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James A. Helman's ~ 1906

History of Emmitsburg, Md.

Pages 91 - 100

Runaway slaves

During the days of slavery many Negroes, slaves in Virginia and Maryland, ran away from their masters, their object was to enter Pennsylvania at the nearest point. Many came through Emmitsburg; some thought our town was in Pennsylvania, others, more knowing ones, avoided the town, knowing there were Negro catchers, as they were called, white men who watched for these escaping slaves for the reward; it ranged from $5o to $500. A few were arrested in the town; as a general rule they gained their freedom once they arrived here. As many as a dozen would travel together, armed with clubs and pistols. It was dangerous to attempt to arrest such a body. Slaves have escaped from their owners here. 

Felix Taney and Dr. James Shorb each had quite a number to run away; others a few. We were too near the Mason and Dixon line for slavery to exist. It was only by the kindest treatment they could be kept. The free black people living here, and we always had more free than slave, were helpers of these absconding slaves; some of them were very loud in denouncing the Negro catchers, amongst the number Roderick Dorsey, who lived on the street up town. James McCullough got up the following trick on Roderick: He blacked his face and dressed in old clothes; arrangements were made for the boys, large and small, to ran him up town, he to take shelter with Roderick, which he did; as soon as he entered the house and told who he was (a runaway) Roderick closed the door. McCullough crept under the bed. Soon the boys were outside yelling a runaway in Dorsey's house. McCullough raised up, upsetting the bed and escaped through the back door, the boys opened the front door and filed through the house after McCullough, this raised Roderick's wrath.

Trees on the Streets

This locality was called Poplar Grove, which tell us poplar trees grew here. No doubt the streets in early time were shaded by poplar trees. As late as 1850 poplar trees as thick as a flour barrel stood in front of Grover's house (now Chas. Zeek), in front of John Barry, a row in front of Dr. Taney's house; at different places in the town single trees stood, also locust trees as large; one in front of Mary Knox's house, Joseph Moritz and many others, showing locust was the second setting of shade trees. Around the ground of the Lutheran church were locust trees.

Mulberry came in about 1850. The town had trees almost from end to end of mulberry. One man said you can sit in the sun until the mulberry leaves come and you hunt the sun when the mulberry sheds its leaves; it was true. Later the Buckeye and the present poplar were planted. After the fire, P. Smith planted cherry trees along the lot now Henry Harner's. It was a feast for the children. A cherry tree stood in front of the lot where John Jackson lives, long ago. A large locust tree stood in front of Mrs. Blair's house long ago. The locusts were as long as bananas and fine eating, so the boys said, though very insipid. A few mulberry trees stood along the streets, that bore delicious fruit. How eagerly they were watched for fear they should become too ripe.

Deaths and Burials

When a person died, the undertaker went to the house, if in town, and measured the dead for a coffin; if in the country, some person took a stick and measured the length and breadth, bringing the stick to the undertaker. Coffins were not kept on hand as now; then all were buried in the single coffin. It is within the memory of all persons over 6o years of age, when coffins were let down in the graves by ropes fastened inside the coffins; rough boxes are of re- cent date.

Pole Raising

During the political excitement of a presidential campaign, prior to 1860, it was customary for both political parties to raise a pole to the candidate. In front of Henry Hahn's hotel, where the bank stands, the Whigs raised the last pole (the Whigs always used poplar, the Democrats hickory). This was the most symmetrical pole ever raised in the town. This same year the Democrats raised one, a fine one, in front of Devit's hotel, now E. L. Row's house. It was not left long standing after the elections. The great labor of cutting these sticks, hauling them to town, splicing and getting ready for pole raising day incurred great labor; that day some prominent speaker addressed the crowd. In 1844 the Whigs. made a ball 10 to 12 feet in the Geo. Winter barn, to roll to a political meeting held at Frederick, which they did. It was a curiosity when made. Its the old saying, what compensation was there in it?

Our campaign was the singing of songs written for the occasion. Our esteemed and venerable Lewis Zimmerman was the leader of the singing at that time. After the election, torch light processions; torches hung in wreaths across the street; firing of the old gudgeon; groaning the defeated as the procession passed their houses and cheering at the houses of the successful; burning of tar barrels, bands playing, drums beating. This gives the youth of today a crude idea of the past. One of the evils of these occasions, was the drunkenness of these affairs. Come take a drink, was the candidates salute, and the boys took it. Happy day when this style of politics went down. Blest conception to close the bar room on election day.


