Welcome to our blog! Here you will find both informal and formal postings related directly and indirectly to the history and heritage of Baltimore County. 

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Posted by on Feb 14, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off


Cromwell Valley Park encompasses 460 acres of stream valley and upland habitat just minutes from downtown Towson…the Willow Grove Nature Education Center, a remodeled historic farm house, [is the] focal point. c

In addition to the house, Willow Grove Farm (BA-2768) comprises a barn, corn crib, springhouse and two 20th century tenant houses. The Merrick log house (BA-2771), located to the southwest of the restored lime kilns, was part of the Long Island Farm (BA-102) tract owned by the Risteau-Jenifer families.

The two-story barn is built on a stone foundation with adze-hewn, square logs, the members assembled at the corners with V-notches, the only style of joinery ever noted in this county for log buildings. The corn crib is also built of logs on a stone foundation. The spring house is built of rubble stone, to provide a cool, clean place for storing food, particularly dairy products.

Willow Grove Farm was first mentioned in the Baltimore Sun obituary of Arthur W. Shanklin in 1919. Arthur was one of three sons of John Wesley Shanklin, Sr., and the grandson of Robert and Elizabeth Bosley Shanklin. Robert, said to be “a pioneer Methodist preacher of Maryland who also conducted a school,” established the family in the area when he bought 17 acres of land on the present Satyr Hill Road. His son, John Wesley Sr., added to his father’s modest holding, acquiring a considerable amount of land between 1838, when his mother gave him a tract of 39 acres, and 1858.

John W. Sr. bought 60 acres in the Valley in 1848. He added to this tract in 1849 when his wife Mary Burton inherited 45 adjoining acres as part of her inheritance. This tract became Willow Grove Farm.

Arthur Washington Shanklin was born in 1839 at the family home, Forest Hall, on Satyr Hill Road, the second of three sons. In 1867 he married Ann Elizabeth Bosley. Arthur was an attorney in Towson. He served as County Treasurer and tax collector from 1897 until 1899. The Sun reported in 1898 that “The Treasury is Empty…there being no money…county commissioners did not pay any bills yesterday.” A subsequent notice of County offices to be filled hinted that Arthur may have been at least partially to blame for the shortfall of funds, saying “The treasurer of the county, in order to make his administration a success, must give considerable personal attention to the details of the office.”

The house at Willow Grove was built between 1850, when the 1850 Sidney Atlas of Baltimore County showed only three houses in the valley: Carlisle Howard at Cowpens (where Loch Raven Senior High School is today), John Plaskitt at Gay’s Good Fellowship, and T. C. Risteau at Long Island (the latter two houses still standing today), and 1870, when Arthur is listed in the census as a farmer with real estate valued at $8000. It is reasonable to assume that it was built prior to his wedding in 1867, and added to as his family grew to include 10 children. Its two huge sycamore, or buttonball, trees may have been planted as “bride and groom trees,” a tradition in the 17th and 18th centuries due to the trees’ longevity.

Although Arthur had been living at the farm since at least 1867 when he married, it did not become his property until his father died in 1883. John W. Sr. divided his land among his three sons: John W. Jr. received the house on Old Harford Road (Shanklin-Carroll-Longbottom House, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties BA-282), William Jefferson (Jeff) received Forest Hall (BA-227, demolished in 1997), and Arthur received the “place at lime kilns, by letting John and Jeff have agricultural lime stone to burn for the land they get them their [sic] selves at their own expense” (Shanklin House at Willow Grove Farm).

The land along Mine Bank Run was rich in gneiss, used primarily as crushed stone, and Cockeysville marble. These mineral deposits gave rise to the lime kiln industry in the valley. Each property, from what is now Cowpens Avenue (formerly Furnace Road) to the Great Falls of the Gunpowder, had one or more lime kilns. Willow Grove had several concave-faced kilns in use before the Shanklin family partnered with their Jenifer neighbors in commercial lime burning, using vertical shaft continuous burn kilns (see the information kiosks at the restored kilns in Cromwell Valley Park).

As a farmer, Arthur likely grew cereal grains and vegetable crops with perhaps fruit and nut orchards. Farming activities were likely disrupted during the construction of the Loch Raven lower dam from 1875 until 1881, when the water tunnel to Lake Montebello was constructed through his property. As reported in 1906, construction of the 12-foot-diameter tunnel caused the loss of a “large and valuable spring…depriving him of all time of the water therefrom…doing him incalculable damage…causing him the expense and inconvenience of obtaining water from a long distance by means of pipes…”  In 1906, an article in the Baltimore American (reporting the capture of fugitive Ike Winder who murdered the tollgate keeper on the Dulaney Valley Pike) described the property as a stock farm.

