Posts Tagged ‘cumberland’



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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.



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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. 

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On the day that construction began on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on July 4, 1828, the pressure was on the work crews to get dig the 184.5-mile-long ditch to Cumberland as quickly as possible.

Why the rush? The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad broke ground in Baltimore for its construction began on the same day and Cumberland was the prize for both the canal and railroad.

The C&O Canal crews worked hard digging the canal and building 160 culverts, 74 lift locks and 11 aqueducts. However, the canal has only one tunnel—the Paw Paw Tunnel—and it was a major reason why the B&O Railroad beat the C&O Canal to Cumberland by eight years.


When planning out the route of the C&O Canal, it could have continued to follow the Potomac River through southeastern Allegany County, weaving along the Paw Paw Bends or cut through a mountain. Following the bends in the river would have been the easier course, but cutting a tunnel through the mountain would save five miles and could be done in two years, according to the engineering estimates.

The contractor chosen to dig the tunnel was a former Methodist minister named Lee Montgomery. He began hiring men to work on the tunnel in June 1836. The crews worked from either end of the tunnel digging into the mountain and from above cutting down into the mountain.

Four shafts were dug into the mountain to work from above the mountain. They were set in pairs; one shaft of each pair allowed for debris removal and the other was for ventilation. The northernmost pair of shafts was 122 feet deep and the southernmost pair of shafts was 188 feet deep.

The crews initially blasted away large areas of rock with black powder and then shaped the tunnel with picks and shovels. The rubble was hauled out of the tunnel with horse carts.

“The workers were not experts at blasting, and there was a great deal of overbreakage; the excavation was 40 percent larger than needed,” Elizabeth Kytle wrote in Home on the Canal.

Once excavated, the tunnel arch was formed from layer upon layer of bricks. According to Kytle, the Paw Paw Tunnel lining is 13 layers of brick deep with some places having up to 33 layers. Any open spaces remaining above the arch were backfilled with the excavated material.

“The slaty rock was reasonably hard, but loose enough to make frequent trouble by caving in. It was dangerous work and it went at a snail’s pace,” Kytle wrote.

Montgomery had projected before construction began that his crews would be able to bore out seven to eight feet a day. The reality turned out to be that his crews working three shifts each day only managed 10 to 12 feet a week.

Because of the C&O Canal Company’s financial problems, work was suspended on the tunnel from 1842 to 1847 and construction didn’t restart until November 1848. It was completed by a different contractor, McCulloh and Day, and opened for navigation on October 10, 1850.

The final 3,118-foot-long tunnel is called “the greatest single engineering achievement on the canal,” by the National Park Service. It is 22 feet wide and 24 feet wide and sheathed in more than 11 million bricks.


Though the Paw Paw tunnel was an engineering marvel, it was narrow for purposes of the canal. While the canal was designed so that boats could pass each other going in opposite directions, the towpath and canal bed through the Paw Paw Tunnel were both only wide enough for one set of canal mules and one canal boat to move through the tunnel.

Because of the length of the tunnel, a canaller upon reaching one entrance of the tunnel could tell if another boat was already in the tunnel, but it was impossible to tell if the boat was approaching or heading away. The canallers started lighting colored lanterns fore and aft on their boats to distinguish direction. A green lantern was hung fore and a red lantern was hung aft. That way, other canallers could tell whether boats in the tunnel were coming or going.

If the boat was showing a green light, the canal boat captain knew that the boat was approaching and pulled over to wait.

Not that problems still didn’t arise.

Some canal boat captains who were in a rush or just plain cranky, refused to yield the right of way to boats in the tunnel. George Hooper Wolfe tells one of the stories in his book I Drove Mules on the C&O Canal.

Two captains—Jim McAlvey and Cletus Zimmerman—and their boats met in the middle of the tunnel. Neither man wanted to back up, and the captains got into a fist fight over who had the right of way. Then things escalated.

“A gun was drawn and would have been used but for the quick action of a mule driver who knocked the gun from the captain’s hand into the Canal,” Wolfe wrote.

Other boats began entering the canal from both ends of the tunnel and soon the tunnel was filled with boats. As day gave way to evening, crew members of each boat began starting corn cob fires in their cabin stoves to cook meals. Before too long, the tunnel began filling with smoke from the stoves and making staying in the tunnel very uncomfortable.

This sped up negotiation and the captains reached an agreement so that the boats could start moving again.

When traffic on the canal reached its peak during the 1870’s, a watchman was hired to help regulate the traffic at the Paw Paw Tunnel and keep it from becoming a bottleneck. The watchman enforced the Canal Company rules for using the tunnel and could fine canal boat captains $10 for violating them.


The Tunnel Today

After decades of struggling to be successful, the C&O Canal closed for good in 1924. The federal government eventually bought it $2 million, originally planning to turn it into a parkway. However, public sentiment changed the government’s intention and the C&O Canal became a national park instead.

Even today, the Paw Paw Tunnel is still an impressive structure on the C&O Canal and it is still isolated. While there is a parking area just off Route 51 between Paw Paw, W.Va., and  Oldtown, visitors still have to walk about half a mile along the towpath to reach the tunnel.

A flashlight is recommended if you want to walk through the tunnel since it is quite dark and there is no interior lighting. It will also allow you to see some of the features of the tunnel, including the weep hole (openings in the brick liner that allow water to pass through), the rope burns on the wooden railing and the brass plates the serve as 100-foot markers inside the tunnel.

Visitors can also hike a steep two-mile long, Tunnel Hill Trail, over the mountain. This trail passes by where the canal builders lived while the tunnel was being built.




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