Monday, September 18, 2017

Howard County in 1882

The second smallest county in Maryland, Howard County was described in the 1882 book Industries of Maryland, in particular Ellicott City (population 1,600) and Elk Ridge Landing (400). Among the attributes were the several "streams" providing waterpower, limestone, granite quarries, iron ore and good soil. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

George Poe, artificial respirator, laughing gas and Elkridge

George Poe, Jr. (1846-1914) was born at 'Elkridge Landing', was a cousin of Edgar Allen Poe and invented the artificial respirator (patented in 1907). He also was the first to liquefy nitrous oxide - laughing gas - for commercial use in the 1880s, and other gas 'firsts' (see below). According to his Washington Post obituary, he was mentioned for a Nobel Prize in chemistry.


Poe was the son of Elizabeth Ross Ellicott (1810-1881) and George Poe (1808, or 1807-1879).

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lafayette in Elkridge

In April 1781 the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) and his soldiers were guarding the Chesapeake area, but were ordered to join the forces heading south to eventually be in Yorktown for the final battle against the British in Oct. 1781.  To lighten their mood and decrease desertions Lafayette had the men ride in wagons through Maryland and crossed the Patapsco River to camp at "Ridge Ferry" - Elkridge - on April 17 to 18.

"Lafayette's troops camped here April 17-18, 1781 on the way to engage Cornwallis in Virginia. George Washington passed many times."  Elk Ridge Landing marker on Rt. 1.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Transporting the huge tobacco barrels

A previous post on 'Rolling Roads' HERE showed one way of transporting large hogsheads of tobacco to Elk-ridge and other ports. In addition to 'rolling in hoops' by hand, the large barrels were pulled by horses, put in wagons, in 'upland boats' or on two canoes.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Willow harvesting in Elkridge for baskets and furniture


Maryland was the second largest producer (NY first) of basket willow and third in consumption (behind NY, MA), in 1919, to make willow furniture and baskets for sale in the region.  Willow cuttings (not tree, more a bush) were planted in rows, cut, sized, put in pits with a couple inches of water, put through the brakes, then peeled, dried on racks and bundled ready to ship.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cotton mills of Ellicott's Mills in 1849

 In 1849 there were 4 large-scale mills along the Patapsco River by Ellicott City which made cotton material: Union in Oella (pictured), the Granite, the Patapsco, and the Thistle. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ellicott mills in 1805

"1805 8th Month, 3d. This evening I visited Ellicott's Mills, in company with J. T. and his wife. The overseer of these mills informed me they could grind and pack 300 barrels of flour per day. A barrel being 196lbs. or 14st. the annual returns, at 3s. per stone, would be nearly 200,0001. The stones were 7 feet in diameter."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, strike, Vinegar Hill, gondola cars - Randolph Brandt Latimer remembers

Randolph B. Latimer (1821-1903) began working at age 15 in the B & O Railroad engineering department, then started a store Randolph & Latimer and flour commission. His father ran a stage line between Baltimore and Washington city.

Monday, July 24, 2017

First passenger car with Cooper's steam engine

The first ride of a carload of dignitaries behind the Cooper steam engine was on August 28, 1830 from Baltimore to Ellicott mills on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The open car, fashioned after a canal boat, was a "perfect jam" and whisked along the curves at 15 miles an hour - 18 when full speed!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Colonel Gassaway Watkins and "Walnut Grove" family cemetery

Gassaway Watkins (1752-1840) fought in the Revolutionary War, and later as a Colonel in the War of 1812. He lived at "Richland" until his father-in-law Capt John Dorsey died and with wife Ruth (Dorsey) Watkins moved to the nearby Dorsey lands and built their home "Walnut Grove". He and his third wife are buried on a hill by their home (right side of photo), which has just been marvelously cleared, sodded and the site of a recent commemoration. Links with more info at end of post.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Winans friction wheel for the new railroads

Ross Winans (1796-1877) was born in NJ and moved to Md in the late 1820s as the B&O railroad was starting. He invented the friction wheel with ‘outside bearing’ in 1828, sold his locomotives also to the Russian Czar during his highly successful business 1843-1863, was arrested as a southern sympathizer, designed cigar boats 1859 (submarines) with son Thomas and although invented by Charles S. Dickinson in 1860 in Boston, the 'Winans Steam Gun' was worked on in his shop.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Baltimore or Winans Steam Gun - Civil War

