with the following statement:

“In the tradition of the good neighbor, the Western Maryland family deeds to all the families of Blue Ridge Summit this familiar community meeting place to be used as a free public library, thus continuing in a cultural sense, the close relationship between the railroad and the people.” This quaint library serves two states: Maryland and Pennsylvania; and four counties: Frederick and Washington in Maryland and Adams and Franklin in Pennsylvania.

Water service for steam locomotives was a very important requirement, particularly on a mountain railroad. There were water tanks at Thurmont, one on the Horseshoe Curve above Sabillasville, and two at Highfield. Most small stations had local boarding houses available at the time.


Boarding Houses at Sabillasville

Horse Shoe Bend — Mrs. W. Frank Birely (25 guests); Williar House — Mrs. Charles Williar (15 guests); Curve House — Mrs. S. W. Harbaugh (15 guests); Meadow Brook — Mrs. Linnie Crist (20 guests); Silver Springs Farm — Mrs. Wm. H. Naylor   (35 guests); Fair View Farm — Mrs. Samuel West             (30 guests); Mountain View Cottage — R. A. Harbaugh (not given); *Harbaugh Cottage —       Thos. H. Harbaugh (not given); Anders House — Mrs. Maud Anders (not given); The Eyler Cottage — Mrs. Bertha Eyler (not given). *The author now owns this house.

Boarding house rates were from $1.00 to $2.00 per day and $5.00 to $6.00 or $10.00 per week. The charge for children and servants was $3.00 to $5.00.

Throughout the country, as was the case on Catoctin Mountain, the railroad reached and transformed formerly remote areas. In northern Frederick and Washington Counties, the railroad opened tourism to the mountain area and revived agriculture and industry in the region. During the summer on Sundays and holidays, crowds jammed Hillen Station in Baltimore and spilled into the street, with lines sometimes stretching several blocks. City people were headed for vacation resorts at Braddock Heights, Pen Mar, Blue Ridge Summit, and other locations, which were built and prospered because of rail transportation.

Unfortunately, all of this cost money, and by May 1902, the railroad owed over $9,000,000 to the City of Baltimore. After Hood resigned, the city sold its interest in the Western Maryland Railroad to the Fuller Syndicate.


The WMRR Now

Since 2007, the Maryland Midland (MMID) Railroad in Union Bridge, Maryland, has been owned by Genesee & Wyoming Industries, a U.S.-based corporation that owns multiple railroad shortlines in the United States and Australia. The railroad is shaped like a giant cross, with the east-west lines longer than the north-south lines. The western end of the cross, the former Western Maryland main line, goes to the CSX interchange at Highfield. The train sometimes runs twenty to thirty cars, with as many as four locomotives often leading.

This view of Horseshoe Curve at Sabillasville is from a period image (c. late 1800s), according to WMRR Historical Society in Union Bridge. It is not a postcard but an early sketch issued in a small booklet entitled “Western Maryland R. R. Scenery,” measuring 3 x 5 inches.

James Rada, Jr.

Beulah Zentz (pictured right) may not have been born in Thurmont, but the town’s oldest resident has become a part of the town’s history.

She was born on May 26, 1916, near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Fresh out of high school, she met Ethel Hockensmith. Beulah went to help Ethel with housework at her home in Zullinger, Pennsylvania. Beulah stayed with her about a week before Ethel asked her, “Do you want a job?”

Ethel’s brother owned and operated the Munshour Dairies in Thurmont. So, Beulah made the move to Thurmont in 1932. She lived with the Munshours. Her work included milking sixteen cows twice a day, washing glass milk bottles, and bottling milk. Munshour Dairies delivered milk by horse and wagon to locations throughout Thurmont. Sometimes, Beulah would ride along.

“The only place she got to go while she was living there was the Lutheran church,” said Viola Noffsinger, Beulah’s daughter.

It was there that she met Albert Zentz, a local farmer. The two got along well, but before their relationship could really develop, Beulah moved back to Chambersburg. A friend of hers invited Beulah to come work at a factory in Chambersburg for $7.50 a week. Beulah was only making $3.00 a week at Munshour Dairies, so she jumped at the new job.

