When it came to ice skating, Emmitsburg was tops

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 21, 2016

Emmitsburg [MD] was a kid’s haven in the winter. With hills and ponds a many, it boasted some of the best sledding and ice skating around. While almost forgotten today, in younger days places like Bunker Hill, Havilah, and Popular Hill were names that every child knew.

At any given time, thirty to forty sleds raced down these prime sledding spots. But if it was time on the sled one was looking for, then Irish Town Road, as it was affectionately called back then, was the place to be. Starting at the top of the hill near Saint Joseph’s, one could slide clear down to the ‘Wharf’ at Flat Run Creek.

When it came to skating, Emmitsburg was tops. Skating was so good, in fact, that kids in Thurmont would often be seen crying and even cursing their parents for not having the foresight to settle in Emmitsburg. By far, the best skating was at Toms Creek’s Bridge.

Emmitsburg MD, 1914 snow stormOld Emmitsburg Road after winter storm of 1914.

A pond, almost a quarter of a mile long, formed behind the old Maxell mill race dam, and offered a smooth surface that twisted and turned through Tom’s Creek Valley. Whether your goal was to skate fast or to skim slowly hand-in-hand with the one you loved, Tom’s Creek offered it all.

Other prime skating destinations included Flat Run, whose thick tree screen provided protection from biting winter winds, and the Old Mount St. Mary’s Pond, drained long ago for a new student hall. But it was Fraily’s Pond that offered Toms Creek’s its greatest competition.

Located just to the west of town, 200 yards south of the Dough Boy’s statue, it was a popular spot for skaters who had grown too old to skate with their parents. Fraily’s Pond was laced with small caves around its perimeter, in which fires would burn all night. On the ice, or around the fires, those who would soon face the horror of terrible wars frolicked with friends and loved ones into the wee hours of the morning.

Whether you skated, sledded, or simply played cards, a winter storm offered a chance for everyone to stop and take notice of the good things in one’s life. But before winter play could begin, chores had to be attended to.

If you lived on a farm, milking was always the first order of business for girls. For boys, it was the stocking of firewood and coal, cleaning ashes from the stoves and burners, and drawing water for kettles that simmered all day, and provided the only warm water in many houses.

Winter storm breakfasts were reasons for feasts, too, often consisting of ‘pudding’ and corn cakes, pastries and other sweet treats. Pudding of course being a ghastly concoction of dead everything boiled down to pure artery choking lard. But boy did it taste good!

For those lucky enough to have a storm hit on their mother’s shopping day, a trip to town on a sled was the order of the day. Though the long walk back seemed a lot longer then the ride in, the sight of the town asleep in the snow provided memories that lasted lifetimes.

Snows were much deeper back then. Many tales are told of fences disappearing for months at a time – fences that still dot the countryside, viewable to all who dare to doubt. Snows were so frequent and heavy that it was often possible to step over fences that were otherwise insurmountable.

Emmitsburg MD, 1916 snow stormClearing Emmitsburg Railroad tracks after snow storm of 1916. Houses in background are the guest house for St. Joseph’s College and St. Josephs station on Emmitsburg railroad.

Winter storms of course meant money for enterprising kids. Work clearing driveways and walkways could be readily found at ten cents an hour. While cars were on their way to predominance, heavy snows often forced them to yield their role once again to horses. Untroubled by the cold, icy roads, or deep drifts, teams broke from the fields and pulled sleighs of gleeful children. Returning at dusk with their cargo full of joy, they were rewarded for their service with bran mashes and an hour long brushing.

As evening descended, all scattered toward home and the hot meals that waited by fires that would warm. Evenings were full of games of all sorts – Chinese checkers, gin rummy and games of that sort. But no snowy night was complete without the popping of corn. On really snowy nights, taffy pulling was performed.

Heated bedrooms were a luxury that few could afford and electric blankets were yet to be born. The fire did beckon as bedtime approached. The goal, need I say, was to suck up enough heat, in hopes of staying warm through the cold night to come. The one beauty of winter was it made friends of us all. It was impossible to be mad at one’s brother or sister, for you depended on them for warmth as you laid back to back.

“Reflections on Emmitsburg Winters of Old,” by Michael Hillman, Emmitsburg Area Historical Society
online at www.emmitsburg.net/archive_list/articles/history/stories/winters_of_old.htm

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John Hardy attributed his downfall to whiskey

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 20, 2016

Wheeling Daily Register
January 20, 1894

All Were Murderers

Four Men Suffer the Extreme Penalty for Their Crimes

John Hardy Hanged at Welch, McDowell County, for Killing Thomas Drews Last Spring…

Special Telegram to the Register.

