Monday, February 20, 2017

Oliver Cromwell Gilbert : a run-a-way slave's success story and 2 Walnut Groves

Oliver Cromwell Kelly was born in 1832 on "Walnut Grove" (owned by Gassaway Watkins), to Cynthia Snowden, a cook. Later he escaped from nearby "Richland" plantation in Clarksville, Howard County. Gilbert wrote an account of his flight to Philadelphia and his name change, then to several other cities as far north as Walnut Grove Quaker School in Lee, New Hampshire before returning to Philadelphia where he died in 1912.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Margaret Jane Blake bought her freedom, her life in a book

"Margy" Blake (1811-1880) was the daughter of Charlotte and Perry Blake - he was a free African-American and a Marine during the War of 1812.  She was born a slave of Jesse and Sarah Levering and looked after one of their daughters, Sarah Levering. Blake bought her freedom in the 1850s, and was the subject of a book by Levering in 1897. Although Jesse Levering had a successful business in Baltimore, he died suddenly of cholera when Sarah was 7 years old, and his widow moved her young family to Ellicott City, and Margaret was sent to work for other families.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sarah Jane Dorsey freed in 1850, given land in 1869

Sarah Jane Powells (or Powell) Dorsey was born in Lisbon MD in 1828 (or 1832) and was freed in the 1850s by Thomas and Sarah Hood.  "Sarah Hood desires to manifest her regard for Sarah Jane Dorsey, colored, late their slave for her unwavering fidelity and general moral worth as a servant” and Hood purchased over an acre of land in 1869 where the Dorsey family would live for over a century at the home on Rt. 97, Cooksville, MD.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Patapsco Hotel as railroad station

Interestingly, this hotel had a side balcony at track level and used as the passenger station for the new train.  Then the train crossed Main Street/turnpike on the Oliver Viaduct to get to the freight station.  The train service began on May 24, 1830, arriving at 9AM, 1 and 6PM for 75 cents. Its many owners have used the building as hotel, apartments and even an ice plant.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The B & O 'riots' of 1829 - the first railroad strike

In August 1829 workers building one section of the new railroad line (the most difficult), wouldn't work then "severely wounded" Thomas Ellicott the 'contractor' of that section and broke up his home.  The site where the fighting began was dubbed "Vinegar Hill" after a battle during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tom Thumb steam engine vs a horse

Did Peter Cooper's steam locomotive "Tom Thumb" race a horse drawn train car, as told by John Latrobe years later?  He said Cooper's new steam engine was winning until "the band which drove the pulley, which drove the blower, slipped from the drum."  The daughter of one of the B&O directors, was on that "trial trip" and often related how Mr. Jenifer's horse on the turnpike won due to the "slipping of a belt on the engine." She also remembered how their "clothes and umbrellas were ruined by sparks thrown from the smokestack."  So, maybe it did happen...or not.

Monday, January 9, 2017

B & O horse-powered train ... treadmill 1830

During the first years of railroads, the train cars were propelled by sail HERE, horse, and then, steam engines.  Initially horses were on the track pulling the train like a wagon, but for a short trial, horses were riding along, walking on "an endless apron or belt" connected to the wheels.  Another sketch shows passengers riding beside the horse.  The B&O horse car did not last long, especially an early trip with the "cowed editors" of various newspapers.  How were they cowed?  The train hit a cow, the car rolled down the embankment and "after countless bad jokes being perpetrated on the cowed editors, passed out of existence, and probably out of mind." 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sailing on the B & O railroad in 1830

The sail in a basket rail-car was created by Evan Thomas (1781-1863), who with his brother Philip, promoted the building of a railroad from Baltimore.  He traveled to Europe and studied a new railroad in UK.  Upon Evan's return, John Eager Howard hosted a dinner at Belvidere in 1825 (or 1826) to discuss the possibility of a railroad.  In Feb, 1827, 25 merchants and influential men met at the home of George Brown to form the B&O.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas egg-nogging in 1866 Ellicott City


A British barrister, Henry Lantham (c1828-1871) kept a journal during his three month trip around the US in 1866. He spent Christmas Eve in Ellicott Mills, where egg-nogging was common when visiting, and guns were fired every 10 minutes "giving one the idea that the war had not ended yet at Ellicott's Mills." Egg nog was made cold and served cold, made from egg yolks, brandy, cream, milk mixed then topped with whipped egg whites.  Sugar-plums were given.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Humor: Ellicott - - a la cote

In a story from a NY ladies magazine in 1837, a visiting Frenchman forgot the name Ellicott's mills, but remembered that it sounded like the English word for jacket (cote/coat); so in broken English he asked a sailor what his jacket was called. Unfortunately he was at the Ellicott wharf in Baltimore, not the mills - which is why he could not see the mills with the whur, whur, whur of the wheel to grind the floo (flour).  The Frenchman was more than thirteen miles away from the mills.  The arrow shows the location of the early Ellicott wharf at the end of Light Street (north-south) and Pratt Street (west-east) Baltimore.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dismal Mill

Down stream on the Patapsco River from Ellicotts mill was a corn mill (which occasionally could grind flour) eerily called Dismal Mill, built in 1761 by Baltimorian John Cornthwaite.  By 1831 George Ellicott Jr. (1798-1869) had erected the 3 story stone Dismal Mill Factory or Ilchester Mill at that site and constructed a 3 story home.  Ellicott sold his home in 1866 to the Redemptorists who started a college renamed a few years later as St. Mary's College.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ellicott City's Ligon and Chatham Streets ... and Gov. Ligon

