Cecil County’s First Newspaper

The first printing press to ever rest on Cecil County soil came here 195 years ago. In that era, long before steam locomotives chugged along on rails or telegraphs tapped out lightning-fast messages, a young newspaper editor from Lancaster, Pa., named John McCord arrived in Elkton. He was also a printer since in those days the two jobs often overlapped.

For the entrepreneurial, yet inexperienced scribe, the task of getting his press moved here must have been a challenging undertaking. Although the record is silent as to precisely how he transported the heavy equipment, he probably loaded it carefully aboard a wagon for a bumpy journey over dusty country roads.

However, he went about it, the editor put the first edition of the Elkton Press in the hands of patrons the day after Cecil County celebrated the 47th anniversary of American independence in July 1823. McCord assisted by James Andrews and Samuel Stanbaugh, rolled up their sleeves and got ink on their hands as they toiled throughout the long summer publication day on the hand press.

Putting ink on paper is simpler today with laser printers, computers and desktop publishing software, but it was a complicated matter at the top of the 19th century. Each word had to be laboriously set by hand and each letter plucked from the cases of type. As the composition man worked, he placed individual blocks of words in a special frame until the entire page was laid out.

Each frame was mounted on the press, and an absorbent ball dipped in ink was rubbed on the type form. A helper laid a clean sheet of paper on the device, and by tugging on a lever, created an impression by causing a metal plate to press the paper onto the inked form.

Once one side was completed the type for the other side of the paper was set. Eventually the weekly four-page edition was ready to make its way into the hands of readers, who paid an annual subscription price of $2. McCord wrote that advertisements not exceeding a square could be conspicuously insert three times for $1.

After that July day so long ago, handbills, calendars, cards, stationery, legal forms and a variety of other printed matter started rolling off those clanking presses. But newspapers came floating out as well, spreading information to a waiting audience.

Perhaps to serve a wider audience, its name was lengthened to the Elkton Press and Cecil County Advertiser for a few years, starting in 1829. Although ownership changed a few times, the weekly last untiled 1832. That year, shortly after the presidential election race between Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay, the compositor set type for the last time.

An astounding number of publications followed. Newspapers blossomed in Chesapeake City, Elkton, North East, Perryville, Port Deposit and Rising Sun, as others rushed to serve readers. Over the course of centuries, the county has had over 40 different titles, often with many changes in ownership, format and titles.

You could say that McCord, Andrews and Stanbaugh pioneered the evolution of periodicals in Cecil County. Arriving in Elkton with a hand press and a font of type, these men were directly responsible for this county’s information age. Long before folks worried about young men marching away to the Civil War, the efforts of those publishing pioneers from Lancaster introduced home-based media that brought information to homes, farms and businesses.

Cecil County’s first newspaper


Muller Led Cecil County Emergency Services into the Modern Era

Frank Muller retired as the county’s director of Cecil County Emergency Services in October 2007, after spending nearly forty-years responding to car wrecks, heart attacks, bar room fights, fires, chemical accidents, and almost any type of emergency you might name.  He got his start in a line of work that often stretched from dawn to dusk on good days and never seemed to end on particularly bad ones as a 16-year-old when he started volunteering with Elkton’s Singerly Fire Company.  It was the exciting thing to do in rural Cecil County he said and his interest was in firefighting, but then he discovered ambulance work.

The emergency services world Muller came to know in the early ’70s as a teenager was far different than the one he retired from.  “Back then you mainly loaded folks into the ambulance and rushed as fast as possible to Union Hospital,” he said.  “If you had American Red Cross training you had the best skills available for the time for things like CPR were just coming into general knowledge.  Now paramedics do just about everything.”

Over the years training requirements and technology changed and Muller was always in the forefront of leading Cecil County in the advances.  He recalls that after graduating from high school he learned that Ocean City was looking to hire summer help so he and a few friends went down there, looking forward to an exciting summer as paid “ambulance drivers at the Maryland shore.”  Of course, the pace was different in the summer when the place throbbed with tourists and calls.  While working there, Maryland started a pilot program to train Cardiac Rescue Technicians (CRT) or what was then called paramedics.  Anxious to get out of Ocean City during the cold winters when time passed slowly at the beach and excited about learning the latest in pre-hospital care, Muller volunteered for the training program.  After successfully completing the course, he returned to become the resorts first advanced life support provider.  But with the demand for more ALS personnel at the shore, Ocean City Mayor Roland “Fish” Powell asked him to return to the classroom to become a certified instructor, which he did.