WILD E, W. VA., January 19. - “John Hardy, for killing Thomas Drews, both colored, was hung at 2:09 p. m. to-day. Three thousand people witnessed his death. His neck was broken and he died in 17-1/2 minutes. He exhibited great nerve, attributed his downfall to whiskey, and said he had made peace with God. His body was cut down at 2:39, placed in a coffin, and given to the proper parties for interment. He was baptised in the river this morning.

John Hardy on hanging gallows, Welch WVTen drunken and disorderly persons among the spectators were promptly arrested and jailed. Good order was preserved. Hardy killed Drews near Eckman last spring in a disagreement over a game of craps.


of the same woman, and the latter proving the more favored lover, incurred Hardy’s envy, who seized the pretext of falling out in the game to work vengeance on Drews, who had shown himself equally expert in dice as in love, having won money from Hardy. Hardy drew his pistol, remarking he would kill him unless he refunded the money. Drews paid back part of the money, when Hardy shot, killing him. Hardy was found guilty at the October term.”


“While awaiting execution in jail,” says folklorist Alan Lomax in The Folk Songs of North America, “he is said to have composed this ballad, which he later sang on the scaffold. His ballad appears to have been based upon certain formulae stanzas from the Anglo-Saxon ballad stock.”

Lyrics, as reported by Lomax:

John Hardy was a brave little man,
He carried two guns ev’ry day.
Killed him a man in the West Virginia land,
Oughta seen poor Johnny gettin’ away, Lord, Lord,
Oughta seen poor Johnny gettin’ away.

John Hardy was standin’ at the barroom door,
He didn’t have a hand in the game,
Up stepped his woman and threw down fifty cents,
Says, “Deal my man in the game, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy lost that fifty cents,
It was all he had in the game,
He drew the forty-four that he carried by his side
Blowed out that poor Negro’s brains, Lord, Lord….

John Hardy had ten miles to go,
And half of that he run,
He run till he come to the broad river bank,
He fell to his breast and he swum, Lord, Lord….

He swum till he came to his mother’s house,
“My boy, what have you done?”
“I’ve killed a man in the West Virginia Land,
And I know that I have to be hung, Lord, Lord….”

He asked his mother for a fifty-cent piece,
“My son, I have no change.”
“Then hand me down my old forty-four
And I’ll blow out my agurvatin’ [sic] brains, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy was lyin’ on the broad river bank,
As drunk as a man could be;
Up stepped the police and took him by the hand,
Sayin’ “Johnny, come and go with me, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy had a pretty little girl,
The dress she wore was blue.
She come a-skippin’ through the old jail hall
Sayin’, “Poppy, I’ll be true to you, Lord, Lord….”

John Hardy had another little girl,
The dress that she wore was red,
She came a-skippin’ through the old jail hall
Sayin’ “Poppy, I’d rather be dead, Lord, Lord….”

They took John Hardy to the hangin’ ground,
They hung him there to die.
The very last words that poor boy said,
“My forty gun never told a lie, Lord, Lord….”

sources: www.wvculture.org/history/crime/hardyjohn02.html


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Some of our adventures in the Tennessee Valley

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 19, 2016

“The first of a series of articles this, through which the chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority will keep Survey Graphic readers abreast of the most arresting single project in America today. As a base, take the long stalemate at Muscle Shoals; take times flat with business breakdown and unemployment; take a region deep-seated with neglect. Turn it all right-side up as a terrain of opportunity and start long run planning in the midst of our emergency moves.

“Reservoirs built now to impound rivers will have piled with silt in the course of years—unless dam-building is paralleled with a height against soil erosion in the highlands. Power plants, rimmed with mills and factories, will suck people into congested centers that ten years from now may duplicate the idle machines and unemployment of other industrial districts—unless a new way of life can be framed in this watershed. These are only two of the exciting alternatives staked out by the TVA.
Arthur E. Morgan, TVA chairman
“AS a small boy, it was my duty each evening to carry in the firewood and to fill the wood-box by the kitchen stove. In order to avoid monotony, I varied the task by different ways of piling the wood. Sometimes it would be in neat horizontal layers; sometimes on end; sometimes the sticks would be matched as to size and length.

