The C&O Canal basin at Cumberland, Maryland.

Capt. John Zimmerman had his crew move the canal boat, Joseph Murray, under a chute for the Maryland Coal Company to take on a load of coal at the Cumberland Canal Basin on August 4, 1873.

He worked with his son and two hands to position the canal boat’s open hold under the church. It was something that occurred many times daily at the basin as canal boats prepared to haul coal to Georgetown and 1873 was the height of the canal’s “golden age.” By the end of the year, 91 canal boats would be built in Cumberland, bringing the number of boats navigating the canal up to 500, each with an average capacity of 112 tons.

The problem was that the Maryland Company hadn’t agreed to pay the uniform rate of freight that the canallers were insisting upon to offset increase hauling costs including a 5 cents per ton toll increase that had been raise in February. Though the canallers were unionized, they had agreed to not haul freight on their boats for companies that wouldn’t pay the uniform rate.

Zimmerman knew that he was breaking with his fellow canallers, but he had “boasted that he would let no man stop him,” according to the Cumberland Daily Times.

He had not tried to hide when he left the Maryland Company office and headed for the Joseph Murray. Nor had he been secretive when he moved the boat under the coal chutes.

The other canallers knew what he was doing and they didn’t like it.

“Hardly had the first pot of coal touched the bottom of the hold before the deck of the ‘Joseph Murray’ swarmed with boarders. Zimmerman made a show of resistance but was shoved off into the canal; his son and the other members of the crew leaving the vessel without further notice,” the Cumberland Daily Times reported.

The mob then chopped the stern post and destroyed windows on cabins. As they prepared to move onto other areas of the boat, someone realized that the canal boat belonged to Dave Eckelberry of Hancock and not Zimmerman. He was only employed by Eckelberry to captain the boat.

They stopped their destruction, but not their taunting of Zimmerman.

“While Zimmerman was struggling in the water, he was pelted with lumps of coal,” the newspaper reported.

He got out of the water and walked dripping wet to the office of the Maryland Coal Company. He took out his wallet and removed the money to dry and return it to the company agent in the office. Zimmerman had been paid extra to haul the coal for the company.

The other canallers swarmed into the office and swore at and threatened Alexander Ray, the company agent from Georgetown. “No blows were struck, however, and the demonstration ended in noise,” the newspaper reported.

Zimmerman left the office and headed into Cumberland. The crowd of canallers followed him and jeered him.

For Zimmerman, enough was enough. He “turned about, drew a revolver and threatened to shoot,” according to the newspaper.

Someone was able to knock the pistol from his hand while Joseph Kirtley ran off to issue a complaint against Zimmerman. A warrant was issued for Zimmerman’s arrest. He was taken before the magistrate, but eventually released on bail.

Captain Mills and other Cumberland police officers were sent to wharf to “quell any disturbance that might be in progress or that might arise, but on their arrival everything was quiet, and remained so throughout the day, although no other boat attempted to load for the Maryland Company,” the Cumberland Daily News reported.

The Maryland Company eventually shipped 110,663 tons of coal in 1873 or 14 percent of Cumberland’s business that year. It shipped the third-largest amount (out of 11 companies) in 1873.

For other posts about the C&O Canal:





Mrs. Samuel Lightner appeared to be aiding the Confederate Army during the Civil War, but she was actually hiding bonds and securities from the Cumberland Valley Railroad from them.

Mrs. Samuel Lightner would never have considered herself an actress. She was a wife and a mother of eight and filling those roles was enough for anyone. However, in late June of 1863, she performed a role worthy of the best actresses of the time.

Despite the fact that her family supported the Union and her husband was in the army, Mrs. Lightner played the role of a Confederate sympathizer in order to save a railroad. Samuel Lightner had been drafted in 1862 as Chambersburg, Pa., worried about a Confederate invasion from Washington County.

For nearly a year, Mrs. Lightner had worked hard to keep the family farm near Greenville, Pa., running and to care for her eight children.

