Linwood: Hard to locate, easy to like 'People move there and just don't want to leave'


There are people who have lived in Carroll County all their lives and couldn't tell a lost driver how to get to Linwood. Nestled between New Windsor and Union Bridge on the county's western border, only a small sign on Route 75 reminds passers-by that the village still exists.

The dozen or so stately Victorian homes that straddle McKinstry's Mill Road aren't visible from the highway, so the community appears even more mysterious to the uninitiated -- a sort of a modern-day Brigadoon.

Like Brigadoon, Linwood seems to cast a spell over its residents.

"People move there and just don't want to leave," said Realtor Georgia Hoff. She and her husband, Sam, live in nearby New Windsor and operate the Samuel C. Hoff Agency in Westminster.

The Hoffs have been marketing homes in and around Linwood for nearly 30 years, but requests for their services are few and far between, Georgia Hoff said.

Sales are so infrequent -- the last property in the village sold two years ago -- that working an appraisal often relies more on intuition than science.

There is usually nothing with which to compare a home so "you have to use your gut and test the market," she said.

Bud and Nan Hyde have lived in Linwood for 27 years -- long enough for Bud to be christened the village's unofficial mayor by the two dozen or so residents of the town proper.

Linwood adds to its population by extending five miles through the Priestland Valley north to Bark Hill and Mount Union roads toward Union Bridge and Union Town.

He still claims, however, "You really have to be here three generations to truly be considered part of Linwood."

Founded in the 1780s and said to have been named for the Linden trees planted on a nearby farm, Linwood did not hit its stride until the middle of the 19th century. By then, farmers had settled the area and with them came a need for services.

Linwood, located along Little Pipe Creek, was an ideal site for a mill. Some local landowners also ensured that it became a depot for the Western Maryland Railway -- as the railroad chugged west from Baltimore to Hagerstown in the 1860s -- by cleverly maneuvering their way onto the railroad's board of directors.

The railroad's presence attracted the attention of Josiah Englar, considered by most to be the one person who put the village on the map.

Englar moved to Linwood from Cumberland and operated the grain elevator, train depot, general store and post office, along with a lumberyard and coal business -- all of which were eventually passed to his sons Joseph, John and Nathan.

Today, the spirit of the Englar family lives on in the homes and businesses that family members built.

The grain elevator is now the Linwood Trading Co. -- one of the few mills in Carroll County where farmers can still get feed ground to custom specifications.

With just four employees and a dwindling number of farmers in the area, the mill is not quite as busy as it once was, "but we do just fine," manager Deb Myers said.

Two years ago, Josiah Englar's house became the Wood's Gain Bed and Breakfast. Steve and Beverly Kerkam open up their home to guests on weekends only.

The Kerkams lived in a Westminster subdivision for 20 years before moving out to Linwood to get a head start on their retirement project.

Both still work full-time -- she with the county Board of Education's career counseling department and he as a manager for Bell Atlantic.

The couple and their 13-year-old daughter, Nicki, spent three years looking at potential B & Bs in Carroll, Gettysburg, Pa., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va., before settling on Linwood. When Beverly told Steve about the property, his response was typical of many Carroll countians.

"I said, 'Where's Linwood?' " Steve Kerkam laughed. "We'd been coming out this way for 15 years or so -- going to Union Bridge for pancake breakfasts -- and never realized Linwood was even here."

The couple said they were struck from the beginning -- and continue to be inspired -- by Linwood's sense of community. On their first visit to what is now their home, Nicki was invited by the girls next door to come over and play while her parents toured the house.

They even lent her some clothes so she wouldn't get her Sunday best dirty.

The girls remain friendly, as do all of the neighbors in the village.

"People here know each other and they really care about each other," Beverly Kerkam said.

"If somebody's car gets stuck in the snow, you see five people there with shovels digging them out."

The Kerkams and other residents are also charmed by Linwood's historic appeal.

Carroll County's first entry on the National Register of Historic Places, Linwood is "virtually untouched from the turn of the century," Beverly Kerkam said, marveling: "If you took the cars out of the picture and put the horses back, it could be 100 years ago."

The village's oldest resident, Mildred Pittinger, has spent more than half of her 86 years in Linwood. She was a student at the one-room school up the road and then came back as principal until the school closed in 1937. The building is now a private residence.

"Miss Millie," as she is known by all, has kept a diary of her life in Linwood since 1925. There she recalls the neighborhood birthday parties and picnics that once filled her calendar, as well as the laughter and stories that once rang out from her parlor, when her father, Usher Pittinger, was still alive and his friends were regular guests in their home.

Space between houses

Today, many of Linwood's residents commute to jobs elsewhere, so there is not as much time to get together. But Miss Millie -- busy with her small ceramics business and other activities -- is not complaining.

"One of the things I've always liked about Linwood is that the houses are the right distance apart," she said. "Nobody's right up against you."

Bud and Nan Hyde found the multi-acre lots to their advantage when they looked for a new home nearly three decades ago. The couple first kept horses on their 9-acre property. Now they run a small cow-calf operation.

The Hydes' land, like that of other Linwood residents, is bordered on three sides by land belonging to the Lehigh Portland Cement Co.

The cement company property could eventually be mined for limestone. At present, however, Lehigh appears to have offered Linwood a protective buffer against commercial and residential development.

In fact, Bud Hyde said, the only thing that puts Linwood on the map is the Linwood Church of the Brethren's strawberry festival each June.

"There are more people in town that day than the rest of the year," he said.

"Other than that, Linwood is off the track."


Population: 627

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 45 minutes

Public schools: Elmer Wolfe Elementary, Northwest Middle, Francis Scott Key High

Nearest mall: Cranberry Mall in Westminster

ZIP code: 21791

Average price of a single-family home: $189,280*

* Based on five sales since Jan. 1, 1995, through Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies Inc.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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