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.
The newspaper reported, “Mr. R. Frank Caples, a young grocer and farmer, of Cockeysville, and Miss Stella Parks, a daughter of … a farmer near that place, eloped to this city on Tuesday. [They] 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…”
The plot quickly thickened with all manner of Shakespearean twists. “The father and brother of the bride, accompanied by a detective, it is said, 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 … walked two miles to Spring Mills Station, where they boarded a train and went on their way rejoicing. [Sadly the newlyweds were unaware] 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…”
Not to be outdone, tongues must have been really wagging in the beginning of April 1922 with particularly scandalous news from Hampstead. On March 31, 1922, the “Democratic Advocate” reported, “With plans carefully laid a Baltimore county couple started a journey that would lead to the land of matrimonial bliss…”
“The plans did not call for handsome carriages, not even limousines … the couple started … with a stout heart and eight dollars. For such a journey the first point of interest would be Hampstead, the [quintessential] town of ‘Brotherly Love’ …
“The couple arrived in Hampstead late in the afternoon and registered at the Hotel Hampstead. But hark! the first error was made. They registered as man and wife. The plans did not reckon with manager Patterson whose watchful eyes detected an error and ‘foresaw’ trouble. The manager notified the county authorities.
“These officials hurried to the scene. The cruel, cruel officers notified the parents of the young lady and her father came and took her home. In the ‘Annals of Sheriffdom’ another elopement was recorded as smashed.”
One could only speculate what would happen if a similar circumstance were to occur today. Sadly, the hotel is no longer standing in the middle of Hampstead — across the street from Seth Shipley’s jewelry store and Steve and Leah Rogers’ Outlaw BBQ Smokehouse at 1300 Main Street.
No doubt today, the “Baltimore couple” would have dined on an “Outlaw Cuban Sandwich” and an order of pulled pork fries, this writer’s favorite; before going nearby to Shipley’s Fine Jewelry at 1224 Main Street for a wedding ring. Whether or not Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees would have broken-up the impending wedding is up to a coin toss.
Yet, wait – the best has been saved for last. According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Jay Graybeal, the Westminster Democratic Advocate newspaper reported on December 23, 1921, “that the present term of the Circuit Court for Carroll county George W. Owings, a hospital attendant, was indicted on a charge of non-support of his wife, Clara Blum Owings … [Out] of his indictment has come one of the most novel suits ever docketed in this State.”
His defense? He claimed that he was married while unconscious. According to the newspaper article, “Owings at that time was visiting at the home of George A. Shipley, a retired farmer, near this city… That he was called in the night on July 25 last, by the brothers of Miss Blum and other persons, who demanded that he go with them to marry her; that he refused and tried to escape… That they seized him and struck him on the head with some metal implement, rendering him unconscious; that he did not recover or realize what was going on until he found himself near midnight at Westminster in an automobile, and was informed that he had been married to Miss Blum…” He was married by Rev. R. N. Edwards, pastor of Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church.
In the following February 1922 term of the Circuit Court for Carroll County, Chief Judge William H. Thomas was on the bench and “found a verdict against him for non-support. Weant & Brown represented defendant; Bond & Parke for plaintiff.” Of course, we can only wonder what our current State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo would have done with such a case or what Circuit Court Judge Richard Titus would have decided.