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This is the second in a series of posts about the Civil War in Frederick County, Md.

 

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St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg during the Civil War. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Union and Confederate Armies Trade Places in Emmitsburg

The Daughters of Charity archives hold accounts of the Union Army arriving in Emmitsburg on the evening of June 27, 1863. They camped around St. Joseph’s Academy and the officers used homes in Emmitsburg for quarters.

The army headed north on June 30 when “a sudden order was given to strike tents and march for Gettysburg. In fifteen minutes it was done, and Saint Joseph’s Valley relapsed into quiet. Father Gandolfo came out early to say Mass and unaware of the departure of the Northern Army was halted by some Confederate pickets…”

While the Daughters of Charity showed no favoritism in the war, the same didn’t hold true for the girls who boarded at the academy. Many were from Confederate states and were trapped in a country at war with their home states. As the Union Army prepared to leave, one girl is said to have climbed into the cupola on one of the buildings and signaled to Confederate scouts where the Union troops were and that they were leaving.

Confederate troops slipped into the area behind the advancing Union Army with the Daughters of Charity accounts noting, “The country now changed hands for a little time, and the Southern Grey swept round St. Joseph’s, not in large force, but detachments of cavalry, picket men etc.”

They stayed only hours before they, too, headed north.

John Miller, a historian for South Mountain State Park and the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society’s expert on the Civil War, says the problem is that there is no record of the Confederates in Emmitsburg at that time, though there were a few hours during the early morning of  June 29 when it might have happened. He also says that an army the size of the Union Army could not have moved out in 15 minutes.

Sis. Betty Ann McNeil, former Daughters of Charity archivist, agrees that there are discrepancies in the timeline, but adds that the information comes directly from the accounts of sisters and Father Francis Burlando. These accounts were recorded in 1866, though, so their memories might have mixed up the dates.

Miller does note that on July 5, Confederate Gen. JEB Stuart and his men were acting as a rear guard for the slower-moving wagons leaving Gettysburg. He had been told that the Union troops had moved out of Emmitsburg and came in from the western side of town.

“The Union troops hadn’t left, though,” Miller said. “There was a small skirmish out near where the Emmit House is and Stuart’s men took 70 Union soldiers prisoner.”

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Victor-Victrola.jpgWar can certainly be a time of danger, but there are other times when soldiers are in camp stateside or behind the lines when they can relax.

Camp Meade near Laurel was named for Maj. Gen. George Meade. It became an active army installation in 1917. During World War I, more than 400,000 soldiers would pass through the camp to be trained for the war. It was the training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions, and one depot brigade.

During the course of the war, 704 Garrett Countians would serve in the military and most of them were sent to Camp Meade for training. The Garrett County boys in Camp Meade in October 1917 were part of a company of 250 men from Garrett and Allegany counties and Baltimore City. The traveling agent with the B&O Railroad who had charge of the Garrett County recruits when they were taken to Camp Meade, said of them, “The boys from Garrett county were the finest bunch I have so far taken to any camp.”

Once at camp, their training went well. “We arrived safely in camp, and most everyone is well and getting along fine with our drills, considering the time we have been here,” six of the recruits – Henry Byrn Hamill, Earl W. Alexander, Harry M. Setzer, Paul R. Liston, Robert R. Glotfelty, John W. Livengood – wrote in a letter to The Republican.

They were healthy and happy. The Republican described them as “the finest specimens of young manhood in the country.”

They were bored, though.

The six recruits, who were representing all of the Garrett County recruits, asked if a subscription fund could be started to buy them a Victrola “as the time when off duty would pass much faster if we had a Victrola to cheer up the boys from ‘Old Garrett,’ and serve to keep them from getting blue,” the letter read.

Although today, Victrola has become a generic term for old phonographs, back then a Victrola was a brand of phonographs with an internal horn that was manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Company. They are not the older versions of phonographs that Victor used in its logo. This version had an external horn, and a dog sat in front of the horn to hear his master’s voice.

True Victrolas were first marketed in 1906 and quickly gained popularity. That popularity helped bring down the price to roughly $100 ($1,870 today) depending on where it was purchased.

The Republican staff jumped into action starting the subscription fund not only for a Victrola but also records that could be played on it. Not waiting for the next issue, staff began notifying people in town about the request.

Within an hour after the subscription efforts began, $46.50 in donations had come into the news room from 41 donors. E. H. Sincell pledged the most ($5) and some people pledged as little as 25 cents.