It is within the memory of some when all means of travel was horseback or walk. In the early days if a man wished to go west, he joined a company starting from some county town or meeting place in the neighborhood. If a family moved west (Ohio was called way out west in 1825) they loaded in a two-horse covered wagon beds, pots, dishes and eatables, and started. Different families left for the west from this community, sleeping in the wagon and cooking on the road. The travel to the city was the same way; the merchant from the west rode horseback; the farmers came to town the same way; the young men and maidens had riding parties; this continued until the old gig two-wheeled seating capacity for two was invented; the barouche came in about the same time, after 1830; this seated four persons; the springs on some were bow shaped, extending far out behind, some of wood others of sole leather; soon the sulky came in. The first spring wagon had spiral springs, a curiosity; then the buggy, a crude vehicle compared to today. Step by step the vehicle has advanced, changed in weight and style until the perfect one of today.

Church Bells

The Lutheran bell has been ringing so long, history and tradition fail to agree as to the time its silvery tone first wafted through the air. The Roman Catholic no doubt has been ringing ever since they built the church. The Reformed since 1868 when they built their church. The Presbyterian since 1868 when they remodeled their church; that bell was damaged in the fire. Annan Horner gave the present bell as a memorial to his father. John Gelwicks, E. Smith Waddles and Wm. Fraley presented the Methodist bell in 1906.


Annan Horner & Co. opened a banking house on the corner of Square and Gettysburg street in 1879. Built the present banking house in 1881, where they have carried on the business since.


Each community has had men whose aptitude for an auctioneer surpasses other men; they loom up from time to time and serve the people. An old custom was for the auctioneer when selling real estate to get the property started, when bids fagged, he with bell in hand walked up or down the street ringing the bell and crying the amount bid, not knocking it down until he returned to the property. Frederick Crabbs was the last auctioneer seen on our streets; he left here sixty years ago.

Item: April 12, 1900, Eliza Smith died, aged 72 ; April 22, 1900, Dennis Smith died, aged 84; April 23, 1897, Peter Brown died, aged 97; April, 1901, Maria Constan died, aged 93; John King still lives, aged 91.

Concrete Pavements

The first concrete pavement was put down in front of the engine house in 1903; the priests house next; Lansinger next; now they are found at Roman Catholic church, Methodist church, Reformed church, Lutheran avenue to church, F. P. Zimmerman's store, Chas. Gillelan's house, Morris Gillelan's house.

Telegraph and Telephone

The W. U. Telegraph was first put up in 1866; the telephone in 1892 and 1902; now both Bell and Maryland have exchanges here.

Brass Bands

The first brass band of which any account is given was one composed of men who, if living, would all be over So years of age. Dr. Levi Sheets and J. Vance Danner are the only two living, they are past 80. Since, there have been, bands many, they have come and gone like the seasons. The climate was healthy, the associations agreeable, but the ambitious young man could see no fortune here, and he went West, therefore the bands could not be sustained. They organized again and again, recently there was a new organization.


Fillial Lodge, No. 62, A. F. & A. M., was started in 1840, in Hysters Hall over the jewelry shop. Great inducements caused it to be moved to Mechanicstown in 18__.

Good Samaritan Lodge, I.O.O.F., No- 46, was started in 1840, in Eysters Hall, where it continued until 1847, when for good reasons it was moved to Mechanicstown in 18__.

Massoit Tribe, No. 41, I.O.R.M, kindled its council fire in Emmitsburg 18__, met every Saturday at eight, run until 1867, when it disbanded.

Junior Order American Mechanics organized., met for years in hall over Annan's store, purchased the school house at west end, after a short stay sold the property, moved to Annan's Hall, disbanded 18-. Emerald Beneficial Association, Branch No. 1, monthly meeting; fourth Sunday each month, organized 1893.

