Posts Tagged ‘Allegany County’

C&O CoverMy new book, Secrets of the C&O Canal: Hidden History and Little-Known Stories Along the Potomac River, is out!

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was the great national project that failed to live up the dream in the 19th century. It never reached its ultimate destination, which was not Cumberland, Maryland (where it wound up) or the Ohio River (as the name implies). The early vision of the canal planners was something far grander and longer, and it’s just one of the secrets of the C&O Canal.

In this new book, Secrets of the C&O Canal: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History Along the Potomac River, you can discover the stories of the canal, its people, politics, and connection to history.

If you’re wondering where the canal could have gone, one possibility was that it would have ended at Lake Erie to offer competition to the Erie Canal. You can discover an alternate starting point in the book.

Other “secrets” of the canal include:

  • Discovering the connection between the C&O Canal and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • Finding out how building the canal led to the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Discovering how the Johnstown Flood helped kill the canal.
  • Solving the mystery of two murders on the canal that never actually happened.

Secrets of the C&O Canal contains 67 black and white photographs and illustrations that help bring the stories to life. It is the third book that I’ve done in the “Secrets” series.

Take a look for yourself!

You might also enjoy these posts:


Read Full Post »



The Cumberland Colts Baseball Team

As the baseball game drew to a close on the afternoon of August 27, 1917, the Frederick (Md.) Hustlers had managed to pull away from the Cumberland (Md.) Colts due to some questionable calls by the umpire. After the Hustlers pitcher Bill King allowed only eight hits, the final score was 5-3.


The Cumberland fans weren’t happy.

“Almost 2,000 Cumberland rooters rushed to the field after the game was over to get a carck at the ump, but the Queen City police force was on the job and the crowd was kept back. League President J. V. Jamison was present at the game and it was through his efforts that the umpire was seen safely back to the city. He escorted the ump to his automobile and took him to a place he could rest peacefully,” the Frederick Post reported.

This was the early days of professional baseball in Allegany County when the county had not one, but three professional baseball teams that fans could turn out to cheer on.

The Potomac League



Fuller Barnard, Jr.

Fuller Barnard, Jr. was a Cumberland lawyer and a big baseball fan. He formed the Potomac League in 1916. This was a Class D professional baseball.


“It was entry level baseball,” says Robert Savitt, author of The Blue Ridge League and a Myersville resident. “Even though the players got paid, they still needed to have other jobs.”

The league was composed of four teams – the Cumberland Colts, the Frostburg (Md.) Demons, the Lonaconing (Md.) Giants and the Piedmont (W. Va.) Drybugs. Though the Drybugs were technically a West Virginia team, they played their games on Potomac Field in Westernport, Md.

Unfortunately, the league struggled from the start. The Giants disbanded in July after having played only 44 games. The Demons quit the league in August due to financial problems. With only two teams left, the Potomac League was forced to disband as well.

“At the time the league stopped, Frostburg was leading in the standings with a 33-25 record, six games ahead of 2nd place, Piedmont (26-30). Cumberland was 23-35,” according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Although Allegany County’s own professional baseball league had folded, opportunities still existed for the teams to play professional baseball.

The Blue Ridge League

Further east, in Washington County, Charles Boyer, a former president of the South Atlantic League, had moved back to the Hagerstown area in 1914. He watched the town teams playing against each other and saw that there was talent among the players that deserved to be rewarded.

He had purchased the Hagerstown team and set to work forming a new baseball league that would soon be named the Blue Ridge League. It was made up of six teams from Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The league started playing in 1915 and was subject to the same financial pressures that had faced the Potomac League. However, as teams dropped out, other teams found a home in the league, which allowed it to continue.

When the Chambersburg (Pa.) Maroons quit the league, the Colts sought to replace them. “One of the sticking points in Cumberland’s efforts to join the Blue Ridge League was its desire to schedule games on Sundays to attract fans,” Savitt wrote in The Blue Ridge League. The team finally was able to enter the league in 1917 when it agreed to take over the debt of the Maroons.

“Until Cumberland came on, no one played Sunday in baseball in the Blue Ridge League,” said Mark Ziegler, who runs the website, BlueRidgeLeague.org.



Game card showing a match-up between the Cumberland Colts and Piedmont Drybugs

Sunday games were controversial and outside of Allegany County, there were incidents where the police would arrest the players before a Sunday game for violating the community’s Blue Laws. They were usually taken into the nearest police station and booked. Then when the police released the players, they returned to the field to play the game.


The Drybugs also entered the Blue Ridge League the following year in 1918, though by this time they recognized their affiliation with Allegany County and were called the Piedmont-Westernport Drybugs.

