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thWhen Luther Powell and his brothers attended the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, they saw a presentation about raising goldfish. Upon returning home, they realized that their farm had a good water supply so they dug ponds and began a new business venture.

The idea caught on with other farmers who saw it as a way to make money from their ponds and within a few years nearly all of the goldfish in America were coming from Frederick County.

“At one point, 83 percent of the goldfish in the country were from Frederick County,” said Bill Powell, Luther’s grandson.

Bred in China for their color, goldfish were the first non-indigenous fish brought into the United States.  The historical record does not confirm an arrival date, but stories with references to goldfish put their arrival as early as 1826. They were being sold as pets by the 1850s, and interest in them spiked after P. T. Barnum opened the first public aquarium in 1856.

Once suggestion for the popularity of goldfish in the county is that the German families that settled the county enjoyed a fish-rich diet, which had led to a depletion of fish in the local streams. They purchased carp from the government to supplement the natural fish population. The carp were shipped in cans, and some goldfish, which are cousins to carp, also stowed away in the cans.

Ernest Tresselt wrote in his book Autobiography of a Goldfish Farmer, “That’s how goldfish found its way to the Maryland countryside, on the tails of edible carp. It is easy to speculate that one or more farms in Frederick County got goldfish along with their carp during the period when the carp culture in farm fish ponds was advocated as a supplementary food supply.”

Charles J. Ramsburg of Lewistown is believed to be the first goldfish farmer in Frederick County.  By the early 1900s, Ramsberg was shipping about a million fish a year around the country, according to History of Frederick County.

Another pioneer in goldfish farming was Ernest R. Powell of Lewistown.  In 1892, at the age of twelve, Powell began to breed goldfish.  By 1910, when his biography appeared in History of Frederick County, Powell had become successful enough in his enterprise to be identified as “one of the largest dealers of goldfish in Frederick County.”

More farmers began entering the business, using existing farm ponds or new ponds dug by hand with shovels, wheelbarrows and horse-drawn scoops.  “In the early part of the century, I think people in the county, especially farmers, saw goldfish as a way of making extra money,” Tresselt said in a 2006 interview. Tresselt believed that goldfish farming flourished in the county in part due to “the availability of water on many farms because of the mountain streams and springs. The temperate climate, with its distinct seasonal changes, is ideal for the propagation of goldfish.”

George Leicester Thomas, who founded Three Springs Fisheries in 1917 in Buckeystown, believed that the success of goldfish farming in Frederick County was largely due to the fact that the mineral content of the water was well-suited for goldfish.  Thomas’grandson, Charles, agreed, saying that the rich color of the goldfish resulted from good breeding stock and water rich in nutrients from truckloads of manure dumped in the ponds. “The manure has nutrients that fish thrive on and actually all they have to do is open their mouths in order to eat,” he told the Frederick Post in 1981.  It was these nutrients in the water, according to Thomas, that gave Frederick County goldfish the reputation of being the best-colored goldfish in the country.

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Some thought that it might be a killer that waited in hiding to pounce on the unsuspecting. Others thought that it was where other killers hid their dead. It was both, and while cautious, the residents of McSherrystown didn’t fear the pits of sand around them, perhaps because the body count accumulated over decades.

 

oldquarry

This shot of an old sand quarry give you an idea of how the McSherrystown quarries might have looked. Courtesy of http://www.rossbullock.co.uk.

In September 1901, a dead newborn baby was found in one of the sand holes from the quarry in McSherrystown. “The body was wrapped in the sleeve of an undershirt, which was next bound with a cloth and then enclosed in newspaper,” the New Oxford Item reported. A coroner’s inquest determined that the baby had been born alive, but no marks of violence were found on the body. The child may have suffocated in the sand. The parents were never found.

 

Whether or not the baby was the first person killed by the sand, he was not the last.

In December 1905, the New Oxford Item reported, “The ghastly discovery was made by several school boys, who, on their way home, while passing over the hill, saw a bundle lying in one of the sand holes. A scramble was made for possession of the bundle, and on picking it up the paper covering tore, and the body of a male child rolled to the ground.”

The boys were frightened at first, but they were boys. They quickly recovered and began spreading the story of how they had found a dead body.

The coroner’s inquest was only able to determine that the child had been dead for about a week when he had been found. Once again, the killers were never caught.

The sand holes around the town gave up their secrets reluctantly and then not all of them.

In October 1907, a horse and cart were buried under 20 feet of sand. The driver, Levi Reed, only narrowly escaped the same fate.

Reed had been loading the wagon with rough sand that needed to be put through the crusher to make it finer. “Levi Reed, who was near the horse, felt the tremor as the sand shifted and quickly he succeeded in reaching the edge of the bank, thereby saving himself from being drawn in,” the New Oxford Item reported.