Arthur’s wife died in 1884 and in 1889 he remarried. This marriage was evidently not a success as he filed for a “partial divorce” in 1892. His second wife maintained a separate house in the city until her death.

Arthur served as a road supervisor in 1904 and 1905. In 1910 he was living with his son and family at Willow Grove but by 1919 was living with a daughter in Govans, where he died in 1919. He is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Govans.

The property of 126 acres was sold by his heirs in 1919 to the Dunkes family who farmed there, despite its lack of a spring, until 1943 when it was sold to the Merrick family as part of their Satyr Hill Farm. In 1993, it was sold to Baltimore County to become part of Cromwell Valley Park.

In his unpublished manuscript “Cromwell Bridge Valley: Historic Background,” county historian John McGrain described how this acquisition was in doubt due to lack of open space funds. “Governor William Donald Schaefer agreed to visit the site and did so on January 25, 1992, on a day when a spring-like interval broke up a leaden-skied winter that had prevailed for a month or more; the clear sunlight showed the grounds at their best. The Governor became an advocate of the proposed park and put it on the next agenda of the Board of Public Works.”

Ann Royston Blouse

29 January 2018



Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties, BA-2768, Shanklin House at Willow Grove Farm

Cromwell Bridge Valley: Historic Background, John W. McGrain, unpublished manuscript, Historical Society of Baltimore County topic file “Cromwell Valley” and

For additional information on Cromwell Valley Park, see




Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off


 Correction to content in “Highlights of a Ride on the Ma & Pa through Cromwell and Long Green Valleys,” History Trails, 43: 4, Autumn 2017

Ann Royston Blouse

On page 10 I reported that the Glen View Hotel was built circa 1902 by John Wilson Brown, then President of the Ma & Pa Railroad. This information was found in a Maryland & Pennsylvania Historical Society publication (Timetable Summer 1998). Subsequent research demonstrates that this is likely not the case. I believe, based on evidence outlined below, that the hotel was built by Francis X. Hooper, owner of F. X. Hooper Manufacturing Company in Glen Arm.

The first published account of the hotel is a notice in the Baltimore Sun on 6 April 1913 (retrieved from on 17 November 2017):


FOR RENTAt Glenarm, Md. [4 room bungalow, 16 room house]…One large NEW HOUSE, 30 bedrooms, hot and cold water in each, 9 bathrooms, living room, dining room, pantries and kitchen; well adapted for high-class summer hotel; steam heat; private station on premises; outhouse built to suit tenant. Apply to F. X. Hooper, Glenarm, Md. Maryland and Pennsylvania R. R.

This matches the description given in the article recounting its destruction by fire (“Glen View Hotel Burns, with Loss of About $50,000,” Baltimore Sun, 19 October 1913). This article states that the hotel had never opened; however, a 1917 article reporting a fire at his manufacturing plant, stated

This is the second loss of a serious nature that has been suffered by Mr. Hooper. Several years ago a large summer hotel, which he had erected between Glenarm and Loch Raven, and which was liberally patronized by Baltimoreans, was destroyed by fire. Many person were forced to flee from the structure at the time, clad only in their night clothing. The hotel was never rebuilt. (“F. X. Hooper Plant Destroyed by Fire,” Baltimore American, 18 November 1917, retrieved from

The hotel was advertised continuously in the Baltimore Sun from May through August in 1913. Certainly if the hotel had been in operation since 1902, there would have been similar advertisements, yet none have been found.

The remains of the private flag stop/shelter built for the hotel stands on a 35-acre tract, the title for which traces back to the purchase of 116 acres by F. X. Hooper from the Wilson estate in 1905/6 (MdLandRecords 1906/30:122). I have traced the titles for all of the houses along that stretch of Glen Arm Road (southeast side between Notchcliff Road and Long Green Pike) and they are all part of that tract. There are no records of John Wilson Brown buying any land in the area, and without the land, he could not have built a hotel.

This hotel is not the only “house” that F. X. Hooper built. He reportedly built cottages for his workers on what is now Somerset Road (opposite his manufacturing plant). Of the seven houses on the street, four were built between 1912 and 1914 (SDAT).