This complicated her growing relationship with Albert, who had to travel from Thurmont to Chambersburg to visit her. He finally told her that it was too far to travel.

Beulah had a choice to make, and she chose Albert over her job. She moved back in with her family, who were living in New Franklin, Pennsylvania. Once she did, Beulah said, “He started visiting more often.” They married on February 24, 1936.

Albert had taken over his family’s farm in 1934, and Beulah moved into the farmhouse at 158 North Carroll Street in Thurmont. “We had animals of all kinds,” Beulah said. “Hogs, calves, beef cattle, chickens.” They also grew vegetables to sell in town.

The farmhouse also became quite crowded. Albert’s parents, Wendell and Florence, continued to live in the house, and Beulah and Albert started their family. Jean (Heims) was born in 1939, Viola (Noffsinger) in 1940, Mary (Eyler) in 1942, and Wendell in 1954.

As the town grew, factories began building in town.

Meanwhile, Albert not only worked his farm, but he helped anyone in town who needed help. Albert got a reputation of being the person to go to if you needed a helping hand.

Beulah did her part to assist the family. She worked for a time at the shoe factory in town, but then she found a better way to help out.

The Zentzes owned a building next to the railroad tracks and near the shoe factory. The upstairs rooms were rented out as apartments, but the Zentzes had another idea for the ground floor.

“The shoe factory wanted something so people could have snacks and eat,” Beulah said.

And, so, the Sunrise Cafeteria was born. Employees at the shoe factory would place orders, and one employee would walk over to the cafeteria to pick up the order of milk and sandwiches that the employees would eat on their break.

The Western Maryland Railroad passenger trains also stopped at the cafeteria. “They made it a point to stop there and eat,” Beulah said.

The cafeteria operated for years until bureaucracy began interfering. Insurance rates climbed because the cafeteria sold fresh milk, not pasteurized. Then the health inspector told Beulah that they would need new coolers to hold the milk, which were too expensive. The cafeteria closed in the early 1950s.

Beulah continued working with companies like Claire Frock and Hillside Turkey.

Albert died in 2002. He and Beulah had been married for sixty-seven years.

Beulah is now 102 years old, making her Thurmont’s oldest citizen. However, she has had health issues this year, including pneumonia. When asked what her secret to long life is, Beulah said, “I never gave it much thought. I just went along and did whatever needed doing.”

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

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

On June 25, 1915, the Blue Mountain Express bound for Hagerstown crashed head-on with a mail train coming east from Hagerstown, crumpling the two engines and sending a baggage car off the bridge where the wreck occurred and into the ravine below. Coleman Cook, engineer; Luther Hull, fireman; J. R. Hayes, fireman; Mrs. W. C. Chipchase, Baltimore; and Walter Chipchase, Baltimore, all died in the crash. Twelve others suffered serious injuries.

Edgar Bloom, a dispatcher for the Western Maryland Railroad, took responsibility for mixing up the right-of-way orders issued from Hagerstown that had caused the crash.

What if there was another contributing factor in the accident that no one realized because it had happened months earlier?

William H. Webb was a sixty-five-year-old watchman on the bridges west of Thurmont. Each day, he would walk to his shanty next to the bridges from his home on Kelbaugh Road. Every day, his wife, Sarah, would have one of their children or grandchildren take William his lunch.

“As watchman of those bridges, Mr. Webb’s position was an important one. The safety of many passengers and trains depended upon his watchfulness during the hours of the night. He walked those bridges at regular intervals during all hours of the night,” the Frederick Post reported.

By 1915, he’d been an employee of the Western Maryland Railroad for thirty-five years. His job was isolated, but he enjoyed it.

Webb was Roger Troxell’s great-grandfather. According to stories that his mother told him, “One of the children or grandchildren took him his lunch one day. It was pouring down rain and he found him (Webb) sitting on the railing holding his umbrella, and he was dead.”

This differs from the accounts in the Frederick Post and Catoctin Clarion. They reported that the day watchman had found William lying beside the cross-tie block on February 24, 1915.

“When found his overcoat was drawn up over his shoulders, and a raised umbrella lay beside him,” the Frederick Post reported.

