Tag Archives: cecil county

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.
http://lcpdams.librarycompany.org:8881/R/?func=collections-result&collection_id=1151

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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.

In Historic Election in Rising Sun, Women Vote for the First Time in Cecil County

A ballot box from Carroll County, MD. used in 1900.  source:  Maryland State Archives.
A ballot box from Carroll County, MD. used in 1900. source: Maryland State Archives.

 In an era when women across the nation crusaded to gain voting rights, Rising Sun led the way locally in 1916, allowing ladies to cast ballots in a county election for the first time in Cecil’s history, the Midland Journal reported.

The question that faced taxpayers heading to the polls was whether the town board could refinance a $16,000 debt with the issuance of 20-year bonds.  These instruments would replace short-term loans, which paid for the waterworks installed two years earlier, sidewalks already laid, and apparatus for fire protection already purchased.

Short term notes carried this public debt, so the issuance would not increase the tax rate, the town commissioners assured residents.  In fact, lower interest rates would give the municipality a way to minimize cash outlays, giving the budget a bonus savings of $140 a year, if the voters approved.

This was a “good practical business proposition, and one which those who have the interest of our town at heart” should endorse the town newspaper, the Midland Journal,  editorialized.  This savings was “an item of no small consideration.”

The Legislature’s authorized all municipal taxpayers of legal age to vote on the question, which was decided favorably.  Seventy-four voters approved, while two opposed the matter.  The town’s newspaper editor said he didn’t know if the increased franchise affected the results, but the near unanimous count suggests that practically all the citizens favored the action.

This happened as Maryland and national women’s suffrage associations waged campaigns for the franchise.  It was unsuccessful in Maryland, the lawmakers failing to amend the state constitution or to approve the 19th amendment.  But on August 26, 1920, the position of Maryland politicians was irrelevant, after a sufficient number of states ratified the  amendment, giving all women the right to vote.

As ladies across the country struggled with the national campaign, Rising Sun had held a historic vote, allowing women to go to the polls four years before the ratification of the 19th amendment created a more universal franchise.  The presidential election of 1920, where Warren G. Harding, Republican, and James M. Cox, Democrat, were the nominees, was the first time most female voters in Cecil County and the nation exercised the power of the ballot box.  It was old news by that time in the northern Cecil County town.

A financial statement of the Commissioners of Rising Sun, MD., 1908

A financial statement of the Commissioners of Rising Sun, MD., 1908

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The Rising Sun Town Hall

 

Taking a Stand for Equal Treatment on the Mason Dixon Line in 1904

A match book cover for the Madison House in North East notes that the place on Route 40 is just below the Mason Dixon Line.

A match book cover for the Madison House in North East notes that the place on Route 40 is just below the Mason Dixon Line.

Nearly sixty years before Freedom Riders started a campaign to open restaurants, motels, bars, and other public places to all travelers on Route 40, Cecil County found itself in the middle of another Civil Rights divide.   The Maryland Legislature decided the State needed a “Jim Crow” law in 1904 that required steamship lines and railroads to maintain “separate but equal facilities.”

Once the segregation requirement went into effect on July 1, 1904, African-American ticket-holders on the Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington Railroad trains and the Ericsson Line steamers heading south from northern points had to move to the “colored compartment” after the train rumbled across the Mason Dixon Line.

To comply with the Maryland regulation signed by Governor Edwin Warfield, the railroad constructed Jim Crow coaches at the Wilmington shops.  Two worked the Delaware Road, traveling branch lines up and down the Delmarva Peninsula.  These were ordinary coaches, divided off by partitions capable of seating 15 people at one end of the car with a sign saying “colored” on the compartment.  On the main line, the accommodation train running down to Baltimore had a “colored coach” attached.

The segregated cars appeared promptly on July 1, the midnight train reaching Elkton being equipped in accordance with Maryland’s rule.   About noon that day, a Philadelphian, an African-American, objected to the order at Iron Hill.  After a “parley” with the conductor, he was put off the train in North East.  “His actions showed pretty conclusively that he was hunting for trouble in order to bring suit against the railroad company,” the Cecil County News informed readers.

But the practical working of Jim Crow got it first real test as the people observed Independence Day in 1904.  The Elkton African-American community sponsored a grand picnic, celebrating the Fourth of July.   Several hundred people from Pennsylvania and Delaware received invitations so the coaches were crowded on the holiday with festive passengers heading to Elkton.  Most of them were surprised, this being their first experience with the “Separate Car Act.”   While riding quietly along on the coaches with white ticket-holders, the conductor called out as they rumbled across the Mason Dixon Line, “colored coach in the rear.”