However, the Blue Ridge League faced two major problems in 1918. The World War I draft continued to make soldiers of many of the players, making it hard to field a team. In addition, the Spanish Flu sickened and sometimes killed both players and fans. The Drybugs’ official scorer, Walter Biggs was one of the flu’s many fatalities, according to Savitt. Because of these problems, the Blue Ridge League’s 1918 season ended after only three weeks.

Though league play would resume in 1920, neither Allegany County team would be a part of it.

The Middle Atlantic League

While the Drybugs disbanded after 1918, the Colts actually took a step up in its professional status by joining the newly formed Middle Atlantic League, a Class C professional baseball league in 1925.

The Colts thrived in the Middle Atlantic League and were the league champs in 1927 and 1928.

Once the Blue Ridge League resumed its play, it pioneered a couple of changes that affected the Colts in the Middle Atlantic League.

“The Blue Ridge League was a pioneer league in the formulation of the farm system,” Savitt said.

As Major League teams recognized the opportunity to develop future Major League talent by buying lower-class teams, the Colts eventually became a farm team of the New York Yankees. This allowed Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to come to Cumberland in 1932 as part of an exhibition game between the Colts and Yankees.

The Blue Ridge League was also one of the first leagues to introduce night games, but the Middle Atlantic League added them shortly thereafter.

Cumberland’s first night game was played at Community Baseball Park on August 4, 1930. Not only was it the introduction of night play, but the Williams Piano and Furniture Company supplied broadcasting equipment “for the broadcasting of music with special microphone attachment for the speakers and amplifiers that will make the music and announcements audible all over the park,” according to the Cumberland Evening Times.

Though the Middle Atlantic League continued until 1951, the Cumberland Colts left in 1932 and the era of professional baseball in Allegany County ended as well, though fan enthusiasm continues just as strongly today.

You might also enjoy these posts:


Read Full Post »




A “doctor” presenting his miracle cure at a medicine show.

The men stood on platforms so they were a few feet off the ground. That way, the crowds could see them and, more importantly, they could see the displays behind the men at the corner of Baltimore and Liberty streets in front of the Second National Bank in Cumberland. The men called out to the crowds. They cracked jokes, made sales pitches and overstated promises as they tried to sell homemade medicines.


On March 30, 1878, The Alleganian reported on the appearance of two worm medicine men who had “eloquence, stale jokes and slang phrases that have emanated from the street orators and wayside druggists. With stentorian lungs of wonderful endurance, they have shouted aloud, all the symptoms that indicate the presence of tape and all other kinds of worms that have ever afflicted humanity.”


One of the products sold at a medicine show.


The men were convincing in their pitches because a majority of the crowds that gathered around them seemed willing to buy a bottle of the medicine. Part of their effectiveness was that the medicine men mastered the fear factor and convinced listeners that “every mother’s son of them had from a quart to a half bushel of the parasites feeding upon his ‘inward,’ and others were satisfied that they had tape worms varying in length from thirty feet to thirteen miles.”

Sickness was something that most people dealt with on their own at this time in Cumberland’s history. The area had only eight doctors at this time to treat more than 11,000 people in the city, not counting anyone outside of the city limits. This created a ripe field for medicine men who promised easy answers to health problems.

As the years progressed, the shows became more refined and elaborate. By the 20th Century, the shows would set up tents on vacant lots in town and advertise their shows in the newspapers. The crowds would come to see the shows.

“Most of these medicine shows had Black musicians and entertainers, but the show would be directed by white owners,” Herman Miller wrote in Cumberland, Maryland, through the Eyes of Herman Miller.

Once the crowd had gathered, the medicines were sold before the entertainment began.

Miller described a snake oil medicine show, which he calls, “One of the most colorful of all sellers of cure-alls.”

A group came to town and rented a room in the building in that existed before the Fort Cumberland Hotel. The showmen keep rattlesnakes in a box that they would take out and drape over their necks and arms. The snakes were defanged, though not everyone realized this.

“The salesmen would then go to work telling all the benefits of rattlesnake oil. They were told the oil would cure everything from toothache to the common cold, bruises, sprains, skin diseases and other ailments,” Miller wrote.

The cost for this miracle cure? A dollar a bottle.

Medicine shows died off as medicines became more regulated and getting healthcare from a doctor became easier.

You might also enjoy these posts:




Read Full Post »




A young boy has his first experience using ration cards. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

During 1942, the people of Cumberland were worried about things. The Nazis were on the move and their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers were being drafted. However, as summer turned to fall, a new worry entered their daily conversations.


Coffee was going to be rationed.

