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dudeAuthor’s Note: The following is an article I wrote 10 years ago for The Dispatch newspapers. I’ve reprinted it with a few tweaks and added an update at the end. When I originally wrote this, no one knew what had happened to Tolbert Dalton. I wish I could take credit for solving this mystery, but it was the work of members of the Society for American Baseball Research. I wanted to bring closure to what was a 64-year-old mystery.

Many a young boy picks up a bat, walks to the plate and dreams of slugging his way into immortality. Tolbert “Percy” Dalton was such a boy, and he managed to find his own type of immortality. Not because he is forever remembered as one of baseball’s greats, but because he is one of the few major league players whose death date was unknown for 64 years.

Dalton was also a lay preacher for the Columbia Primitive Baptist Church in Burtonsville, Maryland.

“The church he was an elder in, to my knowledge, had other smaller worship locations in the state of Maryland. As an elder we understand that he would make occasional appearances at Sunday services at the main church He would speak to certain topics relevant to the beliefs the church had. He would also baptize new members,” said Richard Bozzone with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Bozzone has been researching Dalton to try to find where and when he died.

On August 1, 1948, two deacons from the church visited Dalton’s Emmitsburg home. Dalton had failed to show up for a church meeting on July 4.

Dalton had only lived in Emmitsburg for a year, having moved there from the Catonsville, Maryland, area to become editor of the Emmitsburg Chronicle when it restarted publication after a five-year hiatus during World War II. He and his wife lived with his wife’s daughter and son-in-law, Lois and George Heller.

The two deacons couldn’t find Dalton. No one in his family knew what had happened to him.

Dalton, who went by the name of Jack during his baseball career, played four seasons of professional baseball. He was an outfielder who started in the minor leagues in Des Moines where he batted .208 in 1910. He was invited mid-year to join the Brooklyn Robins, predecessor to the Dodgers. He slumped and was sent to the minor league team in Newark, New Jersey. He returned to the Robins in 1914 and then played for the Buffalo Blues in 1915 and Detroit Tigers in 1916. His best year was 1914 when he batted .319. The following year his batting average was .293 with 28 stolen bases. He finished his career in 1916 playing most of the season for San Francisco in the minor leagues and eight games for Detroit.

However, by 1948, at 62 years old, his glory days were forgotten. Dalton was living in Emmitsburg with his second wife, Thelma Bradshaw.

Though Dalton was too old to steal bases, he possibly found one thing he could still steal. Ralph Harris, a former member, and editor of the Primitive Baptist Church newspaper, knew two of Dalton’s sisters (now deceased). He asked them what happened to their brother.

“Their response was that he had absconded with the subscription funds for the church paper. Although Cary did not have firsthand knowledge of the theft, the story was confirmed by several of the church leadership when he became editor,” Bozzone said.

Dalton happens to be one of the very few 20th century Major League players for whom death information is not known.

“There are 15 20th century players for whom we do not have death details, but Dalton is, by far, the most well-known of the players,” Bozzone said.

Bozzone has been assisted in his search for Dalton by a SABR member Al Quimby. What has made the task so difficult is that not even the family of Jack Dalton has information on what happened to him.

No missing person report appears to have ever been filed with the Maryland State Police. No articles about his death have ever turned up. He simply vanished.

SABR member Bill Haber of Brooklyn, New York, also worked on the Dalton case. Though now deceased, Haber’s research over 20 years has corrected errors in more than 200 professional baseball players’ biographies. Haber tracked some of Dalton’s relatives to Emmitsburg in 1978. He was told that Dalton had seemingly fallen off the face of the earth and never made contact with any of his relatives after he left Emmitsburg. He did not even show up for his brother’s funeral in 1954.

Dalton was born July 3, 1885, in Henderson, Tennessee. He had three sisters Lura, Lena, and Lola and one brother Pleasie.