Tom’s Creek

Like many corrupted spelling of words the wrong version often gets the ascendancy. Such is the condition we find in connection with what we are in the habit of calling I Toms creek. Among the Indian tribes that inhabited these parts was one called Tomes, they were known as residents along this creek. The Indian to designate it from Marsh creek, Middle creek, Flat now Friends' creek, called it Tomes creek, hence, when the English government laid off the land into districts this one was called Tomes Creek Hundred. As to the half Indian Tom, we have beard so much about? that is explained as follows: A child was born to an Indian by a black man; Emmitsburg held this treasure in the person of Tomes Bones' mother, who lived in the little log house where Robert Patterson now lives, her son was a grave digger in his day, he is dead sixty or more years. She married a black man named Bones, she named her son after her tribe, Tome.


The Q. R. S. Literary Club was organized 1898, com- posed of persons whose tastes will acquiesce with the name. They have enjoyed their meetings thus far and look forward to the coming years for a better program and appreciation of it. Papers on the various subjects are pre- pared, music of a high order rendered, vocal selections executed faultlessly, selections read and enjoyed. All together it is par excellence. Refreshments are provided by the host of the evening. It meets at a member's house monthly.


Lodge A. F. & A. M. organized 1906 in third story over Annan store, under favorable auspices as Tyrian Lodge, No. 1. The citizens hope for a successful organization and a bright future for Tyrian Lodge.

Swimming Hole

Unless something is said about the swimming hole in this book, the attractive spot for a hundred years past, it would not be complete. It has been the meeting place of all classes; here the boys have learned to swim; here the fathers have taken the little fellows and held them up the surface and said, on "now strike out!" thus giving them the first lesson; not a boy raised in these parts that has not been in the swimming hole; the oldest citizens will tell you he beard his father speak of it. This is the most accurate history we have; who gave it this name ? Here we are lost; nor can we find the early owner's name. The boys of Mt. St. Mary's College came here to swim, I know, fifty years ago, no doubt longer, as it was a common resort at that time; I hear some one say that is true. Yes, it is true; we have all been there.

Carriage Makers

The first person we have any account of engaged in this trade was David Gamble, Prior to 1840, in connection with the saddlery; he traveled through the lower counties and into Virginia selling both; he told of his selling a carriage, a pair of horses and harness to a farmer with whom he staid over night; they had herring for breakfast; the host after cutting the herring in three pieces asked him which part he would have; he smiled, and told him up in Maryland they never took less than a whole fish. After Gamble came Frame, Riddlemoser, Hess, Weaer, Baker, Smith, Kerrigan, Crisomer and Dukehart; at Motter's station Fisher manufactured buggies; manufacturing establishments have changed these home industries into repair shops; although it is said the home-made vehicle is the best, the price is considered and the manufactured sold.


Mr. Henry Stokes possesses a cannon ball picked up on the Gettysburg battlefield. He did have a musket. Mr. Jacob Motter found in his barn a fine set of surgical instruments, after the army passed through to Gettysburg, which he gave to his son, Dr. George T. Motter, of Taneytown, Maryland.

Cabinet Makers

These were the men that built the furniture so eagerly sought for now. They made the coffins; all good mechanics. Amongst the first were Thomas Hays, John Row, 98

Frederick Row, Row & Bushman, Joseph Long, Koontz & Dailey, Martin Sweeney, Smith & Shouff, M. F. Shuff, E. E. Zimmerman. Furniture of various kinds still re- main in possession of families made by the old manufacturers named.


It is within the memory of many when they were an ornament to place on the mantle piece; few were eaten prior to 1848; then understood not to be very good eating. The first were the small egg shaped; the present varieties are the result of careful culture.

Grandfathers' Clocks

They were made in Taneytown by Eli Bently and Hoover, near Emmitsburg. Fifty years ago it was difficult to get a bid at the sales over five dollars. When one sold for eight dollars, it was considered a high price. The small shelf clocks came in about that time. About 1830 the wood wheel clocks came; they sold for $25. These clocks are still found with wood and brass works, 27 inches high; they sell at sales less than one dollar. Once the grand- father clock had merit; it lost it; a fad for old furniture revived its importance; now blessed is the family with such an heirloom.


The first lawyer resident here was Isaac E. Pearson, who about 1860 removed to Westminster, Maryland. Ephraim Carinack, of Mechanicstown, came here at the same time to attend to cases before magistrates. About 1873 Eugene L. Row was admitted to the bar and opened an office here. Still, later, Vincent Sebold commenced the practice of law here.


