12th-generation farmer shares traditions with students


September 21, 1998|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A correction

Charles M. Coles Jr., who was mentioned in last week's column, is a judge of the Orphans' Court.

FEW CAN SPEAK with more experience about farm life in Howard County than Charles M. Coles Jr., who visited Elkridge Elementary School on Thursday and introduced second-graders to a proud heritage.

His family has farmed in Howard County for 12 generations.

Coles is a direct descendant of Adam Shipley -- "Adam the First" -- the first white man to own property in Howard County. The title is written on a plaque that marks the location of Shipley's farm, now owned by Lee Curtis.


Coles is president of the Howard County Historical Society, president of the Shipleys of Maryland -- a family genealogical organization -- and of the Orphans' Court for Howard County.

Known to his friends as Chuck, Coles lives in Sykesville with his wife, Mary Jeanne, and their children, Beth, 8, Katie, 5, and Charlie, 2.

Mary Jeanne (Wehland) Coles grew up on College Avenue in Ellicott City.

In the 1970s and '80s, Coles demonstrated how to use farm equipment with his grandfather Russell M. Shipley of Marriottsville at local fairs and events.

Three years ago, Coles joined the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club, whose aim is to preserve farm heritage.

For the third year, the club has organized an educational program for second-grade students from Waverly and Elkridge elementary schools.

Coles came to Elkridge to prepare second-graders for what they will see on their field trip to Mount Pleasant Farm on Friday.

The children will grind and shell corn and chop fodder. They will see grain threshed and a blacksmith shop in operation.

Coles told the children how Adam Shipley built his first house using hand tools.

Coles lifted an ax, a broad ax, a wooden maul and a "barking spud" -- and explained that a blacksmith wrapped the hot iron around the wooden handle to make the head of the ax.

The spud removed bark from felled trees so the lumber could dry faster.

Coles showed the students a variety of tools -- a plow, several yokes, a "dibbler" (a long, pointed stick used to plant corn), a sickle, scythe, flail and straw forks -- and demonstrated how each was used.

The students were awed by the ice ax and 5-foot ice saw -- and by Coles' description of how farmers preserved ice.

Second-grade teacher Cheryl Searfoss was impressed. "I had no idea how resourceful farmers were," she said.

The Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club will hold its Farm Heritage Days from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine, at Mount Pleasant Farm, 10520 Old Frederick Road in Woodstock.

The event is one of 28 planned around the county as part of Howard County Heritage Week.

Club members will demonstrate how to shell, crack and grind corn, chop fodder, thresh oats, chop, saw and split wood and crush rock. They will work together to demonstrate grain threshing and baling twice each day.

Club member John Frank and others will demonstrate blacksmith skills.

Wagon rides will begin at 10 a.m., and a parade of antique farm machinery and automobiles will begin at 4 p.m. each day.

A live bluegrass gospel service will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Lone Mountain and Southwest Bluegrass will provide live country music at midday both days.

The event is free. Food, arts and crafts and flea market items will be sold.

Information: 410-531-2569.

From years ago

Another free event during Heritage Week features stories of everyday life in Ellicott City -- as it used to be.

The event, called a "narrative stage," will be from 6 p.m. to 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday in the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive.

Personal stories will be told by some of the 28 longtime residents of Ellicott City and Oella that folklorist Ali Kahn interviewed last year.

The project was funded by the Maryland Historical Trust.

The Patapsco Heritage Greenway, a committee of the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation Inc., coordinated the project and has organized the narrative stage.

Slides of portraits of the people who were interviewed will be shown, and former Sen. James Clark Jr. and Doris Thompson, former editor of the Howard County Times, will open the program.

A public reception will be held from 5: 15 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the lobby of the George Howard Building.

The Dixieland Band Ensemble of Mount Hebron High School, directed by Bob Johnston, will perform, and an exhibit of old photographs of Ellicott City and Oella will be on display.

Crab feast

The Father Comyns Council of the Knights of Columbus will sponsor its annual crab feast from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help's Harrison Hall, 4795 Ilchester Road.

Pat O'Brien will head the kitchen crew, which will serve male crabs, pit beef, corn on the cob, Maryland tomatoes, crab soup, chips, soda, iced tea, beer, fruit salad and cake.

The food will be served until 8 p.m. Activities include music, dancing, a Big Six wheel, a beer and wine wheel, and car and truck raffles. Tickets are $25. Call O'Brien at 410-796-2023.

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