Following Dalton’s baseball career, SABR determined that in 1921 and 1922 he was a salesman living in Baltimore. In 1930, he was residing in Elkridge, Maryland. By 1940, he was living at Catonsville at 2 North Prospect St. In April 1942, his World War II registration cards lists him as a clerk in the Finance Office of the U.S. Army’s Third Corps headquarters in Baltimore. After the war, he became involved with the Primitive Baptist Church and moved to Emmitsburg.

This was all that was known about Dalton for decades until Quimby came across Dalton’s death certificate in Pittsburgh. The document stated that Dalton died of a heart ailment in Allegheny General Hospital on February 17, 1950. He was 64 years old. The certificate was discovered in 2012 when Pennsylvania allowed access to death records before 1961. The Social Security number confirmed that it was the same Tolbert Dalton who had disappeared from Emmitsburg.

What happened during the two years that he was missing and why he left are still unknown. One interesting point from the death certificate is that it stated Dalton was unmarried. This is incorrect. He was still legally married to Thelma Dalton at the time of his death. She died in 1966 in Royersford, Pennsylvania, which is across the state from Pittsburgh.

While there are still unanswered questions about Dalton, at least the mystery of his disappearance has been solved.

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Sterling Galt purchased the Emmitsburg Chronicle in 1906. He was the fourth owner of the 27-year-old newspaper. Back in those days, small newspapers had few employees. The owner was the publisher and the primary reporter.

The debut editorial stated the goal of the newspaper as this: “Our first aim shall be to present the CHRONICLE as a medium through which the outer world may learn our aims, our hopes and high resolves. We shall not try to amuse our readers with rhetorical flourishes, nor with sonorous sentences, neither shall we indulge in meaningless jests, nor silly observations, but endeavor, in an unpretending way to give our readers the current news of the times, with such items of local interest that may present themselves: we shall try to practice the recent suggestion of an esteemed clerical friend, who we estimate as a model editor, substantially, that ‘the value of a newspaper consists not so much in what we put into it, as in what is kept out of it.’”

Galt worked hard a living up to the dream of what the newspaper could be. He reported on community events and big stories, such as the murder of Edward Smith by Fred Debold. Although it didn’t happen in town, it was a big enough story that Galt put out a special issue on August 9, 1906.

Galt had his own plans for his future, though. As editor of the newspaper, he had become a leading member of the Emmitsburg community. He saw its strengths and problems and he started to think he had solutions rather than simply reporting on what other people came up with. By reporting on other communities, he had a good feel for what issues where on the minds of their residents.

When readers picked up the October 27, 1911, issue of The Weekly Chronicle, they read a letter from Galt to his readers, “Having accepted the nomination by the Democratic party of the State Senatorship of Frederick county. I feel that the due observance of a practice, entirely ethical in its character, constrains me to withdraw from the active management and editorship of The Weekly Chronicle during the active campaign.”

He stepped back from his job to try and avoid the impression of bias. If that was the intent, it didn’t work.

During Galt’s absence, E. L. Higbee, a man Galt said had “long been associated with me”, was given management and editor control. However, Galt still owned the newspaper. As someone Galt trusted, it wasn’t surprising that Higbee backed Galt and the newspaper showed it.

The next issues of paper focused heavily on Galt and his candidacy. Even that first issue where Galt announced he was stepping down from running the newspaper featured supported for Galt’s candidacy.

  1. M. Gluck, Galt’s reverend, wrote “I know his positions on practically all political questions will be assumed to the larger interests of his constituents and can say without reservation that if he is elected he will consider all such questions from the standpoint of their effect on the welfare of the people regardless of the influence they might bring to bear on his private affairs. In other words, he would be an unselfish public servant.”

Of his own candidacy Galt wrote, “If I am sent to Annapolis I shall go there untrammeled, uncoerced—not the tool of a boss or an organization or the vassal or representative of any league, clique, society, union, association, corporation or combination of interests, and I shall endeavor at all times and under all conditions to serve the PEOPLE as justice, honor and duty point the way.”

The election drew a lot of voters to the polls. Emmitsburg had more than 700 registered voters and 632 voted in that election. It took poll workers in the district until 4 a.m. the following morning to finish counting the votes.