One minister gladly donated a dollar to the fund, telling the editor, “Never do you start anything for the boys again unless I am in on the ground floor. If this is insufficient for the purpose or if you want to raise another fund for anything else to come to me.”

The citizens of Friendsville took up a collection and raised $11 from 11 donors. The Girls Club of Gormania raised another $5 and mailed it to the newspaper office.

After a week, $83 had been raised from 74 donors. Within two weeks the $100 goal had been surpassed, and the boys from Garrett County had an enjoyable way to pass the time by the end of October.

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GoldfishCompetition in goldfish farming was inevitable, however, and by the late 1930s, the appearance of larger, more diversified, growers across the country reduced the demand from Frederick County, Maryland, farms.

Modern technology also worked against county goldfish farmers. Advances in shipping techniques and the increased variety and quality of goldfish available from growers around the world gradually changed the goldfish market.  By the 1950’s, fish could be shipped in plastic bags by air freight. The plastic reduced shipping costs and the planes extended the distance the goldfish could be shipped. This further increased the competition in the market.  Air transportation allowed areas that had not previously engaged in goldfish farming, such as Arkansas, to become competitive or even better locations than Frederick. “By going south, you had a longer growing season,” said Charles Thomas. “In a place like Arkansas, instead of having only one crop each season, you could have two.”

The result was that farms producing only common goldfish seasonally, such as those in Frederick County, could not compete. By the 1940’s only a few farms in Frederick County were still cultivating goldfish. “Everything changed,” goldfish farmer Ernest Tresselt said. “We have to supply fish year round. The competition made it unprofitable for most farmers, and they went out of business.”

The Powell family got out of the goldfish business in the 1960s. “People didn’t want them. They were starting to ban them from being in lakes. The county had a severe drought that made it hard to keep the ponds full. Fishermen were using spinning lures more than live bait, and kids didn’t want goldfish as pets. They wanted tropical fish that were harder to care for,” Bill Powell said.

By 1980, Lilypons, once the world’s largest producer of goldfish, had diversified so that it now specializes in water garden supplies and plants more than in fish. Hunting Creek Fisheries and Eaton Fisheries also survived by diversifying their offerings into plants, game fish, and/or other types of ornamental fish, such as koi.

Today, there are still fish ponds in Frederick County.  Lilypons devotes some of its nearly 500 ponds to goldfish. Hunting Creek Fisheries still has ponds in Thurmont and Lewistown, as does Eaton Fisheries in Lewistown.

Other goldfish ponds have disappeared, however. The Claybaugh fish ponds in Thurmont are covered over by Mountain Gate Exxon and McDonald’s.  Fish ponds belonging to Ernest Powell and Maurice Albaugh along Moser Road no longer exist.  The area east of the Maple Run Golf Course used to have Ross Firor’s ponds but does no more.  The ponds on William Powell’s Arrowhead Farms on Appels Church Road north of Thurmont and Frank Rice’s goldfish ponds alongside Route 15 south of Thurmont have been filled in and turned back to pasture.

Frederick County no longer is the biggest producer of goldfish in the country, but there was a time when the county led the country in growing the fish of emperors and kings.

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goldfish-1377880092-article-0George Thomas started his business as a roadside stand in Buckeystown in Frederick County, Md., that sold the vegetables and goldfish that he grew on his farm. “He had a keen eye for finding some type of venture where he might be successful,” Charles Thomas said of his grandfather in a 2006 interview. While customers may have bought his vegetables, they tended to show more interest in the goldfish bred in his goldfish hatchery, Three Springs Fisheries.  When the U.S. Postal authorities agreed to establish a branch office near the fishery to assist in the shipping of the goldfish, they asked George Thomas to select a name, and in 1932 the Lilypons post office branch was created. By the end of World War II, Thomas’ fish hatchery, now known as Lilypons, had become the world’s largest producer of goldfish.

Hunting Creek Fisheries near Thurmont, Md., was started by Frederick Tresselt, a graduate of Cornell University who had worked at the state trout hatchery in Hackettstown, New Jersey. “In driving around the county with a friend in 1922, Dad was amazed to see all the goldfish ponds in the area,” his son, Ernest Tresselt said in 2006. “Every farm that could had fish ponds. It was a cash crop for them [the farmers].”  Hunting Creek Fisheries opened in 1923 and is still in operation today as a family-run business raising ornamental fish and aquatic plants.