After buying the Wilson land, he announced plans to build four summer cottages, each three stories high with one acre of land, hot and cold running water, etc. (“Building Cottages At Glenarm,” Baltimore Sun, 29 November 1905). By 1907 he was advertising “bungalow” for rent (“For Rent-Country,” Baltimore Sun, 18 May 1907). To date, I have found only one of these cottages, at 12017 Glen Arm Road (MdLandRec 1906/30:122). The owner reports that while renovating the house, he pulled off a piece of original door trim on which was written “Hooper job Glenarm” (personal communication Watson-Blouse 20 November 2017).

We would welcome any information on the Glen View Hotel, or any of the buildings in that area.

Ann Royston Blouse

MacKubbin General Store Ledger

Posted by on Sep 27, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off

MacKubbin General Store Ledger

By: Tyisse Baxter

The MacKubbin General Store was a family-run store in Upper Falls, a community in Baltimore County, Maryland. At one time, Upper Falls was named MacKubbinsville and later named Starrs Corner. While there is little information about Lloyd MacKubbin and his family, some facts are available. In censuses from the early to mid-1800s, his and his sons’ names appear under different spellings of the name MacKubbin. According to the census, they lived in the more rural parts if Maryland, indicating they may have been farmers.

The store itself may have been run out of Lloyd MacKubbin’s farm. It was located on the northwest corner of Franklinville Road and Bradshaw. It operated from at least the early 1800s; the ledger begins in 1809, with the earliest entries being account transfers from a previous ledger, and ends in 1820.

The script writing is clear and legible. The entries are frequent, detailed, and well organized from 1809 to 1813. From 1816 to 1820, however, the entries are sporadic and far less detailed. There are no entries for the years 1814 and 1815.

Lloyd MacKubbin meticulously kept records of debtors’ accounts. This particular ledger, in very good condition, spans the years from 1809 to 1820. Every new year recorded in the ledger begins with balances from the previous year, to which new purchases were added as the year continued. Many of the debtor’s names repeat, indicating it served a small area.

The entries, especially those recorded from 1809 to 1813, shed some light on the regular customers of MacKubbin’s General Store. Its customers, mostly men, come from a variety of professions: they were farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters, attorneys, mill workers, and hatters. One man, named Isiah Roberts, was a constable; another, named Edward A. Howard, was a captain. For many customers, their professions were not recorded. Records also show that families as well as individuals maintained accounts at the store. Alongside the MacKubbin family, the Staniford family and the Gorsuch family are listed.

The ledger also demonstrates the wide variety of goods sold at MacKubbin’s General Store. As detailed in the ledger, the most frequently purchased items were varieties of alcohol, the most popular of which was peach brandy followed by brandy, rum, and whiskey. Other commonly purchased items were tobacco, tea, sugar, coffee, and candles. Unique purchases were documented as well; for example, in 1812, Eliza Hughes purchased thread. Joshua Green acquired lodgings for a night in 1808.

The entries from 1816 to 1820 detail different kinds of purchases generally than in the previous years. They were all essential food items and tools. Most of the sales were shoes or shoe soles. In 1818, customer Benjamin Buck bought bacon, wool, and lamb. That same year, John Calhoon bought beef and a sharp share. Other purchases include oats, rye, and iron.

The ledger from MacKubbin’s General Store now housed at HSBC offers many intriguing glimpses of an early 1800s rural general store. It also leaves us with some unanswered questions. Why did alcohol drop off the list of frequently purchased goods? What happened with Lloyd MacKubbin and his family that resulted in two years missing in the ledger and then a change in record-keeping style in 1816? For now, we can only speculate and, as with so many historical artifacts like this ledger, hope that more related records will come to light so we can better understand Baltimore County’s past.

Being an Intern at the HSBC

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off

Being an Intern at the HSBC

By: Rachel L. Harmon


For my final semester at Towson University, I always knew I wanted to participate in an internship. Not only to get class credits towards my degree and to also earn some valuable experience working in the field. There were many different places offering an internship opportunity that I looked into and I ultimately chose to work at the Historical Society of Baltimore County.

Working at the HSBC gave me an opportunity to gain experience working in variously different areas. I was able to tailor my experience in order to gain as much knowledge as possible. I knew I did not want to just work in one area of the Historical Society, but I wanted to experience many aspects.

I was able to work with the public promoting the Historical Society and the services it offers, write for publication work with museum artifacts and meet many fun and interesting people while doing it. There was never a day during my internship that I dreaded going into work and even after I have graduated I still volunteer when I have free time.

HSBC Museum Storage

            Throughout my education I had never gained a sense of local history and how it ties in with major themes until my internship. I have spent my entire life in Baltimore County and sadly did not know too much about local history. All of that changed when I started my internship. I learned of the fascinating things that happened in the county in which I had been raised.