At the end of June 1863, a group of Confederate scouts rode up to the farmhouse asking to be fed. Mrs. Lightner had only a few minutes to make a decision. She “was fearful of displeasing the southern soldiers lest they retaliate by setting fire to the home,” according to the Public Opinion. Part of the fear certainly came from worrying about the safety of her children, but Mrs. Lightner also knew she was hiding a secret that she needed to protect.

Her decision made, she welcomed the soldiers and allowed them to camp on her farm. According to Benjamin Lightner, who was a youngster at the time, he mother spent the next week baking 25 loaves of bread for the soldiers and supplying each of the men with a pint of milk.

At the end of the month, the soldiers headed east where they would participate in the Battle of Gettysburg.

When word of what Mrs. Lightner had done leaked out, she experienced a lot of criticism among her neighbors. It wasn’t until years later that it became known that Emmanuel Hale, Mrs. Lightner’s father and a employee of the Cumberland Valley Railroad, had brought bonds owned by railroad to the farmhouse and asked his daughter to hide them. She had done so and this was another reason she had needed to keep the Confederate soldiers from searching the house or burning it down.

The Cumberland Valley Railroad was an early railroad that was chartered in 1831 and connected to Pennsylvania’s Main Line. It ran from Harrisburg to Chambersburg down to Hagerstown and Winchester, Virginia. In 1839, it became the first railroad to have passenger sleeping cars. The railroad had been used to supply Union troops during the war.

The Confederate army had already shown a willingness to destroy the railroad when soldiers tore down railway building in Chambersburg in 1862 around the same time Samuel Lightner was drafted. Around the same time as Mrs. Lightner was hiding the securities, the Confederate army had burned the railroad’s property in Chambersburg and torn up miles of track. A year after this incident, the Confederate army under Jubal Early returned to Chambersburg and burned even more of the railroad’s property.

One of the Lightner children, Mrs. W.F. Kohler of Scotland, Pa., told the story of the reason her mother had helped the Confederates to the Public Opinion in the early 1950’s.




Mental Floss has a fun article about seven things that were introduced at World’s Fairs. It’s a good read, but it looks at only big items like the Eiffel Tower (introduced at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair) and the Ford Mustang (introduced at 1964 New York World’s Fair).

However, World’s Fairs have preview many new items that are more commonplace and still around today. Here are some of the ones that I could think of:

1893 Chicago World’s Fair


The pressed penny souvenir was first introduced at the 1893 World’s Fair. It had a very simply design compared to the ones seen today.

  • Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum
  • Spray paint – Oddly enough, this was a display at the fair. It was developed by Francis David Millet as a way to finish some of the buildings on time for the fair to open.
  • Pressed penny souvenirs – They are standard at most tourist attractions nowadays.
  • Cracker Jacks
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer – Originally called Pabst Select, the beer won a blue ribbon at the fair and the name change soon followed.
  • The Zipper
  • The telautograph – a very early version of the fax machine invented by Elisha Gray.
  • Cream of Wheat

1904 St. Louis World’s Fair


The Poulson Telegraphone was an early version of the telephone answering machine.

  • “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” – This saying was created by J. T. Stinson a Missouri fruit grower who used it to promote apples.
  • The Poulson telegraphone – An early version of the telephone answering machine.
  • Tabletop stove
  • Coffeemaker
  • Electrical plug and wall outlet




1939 New York World’s Fair


I bet this dress made from cellophane, which was first introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair sounded worse that my old corduroy pants used to sound.

  • Cellophane – Among the uses DuPont pictured for this was clothing.
  • Nylon stockings
  • Television – The first U.S. television broadcast was President Franklin D. Roosevelt welcoming the visitors to the fair on opening day April 30, 1939.







1964 New York World’s Fair

tourist waffles

1964 brought us Belgian Waffles, and I would guess, it was the same year the American waistline began to expand.

  • Belgian waffles
  • Picturephone – This was an early version of videoconferencing. Attendees could videochat in New York with people using a picturephone in Disneyland in California and other locations around the country.

I know a gentleman named Chuck Caldwell who attended the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair when he was 10 years old. He loved it. Although he didn’t get to attend, the fair featured  the first Major League All-Star Baseball game.

