Archive for Baltimore

History of My Office, Part I: Prehistory – 1955

When I first started working for the Anne Arundel County Public Schools Facilities Department last year, almost immediately I noticed some interesting things about the building where our offices were. You could tell that there had been a lot of modifications made to it over the years: walls had been moved around, network and telephone cables are strung near the ceiling along the main hallway, a variety of windows and doors are used throughout – things like that. Clearly, this was not a building that had been designed from the outset for the purpose it was fulfilling today.

Sign at the entrance to our campus, on Fort Smallwood Road - <i>Photo by the author</i>

Sign at the entrance to our campus, on Fort Smallwood Road – Photo by the author

In that first week, a few of the guys asked me if anyone had taken me out back to see the “missile silos”. When I asked my boss about it (thinking that maybe this was some kind of initiation-of-the-new-guy thing) she confirmed that the campus we occupied had once been a military installation. Being the military history nerd that I am, I just had to look into the history surrounding our office. What I found was both interesting and surprising, so I figure: what better way to record that history than with a series of blog posts?

We’ll start at the beginning.

The area now known as Pasadena, MD has seemingly always been a peninsula, though the bodies of water surrounding it have not always been so large as they are today. The melting of Canadian glaciers over many thousands of years raised the sea levels to the point where most of the original native settlements are now suspected to be under water. It is believed that the current water levels have been consistent for probably the last 2,000 – 3,000 years.

When Captain John Smith came up the Chesapeake Bay in 1608, he didn’t encounter any native people in this area, but archaeological evidence points to habitation by the Powhatan tribe of the Algonquian people, who had a series of semi-permanent camps on the peninsula during that time. They would have fished, hunted, and done some limited farming. Arrowheads, tools, storage vessels (of both clay and gourd), as well as evidence of fabric have all been found in the area.

By the middle of the 17th century, European settlers had begun to move in, with all the land on the peninsula probably being claimed by the 1690s. This northern part of Anne Arundel County was then known as “Town Neck Hundred” and was heavily wooded. One of the first things to be done by the settlers was the clearing of those forests so that tobacco fields could be established. Tobacco was the cash crop of early colonial Maryland, and land owners (as well as their investors) wanted to generate healthy profits from its sale as quickly as possible. Land grant maps from the 1700s show the location of my office as being in a tract called “Poplar Plains”. Not much physical evidence remains on the landscape from that period except for Hancock’s Resolution, a house built in 1785 about 3 miles east of our department’s buildings.

Population remained sparse well into the 19th century. The 1850 census shows barely more than 2,000 people living on the entire peninsula, most of them farmers. The crops had changed though: tobacco was out, and corn was in. Some were also growing wheat, plums, apricots, and strawberries.

The village of Jacobsville came into existence around this time as well, centered around the present-day intersection of Mountain Road and Armiger Drive. A structure (presumably a general store) dating to the late 1850s is still visible there. Martenet’s 1860 map of Anne Arundel County shows a structure labeled “Johnson’s Store & P.O.” at that location. Between there and Rock Point (present day Fort Smallwood Park) a label for “J. Meek” marks the vicinity of our modern-day complex of buildings.

Martenet's 1860 Map of Jacobsville and Hog Neck - <i>Library of Congress</i>

Martenet’s 1860 Map of Jacobsville and Hog Neck – Library of Congress

 

During the Civil War, southern sentiment prevailed among the people here. Though it remained with the Union, Maryland was still a slave state until November of 1864, and almost 1/3 of the residents of what is now Pasadena were slaves. Only a few men from the peninsula served with northern units in the war. More men followed their convictions and left home to join Confederate units in Virginia. Others who stayed behind were later certified by a local doctor as being “unfit” for service in order to avoid the draft that was instituted. There are also stories of men who were drafted avoiding the army by sending one of their slaves to act as a substitute in their place (people could do that back then). The numerous waterways, combined with the agricultural and political character of the area led to a sizable smuggling trade, with sympathetic farmers loading up blockade-running ships full of supplies for the Confederate forces.

In the post-war years, the loss of slave labor created problems for the farmers still trying to work the land and harvest their crops. Most seem to have started transitioning away from grains to fruits and vegetables, and these “truck farms” were able to find ready markets for those products in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Labor issues were alleviated by the wave of immigration coming from eastern Europe, especially in the 1880s. The 1878 Hopkins Map of Anne Arundel County’s Third District shows the area of our offices being held by “Robt W. Chard”. Population and structures remained sparse.