Writing about history had been fun for me throughout my college career and I had believed that would be my favorite part of my internship. However, I did little writing and more hands-on work. HSBC gave me the opportunity to help in the museums collections department, archiving an array of different objects. That had quickly become (and still is) my favorite part of working there. I enjoy seeing these objects that come from times past and ensuring they are in their proper home.

It was in this way that I discovered what I truly wished to do within the museum field. Before my internship I knew I wanted to work in a museum, I just had not been sure where. Through the Historical Society, I have gained a sense of direction in my future career.

Though there are many other opportunities other than just working with the archives. I volunteered at the Maryland State Fair and at the Fall Barn Concert. Both enabled me to meet people and talk to them about the Society in order to interest people in becoming a member.

The staff at the HSBC is wonderful to work with as well. They are always willing to help and answer any questions I may have had. Each person there is knowledgeable and helpful. I could not have asked for a better team to fulfill my internship hours.

Whether you know exactly what you want to do or are still testing the waters interning or volunteering at the Historical Society of Baltimore County is an excellent experience for anyone looking to work in the field.

The County Flag – Heavily Ridiculed, Still Adopted

Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off

The Baltimore County Flag – Heavily Ridiculed, Still Adopted
Adam Youssi
June 2015

(Special thanks to the Baltimore County Department of Planning, Preservation Services, for access to their files for sources used in this article.)

Early in 1962, the Catonsville Business Association hosted a contest sanctioned by the Baltimore County Executive, Christian H. Kahl, and the County Council. The contest’s goal was to solicit designs for the first official Baltimore County flag, because to date the county didn’t have one.

Official Flag of Baltimore County, Maryland, as designed by Parkville High School senior John McLemore, and adopted in 1962.

The Baltimore County public schools got involved too: “The contest, carried on over the past two months as a voluntary addition to the art curriculum within the school, was limited to tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders.” (Jeffersonian, April 27, 1962)

Ultimately, there were thirty submissions to become the first official Baltimore County flag. They were reviewed and the top three were ranked by the contest’s esteemed judges: William E. Prince of the Maryland Institute; Olives Jabes, supervisor of art, Baltimore County Schools; Wilbur H. Hunter of the Peale Museum; Dr. J. Fred Andreae of the Catonsville Business Association and Porter Hopkins of the Maryland Historical Society. (Ibid.)

The winning design was by a Parkville High School senior named John R. McLemore, who was awarded a $100 U.S. Savings Bond. (Ibid.)

County Council is not impressed: “…too Communistic,” “miserable… a monstrosity.”

David L. Maulsby, “County Flag is Unfurled, But It May Never See Pole,” The Sun, August 7, 1962.

Having entirely forgotten about the event, the councilmen “appeared shocked,” when the winning flag was unfurled. Apparently, in the midst of their election campaigns, the Executive and Councilmen had both overlooked the on-going contest; “…this project apparently was forgotten. Many of the councilmen also were seeking reelection.” (David L. Maulsby, “County Flag is Unfurled, But It May Never See Pole,” The Sun, August 7, 1962.)

Despite their absent mindedness, all except one of the councilmen publicly ridiculed the high school student’s winning design:

“If only those judges had been at the county council session yesterday and heard what each councilman, with the exception of Mr. Dignan, said right out loud. Referring to the red plow on a white background in the right corner, one cried: ‘That plow is too big. Besides, they are not using that kind much.’ At the bottom left a wheel cog, red on white, was denounced as ‘too Communistic looking.’

“‘It’s a helluva looking flag.’ cried a councilman.

“‘It’s miserable… a monstrosity,’ cried another.

“County Council Turns Down Design for Flag: Dignan Withdraws Bill In Face of Colleagues’ Opposition,” Jeffersonian, August 10, 1962.

“‘I think it’s a real pretty flag,’ said Mr. Dignan.

“‘I’m not going to vote to adopt such a thing,’ asserted another.

“Mr. Dignan, who realized his bill for approval was doomed if a vote were taken, declined to call for a vote… he would seek the support of the two absent councilmen….”

Perhaps notably, “…the councilmen expressed sympathy for the feelings of the Parkville High School student….” (Ibid.)

The Jeffersonian reported: “The County Council, without casting a single ballot, this week rejected a proposed official flag for Baltimore County. They did so with ridicule.” (“County Council Turns Down Design for Flag,” Jeffersonian, August 10, 1962.)

