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 then George Ellicott Jr.'s Ilchester 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 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 St. Mary's College. click to enlarge.

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 (1877-1955), 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 1929, 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 is the home "Castle Angelo".  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 tower of rock remained 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.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Oella - the Maryland mill town and the Incas of Peru

The Union Manufacturing Company started buying land in 1808 for cotton mills, and in 1811 patented their holdings as Oella "in commemoration of the first woman who applied herself to the spinning of Cotton on the Continent of America."  Mama Oella (Ocllo and other spellings) and her husband/brother Manco Capac were the legendary founders of the Inca empire.  They were included in the then-popular epic poem by Joel Barlow on Columbus published in 1787 and expanded as The Columbiad in 1807.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Patterson Viaduct

Built in 1829 at Ilchester, the viaduct was destroyed in the flood of 1868.  A metal bridge was put on the remaining parts of the bridge, and now there is a walking bridge.  It was named for wealthy business man William Patterson (1752-1835) a founder of the B & O; one of his many children, 'Betsy' married Napoleon's brother.

Monday, August 22, 2016

National Park Service centennial - Hampton Historic Site

Completed in 1790, "Hampton," just north of Baltimore, had close ties with two Howard County grand homes.  Two Dorsey sisters from "Belmont," near Elkridge, married Charles Ridgely the builder of Hampton, and his nephew & heir Gov. Charles Carnan Ridgely.  Gov. and Priscilla Dorsey Ridgely's daughter Prudence married Gov. George Howard and they lived at "Waverly" in Marriotsville.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ellicotts' movable house - an 1800 mobile home

When they were building a road going west from Ellicott's Mills, the Ellicott brothers had a house built on wheels where the road workers cooked and slept.  It was "drawn from place to place" and was the "first movable building seen in Maryland."  Perhaps it was a small house or possibly a part of a Conestoga wagon or like a Gypsy caravan.  Moving wooden or even brick buildings was surprisingly common in the US, as noted lighthouse engineer Stevenson described in 1838...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

8113 Main St., to be torn down after 2016 Ellicott City flood, had connections to Elizabeth Ellicott Lea

Elizabeth Ellicott Lea (1793-1858), whose cookbook Domestic Cookery was first published in 1845, had ties to the shorter of the two adjoining buildings due to be torn down. The old building sets over the Tiber River (usually more of a stream) on hand-hewed wooden beams forming a truss system (like a bridge).  Incredible. For about 200 years these buildings have been held up by wood. [HO-586] The supporting wall between the frame (wood) buildings was destroyed during the flood, making it a hazard. Lea was born in the George Ellicott home (below).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ellicott City's flash flood of 2016

On Saturday night, July 30, over SIX inches of rain fell in TWO hours (most was during one hour) the resulting river of water was funneled between the hills encasing the historic town and onto Main Street forcing cars into buildings and down into the raging Patapsco River.  The surge of the river reached the bottom of the glass street lamps on the bridge! Note the mud.  Reports say the Patapsco River crested at 14 feet, and surged to over 27 feet. 36 hours later the jumble of cars, debris and mud have been removed from the bridge, but branches and debris shoved against the railing.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rolling Roads to roll huge tobacco barrels

Before wheat and the flour mills flourished, tobacco was grown as a cash crop in Maryland, including the Howard district of Anne Arundel County [later Howard County].  Tobacco depleted the soil and was more labor intensive than wheat, but continued to be grown in some eastern parts of the state.  A few roads have retained their original name - Rolling Road, nearby Catonsville for example.  Farmers compressed the dried tobacco leaves to thoroughly fill the hogshead to specified weight (1000 or more pounds) then those in Howard district headed for Elkridge according to Tyson (bottom).

Monday, July 11, 2016

Whipps Garden Cemetery

This gem of a cemetery and garden was bought in 1855 for $73.25 and has been revived during the last 30 years by the Friends of the Whipps Cemetery, Maryland Master Gardeners, and other local groups – even an Eagle Scout project.  Numerous signs are scattered throughout with histories and names of plants, and every season showcases different flowers and colors.  For more history go to