The Catoctin Clarion explained that it appeared as if Webb had come east from his shack, across the iron bridge to “signal” the Fast Mail train going west soon after 6 o’clock, and while walking to his post east of the bridge was stricken with heart trouble and died.

The day watchman telephoned to Thurmont and Dr. Morris Birely, and Magistrate E. E. Black came out to the bridges to examine the body. No marks were found on it, and Birely said that heart failure was the cause of death.

Although this was months before the summer wreck, there’s no indication that another watchman was hired to replace Webb. Also, one of the trains that wrecked was the fast mail train that Webb usually signaled.

Had Webb still been alive and on the job, he may have been able to signal the trains to stop before they wrecked on the bridges. Bloom may also have been able to call the shanty directly about the mix-up, rather than telegraphing a message to the Western Maryland Railroad Station in Thurmont in the hopes to stop the train before it left the station.

William H. Webb

Recollections of the Civil War

by James Rada, Jr.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two articles recounting Sarah (Six) Schnure’s recollections of life in Thurmont during the Civil War. Schnure wrote her recollections while living in Hollywood, California, in the 1930s.

Sarah Six was ten years old in 1861. Her family lived in Thurmont, and Sarah grew up seeing how the Civil War affected life in town. Decades later, in the early 1930s, she wrote up her recollections of the war for her son. When the writings were discovered after her death, the Catoctin Enterprise published the writings.

Her first memory associated with the Civil War was when the entire town turned out at the downtown square to see the Thurmont men march off to Frederick to be sworn in as soldiers. She wrote, “Never shall I forget that morning that crowd of women trying to be brave and send off their men with smiles when their hearts were breaking.”

The men seemed excited, as if they were venturing off for a grand adventure. For many of them, it would be an adventure, since in the days before the Western Maryland Railroad reached Mechanicstown, they hadn’t ever ventured far from town in their lives.

In the years to come, the wives and mothers of Mechanicstown would live in a state of anxiety, wondering what had become of the husbands and children. News about the war did not arrive often. There was no daily newspaper and mail came only three times a week. The telegraph had not been installed in town, and the telephone did not exist.

“News traveled slowly and when there was a battle on, many days would elapse before any report of it reached our town,” Sarah wrote.

In support of their Union soldiers, the women of Mechanicstown would often gather at St. John’s Lutheran Church to bag up old linen that would be sent off to Union hospitals to be turned into bandages. Sarah and other children would do their part by gathering wild cotton that was also sent to the hospitals.

One night around midnight in 1862, the Six family was awakened by a barking dog. Then they heard Henry Foreman, the neighbor’s son, calling, “Get up, Mr. Six! The rebels are coming.”

The family got dressed and turned out into the street, along with the rest of the town. In the dark of night, they watched army ambulances come through the town with wounded that they were transporting to safety in Pennsylvania. They also came with news that the rebels had crossed the Potomac River.

Most likely, this would have been early in the morning of September 5. After General Robert E. Lee’s victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run at the end of August, Lee moved his army into Maryland, with the intention of securing a victory in the North. He wanted to keep his army on the offensive and influence the fall elections in the North so that congressmen and senators willing to recognize the Confederate States of America might be elected. In addition, Lee needed supplies for his army that the South was running out of.

As the army had approached Frederick, citizens, military, and patients from the United States Military Hospital fled the city.

As the ambulances moved through town, drivers and patients requested food and coffee. It was provided as much as the citizens could manage, but Sarah noted that because Mechanicstown had no bakeries, many homes went without bread for breakfast that day.

Some of the residents in town packed up and headed north with the army. Others hunkered down and hid valuables, livestock, and food.

“Mother had valuables packed and ready to flee into the mountain. I had few treasures but two of them were in my pocket—a small silk union flag and my treasured china doll,” Sarah wrote.

The Confederate army did not continue north from Frederick. They turned west and would go on to fight the Battle of South Mountain and the Battle of Antietam before retreating south back across the Potomac.