“Judging from the talk we have heard for several weeks past, there are those in this community – and the same is likely true elsewhere – who consider coffee, rather than bread, the real staff of life and have been in mortal terror lest this so-called necessity would be completely taken from them,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

Coffee wasn’t the only thing or even the first thing to be rationed in order to make sure American servicemen didn’t have to go without, but it seemed to be the one raising the most concern.

Rationing began with tires in January 1942 because the Japanese had interrupted the supply of rubber used in making them. Gasoline soon followed. By the summer, plans were in the works to ration food items. By the following year, coffee, sugar, meat, cheese, butter, lard, margarine, canned foods, dried fruits, jam, gasoline, bicycles, fuel oil, clothing, silk or nylon stockings and shoes had also been added to the list of rationed items.

Early in November 1942, the Cumberland War Price and Rationing Board, a volunteer three-person board, announced that coffee would begin being rationed on November 26. To prepare for it, not coffee would be sold during the week prior to the rationing.

This quickly led to hoarding, particularly when it was announced that the allotment would be one pound of coffee every five weeks for everyone over 15 year old. The board stressed that overall this should only represent a small reduction in a coffee drinker’s usual intake.

“In virtually every large family there is somebody who does not drink coffee at all or who drinks it sparingly. These persons, provided they are more than 15 years old, will, of course, be entitled to a ration book and there is no reason why their share of the coffee shall not go to other members of the family,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

It was estimated that a pound of coffee could be used to make 50 cups. Some estimates were even higher, but the more coffee each pound made, the weaker the coffee. For a stronger cup of coffee, newspaper articles recommended coffee essence, which had no coffee in it. When mixed into a cup of coffee, it made it stronger.

The Rationing Board also tried to discourage hoarding by writing that a count of coffee on hand would need to be taken before anyone was issued a war ration coupon book and for each pound over the first pound, a coffee ration coupon would be removed from the book.

Each person in the country was issued a war ration coupon book with a set of coupon stamps in them. The OPA then set what each coupon could be used to purchase, how much of the product could be purchased with it, and when the coupon was valid.



A WWII  ration book.

Cumberlanders adjusted to drinking little or no coffee. It was the least they could do for the war effort.


Then at the end of July 1943, the Cumberland Evening Times announced that due to ships being built with more cargo space and the success of Allied forces against German U-boats, coffee rationing would be lifted. When President Franklin Roosevelt made the announcement, he also hinted that the war ration of sugar would soon be increased. That was certainly good news to people who liked their coffee sweet.

Almost as soon as people started celebrating that their coffee was back, rumors started around town that coffee would soon be rationed once again. Some people started hoarding their roasted coffee.

The Cumberland Evening Times ran a story saying, “While it is true that the forthcoming Ration Book No. 4 contains coffee stamps, these will be removed before the book is issued, or else made applicable to some other commodity.”

The lifting of coffee rationing could be considered an early victory in WWII. It showed progress was being made in the war and it lifted people’s spirits. All rationing was finally ended in 1946.

You might also enjoy this posts:


Read Full Post »

clarysvilleWhen the Indiana Zouaves arrived in Cumberland in June 1861, they attracted a lot of attention from the residents and understandably so. Hundreds of the soldiers arrived at one time wearing brightly colored uniforms.

Another group of soldiers began arriving around the same time. These men didn’t march down Baltimore Street in groups to display themselves. They arrived by train and wagon, even canal boat, at all hours of the day and were carried into hotels and warehouse out of public view.

The pageantry of the Civil War had quickly given way to the reality of soldiers who needed treatment. Because of Cumberland’s location at the nexus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and National Road, it became an ideal location to concentrate medical services. The wounded could be taken from the battlefronts by wagon and driven to Cumberland or loaded onto rail car that would speed them on their way there.

Once in Cumberland, military doctors, local physicians, Catholic sisters and volunteers took care of their needs.

With soldiers facing a much longer recovery time than they do nowadays, the beds in the dozens of temporary hospitals throughout Cumberland filled quickly. More wounded were coming into the city than were being released from the hospitals or buried in the graveyards. Supplies to treat all of them began dwindling.

In March 1862, the Wheeling Daily Press published a letter from a Cumberland surgeon thanking the U.S. Sanitary Commission in Wheeling for the supplies that had been sent to Cumberland. The surgeon wrote, in part, “We need them badly and they are doing our soldiers much good. We have about 1200 sick. In consequence of our increasing numbers we have not yet a sufficient supply of bed ticks, comfortable pillows, pillow cases, etc.”

Besides needing supplies, Surgeon-in-Charge George Suckley wanted to get the wounded out of the drafty warehouses, engine houses and other buildings that were not intended to house people. He began searching for a location where the wounded could be brought that wasn’t strung out among two dozen locations throughout Cumberland.

The answer came from an unlikely source.

