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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Kevin Dayhoff: Long gone tales from the dog days of summer

This isn’t the first, nor is it the last time Carroll County will experience the stifling heat of the dog days of summer. Some years, however, have been hotter and more eventful than others.

During the American Civil War on Aug. 28, 1862, the uncles of the famed 20th Century Carroll County Judge Neal Parke – Henry and Francis Parke – were arrested for being suspected southern sympathizers, at their home on Main Street in Westminster, where the Boys and Girls Club now stands across the street from the old fire hall.

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East Main in Westminster at the railroad tracks looking east, just after the American Civil War, in the 1860s. To the right is St. John Roman Catholic Church before the steeple was constructed. In July and August 1863, after the battle of Gettysburg, there were as many as 7,000 Confederate prisoners, as well as thousands of wounded soldiers, mules, wagons and armed Union soldiers in Westminster. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Carroll County.

For context, Westminster was a town of 1,900 residents a year later in August 1863, and no doubt, the weather was just as hot as what we have been experiencing. The area near the Rock Salt restaurant on West Main Street was a mosquito swamp and pond. The area we know today as the Westminster Playground – Westminster City Park – was a swamp. Can you imagine the flies and mosquitoes?

In July and August 1863, after the battle of Gettysburg, there were as many as 7,000 Confederate prisoners in the infield of Fairground Hill (near Colonial Avenue) as well as thousands of wounded soldiers, mules, wagons and armed Union soldiers in Westminster. Even today, that would be a logistical and security challenge. In 1863, Westminster had no water or sewage system. Dogs, hogs, cattle, chickens and horses freely roamed the dirt and muddy streets.

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In the Historical Society of Carroll County publication entitled “Carroll Record Histories of Northwestern Carroll County Communities,” published on Jan. 1, 1994, Theodore E. Woodward wrote a tribute to his Uncle Theodore Englar – “Uncle Thee,” of Wakefield.

The Westminster Station of the Western Maryland Railroad, from around 1900. This station was dedicated on Dec. 26, 1896, a year after Mr. R. Frank Caples and Miss Stella Parks ran away, arrived in Westminster by train, and got married at the Methodist Protestant Church in the ‘Dog Days of August.’ Submitted photo.

Local historian Jay Graybeal called this tribute to Englar to our attention in a Carroll County Times article from July 1994. In his tribute, Woodward wrote, in part, “I have always enjoyed the company of older people and Uncle Thee was among my favorites.

“His wife was a Roop, who lived at Meadowbrook, a farm several miles northwest of College Hill. We lived next door to Uncle Thee [in] the old Matthews home ... at 1 Park Place. Living next to Uncle Thee gave me ready access to their house and great opportunities to listen.”

The home he is referring to is believed to have been the residence of George Washington Matthews, who passed away August 23, 1903, and his Matthews’ son, George E. Matthews.The Woodward family purchased the home in 1928. In the 1870s, Westminster annexed (not without controversy) a residential development, just outside of town, developed by Matthews, which included the area around Belle Grove Square, name after his daughter, Carrie Belle. He ( donated it for community green space on May 8, 1877.

Matthews was part owner of the Wagner and Matthew’s Foundry and Machine Shops, where “The Stone Building” is on Liberty Street. His son, George E. Matthews, was the mayor and police chief 60 years later in 1937, when the Westminster Playground was dedicated.

“Uncle Thee was 15 at the time of the Gettysburg battle,” Woodward wrote. “The guns of Gettysburg were heard in Westminster and Uncle Thee, as a boy, was on the battlefield the day after Picketts’ charge [and] his stories of the blood, horror and stench remain fixed. He heard Lincoln’s address … and saw the President… People snickered when they saw this very tall, bearded, rather awkward man, dressed all in black and a stovepipe hat, riding a donkey leading the parade to the cemetery. His legs were so long that his feet dragged along the ground.

“[E]veryone was completely captivated by Lincoln’s brief impressive words which were then followed by solid applause.”

Shaw’s Drug Store, Westminster in the building at 46 W. Main St., at the intersection with John Street, around 1910. The building no longer exists. It was the home to several businesses. Shaw’s drug store stood at the corner. Sharing the building on the Main Street side was Thomas H. Easley’s clothing store. At the far end of the block along John Street stood Wilson’s Livery Stable. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Carroll County.

In other August news, on Aug. 17, 1895, the Westminster newspaper, the American Sentinel, carried a story about love, life, family and marriage that sounds like a plot from a William Shakespeare play.

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Probably more like “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” as opposed to “Richard III.” Of course, for many, including this writer, all of life can be ultimately distilled to some aspect of Shakespeare.

The American Sentinel article reported, “Mr. R. Frank Caples, a young grocer and farmer, of Cockeysville, and Miss Stella Parks, a daughter of Mr. George Parks, a farmer near that place, eloped to this city on Tuesday, spent the night at the Montour House and were married on Wednesday morning, by Rev. A. D. Melvin, pastor of the M. P. (Methodist Protestant) Church. They reached here by driving across the country from Cockeysville to Glyndon, where they took a train, arriving here Tuesday night.”

Here is where the plot thickened: “The father and brother of the bride, accompanied by a detective … arrived here shortly after the marriage ceremony was performed. Mr. Caples and his bride were walking along West Main street, between the Montour House and the railroad, when they spied Mr. Parks on the opposite side of the street. Not caring to encounter the irate parent, they turned into the side entrance to one of the residences of that point … and walked two miles [south] to Spring Mills Station, where they boarded a train and went on their way rejoicing.

The Carroll County Courthouse around 1905. In August 1895 Mr. R. Frank Caples and Miss Stella Parks ran away to Westminster and got married at the Methodist Protestant Church. However, this is how the courthouse appeared in 1905 – if they had chosen to be married by the Clerk of the Court. Submitted photo.

“The amusing feature of this latter incident is that Mr. Parks was seeking his daughter and her husband for the purpose of assuring them of his forgiveness and to invite them to return home.”

Sort of gives a new meaning to the dog days of summer. And you thought the heat was a problem.

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Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.


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