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Reflections of a October 1879
drive along Poplar Ridge

Samuel Motter

(Originally published Saturday, Oct 25, 1879 in the Emmitsburg Chronicle)

In the morning of the 6th, in company with a friend, we started fourth for short drive. All the world knows that the drives, calculated to afford pleasure and delight, or very numerous around Emmitsburg, and the heart which is not alive to the beauty of the scenery and the unexampled loveliness everywhere around must be wanting in refining sensibilities. We write in interest of old friends and old acquaintances. To interview we aim to reproduce the images which heretofore have delighted their youthful fantasies, or an older years revive the memories of youthful associations.

The thermometer had already arisen to 80̊F; you who used to sit by glowing stoves at this time of the year, with button up coats and with sensible forebodings of winterís approach, think ye of us, riding in open buggy, with straw hat, and the high temperatures we have mentioned!


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We passed down the old "Dutch Lane" as the misnomer of the locality still goes, and soon worked on the new "Poplar Ridge" road proper. The roadbed is the one of old, which has been widened, leveled, and put into excellent order; save only the steepness of the hills here and there, we have no better road around, and none more interesting for his extensive use in interesting associations. The road starts from Carlisle Street, (Gettysburg Road) [now know as North Seaton Ave], and is the continuation of the broad alley which grows straight eastward to Flat Run, when he intersects the old lane, it turns abruptly northward and continues on up the old course, up the steep hill to the backbone of the ridge, where one is fourth with confronted by that sturdy old poplar tree, which stands like a sentinel there, challenging your further progress, lonely and grand in its position, the last of the giant tribe which gave the name " Poplar Ridge" to those heights, and which from its well-defined proportions, it symmetrical top and proud form, being visible all over the plane for miles to the southward, a lady of taste called "Stonewall Jackson." He were a bad woodman who should try his ax upon the body of that grand old monarch, that glorious, watchman of the valley below. There it stands, bidding us all adien at night, and greeting is happy morn at every dawn.

The first object of interest however on the way is the ancient Silverís Run. Where are you all now boys, who used to watch its rising floods from the little old brick schoolhouse which stood on the hillside, close by the old church on the east? Whither had ye gone ye jolly elves, whom the stern duties of school hours could scarcely restrain from the frozen pond, over whose glassy surface your thoughts with glide more, far more intently than upon the dull sessions before you? Ye who used to track rabbits and lure partridges and tree opossums and hunt blithe squirrels on the ridge, and be yourselves pursued by goblins adown the hills and along by the lone graveyard, what echoes from the past send ye up now?

There is a bridge across that run now, over the roadway, there it stands - a monument to the genius of Mr. Daniel Sheets. Of course we all standstill on the hilltop, north of us is Stonewall Jackson; South, at our feet, in birds eye view, is the dear old village. First we see the old Elias Church (Lutheran) with its whitened sepulchers glinting in the sunlight, where rest the remains of so much wealth of tender associations as cling to the memories of those who once gave direction and life and influence to the living forces of the the neighborhood. Just there to the right appears the Church of the Incarnation (Reformed ) with its golden cross at the top. About 100 feet high erected in the year 1868, on the lot once known as John Nickumís.

Towering above all other objects around, stands the new Presbyterian Church, of which we have lately given full details. And there to the east, and southward is St. Josephís Church with its massive walls and solid spire. Here to the cemetery shows fourth the white light reflected on the monuments that commemorate, much of the worth which is active exercise to itself in the earlier as well as the latter history of Emmitsburg. But there, all along their, as in calm repose, under the glimmering heat, and industry absorbed, lies the town itself "long drawn out."

 There from Robertsonís (now Fallerís) Hill out to Flat Run Bridge it extends, here, there, and around, we locate the old homestead of this person and that, we think of the past and compare, the all residents with the new.

Beautifully the prospect opens, the eye, here and the sumach shrubs, there a lone gum tree, yonder a clump of trees, father off a whole grove appears, and erewhile the eyes rest upon the pile of "St. Josephís House," the groves among - ornamenting the plain, and whose metal roofs and radiant crosses dart forth scintillations of light athwart the valley. The away off there to the Southwest , almost obscured among the dense foliage is Mt. St. Maryís College, above which rises, as over-looking the whole included prospect, the venerable old church perched upon the hillside and sending forth its reflected light to the far distant horizon.

Resuming now our drive we decent the hill which takes us right across the everlasting Flat Run. No narrow confined banks hen in its raging floods, impetuous, as over its flat sandy bottoms, its waters glide into the gulf of Tomís Creek; only the old quarry up there indicates the convulsions of nature which may have upheaved its smooth slaty sides in the early dawn of time.

Rising far up in Carrollís track in Pennsylvania, that run finds its way 5 or 6 miles along to the boating ground at Gilsonís - the maritime port of Tomís Creek. At this date however whilst the bridge is a building over Flat Run on the Taneytown road, it is so absolutely flat that the water for the mortar has to be hauled for the purpose, from a distance.

Having Crossed the run we are at the Houck property where Mason and Dixonís Line strikes the corner of the Northern Chimney, crossing which you are at once into Pennsylvania and going forward you come to a road running East and West. In the first direction you reach erelong the Gettysburg Road [North Seaton Ave.]. Westward you soon get on that which goes by Hunterís, Mr. Ross Whitesí &c, to Fairfield (Millerstown), but we turn southward, still keeping the old ridge in view, ever memorable as the home of the late Patrick Savage, whose ghost has been said to appear there since his death, not seldom.

 We come on round and rounddown the Waynesboro; road into Annanís Addition, along the old Rickenbaugh Tanyard more recently of Jacob Motter deceased, where the new public school is a building, and reaching thus, the place of the beginning we can only say begin the story again.

Read other newspaper accounts of life in Emmitsburg of old