On a daily basis, social media networks distribute a hefty volume of content, creating a public square that is jammed with posts. This crowded universe suggests that additional approaches are needed to help readers quickly find subjects of interest and we’ve been contemplating the best approach to this opportunity.
After experimenting with alternatives we’ve decided that the best strategy is to create a a Facebook channel focused on Cecil County history. On this new public space original and curated content concentrating on the Cecil County story will be shared, making information findable while also facilitating Cecil County’s heritage conversation.
As we do with Delmarva History, our Cecil County page will share created and curated content about the past at the head of the Chesapeake Bay. It is our goal to have the page serve as a public history commons, a place to share and discuss stories and rich media posts related to Cecil County’s heritage. Like this page to keep up with narratives about Cecil’s past from many source on Facebook.
Also be sure to check out our Delmarva History newsfeed where you will find shared posts from all around the Peninsula, while the Cecil page will focus on the local narrative.
When Maryland Public Television started working on the Conowingo Dam documentary a research question came up about workers killed on the project. Since this matter hadn’t been investigated previously, a registry was compiled containing information I was able locate through archival records.
On Labor Day 2015, I wrote a blog post identifying twelve fallen workers, though I noted that the Darlington Coroner, William S. Selse, told the Baltimore Sun that more than twenty men had lost their lives at the hydroelectric plant. The other day Harford County Genealogist Chris Smithson added to this registry, providing the name of another lost workman. Here is the story.
The first shovel of earth for construction on the Cecil County side was turned March 8, 1926, newspapers reported. Soon some three to five thousand men flocked to the rural area of northeastern Maryland seeking to earn good pay. In addition to those on the Stone and Webster and the Arundel Corporation payrolls at the hydroelectric, there were laborers on the railroad, contractors on roadways, and crews erecting transmission lines stretching to Philadelphia.
To accommodate the incursion of this massive population in the rural, remote area of northeastern Maryland, the two construction companies established large work camps. Since houses and barracks were going up in the boom town, public safety had to also be provided. There was a hospital capable of accommodating about two dozen patients. It had a resident doctor and a staff of nurses, as well as operating and sterilizing rooms.
The fire truck for the Conowingo Dam. source: Conowingo Visitor’s Center
Col. Claude B. Sweezy, the former warden of the Maryland Penitentiary, was the director of public safety. He supervised fire protection, a police force, roads and other things. Under his command, a police force of nine members was headed by Chief Robert Whitney, a former motor traffic officer at the Bel Air Station.
The Conowingo Fire Department, equipped with an engine, protected the works camps and the construction site. Chief George R. Chapman commanded firefighting operations. On April 25, 1927 at 6:05 p.m., he was riding in the command seat on the pumper as it traveled on the state highway in Harford County. The machine suddenly crashed into a roadside bank, overturning and pinning him under the truck. He was dead when taken from under the vehicle, newspapers reported. The Chief, 53, was from Baltimore and he was buried at Loudon Park Cemetery. the death certificate recorded.
Acknowledgement — Chris Smithson, a Maryland Genealogist, brought this loss to my attention and he provided the research. Thanks Chris for helping to remember the worker and first responder who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Eder was a station on the B & O Railroad. It was located near the bridge that carries Nottingham Road over the tracks, and is about one mile east of Mechanics Valley. It was named for William H. Eder, who owned a large farm in that vicinity.
The Baltimore & Ohio railroad began providing service between Baltimore and Philadelphia in 1886. To accommodate freight and travelers in Cecil County a number of stations (8 or 9) were built adjacent to the tracks, and one of these stops was Eder.
A timetable for the railroad appeared in an October 1886 edition of the Elkton Appeal. It showed that there were two trains a day stopping at Eder. A westbound train was scheduled at 7.24 a.m. and an eastbound one stopped at 6:51 p.m.
RISING SUN, Jan 2, 1885 — A passenger train that was making its way through the gloom of a winter night was robbed outside Rising Sun 131 years ago. Admittedly, it was not a great holdup, for it only involved a watch or two and small sums of money. Nevertheless, a raid on the rails in Cecil County, one causing fear as highwaymen cleaned passengers out of valuables, was a singular occurrence in this area.
The scene could have been straight out of the Wild, Wild West. Two young crooks, guns hidden away, quietly boarded a local train. Once the cars rumbled away from the station, however, they drew their revolvers and one of them began racing down the aisle, robbing terrified passengers. Within a couple of minutes, as quickly as it had begun, it was over, with the holdup men jumping off the train.