A month later, Reed had another close call in the sand holes, but his partner, John Frock wasn’t so lucky. They had a contract to supply sand for the building of the York and Hanover trolley and were loading a wagon with sand. “They were working at the base of a jagged wall of sand above. Without warning this wall of sand shifted, sliding with force to the bottom of the hole,” the Gettysburg Compiler reported.

 

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This shot of an old quarry shows how close they could be to residential areas. 

 

The sand buried Frock, and he suffocated. Rescuers dug his body out from beneath two feet of sand.

In 1914, Urban Gouker fell 20 feet into one of the sand holes. He sustained multiple broken bones. He was lucky. At least he lived.

Another resident who was lucky to avoid being killed in the sand holes was William Farley. He was driving his car on Third Street in McSherrystown and failed to make a turn in the road. His car slid off the road and into a sand pit 25 feet below.

“Although the machine, a touring car, landed in an almost perpendicular position, with its radiator buried in a heap of rubbish in the pit, the driver crawled from the automobile apparently unhurt, but later was reported confined to a bed at his home suffering from pains in his head,” the Hanover Evening Sun reported.

In December 1915, the Gettysburg Times reported that residents of McSherrystown had seen the shadowy form of a woman had been seen wandering near the sand holes, supposedly searching for her lost child. The newspaper pointed out that it was a ghost story that circulated from time to time in the area.

“Fictitious as the story is, it, however, recalls the fact that the dead bodies of three infants have been found in these quarries, at various times, within the past twenty years, the last child having been found one Sunday about ten years ago, wrapped in a white sheet,” according to the newspaper.

Besides hiding bodies, the holes were also used as the town dump. This created a fire hazard from time to time as the trash would catch on fire.

In 1930, a group of school boys hit the mother lode in a sand hole when they found cases of unopened beer buried in a hole. It was believed that the beer had been seized in a raid in which law enforcement officers had failed to dispose of the alcohol properly.

The boys, who were ages 7 to 13, found the treasure trove. “One boy had two cases of it in bags. They drank some of it and sold some at five cents a bottle to anyone who cared to take a chance,” according to the Hanover Evening Sun. Some of the boys also imbibed and were drunk when the police found them.

The 1930s also saw the town begin to fill in some of the sand holes, which had fallen into disuse. One area was filled in and turned into a playground. Other areas were partially filled in, which at least reduced the depth that someone might fall. However, some holes remained open even into the late 1940s when one hole was used as a local swimming hole.

It also allowed the sand hole to claim a victim by drowning when an 81-year-old man was accidentally knocked into the hole and died.

When the last hole was filled in, all of the secrets hidden in the sand were covered over, and given the depth of the holes, may never be discovered.

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Civil WAr 10a frontSince the founding of the country, counterfeiters had been devaluing currency through the use of fake bills and coins and the Civil War created opportunities for even greater profit.

Even as counterfeiting grew in prevalence, law enforcement seemed unable to prosecute effectively counterfeiters. Arrests were made, but it seemed like where one counterfeiter was arrested, two more sprung up.

“…neither New York nor any other American metropolis ever launched an all-out campaign to eliminate counterfeiting from its jurisdiction.” Thomas Craughwell wrote in Stealing Lincoln’s Body (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007: pg. 38).

In part, the problem was police officers were investigators. They were men who enforced the laws.

The Cost of War

As with any war, once begun, the expenses to run a war became one, if not the largest, expense in the federal budget. In the case of the Civil War, the government’s expenditures exceeded its income. (Robert P. Sharkey, Money, Class, and Party: An Economic Study of Civil War and Reconstruction, Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995, pg. 18)

Preserving the Union

In the early years of the war as the North struggled for victory, the country’s gold reserves began to dwindle and the country faced a crisis. To put off the looming collapse, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act on February 24, 1862. The legislation allowed the treasury to move from coinage, which had been favored since the Revolutionary War to issue $150 million in paper currency and to recognize it as legal tender.

Counterfeiting National Currency

This created opportunities for counterfeiters.

“Like the rest of the American public, counterfeiters adjusted to the new national currency quickly. In fact, they preferred it to the old banknotes. A Philadephia shopkeeper who would have studied a fifty-dollar banknote from the Planter’s Bank of Tennessee would accept a U.S. fifty-dollar bill without a second thought,” Craughwell wrote (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007: pg. 41).

Union citizens weren’t the only ones who used the new national currency. Confederate citizens sought the bills to offset the increasingly devaluing confederate currency. Counterfeiters took advantage of this need by taking larger amounts of counterfeit bills into the South. Since few confederates were familiar with real bills, the counterfeits escaped close scrutiny. (Lynn Glaser, Counterfeiting in America: The History of an American Way to Wealth, Philadelphia: Clarkson N. Potter, 1960, pg. 103)

The fake bills were also being circulated in the north and by 1864, estimates are that half the bills in use were fake. With this much fake currency, the U.S. financial system was in danger of collapse.

