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.

Rome's Tarpeian Rock
The rock cliffs were named for Tarpeia, the daughter of the commander of the Capitoline citadel, who opened the city gates for the enemy (Sabines) and was killed by them on the cliff.  Later, traitors and others were thrown from the top.

from Rambles book 1855-

Tarpeian Rock

"A few yards above the depot, the Railroad, in winding along the foot of the hill, is conducted through an excavation of hard granite rock, which has an extremely picturesque effect. The wall on the hill side is probably from seventy to eighty feet in perpendicular height; while, on the opposite side of the Railroad, a stupendous mass is left standing, some sixty feet in height and probably thirty feet in diameter, which, it will be observed, overhangs the road

 "This Work Completed April 1831 James Fresh  Bal Co Md"
The labor of cutting out a passage for the [rail]road [track] must have been a serious undertaking, since the effort was deemed worthy of record, like the laws of Moses, on the surface of the wall rock. The scene, however, in connection with surrounding objects, is agreeable; and no one will hesitate to do Mr. Fresh the compliment of reading his inscription.  We have gone to the trouble and expense of displaying it, exactly as it appears on the rock, some twenty feet above the Railroad. Indeed, the little inscription which thus associates his name with the early struggles of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, is creditable alike to his personal energy, his good taste, and his patriotic feelings, both as a "man and an individual." 

It proves conclusively, that he [James Fresh] was one of the earliest railroad contractors—(now constituting a large and very respectable body of our fellow-citizens,) in the United States; that he was employed and successfully executed a heavy piece of work on the first line of Railroad ever projected on this side of the Atlantic; and that, in short, and " in point of fact," as it was the first, it is also the greatest public work of the kind ever completed, no matter whether we regard its trade and properties, or its triumphs over natural or unnatural obstacles. All honor then, and health and happiness to the toiling thousands who have filled their spades or sunk the drill into the stubborn rock, to make way for the mighty steam-horse!"
Rambles in the path of the steam horse.  Eli Bowen   1855   & 2 images


"The Tarpeian Rock has been removed, and the tracks connected west of Ellicott's Mills,—thus perfecting the line of double track to Marriottsville, and facilitating and adding security to the movement of trains.The 1859 Annual report of the B & O Railroad.

Smith, William.  A Smaller History of Rome… NY: 1865  1 image

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD

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