Tresselt believed that Frederick County might not have had the oldest goldfish farms in the country, but the county did have the most goldfish farmers. At the peak of goldfish farming in the County (1920’s and 1930’s), he estimates that as many as thirty or more farms were raising millions of goldfish.  The 1925 “News-Post Yearbook and Almanac” listed the county’s production at three-and-a-half to four million goldfish on 400-500 acres.

The Powells eventually had 45 acres of ponds on their properties and would ship out 120,000 goldfish a week from September through November.

“In the early days, we would get the fish out of the ponds and ship them around the country to five and dime stores,” Powell said.

These goldfish were sold for $10 to $50 per thousand, and the value of the yearly production was approximately $75,000.  By 1932, production increased to seven million goldfish on 500-600 acres, with goldfish selling for $35 to $70 per thousand (retail price five-ten cents each). Reports estimated Frederick County goldfish farmers had brought $1.5 million into the County.

In 1920, county farmers organized the Gold Fish Breeders Association of Frederick County, in part to fight against the high cost of shipping, property assessments on goldfish ponds and other issues of importance to Frederick County goldfish farmers. The organization ended once many of the county goldfish farmers left the business.

Early goldfish farming was relatively simple. In the spring, farmers stocked their ponds with breeder goldfish. The goldfish reproduced, and the young grew through the summer.  Feeding the fish was kept at a minimum.  Generally, some form of ground grain, like wheat middlings or ground corn, was the food of choice. The breeders were kept in the deepest ponds since these ponds provided a good water supply over the winter.

Powell said his family looked for fish with long fins and thick bodies. They would spread Spanish Moss in the ponds where the goldfish could lay their eggs. The moss was then moved to empty ponds so that the goldfish wouldn’t eat the newly hatched fish.

In the fall, the goldfish were harvested and sorted by size. Buyers would come driving trucks full of fish cans in which to carry the fish, or farmers would ship the fish to the buyers. A single farmer might ship thousands of fish each day during the harvest.

“At first, we were shipping dark fish to bait shops for fishermen, but later they began to say that the colored fish caught more fish, and they wanted them,” Powell said.

Goldfish production in Frederick County soared, until by 1920 eighty percent of goldfish produced in the United States originated in Frederick County. By 1931, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the goldfish industry was a $945,000 business in the United States.  Throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s the publications of The News- Post Year Book and Almanac note that Frederick County had “more goldfish produced than in any part of the United States.” Interestingly, the yearbooks list goldfish as “selected crops harvested” rather than “livestock on farms.”

 

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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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Dedication of the first Job Corps Training Center on Catoctin Mountain. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Catoctin Mountain in Frederick County, Md., can boast a lot of interesting history from Camp David to the Blue Blazes Still raid. From an OSS training camp during World War II to Camp Misty for children.

 

“Also on the Government side is the ‘mother’ camp of President Johnson’s Poverty Program,” the Frederick Post reported in 1965.

President Johnson had been the Texas director of the National Youth Administration. It was a New Deal program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt similar in objective to the Job Corps. Johnson convinced Congress it could work again, according to Barbara Kirkconnell in Catoctin Mountain Park, An Administrative History.

The camp, called Camp Round Meadow, opened in January 1965 and served as the place to train people who would be sent out across the country to depressed areas to open and operate other similar camps.

At the camp, 75 people were hired and trained on how to run a poverty training camp. “While these people are being instructed, some 20 persons accepted as trainees by the new program, will be working in the area.

Consideration of using the park for such a site began in May 1964. Federal government officials visited the park and inspected possible sites for the camp. Within a month, the government began converting the 60-acre Central Garage Unit Area in the country’s first Job Corps Center, according to Kirkconnell.

Besides building the camp, officials met with residents of Thurmont, Hagerstown, and other communities where the camp attendees might spend their off hours. They wanted to make sure that there would be a good relationship between the camp and towns.

“Thurmont merchants were wooed by an expected $200,000 in revenue from supplies, equipment and food sold to the camp for the program,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp officials spoke at civic meetings and invited officials and organizations out to tour the camp.

“On January 15, 1965, 85 young men between the ages of 16 and 21 arrived at Catoctin MP to inaugurate the job Corps Program at a site “largely unimproved” since the CCC left in 1941,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The Jobs Corps Center was dedicated on February 27.

The center got off to a rocky start with staffing problems and too many visiting dignitaries not only from the federal government but also foreign governments, such as Japan, Canada, British Guinea, England, Israel, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast.

“Continual recruitment brought a total of 157 recruits into the program but 57 left before the end of June.  The bleak winter contributed to homesickness; stark conditions of the camp without indoor recreation facilities and high expectations added to the general ‘depressive atmosphere,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp Director C. A. Maxey blamed the high drop-out rate on the recruits who had “temperamental and emotional problems in boys who had known little but failure,” according to a Baltimore Sun article.