Hopkins 1878 Map of Jacobsville and Hog Neck - <i>Library of Congress</i>

Hopkins 1878 Map of Jacobsville and Hog Neck – This map appears to be drawn about 45 degrees counter-clockwise – Library of Congress

Around the turn of the century, the beaches of the peninsula became a popular tourist attraction, with many people making the trip by boat from Baltimore during the warmer months. Roads were almost nonexistent here at the time, and since these visitors were arriving at, and remaining close to the shore, they made little impact on the farms in the interior of the peninsula where our complex of buildings is located. Seemingly for decades, life went on as it always had, except that the name “Pasadena” – brought along by a group of people who had immigrated from California – was now being used to describe the area.

Fruit and vegetable farming remained very productive. By 1910, Anne Arundel County was known as the strawberry capital of the United States, and it is certain that the fields surrounding Jacobsville made their contribution to that reputation. In addition to strawberries, the plot where our offices are now located also grew a distinct breed of cantaloupes and other types of fruits and berries.

But even 45 years after the abolition of slavery, there was still a darker side to all of this agricultural abundance. Our present campus was, in 1909, part of a large operation owned by Robert Bottomley, and his farm in particular became the subject of a series of photographs by Lewis Hine, documenting the reality of child labor in America at the time. These images and thousands more that Hine would create all across the country, helped to raise public awareness and lead to the institution of child labor laws in the years that followed (Hine’s original caption accompanies each photo):

"Mary, a Polish girl and her mother, picking berries on Bottomley Farm, Rock Creek, near Baltimore, Md. In the winter they go to Dunbar, La., for oyster shucking.", 1909 - Lewis Hine - <i>Library of Congress</i>

“Mary, a Polish girl and her mother, picking berries on Bottomley Farm, Rock Creek, near Baltimore, Md. In the winter they go to Dunbar, La., for oyster shucking.”, 1909 – Lewis Hine – Library of Congress

"Johnnie Yellow, a young Polish berry picker on Bottomley Farm, Rock Creek, near Baltimore, Md. Says he is 10 years old and has gone to Biloxi, Miss. for 9 years (with family) and has worked there in winter and here in summer for three years. He is stunted, being only about 39 inches high. Many of these children are stunted.", 1909 - Lewis Hine - <i>Library of Congress</i>

“Johnnie Yellow, a young Polish berry picker on Bottomley Farm, Rock Creek, near Baltimore, Md. Says he is 10 years old and has gone to Biloxi, Miss. for 9 years (with family) and has worked there in winter and here in summer for three years. He is stunted, being only about 39 inches high. Many of these children are stunted.”, 1909 – Lewis Hine – Library of Congress

"A four year old helper in the berry field, Rock Creek, near Baltimore. Mother said, 'He helps little.'", 1909 - Lewis Hine - <i>Library of Congress</i>

“A four year old helper in the berry field, Rock Creek, near Baltimore. Mother said, ‘He helps little.'”, 1909 – Lewis Hine – Library of Congress

The living conditions on the farm at the time appear to be quite primitive. Immigrant families lived transient lives, never really putting down roots anywhere, but having to follow the seasons south and north looking for whatever work they could find.

"Shanties and cooking shacks on berry farm of Bottomley's, near Baltimore. Md. At times, four families live in one shanty: three families is the rule--two rooms. (See report of July 10, 1909.)", 1909 - Lewis Hine - <i>Library of Congress</i>

“Shanties and cooking shacks on berry farm of Bottomley’s, near Baltimore. Md. At times, four families live in one shanty: three families is the rule–two rooms. (See report of July 10, 1909.)”, 1909 – Lewis Hine – Library of Congress

"No. 846-847. Name: These Children are representatives of the two families that occupy this one room in a shack on Bottomley's Farm, Baltimore, Md. There are only sliding curtains to separate families. Bunks on floor above. July 7, 1909.", 1909 - Lewis Hine - <i>Library of Congress</i>

“No. 846-847. Name: These Children are representatives of the two families that occupy this one room in a shack on Bottomley’s Farm, Baltimore, Md. There are only sliding curtains to separate families. Bunks on floor above. July 7, 1909.”, 1909 – Lewis Hine – Library of Congress

This photo shows a broader vista of Bottomley’s Farm. This is the land that would eventually become our building complex and the Compass Pointe Golf Course that surrounds us.

"A strawberry field on Rock Creek, near Baltimore. Whites and negroes, old and young, work here from 4:30 A.M. until sunset some days. A long hot day.", 1909 - Lewis Hine - <i>Library of Congress</i>

“A strawberry field on Rock Creek, near Baltimore. Whites and negroes, old and young, work here from 4:30 A.M. until sunset some days. A long hot day.”, 1909 – Lewis Hine – Library of Congress

The pace of change began to accelerate rapidly in the 20th century. In particular, 1932 brought both the electrification of the majority of the peninsula, and the completion of Fort Smallwood Road. The advent of the automobile meant that more of the area’s farmers were purchasing trucks, and as the road system improved, they were overwhelmingly choosing to ship their produce to market over land instead of on the water by the 1950s.

But the middle of the century would bring even more changes to the Pasadena area. The threat of Soviet bombers bringing nuclear destruction upon nearby Baltimore caused the Army to start looking for ways to defend against that possibility. I’ll be exploring that topic further in the next post of the series.

Army Anti-Aircraft Command Recruiting Materials, 1956

Army Anti-Aircraft Command Recruiting Materials, 1956

Here are some useful print sources that I consulted for this post, found at the Riviera Beach Community Library:

Family Christmas

I’ve been waiting for months to post about this, but now that Christmas is over, I finally can.

Back in February, I was doing a lot of research about my great-great-great grandfather, George R. Skillman and his career as a baker. During one of my many Google searches during that time, I stumbled on My Country Treasures – an antique shop in Preston, MD that had one of the Skillman Universal Steam Bakery’s display tins. This tin would have been used as a display in a grocery store that carried Skillman Bakery products – most likely crackers.

I had to get this piece and make sure it stayed in the family. I also thought that it would make a great gift for my father, since he shares our ancestor’s name and since he sparked my interest in genealogy and history in the first place.

Finally, the opportunity arose when my friend John invited me to stay at his family’s beach house in Delaware one weekend. I planned to stop in Preston on the way home, and if the tin hadn’t been sold, to split the cost with my brother. Luckily, it was still there and I immediately snatched it up!

Waiting out the months until Christmas was hard, but I’m glad that we did. My dad’s reaction when he figured out what we had given him was worth it.

My dad holding a piece of family history.

My dad holding a piece of family history. Photo by Sharon Skillman.

The side of the tin advertises the “Geo. R. Skillman Universal Steam Bakery”. As far as I can tell, this name was used for his business from 1887 until as late as 1900, so this “new” family heirloom is perhaps 127 years old.

The stories that we’ve been able to find about George are very nice to have. Newspaper articles I’ve discovered give a sense of the reality of our family history, too. But having an actual, tangible object from your ancestor’s past is just beyond words.

I’m so glad that everything came together to keep this history alive for us.

An Accident

While I was looking through online newspaper archives last night, I accidentally stumbled onto an article about, well, an accident.

This story appeared in the Washington Post on February 20, 1953:

Two Anne Arundel County men were burned seriously yesterday when the gas tank of their auto caught fire after a collision on Ritchie Highway, just north of Glen Burnie.

Thomas Skillman, 31, of Harundale and Ernie W. Bermick, 40 of Severn leaped from the car with hair and clothing burning and rolled on the ground to smother the flames. Both were taken to a Baltimore hospital.

The Associated Press reported their car was struck from behind by an auto driven by Eric R. Blomquist, 31, of Takoma Park, who was charged with drunken and reckless driving.

The Thomas Skillman from the story is my grandfather. This accident occurred just a few months before my father was born.

William Murray

Captain William H. Murray

Captain William H. Murray

Near the grave of William Goldsborough, lies a junior officer from the 1st MD battalion who was killed on the eastern slopes of Culp’s Hill on July 3, 1863 – Capt. William H. Murray.

Murray was a well-respected man among the Confederate Marylanders. An original member of the old 1st MD Infantry regiment, he stuck around in Virginia when that unit disbanded – unable either for fear of being caught, or out of a sense of duty to the Confederacy, to return home to Maryland. It was Capt. Murray who got together enough men to form the first company of what was to become a brand new Maryland regiment, but only ended up as the 1st MD battalion (as they couldn’t get together enough men to form a full regiment). His company became Company A in the new battalion, and he was elected Captain of it. This also made him the senior Captain in the battalion, and every account I’ve read talks about what a fine soldier he was – William Goldsborough writes glowingly about him in his book.

At Gettysburg, he is still the commander of Co. A, but on the morning of July 3, he has been elevated to second-in-command after Lt. Col. Herbert’s wounding the night before. When asked to lead his men in a very ill-advised assault up Culp’s Hill, he goes along the line, shaking hands with every man saying “Goodbye, it is not likely that we shall meet again.” Even General Steuart thought the attack was a suicide mission, but Capt. Murray followed his orders and did his duty. He was soon shot down, mortally wounded near the Union breastworks. Before noon that day, the 24-year old Captain would lie dead on the field.

His grave is located in the Confederate Hill section of Loudon Park Cemetery, very prominently marked by a tall obelisk:

Location of William H. Murray's gravesite.

Location of William H. Murray’s gravesite. Map by Apple Maps.

William H. Murray's Monument.

William H. Murray’s Monument. Photo by the author.

Detail on the front of William H. Murray's Monument.

Detail on the front of William H. Murray’s Monument. Photo by the author.

 

William Goldsborough

Major William W. Goldsborough

Major William W. Goldsborough

Returning to Loudon Park Cemetery, today we look at the grave of the man who took over command of the 1st MD Battalion (which later became the 2nd MD) when Lt. Col. James Herbert was wounded on July 2 at Gettysburg: Maj. William Goldsborough.

Born in Frederick county, he worked for a time as a printer in Baltimore before heading south to join up with the Confederacy when the war started. His brother Charles made the opposite decision, serving with the 5th MD as an Assistant Surgeon. They would meet a few times during the war, but not at Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, Maj. Goldsborough was second-in-command of the 2nd MD during the attack on Culp’s Hill. When Lt. Col. Herbert went down with his serious wounds, Maj. Goldsborough took over and led the unit in the fighting on July 3 until he too was wounded – shot through his left lung. When the Confederates were pushed back, Maj. Goldsborough became a prisoner, as well.

After recovering from his wound, he was held in the prisons at Ft. McHenry and Ft. Delaware. In late 1864, he was transferred to Morris Island where he became one of the Immortal 600. He would remain in Union prisons for the rest of the war.

After the war, he wrote a book about the wartime service of the Maryland Line. As you might imagine, the 2nd MD at Gettysburg gets some coverage there.

His grave is located in the Confederate Hill section, just about in the middle along the southwest border of the section:

Location of William W. Goldsborough's gravesite.

Location of William W. Goldsborough’s gravesite. Map by Apple Maps.

William W. Goldsborough's Original headstone. The effects of time have worn hard.

William W. Goldsborough’s Original headstone. The effects of time have worn hard. Photo by the author.

A newer, much more legible stone is in-place, though; as it is for most of the graves on Confederate Hill.

A newer, much more legible stone is in-place, though; as it is for most of the graves on Confederate Hill. Photo by the author.

James Rigby

Captain James H. Rigby

Captain James H. Rigby

Continuing in Loudon Park National Cemetery, we come to the grave of our first Civil War artillerist: Capt. James H. Rigby.

Capt. Rigby commanded Battery A of the 1st MD Light Artillery. At Gettysburg, Rigby’s battery was part of the Fourth Volunteer Brigade in the Artillery Reserve, and his six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles were posted on Powers’ Hill, firing in support of the Union operations on nearby Culp’s Hill on July 2 and 3.

This was not exactly a front-line posting, and the unit’s casualty figures reflect that. The battery brought 106 men to Gettysburg, and did not report any losses in the action.

Over the last few years, Powers’ Hill has been cleared to return the ground to the look it had in 1863, and some new property has been acquired in that area by the park, but I still don’t think most visitors are aware of the monuments up there. The hill is not included on the auto tour route – not even as a drive-by – so for now, the contributions of these men will go largely unknown by the general public.

Capt. Rigby’s grave is located in the southern part of the cemetery, under a large, old tree. It’s easily recognizable from a distance:

Location of James H. Rigby's gravesite.

Location of James H. Rigby’s gravesite. Map by Apple Maps.

James H. Rigby's Monument.

James H. Rigby’s Monument. Photo by the author.

The Front of James H. Rigby's Monument.

The Front of James H. Rigby’s Monument. Photo by the author.

The Rear of James H. Rigby's Monument.

The Rear of James H. Rigby’s Monument. Photo by the author.

Joseph Sudsburg

Colonel Joseph M. Sudsburg

Colonel Joseph M. Sudsburg

I want to make sure that I’m clear on this: we’re leaving Loudon Park Cemetery temporarily and going next door to Loudon Park National Cemetery to find another veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg – and a Union man this time: Col. Joseph M. Sudsburg.

A Bavarian by birth, Col. Sudsburg had emigrated to America after taking part in the failed revolution in Poland in 1846. He ended up settling in Baltimore, and his previous military experience (even though he was on the losing side) led to a Colonel’s commission and the command of the 3rd MD Infantry when the Civil War broke out. His leadership of the unit also helped to attract many other European immigrants to service in the 3rd MD.

