In the spirit of ’76 – Doodling in the police blotter as Nation Turns 200-Years-Old

hscc 105aaaLots of people remember the day America turned 200 years old on July 4, 1976. There were all sorts of special parades, concerts, fireworks, and programs in communities across the nation. It was a big deal in Cecil too, with plenty of Bicentennial celebrations on the long holiday weekend for the once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

Working that July 4 Elkton Police Officers carefully chronicled the passing of Independence Day in the department’s official blotter. Considering how big the celebrations and parties were, it was a remarkable quiet holiday in Elkton. There were a few fireworks calls and a couple of burglar alarms, but only one domestic disturbance and one disorderly subject marred the occasion.

Officers Strickland, Smith, Blake, Pease, and George kept a careful watch on the county seat, during a 24-hour tour, coming and going off 8-hour shifts as people enjoyed the festivities.

The day was slow enough that someone had time to do a little doodling in this public record, the Elkton Police Blotter. The pages, which all except this one lack color and sketches, was doodled on, as an officer getting into the spirit of things wrote “Happy Birthday America,” and decorated the page with colorful art work and lettering.

So just as our little colonial doodler in an early age, sketched on a county tax schedule, someone did the same in 1976 on this public record.

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The Elkton Police Blotter, July 4, 1976

Colonial Doodling While Maintaining Cecil County’s Public Records

Although tax season is over for most Americans now that we are a couple of days past April 15th, it doesn’t mean that records generated by annual levies from long ago aren’t of interest. In fact, one of the Historical Society of Cecil County research volunteers, Jo Ann Gardner, has been pouring over volumes of those financial transactions for several days, carefully checking the rolls for personal property inventories, tax assessments, addresses, and the names of people living here in earlier centuries.

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Jo Ann Gardner a volunteer at Cecil County’s History and Genealogy Library pouring over colonial era tax records, pauses on the colonial doodlers page.

Jo Ann isn’t an auditor with the Internal Revenue Service pouring over what might appear to be mundane pages. She is a library volunteer, helping a patron from Colorado who is trying to identify some long ago, elusive ancestors in the public records.

Although those citizens from the past may not have been excited about paying the county levy, someone looking for evidence for putting together a family tree can be delighted to find ancestors listed in those aging, financial schedules written in a flowing script. While there are many ways to go about family history research, these vital governmental documents, while often neglected, have great value for historical and genealogical information. Jo Ann has been at it for some time going page by page through the volumes as the colonial, early federal, and 19th century tax records at the Society are extensive.

The other day while pouring over those yellowing pages, with an auditor’s like eye for detail, she tripped across a surprising item penned in the detailed, dry listings of inventories, assessments and levies. The county clerk (or someone) did a little fancy doodling, drawing a well-dressed man and also the face of another person. Perhaps it was just a little absent-minded sketching as the clerk sat silently listening to the commissioners review the assessments and make adjustments while waiting for them to complete their deliberations so he could permanently record the details in the county’s public record.

Whatever the case, we have had many doodlers in our nation’s history, as great leaders and other have been known to draw on the margins of a sheet during meetings.  So the county clerk from the end of the colonial era was in good company as he performed that most essential function, official recording the business of Cecil County while also taking care of filings and legal instruments.

Jo Ann has named her Colonial Doodler, “Yankee Doodles Dandy,” and in those lists, tabulations and levies, sources that have great potential for the genealogist probing for that elusive ancestor, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” stands out. And the over 200-year-old random drawing has been getting lots of attention, as it adds a little color to the public record.

This is just one of the many ways that the volunteers at Cecil County’s history and genealogy library serve the public.  Nearly forty years ago, the County Commissioners determined that our local heritage keepers should also serve as the county archives for records that no longer have day-to-day relevance, but have historical value.

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Some doodles at the end of a certification of an early Cecil County levy.

Jo Ann and Tom examine a page of tax records.

Jo Ann and Tom examine a page of tax records.

 

 

Remembering the Work of Cecil County’s Public Safety Communicators During National Public Safety Telecommunications Week

This is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week (April 13-19, 2014), a time when the United States honors the professionals who answer 911 calls and dispatch emergency responders. While the nation thanks public safety communicators, Window on Cecil County’s Past pauses to tip our hat to the County’s 911 calls-takers, dispatchers, and technicians who maintain our emergency communication system.

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Rosemary Culley dispatching from the county courthouse in the 1970s

These men and women are on the front line of every urgent situation in Cecil, dealing with life and death situations 24 hours-a-day, 7 days a week. They answer thousands of calls each year, coordinating the response of police officers, paramedics, fire fighters, hazmat technicians, medevac helicopters, and much more to incidents, while also providing guidance and instruction to citizens until first responders arrive. Their service is greatly appreciated.