Monday, July 4, 2016

Biography of Benjamin Banneker

The Life of Benjamin Banneker: The First African-American Man of Science by Silvio A. Bedini, revised and expanded, 1999.  This is a fascinating and enjoyable read, heavily researched, on the life and many details of the times, of this noteworthy free African-American who owned his farm, made a working wooden clock by studying a watch, and was able to learn complicated mathematical equations and astronomy, which would be showcased in 6 years of Almanacs; and he helped for the first couple months of the survey of Washington City.  But with all his accomplishments, many myths have appeared in books and on the web, which the author corrects. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

B & O Railroad's Oliver Viaduct across Main St., Ellicott City

The Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike went down Ellicott's Mills Main Street and the trains had to cross over it, so the Oliver Viaduct (stone 3 arch bridge) was built.  However, the flood of 1868 destroyed two of the arches. Later they were replaced with a metal span which now reads Ellicott City.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Incredibly high flood levels sign on Main Street

Floods and more floods have done various degrees of damage over the years.  Recording just the major floods, this sign on the Oliver Viaduct (part of the stone railroad bridge was destroyed by a flood) is striking.  There is a number on the railing of the horrific 1868 flood when waters reached 21.5 feet above street level.  Jonathon Ellicott's home was lost in the 1972 flood but his brother George's home survived and has since been moved uphill.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Waverly, Jacob Bromwell's wheat fan and Poe's uncle

George Howard at "Waverly" hosted a timed test of Jacob Bromwell's patented fan - it cleaned 26 1/2 bushels of wheat in 7 1/2 minutes. That year, 1819, Bromwell moved to the growing city of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he started a company which is still producing exquisite tin, copper, wire-woven and wooden old-style kitchen tools HERE

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Waverly Jumbles

Governor George and Prudence Ridgely Howard named the home and lands that his father, Col. Howard, gave them "Waverly" after the enormously popular 1814 Sir Walter Scott novel Waverley. His brother Benjamin's wife, Jane Gilmor Howard, included a recipe for the rose water flavored cookie in her charity cookbook Fifty Years in a Maryland Kitchen in 1873.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Dairy - at Waverly and Doughoregan Manor

Gov. George Howard's (1789-1846) large stone dairy was built c1822 according to an early sketch of his "Waverly" buildings and payments to a stonemason. The second story window on the front has been changed into a door, but the side windows look like the sketch. His wife Prudence Ridgely Howard (1791-1847) had been raised at "Hampton" (north of Baltimore) which operated a large dairy operation making over 5,000 pounds of butter in 1822. Howard's neighbor Charles Carroll's lovely dairy at "Doughoregan" was much smaller. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Morse's telegraph message went over the Thomas Viaduct

On May 24, 1844 Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) sent the message "What hath God wrought?" from the Supreme Court chambers in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to Baltimore's B&O train station.  Congress had appropriated money to run a line from DC to Baltimore along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks, thus going over the amazing Thomas Viaduct with its two tracks and a walkway.  More on the viaduct HERE .  Although not the first person to invent the electric telegraph, nor was it his first message, the line became famous, as did Morse and Morse Code.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cotton mill heated in 1816 by a young Robert Mills

Robert Mills, the American born architect of two Washington Monuments - Baltimore in 1815 and DC in the 1830s - designed a soap stone and brick furnace for the large (100 feet by 40 feet, three story stone) cotton mill a mile down the Patapsco River from Ellicott's Mills.  It was run by Edward Gray, father-in-law of John Pendleton Kennedy.  More on "Patapsco" HERE

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Patapsco" - the home not the river - and the 1868 flood

Edward Gray built the home and mill complex, and lived there with his two daughters and his son-in-law John Pendleton Kennedy.  Kennedy (1795-1870) was a lawyer, novelist, politician, Secretary of the Navy and kept a journal which gives fascinating accounts of his education, fighting to protect Baltimore in 1814 and his homes in Baltimore and "Patapsco" near Ellicott City.  After Edward Gray died in 1856, the Kennedys continued to live between the two homes until the flood of 1868 - described below.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Washington Irving visits his friend John Pendleton Kennedy

Novelist Washington Irving (1783-1859) who bought a cottage in 1835, and transformed it into the fanciful "Sunnyside" in Tarrytown, NY (picture below) wrote about his visits to Kennedy's "Patapsco" country home outside of Ellicott City.  The house had been built c1820 by his father-in-law Edward Gray within his textile manufacturing complex by the Patapsco River, with additions built over the years.  John Pendleton Kennedy (1795-1870) was a lawyer, politician, Secretary of the Navy, novelist, reformer, historian and kept a detailed journal.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oakland's outbuildings repurposed