County Executive Forced to Adopt Flag by Executive Order

“In his statement, Mr. Kahl [County Executive] criticized what he called ‘unbelieveable and regrettable behavior on the part of certain members of the Council…. It is beyond my comprehension that public officials could and would ridicule the work of the talented young man who drew the winning design,’ he said.” (“Kahl Says He Will Adopt Flag By Executive Order,” Baltimore Sun, August 19, 1962.)

Parkville High School senior, John R. McLemore, is presented with $100 U.S. Savings Bond for designing the winning entry for the first official Baltimore County flag, 1962. (Courtesy Historical Society of Baltimore County)

The Jeffersonian reported County Executive Kahl’s comments:
“I feel the deepest embarassment for young McLemore for the unfair and unjust criticism and mortification he has been forced to endure and I feel embarrassment also for the council members who sounded off and by so doing publicly exhibited their own blatant disregard for many hours of concentrated effort put forth by so many to bring this important civic protection to fruition. I had originally considered adoption of the flag by the Executive Order I am now exercising under provisions of the County Charter, but thought the legislative arm of government would appreciate and seize upon the opportunity to participate and join with me in hailing the result of such a county-wide effort, one which was initiated by a Catonsville business group and which drew widespread support from students, teachers, parents and individual citizens in virtually every section of the county.”  (“County To Adopt Flag By Order of Executive: Kahl Hopes Council Will Reverse Stand At Next Session,” Jeffersonian, August 24, 1962.)

The County Council Comes Around

“… It finally adopted by resolution the official county flag, designed by John McLemore, a student at Parkville Senior High School, in a county-wide contest.  Christian H. Kahl, County Executive, previously adopted the flag by executive order after Council criticism of the flag.” (“County Map Scored Again,” Baltimore Sun, September 11, 1962.)

A Year Passes, and Few Fly the Banner

“Sir: Your news article of August 9 stated that the F.M. Stevenson Company has had few takers for Baltimore county’s official flag, formally adopted about a year ago….  The new Perry Hall branch of the Baltimore county public library will be dedicated on Sunday, September 8, and at that time the American, State and county flags will be presented to the library. This will be the first county flag placed in a Baltimore county library.  The county flag also was used for the first time by the Baltimore County Historical Society on its prize-winning float in the July 4 parade in Towson. Frank Hennessy made the following remark, “This is the only Baltimore County flag in the parade and we hope to see many of them next year.’ To my knowledge there are a few standards flying over the county now. One is beside the Agricultural Building, high on a hill at Texas, Md. This belongs to the Historical Society. There is also one flying over the Courthouse in Towson….” (Evelyn Q. White, “Flags, Here and There,” Baltimore Sun, August 21, 1963.)





Cherry Hill AUMP Church

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off

Deteriorating 19th c. Black Church & Cemetery Reborn as Small Museum & Meeting Place
Cherry Hill AUMP Church in Granite, MD
April 23, 2015

Cherry Hill AUMP Church, c. 2000, in the Community Times, photo. by Susan C. Ingram.

Today, we visited the results of a project almost fifteen years in the making – the historic Cherry Hill African United Methodist Protestant (AUMP) Church (BA-2399). It’s just one project among others being spearheaded by local African American historian and author, Louis Diggs.

The small “colored church,” as it was commonly called, is in Granite, MD, in western Baltimore County. It’s located on Offutt Road, one block east of an intersection with Granite Road.

The church was built in 1887 and served a black community from western Baltimore County in the wake of emancipation and the Civil War in the late 19th century.  Although the black community that pooled its funds and efforts to build the  one-room church dispersed for unknown reasons, their wooden structure surprisingly survived for decades after they left. But by the late 1990s and early 2000s it was on the verge of collapse due to neglect, disrepair and a lack of interest or funding.

Cherry Hill AUMP Church in Granite, MD, in 2012. Built in 1887.

According to Beverly Griffith, quoted in an article dated Feb. 23, 2000, “the black population around Granite in the late 1800s was one of the five largest black settlements in Baltimore County. Blacks worked in the quarries alongside Irish, German, Scottish and Italian immigrants.” (Community Times)

Numerous quarries dotted Baltimore County’s western region, and it wasn’t uncommon for emancipated African Americans to settle close to the same area where they were once enslaved, or to lease land from large property owners or former slave holders.

Louis Diggs stands in front of newly rehabilitated Cherry Hill AUMP Church in Granite, MD, April 23, 2015. Originally built 1887.

Images from the late 1990s reveal Mother Nature almost overtook the small wooden structure. In 2001, a Girl Scout troop engaged in cleanup efforts on the landscape around the structure. Finally, in 2009, $300,000 in grant funding was appropriated for renovations and restoration of the structure thanks to the efforts of Louis Diggs, Richard Lee, Lenwood Johnson, state Del. Adrienne A. Jones and the Friends of Historical Cherry Hill AUMP, Inc.