225 Years in the Making

by “My Father’s Son”

Founded in 1794, after Joshua Delaplane purchased six hundred acres, lying in both Carroll and Frederick Counties, straddling its namesake waterway, is the former village of Double Pipe Creek. Delaplane expertly harnessed the opportunities of the energetic waterway intersecting his tract—a confluence of Little and Big Pipe Creeks existing for two miles before pouring into the nearby Monocacy (the “river with many bends” as translated from the indigenous Shawnee language)—by stationing a dam allowing him to power three large mills that he had constructed: a grist mill for grinding grain, a saw mill to plane lumber, and a woolen mill for fulling cloth. Known today as Detour, the town later became an active hamlet on the Western Maryland Railroad, leading to its 1905 name change to accommodate character-limited railroad signage.

Nearly thirty years after Delaplane’s purchase, George Henry Waesche left his parent’s Lower-Saxony home at Eddesoe in Hanover Kingdom, Germany. Fourteen years old, he traveled to America to live with half-brother Frederick in Baltimore. Arriving stateside in 1821, George Henry worked on his brother’s clipper ships. After a spell of sea-life, George Henry resolved to learn farming and relocated to the Carroll County Farm of David Cassell in Wakefield, outside of Westminster. George Henry paid Cassell to teach him agriculture, an investment worth the return as George Henry eventually wed Cassell’s niece, Catharine, and purchased the whole “Wakefield Farm” from his bride’s Uncle.

Come 1832, George Henry Waesche and wife Catharine, along with their first of nine children, purchased from Joshua Delaplane the tract “Prosperity” along Double Pipe Creek. Here, on the Frederick County side of the parcel—a division distinguished by the banks of the mighty creek—Waesche inhabited the impressive Delaplane stone manor house. Waesche’s holdings included the handsome dwelling, three established mills, and many stores and tenements situated where Detour stands today along Maryland’s Route 77. The mills continued to prosper under their new ownership.

Between 1834-1849, George Henry and Catharine welcomed the last eight of their children, resulting in a family of eight sons as their fifth-born and only daughter, Mary Elizabeth, died at six months of age. This daughter was buried on the property alongside a stone Chapel built by George Henry for his wife—now in ruins within a wooded area along Detour Road. In 1849, Waesche assembled a company of men (nephews and second eldest son, William Henry, included) and set off for California, upon the Schooner “Creole” after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. In route, on a riverboat passing through the Isthmus of Panama, George Henry contracted Malaria and was buried within twenty-four hours. George Henry, while on the river Chagres, kept a journal describing the banks of the river as similar to those at Double Pipe Creek—unwritten was the undetectable cholera, raging through the jungle, to which he would become host. George Henry’s body was interred in Panama, a grave that would be resumed sixty years later to allow construction of the Panama Canal.

Widow Catharine Waesche managed the mills and manor until they were divided and conveyed to both Daniel P. Saylor and Henry McKinstry by 1854. Prosperity sold, Catharine Cassell Waesche and her youngest children (presumably Thomas Repold, Charles Albert, Leonard Randolph, and James Theodore, ages five to thirteen years old) moved to the previous Key farm Terra Rubra, just over one mile away. The family lived in the original Key home, F.S.K.’s birthplace, where the Gentlemen’s song “To Anacreon in Heaven” may have one day been hummed for four years before a hurricane “wrecked and twisted” (as stated by Waesche family records) parts of the home so badly that the widow deemed it uninhabitable. Mrs. Waesche razed the entire structure and by 1859 had built a new home: the Terra Rubra. Terra Rubra stands today on the original home’s stone foundation, reusing certain features like the basement and attic summer beams (which she simply had flipped over for fresh use) and decorative trimmings such as the front stair newel-post. The Waesche Terra Rubra is of a traditional Maryland-Germanic brick stretcher-bond pattern and built in the liking of Mrs. Waesche, not that of the Keys before her. Unlike most of their siblings, youngsters Leonard R. and James T. “Theo” Waesche would more remember this Terra Rubra as their childhood home opposed to Prosperity. Theo found what he considered to be one of his most treasured possessions: a spoon of the Key’s silver, while plowing fields on his mother’s farm as a boy. Accustomed to great homes, there is no wondering how these brothers would come to start a homebuilding company in Thurmont.

