This is a story of a Christmas baptism many years ago.

It was just before Christmas, back in 1889. All was in readiness for the trip down to Bush River Neck and Garretson's Methodist Chapel.


George and Mary Elizabeth's baby boy was bundled up, Nellie the horse and the buggy were outfitted so all was ready for the trip for the little village of Aberdeen. The chapel was in Michaelsville, just south of Perrymansville, but a lengthy trip from Aberdeen in horse and buggy.

Mary Elizabeth was intent upon having her new baby, born earlier in December, baptized at the family chapel. Her other older children were baptized there, she had said, and she considered this child to be her special Christmas "gift." It was only right that he should be baptized at Christmas. George was a bit worried that the trip would be too difficult, but he went along with his wife's plans.

As the family turned from Broadway onto the Bush River Neck Road, past the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad watch box, Watchman Jake called out as they passed. "It smells like snow to me, George. Be careful with the little one. Try to get back as early as you can, and I'll have a couple extra lanterns out." George and Jake both worked for the railroad, and Jake always tried to take care of his boss and the family that lived around the corner.

With the early start, the family arrived at Garretson's Chapel in plenty of time for services. They sky was very heavy, but conditions were still dry. Friends greeted the little family, and were anxious to see the new baby. Extra wood was put in the stoves, so the sanctuary was cozy and warm for the big event.

Baby Clinton, so tiny among all the blankets, had slept during most of the trip down the Michaelsville. But Mary Elizabeth worried that maybe she had been premature in her baptism plans for her baby on a cold December day, but all was going well, so far.

Of course, the congregation had lunch for everyone after the service. The little family stayed for a short time, but George was anxious to hitch up Nellie and head home because the sky was getting very dark.

In those days, the roads from Aberdeen to the Garretson's Chapel in Michaelsville, and back, was a day's trip by horse and buggy. With that in mind, the family started back as soon as they could.

The trip going back home seemed much longer than ever. Everyone was tired. Mary Elizabeth held the blankets and baby close, and she heard a little cry when the road got a little bumpy. If only they could be back home!

It had started to snow, and soon it was difficult so see the roadway. Mary Elizabeth hugged the crying baby. George coaxed Nellie, but going was getting rougher and rougher.

Then, there were lights in the distance. There was Jake at the watch box with all the lanterns he had, showing the way. Nellie and the buggy made it very carefully over the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railroad tracks. There was the house round the corner! They made it as Watchman Jake lighted the way.

This is a true story, told by our grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Garretson. She said her Christmas prayers were answered.

For those not familiar with some of the names mentioned, Michaelsville is now a part of Aberdeen Proving Ground. Garretson's Chapel no longer stands, but appears on maps showing the land acquired by the federal government to build APG. Bush River Neck Road is now known as East Bel Air Avenue. The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad is now Amtrak. The street known as Broadway is now North Philadelphia Boulevard. The watch box stood on the west side of the railroad at the entrance to the pedestrian overpass today.

The house still stands on North Philadelphia Boulevard, along with the little shed where Nellie the horse rested after the treacherous trip on that December day.

The watch box has been preserved, and now stands on the southwest corner of Festival Park in Aberdeen.


A merry Christmas to all!!