Often, understanding who and what we are as a Carroll County community today is one or two conversations away, if we just take the time to talk with older family or community members. We’re often only one generation away from history.
“More than 80 years ago, Theodore Englar of Wakefield … posed for a [photograph] with a baby boy seated in his lap. The boy Theodore Woodward, had been named after his “Uncle Thee.” The boy grew to be an eminent physician … and a keeper of family and community oral traditions. This oral tradition forms a rich part of our local heritage;” according to Jay Graybeal in a July 1994 Carroll County Times article.
Before he died on July 11, 2005, Woodward was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of infectious diseases. I learned about Woodward through long conversations with a friend of Woodward’s, my father-in-law, David S. Babylon, Jr, who served as the Westminster Common Council president for much of his tenure as a Westminster elected official from 1964-1989.
According to a Historical Society of Carroll County publication from many years ago, entitled "Carroll Record Histories of Northwestern Carroll County Communities,” Dr. Theodore E. Woodward wrote, “…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 … [in Belle Grove Square.] Living next to Uncle Thee gave me … great opportunities to listen.”
I believe the “Matthews” home is the home of George Washington Matthews who passed away Aug. 23, 1903. In the 1870s, Westminster annexed, in spite of huge controversy, a residential community, just outside of town, developed by Matthews, which included the area we now know as Belle Grove Square.
Belle Grove Square was named after his daughter, Carrie Belle. He donated the community green space on May 8, 1877. Matthews was part owner of the Wagner and Matthews Foundry and Machine Shops, where “The Stone Building” is on Liberty Street. Matthews’ son, George E. Matthews, was the mayor 60 years later in 1937, when the Westminster Playground was dedicated.
Woodward continued, “Uncle Thee was 15 at the time of the Gettysburg battle … The guns of Gettysburg were heard in Westminster and Uncle Thee, as a boy, was on the battlefield the day after Pickett’s charge…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… at first everyone was completely captivated by Lincoln's brief impressive words which were then followed by solid applause.”
On Aug. 28, 1862, Henry and Francis, the uncles of the famous Carroll County jurist, Judge Neal Parke; were arrested for being southern sympathizers. They were arrested at their home where the Westminster Boys and Girls Club now stands across the street from the old Fire Hall, where the city offices were once located – and where today “My Gossip Girls Consignments” can be found.
Westminster was a town of 1,900 residents in August of 1863. The area next to “RockSalt,” was a pond and a mosquito swamp — as was what we now know as the Westminster Playground.
In August of 1863, Frederic Shriver Klein reported in his book, “Just South of Gettysburg,” that over 40 prominent Westminster citizens were arrested by Union soldiers on the charge of “general disloyalty.”
Those arrested included members of the medical community such as Dr. Mathias, Dr. Trumbo, Dr. J. W. Hering, and their wives. Also arrested were Col. Longwell and his wife, Mrs. Longwell, who lived in the building we now know as Westminster City Hall. Those arrested were required to take an oath of allegiance to the government of the United States.
According to “Recollections” by Dr. Hering, at Mrs. Longwell’s “trial” on Aug. 27, 1863, in Westminster, she was told that “among other things, you are charged with feeding the rebel soldiers [in what we now know as Westminster City Hall]…
“Well,” she replied, “I did, I would feed a hungry dog who came to my house. I would even feed you, if you came to my house hungry.” At that, it is reported that Mrs. Longwell’s husband “nearly collapsed.”
Reportedly, Mrs. Longwell subsequently took the oath of allegiance. Others, however, did not and were imprisoned at Ft. McHenry until the following spring.
Sorta gives a new meaning to the dog days of August. And you thought the heat was a problem.