Thomas Watkins Ligon (1810-1881) was Governor of Maryland from 1854-1858 as a Democrat when the Whigs/Know Nothing Party (honestly their name) had control.  Ligon married two daughters of landowner Charles Worthington Dorsey and Mary Tolly (Worthington) Dorsey - m1 1840 Sally Ann Dorsey (1817-1847) and m2 1854 Mary Tolly Dorsey (1825-1899).  Histories of "Chatham" and "White Hall" differ in books.  Chatham and Ligon streets lead south from Frederick Road (the old Baltimore-Frederick turnpike) to the Dorsey/Ligon property between St John's Church and Miller Library. They are buried in St. John's cemetery.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Priscilla Ridgely (White) Morison's daughter Rebecca (Morison) Henry awarded French Legion of Honor

Priscilla White (1850-1942) was the 4th Priscilla.  Her father Charles Ridgely White's mother Priscilla Hill Dorsey (Ridgely) White was born at the great estate "Hampton" to Gov. Charles Carnan Ridgely and Priscilla Hill (Dorsey) Ridgely who was born at "Belmont" (now a Howard County run historic home) to Caleb Dorsey, Jr. and Priscilla (Hill) Dorsey.  She was a life long Howard County resident, spending the winters in Baltimore; and organized reading classes in Howard County, worked for better roads, raised funds for charities and was active in the St. Johns Church of Ellicott City, where they are buried.  One of her daughters, Rebecca, earned the French Legion of Honor medal for her work in Paris during World War I.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Charles Carroll's Doughoregan in 1874, with interior photos


The Manor in 1874 was described in Appletons’ Journal as being a typical Maryland 5 part home - center being only 30 feet deep, two wings with thin connecting passageways to a kitchen at one end and a Catholic chapel on the other at 300 feet.  Built on an "artificial knoll" it's story and a half was raised to 2 stories and a flat roof by Charles Carroll of Carrollton's grandson.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Babe Ruth married in St. Paul's Catholic Church

Located on the hill behind the 1830 B&O Railroad station in Ellicott City, the Catholic church was built in 1838.  George Herman Ruth (1895-1937) was raised in Baltimore and played his rookie year of baseball there, then was traded to Boston.  He married Mary Ellen "Helen" Woodford (1896-1929) in the Ellicott City church with only two witnesses on October 14, 1914.  They adopted a baby, Dorothy (1921-1989) purported to be Ruth's daughter with a girlfriend, they separated after he met his future wife, Helen died in a house fire in January 1829, and Ruth remarried in April.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tarpeian Rock


What's a tarpeian?  It was an outcropping or cliff of Capitoline Hill towards the Patapsco River in Ellicotts' Mills (now Ellicott City).  Above it was and is the home "Castle Angelo" and the county courthouse is further back on top.  It was named for the cliff off Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy.  The rock blocked the new B & O rail road route from Baltimore along the Patapsco River, so a cut of 60 feet was needed for the railroad track to pass. Etched into the remaining pillar of stone was: "completed April 1831 James Fresh."  A huge chunk of rock remained (the white bit in the image between the house and tracks) and with the Castle, became a tourist site until it was totally removed for a second track in 1859. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

John H. B. Latrobe's patented heating stove - Latrobe Stove - 1846

The Latrobe Stove was so popular that The Century Dictionary listed "latrobe" as a generic label for all similarly designed stoves. It "arranged for heating floors above by means of a hot-air flue fitted with a damper and register."  The Latrobe Stove was also called Baltimore Heater, Parlor stove or Fire-place Stove and initially made by the Latrobe Stove foundry.  JHB Latrobe was a multi-talented man - B&O railroad lawyer, inventor, helped found and led organizations such as the Maryland Historical Society, and more HERE .  He thought about the problem after hearing "a complaint made by his wife, that the stoves then used (the "Franklin" and others) occupied so much space. He said he could remedy this, and would make a stove to be placed in the fireplace."

Monday, October 3, 2016

How a codicil to Charles Carroll's will broke up a friendship and a family

John H. B. Latrobe (1803-1891), son of famed architect of the US Capitol, Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820) left West Point when his father died in New Orleans to start a more lucrative career as a lawyer.  He studied law under Baltimore's Robert Goodlow Harper (1765-1825), and became friends with his son, Charles Carroll Harper, grandson of the very wealthy Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Carroll signed his will - which fairly divided his estate between his two daughters and his son's family - a few months after his only son died in 1825, as did his son-in-law Harper. Trouble came when Carroll's other son-in-law Caton requested Latrobe, a striving young lawyer, to write the codicil a year before Carroll died at 95, which favored the Caton/McTavish side of the family, and resulted in decades of litigation before it was settled.

Monday, September 26, 2016

John H. B. Latrobe's "Fairy Knowe"

Overlooking his brother Benjamin Latrobe Jr.'s magnificent Thomas Viaduct (more on the B & O Railroad stone bridge HERE), and seen by the RR passengers, John H. B. Latrobe had a country house "Fairy Knowe" designed by Robert Carey Long Jr. who also designed Patapsco Institute and Mt. Ida.  Latrobe, son of the architect of the US Capitol, owned and designed a cottage, "Maryland Row", at White Sulpher Springs and was the lawyer for the B & O Railroad.  Below is a floor plan of #1 and Latrobe's description of #2 designed with John Niernsee...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Charles Carroll of Carrollton's 90th & 91st birthdays

Born on September 19, 1737 Charles Carroll would live 95 years, dying in November of 1832.  To celebrate his birthday, his 44 relatives and friends feasted on "glorious saddles of venison" (a yearly "best buck" from Harewood estate), mutton, plum puddings, kickshaws, and "substantials" with champagne and punch. The area, now Howard County, was sometimes named after its largest town, Elkridge, once an active port.  The men on their fox hunters/horses were well known riders.  Gold and silver medals were given to his children and grandchildren the previous year on his 90th birthday.