Written, spoken words weave story of Rosedale Historical society tries to capture memories to tell of community's past

April 22, 1996|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

Barbara Fischer Pflugrad's loose-leaf notebooks, bulging with old photographs, records and memorabilia, are more than a record of six generations of her family. They reflect much of the history of their community, Rosedale.

For Doris McNabb, president of the Rosedale Historical Society, those notebooks and the stories of people like 81-year-old Mrs. Pflugrad are treasures that can help tell the community's story.

Now a heavily developed enclave reaching from Baltimore's eastern border -- north and south of Pulaski Highway -- as far as Golden Ring Road, Rosedale in the last century was farm country, like most of Baltimore County.

As industry prospered, however, particularly the steel plant at Sparrows Point, Rosedale evolved into a hard-working, blue-collar community.

Mrs. Pflugrad, one of eight children, recalls playing and riding horses in fields long since buried under houses, apartments, highways and shopping centers.

Philadelphia Road was the main drag. People rode Rosedale Passenger Line buses and tin lizzies to and from Baltimore and the industrial plants being built in the area. In 1930, Rosedale formed the first volunteer fire company in the eastern county. The volunteers housed their engine at a florist's shop and then in a wagon shed.

These are the kind of memories and tidbits that the Rosedale Historical Society, which was formed in 1992 and has about 15 members, is trying to capture, Mrs. McNabb said.

"What I find most satisfying is the storytelling. Once you get a few of these people together in a room, the stories just keep coming out," she said.

For years, Mrs. McNabb toted the society's archives -- stuffed in boxes, and growing heavy -- from meeting to meeting at the Rosedale Volunteer Fire Hall or Rosedale Community Center.

The society's "great coup," a partnership with the Rosedale branch of the county library, grew out of a casual encounter last spring with Rosedale library manager Alene Crenson, Mrs. McNabb said.

Mrs. Crenson, who has provided a file cabinet, work space in the library's back room and help indexing the archives, said, "We decided the library was the best and most logical place for it. We've already had people come in, including a library staffer, asking about Rosedale history material."

To interest area youngsters in their community's history, librarians and society volunteers constructed three display boards with copies of photos and newspaper articles about old Rosedale. They were shown at Red House Run Elementary School's "literary night" in January.

"It was a great success for the parents and the children," Mrs. Crenson said.

Most of the society's holdings have come from people like Mrs. Pflugrad, whose family settled in Rosedale when her grandfather, Conrad Fischer, emigrated from Bremen, Germany, in 1866. Among her treasures are yellowing German-language newspaper accounts of his death in a ditch cave-in at Broadway and Eager Street in 1874.

Many German immigrants arrived, with the Fischers joining such families as the Pffafs, Langenfelders, Boelens, Schneiders, Hoehns, Freunds and Kahlers, whose names dot 19th-century maps of the area.

Many people intermarried, and Mrs. Pflugrad said it still seems that everyone is related to everyone else.

"I'm a saver; I've kept everything. I have three books full of things just on the Fischers. I'm working on the Pflugrads; they started in Connecticut," said Mrs. Pflugrad, who a few years ago moved back into the house where she was born in 1914.

The prize that sparked formation of the society came from the family of LeRoy W. Dill, longtime president of the Community Improvement Association of Philadelphia Road, predecessor of the Rosedale Community Association: a box of records that includes the association's minutes from 1928 to 1932 and minutes of the Rosedale Parent-Teacher Association from 1922 to 1932.

"You can read those minutes and follow the issues that were important to the community back then," said Mrs. McNabb, office manager of the Public Justice Center on North Charles Street.

Among the issues was a plan to move 700 poor families from Baltimore to public housing that was to be built on an 86-acre site on Philadelphia Road. A flier signed by Mr. Dill called on area residents to protest at City Hall.

The flier does not give the year, but it could just as well be the present. The issue is similar to the recent uproar over the Move to Opportunity program to help some city residents move to the suburbs.

Mrs. McNabb said many descendants of the early families remain in the Baltimore area and Rosedale and could provide historical material for the archives. "I hope they will call us before they throw anything out," she said.

Mrs. Crenson will take calls at the Rosedale library -- (410) 887-0512 -- from people interested in donating materials or inquiring about the historical society. The library is at 6105 Kenwood Ave.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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