The Protectors of Currency

Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase hired William P. Wood, superintendent of the Old Capitol Prison system, to track down counterfeiters. This was the beginnings of the Secret Service.

Within a year, Wood and the men he hired had arrested over 200 counterfeiters and removed a great amount of fake currency from circulation as well as the tools of the trade the counterfeiters used to make their fake money. (David Johnson, Illegal Tender: Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America, Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, pg. 76)

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350px-Alcatraz_Island_photo_D_Ramey_LoganToo costly to repair, the U.S. government decided to close the famed prison in 1963.

On March 21, 1963, the last 27 prisoners were removed from Alcatraz Penitentiary with “their heads bowed and their bodies chained,” according to the Oakland Tribune.

Prisoners Leave Alcatraz

Prison officials and reporters watched the final prisoners leave the prison nicknamed “the Rock” because it was the only building on a 12-acre island in San Francisco Bay.

“The closing was abrupt and final. The prisoners, dressed in new, dun prison garb for the occasion, were taken by boat in two trips from the island. Guards and their families — some on the island for as long as 20 years — went in a third crossing to San Francisco. Only a few will remain on the island to prepare for formal abandonment June 30. The rest will either retire or be re-assigned,” reported the Oakland Tribune.

Warden Olin Blackwell gave the newsmen a final tour of the prison. At one point, he stopped and chipped away plaster with his hand to show one of the reasons why the facility needed to be closed.

“It seems sinful that this famous prison, the impenetrable rock which stood in defiance to such men as Al Capone, should die such a slow death,” reported the Tribune.

The Escape-Proof PrisonAlcatraz_sewing_room

Alcatraz became a civilian prison in 1934. During its 29 years of service, 40 prisoners made 13 escape attempts.

The most famous escape attempt was in 1962. Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin, all bank robbers, dug their way out of the prison using sharpened spoons. Their bodies were never found and they were believed to have drowned in the bay.

The only escapee known to have made the swim from prison to shore was John Paul Scott. Though he made the swim, he was found unconscious on the shore and near death from his efforts.

Renovation or Closure

While the water of San Francisco Bay contained the prisoners on the island, the sea air in San Francisco Bay ate away at the prison, corroding metal and weakening concrete.

“It would pay us and would pay the government in the long run to replace Alcatraz with an institution more centrally located.” Federal Prison Director James Bennett said. “Perhaps in the Midwest.”

Besides the crumbling concrete and rusting steel, electrical and water conduits were rusting through. In some places, the steel girders were rusted through and had been replaced with wooden timbers.

It had been known that massive repairs were needed since 1954. At that time, needed renovations were estimated at $4 million. By 1963, the repair costs had risen to $5 million and the cost to keep a prisoner was the highest in the country.

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Though the City Fathers of Baltimore, Maryland, were counting on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to keep them a viable port city, railroads were still a relatively untested technology in 1838. Not only that but it seemed that the rival Chesapeake and Ohio Canal would capture the land needed to build the railroad.

51CBWAtpQ-L._SX425_Making the Survey

In early 1838, Maryland Governor T. W. Veazey directed Col. J. J. Abert, chief of the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers to survey a route for C&O Canal to connect to the City of Baltimore. Because of all the public backing, the city had given the railroad effort, the document was not made public until 1874 long after the railroad had proven its worth to the city and country.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

The B&O Railroad had broken ground on July 4, 1828, with much hoopla and an hours-long parade. Charles Carroll, the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence, helped lay the cornerstone.01_rail_canal

However, the railroad was not without competition. The C&O Canal broke ground on the same day and had the backing of the federal government. To make matters worse, both projects sought to reach Cumberland, Maryland, and capture the lucrative coal trade.

Conditions of the Survey

Abert was told to look for “the most northern practicable route of the routes by the valleys of the Monocacy and the Patapsco, or by a route diverging from said Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at the mouth of the Seneca River.” The chosen route needed to be entirely in Maryland and have an ample supply of water.

Some earlier surveying had been done and Abert was able to narrow the possible routes down to three:

  • The Westminister Route
  • The Linganore Route
  • The Seneca Route

4a10999rThe Report on Canal Routes

Abert submitted his report in April 1838. He found that the Westminister Route was so poor a choice that it didn’t merit further consideration. The Linganore Route lacked water, but it had some possibilities. The Seneca Route was a stronger possibility, though.

In surveying the route, a better choice presented itself and was called the Brookeville Route. It had adequate water and could be built.

