There is no reason why Tonoloway Ridge should not be known as an Apple Section

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 4, 2015

“Hancock and its surrounding area during the main span of the 20th century was one of the largest fruit producers in the nation,” begins the Maryland Historical Marker along West Main Street in that same town. “In 1886 Edmund Pendleton Cohill (1855-1943) began the cultivation of fruit crops. Over the years his planted acreage increased, and Cohill formed the Tonoloway Orchard Company. Other company and family names followed…”

Nowhere does the marker mention Henry E. Van Deman, and that’s a shame, for without him Cohill’s Tonoloway Orchard may not have risen to the dominant market position it ultimately achieved.

Henry E. Van Deman was born in Concord, OH in 1846 with very nearly an apple in each hand; both his father and grandfather were orchardists. Like many farm boys of his era, he never attended college, spending his young manhood instead fighting with the 1st Ohio in Civil War between 1863-65.

After the war he studied for a time with one Dr. J.A. Warder of Ohio, an ‘old-time pomologist.’ He moved to Benzonia, MI, where he helped his brother John develop orchards for several years, then on to Allen County, KS in 1871, where he took up a homestead claim.

In 1876 Van Deman became a member of the Kansas State Horticultural Society, which in turn brought him to the attention of the Kansas Agricultural College. He was invited to teach there in short order, and rose to become chairman of the college from 1878-80. He was during this same period gaining national recognition for his regular contributions to “Gardener’s Monthly.”

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, U.S. farmers were expanding fruit orchard programs in response to growing markets. At the same time, horticulturists from the USDA and agricultural colleges were bringing new varieties to the United States from foreign expeditions, and developing experimental tracts for these fruits. In response to this increased interest and activity, the USDA established the Division of Pomology in 1886.

The USDA recruited Henry E. Van Deman, and brought him from Kansas to Washington, DC as the division’s chief pomologist.

Van Deman’s “Report of the Pomologist” in the ‘Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the year 1886’ directly addressed a crucial aspect of the department’s diversification program — namely, the production of fruits for export. Apples and citrus fruits were seen as particularly significant.

USDA Pomological Watercolor CollectionThe introduction of new apple varieties required exact representations of the fruit so that plant breeders could accurately document and disseminate their research results. Since the use of scientific photography was not widespread in the late 19th Century, USDA commissioned artists to create watercolor illustrations of newly introduced cultivars.

Many of the watercolors were used for lithographic reproductions in USDA publications, such as the Report of the Pomologist and the Yearbook of Agriculture. From USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection; Malus domestica “Bloomfield”; Specimen No.: 10252; Grower’s State: Maryland ; USDA Artist: Deborah Griscom Passmore; Watercolor Date: 9/28/1895

Edmund Pendleton Cohill was born in Elmira, NY when Henry E. Van Deman was nine years old. In 1861 young Edmund’s mother Mary died, and he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Y. Mapes, in Great Bend, PA. He attended public schools until he was seventeen years old, when he went to Harrisburg to become a clerk in the office of T. T. Wierman, chief engineer of the Pennsylvania Canal Company.

Here he remained two years, making his home with Mr. Wierman.
While in the city he attended night school, and took a course in short hand, telegraphy and bookkeeping. In 1874, upon graduation from Harrisburg Commercial College, he accepted the position of private secretary to George M. Ball, general manager of the Empire Transportation Company, in Williamsport, Pa.

In 1875 Empire sent Cohill to Baltimore as cashier, a position he held for one year. During his time in Baltimore he met Mary Ellen Rinehart of Hancock, MD. The two married, in Hancock, on October 23, 1876, and Cohill resettled there for the remainder of his life.

Edmund  Pendleton CohillEdmund Pendleton Cohill.

Cohill partnered with his father-in-law Samuel Rinehart in the mercantile business and manufacture of sumac. Rinehart retired in 1880, leaving Cohill sole owner of the business. In I886, he began commercially cultivating apples.

Van Deman, in the meantime, resigned from the USDA in 1893, to enter the private market. He continued to publish horticultural editorial work, and got involved as an investor and in an advisory capacity with large fruit and nut plantations in Louisiana, Kansas, and Tennessee.

He also served as a judge of exhibitions of nuts and fruit in practically every state in the Union and at all the national expositions.

By 1901 E.P. Cohill was starting to be noticed nationally as a rising star in pomology circles. Guy L. Stewart, Asst. Industrial Agent, B&O R.R., wrote an article in the Maryland Horticultural Society Report of that year titled “Apples in Western Maryland: Their Present Status and Future Prospects,” in which he applauds Cohill’s leadership in orchardry: “The people of this section have only begun to see that their money lays in apples. Mr. EP Cohill, a merchant and himself an owner of a young orchard, has talked and talked to the people to get them interested in apple culture.

“He has illustrated and set the example by planting one hundred trees each year for the past five years, but is now convinced that this is too slow and will plant more extensively. He shipped from Hancock this season nine carloads, 2600 barrels. As example of what can be done Mr. Cohill says that eight fifteen year old trees yielded $1.90 per barrel or $575 per acre of forty trees.”

Stewart concludes that there’s a prime orchardry business opportunity to be had for those who would see it: “A soil so fine and mellow, with a growth of blue grass so heavy as to be difficult to work through, with south eastern exposure, natural air and water drainage, facilities for market, being half way between Pittsburg and New York, and with intermediate points, good wagon roads for hauling and with a standard market variety thoroughly tested, there is no reason why this Tonoloway Ridge should not be known as an apple section.”

Section of Tonoloway Orchard, Hancock, MDSection of Tonoloway Orchard, Hancock, MD.

Van Deman, who still lived in Washington DC, probably had plenty of contacts in the Maryland Horticultural Society from his years at USDA, and even if he didn’t read this article, he most certainly had heard about the Tonoloway Ridge and its orchardry potential. Indeed, less than a year after the Maryland Horticultural Society article by Stewart appeared, a July 29, 1902 NY Times article reported:

“The Tonoloway Orchard Company was incorporated today by a number of Government pomologists, and work will begin immediately planting an orchard of 800 acres in Winter apples along Tonoloway Ridge, near Hancock, MD. H.E. Vandemen, who established the department of pomology of the United States Agricultural Department, is President of the company.” No mention in that article, interestingly, of E.P. Cohill, who ran Tonoloway on a day-to-day basis from the start.

Cohill’s fruit operation was instantly catapulted to the first rank, able now to tap into Van Deman’s nationwide network of finance, knowledge and contacts.

Other company and family names followed Tonoloway Orchard, among them: Millstone Orchard Company, Locher Orchards, Daniels, Funk, R.S. Dillon, Corona Orchard Company, Round Top Orchard Company, Green Lane, Roy Daniels, John Mason and L. Resley, as well as Hepburn Orchards. Over time, many of them were incorporated into larger companies such as Fairview Orchards.

Hancock went on to become one of the United States’ most productive areas in the apple industry. By 1925 over 5,000 acres of land were devoted to commercial fruit production. At the industrial peak in the mid 1940-60’s, Maryland produced over two million bushels of apples, 25% of which were produced in Washington County.


“A history of Washington County, Maryland: Volume 2, Part 1” By Thomas John Chew Williams, Higginson Book Company, Hagerstown, MD, 1906

2 Responses

  • Can you place a date on the photo of the home at the base of the hillside of apples? says:

    We recently visited this area and were very intrigued with the advent of the apple industry and likewise, its sad demise. I have a photo of this house, which I was told was the home of the orchard manager. Any further history (dates) you can provide about it are appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Elaine Gaston

  • Bill McGowan says:

    The home is a gracious but run down old place on Willow Road in Hancock MD. I believe its part of what is now Fairview Orchard property. The photo looks to be from the turn of the century but no specific dates that I have found.

Leave a Reply

6 − 3 =

North Carolina politician gives us the word ‘debunk’

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 3, 2015

The North Carolina historical marker skirts the issue diplomatically: there’s much more to the story of how Felix Walker ‘gave new meaning to the word’ than the sign is letting on.

The verb debunk means to expose or ridicule the falseness or hollowness of a myth, idea or belief. It is made up of the prefix ‘de-‘, meaning to remove, and the word ‘bunk’.

On February 25, 1820, the Missouri Question, whether Missouri should be admitted to the Union as a slave or free state, was being hotly debated in Congress. Near the end of the debate and amidst calls from the floor to have a vote, Felix Walker, representative from Buncombe County, NC, rose to speak. And speak. Did I mention that Felix Walker spoke?

When asked by other members to desist, he replied that he was bound ‘to make a speech for Buncombe,’ and continued to hold forth.

Walker was elected as a Republican to the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Congresses, serving from 1817 to 1823. One can only wonder if his long-windedness got him hounded out of North Carolina, for he moved to Mississippi in 1824.

But he left in his wake a masterful symbol for empty talk that could not be ignored by the speakers of the language, and buncombe, actually spelled bunkum in its first recorded appearance in 1828 in “Niles’ Weekly Register,” must have been widely used. Bunkum, noted that journal, was said to be a ‘very useful and expressive word, which is now as well understood as any in our language.’ And “The Wilimington Commercial” referred in 1849 to ‘the Buncombe politicians — those who go for re-election merely.’

In George Ade’s 1900 book “More Fables in Slang” the –um ending has been dropped: “he surmised that the Bunk was about to be handed to him.’

The term debunk originated in a 1923 novel “Bunk,” by American novelist William Woodward (1874–1950), who used it to mean to take the bunk out of things. And H. L. Mencken, the sage of Baltimore and a connoisseur of the American language, entitled one of his books “A Carnival of Buncombe.”

Safire’s Political Dictionary, by William Safire, Random House, 1978
Word Myths, by David Wilton, Ivan Brunetti, Oxford University Press US, 2004

Leave a Reply

7 − 2 =

I Want to go Back

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 2, 2015

“I would like to go back and carry a few lap-links in my pocket, just in case the hoss busts a trace chain. I want to tie the rawhide ham-string once more and adjust the back-band til it is just behind the hoss’s withers. I want to tie my shoes again with laces made of groundhog hide.

“I want to go back where the ducks and geese are picked every month; where corn and taters are planted, and soap is made by the signs of the moon; where “warnits” and hickory nuts are gathered in the fall for the winter mast; where the folks still dig roots and herbs to buy their winter boots and shoes; and where these same boots and shoes are greased with sheep or beef taller; where the peggin’ awl is still in use; where Arbuckles coffee is parched in the stove and ground in a mill held in grandpa’s lap; where some of the menfolk tied the brooms with home-grown broomcorn; where they make popguns out of elders and shoot paper wads in them.

Arbuckles Ariosa coffee“Yes, I want to go back where they drink sassafras tea in the spring-time to thin their blood;

where they churn with the old up and down churn-dasher; where they turn the churn of cream around as it sits by the fireplace in the big house, so it will get in the right form for churning; where goose quill toothpicks are still in use; where they still boil the clothes and use bluin'; where they refill the straw ticks right after thrashin’ time and where they wear long flannel drawers.

“Yes, I want to go back to the country and get my fill of cracklin’ bread. I want to see the people eat again and shovel it in with their knives. I want to go to the neighbors to borrow the gimlet. I want to go back where they eat three meals a day…breakfast, dinner and supper…and the word “lunch” will never be heard again.