After a four-year stint at the beach, he returned home, getting back into his old role as a volunteer with Singerly and starting to eventually work as a road deputy for the Sheriff’s office.  This was about the time volunteer fire companies across the county struggled to find enough volunteers to keep answering the volume of calls they were facing.  So Muller, certified as a CRT and a law enforcement officer, proposed an innovative idea, the Deputy-Medic program.  Deputies were on the road 24/7 so why not have the officers certified as EMS providers support the fire companies he reasoned.  Lots of local people agreed, including Sheriff John F. DeWitt and the fire companies, so one day in 1982 medics started prowling the county, but they weren’t in ALS Units.  These medics, in patrol cars, answered police calls and responded as support units to the fire companies.

That approach helped for years, but eventually the county had to start employing full-time paid technicians to deliver the service.  Frank, with his extensive experience as a field provider and instructor, was hired as the first person to head Cecil’s Emergency Medical Services program in 1988.  As the coordinator for the medic units staffed by county employees, he reported to Rosemary Culley, the Director of the Department of Emergency Services.  While working in that position, EMS took another big step forward when Muller became a board certified national paramedic in 1990.

When Culley retired, he was appointed to head the entire-department, which in addition to EMS is now responsible for the 911-center, communications, emergency planning, and hazmat response.  When the paramedic first associated with the agency in the Cold-War era, the staff dispatched the fire companies and worried about protecting Cecil County from nuclear attack.  Over the decades the department took on much more responsibility as public safety became more and more complex, and after the Sept. 11 attack its work was significantly transformed.  Muller has seen tremendous growth in Emergency Services as the agency evolved from being largely a county dispatch and emergency coordination center to a government unit that uses a wide spectrum of programs and information to respond to natural disasters and attacks.  In this role, he was responsible for coordinating county-wide responses to major disasters and during the next 15 years he saw his share of major emergencies, from train wrecks to hurricane, tornadoes, and chemicals releases.

With nearly 40 years of public safety work completed, he retired in the fall of 2007.  Muller was responsible for creating a modern, first-class Cecil County Department of Emergency Services.  He taught over a generation of Cecil County emergency service providers sophisticated medical skills, such as how to give fluids intravenously and electric shocks to people have heart attacks.  The career of the seasoned public safety official concluded with a stint as the Director of the Department of Emergency Services, at a time when the agency modernized its communications systems and reacted to the changing world of threats and risks.

Senator Robert Kennedy’s Funeral Train Passes Elkton

Late in the afternoon of June 8, 1968, the long-delayed funeral train carrying the body of Senator Robert F. Kennedy to Washington passed through Elkton. It was around 6 p.m. and the train was about 4-hours late. Larry Beers, a teenager, took his 8-mm home movie camera and captured the scene that hot June afternoon so long ago. Recently the footage, which had been unseen for nearly 50 years, was retrieved and Professor Rein Jelle Terpestra digitized the film. Here is Larry’s 3-minute film with some introductory comments and a few additional photos.

Cecil County History


Cecil County History

Follow Cecil County History on Facebook.

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.

A 1927 Accident Takes Life of Harford County Fire Chief

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.

Conowingo Dam Fire Truck

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 — We want to acknowledge the assistance of Chris Smithson, a Maryland Genealogist.    Thanks Chris for helping remember a first responder who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Here’s a link to the article on other worker deaths. https://cecilcounty.wordpress.com/2…

Eder on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

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.

For additional photos related to this post visit Delmarva History on Facebook.

Eder Station

Eder Station on the B & O Railroad.
source: Library Comp;any of Philadelphia, Online Collection.

The Great Rising Sun Train Robbery

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.

The Sylmar Train Station,, courtesy of the West Nottingham Historical Commission.

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.