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Growing up in Stony Branch Valley

Robert Baumgardner 

I was not born in a hospital, but at home with the help of a midwife and Dr. W.R. Cadle who had recently come to Emmitsburg.

We did not have electric until I was about 10 years old. However, we had a wind pump which is a fairly high tower with a good-sized slatted wheel on top which pumped our water into a cement water tank. This water storage tank had to be situated higher than any of our water faucets because it had to come by gravity flow to the house, barn and hog pen. It was cheap energy as long as the wind blew, but we had a small gasoline engine hooked up to a jack which pumped our water when the wind didn't blow. If you watched the weather closely, the wind did most of the work.

We used kerosene lanterns at the barn, but at the house we had acetylene gas lights which means we had a lot more light in our house than most of our neighbors in the country. We received electric either on July 5, 1940, or 1941 from Potomac Edison after R.E.A., or Rural Electric Administration, threatened to bring us electric if the private power companies such as Potomac Edison did not. I remember the Andrew Keiholtz family thinking "how will we ever pay for this electric because we live back a lane of some distance." 

Because of the lane, this meant additional cost because of the extra distance from the public road. The minimum bill at this time was $6.18 per month and many of the neighbors thought, "How will we ever pay for it". However, after we had electric, I don't remember anyone having their electric disconnected. At this time, most farm families only had electric lights, refrigerator, radio and an electric iron and very little else. We were still milking our cows by hand and cooling the milk with cold water.

Early winter would find us butchering several hogs with the help of several neighbors. After the hogs were cut up, the farmers wives would clean the intestines (or casings as we would call them) to put the sausage was then put into a sugar cure brine and smoked with hickory wood. This was especially tasty - you might call it eating high on the hog. My wife really enjoyed the sugar-cured sausage bladder. 

After this, my father would make a sugar-cure brine had to be thick to fleet on egg in a vat that washed down the creek during a flood which made an excellent tub for curing pork. (My father thought someone up Tom's Creek was making whiskey or moonshine in it and didn't want to claim it because it was illegal during prohibition or anytime to make a brew for anyone except family.) If you want to know if my father's sugar-cured ham was tasty, ask Mrs. George Whilhide.

Each year on the second day of butchering, the farmer's wife would put on a fine meal which was the best of "country cookin". On this day the men with the help of some of the wives would make sausage, render lard, make panhaus and pudding which was quite a lot of work around the hot kettles. Of course, while we were butchering, there was a lot of stories swapped and catching up on the latest news.

My father started farming in the spring of 1927. At this time, April I was the time of year when farms changed hands or tenant farmers moved from one farm to another. He farmed with six horses until the summer of 1942 when he bought an International Farmall H tractor on steel wheels. He still kept four work horses to plow corn and make hay. We cultivated our corn with two horses pulling a one-row cultivator.

We still threshed our small grains such as barley, wheat and oats with a stationary threshing machine. Combines were not used much in our area until the 1950's. Here work horses were more efficient than having somebody drive a tractor to pull a wagon. In early September we filled our silos with field corn with neighbors helping each other. Next we would cut our field corn with hand corn choppers and make long rows of shocks which made a pretty sight in the fall of the year. Then we would husk the shocks of corn after dried by hand with a Boss husker and this lasted a long, long-time - usually a month of good weather.

Mother baked her own bread at the time. She also had a flock of laying hens and would take the eggs to Frailey's store on Saturday night in Emmitsburg and buy our groceries for the next week. Also, this presented an opportunity to visit with your neighbors who also patronized Frailey's Store.

Economic conditions were anything but good in the 1930's. I remember my father receiving as low as 4.25 cents a pound for prime market hogs weighing about 200 lbs. We had a telephone, but my parents had the phone disconnected for a few months so finances must have been close. 

When I think of growing up in the 1930's and 40's, I think of playing dominoes and chines checkers in the evenings with several neighbors. It was a good experience to be remembered. We worked together and played together and shared. Today we all think we are so self-sufficient, that we don't need anybody else, but is that what life is all about?

Have your own memories of people in Emmitsburg?  
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

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