As the significance of the conductor’s announcement surprised many, some moved to the segregated seats, but several refused to obey the Jim Crow law.  The conductor thus ordered the train held at Iron Hill Station, and a number of passengers were put off, having to walk to Elkton.  A band from Newark was in this group, as they refused to move.  One African-American passenger, a lawyer made “a ten-minute speech, in which he tried to console his companions, asking each one to try to find out just exactly who was responsible for the obnoxious law,” the Cecil Democrat reported.

A page from the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Guide published in the 1850s describes the Mason Dixon Line.

A page from the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Guide published in the 1850s describes the Mason Dixon Line.

A few days later a train was delayed at Perryville because of refusal to give up the seat and move to the designated coach.  In North East William King, an African-American from Philadelphia was put off the train.  When the train reached Iron Hill the conductor read the Maryland law to him.  He refused and at North East the railroad man forcefully ejected him from the train.

Sheriff Biddle made the first arrest in Cecil County for a violation of the new Jim Crow Law.  When a southbound train reached Elkton, James Griffin refused to go to the designated seats.  Sheriff Biddle was notified and he placed Griffin under arrest, taking him to the jail.   The next day he appeared before Magistrate Henry Gilpin who held him under $200 bail for his appearance in the September term of the Circuit Court.

On the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, William T. Finley, an African-American physician from Atlantic City was traveling on the Philadelphia and Baltimore Steamship Company (The Ericsson Line) to Baltimore.  He filed a suit to recover $5,000 in damages for having been subjected to the Jim Crow Law of Maryland.

Finely purchased a first class ticket for passage from Philadelphia to Baltimore. About midnight when the steamer reached the Maryland Line, he was aroused from his sleep by an official of the company who ordered him to the upper deck of the boat.  When the doctor objected, saying he had purchased first-class passage, he was told that the “colored apartment was above.

"William Henry Harrison Hart" by William Dana Hart - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Henry_Harrison_Hart.jpg#mediaviewer/File:William_Henry_Harrison_Hart.jpg

“William Henry Harrison Hart” by William Dana Hart – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Henry_Harrison_Hart.jpg#mediaviewer/File:William_Henry_Harrison_Hart.jpg

Another person who had the courage to resist the order to move was an attorney and Howard University Professor of corporate law, William Henry Harrison Hart and his sister Clementine Bartlett of Washington, D.C.  Conductor George C. Alcron sent for the sheriff and when the southbound 12:34 pulled into the Elkton Station Deputy Sheriff J. Wesley McAllister boarded.  “At the sight of the officer the woman gracefully yielded and took her place in the car.  The lawyer was given the choice of the proper car or the jail, and refusing the former was escorted to a cell,” the Cecil Whig reported.

Hart spent two days in the Elkton Jail, the Whig wrote, noting that the professor was “somewhat of a philanthropist.”   He conducted a school for boys, the Hart Farm School and Junior Republic for Dependent Colored Boys, largely at his own expense.  It was situated on 700 acres of land he also purchased.   “He is a lecturer at the Howard (colored) University Law School and is said to enjoy the esteem of the Bar and Courts of the District, having served for twenty years.  He will probably take through trains, to which the law does not apply, hereafter, when passing through Maryland.”

Hart also practiced law for the United States Treasury and the United States Department of Agriculture, and served as the Assistant Librarian of Congress.  He was the first black lawyer appointed a special U.S. District Attorney for the District of Columbia, in 1889.

The attorney challenged Maryland’s law that made it a crime for blacks and whites to ride together in the same car in the courts.  He was traveling in the whites only section, which had been okay until he crossed the Mason Dixon Line.  Having refused to move into the blacks-only car, Hart was charged and convicted of violating the “separate car law” and was fined $50 in the Circuit Court.

The fine was not paid, the defendant immediately filing an appeal with the Court of Appeals.    The lawyer added that if necessary, he would take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court as the Jim Crow Law was not only unconstitutional, but was also in conflict with the Interstate Commerce Law, the Baltimore Sun reported.

When the State vs. Hart made it ways to the bench at the Court of Appeals, the judges “sustained the Jim Crow Law, but held that the provisions of that measure cannot apply to interstate passengers,” as the distinguished Howard University Professor argued, the Washington Post reported.  Hart was on a through train from New York to Washington so the decision of the lower court was reversed but the law was sustained.

Hart did not like Rosa Parks become a household word, observes C. Frazer Smith in “Here Lies Jim Crow:  Civil Rights in Maryland.  “Such moments of defiance got little attention and probably not by accident.”

Maryland lawmakers had created this legislation after the Supreme Court legitimized segregation in the case of Homer Plessy v. Ferguson. a decision that upheld the constitutionally of state laws requiring  segregation in public facilities under the doctrine of separate but equal.

Incident continued but after a number of decades enforcement of the frequently modified legislation quietly stopped.  Finally in 1951, after many years of trying to repeal the laws requiring separation of passengers on intra-state railroads and steamboats, it was put to rest in 1951, the language being pulled from the State Codes.

Every challenged injustice building up to the post-World War II Civil Rights movement put a spotlight on the fight for equal rights, while chipping away at Jim Crow.  The brave stand of Hart and others had made it clear that segregation wasn’t permitted for interstate passengers traveling on Maryland railroads and steamships.  Each step inspired other advocates to push for equal treatment, and Cecil County, bordered as it is by the Mason Dixon Line on two sides, sometimes found itself on the front lines  when people had to take risks, standing up for equal treatment.

Cecil County Circuit Court docked showing the case of State of Maryland v. Hart.  Source:  Court Docket, Cecil County Courthouse

Cecil County Circuit Court docked showing the case of State of Maryland v. Hart.

On the Mason Dixon Line between Westminster, MD and Gettysburg, PA.

On the Mason Dixon Line between Westminster, MD and Gettysburg, PA.

A Susquehanna River Village That Vanished — Conowingo

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In current-day Conowingo, the visitor finds 20th century roadside businesses.

If you are the type who likes to find lost villages, we have a little journey you might enjoy.  To start ask someone for directions to old Conowingo.  But be watchful for that accommodating person might send you to a stretch of highway near U.S. 1 and Route 222.  That commercial area is lined with a collection of roadside shops, gas stations, restaurants, and taverns, businesses that rose up in the 20th century after the demise of the earlier town.  The location you are seeking was nestled nearby in a hillside at river’s edge.  It was once a thriving town that met a watery death in the name of progress.

At least you are in the neighborhood so journey down Mt. Zoar Road to a cove where the Conowingo Creek meets the Susquehanna.  That is as far as you can go to reach your destination for you are shortly looking across a broad lake at the gentle, rolling hills of Harford County.   Not too far from this idyllic setting, near the arched railroad bridge, rests the lost hamlet beneath the impounded water.

The story of the demise of this once bustling place, a spot where generations lived and died, ended one winter day in 1928 as waters of the dam slowly climbed over the buildings, erasing all traces of the community.

Although memories of the church, school, general store, garage, and inn have largely faded, the written record contains the story.  Back in 1993, Ralph Reed, who was born in a house next to the river, recalled that the place “was dear to us and we thought it was going to last forever.”  However, it survived only until Jan 18, 1928, when the dam’s final eight floodgates closed and the Susquehanna slowly backed up into town.

Farmers and villagers uprooted by the construction of the large hydroelectric dam gathered on the hillside to watch as the village met its watery doom.  As the sun went down behind the western Hills of Harford County, old Conowingo slowly vanished beneath the water.

Port Deposit’s Curtis Poist recalled that final day in a 1975 piece in the Baltimore Sun.  “Many of the people who had lived in Conowingo were on hand to watch.  Many of them insisted on lingering around their old homes sites, retreating only as the water backed up and drove them away . . . All day long they watched from a distance as the backwater inched its way over the bluffs and up the gullies until at sundown only the tree tops and the roofs of an occasional house and barn remained above water to identify the place which had once been home.”

The Conowingo Dam opened in 1928.

The Conowingo Dam opened in 1928.

The 4,648-foot dam with 53 gates regulated 105 billion gallons of water impounded behind the structure and generated electricity for the growing industrial nation.  The building of this massive public works project drastically changed the rural area as work crews began arriving.  It required some 4,000 workmen and the creation of a temporary village to house the families.  “Any able bodied boy or man who wanted a job could get one at the dam site at 35 cents an hour for common labor, 60 cents” for skilled laborers Poist noted.

In 1989 David Healey interviewed Curtis Ragan, 84, whose father was the town doctor.  “It was a busy place, always something happening here.  The town had a post office, hotel, restaurant, train station and several businesses.”  The spot where people gathered in town was the hotel, he told Healey.  “I never hung out in the hotel myself.  I was too young for that.”

The Maryland State Gazetteer for 1902-03 provides a little more information.   In the decade before a utility harnessed the power of the river, it had a population of 350 people.  Two doctors, Samuel T. Roman and D. M. Ragan, cared for the sick.  Lodging was available from John T. Adams and E. P. Bostick, while Thos. Coonie baked bread and cakes for townspeople.  Merchants included Chas A. Andrew, Geo. Brewinger, Wm. Gross, E. B. McDowell, and W. W. McGuigan.  There were tradesmen such as John C. Smith, blacksmiths; Jas. Ritchey, shoemaker; and Robt. McCullough, Harnessmaker;  W. R. Love was the postmaster.  Mills were:  Allen & Wilson, flint mill; Jas C. Bell, saw and flour mill; and the Susquehanna Paper Co.  A daily stage provided transportation to Rowlandsville, Berkley, Darlington, Delta and other places.

Regan’s wife, Hazel, taught school in the town’s two-room schoolhouse.  Since she was the only teacher, she taught all seven grades in one room.  She also had to sweep the floors, carry water, and cut firewood for the schoolhouse, he recalled in the Healey interview.

But once the Philadelphia Electric Company became interested in harnessing the power of the flowing water as a source to power turbines, it meant the end of the town.  After the one-mile-wide and fourteen-mile long lake was created by the dam, water covered 9,000 acres of habitable land, obliterating the old landmarks and farms, the Sun reported.  Gone were the “historic Conowingo Pike, the old Columbia and Port Deposit Railroad, the ancient bridge, the old canal, towpaths and the toll house.”  In their place was a new Conowingo Bridge across the crest of the dam with a great lake on one side and a one-hundred foot waterfall on the other.

The project, which had started in 1926, had been a tremendous undertaking.  In addition to building the massive dam and power house, it had been necessary to relocate 16 miles of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to evacuate and demolish an entire village, reroute historic Baltimore Pike over the dam, and build a 58-mile electric transmission line to connect with the Philadelphia Electric system.

Today at this serene spot, it’s hard to believe that such a lively community thrived here near a cove just north of the large dam, for the backwaters of the dam have erased the physical evidence and an uninterrupted tide of time has eroded away most living recollections.   But it hasn’t been forgotten for its stories survive in aging newspaper clippings, history books, and the stories of  subsequent generations.  And it is the source of frequent inquires by curious types.

For a collection of photos from the old Conowingo village click here.

On Dec. 21, 2013, the longest night of the year, winter twilight descends on the Conowingo Dam.

On Dec. 21, 2013, the longest night of the year, winter twilight descends on the Conowingo Dam.

Iron Hill was once a thriving village.

iron hill railroad station

The Iron Hill station in a postcard around 1912

In several areas of Cecil County there are places that were once thriving little hamlets, but are now barely wide spots in the road.  They might have a house or two, while in their heyday they hummed with activity.  However, once their reason for prosperity vanished, the passage of time slowly eroded away the community’s traces.  The story of a vibrant past was lost to the ages, as memories faded and a new generation came on.

One of those spots, Iron Hill, is midway between Elkton and Newark, just west of the Mason Dixon Line.  It once had nearly 50 residents, along with a railroad station, post office and general store, according to the Maryland State Gazetteer of 1902.  Decades earlier in 1887, there were two general merchants (J. M. Cook and John Denver), two telegrapher operators (William Holton & Thomas Smith), and dealers in phosphate and coal (Frank Stroud and Charles Walton).  Miss Hattie Evans served as the village teacher and John Denner (possibly Denver) was the postmaster.

There was such heavy trade in this neighborhood that the P. W. & B. Railroad announced in October 1880 that it was contemplating “the establishment of a new station on the road about midway between Newark and Elkton, which would be close to the State Line,” the Every Evening reported.  Officials didn’t mull it over too long as work soon started on a passenger depot and freight house.

The iron ore mines or pits of the Whitaker Company just over the line in Delaware furnished a great amount of freight as the ore was taken to Principio for reduction.  That, coupled with the amount of farming enterprise in this section of the county, called for increased transportation facilities.

The carrier was ready to meet the demand.  The land for the depot and warehouse was “given by Mr. C. Walton, who lived nearby,” the Cecil Whig reported. Once the attractive station house opened in April 1881, an agent was assigned to the depot, the official and his family living on the second floor.  The first floor contained two waiting rooms and other operational spaces.

In the 20th century, freight and passenger traffic declined.  By 1912, the railroad was arguing a case before the Maryland Public Service Commission as they wanted to reduce service to the attractive country station built-in the glory days of railroading.

Modernization also came along.  During the first half of the 20th century track realignments were required as the company electrified the  line and eliminated curves.  The station was moved a short distance back from the right-of-way, sometime during this era.   Also the company eliminated service at the rural station.