In 1887, Joseph Abraham Waesche repurchased his birthplace from Saylor’s estate and, in 1910, sold it to brother Charles Albert. Joseph never re-inhabited the manor, but acquired the beloved family home only to satiate his sentiment. Charles, however, moved his family to Prosperity from Baltimore only to be convinced by the ladies of the home—displeased at their absence from the city’s social happenings—to return to Baltimore five years later. Charles greatly improved the home, extending all levels to connect the house to its rear kitchen, ‘back building’ using native stone, seamlessly matching the exterior of the existing house structures. The Waesche home at this time was supposedly of fourteen rooms, three staircases, and a terraced front yard. All surviving U.S. Waesche blood hails from Prosperity.

Prosperity held a healthy 93–acres from the time of Joseph Waesche’s purchase through the purchase of Hoyt B. Deshields, Jr. in 1944. By 2002, Deshields had shed 73.74 acres, reducing the property to the 19.26 acres now remaining with the manor. With fifty-eight years, Mr. Deshields was the longest resident to inhabit Prosperity. Prosperity has withstood many events over the past two hundred twenty-two years, most notably Tropical-storm Agnes of 1972 and Hurricane Eloise in 1975. Well above the reach of flood waters, Prosperity watched as Detour below—a basin between the foot of the home’s hilltop perch at the south and risen rail-bed of the W.M.R.R to the north—was filled by the swell of the Double Pipe tributary. Flow obstructed by the muddy-Monocacy, water levels rose over the porch roofs of Detour’s modest dwellings. Purchased last in 2003, 11309 Rocky Ridge Road, “Prosperity Farm,” is presently listed for sale at an admirable $1.2 million.

Extensive is not suitable enough a word for the restoration completed at the home, which has fallen in and out of disrepair over the past one hundred years. Owner Deborah Donohue, working with contractor Sam Wivell, has exquisitely implemented modern amenities, bringing the home up to both the formal and casual living standards of a 21st century estate-home. More thoroughly, all electrical and plumbing utilities have been updated, replacement windows fashioned where necessary, and the rotted front porch replaced with a federal-style, elliptical-colonnade. Finishes include traditional marble, repointed brick and stone by Emmitsburg masonry artisan Nevin Eiker, and 150-year-old oak barn-planks replacing the severely deteriorated flooring of the home’s back section, closed off at Donohue’s time of purchase. On the grounds are several porches, patios, and manicured lawns and gardens—one bearing a replica of “Little Wendy,” the Trosdal family statue made famous by the 1994 true-crime novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Overlooking the entirety of Carroll County’s Detour, this listing is an opportunity to purchase not only one of Frederick County’s first-wave Manors, but also to become part of its deeply steeped history.

Prosperity Manor House, reigning over the Historic town of Detour from its hilltop site at the intersection of Rocky Ridge and Detour Roads, just south of crossing Double Pipe Creek into Carroll County.

Photo by “My Father’s Son”

by James Rada, Jr.

Bessie Darling’s Murder Haunts Us Still

Bessie Darling House 07-09-1941 001 JAK (2)When the mail train from Baltimore stopped in Thurmont on Halloween, more than the mail was delivered. George F. Schultz, a sixty-two-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 ten 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 remarked on 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 forty-eight-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 twentieth 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 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 fourteen years younger than Schultz, met a lot people, both men and women in her work. In the summer of 1933, Schultz had become convinced that Darling was seeing Charles Wolfe, a sixty-three-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 return to Baltimore at the end of the tourist season. She decided that she would spend the winter in the hotel rather than having 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 Williams, the eighteen-year-old maid, was coming out for firewood. Schultz demanded to see Darling. Williams said Darling was in her room and tried to close the door on the man.

Schultz forced his way inside. Williams hurried upstairs to Darling’s bedroom to warn Darling, with Schultz following. Williams 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 Williams to make him coffee. She did, and when he finally let her leave the house to get help for Darling, he told her, “When you come back, you’ll find two of us dead.”

Williams 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 entered the 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 twenty-six 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 an hour and found him guilty of second-degree murder; Schultz was sentenced to eighteen 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, sixty-six 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.

Most recently, the Thurmont Thespians performed an original musical based on the murder case.