“Let me do something of the sort in this series of articles through which I hope to share some of our adventures in the Tennessee Valley. They will be in the nature of an informal log of the work in process; less of a log, however, in another sense, than armfuls of situations, encounters, possibilities, plans and developments. The instalments will be written as we go along, but are less likely to stick to the calendar than to follow the bench-marks of our planning—to employ a term we use in civil engineering when we mark and record the elevation of points for future reference. I shall draw on letters, memoranda, notes of staff meetings, reports and addresses.

“In Antioch Notes, I was able to share periodically with faculty, students, graduates and friends of the college the stream of impulse and discovery that have gone into our educational experiment there, so that we had the reinforcement of their understanding and criticism. It is in much the same spirit that I shall try to put before one group of Americans outside the Valley the running story of what is going forward, and invite the interest of your readers.

“WHEN the President proposed the organization of the Tennessee Valley Authority his action was not in response to a happy thought without relation to his program as a whole. Rather, he saw it as a normal and integral part of that program. Some of the policies he proposed must of necessity be worked out on a national scale, such as the banking system and the NRA. There are others which can best be dealt with on a smaller scale before giving them national application, or which have regional variations and can best have regional solutions …”

Excerpt from
Strength in the Hills
by Arthur E. Morgan
Chairman, Tennessee Valley Authority
Survey Graphics, January 1934

Established in 1921 as a companion to the social work journal The Survey, Survey Graphic targeted a mainstream audience interested in social and cultural issues. In the 1930s, Survey Graphic provided a public forum for discussions about unemployment, labor unrest, race relations, healthcare, and technological change. According to the magazine’s editor, Paul Kellogg, Survey Graphic relied on “social team play,” bringing together writers from different fields and with different viewpoints to discuss issues that Americans were concerned about, but mainstream media publications seldom discussed.

Full article at: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma01/davis/survey/articles/government/gov_jan34_1.html

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The Mad Gasser of Botetourt County, part 2

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 18, 2016

(…continued from yesterday)

The “Anesthetic Prowler” or “The Phantom Anesthetist,” he was supposedly a dark, mysterious figure responsible for dozens of Virginia victims falling ill from mysterious gasses flooding their homes. Whole families reported sudden attacks of choking, dizziness, headaches and various respiratory ailments.

However, lacking tangible evidence of a culprit or culprits, the press began to express suspicion. The first case to generate skepticism occurred in Fincastle on the night of February 24, 1934, when Ms. Mamie Brown dashed from her residence screaming that she had been gassed. A crowd quickly formed and was led to her house by C.E. Williamson, constable of the local jail, who determined that someone had “tossed a common fly killing fluid into the kitchen–apparently as a joke.”

At about 9 PM on the 25th, a watchdog at the Chester Snyder farm near Cloverdale began barking. Prepared for the gasser, Snyder immediately leaped out of bed, grabbed a shotgun and fired at what he perceived to be the outline of a man walking in a nearby field. The incident may have been unrelated to the gasser, and although it was reported as a possible attack, on January 28th, a journalist jokingly interviewed Mr. Snyder’s dog. “He the dog was friendly and apparently willing to ‘make copy,’ but when he was asked whether a man he detected prowling…was the ‘gas’ man, the pup merely pointed his ears….and barked a single bark.”

mad gasser of Botetourt County By January 30, some citizens expressed the view that “the whole gassing case is a mere hoax, or figment of imagination of reported victims.” A day later, a Dr. Driver, while believing in the reality of the gasser, told a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors that not all cases appeared to be genuine gassings. He also disclosed that at one of the allegedly gassed homes the offending fumes were traced to a coal stove. Sheriff L.T. Mundy typified the mood by declaring himself a Doubting Thomas unless he got gassed himself.

On February 3, 1934, the last gasser case reported in Botetourt County took place at the Troutville home of Mr. A.P. Scaggs; seven persons, along with the family dog, became ill. As usual, the attack occurred between 8 and 9 PM. A doctor was summoned to treat the victims, all of whom, dog included, recovered fully. While there were subsequent claims of gassings in Botetourt County, none involved symptoms or the detection of gas. Instead the gasser appeared to move to nearby Roanoke County that same day, when three persons were sickened by fumes at the Hamilton residence.

The gasser next struck in a residential section of Roanoke at about 8 PM on Wednesday, February 7, as Mrs. A.H. Milan of Rorer Avenue was in her living room with her 12-year-old daughter when a “funny” smell was noticed issuing from the door. Several minutes later, the daughter experienced dizziness.

