Taking a look at presidents who have visited Carroll County
By Jacob deNobel and Times Staff Writer
Feb 15, 2015 at 3:00 AM
As Presidents Day approaches, the Times caught up with Cathy Baty, the curator of collections at the Historical Society of Carroll County, to discuss the occassions standing or former presidents have visited Carroll County.
The first president to visit Carroll County was, conveniently enough, the first president. In 1791, George Washington, while travelling from his home in Mt. Vernon to the then-U.S. capital of Philadelphia, spent the night in the"Adam Good Tavern" an inn located in Taneytown – then located in Frederick County.
Nearly 70 years later, it's still a common occurrence for John Chambers to be asked about the Pumpkin Papers, so named because his father hid inside a hollowed-out pumpkin five canisters containing microfilm of sensitive documents that implicated a prominent government official named Alger Hiss.
According to local legend, the spacing on the Adam Good Tavern was slightly askew, causing the A to separate partially from the rest of the name Adam. When Washington saw the sign, it's reported he read it as "A Dam Good Tavern" and joked that it must be a good enough place to stay.
The tavern was a log building located on Frederick Street near the square in Taneytown that was torn down in the 1890s. According to Baty, the door handle to the Inn, that was likely used by Washington himself, is now on view at the Historical Society.
It was nearly another century before another president came to the county, with President Grant attending the Carroll County agricultural fair in 1873.
Grant's trip got off to an awkward start, according to Baty, as his train was delayed and pulled off of the rails in order to make room for a mail train which was running behind schedule. The rest of the trip went fairly smoothly, with Grant taking in the exhibits and horse races at the fair and then visiting Western Maryland College, now known as McDaniel, in Westminster.
In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt became the first former president to visit Carroll County, during his campaign to unseat sitting president William Howard Taft in the Republican primaries three years after leaving the White House.
During his time in Carroll, Roosevelt visited New Windsor and Westminster to campaign. In Westminster he gave a speech in front of the American Sentinel, the Republican newspaper of the era. According to the Times' coverage of the event, Roosevelt discussed his admiration for former president Abraham Lincoln. During that same edition of the then-weekly Times, it was noted that Roosevelt lost the Republican primary to Taft, who received 651 Carroll County votes to Roosevelt's 557.
William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge
In 1918 President Taft and in 1928 President Coolidge made brief stops in the county, with Taft appearing in Westminster and Coolidge stopping in Hampstead on his way to Gettysburg. Taft's visit came between his presidential service and his run on the Supreme Court while Coolidge appeared in the midst of his presidency.
President Herbert Hoover had the strongest roots in Carroll County compared to any other U.S. president, according to Baty, with several generations of Hoover's ancestors living here in the mid-1700s.
During his presidency, Hoover was tracing his family roots, and hired local historians to find his family property. Baty said Hoover was here in the fall of 1928 looking for an ancestor buried in the Quaker Cemetery in Union Bridge, when he came across a local family having a picnic.
Hoover accepted an invitation to picnic with the father and son. After discovering his family's homestead, adjacent to the Pipe Creek Church of the Brethren in Union Bridge, he returned in May of 1929 with the Hoover family and secret service to see the family homestead.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
While Hoover had the strongest roots, "Ike" may hold the record for most time spent in Carroll County by a U.S. president, according to Baty.
Eisenhower's first visit was to the Cambridge Rubber Company in Taneytown, now the site of MasterWorks. Baty said the plant produced shoes for the military in World War II, and Eisenhower reportedly loved their shoes, so when the opportunity presented itself, he visited their factory.
Following his presidency, Eisenhower moved to Gettysburg and frequently visited Carroll, eventually becoming a life member of the Union Mills Homestead. Baty said his vehicle was a frequent sight in the county in those days.
George W. Bush
In 2001, following the 9/11 attacks and in the early days of the war in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush visited the Brethren Center in New Windsor as the culmination of a nationwide effort to raise money to send supplies to Afghan children on Dec. 8. Stan Noffsinger, the Brethren Service Center director at the time, said having a president overseeing a contentious war visit a church known for their peace activism was a contentious issues with members of the congregation.
"We were clearly at a time with the nation of deep mourning, and there was a conflict with a president who had quickly moved towards an invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq," Noffsinger said in a recent interview.
"Having him on the campus, for some of our members, was pushing us clear to an edge that was uncomfortable."
Noffsinger said one of the conditions of allowing Bush's visit was that members of the church and greater community had to be allowed the freedom to protest and dissent at the center as the motorcade transported the president from New Windsor Middle School to the service center. Noffsinger said the administration agreed to the terms, and the date was set.
Noffsinger was inside the church as the president landed and entered the motorcade. Soon, he said, he received a worried call from one of the church members who had lined up on Md. 31 to protest alongside Bush supporters. The member said every protester carrying a sign with a message of peace or against proposed military action was removed from the roadside and placed out of view of the motorcade, while those carrying pro-Bush slogans were allowed to remain. Noffsinger said if he had the power, he would have pulled the plug on the whole event at that moment.
"To have Carroll County visited by the seated president was an honor for the county and an honor for us. We do have a code of ethics that all are welcome and we extend hospitality to any guest if it's the president or an immigrant just starting out," Noffsinger said. "However, this one piece pretty much tainted the entire event for all of us. That was a very difficult day for me."
Despite the stress of what Noffsinger describes as a dark day, he said, in hindsight, he does not regret allowing Bush the chance to visit their campus.
"Sometimes you have to rise above yourself to think about the community at large. It was an opportunity for Carroll County to understand that quiet little campus in New Windsor reaches out to many organizations to bring about wellness and to feel the hungry," Noffsinger said. "There's the blessing and the intense struggle. Were I asked to do it again, I would, but I would make very clear that there would be no violation of covenants made."
Despite the stresses on the members fo the Brethren Service Center, many community members of New Windsor came out to greet the President and First Lady.
Kristen Thompson, then a seventh-grade student at New Windsor Middle School, was asked to introduce the Red Cross president who would then introduce the President Bush himself.
Prior to her speech, Thomspon said she was shuffled through security and had an opportunity to meet the President and First Lady.
"It all happened really fast with no notice," Thompson said. "I didn't even know about it until the night before, when they sent over a pre-written speech. Bush and his wife were really nice. I still have everything from that day. After the speech, Laura Bush came and gave me a big hug and told me I did really well. That's the kind of thing that sticks with you."