At Gettysburg, he was still in command of the 3rd MD, attached to McDougall’s brigade of the 12th Corps. The unit participated in the combat at Culp’s Hill on the morning of July 3, but spent most of that day in a reserve position. Their casualty figures tell the story pretty well: of the 290 men present for duty, they lost only 8 – and only 1 of those was a fatality.

Col. Sudsburg’s monument is located in the Officer’s section, near the eastern fence in Loudon Park National Cemetery:

Location of Joseph M. Sudsburg's gravesite.

Location of Joseph M. Sudsburg’s gravesite. Map by Apple Maps.

Joseph M. Sudsburg's Headstone.

Joseph M. Sudsburg’s Headstone. Photo by the author.

In the next installment, we’ll see the grave of a Union artillerist who was present at Gettysburg.

James Herbert

Colonel James R. Herbert

Colonel James R. Herbert

Another of the Confederate burials in Loudon Park Cemetery with a connection to Gettysburg is Col. James R. Herbert, the commander of the 1st MD Battalion (later renumbered to the 2nd MD).

As a Lt. Col. at Gettysburg, Herbert led his unit – part of Brig. Gen. George Hume “Maryland” Steuart’s brigade – in the assault on the Union right at Culp’s Hill. From the night of July 2 to the morning of July 3, Herbert’s men were almost constantly fighting – at one point even going up against other men from Maryland who had sided with the Union.

It was a tough fight. The 1st MD Battalion lost 189 of the 400 men present (47.3%) – the highest losses by number and percentage for a Maryland unit at Gettysburg. Among the wounded was Lt. Col. Herbert himself. Hit three times in the confused crossfire, he fell just after the sun went down on the evening of July 2.

Herbert survived his wounds and the war and went on to become the commander of the Maryland National Guard in the post-war years. He also served as the Baltimore City Police Commissioner until his death in 1884.

His gravesite is located across the street from Confederate Hill, and is marked by a large, distinctive monument with crossed flags on the front:

Location of James R. Herbert's Gravesite.

Location of James R. Herbert’s Gravesite. Map by Apple Maps.

James R. Herbert's Monument.

James R. Herbert’s Monument. Photo by the author.

In the next post, we’ll see the gravesite of the man who took over command of the 1st MD Battalion after Lt. Col. Herbert’s wounding at Gettysburg.

The Baltimore Riot

The Baltimore Riot. Engraving from Wikipedia.

The Baltimore Riot. Engraving from Wikipedia.

Today marks the 153rd anniversary of the Baltimore Riot. The 6th Massachusetts Infantry, trying to make its way through town to Camden Station, on the way to Washington D.C., ended up firing into an angry mob in the streets of Baltimore.

The 14 people left dead that day comprised the first blood shed in the Civil War.

I posted about this event in more detail a few months ago as part of a series of posts about local Civil War history.

Harry Gilmor

Colonel Harry Gilmor

Colonel Harry Gilmor.

The first Civil War burial that I discovered at Loudon Park was Confederate Col. Harry Gilmor. He was present at the Battle of Gettysburg as a Major in command of the 1st MD Cavalry Battalion (CSA) – part of Fitzhugh Lee’s brigade – though they did not participate in the action at the East Cavalry field.

After Gettysburg, he continued his service in the cavalry, serving most notably under Lt. General Jubal Early during his campaign through Maryland which culminated in the Battle of Monocacy in July of 1864. I actually found out about his burial in Loudon Park from the book I read about that campaign recently. He didn’t fight to the end of the war though; he was captured by Union troops in February of 1865 while on a raid in West Virginia.

After the war, he wrote a book about his experiences, and went on to serve as the Baltimore City Police Commissioner for 5 years.

Col. Gilmor is buried in the Confederate Hill section of Loudon Park. A very prominent headstone marks his gravesite:

Location of Confederate Hill

Location of Confederate Hill. Map by Apple Maps.

Harry Gilmor's Monument

Harry Gilmor’s Monument. Photo by the author.

Detail on the front of Harry Gilmor's Monument.

Detail on the front of Harry Gilmor’s Monument. Photo by the author.

Detail of the left side of Harry Gilmor's Monument.

Detail of the left side of Harry Gilmor’s Monument. Photo by the author.

Detail of the rear of Harry Gilmor's Monument.

Detail of the rear of Harry Gilmor’s Monument. Photo by the author.

Detail of the right Harry Gilmor's Monument, marking his wife's burial.

Detail of the right side of Harry Gilmor’s Monument, marking his wife’s burial. Photo by the author.

As you may guess (with a whole section named “Confederate Hill”) there are certainly a few more prominent leaders with Gettysburg connections buried at Loudon Park. In the next installment, we’ll show the grave of one of the infantry commanders from that battle.