Monday, December 11, 2017

Brandywine Mills in the Revolutionary War

The famed Tatnall and Lea flour mills furnished flour to the American army. Washington and Lafayette visited Joseph Tatnall.  Before the battle of the Brandywine, Washington ordered the top grinding stones of the mills to be removed and hidden from the British troops.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Lea's Brandywine flour mills near Wilmington Del., 1800

The famed Tatnall and Lea flour mills in Delaware were visited by many foreigners including the Duc de La Rochefoucauld [1747-1827], who left France during the beginning of the French Revolution. He described Thomas Lea - whose son married Elizabeth Ellicott (1st Md. cookbook) daughter of George Ellicott - as "a handsome, cheerful, active, man...a candid and obliging man" and their private "flour manufactory" bought "corn" (grain) and shipped the flour to Philadelphia then exported.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Ellicott City to Clarksville turnpike milestone 9 M TO EC

The turnpike company was approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 1868 and lasted about 50 years. For some reason the 9 is backwards. The stone in Clarksville is located on the west side of Rt. 108 across from Great Star Drive in front of Clarksville Commons.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Baltimore to Frederick town turnpike milestone - 10 M to B

The 10 mile marker stone, on lower Main Street under the railroad bridge, is testament to the Ellicott brothers who built a road from Baltimore to their new settlement of Ellicott's mills.  When the turnpike was financed it went from Baltimore through Ellicott Mills to Frederick to Cumberland and joined the National Road.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Covered turnpike bridge and trolley bridge at Ellicott Mills

A circa 1909 photograph shows the trolley bridge (on the left) and the covered bridge (for the road) crossing over the Patapsco to Baltimore County.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bloede Dam - Power plant inside a dam

The first hydroelectric plant within a dam was built just south of Ilchester and Ellicott City on the Patapsco River in 1907. The underwater plant has windows behind the falls, so during rain when the "water is muddy" less light gets into the room.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Commodore Joshua Barney home

The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veteran's home has been vacant and has been on the Howard County top ten endangered sites.  It is hidden behind a subdivision at 7912 Guilford Road, Savage.  The house was sold at auction last month. The famed naval officer was born in Baltimore and went to sea at age 12.  During the War of 1812 he was assigned to protect the Chesapeake area, and he devised a fleet of shallow draft barges.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Howard County iron ore deposts; Elkridge and Savage furnaces

Elkridge Furnace (1750s-1872) and Savage Furnace (before 1835-c1839; 1864-74) are described below, as well as 6 ore banks found in Howard County.  Pictured at left are the remains of Elkridge Furnace in early 1900s.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Duc de La Rochefoucauld's visit to Ellicott's mills in the 1790s

"Ellicot’s-Mill is a small village, the principal establishment of which is a large gristmill belonging to Mr. Ellicot.  This mill has six pair of millstones, and is constructed as well as any of the mills of Brandy wine [Lea mills]."

François Alexandre Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld, Duke of Rochefoucauld (1747-1827) escaped France during the Revolution for England then sailed to America, finally returning to France.

Monday, September 25, 2017

B&O train ride described in Harpers 1857


By 1857 the B&O railroad had a kitchen and dining car combo but the restaurant in the Relay House (in picture) still offered a breakfast of "Maryland luxuries" of "softcrabs" and "spring-chickens" which tasted like "luscious flavor of solidified cream browned over a hickory fire in clover scented butter."  The article also described the stone viaducts, Bollman's iron bridge, granite and iron works.

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.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Baltimore the "greatest flour market" with trains and wagons

Thousands of barrels of flour passed through Baltimore by large Conestoga wagons and railroad cars then onto ships to American and foreign ports.  The following excerpt is from an 1848 children's history book.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lime kilns at Marriottsville

Two kilns remain in the woods to the west of Marriottsville Road between the B&O railroad and the bridge over the Patapsco. The front wall of the one on the left had collapsed, but the 20 foot tall kiln to the right (west) is fairly intact and part of Patapsco Park.  The limestone was quarried nearby. During the colonial and federal period, lime was used with sand to make mortar and plaster, whitewash, and as a fertilizer.