At the start of the Civil War, a bullet proof "steam gun" was patented by Charles Dickinson and worked on in Ross Winans foundry in Baltimore.  Dickinson was on his way to sell it to the Confederacy, when it was captured in Ellicott City by Col. Jones and the 6th Mass. It was kept at Relay to guard the Thomas Viaduct. The muzzle of the gun/cannon protruded from the slit of the cone (see below) and it was dragged by a team of horses.  A large replica can be seen at Elkridge.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reip Bake Oven and Roaster, 1825 patent

A Reip metal wall oven still exists in a privately owned historic home in Howard County.  Elizabeth Ellicott Lea, daughter George Ellicott, had the Baltimore oven in her Sandy Spring home. Henry Reip obtained a patent for a 'Bake Oven and Roaster' in 1825, which he and his sons manufactured and sold for about forty years.  The oval oven, left, now at Hampton NHS (the birthplace of the wife of Gov. George Howard of Waverly) was made by the eldest son, Alfred Reip.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rebecca Garrett 'freed', then retaken 20 years later

Rebecca Garrett's mother was freed by Sarah (Cord) Anderson in her 1805 will.  Later, Rebecca spent about 20 years living free in Baltimore with her freedman husband William Garrett and ten children.  Thomas Anderson and son Isaac reclaimed Rebecca and some of her children in 1849.  She was freed by a Baltimore County court, but on appeal, was returned to the Andersons.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Daily summer commute from Ellicott City to Baltimore in 1889-90

Summer homes outside of Baltimore gave respite from the "inferno in Summer" but the ride on the B & O railroad train was "regarded as heroic" leaving them "hot, dusty and worn-out" revived by the mint juleps on the front porch.  H. L. Mencken (1880-1856) spent two summers at "Vineyard" on the hill by the Patapsco Institute.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Menchen at "Vineyard" in Ellicott City from 1889 to 1890

The Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken (1880-1954) spent a couple of summers as a child in a Civil War era home on the hill across from the Patapsco Institute.  His father and uncle commuted to Baltimore during the week, as Mencken explored the grounds. He wrote his remembrances in his book Happy Days: 1880-1892

Monday, May 29, 2017

Decatur Dorsey - slave to Medal of Honor recipient

Decatur Dorsey (1836-1891) was an enslaved African American in Howard County when he signed up in 1864. He would become a Sergeant in the 39th US Colored Troops and earned the Medal of Honor.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Videos of working 18th century mills

Union Mills just north of Westminster, Md. was built in 1797 on Oliver Evans plans, which incorporated details from the Ellicotts mill workings.  Evans had visited Ellicotts mills several times, and a brother of the founders wrote a lengthy section with sketches in Evan's book.  The Shriver family owned and operated the mill for almost 200 years until the 1950s.  George Washington also had a Oliver Evans style mill at Mount Vernon, which has been reconstructed and working.   

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Conestoga wagon deliveries to Lea flour mills in Delaware

Before the first railroads in the 1830s, huge Conestoga wagons hauled by 6 horse teams brought wheat from Pennsylvania to the Lea mills along the Brandywine River by Wilmington Del.  A convoy of 20-30 "inland ships" would approach a mill, with the others waiting in line, blocking roads, as the first unloaded.  The physical activity of unloading and the loud noise from "rumbling wheels, clattering [horse] hoofs...shoutings and clamorings of the Dutch drivers" contrasted with the railroad and barges that replaced the Conestogas.

Elizabeth Ellicott Lea (daughter of George Ellicott) married Thomas Lea and lived in Brandywine (Wilmington) after their 1812 marriage and returned to Maryland in 1823.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Oliver Evans 'peculiar accidents' causing flour mill fires

Mills were dangerous places and could catch fire for many reasons.  Oliver Evans and Thomas Ellicott's The Young Mill-wright and Miller's Guide, (1795) described six causes.  Thomas was the brother of the Ellicotts who erected innovative mills and founded Ellicott's mills, now Ellicott City.