The boys had been recruited from families earning less than $3,000 a year (around $23,000 today) and had an average of a 9th grade education. At the camp, they earned $32 a month plus $50, which was put in a bank account for them. “If they made a family allotment of $25 from the $50, the government matched it with another $25,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The program included a half day of work and a half day of education in the winter. The work time increased and the education time decreased as the weather warmed up. The work consisted of park projects, such as building trails, picnic tables, and needed buildings. They also did work improving the Gettysburg Battlefield.

As they mastered basic skills, they were given more-complex work.

“A sign construction program teaching printing, mechanical drawing, hand routing, measurement skills, painting, and organizational skills produced 225 signs for Catoctin, Greenbelt, Cunningham Falls State Park and Antietam Parks in Fiscal Year 1965-1966,” Kirkconnell wrote.

They also performed work in the surrounding community such as building a ball field and picnic pavilion for Thurmont parks.

By 1966, things were running far more smoothly. By the end of 18 months of operation, 439 men had been recruited to the camp. And 102 had transferred out, 165 had resigned, 24 graduated, 16 went back to school or jobs, leaving 111 Corpsmen in camp at the end of June 1966, according to Kirkconnell.

By that time, it became an election year issue. Congress criticized the program and cut funding. Discipline was a problem and so were community relations.

The Job Corps Center finally closed in May 1969.

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WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA:  WORLD WAR II/WAR IN THE EAST/THE PHILIPPINES

Three Japanese snipers who got into a shoot out with U.S. troops and lost during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf is considered by many to be largest naval battle during World War II, so it is often forgotten that troops were sent ashore to capture Leyte Island once the gulf was won.

The United States’ victory in October 1944 secured the seas around the islands in the Leyte Gulf, but the Japanese still held the islands. On December 7, the 77th Infantry Division, under the command of Major General Andrew Bruce, made an amphibious landing at Albuera, a city on Leyte Island. The 305th, 306th, and 307th Infantry Regiments came ashore without incident, but that peace wouldn’t last.

Kamikaze attacks sunk U.S. destroyers. Japanese troops on the island regrouped and began fighting back against the Americans. Private Denver C. Sharpless of Deer Park, Md., was among the U.S. troops taking fire.

He had been overseas for a year after having gone through basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. He had enlisted in the army at Fort Meade in April 1942 for the “duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months,” which was a standard enlistment for WWII.

The 30-year-old infantryman had just taken cover in a ditch during a firefight when he saw a Japanese soldier emerge from his cover.

“He was the biggest Jap I ever saw,” Sharpless told an interviewer while he was in the hospital recovering from a nerve ailment in his right leg. “Must have been more than six feet and I’m not exaggerating when I say that his head was as big as one of our helmets.”

The average height of Japanese soldiers during the war was under five feet five inches. Sharpless himself was only five feet eight inches tall and weighed 152 pounds.

Sharpless wasn’t too scared of the Japanese solider. Sharpless had found cover and he had his rifle. And that big, hulking soldier made an easy target.

Then the Japanese soldier saw Sharpless and dropped out of sight. The Japanese soldier began crawling and Sharpless saw him again when he passed through an open area 25 yards away.

“Then I began to get frightened because, when I pulled the trigger, my M1 wouldn’t fire,” Sharpless said. “I yanked open the bolt and saw that the firing pin was broken.”

Sharpless was considering scurrying away so he didn’t fall within the soldier’s sights. Then Sharpless saw another American with a Browning Automatic Rifle coming toward him. The American soldier had also seen the Japanese soldier.

Sharpless asked to borrow the man’s rifle, but the soldier told him that he wanted to take out the Japanese soldier. He fired a couple shots and the Japanese soldier went down.

“I wished at the time that I had a camera to take his picture,” Sharpless said. “He looked like one of those oversize freaks you see in comic strips.”

Besides fighting at Leyte, Sharpless also fought on Guam. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge for exemplary conduct under fire and the Philippines Liberation campaign ribbon. Despite surviving enemy fire, the nerve ailment manifested itself a few months later. It severity required that he be sent to a California hospital for treatment.

He was the son of Robert and Bertha Sharpless. His parents had divorced at a young age, though, and he had been raised by his mother in Deer Park. His father was a coal miner who lived in Swanton and had remarried.

Denver died in Ohio in 1991.

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