They heavy positive coverage given Galt in The Weekly Chronicle wasn’t enough. He received 4,813 votes but his opponent, John P. T. Mathias of Thurmont was the incumbent and he garnered 5,290 votes.

Following his loss, Galt resumed his duties as editor and went back to trying to help the community as he could.

Galt died on December 28, 1922. Under his editorship, The Weekly Chronicle was considered one of the best weekly newspapers in the state, according to editorials in other newspapers.

Following Galt’s death, John Elder and Michael Thompson purchased the The Weekly Chronicle in 1922.

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masonicstructureA lot has changed over the past 200 years, but Freemasons of the Columbia Lodge of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons are still conducting their meetings as if it were 1815.

“The meetings are the same as they were 200, 300, 400 years ago,” Matthew Sanders, Worshipful Master of the Columbia Lodge, said. Worshipful Master is a position equivalent to an organization’s president.

Masons are the largest and oldest fraternal organization in the world. For many people, their only exposure to the Masons is through the National Treasure movies. However, while the Masons have rites they keep private, they are open to visitors for the most part.

“We don’t go out and see people to become members,” Sanders said. “People who want to become a member seek us out.”

The idea behind this is that being a Mason requires a certain degree of commitment and if someone is pushed to join, he might not be as committed as someone who wants to join.

The goal of masonry is to create a better person, and thereby, improve the world. According to the Masonic pamphlet, What’s A Mason?, “Masonry is deeply involved in helping people—it spends more than $2 million dollars every day in the United States, just to make life a little easier. And the great majority of that help goes to people who are not Masons.”

Much of it goes to charitable institutes and programs like Crippled Children’s Hospitals, Burns Institutes, and Childhood Language Disorder Clinics.

thColumbia Lodge No. 58

The Freemasons came to Maryland in 1750, not in Baltimore, which was the largest population center at the time, but in Leonardtown. They weren’t established in Frederick County until just before the Revolutionary War. Not much is known of the early lodges in the county. According to the Columbia Lodge’s history, the first Masonic Lodge in Frederick County met in the home of William Downey near New Market.

During the Revolutionary War, Frederick County had an Army Lodge that was comprised of Maryland troops and Frederick County Masons, even though it was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

After the war, John Frederick Amelung and George Fearhake formed a lodge near Urbana.

Then in 1799, Hiram Lodge No. 28 of Fredericktown was chartered with 30 members.

All of these lodges are gone now. They either surrendered their charters or were folded into other lodges. Some of the smaller lodges combined to help form the Columbia Lodge No. 58, which was chartered on November 7, 1815.

“The Masons met in a home at the corner of Market and Second Street,” said Kenneth Wyvill, Grand Master of the Maryland Masons.

This combined lodge was large enough to meet the needs of Frederick County Masons for 66 years. However, in its first decade, the Columbia Lodge had no permanent home. It met in five different locations, usually a Mason’s home.

Gen. Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who was the French hero of the American Revolution visited Frederick and attended a Masonic meeting on December 29, 1824, in the House of Henry Bantz on West Second Street. LaFayette presented his Masonic apron to Mason William Bear, who in turn donated it to the lodge.

The apron is still on display in the lodge museum.

The 1830s saw a period where Masons were persecuted in the country and the Columbia Lodge decided on June 7, 1830, ceased their meetings.

“There is no evidence of the existence of any Masonic Lodge during the years 1830 to 1842 in Frederick County,” according to the pamphlet, Ceremonies of Cornerstone Laying and Dedication, which was printed for the dedication of the new Masonic Lodge in 1999.

In 1842, a number of Masons in Frederick met in a schoolhouse on the north side of West Church Street where the Evangelical Reformed Church now stand to petition the Grand Lodge of Maryland to reinstate the Columbia Lodge’s charter.

The new charter was approved on November 6, 1842. Although a new charter was issued, the Columbia Lodge still retained its original lodge number (No. 58). This means that it was the 58th lodge ever chartered in Maryland and today it is the 10th oldest lodge in the state, according to Sanders.