Arthur Hirsch described the condition of the building in the Baltimore Sun prior to the start of the project: “The roof buckles here and there, the foundation admits sunlight in places and dry vines cling to the wooden walls and ceiling. Graffiti scrawlers got inside…. The piano that once filled the tiny church with ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ lies broken on its back in a corner.”

Today, the project is nearing completion. The site is on the verge of becoming a small museum and meeting place to harbor the stories of enslaved and emancipated African Americans and their communities in Granite and Baltimore County. The old church now survives for the foreseeable future as a memorial to the rich history and heritage of 19th century African Americans in Baltimore County.

Local historian and author Louis Diggs & Historical Society of Baltimore County Director Adam Youssi inside Cherry Hill AUMP Church in Granite, MD. Photo. April 23, 2015.

But with each success comes new challenges.  Baltimore County’s champions of African American history and heritage are aging, and to date few appear willing to fill their shoes or to carry the torch.  To maintain and preserve sites like Cherry Hill operating budgets need to be developed, sustainable funding identified, new research performed, tours docented and essays written.



To get more involved with the Friends of Historical Cherry Hill AUMP, Inc. contact Betty Stewart at 443.854.8288 or

Cherry Hill AUMP Cornerstone.




When Inspiration Strikes

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off

When Inspiration Strikes…
By: Sally Riley
April 22, 2015

Octagon Building at Mount Saint Agnes

Octagon Building at Mount Saint Agnes
As published in Mary Costello, The Sisters of Mercy of Maryland: 1855-1930 (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1931).

I’m a graduate of Mount Saint Agnes Lower School and Mount Saint Agnes College [MSAC].  So, when a copy of the Architect’s History of the Octagon Building fell into my hands in May 2009, I wanted to share it with all my former classmates.  The Octagon Building was the oldest building on campus; but, the report, more than 80 pages long and full of deep architectural and engineering detail, is tedious and dull to read.  This posed a problem I was determined to resolve – how could I write it in a way that would be interesting?

A couple of weeks later, scanning the shelves in a second-hand bookstore on 25th Street in Baltimore, I spotted a garnet-colored plastic spine about 3.5 inches high.  I knew that spine… from about 40 years ago!  I eased it off the shelf and sure enough it was a copy of Keynotes, our student handbook from the 1960s!   And they were only asking $15 for it!   What’s a few dollars among friends?   So, I had the Architect’s History and a copy of Keynotes.  What to do with them?

In July, wandering through a large bookstore in Hunt Valley, the cover of a book caught my eye.  The women on the front of the book were dressed in the postulant’s and novice’s habits of the Sisters of Mercy.  The book, titled Catherine’s Sisters, by Irene Callahan, begged me to pick it up and see what it was about.  Almost 90 minutes later, I had given the cashier my credit card for a copy.  The Octagon Building had been the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy.

Now I was convinced that the Fates, Mother Nature and God were all conspiring to persuade me to write about the Mount.  Thereafter, I began a 6-year research expedition into the history of the campus in Mount Washington, Maryland.   Hours, eventually weeks, were consumed searching for newspaper articles and advertisements concerning the Mount Washington Female Seminary and Mount Saint Agnes.  Book shelves were scanned at the Historical Society of Baltimore County for anything about the school.  File folders of papers contributed to the MSAC Alumnae Archives were scanned for historical information.  Alumnae were contacted in search of old catalogs and yearbooks with pictures to help illustrate the history of bygone days.

Of Past and of Future Years: Mount Saint Agnes: A timeline History and Reflections

Sally Riley, ed., Of Past and of Future Years: Mount Saint Agnes: A timeline History and Reflections (2015)

After 6 years, I had 25+ pages of an annotated, illustrated timeline history of the Mount Saint Agnes Campus, from the early days of Mount Washington in 1810 to the present day.  Reflections of former alumnae and the history of the Alumnae Association were added.  This spring Of Past and of Future Years finally went to press.  The book will be distributed to alumnae at this year’s Annual Reunion.

You never know where inspiration will spring up, or when it will tap you on the shoulder.  But when it does, LISTEN!  It may just be the beginning of an adventure which will change the course of your life.  As I stated, part of my research led me to the Historical Society of Baltimore County to find an early (1850s) map of Mount Washington, then a part of Baltimore County.  I was so enchanted with HSBC I began volunteering here, and it’s been one of the great pleasures of my retirement.

HSBC Donates Books to The Book Thing of Baltimore

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off

HSBC’s Used Books Donated to The Book Thing of Baltimore, Inc.
April 2, 2015

The Book Thing of Baltimore, Inc.
3001 Vineyard Lane, Balt., MD 21218
Open Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Today, the society donated hundreds of remaining books from its used book sale to a good cause – The Book Thing of Baltimore, Inc.  The Book Thing of Baltimore gives away books, free of charge, to anyone desiring them – teachers, schools and the general public.

Despite offering a multi-week used book sale from our location in Cockeysville as a fundraiser and service to our members and friends, your generosity left us with hundreds of quality used and new books without space to store them.  Hence, we wanted to ensure they made their way into the hands of folks who could use them.  If you haven’t heard of The Book Thing, and in case you’re curious, here’s who they are…

The Baltimore Sun reported the following in 2002, “The Book Thing has operated on a shoestring for several years, yet manages to give away about 20,000 hardback and paperback books a week, Wattenberg said. The nonprofit enterprise circulates books donated by community members, city and county residents, universities, authors, publishers and the Smithsonian Institution, among others. ”

The New York Times reported the following in an article titled, “Where Even the Dime Novel Doesn’t Cost a Cent,”  “As rumpled and watchful as a pulp-noir antihero, Russell Wattenberg approached another day in the grip of his nonprofit obsession, looking into the night book bin outside his basement door to see what freebies had turned up. ”This big coffee-table book about mummies, plus an oddball cookbook about gourmet meals made from weeds, and other, more usual stuff,” Mr. Wattenberg said, adding these latest donations to the 250,000 volumes crowding all about him in one of this city’s grand treasure troves. ”I figure we’ll give away 10,000 books this weekend,” he said confidently, after putting out simple sidewalk sandwich-board signs announcing, ”Free Books.” Mr. Wattenberg is the founder and proprietor of the Book Thing, a makeshift, backdoor operation that has become an institution in the last six years for giving away hundreds of thousands of books on the sole condition that they are presented free to browsers and must stay that way. ”Not for Resale,” reads the rubber-stamped message he happily presses into each book he gives away, from Plato to Tom Clancy. ”THIS IS A FREE BOOK.”

People Magazine reported the following: “As a bartender in Baltimore, Russell Wattenberg heard plenty of woeful tales from his customers. Broken hearts, broken dreams…all he could do was listen. But one night in the spring of 1997, as he overheard a few public school teachers bemoaning their students’ lack of books, Wattenberg figured he could do more than commiserate. Taking $70 of his tip money, the 28-year-old Brooklyn native spent the following weekend going to yard sales, where he picked up 250 used books for the teachers. “You don’t find somebody like this every day,” says Andreas Spiliadis, one of the teachers Wattenberg helped. Within a few weeks, scavenging for literary finds became a weekly event for Wattenberg, who started buying books for anyone in need of a read, from impoverished children to cash-strapped adults. “I love seeing books go from somewhere they’re not wanted to somewhere they are,” he says. So much so that by November of 1999 Wattenberg, a bachelor, quit bartending to found the nonprofit Book Thing of Baltimore, which collects unwanted books from individuals and publishers and gives them to those in need. Supported by grants and donations, he now hands out about 9,500 volumes each week. “It’s social justice to him,” says Sally Scott, program officer for the Morris Goldseker Foundation, a Book Thing sponsor. ” [He believes] people deserve and need books, whatever their background.” Actually his motivation is less complex. Says Wattenberg: “It makes me feel good.”



Woman’s Club of Catonsville Collection

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off

Woman’s Club of Catonsville Collection

The society accepted and accessioned a collection consisting primarily of documentary materials related to the operations of the Woman’s Club of Catonsville (WCC). The club operated from 1932 to 2012. At the height of its popularity the club had over 300 members and provided creative, philanthropic and civic opportunities to Catonsville women.

The WCC’s activities and successes were numerous.  The WCC’s efforts and planning were instrumental in Catonsville’s urban revival efforts of both the 1960s and today.  In the 1950s and ‘60s the WCC partnered with community groups to start a library, an arts festival and senior citizen center in Catonsville. In 1959, the WCC constructed an impressive clubhouse at 10 St. Timothy Lane from proceeds of The Swap Shop thrift store, once located on Frederick Road.  The WCC recently donated the same building to the Catonsville Community Foundation in 2013, immediately following the club’s 2012 dissolution.

We welcome the prospect of students making use of these records for research. The collection was extensively inventoried by University of Maryland, College Park, history graduate student Tyler S. Stump.  The material could prove extremely valuable to planners or scholars interested in urban revival, women’s history locally or nationally, and the history of Catonsville.

Click here for a WBAL news segment on the WCC and their dissolution.


Woodlawn Replaced Powhatan Mill & Town

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off

Woodlawn Replaced Powhatan Mill & Town
By: Martha Hendrickson
March 31, 2015

Today we know Woodlawn as a community, the national headquarters of the Social Security Administration and the previous location of the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. But did you know that before 1902 there was no Woodlawn, but a mill and mill town called Powhatan?

Powhatan Mill c. 1889. Now Woodlawn, MD. Baltimore County Public Library file #805-103 #1 Textile Mill

Powhatan Mill c. 1889
Courtesy Baltimore County Public Library
File #805-103 #1

From an original investment by John and E. Levering, the company of Baltimore Manufacturing at the Powhatan Cotton Works built a new mill on the Gwynn’s Falls.  The water driven mill began operations in 1811 and by 1813 it had 4,000 spindles in operation. In 1815 it was incorporated and called Powhatan Mfg. Co.  The 1820 census indicated that there were 5,300 spindles, 45 power looms, 15 women, and 58 boys and girls in spinning plus 23 girls on power looms. Shortly after the Powhatan mill was established another mill was built nearby upstream called the Pocahantas.  Over the years a mill town grew up around Powhatan and Pocahontas Mills.  By 1881 the population was 300 and consisted of 63 houses, a general store, a post office, a school, and a Methodist  Episcopal Church. The Powhatan Lodge no 23, Independent order of Asbestos Grange no. 172., and Patrons of Husbandry were organizations active in the Powhatan vicinity.

It is unknown why the mill was named after the Native Americans made famous by Pocahontas and the early English settlers in Virginia; according to the authors of Woodlawn, Franklintown and Hebbville, Three Communities, Two Centuries, there is no conclusive evidence of a permanent settlement of Native Americans in the area.  It is more likely that it may have been part of a disputed zone between the Algonquian Nation (which included Powhatans) and the Susquehannocks  in the north; there have been various Native American artifacts found by residents over the years.

Robert Taylor’s Map of the City and County of Baltimore, Maryland, From Actual Surveys (1857), shows “Powhatan Cotton Duck Manufactories,” where Woodlawn cemetery now is.

The mill was relatively successful.  It changed ownership over the years and produced cotton duck important for the use in sails, mail bags and tents important from  the 1840s to 1890’s. However, like many small mills in Maryland, it struggled with fires. The fire of Dec 7, 1895 was the final death toll for the Powhatan mill.  It burned down completely, and was never rebuilt. The town buildings were not affected by the fire, but inhabitants gradually moved away since the Pocahontas Mill had already been abandoned. The property was sold, and in 1902, the Woodlawn Cemetery Company was formed as part of a need to provide larger public cemeteries.

Most of the town was razed to make way for the cemetery with several exceptions: the post office, a house, and the Powhatan Methodist Episcopal Church were moved across the river. In the winter of 1902 the frozen ice of the dammed river provided the means to move the Methodist church.  The church was moved to 2119 Gwynn Oak Ave near to what we now know as downtown Woodlawn; the intersection of Windsor Mill and Gwynn Oak Aves. In 1930, the Powhatan Church congregation merged with St Luke’s Methodist Church congregation and became St Luke’s Methodist Episcopal Church.  A new chapel was built in 1930 and the old Powhatan church building was moved behind the new one and used as a social hall and classrooms. It is still in used today and is on the Maryland Register of Historic Places (BA-2104).

Last remaining structure from Powhatan Mills & Town resides within Woodlawn cemetery.
Photograph courtesy Martha Hendrickson.

One remaining building of Powhatan is visible today across the lake from the duck feeding area as a stone structure used by the Woodlawn cemetery company for storage. Other evidence of the town is the old Powhatan cemetery which is in  the Wesley Section of Woodlawn Cemetery. The graves are identifiable as  burials before 1904. (Our HSBC cemetery transcription files list the individual graves and shows the location of the section.)

In 1904 the cemetery company succeeded in changing the name of the town to Woodlawn.  And so the entire area became known as Woodlawn thus erasing Powhatan from the map.  – M. Hendrickson

Sources: Woodlawn History Committee, Woodlawn, Franklintown and Hebbville, Three Communities, Two Centuries (Woodlawn Rec. & Parks Council, 1977); John McGrain, Molinography of Maryland, Mills of Baltimore County, City and neighboring Counties (2007); Cemetery Transcription files at HSBC.