A previous post HERE described Oakland. Next to the mansion is a stone wash house (left) which connects to the underground ice house holding 1200 bushels of ice. Nearby is the fancy carriage house.  In the farm section, now next to the man-made Wilde Lake on Hyla Point Road, is the old Oakland house, stone slave and blacksmith buildings, a sheep house, a spring house and a later-built barn.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Charles Sterrett Ridgely's name change and Oakland

Charles Ridgely Sterrett (1782-1847) legally changed his surname as requested by his mother's uncle Capt. Charles Ridgely, the builder of "Hampton" when he died in 1790.  Another heir of the childless Ridgely, Charles Carnan also added Ridgely to his name and inherited Hampton.  Built in 1811, Oakland underwent changes during its years of many owners. It is at 5430 Vantage Point Road, Columbia. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

B & O Railroad's Thomas Viaduct

This curved granite viaduct with eight arches was built in 1835.  Incredibly it is still being used... with modern heavy trains on the double tracks!  Designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Jr. (1806-78), the son of the architect of the US Capitol and Baltimore's Basilica, it was 612 feet long and cost over $142,000 or the equivalent of $3.8 million.  At the time it was called Latrobe's Folly, since it was so novel detractors thought it would fall down.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Jane Gilmor Howard, cookbook author, raised millions for starving Southerners

150 years ago, Jane (Gilmor) Howard led more than 350 Maryland women to collect the equivalent of $2.3 million dollars for the starving women and children in the South following the Civil War.  Additionally, she wrote a charity cookbook when she was 72 aptly titled Fifty Years in a Maryland Kitchen.  For several years in the 1840s, she and her husband Benjamin Chew Howard spent summers outside Ellicott's Mills at "Wyoming," near his brother Gov. George Howard's home "Waverly" at Marriottsville. One of their daughters attended the Patapsco Female Institute.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

5 Maryland Governors and Howard County

Four governors lived in the county, and it was named for a fifth governor with extensive land holdings there - Col. John Eager Howard.  When the Revolutionary War hero lived in Jennings House (left) in Annapolis, his son George Howard was born in 1789, and would return to Jennings House (the official residence from 1777-1870) when he too became governor in 1831. Other governors: Thomas Ligon of "Chatham" in 1854; John Lee Carroll of "Doughregan" in 1876 and Edwin Warfield of "Oakdale" in 1904.

Monday, March 14, 2016

B & O railroad sheet music 1828

On July 4, 1828, Charles Carroll of Carrollton laid the 'cornerstone' for the start of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between the planned Carrollton Viaduct and Mount Clare. The original stone is in the B&O Museum in Baltimore. Two songs were written for the occasion - Carrollton March and the Rail Road March.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Linwood, Mary Merrick and Jeanne Simons

“Linwood” was the home of a possible future Saint, at one time owned by the great-grandson of Martha Washington and would become a school for children with autism in 1955.  The cupola and flue system were designed to cool the summer house.  ...

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Columbia's poetical street names

"Oh, you must live in Columbia!" is the title of an entertaining and very informative book, and a response to hearing one of many odd street names.  Rouse needed new names for a thousand streets, and the book goes into detail of how the names were chosen. And what names!  Topbranch Lane, Besthold Garth, Barefoot Boy, Fruitgift Place and so many more.

The names?  Historical homes - Oakland Mills Road, Oak Hall Lane, and Grey Rock Drive. Historical people - Gateway Center inventors: Thomas Edison, Samuel Morse.  Art works from museums, Whistler, Wyeth and Homer. ...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Doughoregan - bath house

The manor is known for its connection to Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832), who outlived all the other signers of the Declaration of Independence, and it is still owned by the family.  It had 'nut-shell' sized bedrooms and an out building that contained a freezing cold bath (pool) where CCofC 'plunged head foremost' every summer day at 4 AM! ...

Howard County map c1860

This new blog will have monthly postings (if not more frequently) on interesting women of years past and historic houses in Ellicott City and Howard County, Maryland.  The information on most of the homes were presented in short two-five minute talks at the local Colonel Thomas Dorsey DAR chapter meetings. 

"Wilton" the home of William H G Dorsey is one of the buildings pictured around the Martenet's map of Howard County, c1860 from the Library of Congress map site.
Click to enlarge.

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber