History of Western Maryland, Vol. 6: Allegany & Garrett Counties – J. Thomas Scharf
The preparation of “History of Western Maryland”, one of the most voluminous works on the history of that part of the United States, imposed a vast responsibility and an immense amount of labor. In the compilation of this history no authority of importance has been overlooked. The author has carefully examined every source of information open to him, and has availed himself of every fact that could throw new light upon, or impart additional interest to, the subject under consideration. Besides consulting the most reliable records and authorities, over fifteen thousand communications were addressed to persons supposed to be in possession of facts or information calculated to add value to the work. Recourse has not only been had to the valuable libraries of Baltimore, Annapolis, Frederick, and Hagerstown, but the author and his agents have visited personally the entire territory embraced in the six counties of Western Maryland, spending much time in each district, examining ancient newspapers, musty manuscripts, family, church, and society records, conversing with the aged inhabitants, and collecting from them orally many interesting facts never before published, and which otherwise, in all probability, would soon have been lost altogether. In addition to the material partly used in the preparation of his ” Chronicles” and ” History of Baltimore City and County” and ” History of Maryland,” the author has consulted an immense number of pamphlets, consisting of county and town documents, reports of societies, associations, corporations, and historical discourses, and, in short, everything of a fugitive character that might in any way illustrate the history of Western Maryland. Sketches of the rise, progress, and present condition of the various religious denominations, professions, political parties, and charitable and benevolent institutions, societies, and orders form a conspicuous feature of the work. Manufacturing, commercial, and agricultural interests have also a prominent place. An account of the county school system is also given, and a history of the various institutions of learning of which Western Maryland has every reason to be proud. Many of the facts recorded, both statistical and historical, may seem trivial or tediously minute to the general reader, and yet such facts have a local interest and sometimes a real importance. Considerable space has also been given to biographies of leading and representative men, living and dead, who have borne an active part in the various enterprises of life, and who have become closely identified with the history of Frederick, Washington, Montgomery, Allegany, Carroll, and Garrett Counties. The achievements of the living must not be forgotten, nor must the memories of those who have passed away be allowed to perish. It is the imperative duty of the historian to chronicle their public and private efforts to advance the great interests of society. Their deeds are to be recorded for the benefit of those who follow them; they, in fact, form part of the history of their communities, and their successful lives add to the glory of the Commonwealth. A distinguishing feature of the work is its statistics of the various districts into which the six counties of Western Maryland are divided. In them the reader is brought into close relation with every part of Western Maryland. This is volume six out of six, covering Allegany and Garrett counties.
History of Western Maryland, Vol. 6: Allegany & Garrett Counties.
Excerpt from the text:
Allegany County is situated in the northwestern portion of Maryland. It is bounded on the north by Pennsylvania, on the east by Washington County and West Virginia, on the south by West Virginia, and on the west by Garrett County. The North Branch of the Potomac River passes along the southern, southeastern, and eastern limits of the county, and separates it from West Virginia. Mason and Dixon’s line separates it from Pennsylvania on the north, and Great Savage Mountain divides the counties of Allegany and Garrett. The boundary between Allegany and Washington Counties is Sideling Hill Creek.
The face of the country is very much broken by numerous ridges of the Allegany Mountains, making an almost constant alternation of rugged hills and narrow defiles or valleys. Along the Potomac River there are large bottoms or flats formed by alluvial deposits from the mountains which surround it, which were formerly very productive in Indian corn and grass. One of the most striking and curious features of the surface of Allegany County is the “glades,” large, level, flat, swampy bodies of land between the highest ridges of the Alleghanies. These are famous grazing-places for large flocks of cattle, which are driven from the neighboring counties of West Virginia to be pastured in the summer months. They were doubtless at one time lakes, and have been filled up gradually by washings from the surrounding hills, and by the decay of plants and trees which grew on them. The soil to the depth of many feet contains a large proportion of vegetable matter, and from this cause is dark and loamy, resembling very much the black-gum swamp soils of the lower counties of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The Little Savage Mountain, a ridge of the Alleghanies, divides the eastern waters which flow into the Potomac from the western streams which flow to the Ohio River. The summit of the mountain is from fifteen hundred to two thousand seven hundred feet above tide-water, and though the temperature in summer is pleasant, the spring season is backward and the winters are of long duration and great severity. The crops most generally grown are oats, buckwheat, rye, Indian corn, and wheat. The alluvial bottom-lands grow principally corn and oats; buckwheat and rye are confined more especially to the mountainous parts of the country, whilst wheat is almost exclusively restricted to the clay limestone lands in the eastern and the Cove in the western part of the county. This county would not compare with some others in the State if compelled to depend solely on its agricultural resources. In some portions farming has made great advances, and in others lands if properly cultivated and manured will in time pay large profits, and Allegany County in the future may become as famous for its agricultural as its mineral wealth, but at present the latter is the paramount basis of prosperity. The soils may be divided into the red rock or red sandstone, the limestone clay, the shaly red sandstone, the Potomac bottom, and the loamy soils in the coal regions.