However, Mrs. Milan had felt ill for several days before the attack. Although her daughter felt no aftereffects, as a precaution Mrs. Milan spent the night in the hospital. The following night during a two-hour period the Roanoke police received reports of five additional attacks, only to be frustrated by a complete lack of clues. The first call was received at 8:55 PM, when an employee of the city health department and three family members detected a strange smell in their house and briefly felt faint. Most of the remainder of the calls consisted of reports of residents smelling fumes but not becoming sick.

Roanoke County gassings peaked on the night of February 9th with seven separate reports. This marked a major turning point in the case when the investigating police noted that “In no instance did the officers detect any nauseating fumes, and no occupants of any of the homes were affected.” In most instances, a mundane source of the odors was readily detected by the police. In one case, three detectives rushed to a home, only to implicate coal fumes from a stove as the cause. At another residence, gasser fumes were believed to have emanated from a passing car.

A further revelation eroded public confidence in the gasser’s existence. On the night of February 11th, five more gassings were reported, but police announced a possible break in the case: A bottle had been used to scoop up a sweet-smelling, oily liquid found in the snow near the scene of a suspected attack at a home in Botetourt county, the first incident reported there in over a week.

On February 12th, a local chemist told police that the mystery liquid was a mixture of substances that were harmless to humans and most likely an insecticide “similar to that of fly exterminators used in practically every household.” Reported gassings ceased entirely in both counties after the night of February 11, 1934.

In all, Roanoke police had received 19 calls, the last of which occurred when several officers responded to a gassing that was traced to burning rubber, prompting them to suggest that the “gas man” was a “product of overwrought imaginations.” This conclusion was supported by an editorial in the Roanoke Times proclaiming: “Roanoke Has No Gasser.”

The editorial stated: “This newspaper has so believed in the gasser’s nonexistence from the first, but it seemed best to permit the police to go ahead and investigate without whatever handicap they might be under were cold water to be thrown on their search in advance.”

The mad gasser episode of Botetourt County had finally played itself out.

Sure, lots of people had gotten sick, and dozens more had reported seeing dark, mysterious figures up to hideous no good stalking the night. The authorities had been run ragged with reports, but there had been no leads, nothing solid; nothing but suggestion, victims suffering from anxiety and fear, and the bizarre power of mass hysteria.

sources: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmske/is_/ai_n28753705
Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns, and Head-hunting Panics, by Robert E. Bartholomew, McFarland, 2001

2 Responses

  • drew says:

    i think that is chemistry students operation in that area, they must hidden in blue ridge mts beacuse they attack 6 towns ,they must have car and one girl been with them beacuse always see woman shoes on scene. police did not catch him beacuse fast reaction and someone wait mad gasser with car maybe 1 miles off scene attack of houses, i think that capsule been used, or nitromethan i think that mineral oil and arsen together throw in houses. that county so big no too much lights on street in the night and police no catch mad gasser 4 or 5 persons is mad gasser virginia who knows where they come from now law still on books but that people is now dead 1933 they have 30 years old

  • drew says:

    who knows what they think paralize or kill they now that bottetourt county have not too many cars or telephone lines so they must came from dc

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The Mad Gasser of Botetourt County, part 1

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 15, 2016

Whether or not gas will be employed in future wars is a matter of conjecture, but the effect is so deadly to the unprepared that we can never afford to neglect the question.

General John Pershing, 1919

At 10 PM on December 22, 1933, Mrs. Cal Huffman detected a gassy odor in her Fincastle, VA home, and became nauseated. Despite the incident, she retired to bed while her husband remained awake in hopes of catching the perpetrator, having assumed that their house had been broken into. About 30 minutes later the smell of gas permeated the house; Mr. Huffman telephoned the police. Officer O.D. Lemon arrived about midnight, but found nothing out of the ordinary.

Immediately following Officer Lemon’s departure at one in the morning, a third attack reportedly took place. This time, all of the seven or eight family members experienced choking fumes that made them temporarily ill. The Huffman’s 20-year-old daughter Alice fainted. When nearby Troutville physician S.F. Driver arrived on the scene, he judged Alice so gravely ill that he administered artificial respiration to resuscitate her.

In a few hours, she appeared to be completely recovered, but later she relapsed and was described as “seriously ill.” After this third attack, Mr. Huffman and another person inside the house thought they might have seen a man running away. The only clues found at the scene were a woman’s high heeled shoe imprint near the window where the gas was believed to have entered the house, and a second print under a porch where it was thought the gasser may have hidden.

mad gasser of Botetourt CountyThe Roanoke Times reported GAS ATTACKS ON HOMES CONTINUE on December 27, adding a new case involving Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Hall of Cloverdale. The couple returned home from church about 9 PM; within five minutes they detected sickening fumes that left a sweet taste in their mouths. Symptoms included nausea, smarting eyes, and weakness. The next evening, a relative thought he saw a figure with a flashlight near a side window of the Hall residence.