Canal Becomes a Moot Point

Whether the governor gave the canal serious consideration is unknown. Four years later, the B&O reached Cumberland and proved itself all that the city had hoped four in making Baltimore a viable port city. The C&O Canal did not reach Cumberland until 1850, eight years later.

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Infinity time spiral 15267876In March 1918, America joined Europe in using Daylight Savings Time.

A funny thing happened on March 30, 1918. Many Americans went to sleep and woke up the next morning to find that it was an hour later than their clocks said.

Putting Daylight Savings Time Into Effect

President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill on March 19, 1918. When Daylight Savings Time went into effect on March 30, the rationale was that it was needed to help the United States in the war effort of WWI.

“Now that it is actually going to be made effective don’t plan to spend that extra hour of afternoon sunlight for pleasure. Make plans at once to devote that extra hour working in war gardens, or at some other out of door labor that will aid in helping to win the war,” wrote the New Castle News on March 20, 1918.

It was also expected that the extra hour of daylight would conserve coal for use in the war.

Though it would take some getting used to for Americans, 12 European countries were already using it.

How Daylight Savings Time Came To Be

Benjamin Franklin is credited with first proposing Daylight Savings Time in his 1784 essay, “An Economical Project.”

However, it wasn’t seriously considered until William Willet, a London builder, took up the cause in his 1907 pamphlet “Waste of Daylight.” He got his idea during an early morning ride when he noticed people still sleeping with their blinds closed although the sun had risen. Willet’s idea was to move clocks ahead by 20 minutes for four Sundays in April and do the reverse in September.

Though a bill was introduced to Parliament several times, it failed to pass. Willet died thinking most people scoffed at his idea.

However, England adopted it in May 1916. As predicted, the switch caused a lot of confusion.

Allowing Local Control images

Though Daylight Savings Time was initially mandatory, part of the original U.S. legislation was repealed in 1919, leaving the option as to whether to participate up to the localities.

Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966. This set the start and end dates for Daylight Savings Time but still left the decision to the localities.

The start and end times were adjusted in 1986 and 2005.

U.S. Participants in Daylight Savings Time

Most places in the U.S. observe Daylight Savings Time except for Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Benefits of Daylight Savings Time

Having more daylight in the evening has been shown to save energy, decrease crime and reduce traffic accidents. The most-basic reason, however, is that most people just enjoy having more daylight time to enjoy the summer days.

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great-falls-nationalAs canals became popular in Europe in the 18th Century, it shouldn’t be surprising that Americans also recognized the benefits of an artificial waterway.

The United States had plenty of rivers, but not all of them ran close to cities or ports and certainly all of them weren’t navigable. However, all that water would flow through artificial channels.

Why Americans Wanted Canals

As America moved west, Americans in greater numbers sought ways to follow. In 1800, only a million people lived west of the Allegheny Mountains. Thirty years later that number had grown to 3.5 million. This westward expansion fueled the need for internal roads.

The National Road reached Wheeling, Va. in 1818 and sped up the movement of goods from the west to Baltimore and Washington.

A beneficial as the road was, transporting goods on it was 30 times more expensive than canal transportation. At the time, it was said that 4 horses could pull a 1-ton payload by wagon on an ordinary road 12 miles in a day. On a turnpike, the same team could pull the wagon 18 miles. But on a canal, the team could pull 100 tons 24 miles in a day.

seal_patowmackEarly Canal Ideas

Early on, Americans saw canals as a way to open up routes into the country’s interior and bring out its rich bounty of natural resources. Canals were untaken from the Chesapeake Bay to the Delaware River, from the Tioga to the Allegheny, from the Susquehanna to the Delaware, from Lake Ontario to the Delaware, and from Lake Erie to the Allegheny.

Washington’s Dream

George Washington began work on his version of a canal in 1785. His idea was to build canal locks at strategic places along the Potomac River in order to make it navigable. With a short portage between the headwaters of the Potomac and the Ohio, trade from the Mississippi could come east rather than south to reach a seaport city.

The trip became faster, but boaters still faced the dangers of the river. However, merchants were willing to take the risk. In one year, 1300 boats made the journey from Cumberland to Georgetown using Washington’s Patowmack Company skirting canals.161525pv

Success of the Canals

New York began construction of the Erie Canal in 1817. It was completed in 1825 and covered 363 miles from Buffalo, N.Y. to Albany, N.Y. It linked the Hudson River with Lake Erie.

With the opening of the canal, merchants in the then-west no longer had to ship their goods down the Mississippi to a port or overland on the more-expensive National Road.

Almost overnight, the cost to transport goods from places like Montreal, Canada to New York City fell from $100 per ton to about $12 and a 3-week journey took little more than a week.

End of the Canal Era

Canals made early American road obsolete. In turn, railroads made canals obsolete.

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