Lynch Lodge

“As population centers grew and shifted, Masons would decide to form new lodges,” said Wyvill.

The first lodge to break away to form another lodge in a different area of Frederick County was the Acacia Lodge in 1871. It formed in Thurmont to serve northern Frederick County.

The Lynch Lodge chartered in 1873 was formed not because of a desire to have a lodge closer to home but because the Masons were in danger of violating one of the two taboo subjects that aren’t discussed in a lodge—politics and religion. These subjects tend to create hard feelings between people and the Masons are about brotherhood.

Although the Civil War had ended in 1865, hard feelings still existed between those who supported the Union and those who supported the Confederacy. The two lodges remained separate until 1994 when they merged back into the Columbia Lodge.

Currently, there are six Masonic Lodges in Frederick County. The others are in Brunswick, Thurmont, Emmitsburg, Point of Rocks and New Market.

Teachings

While there is much fellowshipping among the Masons, there is also instruction. Masons learn various speeches, passwords, and signs to move through different degrees.

Though generally believed to be a Christian group, Masons include many faiths. The one requirement is that Masons must believe in a higher being. Each lodge has a book of faith on its central altar. This can be a Bible, but it could also be the Torah, Quran, or more than one.

“The only person we won’t accept is an atheist,” Sanders said.

Masons are involved in many civic activities and participate in parades and building dedications. They can be identified in full regalia that includes tuxedos, top hats, and aprons.

The Columbia Lodge Today

The cornerstone for the current lodge hall on Blentlinger Road was laid in 1999. The three-floor brick building has a lodge room, social hall, museum, and other rooms. The walls are adorned with pictures and artifacts that tell the story of the Masons in Frederick County.

“Everything you see as you walk through here has meaning for us,” Sanders said.

The Masons of the Columbia Lodge will be celebrating their 200 years in Frederick with a party at Dutch’s Daughter.

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Joseph Flautt Frizell was walking along the track of the Emmitsburg Railroad one evening in May 1922 with some friends. They were goofing around as teenage boys are wont to do as they approached the station, which was located on South Seton Avenue.

The Emmitsburg Railroad had been incorporated on March 28, 1868. It connected Emmitsburg to Thurmont by rail, and from there to other communities via the Western Maryland Railway. Besides making it easier for townspeople to travel to places like Baltimore, it also provided a convenient way for students to arrive at St. Joseph’s College and Mount Saint Mary’s College. The railroad was more than seven miles long and opened for passenger service on November 22, 1875.

Frizell and his friends saw a baggage car approaching them. Then they noticed another local youth, Paul Humerick, on the front of the baggage car. He had apparently jumped aboard hoping to catch a free ride, probably to the station in downtown Emmitsburg, which marked the end of the line.

What Humerick hadn’t noticed was that the baggage car had detached itself from the rest of the train and coasting down the incline in the tracks. The boys on the ground called for Humerick to get off the car, but he ignored them, apparently not recognizing the danger.

“Quick as a flash young Frizell realized the danger and ran after the car, which was moving slowly, jumping it and at the same time pulling Master Humerick down to the earth,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The boys hit the ground, rolled, and climbed to their feet unharmed. Meanwhile, the baggage car continued just a short distance before it hit an embankment. They watched the baggage car “smash over the embankment into a tree. The large tree hit in just the place where Humerick was standing on the car and eyewitnesses say that had the young boy held his place he would have been badly mangled if not killed outright,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

Frizell spent the week afterwards being praised by his friends as a hero. The newspaper said the praise was rightly deserved because “it was not only a brave deed but showed that his mind was working fast to take in the situation.

The incident was investigated and it was found that after the train had stopped at St. Joseph’s College Station without incident on its way to the end of the line at the Emmitsburg station. It was believed that while the conductor was helping passengers off the train at St. Joseph’s College, someone had uncoupled the cars.

The train had left the station heading for Emmitsburg but the baggage car had separated from the rest of the train on an incline.

