Museum offers vivid look at Howard life in Civil War

NEIGHBORS

Artifacts: The exhibit at the B&O Railroad Station Museum includes the effects of Union soldiers stationed nearby during the Civil War.

May 08, 2000|By William Lowe | William Lowe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

READERS with an interest in Civil War and Howard County history will likely enjoy visiting the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum this month.

The museum, which is housed in the original 1830 Ellicott's Mills station building, will rotate exhibits at the end of the month, replacing "Civil War -- The Maryland Story" with its "Roads to Rails" exhibit.

Despite the title's statewide scope, the museum exhibit focuses on Howard County and on Ellicott's Mills during the Civil War years.

Although the area was fortunate to be spared the large-scale combat that etched in blood the name "Antietam" in the American memory, Ellicott's Mills and Howard County were far from immune to the war's effects.

"Civil War -- The Maryland Story" provides an excellent introduction to the important though comparatively tranquil role played by Ellicott's Mills and its residents from 1861-1865.

Howard County in 1861 reflected the national conflict. Some of the employees at Ellicott's Mills, and at other mills in the Patapsco River Valley, were first-generation, free-thinking immigrants. These industrial workers found more to identify with in the urban North than in the agrarian South.

Rural Howard County, which included large slaveholding plantations, identified socially and economically with the South. Many members of the county's most prominent families enlisted in the Confederate army. Throughout Eastern and Southern Maryland, the majority of counties shared Howard's Confederate sympathies.

Surrounded by a countryside full of pro-Confederate sentiment, the mills and the rail line along the Patapsco River occupied precarious positions when the war began in 1861. The B&O's Washington branch provided a vital link between the Washington and points north.

Furthermore, loss of control of the B&O main line, which ran from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills and points west, would enable the transport by rail of supplies to Harper's Ferry for use by the Confederacy.

Life in and around Ellicott's Mills during the tense opening months of the war is the focus of the museum's historical film. The film, which was produced by the museum for use in Howard County public schools, uses archive photos, illustrations and re-enactments to accompany a narrative of how Ellicott's Mills and the rail line were secured for the Union.

The film is shown in the 1885 freight house, which also houses a historically accurate scale model of the first 13 miles of operating railroad in the United States. The model features running miniature trains and scale models of all structures along the line, including the mills along the Patapsco between the Thomas Viaduct and Ellicott's Mills.

In addition to the film and scale model, the museum's Civil War exhibit contains a remarkable collection of photographs of Union soldiers in camp in the Ellicott's Mills area. Uniforms, haversacks and other artifacts of the Union soldiers stationed around Ellicott's Mills are featured in the exhibit as well.

On weekends, volunteers in period dress lend a sense of immediacy to the exhibit. These living historians include members of the Patapsco Guard and Patapsco Citizens. The original Patapsco Guard was formed by Ellicott's Mills resident and hotel owner James McGowan. The Guard's primary duty during the war consisted of defending the station and the rail line around Ellicott's Mills.

Although the Patapsco Guard fought only in several limited engagements, the Guard was well acquainted with the destructive effects of war. In July 1863, the Guard was sent to Gettysburg on a most gruesome assignment: burial detail in the wake of the great battle fought there. Members of today's Patapsco Guard bring to life this and other stories of the war at the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum.

"Most of our visitors agree that the Patapsco Guard living historians are wonderful," said museum director Lisa Mason-Chaney.

Those who are unable to attend the exhibit this month will have another opportunity in February. The Civil War exhibit is one of three in the museum's annual rotation.

Information: 410-461-1944.

Post-prom party

The Mount Hebron PTSA will hold its Third Annual Chemical-Free After Prom Party from midnight to 4 a.m Sunday at Planet Hollywood in Baltimore.

The PTSA planning committee is accepting donations of prizes and money from area businesses, organizations and individuals.

Donations should be sent to the Mount Hebron PTSA at 2315 Ridge Tree Court, Ellicott City, MD 21042.

Information: Ellen Schurachio, 410-461-4222, or Cathy Melvin, 410- 465-5586.

Essay winner

On Friday, Lindsey Gormus, an eighth-grader at Elkridge Landing Middle School, received first place in the Maryland Association of Family and Consumer Sciences' "Family and Consumer Sciences and Me" essay contest.

Lindsey's prize was a $500 savings bond. Lindsey's family and consumer sciences teacher at Elkridge Landing is Linda Inouye.

Excellence in this area runs in the family: Lindsey's grandmother, Norma Hetrick, is a retired family and consumer sciences teacher.

Spaghetti dinner

Boy Scout Troop 944 will hold a Spaghetti Dinner from 5: 30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Bethany United Methodist Church, 2875 Bethany Lane, Ellicott City.

The dinner is a major fund-raiser for the troop.

Scouts will be involved in all aspects of the dinner, including the cooking.

The cost is $6; $4 for children ages 5 to 11; free for children younger than age 5.

Information: Robert Gordon, 410-752-9749.

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