At the same time, we pause to remember the four professionals who were the pioneer emergency communicators in Cecil. On Monday, October 2, 1961 at 12 p.m. sirens all across the county sounded, marking the beginning of professional, centralized communications as “fire headquarters” was on the air.

The Whig explained the operation. “It will be manned around the clock with trained personnel who have a knowledge of every piece of emergency equipment in the county, where it is located, what it can be used for, and the method for dispatching it without loss of time.”

Four fulltime county employees staffed the 24/7 operation. The one dispatcher alone on the shift juggled the telephone calls, handled radio traffic, and kept the FCC log. The “chief operator” Jack Cooke, was assisted by “operators” Rosemary Culley, Marie Cooling, and Jim Penhollow. Robert Eversole served as a relief operator.

Jim Penhollow recently recalled that it was a couple of days before the first emergency call came in. The times sure have changed and public safety communications has grown more complicated with each passing year. The week is sponsored by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

We salute our public safety communications professionals, current and past.

Rosemary Culley, another original dispatcher, handles the fire board in 1966.  Source: Cecil Whig, Dec. 14, 1966

Rosemary Culley, another original dispatcher, handles the fire board in 1966. Source: Cecil Whig, Dec. 14, 1966

 

Marie Cooling, a fire dispatcher, takes a call.  Source:  Cecil Democrat, Aug. 30, 1967/

Marie Cooling, a fire dispatcher, takes a call. Source: Cecil Democrat, Aug. 30, 1967/

 

Spring Time at Rev. Duke’s Log House

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Liz McLaughlin operates the tiller.

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LIz McLaughlin and Russ Hamilton start the tiller.

Spring has finally arrived on the Upper Chesapeake and at old Rev. Duke’s Log House things were busy on this sunny Thursday afternoon as the temperature approached the mid-60s.  It was a perfect, early April afternoon as Arts Council volunteers tilled the soil on the front lawn for a community garden.

 

State Police Patrol Northeastern Maryland Out of Conowingo & Provide Ambulance Service

The Susquehanna Power Company built a police sub-station at Conowingo for the use of the Maryland State Police in 1929, leasing the land to the agency for $1 a year. When it opened that April, a staff of two sergeants, a corporal and four officers were assigned to the post. It was modern with offices, a kitchen, a cell room, and sleeping quarters for twelve men. In addition to motorcycles for the patrol, one horse was detailed to the post.

The force consisted of First Sergeant Atkinson, Sergeant Katz, Corporal Dyas, and Officers Weber, Klapproth, Phillips and Holland. The troopers were centrally located to handle the increasing traffic on Route 1 and they policed Harford County north of Deer Creek, Cecil County, and Kent County.

In an era when ambulances weren’t commonly available, the Maryland Police responded to the need for medical transport and quick response to automobile accidents. The agency acquired five ambulances in 1935, and one of those units was assigned to sub-station F at Conowingo.

Over the years, additional barracks were constructed to meet the growing demands for police service and operations at Conowingo were scaled back. At some point in the early 1970s or late 1960s, it was scaled down from a 24-hour-a-day to an 8-hour operation. On September 1, 1973, the old station passed into history as it was deactivated. It was the oldest installation at that point, having served the public for 43 years, but barracks in North East and Bel Air provided greater coverage to northeastern Maryland.

The Maryland State Police Post at Conowingo in 1929

The Maryland State Police Post at Conowingo in 1929. Source: private collection.

 

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Photo of Maryland State Police Ambulance. Source: MSP Yearbook.

Video From This Afternoon’s Bootlegger’s Ball

To drink or not to drink was the question at this month’s program at the Historical Society of Cecil County as the organization examined the days of temperance, prohibition, speakeasies, bootleggers and Bathtub gin. Afterwards everyone was invited to a secret rendezvous at the Bootlegger’s Ball, over at the North Street Hotel. There the guests toasted the repeal of prohibition and socialized after the talk. To help the “drys,” those temperance and teetotaler types, catch the spirit there was temperance run, a nonalcoholic beverage that even the saloon smasher, Carrie Nation, would approve of. So it was bottoms up for everyone as we remembered the “noble experiment.”

Here’s a brief YouTube video of scenes from the Bootlegger’s Ball.

Duck & Cover at the Perryville LIbrary – April 8th — Cecil County prepared for Armageddon

From the Cecil County Public Library
Date: 4/8/2014
Start Time: 7:00 PM

Description:
 Local historian Mike Dixon recounts national and local Civil Defense activities, from World War II to the nuclear age, when government officials planned for the worst. Registration required.

Library: Perryville Branch
Location: Meeting Room

to register click here.

Duck and Cover at the Perryville Library, April 8th.

Duck and Cover at the Perryville Library, April 8th.