Cecil County Atlas of 1877 & Other Maps Available from Sheridan Library

The Sheridan Library of Johns Hopkins University has a large collection of Cecil County digital maps.  Family and local history researchers will find these online collections to be helpful.  In the collection there is the entire atlas of 1877, as well as digital aerial maps (1938 and 1952), topographic maps, and many other cartographic products.

Visit the search page by clicking here and searching for your county of interest.  .

Station Agent at Childs Recalls 50 Years on the B & O Railroad

F C. Breitenbach B & O Station Agent at Childs.  Source:  Cecil Democrat, Oct. 7, 1954

F C. Breitenbach B & O Station Agent at Childs. Source: Cecil Democrat, Oct. 7, 1954

For many Cecil County villages and towns the railroad station was the center of the community years ago, and the company official overseeing the comings and goings of townspeople, passengers, telegraph messages, freight and mail was an important member of the community. Each place with a station had one, a station agent, in charge of keeping everything on track at his depot.

To keep the operation running smoothly, the agents were assigned many responsibilities at smaller places. Obligations included preparing for the arrival of trains, selling tickets, handling freight, mail and baggage, announcing arrivals, and taking care of the property.

Frederick ‘C, Breitenbach, Sr.,  of Cherry Hill was the Baltimore and Ohio’s agent-operator at Childs in 1954. He had just completed 50 years with the company, having come to the Singerly Tower in 1904. In subsequent years he was assigned to Childs as an operator-clerk and as an agent-operator at Leslie. His final stint brought him back to Childs in 1935.

“The romance of the railroad has been lost since steam has gone,” the agent told the Cecil Democrat in 1954. He loved “the smell of that old coal,” and “the engineers in those steam engines were hardy men. The trains today are more like street cars.”

Until 1949 local passenger trains stopped at Childs, but as he marked a half-century of service the station only handled freight, most of it going to and from the Elk Paper company plant. When he started at Childs, it was the most important stop in Cecil County and three people worked at the station, he recalled.

But in 1954 he was the only remaining employee. The rural Cecil County depot was slowly reaching the end of the line, although years ago the building alongside the B & O tracks was the center of the village.  This old-time railroader had worked across the changing years and changing times as he and the station neared retirement.

He was born in Baltimore in 1885 and died in Union Hospital on May 16, 1958.  He was an employee of the B & O for 53 years, last serving as “station master at Childs.”

A postcard of the Childs Railroad Station, Circa 1914.  Source:  Personal Collection

A postcard of the Childs Railroad Station, Circa 1912. The card was unused so there is no postal cancellation. Source: Personal Collection

 

 

 

Confederate General From Cecil County Featured in Jeff Shaara’s Latest Novel

The Smoke at Dawn,” Jeff Shaara’s latest historical novel about the Civil War, has been released and it has a Cecil County angle.  This third volume, part of a four part series, focuses on the critical Battle of Chattanooga.

Kyle Dixon has been listening to the audio version of the book.,  He informs me that William Whann Mackall, a Confederate General from Cecil County, appears on the pages of this just released volume.  Mackall, a graduate of West Point, grew up near Childs.  When the war broke out he resigned his U.S. Army commission and joined the confederacy.

A state historical marker near the boyhood home on Blue Ball Road provides additional information on Mackall.  And here is a link to an article Milt Diggins did on the general.

The boyhood home of William Whann Mackall is just south of Childs on Blue Ball Road.

The boyhood home of William Whann Mackall is just south of Childs on Blue Ball Road.

 

Harford and Cecil counties Described in 1807 Publication

Harford and Cecil counties shown in the map published in 1807 in Joseph Scott's Geographical Dictionary

Harford and Cecil counties shown in the map published in 1807 in Joseph Scott’s Geographical Dictionary

In the decades before state directories and other similar resources appeared, there were gazetteers or geographical dictionaries.  These valuable titles, many over 200 years old, examined an area in some detail, presenting information about a community, its landscape, political economy, business enterprise, and natural resources.

Today Cecil and Harford county genealogists and local historians will find these works to be helpful as they offer detailed insights about the counties, towns and villages. Since hard to find details, such as social statistics, are contained in the works, I often consult the volumes when trying to understand the changes that have taken place in the area over the centuries.

In Maryland and Delaware “A Geographical Description of the States of Maryland” published by Joseph Scott in 1807 is helpful. As 18 pages focus on Cecil and Harford counties, it contains a large amount of productive information.  In addition to details on most of the towns and villages of any size, there is lots of copy discussing the state and each county.