The car suffered some damage in the accident, but it was expected to be repaired and put back in service. None of the baggage in the car was lost or damaged.

The Emmitsburg Railroad stopped its service in 1940 due to more attractive business options, such as car travel.

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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!

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Emmitsburg, Md., has a long history of both fires and fire protection. The Great Emmitsburg Fire of 1863 is considered the most-serious fire in the town’s history. By the time the flames sputtered out, 28 houses and nine businesses had been damaged or destroyed. Three of the four corners of the town square were black with fire and three of the towns four blocks were fire damaged. Other reports put the number of damaged buildings at 50 and half of the town destroyed. In actuality, probably about a quarter of the town burned, based on a population of slightly less than 1,000.

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Firefighting efforts improved in 1884 when water from the town’s newly built reservoir was piped under the street to fire hydrants. This provided a more-dependable supply of water to the engines. When the reservoir was dug and the water lines put in, The Emmitsburg Chronicle reported, “When it is considered that the reservoir is located 224 feet above the level of the square, any person can estimate the advantages that must accrue to the village when the improvement is completed. With proper hose at hand, it will scarce be possible for any great fire to occur here, and this security lessening the risks, must diminish the rates of insurance, and we trust that in due time the water power will be availed of for manufacturing purposes.”

Unfortunately, this did not prove to be true because Emmitsburg had its second great fire the following year.

Fire broke out in St. Joseph’s College just before noon on March 20, 1885, and quickly spread. Fighting fires in the large college buildings was too much for the firefighters with Vigilant Hose Company who were doing “grand work, but their efforts were, of course, unequal to the requirements,” according to The Frederick Daily News. Someone telegraphed for the help of fire companies from Frederick and Hagerstown. At the time, St. Joseph’s College was valued at $1 million and the total damage calculated at about $60,000.

What could be considered Emmitsburg’s third most-serious fire happened in December 1909 just days before Christmas. Shortly before noon, the roof of the Rowe property caught fire, which at the time was occupied by the Home Bakery, Harry Hopp, and Mr. Peters.

“The alarm was sounded but by the time a stream of water could be made to play on the burning roof the adjoining properties, the Reformed Church parsonage and the house occupied by Mrs. Virginia Gillelan were ablaze,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

Vigilant Hose Company combated the fire, but “A high wind aided the flames and for a time it was thought that nothing could be done to save the Rowe property although every effort was being made in that direction.”

Lulu Patterson then discovered that the Motter building occupied by Motter and Ruth Gillelan’s store was on fire. This split the efforts of the fire company as they now battled two fires. If that wasn’t enough, it was then discovered that the homes of H. W. Eyster and George T. Eyster were also on fire.

The firefighters didn’t give up, though.

“Inside of an hour the flames had been overcome and Emmitsburg, at least part of it, was saved,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

In all, 10 buildings were lost or damaged in the blaze.

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This is the final post in a series about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md.

 

George_G._Meade_Standing.jpg

Union General George Meade

 

Change of Command

Union Col. James Hardie arrived at the Robert McGill farm in Arcadia, Md., in the early hours of June 28, 1863.

He was under orders not to dress in uniform or tell anyone where he was going. He had been “given the necessary passes and money to buy his way to his destination if he encountered delay or opposition. If met by [Confederate Gen. JEB] Stuart and the Confederate cavalry, he was to destroy his papers, endeavor to escape, and deliver his orders verbally,” John Schildt wrote in Roads to Gettysburg.

Hardie presented Gen. George Meade with sealed orders from the War Department. Meade now commanded the Army of the Potomac. He protested his appointment, but he could do nothing about it. Gen. Joseph Hooker was no longer in command.

The formal change of command took place around noon and Hooker left shortly thereafter.

Charles Coffin, a reporter on the scene, wrote, “Gen. Hooker bade farewell to the principal officers of the army on the afternoon of the 28th. They were drawn up in a line. He shook hands with each officer, laboring in vain to stifle his emotion. The tears rolled down his cheeks. The officers were deeply affected.”

Here are the other posts in the Frederick Civil War series:

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