The thing that he remembers most was the Sky Ride. Visitors rode elevators to the top of tall, steel towers that rose 628 feet into the air. One tower was on the mainland while the other tower stood 1,850 feet away across the lagoon on the fair’s island, which had been built atop a reclaimed landfill. From the observation deck there, he could see far into the city and over Lake Michigan. On clear days, a person could also see into adjacent states. An aerial track carried double-decker rocket cars across the lagoon and 210 feet above it for a distance of more than one-third of a mile to other tower.

He also had a hand in a circus display at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair. Howard Tibbals had been a fan of the circus since his childhood. In 1956, he began building what would become his lifetime passion, a scale circus. Such an undertaking required help and Tibbals had seen Chuck’s work as a sculptor and hired him to help built his highly-detailed model circus. Tibbals could build the miniature wagons and tents, but he needed Chuck to make the performers and animals for him.

Nowadays, unfortunately, the World’s Fairs aren’t even called that. If you’re lucky, they will be referred to as World Expositions, but often, they are called Registered expositions. They are also no longer an annual event. The last registered exposition was in Milan, Italy, in 2015. It ran from May 1 to October 31 of that year.

There are plans for a world exposition in Kazakhstan in 2017. So far, the United States is not one of the 30 confirmed countries that will be participating in it.



An 1858 map of Frederick County from the Library of Congress. During the 1870s, there was a movement in the northern part of the county to break away from Frederick County and join with parts of neighboring Carroll and Washington Counties to form Catoctin County.

Can you imagine a Catoctin County, Maryland? It would have included Frederick County north of Walkersville and Mechanicstown would have been the county seat.

It was a dream that some people in the northern Frederick County area pursued throughout 1871 and 1872. The Catoctin Clarion was only on its 10th issue when it carried a long front-page article signed with the pen name Phocion. Phocion was an Athenian politician, statesman, and strategos in Ancient Greece.

The issue had been talked about within groups of people for a while and it was time to garner support by taking the issue to a larger, general audience.

“Some sober sided citizens in our valley are quietly discussing the question among themselves, shall Frederick county be divided and the new county of Catoctin be erected into a separate organization?” the newspaper reported. Wicomico County had been formed in 1867 from portions of Somerset and Worcester counties so the idea of another new Maryland county was not far-fetched. In fact, Garrett County would be formed from the western portion of Allegany County in 1872.

The main reason put forth for creating a new county was the distance and expense of traveling to Frederick to register deeds and attend court. Opponents argued that creating a new county would be costly for the citizens in the new county. New county buildings would have to be constructed and county positions filled. All of this financial burden would have to be absorbed by the smaller population in the new county.

“Our neighbors across the Monocacy in the Taneytown District have but a short distance to go to attend Carroll county Court. Why shall we on this side be deprived privileges which were granted to them? Shall the people on one side of the Monocacy be granted immunities which are to be withheld from citizens residing on the other side?” the Clarion reported.

Besides northern Frederick County, Phocion said that in Carroll County, residents of Middleburg, Pipe Creek and Sam’s Creek were also interested in becoming part of Catoctin County.

“If a majority of the citizens residing in Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties (within the limits of the proposed new county), favor a division, I see no reason why it should not be accomplished,” the newspaper reported.

In deciding on what the boundaries of the new county would be, there were three conditions that needed to be met in Maryland. 1) The majority of citizens in the areas that would make up the new county would have to vote to create the county. 2) The population of white inhabitants in the proposed county could not be less than 10,000. 3) The population in the counties losing land could not be less than 10,000 white residents.

Interest reached the point where a public meeting was held on January 6, 1872, at the Mechanicstown Academy “for the purpose of taking the preliminary steps for the formation of a New County out of portions of Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties,” the Clarion reported.

Dr. William White was appointed the chairman of the committee with Joseph A. Gernand and Isaiah E. Hahn, vice presidents, and Capt. Martin Rouzer and Joseph W. Davidson, secretaries.

By January 1872, the Clarion was declaring, “We are as near united up this way on the New County Question as people generally are on any mooted project—New County, Railroad, iron and coal mines, or any other issue of public importance.”