The gasser struck again on Wednesday the 27th at Troutville as welder A.L. Kelly reported that he was attacked in his residence about 10 PM while in an upstairs room. Curiously, no one else in the house was affected. This was followed by a temporary cessation of reported incidents and their press coverage. A few days after the most recent episode, the press expressed the view that the gasser “has concluded to call a halt to the series of mysterious attacks.”

The gas attacks resumed on January 11. At about 10 PM, one Mrs. Moore, of Howell’s Mill, reported hearing muffled voices in the yard following a rustling shade at a window that had been broken for some time. Because the room immediately smelled of gas, “Mrs. Moore grabbed her baby and ran out to give the alarm, but not until experiencing a marked feeling of numbness.”

The couple who owned the house and lived upstairs were unaffected by the gas; in fact, they were unaware of the incident until they heard Mrs. Moore’s cries. The owner of the house, Homer Hylton, stood guard the remainder of the night, fearing another attack. Later, it was revealed that on or about the same night the home of G.D. Kinzie of Troutville was gassed by what a physician concluded was a potentially lethal chlorine gas. “Nocturnal dispensers of a nauseating and benumbing gas went abroad in Botetourt County again last night,” bleated The Roanoke Times the following day.

On Tuesday night, January 16, a Mr. F.B. Duval reported to the police that, upon arriving at his home near Bonsack at about 11:30, he learned that his family had been gassed. On his way to meet the police, he caught a fleeting glimpse of a man he assumed to be the perpetrator, running toward a nearby car. On Friday evening, January 19th, at 7:30 PM, a Mrs. Campbell was sitting near a window at her Carvin’s Cove house when she noticed the curtains flutter, immediately followed by a strange odor, whereupon she felt ill.

Two nights later, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Crawford returned to their house in Colon at about 9 PM after visiting with friends, when Mrs. Crawford, while lighting a lamp, was overcome by fumes.

By Tuesday, January 23rd, the fear of being the gasser’s next victim had reached such proportions that families living in remote areas of the county were sleeping with neighbors and vigilante farmers were “reported patrolling roads at late hours of the night or sitting on their doorsteps guns in their hands.” One police officer expressed concern that “some innocent person passing a house or calling upon a neighbor may be wounded or killed through nervousness” by persons fearing that they were next on the gasser’s list.

On the morning of the 24th, Mrs. R.H. Harteel of Pleasantdale returned home at about 4:30 after sleeping with a neighbor to find that the house had been gassed. During the day of the 24th, police inadvertently heightened tension after a misunderstanding resulted in reporting three separate attacks on homes in the vicinity of Carvin’s Cove two nights earlier.

In actuality, there had been only a single report at the home of a man named Reedy. Immediately upon detecting the odor, one of his sons grabbed a shotgun, ran outside, and fired at what appeared to be a man running across a field. The escalating number of reports prompted members of the Virginia State Assembly to pass a bill calling for a maximum prison term of 10 years for anyone convicted of releasing noxious gasses in public or private places. In the event that the incident caused injury, the gasser would be “deemed guilty of malicious wounding and punished with from between one and 20 years in the penitentiary in the discretion of the court.”

On the evening of Sunday, January 28th, five people at the Ed Stanley residence near Colon Siding were overcome by noxious fumes. While none of the victims lost consciousness, a Mrs. Weddle had to be carried from the house suffering from extreme nausea. When one of the victims, Frank Guy, managed to reach fresh air, he saw what appeared to be four men running near the woods, grabbed a shotgun and fired. The next day the county Board of Supervisors voted to offer a $500 reward for the apprehension and conviction of the culprit or culprits.

(stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow…)

sources: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmske/is_/ai_n28753705
Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns, and Head-hunting Panics, by Robert E. Bartholomew, McFarland, 2001

2 Responses

  • drew says:

    i dont now what they think kill someone or paralize but they now that bottetourt county has not yet too much telephone lines or too many cars ithink that been 4 or 5 people they must now about chemistry they not connected with mattoon but maybe that gassers is from virginia maybe from washington

  • drew says:

    i dont now what they think kill someone or paralize but they now that bottetourt county has not yet too much telephone lines or too many cars ithink that been 4 or 5 people they must now about chemistry they not connected with mattoon mad gassers came from dc

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