The red sandstone soils are formed by the disintegration or decay of the red sandstone, which is easily recognized by its color. These soils are light and porous, except where argillaceous sandstone and shales are mixed with them. They do not suffer from drought or moisture, and from their color they readily absorb heat, and belong to the class known as quick soils. These are found from Sideling Creek to Polish Mountain, and extend within the mountain ‘ ranges to the bottom-lands of the Potomac. The soil in some places is much more porous and light than in others, owing to its location on the side of the hills, all its fine particles as soon as formed being washed out by rain-water, which leaves the larger fragments of rock behind.
The analysis above given is nearly an average of ten different examinations of this variety of soil taken from the different localities where it exists. On the eastern side of Polish Mountain we meet with the limestone and clay soils; for a short space on the eastern side of Martin’s Mountain the red soil again appears, but gives way to the limestone clay on the western slope, which continues until the top of Evitt’s Mountain is reached, where the shaly red sandstone occurs. The soil of the country between Savage River and Meadow Mountain is of this character, and it is found also in the Cove in a highly-cultivated state, producing fine crops.
The clay limestone soil is marked by the outcropping of limestone rocks running parallel to the mountain ranges. The surface soil, of variable depth, is a loam and of a darkish color; the subsoil is a tough, reddish clay, making fine brick, and with proper cultivation is very productive. These soils are so easily recognized as to render further description unnecessary. The difference in their fertility is due in part to the greater abundance of phosphoric acid in some localities than in others. On Merley’s Branch they are very productive. This is due not less to their composition than to the excellent mode of their cultivation and management.
The difference in the color of these limestone clay soils is due to the greater quantity and higher degree of oxidation of the iron in some than in other specimens.
The red shaly and sandstone soils are of a lighter color than the red sandstone soils, and have very nearly the same composition. They require thorough cultivation, and manuring with stable manure, straw, and litter as a top-dressing. The great disadvantage of these soils is their shallowness. Wherever the underlying rocks allow, they should be plowed as deep as possible. This will enable them to retain moisture well, and prevent their washing from heavy rains, which is a serious injury to them. The soils of the coal-lands on George Creek and the neighborhood of Frostburg are clayey soils and very productive, though they have received but little in the way of cultivation and nothing from manures. The soils in the middle and western coal-fields are generally of a light and sandy texture.
The bottom-lands on the Potomac vary in proportion to their composition from the washings of the different varieties of soils named above, but some of them are very productive.
In many places these lands suffer from too much moisture from the springs of the adjacent hills. There is another soil here, covering but a small space of the country, tough, cold, clayey, and of a whitish character. The stable bulwark of this county is its mineral wealth. The effort to develop this and to afford facilities for its introduction into market has absorbed much of the legislation of the State for years. To effect this development the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal has been built, at a cost of many millions of dollars. The extent of this mineral wealth, its value to the State, and its importance to the country at large in its commerce and manufactures, fully justify the consideration which has been given to it.
Allegany Coal-fields. — The great Allegany coal measures consist of a deep series of strata, which include gray sandstones, shales, bituminous shales, slate-clay and fire-clay, carbonate of iron, and coal, aggregating in thickness about one thousand five hundred feet. The whole series has been curved downwards a few degrees, and hence the ends are uplifted on both sides of the basin, in Davis and the Great Savage Mountain. Its entire length from northeast to southwest is estimated to be about thirty miles, but this includes that part of the basin which crosses into West Virginia, as well as a portion in Pennsylvania. The surface has suffered such deep and wide-spread erosion since the deposit of the upper strata of coal that perhaps less than one-half of this important fuel now remains where formerly it constituted one continuous sheet over the whole expanse of the valley. It may be noticed that the two ridges of mountains bounding the basin run nearly parallel, and thus give the longest possible exposure of the strata along their flanks. Fortunately for mining, the forces which have operated to carry away such vast areas of the surface have also cut longitudinal deep troughs, through which the rivers and creeks now run, into the subjacent strata, and have thus laid bare the edges of all the seams of coal. Near the upper end of the basin a transverse ridge, nearly equaling the adjacent mountains in height, connects Davis Mountain with the Great Savage, and cutting off about one-fourth of the valley, turns the streams to the east, to be precipitated through the gap into Will’s Creek. On the western part of this ridge also stands the town of Frostburg, from which this upper basin takes its name. The lower division of the great coal basin extends down with a gentle slope towards the Potomac River, and is traversed in nearly its whole length by George’s Creek, which runs through a trough scooped out of the coal and hard rocks to a depth of more than twelve hundred feet. The Potomac River has likewise cut a deep and wide trough across the southern part of these measures, leaving the strata exposed in a section more than one thousand feet thick. Besides these, numerous creeks and brooks have cut across it from the mountain flanks on both sides, thus intersecting the coal-seams and dividing them into small areas. In the northern valley, Braddock’s Run and Jennings’ Run, with their tributaries, also cut deep into the coal-rocks and expose their ends. The former rises near Frostburg, receives the waters of Preston’s Run, and after flowing eastwardly for about six miles, passes through a gap in Davis Mountain and empties into Will’s Creek two miles northwest of Cumberland. Through this natural avenue the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad finds a way up the heavy grades to Frostburg, and from thence transports the coal mined in this region; but the coal mined in the larger basin, farther south, finds a natural outlet in the direction of the Potomac River, and is accordingly carried by rail to Piedmont, to be transferred to the charge of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
The great importance of these coal measures to the State and country at large seems to justify the detail which is necessary to a correct understanding of the resources of this region. Through the careful surveys made several years ago by the State geologist of Maryland, Philip T. Tyson, a section was drawn showing the whole series of strata included in these coal measures, and giving measurements of all the beds of coal in their order of succession from above downwards.
No less than thirty-six beds of coal have been originally laid down in this region. Some of these, however, range at present from only a few inches to a scarcely workable thickness of not more than two to two and a half feet. But, besides these more numerous beds, there is a grand aggregate in ten others which amounts to a total thickness of fifty-four feet of good coal. At the present time the great ” Fourteen-foot Bed,” as it was then called, is so accessible and easily mined that attention is almost entirely diverted away from the narrower and consequently more difficult ones. The system of mining is, however, still so wasteful that the narrower beds will no doubt be brought into use before the end of the present century. Greatly to the advantage of mining in this region is the order in which the strata have been laid down. They rest one above the other in regular layers, no faults or serious dislocations having been found in any part of their extent, and accordingly they can be excavated continuously without the hindrances occasioned by having to search for the broken ends thrown out of level. With regard to the mining of this great deposit, Prof James T. Hodge reports, —
“At those mines now worked in the northern end of the basin, the real thickness of the bed is about eight and half feet, and still farther to the northeast the bed becomes thinner and poorer by increased intermixture of seams of slate. In the central portion of the basin, although its thickness may reach twelve feet, there is hardly a mine in which it can be said that more than ten feet of coal is worked to any extent, while the most of them save only about seven feet. Various reasons are given in explanation of this. In some mines the slate roof over the coalbed when undermined is apt to fall in blocks or ‘ slips,’ and endanger the lives of the miners. In these mines it is almost a necessity to leave the upper two or three feet of the coal-bed for a safe roof, and remove only the middle and lower portions. The roof coal, as it is called, is often more or less streaked with layers of ‘bony coal,’ a variety duller and more compact than the rest, but otherwise entirely unobjectionable. Merely on account of this appearance this portion of the bed is entirely lost, even when the overlying slates would make it as safe a roof as the coal itself. In some mines, at the Borden Shaft, on George’s Creek, where the roof coal is left to the thickness of about two feet, and from nine to nine and a half feet taken out below it, a portion of the upper coal is expected to be saved, when the pillars are finally removed and the whole roof is allowed to come down.
” But the roof coal is not the only part left unworked at many of the mines. Throughout the whole coal-field the lowest two or three feet of the bed contain one or two seams of slate, each half an inch or so thick and about a foot apart. In the destructive rivalry that has existed in the different companies many have allowed their ‘ bench-coal’ to remain unworked, and have been willing to pick out the choicest middle part only and sacrifice all the rest.”