Despite this interest in a new county, by February the idea had vanished inexplicably from the newspapers. It wasn’t until 10 years later that a few articles made allusions as to what had happened. An 1882 article noted, “It was to this town principally that all looked for the men who would do the hard fighting and stand the brunt of the battle, for to her would come the reward, the court house of the new county. The cause of the sudden cessation of all interest is too well known to require notices and only comment necessary is, that an interest in the general good was not, by far, to account for the death of the ‘New County’ movement. Frederick city, in her finesse in that matter, gave herself a record for shrewdness that few players ever achieve.”

A letter to the editor the following year said that the men leading the New County Movement had been “bought off, so to speak, by the promises of office, elective at the hand of one party, appointive at the hands of the other, and thus the very backbone taken out of the movement.” The letter also noted that the taxes in Frederick County were now higher than they had been when a new county had been talked about and that they wouldn’t have been any higher than that in the new county. “And advantages would have been nearer and communication more direct,” the letter writer noted.


Author’s Note: This is part two of the story I started last week. The columns ran in the Cumberland Times-News last year and recently won a local column award from the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association. Since I like the story, I thought I would share it with those of you who live outside of the Cumberland, Maryland, area. If you missed the first part, you can find it here.


Charles Twigg and Mary Grace Elosser mysteriously died on the eve of their wedding in 1910.

New Year’s Day 1911 should have been a day of rejoicing for the Twigg and Elosser families. Instead it turned into a day of mourning and mystery.

The day before, Charles Twigg and Mary Grace Elosser had been found dead in a room in the Elosser family home. Though the couple had been alone in the room, other family members had been in the house and no one heard anything suspicious and there were no marks on the bodies.

No one knew what had happened. Had it been a double suicide or a murder-suicide and why would either happen on the eve of their wedding?

An autopsy showed that both Twigg and Elosser had poison in their systems. Had someone poisoned them, making it a double murder?

Theories abounded. Twigg had originally been interested in Elosser’s younger sister, May, but had fallen in love with Elosser. Had May poisoned the couple out of jealousy? Had Twigg’s chewing gum been poisoned and he passed the poison to Elosser when they kissed? Anna Elosser, Elosser’s mother, was quick to accuse Twigg as a jealous murderer who had killed her daughter.

Eight-year-old Harlan Norris, a neighborhood boy, told investigators that he had seen the couple sitting with empty glasses and a bottle of green liquid between them. Anna Elosser said that the bottle had contained ammonia, which the family had used to try and revive Twigg and Elosser before they were known to be dead. The glasses had contained drinks that were also brought in to try and revive the couple.

Nationwide interest was quickly sparked over the mystery. Reporters from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, and other places arrived in Cumberland seeking answers and people to interview. The Elosser Family hired Pinkerton detectives to conduct an investigation independent of the Cumberland Police investigation.

Amid this controversy, the couple who should have been started the rest of their lives together were buried separately on Jan. 3. Elosser was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Cumberland and Twigg was buried at the Methodist church in Keyser.

At the coroner’s inquest, doctors Koon, Foard, Harrington, Broadrup, and Owens all testified that they had found cyanide in the blood of the Twigg and Elosser. Chemist George Baker concurred with their findings. What no one could explain was how it had gotten there.

The final conclusion of the inquest was that death had come from “poisoning administered in a manner unknown,” according to the Cumberland Evening Times.

Weeks after their death, the killer was identified as a small gas stove in the parlor. Drs. John Littlefield and A. H. Hawkins had been studying carbon monoxide poisoning and suspected that this is what happened to the couple. They replicated the situation in the Elosser home with a cat in a box sitting in for the couple. After 90 minutes in a closed room, the cat was dead. The experiment was repeated later in the day with a cat and a rabbit. This time, the cat died, but the rabbit survived.

The doctors who had testified of cyanide poisoning were skeptical at first. State’s Attorney David Robb continued following up every lead. Based on the new information, he had the stove in the Elosser home on First Street in South Cumberland examined.

The Cumberland Evening Times reported, “the startling discovery was made at the time of the test last week that the flue, in which the pipe from the gas stove fitted, was banked with soot, three feet high in the flue and seven inches thick at the base of the flue. There was absolutely no draft, and when the stove was lighted with the draft pipe in the flue, the flames boiled and emitted a gas odor.”

Because the couple had been closed in the room with no ventilation, they had been overcome by the poisonous fumes. Others who went into the room didn’t suffer the same fate because when they entered the room, the doors were open allowing for ventilation.

It was an accidental death and one of the earliest documented cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.




Author’s Note: I was told this week that this pair of columns, which ran in the Cumberland Times-News last year, won a local column award from the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association. Since I like the story, I thought I would share it with those of you who live outside of the Cumberland, Maryland, area.


The Elosser home in Cumberland, Md.

January 1, 1911 was supposed to be a special day in the lives of Charles Twigg and Mary Grace Elosser. It was their wedding day. Unfortunately, the night before was their death day.

The discovery of their bodies on New Year’s Eve 1910 was a shock to everyone who knew them. The young couple was happy and in love.

Twigg was a fruit grower from Keyser, W. Va. He was also a widower whose wife had died four years previously and his infant child had died three years ago. Elosser, who was a young divorcee, had seen her own share of sadness in her life.

“Losing his heart to her in the Indian Summer of the last Autumn, his impetuous wooing soon won her for himself,” the New York Times reported.

On the day he died, Twigg arrived in Cumberland to prepare for his wedding. He purchased a wedding ring for his new bride and train tickets to Florida for their honeymoon. He also bought himself a new suit that he planned on wearing to his wedding.

Errands done, he called his fiancée on the phone.

“She laughingly told him that she was up to her eyes in the work of preparation for their marriage on the next day, and did not have a moment’s time for him that afternoon,” the New York Times reported.

He convinced her to meet with him for just a few minutes, though. Tradition says that it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding and so it proved to be for these lovebirds.

“Charlie is the best man that ever lived and I am the happiest girl in the world to get such a treasure,” Elosser told one of her close friends on New Year’s Eve.

Twigg arrived early in the afternoon and the couple met in the parlor. Although they were alone, there were plenty of people in the house. Grace’s mother, Anna Elosser, popped in after half an hour to tell Grace that her seamstress for her gown needed to speak with her on the phone.

Twigg talked to his future mother-in-law until his fiancée returned.

“When Grace returned, Mrs. Elosser left, playfully shaking her finger at the couple as they sat cosily on the divan and warning them that time was too precious to spend in loverlike endearments when there was so much in the way of preparation for the wedding,” the New York Times reported.

An hour later, Anna Elosser interrupted them again to find out what arrangements had been decided on their wedding tour.

Grace’s mother told a New York Times reporter, “I knocked on the door with a smile on my face for when I had been in the parlor before both Grace and Charlie Twigg seemed so supremely happy that I could not but smile at the recollection of it. I gave a short knock and entered without waiting a reply. The doorway though which I entered is on the same wall as that against which was the sofa whereon Grace and Charlie sat. I did not fully enter the room, but merely thrust in my head, saying as I did so, ‘Grace, dear, I want to ask you something. You won’t mind my coming in, will you?’

“And then I stopped. There was a silence in the room, a queer, strange silence. Looking towards the sofa I saw the odd, strange attitudes of my daughter and her betrothed. It looked as though they had fallen asleep, but in a most grotesque position.”

Twigg’s head was resting on Elosser’s shoulder. Her head was tilted back staring upward. Their hands were clasped together.

The young couple were dead, but just what had happened?

I’ll post part II next week. 



Several years ago, on Labor Day weekend, we took the boys to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived in the state of Maryland my entire life and hadn’t visited this gem of a historic site until this day. I’m going to blame it on maybe being sick the day of this school field trip?!?

Fort McHenry was the site of the Battle of Baltimore on September 13-14, 1814. The defense of the Fort inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-Spangled Banner,” our National Anthem. My boys LOVE history and we just thought it was high time our family visited this historic site.  We were not disappointed.

A couple notes….as I’m not a huge fan of driving in a large city (still love going to Baltimore), the directions on the park’s website were great. It was fairly easy to get to…

View original post 666 more words


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,692 other followers

%d bloggers like this: