The accidental town

Posted by | February 1, 2012

There is a town in Maryland’s westernmost county of Garrett that got its name from a happy accident. In 1750, Maryland settler George Deakins was granted 600 acres of land as a payment of a debt from England’s King George II. Deakins sent out two corps of engineers, each without knowledge of the other, to survey the best land in this area. When the two crews presented their findings, to their surprise and to Mr. Deakins’ satisfaction, they had both marked the same oak tree as their starting and returning points. Doubly vindicated that this land was prime, Mr. Deakins had it patented “The Accident Tract.”

The town was eventually settled by the Dranes. James Drane moved to the area in 1803 from Prince George’s County, which was part of the Maryland tobacco belt. Apparently Drane intended to turn his farm into a tobacco plantation. However, the climate of Garrett County proved unsuitable for growing tobacco, and he turned to normal farm crops.

The Dranes lived in a log cabin built by James’ brother-in-law William LaMar in 1797. LaMar owned Flowery Vale, a 900 acre tract of land. Half a century later, most of the town of Accident was built on that land; the Accident tract was incorporated into the Flowery Vale tract. James Drane added an addition to the cabin shortly after he arrived, giving the building a total of six rooms; three upstairs and three down.

Although it wasn’t the first log cabin in Garrett County, by the mid-1900’s the Drane House had been occupied by successive families for over 150 years. The last owners of the house were members of the Heinrick Richter family who purchased it in 1856. They leased it to a number of people; the last family left in 1952.

From the early 1950s, Mrs. Mary Miller Strauss, an Accident native who taught in the elementary schools of the Garrett County public school system for 33 years, took an active lead in the restoration of the Drane House. She ultimately made possible the placement of the Drane house on the National Registry of Historical Homes. The Accident Cultural and Historic Society was formed in 1987, and one of its main projects was the restoration of the Drane house. Restoration of the house, now owned by the town, began in 1992.

Accident MDPhoto caption reads: The Richter Tannery is located where the smoke is spewing from the stack. It was built in 1872. The Drane House is located to the right of the picture. (It cannot be seen.)

This tannery in Accident MD was operated by John Richter and later his son Adam for 56 years. Hides were tanned by the vegetable tannin method, using tannin obtained from the ground rock oak bark, furnished to the plant before World War I for four dollars and fifty cents a cord. It was put out of business in 1928 by the development of large tanneries.

sources: Western Maryland Regional Library

Accident+MD appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history Drane+House Garrett+County+MD Richter+Tannery

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