“Yes, I want to go back and make another corn-shucker out of locust. I want to strip some cane and top it and dip the skimmin’s offen’ the bilin’ molasses. I want to go to the neighbors for a bushel of seed corn, or shell a ‘turn’ of corn and take it to the mill for bread and watch as the miller measured out his toll for the grinding. I’d like to call a few doodlebugs outen’ their holes, but I want to avoid the spanish needles, the cuckleburrs, and the chiggers that make life unbearable, and to avoid stone bruises forever.

“I doubt if I could measure up to the hardy souls that were my forefathers. They lived by their strength, by the work of their hands and the sweat of their brow, by the faith they had in themselves. Theirs was a hard life, but it was honest. It was all they knew and they were happy in their way of life and helped themselves by helping others.

“I feel sad that they children of today’s modern society are cheated by missing the things that in those days made families realize they had to work together to live, and in doing so, were kept in a mutual band of friendship.

“It doesn’t seem possible in a span of 50 or more years that life has gone from ways of simplicity to what some of us consider utter confusion. People can’t or won’t take time to enjoy the natural things.

Antlion larvae, or doodlebugsAntlion larvae, or doodlebugs

“We’re living too fast. Modern society has filled us with tension, and unrest. Respect for the things we once held dear and made life worth while a few years ago are gone.

“And as our beloved forefathers rest and meditate in their eternal dreams, on the gentle slopes where once they erected their humble homes. We recall and reminisce about the ways and traditions of the past, realizing with a tear of sadness that we can’t go back or live any of those happy times again.”


source: Too Late For Flowers; Never Too Late For Tears, by Roy L. Sturgill, ‘Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia,’ published by the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia, Publication 12, 1978


Leave a Reply

− 2 = 2

It was the finest house we’d ever seen

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 30, 2015

Viola Brown Black wrote the poem below about her childhood home. It still stands on Bell St. in Hiawassee, GA. It was built by her father, Lona Cicero Brown, in 1909.


The tall, white house on the high green hill,
looking down on the sleepy little town,
was the home of my childhood, home of my heart, still,
though I’ve lived and roamed the world around.

At first it was a dream in my father’s heart,
who wanted the best for his own,
the house we lived in was falling apart
with six children all overgrown.

Father chose the trees and had them felled,
then logged to his sawmill beside a stream,
from early until late the whir of saw swelled,
making stacks of lumber to give life to a dream.

Then to a planer thirty long miles away
the lumber on wagons was hauled,
to go or to come took all of a day
and often the teams in snow were stalled.

Many a tree gave up its life, so
as to become a part of the house so fine,
it was many years ago and now no trees grow
where stood giant oak, poplar, hickory and pine.

Two stories and a half tall the house stands
and it has twelve large rooms in all,
it was built by the labor of many hands,
complete with bath, balcony, each floor a hall.

Oh, it was the finest house we’d ever seen!
Its rooms jutted out with big windows clear;
snow-white it was painted, with high roof of green,
no other house could compare, either far or near.

It protected us from without, watched over us within
through joy, sorrow, sickness and in health,
it mourned as we mourned the sad day when
it could not hold back the angel of death.

The dear old house will ever be a part
of we who romped within its walls;
childhood, youth, and affairs of the heart,
visions of it poignantly recall.

Viola Brown Black




One Response

  • Dave Tabler says:

    Hello Raven,
    The reason is because we scan comments for approval before posting, in order to prevent spam posts to the site. DT

Leave a Reply

7 − = 2

The Greenbrier Ghost

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 29, 2015

On January 23, 1897, Elva Zona Heaster Shue of Lewisburg WV, a bride of three months, was found dead at the bottom of the stairs leading to the second floor of the log house where she lived with her new husband. Her body was discovered by a neighbor, a boy of about 11 years, who did chores for her. Her case remains to this day a one of a kind event in the American judicial system … the only case in which the word of a ghost helped to solve a crime and convict a murderer!

Zona Heaster ShueA state highway marker several miles west of town sums up Shue’s amazing story: “Interred in a nearby cemetery is Zona Heaster Shue. Her death in 1897 was presumed natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe how she was killed by her husband Edward. Autopsy on the exhumed body verified the apparition’s account. Edward, found guilty of murder, was sentenced to state prison.”

