Pages from the Past: Brave butler helps save burning house in Catonsville in 1912

An article in the July 20, 1912, edition of The Argus reported on the quick thinking and courageous actions by a family servant after lightning cause a fire in a Catonsville home during a severe storm in the area.

At the height of the storm Sunday evening, lightning struck the home of Mr. William Hopkins, Beechfield avenue, tearing the gable from one end of the house and setting it on fire. Mr. Hopkins is in Toledo, Ohio. Mrs. Hopkins, her two small children and a servant were in the house. The servant, after summoning the Catonsville and Mount Winans fire departments, grabbed a long garden hose, fastened it to a spigot on the outside of the house and carried the hose to the top floor. Standing on a window ledge, he succeeded in holding the blaze in check until the arrival of the firemen.

The ground near the house was littered with the shingles from the roof. The damage was about $50.

Just previous to the accident at the house, a large poplar tree 100 yards away was hit. The bark was nearly split to the roots.

Lightning also struck the home of Mr. John Z. Whitney, on Melrose avenue. A portion of the chimney was knocked from the roof and bricks were scattered over the yard.


Thursday's rain prevented the opening of the Odd Fellow's lawn fete on the lot belonging to the Misses Carter on Ingleside avenue. Weather permitting, the fete will be held Friday and Saturday evenings.


Indicating continued activity in Catonsville residential properties is the sale reported several days ago of an attractive property of Mrs. R.L. Coffin, on Shady Nook avenue, Paradise to H. Brooks Levering. The tract consists of one acre of land improved with an eight-room residence and all necessary out-buildings. The purchase price is reported at $5,000. Mr. and Mrs. Coffin have moved to Violetville.


After a week of terrific heat continuing day and night, which was trying on man and beast, the atmosphere was considerably cooled by the storm Thursday. The relief from the heat was greatly appreciated.

75 Years Ago

An article in the July 16, 1937, edition of The Catonsville Herald and Baltimore Countian reported the fatal consequences after a young Oella resident went for a ride on a motorcycle.

Edward Derflinger, 26, Oella resident was fatally injured on Thursday morning of this week when the motorcycle he was riding collided with a safety fence on Oella Avenue. Derflinger was taken to Mercy Hospital after receiving first aid from a local physician. The accident occurred around noon time today. It was reported that Derflinger had borrowed the cycle from another Oella resident.

Derflinger died at the hospital on Thursday afternoon.


Last Sunday evening, the home of Mrs. George D.C. Hesse, Edmondson Avenue extended, was the scene of a most enjoyable birthday party. The grounds were attractively decorated for the occasion, with colored lights making a beautiful reflection on the spacious lawn. The guests made merry until late in the evening when supper was served. At midnight, the birthday cake was cut and all offered congratulations and many happy returns of the day.


People of Halethorpe are again warned of the appearance of sneak thieves in this section. The store of Mr. W. L. Hucke of Washington Boulevard and the home of Mrs. J. P. Williams of Linden Avenue were both broken into recently.

50 Years Ago

An article in the July 19, 1962, edition of the Herald Argus and Baltimore Countian reported on a family tragedy in a quiet community off Baltimore National Pike.

Catonsville was the scene of a triple murder and suicide that wiped out a family this past Sunday morning, July 15. Police were called to 1002 Leslie avenue at about 6 A.M. and found a 68-year-old man, his wife and young son dead of gun shot wounds. A second child, a 16-year-old daughter, died on the way toSt. Agnes Hospital, where she was transported in the Catonsville Fire Department ambulance.

Police found John H. Butler, Sr., 68, slumped in a chair in the sun parlor of the three-story house with a 12-gauge shot gun between his legs and the barrel pointing towards his face. He was clad in pajamas. Investigation Officers Donald Rogers and William H. Raubach, Jr., of the Wilkens police station, found the victim's wife, Bernice A. Butler, 52, lying in bed on the second floor shot in the back; a daughter, Leslie, 16, on the floor unconscious in another room, and a fourth victim, John, ten, in bed in still another room shot in the right side.

Dr. Charles Davidson, the family physician, told police that Mr. Butler had been ill in recent years and he had treated him for a stroke previously.


Catonsville Junior High School will undergo thorough modernization and remodeling, according to the Baltimore County Board of Education. Ferdinand P. Kelly, architect, has designed the new interior, which will require virtual rebuilding of most of the inside of the structure.

Old wood floors will be replaced by concrete covered with asphalt tile. Partitions and walls will be positioned to make better use of the space available. Fire screens and ceilings will be installed and modernized.

The $881,000 project, due to reach completion in February, will include an extension of the present auditorium and gymnasium. New oil heating equipment will replace the outdated coal burners and modern boilers will be installed.


A Catonsville boy, William Watson, 16, of Rolling Road Golf Club, is the only young golfer in the entire Baltimore area to qualify for the U.S. Golf Association junior championships to be held August 1-4 at the Grosse Pointe Country Club in Detroit, Mich.

Young Watson, son of Mr. and Mrs. William W. Watson of 422 Gun road, Catonsville, won the honor of representing the Baltimore section when he shot a 74 at Baltimore Country Club on Monday, July 16, three strokes ahead of Melvin Rifman of Turf Valley, who edged Watson last year.

Watson will begin his senior year this fall at Catonsville Senior High School, where he is on the wrestling team.

Material from archives courtesy of the Catonsville Historical Society.

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