Monday, April 17, 2017

George Ellicott Jr. home becomes part of St. Mary's College

The Ilchester Hotel/Home/Tavern that Ellicott built in the early 1830s was sold in 1866 to the Redeptorists for $15,000.  The walls had weakened by the coal trains and had to have pipes to stabilize the old stone structure.  The main 'upper house' was built in 1868, and a large wooden addition was built beside and behind the 4 story granite building.  The first chapel with long windows was attached to the granite hotel and used into at least 1895.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Ellicott quarry granite for Baltimore Cathedral

Gray granite from 'Ellicott and Company' quarry was taken by large wagons with "nine yolk of oxen" on the Frederick road to Baltimore to build the first Cathedral in the new nation.  Designed by famed architect Benjamin Latrobe (the US Capitol), started in 1806-1812, War of 1812, 1817-1821.  Now the Cathedral is called the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a co-cathedral was completed in 1959.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Quarries near Ellicott City

The Catholic Cathedral and many homes and business in early Ellicott's mills were built with Ellicott City granite from nearby quarries along the Patapsco River.  The following excerpts describe the slight difference of the rock found on either side of the river and the quarries in 1811, 1834, 1898 and 1910.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ann Tonge and Tonge Row

Tonge or Tongue Row was built in the 1840s, with one duplex completed each year by a widow, Ann Tonge.  The three lovely stone buildings reportedly have appeared in movies, such as the TV film Les Miserables in 2000 and the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lilly (Tyson) Manly Elliott turned the Patapsco Female Institute into a 60 room home, then hotel

Lily or Lilly Tyson (1852-1924) was a descendant of two prominent Quaker milling and merchant families – the Tysons of Jericho Mills north of Baltimore and the Ellicott founders of Ellicott City. Martha Ellicott Tyson, her grandmother, helped found Swathmore College, wrote a biography of  
Benjamin Banneker and was the daughter of George Ellicott. Lilly bought the old hilltop girls school in 1891.

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Wilde Lake" - Laura Littman's Columbia sites photos: Old Oakland Farm, People's Tree and Wilde Lake

Once part of the vast lands of Charles Sterrett Ridgely's Oakland mansion HERE , the stone home "Old Oakland" was the farm complex for the estate. It is extremely close to the stone slave house, blacksmith building and other outbuildings HERE .  It must be the inspiration for the Laura Littman mystery "Wilde Lake"

Monday, March 6, 2017

Edith Clarke - first female electrical engineer


Edith Clarke (1883-1959), a gifted mathematician, was raised in the John R. Clark home “Arlington”.  She attended numerous colleges including Vassar (1908) and MIT (1919) and had a variety of jobs with the longest at General Electric 1919-1945. Her abilities were finally recognized and she was advanced to an engineer – a job previously closed to women. She invented the Clarke calculator, patented in 1921. After retiring, she taught for ten years at the University of Texas in Austin, then returned to Maryland.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Benjamin Banneker's almanac and the Ellicotts

George Ellicott, his brother Elias Ellicott and their cousin Major Andrew Ellicott each helped to get Banneker's first almanac published in 1792. The previous post HERE on the biography of Benjamin Banneker has other details of his life and accomplishments.  George taught interested neighbors astronomy using his celestial globe and telescope, and gave some of his books and tools to his friend Benjamin.  Andrew, a famous surveyor who did at least thirteen years of almanacs, passed on Benjamin's well-written letter, and it is preserved in the Historical Society of Pa.  Elias who had moved to Baltimore was also a Quaker, joined the newly formed Md Abolition Society and wrote numerous letters about the almanac. 

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, the enslaved cook and freedman Joseph Kelly. 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.