Today, except for the Amtrak passenger trains rushing past at high speeds, things are quiet at Iron Hill.  The old depot and another structure or two survive, serving as reminders of Cecil’s past and the thriving little hamlet.

But on this mild day in the middle of January as the sun came out in the afternoon, I was offered a ticket to the past.  Dan Dilks invited me out to look at the distinctive structure as he and a helper care for the old landmark, fixing it up and updating things.  In another century, it was the centerpiece of this tiny village on the Mason Dixon Line.

Thanks Dan for being the conductor on this visit and for an enjoyable walk  through the past.  Dan’s tour caused me to do a little digging through some sources, and this is what I have come up with thus far.

For additional photos of Iron Hill click here.

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Dan Dilks giving me a tour of the old station. He and a helper are currently working on old railroad station.

 

 

On the Road to Providence

The Providence Paper Mill, 1890.  Source:  Hexamer Maps from the Philadelphia Free Library.

The Providence Paper Mill, 1890. Source: Hexamer Maps from the Philadelphia Free Library.

On the road to Providence, you didn’t go far and you didn’t go fast.  But the twisting, rambling route brought railcars to the doors of manufacturers along the Little Elk Creek.  The companies, grinding flour, making paper, processing wool, and producing other goods, had clustered along the valley stream, over time.

Before the railroad arrived teamsters hauled bulk materials and supplies to and from the mills, but this was time consuming and costly on the rough roads.  However, when the last spike was driven on the new Baltimore & Ohio across Cecil County in 1886, the hauling distance was shortened, as freight was carried to depots at Childs and Singerly.

That continued until 1893 when the Lancaster, Cecil, Southern, a 4 ½ mile spur from Childs to Providence, opened for traffic.   Investors started considering the idea for a line in this region In 1890 when a group of Lancaster, PA businessmen reorganized a distressed carrier, creating the Lancaster, Oxford and Southern, which was to build a branch south into Maryland.

Two years later, a charter was granted for the Lancaster, Cecil & Southern, a company authorized to build a road from Elkton to the Pennsylvania State Line to meet the other carrier. They selected a right-of-way that followed the tortuous course of the creek.  It involved extensive excavating, grading and bridging, and by July there was an “air of hustle” along the stream for 300 men worked grading, ballasting and laying rails.  Finally by February 1893, trains rolled to the end of the line in Providence.

The spur from the Childs Station brought railroad transportation directly to a cluster of manufacturers on the creek.  This line was never designed to be adapted to rapid travel because of the grades and curves, but such demands would never be placed on it wrote the Cecil Whig.  Starting at Childs, it touched Marley Paper Mill where there was a twelve car siding.  From there it passed by Harlan’s Book Board Mill and then it ran up the west side of the creek to Carter’s Cecil Paper Mills, where it crossed the Little Elk Creek twice and followed the west bank of the stream to Levis & Brothers Flour Mill.  It finally reached Providence Paper Mill.

A Baltimore and Ohio locomotive made a daily run from Wilmington to handle the freight work on the short spur, which involved hauling twenty carloads of freight a day over the line in February 1893.  With traffic moving, the promoters noted that it wouldn’t be too long before they opened up the north part of the county from Providence to Oxford, PA., a distance of about 8 miles.  But this is as far as the L. C & S got.

As the 20th century advanced, freight traffic slowly dwindled.   The old mill at Providence, which had been in continuous operation for more than 60 years closed on September 25, 1948, leaving some 200 employees without work.  The closure was a blow to residents as there were few industries of any importance to which the workers could turn, the Cecil Democrat reported.  Obviously the shuttering of the large industry on the spur caused freight to sharply decline.  In 1954, the mill which has been inactive for years was being renovated in preparation for resuming operation, when a fire raced through the manufacturing structure.

With the destruction of the plant the potential for any large shipment of freight stopped on the upper end of the branch.  Sometime afterwards the railroad abandoned the portion of the spur from Providence to the paper mill at the edge of Childs.   In May 1972, the company gave notice that it was abandoning the Childs branch completely, from Childs Station to a distance of approximately 1.14 miles in Cecil County.

Although a small spur of 4 ½ miles to Providence, the old road had been an important one, moving goods, raw and finished, through the scenic Little Elk Creek Valley, while providing important shipping access for mills along the industrial waterway.  But by 1973, all was quiet along the Lancaster, Cecil and Southern.

For additional photos click here

For a detail research report, click here.

Providence Paper Mill in a postcard from about 1912 shows the end of the Childs Spur.  source:  personal collection

Providence Paper Mill in a postcard from about 1912 shows the end of the Childs Spur. source: personal collection