New Windsor has always based its knowledge of the "early days" on a history written by Frank J. Devilbiss, a resident who contributed columns to the The Carroll Record during the 1890s. In his account, Devilbiss related how Isaac Richardson Atlee came to the area in 1788, "noted considerable travel on both the Monocacy and Buffalo roads, which crossed here, and, being of a business turn of mind, concluded that a tavern at this juncture would be a profitable investment."
Locals have long believed that the new town grew around Atlee's tavern. After he purchased the surrounding land, had it surveyed in 1796, and divided it into 28 lots, Atlee sold these lots to shopkeepers and tradesmen, forming the nucleus of what he called New Windsor. Furthermore, it was thought that his tavern was located on lots Nos. 6 and 7 of the original plat, right at the crossroads he found so attractive. Today, this is High and Main streets and where the old Dielman Inn now stands. Parts of this building once belonged to Atlee's son, James Clemson Atlee, who started the Whitehall hotel on these premises in 1829. It all seemed to make perfect sense. Father starts tavern on this site; son later turns tavern into hotel.
Then in June 2014, the New Windsor Heritage Committee received an inquiry from a Gary Fisher of St. Peters, Missouri. He had an old ledger with "N Windsor" on the first few pages and wondered if this referred to New Windsor, Maryland. He e-mailed a few photos of the ledger and said that it had belonged to an ancestor, Emanuel Brower.
Jeanne Laudermilch, president of the group, immediately recognized some of the names listed — Hibberd, Baile, Englar, Yingling, Frizell — as those of the town's original residents. Fisher agreed to donate the ledger to the committee.
Laudermilch has spent countless hours transcribing each entry in the fragile 293-page book which tracks business transactions from Sept. 1, 1806, through Dec. 30, 1813. The jottings can be considered one enormous bar bill with patrons putting their imbibing on the tab and then paying it off later. There are also charges for broken tumblers and "window lights," which leads one to believe that bar room brawls may have been part of the local atmosphere.
In researching deeds, Laudermilch discovered that Brower purchased lot No. 6 on June 24, 1797; just three months after Atlee founded the town. Lot No. 6 is now the lower portion of the Dielman Inn. So, did Atlee have the first tavern in town and then relinquish the business so he could concentrate on real estate? Or was Atlee's tavern located nearby and not where the Dielman Inn now stands? Or did Atlee never have a tavern and did he come to the area to farm and then decided to found a town?
It took over 200 years to discover the ledger. The town will just have to wait until the next clue turns up to solve this mystery.
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Frank J. Batavick is vice chair of the Historical Society of Carroll County's board of trustees and a member of the New Windsor Heritage Committee.