Newspapers throughout the region covered the crime. City papers “brought out their big type” to dish it up in the “liveliest style,” the Cecil Democrat, an Elkton newspaper, observed. Locally, journalists said they would try not to present a sensational story, but the most correct version possible.
Here are the details drawn from the local press. As the shade of winter darkness began settling on the Chesapeake, the evening accommodation out of Baltimore started its Jan. 2, 1885, run on time at 5:10 p.m. Scheduled to terminate in Oxford, Pa., the trip rolled uneventfully along until the locomotive shrieked to a stop in Rising Sun, where two young men with tickets for Sylmar boarded.
As the cars shook and rumbled, rolling slowly up the dark tracks toward the Mason-Dixon Line, the men handed their tickets to Capt. Ed Gilligan, the conductor. Just outside town, the two abruptly jumped from their seats. One of them pointed a derringer at head of a brakeman E.H. Tarring. The other robber started down the aisle, threatening passengers and demanding their money, watches and jewelry. One man handed over a dollar. The editor of the North East Star, G.A. Garey, “bought the desperadoes off with a watch.” An “old Quaker, named Passmore, slid his gold watch and chain worth $150 and $500 in money into the top of one of his boots. ‘I haven’t anything for thee,’” was his quiet remark, the Star reported. Passengers were holding up their hands in terror, but upon their declaring that they had nothing, they were left unmolested.
As soon as the robber had gone through the car to the rear, where his comrade was holding the brakeman, the two opened the door and disappeared into the darkness. The whole affair had lasted but a moment or two.The brakeman notified the conductor, who ran back as the robbers jumped from the train. The cars continued to Oxford, where news of the offense was telegraphed to Philadelphia.
Officials there speedily dispatched a special train with a posse of Philadelphia detectives. It reached the crime scene about 2 a.m. Saturday and pursuit was begun at once. The detectives scoured the neighborhood. There was a rumor that this was the work of a notorious bunch that terrorized Lancaster County, Pa., the Abe Buzzard gang. But the trail lead them to Calvert, and there the two suspects, Bud Griffith and William Trainor, were captured, the Wilmington Morning News reported.
On Saturday evening, they were put on a special train to Elkton, where they were lodged in jail. One of the city papers reported that at stations along the route crowds collected to get a glimpse of them and they were greeted everywhere with howls and shouts of “How are you, Abe Buzzard?” and “Hello, Jesse James.”
With the desperadoes secured away in the county jail, Cecil’s association with a great wave of train robberies that reached its height in the 1870s had passed. But county scribes had a little more to say about the subject. Philadelphia newspapermen set up a howl about the holdup as if there “was danger that Jesse James and all the western highwaymen … were advancing on the City of Brotherly Love,” the Cecil Democrat reported.
These highwaymen were wanting in every essential trait requisite to make successful train robbers was the reality, observed the editor. That “two callow youths” had no better sense than to rob passengers on the Oxford train out of Rising Sun and that they chose to commit the robbery in a thickly settled part of the country within four miles of where they lived was the proof. The final evidence, having no better sense than to rob an editor and a printer: “Printers and editors rarely have any money, and never have any about them when riding on railroad trains. Jesse James knew this and he would not have tackled one of them under any circumstances,” the Democrat noted.
As for the cause of the startling crime, it was reading “the abominable trash with which the country was flooded, yellow back literature, which was doing so much to demoralize our youth,” the Elkton Appeal observed.
Since we published our first Cecil County blog post on April 13, 2007, we have kept up with evolving social media platforms, maintaining multiple channels of communications. As the digital publishing transformation continued, some outlets became more media rich, interactive, and extremely simple to use. Thus over time we found that we were publishing most of our original content on our Delmarva History’s Facebook page, an open group, which allows anyone to read posts and comments.
There are many reasons for this. The interactivity of a large networked community interested in Cecil’s past, generates an enormous array of material. This transition allows us to be part of the larger conversation that is taking place daily as publishers share the region’s narratives. With many contributors on lots of focused pages adding knowledge and insights, we are able to easily curate and share with the larger community, adding our own voice to this crowd. This enriches the experience as heritage content reaches a larger audience and is often crowdsourced to help with understanding and interpretation. .
The Facebook platform allows for more convenient sharing of digital media since photos and videos are an important aspect these days. And, Facebook has provided an environment for more long form writing on a section it calls notes. This is an enhanced modern, blog feature, which allows for full-length posts with attractive formatting, tagging, and pictures.