At various times bakeries have been started. Figy, a Dutchman from Baltimore, opened one in the eastern part of Samuel Seabrook's house, 1876, building a large oven under the dining room. He staid but a short time. Others., Minick, Taney, Dutterer, each giving place to the other, until James Slagle made a success of the enterprise. Harry Hopp opened a bakery in the country, making a success then in the spring of 1906. He bought Slagle out in town, continuing the two, and moving his business to town.


It was the custom to toll the church bell, when older people died, and when the funeral took place to toll as many strokes as the person was years old. This has been omitted for a great many years, although the custom still exist in some sections. A custom of setting up with the dead was called a wake. At these gatherings the young usually sat up. When conducted with decorum, it was complimentary to the family, but when frivolity was the leading spirit, it was an insult to the family-hence it has been done away with almost entirely. Irish wakes we have bad but few in this locality. At these wakes the custom was for the family to prepare a meal for midnight for the watchers.

Old People

At this time the town has the following very aged residents: Lewis M. Motter, 91 years; Mrs. Henry Winter, 90; Samuel Flautt, 90; Mrs. John Barry, 95; Mrs. Thomas Bushman, 88. A partial list of old persons dying within twenty-five years- John Clark, 90; Mrs. John Favourite, 95; James Knauff, 91; Frederick Black, 88; Eli Sheets, 91; Mrs. William Floor, 94; Mrs. William Frame, 89; George Winter, 89; Mrs. Catherine. Cook, 92; Charlotte Picking, 92; Peter Brown, 97; John Jackson, 92- Lewis Wortz, 87; Mrs. jno. Mayhue, 94; Mrs. Abey, 92; Dr. A. Antian, gi; Dr. J. W. Eichelberger, 91; Kate Call, go; Mrs. N. Sebold, 94; Mrs. T. Barton, 88; Mrs. William Moser, 90; Mrs. T. Petticord, 87; Mrs. A. McBride, 87; Mrs. Joseph Eckenrode, 87; Mrs. Gorely, 87; Mrs. Joseph Reevers, 94; Mrs. C. Riddlemoser, 90; Mrs. John Singer, 92; George Krise, 91; John Hockensmith, 87; Mrs. Joseph Danner, 92; Catherine Hinkle, 89; Lydia Krise, 88; Mrs. John Sloss, 89; Mrs. James Ohler, 92; Mrs. Jacob Brown, 91; Peter Settlemyer, 87; Betsy Miller, 96; Mrs. John Dorsey, 86; Mrs. George Ovelman, 94; Maria Coustan, 93; Ann Coats, 89; William Richardson, 91; Mrs. W. Richardson, 91; Mrs. Eli Smith, 88; Mrs. H. Foller, 91; Mrs. D. Whitmore, 90; Mrs. G. Topper, 88; John Mortimer, 98; John Neck, 86.

St Joseph’s House

In the year 1808, through the generosity of Mr. Samuel Cooper, the money to purchase ground for this institution was supplied. In deciding the locality Mr. Dubourg was favorable to Baltimore City. Mr. Cooper insisted upon the selection of Emmitsburg, Md., as a more convenient situation, as its physical and moral advantages were preferable to Baltimore. Then the priest (Dubourg) replied. "Be it Emmitsburg." The vicinity of Emmitsburg having been selected for the location of the sisterhood projected by Mrs. Seton; now an eligible sight was to be purchased. Mr. Dubourg visited the town in 1808, and bought the land now owned by St. Joseph's from Robert Flemming. At that time this tract of land had a small stone house, part of the old wash house. The property was settled in the joint tenantship of Rev. Wm. V. Dubourg, Rev. John Dubois and Samuel Cooper. Tradition says, after Robert Flemming had agreed to take the specified amount, he afterwards changed his mind. To get out of it honorably he would only sell at the price named, providing the amount was cash and in gold; this he thought was an impossibility. To his utter surprise they brought him the gold in the given time.

Mother Seton was instrumental in the establishment of this world-wide institution; the progress made by it in all its branches, whether as a convent, a school or an architectural development, it is not surpassed. One mammoth edifice after another has been added from time to time, until the present climax stands as a memorial to Mother Seton, as well as the handsome marble monument erected by the sisterhood community.

Pages 101- End

Helmans' History Of Emmitsburg

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