The Name? Well, It's A Roundabout Story

POSTMARK: DETOUR

September 13, 1992|By WAYNE HARDIN

In a file in the tiny Detour post office, Gary Wilmer, temporar "officer in charge," has a folder of letters from fifth-graders. The letters come from places like Staten Island, N.Y.; Kingsport, Tenn., and Illiopolis, Ill. They all want to know the origin of Detour's name.

With Detour, it's always the name. It attracts attention. Baltimore County has Boring, Montgomery County has Sunshine and Carroll County has Detour.

About as far west in Carroll County as you can go without being in Frederick County, Detour is four hills, four roads, a dirt street, a railroad, a creek that flows north and a time line punctuated by high water.

The town was called Double Pipe Creek until 1905 when officials of the Western Maryland Railway decided the name was too long for its timetables and more or less ordered the town to come up with another name.

The most accepted account of the origin of Detour's name involves a town official who had traveled in the West. He kept seeing the word "detour" on signs out that way and kind of liked it. So he proposed the name to townspeople. They kind of liked it, too, and voted Detour in.

Detour sits 51 miles west of Baltimore, a village jammed into the bottom of the rural Double Pipe Creek valley about two miles from where Francis Scott Key was born at Terra Rubra.

In the middle of Detour, Becky Carmack, 28, owns the Village Store on Middleburg Road, the main street. "It's convenient for me, living close to where I work," she says. "It's a good place for my little boy."

Her store features everything from videos to cold-cut subs. She bought it six years ago from Michael Smith.

Michael Smith had come to Detour in October 1973, fresh out of the Navy. At the suggestion of his father, who then ran the auto junkyard, he bought the store, which had been flooded by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972, and fixed it up.

He kept adding properties -- eventually owning nine, including the old Detour Bank. He now lives in Taneytown, having sold all but one of his buildings in Detour.

He travels 13 miles to Detour each day to look after his last property, a 150-year-old-plus brick house converted into apartments. He also manages the old bank building he once owned, also now apartments.

Michael Smith, 42, talks with affection about his 12 years in the town, proudly shows his thick scrapbook and two large aerial pictures. He remembers fondly the days at the Village Store that went by in an instant, misses people telling him their troubles and his giving them advice. "I knew everything that was going on," he says.

In 1794, the land that became Detour was part of a 600-acre tract called Prosperity.

In 1883, a plat laying out the town much as it is today was filed by the family of Daniel Paul Sayler, a Church of the Brethren elder.

This year, the population of Detour is 80 to 85 people, depending on who's counting. Among the residents are people like:

* John Smith, who runs Smitty's Auto Repair, by the Double Pipe bridge. In 1984, he and his father built his home in the middle of Circle Drive, a dirt road. It was one of Detour's biggest battles. They won.

* Ray Fanning, who owns an automobile junkyard, Ray's Auto Parts, along the shady banks of Double Pipe Creek, where a resourceful car buff like Dick Fogle can find yet another part to turn his 1953 Henry J into a street rod.

* Robert Liller, who lives in the old Western Maryland Dairy on Keysville Road, where a radio plays country and western music in the shop and a chained black dog barks at the door.

Detour also is:

* Where Maryland Midland Railroad freight trains come through each weekday on the refurbished Western Maryland tracks -- running up and back between Glyndon and Highfield -- reminding older residents of the time when trains actually stopped there.

* Where 81-year-old A. M. Burkett can tend his little garden and nap under a big tree.

* Where floods -- such as in 1920, 1933, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1985 -- become oral history benchmarks, recording high water created by Little Pipe and Big Pipe creeks merging south of town and becoming Double Pipe on a short run north to the Monocacy River.

* And where Donald Dayhoff, 63, can retire from the Army and come back and live with his parents, Ralph, 84, and Gladys, 83, in the hilltop house where he was born. In Detour.

Every highway entrance from surrounding farmland into Detour is downhill. Coming in on Middleburg Road, Rocky Ridge Road, Keysville Road or New Midway-Detour Road, the effect is nearly the same: a sign at the top of a hill says Detour. Suddenly you

are there. Suddenly you are gone. From Detour.

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