Upon finding the dead woman, Andy Jones, the neighbor boy, ran back to his home where he informed his mother, and then continued on to the blacksmith shop where Edward S. Shue was working. When told of the situation Shue appeared in great anguish, ran to his home, gathered his dead wife into his arms, and directed local doctor and coroner, Dr. George W. Knapp, be called. All during this time Shue held Zona’s head in his arms. After a brief examination, Dr. Knapp concluded that Zona “died of an everlasting faint,” i.e. a heart attack.

The body was prepared for burial with Shue assisting in the preparation of her body for burial, and placing her in the casket, always handling her head. He placed a folded sheet on one side of her head and an article of clothing on the other side of her head, which he said would make her rest easier. In addition, he tied a large scarf around her neck and explained tearfully that it “had been Zona’s favorite.”

Zona was taken to the home of her mother, Mrs. Mary Jane Heaster, on nearby Big Sewell Mountain. When the casket was opened Shue always remained at the head of the casket. The next day her body was buried in the little cemetery on the hill top. Nothing more was thought of the death other than that usual for a sudden death of anyone.

Shue house, Lewisburg WVWithin a month of the burial, however, the dead girl’s mother was telling neighbors that Zona’s spirit had appeared four nights in a row to accuse the blacksmith of her violent death – to “tell on him” – to set the record straight about her dying. Shue had been abusive and cruel, she said, and had attacked her in a fit of rage, savagely breaking her neck. Word spread quickly that these visions had convinced Mary Jane that the husband – who called himself Edward, but was really named Erasmus Stribbling Trout Shue, and was known as ‘Trout’ – had killed her daughter.

Mary Heaster and her brother-in-law Johnson Heaster went to Lewisburg prosecutor John A. Preston, who first disbelieved the story, but after several hours of questioning Mrs. Heaster became convinced that there was a basis for an investigation.

Dr. Knapp was consulted and he agreed that he might have been mistaken in his diagnosis. An investigation into Shue’s background revealed that he had served a term in the penitentiary and had been married twice previously, and both wives had died under strange circumstances. One wife was supposed to have died from a broken neck when she fell from a haystack. The other wife died while helping Shue to repair a chimney. He was on top the chimney and his wife was placing the rocks in a basket with a rope attached to it and as the basket was drawn up the basket turned and dropped the rock on the head of his wife.

Mary Jane HeasterAn exhumation was ordered and an inquest jury was assembled. The Greenbrier Independent reported that Trout Shue “vigorously complained” about the exhumation but it was made clear to him that he would be forced to attend the inquest if he did not go willingly. In rebuttal he replied that he knew that he would be arrested, “but they will not be able to prove I did it.” This careless statement indicated that he at least had knowledge that his wife had been murdered.

The autopsy findings were quite damning to Shue. An Independent report on March 9 said that “the discovery was made that the neck was broken and the windpipe mashed. On the throat were the marks of fingers indicating that she had been choken [sic]….. the neck was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The windpipe had been crushed at a point in front of the neck.”

The findings were made public at once, upsetting many in the community. Shue was arrested, charged with murder, and taken to the jail at Lewisburg where he was held until his indictment by a Grand Jury and the trial in June.

On June 22, 1897 the jury returned a verdict of guilty after only one hour and ten minutes of deliberation. The accounts in the Independent make clear that Shue was convicted of the murder of his third wife on circumstantial evidence, and not because of a “ghost’s testimony.” He was sentenced to life in the state prison. Following a foiled lynching attempt a few days later, he was taken by train to the state prison in Moundsville, where he died on the first of March, 1900.


3 Responses

Leave a Reply

1 + = 3

↑ Back to top

This collection is copyright ©2006-2015 by Dave Tabler. All visuals are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107) and remain the property of copyright owners. Site Design by Amaru Interactive