Reminiscing With Polly
As I quickly learned, trying to follow a
native Emmitsburgan's family tree is like finding a path
through a maze blindfolded, and Polly Baumgardner Shank
is no exception.
Polly was born on December 5, 1914, the 8th and last
child of Mary Morrison and Thomas Baumgardner. Mary
Morrison was the daughter of a William Morrisorn who was
the son of Emmitsburg's wealthiest landholder, David
Morrison, who was married to a sister of Robert Morris,
the financier of the American War of Independence.
Mary's sister Elizabeth married
Stewart Annon and
another sister married Bruce Annon Horner, the son of
Horner, the leader of Emmitsburg's
Civil War Calvary.
On the Baumgardner Side of the family, Thomas'
brother John, married a Grace Martin, a granddaughter
and Anna Troxell Martin who were compatriots of
Emmitsburg’s founder Samuel Emmitt.
Polly spent her early years playing on her mothers
ancestral family farm just to the east of
Keysville-Grimes Road intersection. When she turned
five, her parents moved to the 'upper' farm, or as it
was once known, 'the Baumgardner Farm'.
The silos of the farm stood on the ground now
occupied by Silo Hill, thus it name. Polly's home, which
from all accounts was quite impressive, stood were the
Jubilee Market now stands. The suspicious fire, which
consumed the house and cleared the way for the building
of the market, is still a sore point with many old time
residents who fought valiantly to preserve what they
considered a historic structure.
Polly's reminiscences about the past evoke a dream
like picture of quintessential small town America. As
soon as she was able, she rose before sunrise and joined
in with her brothers and sisters as they hand milked the
families 26 cows. Once the milk was cooled, it was
brought to the creamery, (now Quality Tire). From their,
it made ways to Boyle's grocery (now the Main Street
Deli). In addition to owning the grocery, Mr. Boyle also
owned a farm just to the north of town, upon which lies
the Emmit Ridge development.
After completing her morning barn chores, Polly would
rush home, and quickly wash and ready herself for
school. A avid studier, Polly prided herself on always
having done her home work. Even today, she still has
vivid memories of the one time she failed to do so, and
the embarrassment of being called to the front of the
room to explain herself.
School was from nine to four, and because of the
small class sizes, two grades frequently occupied the
same room and teacher. Up until forth grade, Polly
attended school in the building now occupied by ABC
Printing on South Seton Ave.. Following which she and
her classmates joined the upper classes in old high
school. After school Polly would rush home with her
brothers and sisters and join in the afternoon milking.
The evenings were family time, and like other children
her age, was spent doing homework.
During the summer, Polly's parents moved their dairy
herd out to a farm near the Tom's Creek Methodists
Church. While the summer brought a vacation from
schoolwork, it was replaced with added farm chores.
Polly's eyes glisten as she recants how she and her
sister Jane used to retrieve a hidden ball when things
slowed down, and sneak off a play with it. "We used
to bounce it off the wall picking a particular brick and
seeing who could hit it. We would throw the ball for
hours, making up all sorts of games until such time as
Anna, one of my older sister, would find us and give us
more work to do."
Polly's parents were able farmers, and as such, they
could afford some of the luxuries of life, like a
telephone. "I can remember picking up the telephone
and calling into the switchboard and asking to be
connected to such and such. The operators always knew
who was in or out of town. If the operator received a
call asking to be connected to 'Hillcreast-X', she knew
it was an out of towner. The word would spread quickly,
and others on the party line would pick up their
receivers and listen in. Of course," Polly added
with a smile, "I never did that."
has always been a special time for kids in a small town,
and Polly and Emmitsburg was no exception. Emmitsburg
had its own tradition called 'Kris Kringling,"
which as far as I can tell, was a hybrid of trick or
treating, mischief night, and Christmas caroling. After
dressing in costumes, the children would sneak up to
neighbor's house armed with nose makers of every shape
and size. When all were positioned, a signal was given
and a clatter would arise sure to wake the dead. The
targets of the attack, usually aunts and uncles, would
invite the perpetrators in, where the identity of the
children would be guessed, and everyone enjoying hot
cider and all sorts of sweet treats.
Following graduation, many of Polly's classmate began
working at the old sewing mill, the present day Antique
Mall, Polly however, chose to work in Leone McNair's
Parrot Tea Room, one of Emmitsburg's more
charming restaurants. At the Green parrot diners were
treated to elegant meals while they watched horse being
watered in the fountain that once graced the town
square. Originally located were the liquor store now
stands, the Green Parrot moved twice, first to the bank
building, and finally to the building which now hold's
In 1934 Polly marred Weldon Shank, the man of her
dreams. The son and grandson of millers, in 1936, Weldon
took over his grandfather's mill located just to the
west of the town on old Rt. 26, now Rt. 140.
Liberty Mill, a.k.a., Jingle's Mill, or Shank's Mill,
was built in the early 1800's, and was the last of its
kind. Powered by a giant water wheel it ground grain
between two large stones, just as the first mills of the
early settlers had done. Like the old Troxell Mill and
Maxell Mills before it, it
served as a place were community members from far and
wide could gather and spin yarns. Over the
ensuing years. Polly helped her husband run the mill,
while simultaneously raising a family of nine.
Development however soon began to take its toll on
the Shank's business. Especially Carroll Valley, where
bountiful farms that had supplied the mill with grain,
where turned into plush golf courses. In 1985, Hurricane
Angus washed out the mill's raceway, driving the final
nail into the mill's coffin. Since then, Polly and her
husband have been enjoying the fruits of their labors
and the gleeful shrieks of laughter from their bountiful
Editors Note: On 5/15 Polly passed away, read Remembering Polly Shank
other stories by Michael Hillman
Do you know of an
individual who helped shape Emmitsburg?
If so, send their story to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Untold in the article
above, is the critical role the Baumgardner family
played in the history of 'Fort Henry', a name associated
in local folklore with a mythical revolutionary war
fort, but in reality, was the homestead of some of the
bravest men and noble women that any town could ever
hope to have.
Much like The
History of Stony Branch, 'The History of Fort
Henry' will tell the story of the land east of Flat Run,
including Emitt Gardens and Silo Hill, to Harney Road,
and north to North Seton Ave. Land that Henry
Williams called 'Fort Henry'.
The story will led you
thru time, beginning with the earliest settlers and
ending with the mysterious fire that is still talked
about today, and along the way, we'll tell the stories
of the families, such as the Baumbardners, that called
'Fort Henry' home.
Along the way, take
advantage of the many hyperlink detours, each one of
which will allow to explore & discover your own way through
Emmitsburg's rich history.
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