Mary Townsend came from Frostburg one day to visit her husband who was a local doctor helping care for the wounded soldiers. She sat in Dr. Suckley’s office listening to the doctor and her husband discuss the condition of the soldiers as she recounted decades later.

“Can’t you think of some place near here where these convalescent men, who are not improving in this dreadful heat, could be transferred?” Dr. Suckley asked Dr. Townsend.

Mrs. Townsend didn’t even wait for husband to reply. She said that she knew of a place that was 8.5 miles from Cumberland in a “delightful valley I came through this afternoon with the finest spring water, a large tavern, several houses and three large barns not used for years.”

Her description appealed to Dr. Suckley who drove out to Clarysville to see it for himself. “The next day the barns were cleaned and fresh hay put on the floor, then the men were taken up with their blankets and laid on the flood. Many said they had never slept so well, it proved an ideal spot and hundreds of men were saved by the easy transfer,” Mrs. Townsend wrote.

Records show that Dr. Suckley, Dr. Townsend and the assistant quartermaster visited Clarysville on March 4, 1862. They liked what they saw and agreed with Mrs. Townsend that the site would make a fine hospital.

Brigade Surgeon John Carpenter wrote later that hospital buildings were “admirably located at a point sufficiently near for comfortable transportation, and sufficiently distant to enjoy all the advantages of a pure atmosphere. The seclusion of the position is such as to allow the convalescent abundant liberty for suitable exercise in the open air, and its purity produces the most admirable tonic effect upon the enfeebled sick. The supply of water is abundant and its quality excellent.”

Suckley made arrangements with Rebecca Clary, who owned the property, and Mrs. George Clise, who was renting the property, for the U.S. Government to use it. On March 6, 1862, 100 soldiers helped Mrs. Clise move into a nearby vacant house and the transformation of the inn into a hospital began.

The Clarysville Inn had been built in 1805 and became a popular stop along the National Road. However, it was obvious from the start that the two-story brick inn would not offer sufficient space to bring all of the wounded from Cumberland to Clarysville.

Construction soon began on additional facilities. Within a short time, six wards (150 feet long), three wards (130 feet long), a 100-foot-long ward, a 90-foot-long dining room, a70-foot-long kitchen, a 38-foot-long storehouse, a 50-foot-long guard quarters, a 44-foot-long bake house and eight waters closets (10 feet long) were built, according to a report written by Capt. George Harrison, assistant quartermaster in 1865.

“These buildings, though well adapted for use in warm weather, do not afford sufficient protection from the cold of winter for sick and wounded men. the declivity of the ground causes them to stand high, the sides are of rough upright boards with crevices not battened to their full height, and the ridge ventilators having no sash to close, the cold wind and snow penetrate to an extant unbearable by the patients,” Dr. George Oliver, the surgeon in charge following Dr. Suckley, wrote.

Each ward had two rows of iron cots with an aisle down the center, according to Robert Bruce in The National Road.

The influx of wounded continued, though, and even overflowed the capacity of the Clarysville Hospital and filled 15 temporary hospitals in Cumberland and one site in Mount Savage.

The hospital continued serving soldiers until August 1865 when its designation was changed from a General Hospital to Post Hospital. The structure and contents were sold and the government returned the inn to the owners.

The Clarysville Inn remained an operating inn until it burned down on March 10, 1999.

You might also like these posts:


Read Full Post »

LBToday is the last day to get the Amazon.com bestselling book Looking Back: True Stories of Mountain Maryland as a FREE Kindle e-book.

The book is filled with true stories about Western Maryland that will keep you reading whether you’re a native of Western Maryland or just someone who has heard about it.

  • Did you know that a Russian prince once worked as a priest in Cumberland?
  • Have you heard the story about the German POW camp near Flintstone during WWII?
  • Do you know about the mining wars that were fought to try and unionize the coal mines in the Georges Creek region?
  • Do you know the story behind Cumberland’s only lynching? Have you heard the story about the baseball game played between the Cumberland Colts and the New York Yankees?

These are the stories of Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland found in old newspapers, history books and other places. It’s the stories of people who tamed the mountains, established cities, raised families and lived their lives.

 Journey back in time and look beyond the photos that so well document the region’s history. This collection of 40 stories spans 220 years of life in Western Maryland.

Looking Back hit no. 1 in Amazon’s Mid-Atlantic E-book category yesterday (I took a screenshot to mark the occasion) and has since climbed into the top 500 of non-fiction e-books. 071216-First No 1

Grab your free copy today and let me know what you think by leaving a review. That will help my future marketing efforts for the book.

Here are some of the types of stories that you’ll find in Looking Back: True Stories of Mountain Maryland:

Read Full Post »


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. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: