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Bits and pieces of Laurel's history [History Matters]

Laurel Leader

While researching stories from Laurel's past, I accumulate lots of brief, and sometimes odd, items that don't lend themselves to the usual long form. This gives me a chance to clean out that file.

1816: There were four competing stagecoach lines running from Washington to Baltimore and through Laurel on the Washington Turnpike (Route 1). The six-hour trip cost $6.

1860: In the Presidential election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln received one vote from all of Prince George's County.

1900: In July, the city passed a dog tax, which called for the bailiff to collect the tax or kill every dog on which tax had not been paid within one month of the due date. The bailiff and city treasurer each received 5 percent of the dog taxes collected, and the bailiff also received 50 cents for each dog killed, so he made money either way.

1903: In September, Company B of the First Confederate Maryland Cavalry held a reunion at the Academy of Music in Laurel. The event was hosted by former Civil War Confederate soldier and former Laurel Mayor Charles Stanley. Laurel resident John W. Williams had also been a member of Company B.

1904: In October, the conductor on the Laurel-to-Washington electric trolley was killed when the trolley's brakes failed as it approached the end of the line at Sixth and Main Streets in Laurel. Oliver's Saloon now occupies what was the original station. The trolley ran off the rails and continued down the embankment to the Patuxent River below.

1911: In November, only a month after the Laurel Race Course opened, "a well organized effort by a band of notorious race track crooks to flim-flam betters of other cities on the results of the Laurel races was unearthed," according to the Laurel Leader. Using hand signals and waving handkerchiefs, the gang flashed the race results to a series of crooks, with the final one having "arranged direct communication with New York, and from there the results could be dispersed to other cities fully an hour before the news could be sent through regular channels."

1919: In June, a hen belonging to the Rev. L.E.N.S. Nash, of Laurel, hatched a four-legged chicken, "which is causing considerable interest among the population."

1936: In August, Laurel City Council meeting minutes contained the following: "Messrs. Fox and Levine appeared, at the Mayor's request, to answer complaints of disorderly conduct by negros [sic] and others in the private alley between their places. After general discussion, including the suggestion by Mr. Levine that Town Officers keep the premises clear of loiterers, to which the President objected, it was proposed by Mr. McCeney that Fox erect a fence on his side of the alley, which would give access to the negro's [sic] bar, and that the alley gates be kept closed. To this both Levine and Fox at first assented. Later, Fox proposed that he would partition off a portion of his front room and make a new entrance for negros [sic] from Main St. The gentlemen and Miss Fox then withdrew. At this point the proceedings of the Council were interrupted by a slug-fest between the respondents."

1942: In April, responding to a request from the Laurel Lions Club and American Legion Post 60 for more security during World War II, the cupola at the top of what was then Laurel High School on Montgomery Street was converted to an Air Raid Observation Post. More than 50 Laurel residents took turns working two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day standing lookout for enemy planes. Airplane identification posters were posted in the tower and a phone was installed to sound the alert if enemy planes were spotted.

1965: In March, a hand grenade being carried in a borrowed Volkswagen detonated as the car was stopping for a red light at the corner of Route 198 West and Route 1 north. The 20-year-old driver, an airman stationed at Fort Meade, claimed he found the grenade on a firing range. Witnesses told the News Leader that, as the car approached the traffic light, "It just blew up. The windows all flew out and smoke started pouring out." The driver survived, barely. Surprisingly, the Volkswagen did not.

1970: In June, the national Movement to Restore Decency organization sponsored a public meeting at Laurel High School titled "Hippies…LSD…Sex…The 'Youth Quake' That Is Destroying So Many Children." According to the News Leader, speaker Ken Granger "has gone deeply into the 'drug culture' to study the attitude and actions of this revolutionary force. With camera in hand, he has visited 'pot' parties, Hippie communes, the 'love-ins' and the riots that form so large a part of the 'youth quake.' Is it merely a fad, a phase which will soon pass? Are the 'Hippies' simply charming idealists and harmless kooks, or are they the product and the promoters of some cynical and sinister movement aimed at American youth?"

1995: Laurel High School graduate and master craftsman Jim Ladenburg started a project to build a model replica of the old Laurel Cotton Mill and the surrounding area. After years of work, Ladenburg, who does architectural furniture restoration, has completed modeling the old Ninth Street bridge and the building that currently houses the Laurel Historical Society. His attention to detail extends to replicating the exact number of bricks in each row and creating tiny authentic terra cotta rain gutters from the 1800s. Unfortunately, Ladenburg couldn't find any interest in his amazing model with the city or the Laurel Historical Society and has since stopped work on it.

History Matters is a monthly column rediscovering Laurel's past. Rick McGill and Richard Friend contributed to this story. Do you have an item to add? Contact Kevin Leonard at 301- 776-9260 or info@theleonardgroupinc.com.

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