Thus the Cecil County history conversation continues on Facebook. Be sure to check it out. You don’t have to be a Facebook member to access the open page. The back material already on the weblog will be maintained.
What: History Lecture – “What Does Archaeology Tell Us About the Lenape?” by Dr. Jay Custer, Dept. of Anthropology, U of DE
Where: Historical Society of Cecil County, 135 E. Main Street., Elkton, MD.
Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.
Sponsored by: Archeological Society of the Northern Chesapeake…
“Recent archaeological studies of Woodland Period Native American sites in the central Middle Atlantic excavated very large areas of up to 30 acres. More than 2000 pit features were excavated. Detailed floatation studies of plant food remains produced data sets at a scale not previously available.
New data contradicting previous reconstructions of pre-Contact Lenape culture include: 1) community patterns indicative of small residential groups of fewer than 3-4 families, not villages; 2) absence of agricultural plant remains even though remains of wild plant foods were present; 3) a relatively continuous distribution of residential sites with no empty “buffer zones”; 4) very complicated and often ambiguous relationships among material culture markers of varied Algonkian-speaking social groupings, suggesting a series of sophisticated web-like peaceful social interaction networks that also included the Iroquoian Susquehannocks. Traditional reconstructions of Lenape culture at odds with new data may best be viewed as persisting triumphalist colonialist ideologies.”
There are floods and there are cold snaps in Cecil County. But in Port Deposit there were “ice gorges” and there were floods. So frequent before the building of the Conowingo Dam, the ice jams periodically brought destruction to the old river town and other communities on the lower Susquehanna River. They occurred when a spring thaw began breaking up ice in the middle and upper reaches of the river..
Towns people knew when to start bracing for it. And just like today, when the Susquehanna River threatens to go on a rampage, reporters and photographers rushed to the paralyzed town, hoping to be able to supply the city editors with headline grabbing copy and pictures.
From the time the first publications appeared in the county, stories occupied the columns of the local papers when the “ice king” threatened Port Deposit. Shenandoah (the pen name used the Cecil Democrat’s local correspondent) concluded his report this way in 1857: “But I can write no more. I am at this moment where I used to live, but I am only staying here a few moments just now. The house is surrounded with ice and water, and I am here, without fire, at 10 o’clock at night and alone, my feet sticking to the ice and frozen, my fingers almost frozen, and my candle almost gone! . . . Though almost frost bitten, I am yours, SHENANDOAH.”.
A group of enthusiastic city correspondents covered the ice jam of 1876 and the Cecil Whig’s editor had something to say about this bunch: “These Bohemians generally love their todd and are excellent patrons of the drinking salons. Every fresh drink they take they see the ice move and the water commence to rise in the streets and they go forth with flash news to their papers . . . and about every other morning the town suffers a submerge and the people, especially the women and children, fly to the hill side and narrowly escape a water grave in the city papers.”
When the ice king had a solid grip on the Susquehanna in 1893, residents of Roberts Island were completely surrounded by the gorge. Perhaps passing too many idle moments in the taprooms, The Baltimore Sun and News American reporters conceived the idea of crossing the ice to the Island. They got a resident, Lawrence Paxton, to guide them and armed with ice hooks and ropes they started. With Paxton taking the lead, the two representatives “faint hearted and timidly picked their way, but anxious to immortalize themselves, gained courage as they followed in the wake of Paxton,” the Perryville Record reported.
On nearing the island, the Sun man was determined to be the first to arrive. And as soon as he reached the land, “he proclaimed that in the name of the Baltimore Sun he took possession of Roberts’ Island.” There they talked to Roberts whose home and farm occupied the tiny piece of land in the middle of the river, and tried to persuade the family to go back with them. But the safety of his livestock troubled him so having their story they headed back to the comfort of Port’s saloons.
In time newspaper photographs added to the capabilities of daily newspapers to cover the story and when the city was in ruins photojournalists descended, documenting the scene of suffering, smashed buildings and huge icebergs on Main Street. By the top of the 20th century picture postcards were available and these images were extremely popular.
So media has always rushed to the lower Susquehanna whenever the area was threatened. Of course, our methods for providing the news has changed since the time when ice jams were an all too frequent image. Nonetheless, the general scene is familiar to residents of Port Deposit in the 21st century. On a slow news day in the summer when a persistent thunderstorm gives the Susquehanna River drainage area a good soaking, satellite trucks are likely to descend on the narrow Main Street in Port Deposit to wait for the coming flood. Beaming signals back to the Baltimore television stations, the broadcast journalists search for interesting footage and people to interview.