History displayed during Howard County Heritage Week


September 28, 1998|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IN TOURS AND VISITS scheduled during Howard County Heritage Week, familiar places revealed their rich patina of history.

Dan Wecker, executive chef at the Elkridge Furnace Inn, explained to visitors that the inn originally faced the Patapsco River when Elkridge Landing was a thriving Colonial port and the river was more than 100 feet wide and 12 feet deep.

Walls in one section of the inn -- originally the home of James and Andrew Ellicott -- are five bricks thick, reflecting the wealth of its owners.

While renovating his nearby home, Wecker found walls that were three bricks thick.

At another historic home, about 25 people toured the well-appointed first floor and gardens of Belmont Manor, which was opened to visitors Sept. 21.

Belmont, the only Colonial estate remaining in Elkridge, overlooks rolling fields, a tree-lined drive and woods.

The opening of Belmont sparked memories for Cathy Hudson, who grew up close to the manor.

Although she did not take the tour, Hudson reminisced about "swinging in the barn and sitting in the loft thinking."

She remembers the smell of the tack, left from the days when Billy Barton -- stabled at Belmont -- competed in the Grand National steeplechase race in England.

The horse was winning the race until his rider fell off at the last jump.

In memoriam

The Elk Ridge Heritage Society displayed watercolors of dolls, painted by the late Florence Bahr.

The paintings are finely detailed; their subjects are porcelain dolls with fine doll clothes, some against a background of detailed wallpaper.

Bahr, a talented artist who lived with her husband, Leonard Bahr, on Lawyers Hill for more than 40 years, died last winter in a fire that destroyed her home.

A heritage of farming

Western Howard County residents Charlie O'Donnell and Abe McCracken brought the traditional Howard County corn harvest to life with stalks of corn -- roots and all -- and traditional farmer's tools in a presentation at Waverly Elementary School.

McCracken put on a wide-brimmed hat and, with a protective sleeve made out of one leg of an old pair of jeans over his arm, explained that the clothes protected farmers from being cut on the neck and arms by the sharp leaves.

He demonstrated three kinds of corn knives and a corn peg, used to husk the ears.

McCracken and O'Donnell were preparing the second-graders for their visit to Mount Pleasant Farm last Friday, when they saw farm life firsthand.

Celebrating history

On Wednesday, the Patapsco Heritage Greenway held a reception and a "narrative stage," an event in which a folklorist publicly interviewed people who knew of Ellicott City's past.

In the front of the Banneker Room in George Howard Building, folklorist Ali Kahn interviewed Russell Moxley, Doris Thompson and Paul Corun -- three of the 28 people she had interviewed in a project organized by the Patapsco Heritage Greenway and funded by the Maryland Historical Trust.

At the reception, the Mount Hebron High School Dixieland Jazz Combo played "Sweet Georgia Brown" and the classic "St. James Infirmary."

Combo members included Jared English, trumpet; Laura Kuttler, clarinet; Larry Sema, tenor saxophone; Dave Maskeroni, trombone; Melanie Hoffner, keyboard; Tyler Thoten, tuba; and Brad Parsons, drums.

Moxley served as Ellicott City's first sheriff; Thompson was editor of the Howard County Times, and Corun was a grocer on Main Street for 43 years. Former state Sen. James Clark introduced their stories with some of his own reminiscences.

The picture painted by Moxley, Thompson and Corun revealed a small town "of six saloons, five churches and three undertakers," in which "everybody knew what was going on," Moxley said.

Corun said he sold "anything that you could put in a cage" -- muskrats, raccoons, rabbits, chickens, geese and turkeys.

As part of his service, the delivery boy would let himself in a house if no one was home and put the perishable goods away.

Corun described how James W. Rouse, the founder of Columbia, would often come down to the store on Saturday nights. He got hooked on the store's sharp Cheddar cheese, Corun said, and ordered groceries once a week. Rouse sent his nephew to pick up his order.

At the end of the program, the audience asked questions.

Jim Holway said he had never understood how Doris Thompson had known about Howard County news before he did when he served on the County Council in the 1970s.

Thompson explained that when she first worked for her father, who ran the Howard County Times, she learned to read upside down.

When she visited the council office in the courthouse, Thompson said she discreetly scanned the letters that were lying on the counter already opened by the secretary.

Completing the picture

Ed Orser, professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and two of his students assembled display boards presenting the history of Ellicott City and Oella through old photographs and quotes from those who were interviewed in the oral history project.

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