To give you an idea of the content, here is some of what Scott said about Bel Air. “Bellair” is a post town and seat of justice, 23 miles from Baltimore. It ‘has an elegant court house and jail, and a Methodist meeting house” and in the vicinity a county poor house. The town contained about 160 inhabitants in 1800 and there were four licensed taverns, three stores, two blacksmith’ shops, two joiners, one chair maker, one shoemaker, one wheelwright, and one taylor. By comparison, Abingdon had abou5 56 dwellings and 240 inhabitants. It also had about eight stores filled “with the produce of the West India islands, and the various manufacturers of Europe,” along with one tanyard, and several tradesmen’s shops.

This title was once hard to access.  I purchased one from an antiquarian bookstore in New England decades ago so I could have it instantly available for my research needs.  Before that I had to make a trip to a special collections library.

But now thanks to the Digital Public Library of America and other public domain e-content providers, we all have instant access to this and many more titles.

Click here to go to the Digital Public Library of America’s catalog item for this product.

Cecil County described in Joseph Scott's Geographical Dictionary publisher in 1807.

Cecil County described in Joseph Scott’s Geographical Dictionary publisher in 1807.

2014-09-03_11-02-13

Harford County described by Joseph Scott in his book published in 1807

Become a Photo Historian: Learn to Identify and Preserve Your Family Treasures

There is a great interest in learning how to identify and protect old pictures, and the Cecil County Public Library is presenting a how-to talk to help you get started with that task.  So if you are the family archivist or the records custodian for  your church or civic group, working to sift through old boxes of cherished pictures, this helpful program will introduce you to the basics and help assure your precious snapshots are passed along to future generations.

The program by Historian Mike Dixon takes place at the Chesapeake City Branch Sept 15, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. Mike will show you how to identify and preserve your historic photos.

Click here for more details and to register for the program.

A faded, Cherry Hill postcard mailed from that community Nov. 26, 1908.  It was mailed to Miss Anna Pedrick, Dover, NJ.  This was a Ed Herbener photo and the message simply said "arrived home safe."

A faded, Cherry Hill postcard mailed from that community Nov. 26, 1908. It was mailed to Miss Anna Pedrick, Dover, NJ. This was a Ed Herbener photo and the message simply said “arrived home safe.”

Simple adjustments made to the Cherry Hill postcard with a freeware program.

Simple adjustments made to the Cherry Hill postcard with a freeware program.

 

The Cecilton Chevy Dealer, H. W. Cheyney Celebrated 26 Years in Business in 1954

H. W. Cheyney Marked 26 Years in business in 1954. Source:  Cecil Democrat, June 20, 1954

H. W. Cheyney, Cecil Democrat, June 20, 1954

H. W. Cheney, the Cecilton Chevrolet dealer marked the 26th anniversary of taking care of the automobile needs of residents in the southern part of the county in 1954.  And he was featuring some great bargains on the used car lot.

Mr. Chyeney established the business in 1928, “starting out with only himself and a mechanic,” the Cecil Democrat reported.  By 1954, his workforce had grown to himself, 2 salesmen, 4 mechanics, a parts man, and two clerical personnel, the newspaper reported.

The Democrat reported that the dealership “was one of the oldest in continuous operations in Cecil County.”  Mr. Cheyney was active in civic affairs, serving the community in many ways, which includes the town board.

 

cecilton cheyeny june 17 1954 democrat 072r

 

Cheyney's use car sale.  Source:  Cecil Democrat, June 20, 1954

Cheyney’s use car sale. Source: Cecil Democrat, June 20, 1954

 

Need an Ambulance in Cecil County in 1953, Call Ernie’s Cab Company

Fire department based emergency medical services in Cecil County evolved slowly after World War II. The first company to acquire an ambulance was Singerly in 1941.  Before that the American Legion in Elkton operated a unit for many years, but as the war approached they pulled back.  After that, Taylor McKenney’s Garage in Elkton, answered medical transport calls, until the fire service got involved.  Also, beginning in 1935 the Conowingo State Police barrack operated a transport vehicle and they continued with that service into the 1940s.

In the next decade after Singerly inaugurated its ambulance service, other companies joined in.  In 1955, the Community Fire Company of Perryville and the Community Fire Company of Rising Sun started providing emergency medical transportation to the western end of Cecil.  North East Volunteer Fire Company followed in 1956.  In the 1960s, two more organizations added ambulances to their fleets.  The Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 of Chesapeake City started in 1963, and Water Witch of Port Deposit added a unit in 1964.

But in the early 1950s, there were few ambulances available in the county to answer accident and medical calls.  So perhaps Ernie’s Taxi saw a business opportunity, for the Elkton cabby announced in 1953 that he now had available for public use a fully equipped and approved ambulance, available on a 24-hour basis to all residents of Cecil County and surrounding areas.  What’s more the rates were reasonable for local and local  distance calls.

Cecil Democrat April 9, 1953.

Cecil Democrat April 9, 1953.