Tag Archives: george chapman

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 — 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.

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

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