FUF Says - After Seventy Five Years!
AFTER SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS!
AMID THE DIN OF WHISTLES AND BELLS AND THE thunder of cannonade, Queen Antietam, announced by a blare of trumpets, and attended by Miss Columbia and a court of honor, officially opened, last Friday night, the events commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the battle of Antietam, at Sharpsburg, Maryland.
With an awe-inspiring pageant of thirty-two scenes, the vast audience, packed into the grandstands at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds, was given a comprehensive resume of the history of Washington County, Maryland.
From a section rich in history and its lore, one expected much, and, received even more. Staged on a gigantic scale, the program was nothing short of stupendous with its fifteen hundred performers; huge stage with movable floors arid backdrops; eight or ten wings large enough to permit the entrance and exit of coaches. Conestoga wagons and modern buses; as well as a standard gauge railroad track built across the entire space in front of the stage settings.
Spectacular was the opening scene which took us back to the dawn of creation with its vapors just emerging into definite shapes. A breathless audience watched those vapors, in many colors, rise all about them with weird sounds and an inexplicable density that was rather appalling. Realism was the keynote from first to last and there were to be surprises aplenty as the panorama unfolded before us.
We were made acquainted with some of the early inhabitants here before the white man came. Dances, symbolizing the highly imaginative nature of the Red Man were well executed while the temporary camp of a roving band of Indians came into view.
Pictured for us was the arrival, into the region of what is now Washington County, of Charles Friend and his family, about the year 1735. An oxcart contained their worldly possessions and thus it was that they set up a permanent home.
As early as 1736 Jonathan Hager had built a home in1 what is now Hagerstown. Depicted in all of its simplicity was a reenactment of the baptismal ceremony which was performed by Moravian missionaries at the Hager house.
By 1747 union services were being held at St. Paul's church. Devout men and women of the Reformed and Lutheran faiths worshipped together. The Bible used there was presented as a gift by the Mother Church of Holland.
Jonathan Hager was very active in laying out the town in lots and in 17621 Hagerstown was definitely founded.
During this period Indian depredations threatened to destroy many of the settlements in the vicinity and halt the march of progress. Fort Frederick became a refuge for the harassed settlers. It was built of stone with cannons superimposed on the walls. 'Twas here that the famous Cressap Scouts were quartered.
By 1774 Hagerstown was a thriving community, but all was not going well, for the colonies were beginning to resent taxation without representation. Headed by Moderator John Stull, resolutions were drawn up in the town to declare unwillingness to sell, or use, English goods. Incensed townsmen burned an effigy of Lord North during a stirring and exciting evening, and one John Parks who was not so overwhelmingly in favor of the whole proceedings was forced, by the infuriated mob, to destroy his stock of English tea.
James Rumsey was the first citizen in the region to accomplish the "absolutely impossible." He demonstrated his steam propelled boat on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, W. Va., in December 1786, with great success. The river banks were lined with skeptics on the day of that first run but they went home to tell their friends and neighbors of the wonderful invention they had seen.
Maryland too, played an important part in the framing and adopting of the Constitution of the United States and her signature for ratification was made on April 28, 1788, as number seven on the list.
In 1790 there was great excitement in the town: George Washington had come for a visit. The street by which he entered now bears his name. Careful preparations were made: a committee greeted him; the militia fired a salute; he was made comfortable at the Globe Tavern where a feast was prepared for him.
What great activity there must have been on the old National Pike! A pageant brought to us the romance, danger and atmosphere of yesteryear; we seemed to feel the intenseness, the loneliness, the quietness and craving for excitement of the people as they watched for and awaited the pony express, the stage coach, Conestoga wagoners and wayfarers of every type and description. No wonder we were impressed with the importance of early Inns and Taverns as centers of excitement and social life. As the ponies, coaches and huge wagons darted from the wings and made their way before us, we dropped completely into the spirit of the late 18th century and revelled in the revels of these companion-seeking souls.
Then, we could scarcely believe our eyes—an early horse drawn train of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was making its way across the country before us—we had jumped to May 24, 1830; the nineteenth century, and progress, were definitely underway.
Shortly thereafter, the steam-train made its appearance, despite pessimism on the part of railroad directors and officials. When Peter Cooper's, "Tom Thumb", first B. and O, steam train, puffed and panted into full view, the audience greeted it with as heavy a round of applause as it might have showered on a well-known actor. But then, after all, this "Tom Thumb" is a veteran and still running under its own steam at the age of one hundred and thirty seven years.
"The Atlantic" of 1832, authentically and visibly present, was quite an improvement over the original steam engine. And succeeding years have wrought an even greater change.
And the first freight cars? We couldn't help but smile when we saw them! Scarcely more than "overgrown" carts—not as big as a common farm wagon, but enthusiastic citizens brought their barrels and boxes to be "shipped."
Washington County had its first through train in 1837; a run from Baltimore to Harper's Ferry. A grand time those pioneers must have had when they boarded the coaches of the "William Galloway" for their first overland journey; today their descendants are having an experience never-to-be-forgotten as they ride this "original" while recalling events of long ago for thousand after thousand of interested spectators.
Early school was not what it is today. Although the rooms were bare and the benches hard, the classroom was a center of interest for parents, as well as their children, with the socials, spelling bees and public examinations.
Old-time hospitality was pictured at the home of William Fitzhugh. It was here that coy maidens and dashing dandies danced the minuet and other favorite steps.
Another train comes into view. It is the Abraham Lincoln inaugural train of 1861, the "William Mason", enroute to Washington. Crowds greet him everywhere and he addresses everyone enthusiastically.
Now a war threatens and the states divide; slavery is an issue. It is North against South and plans for a campaign are being carefully worked out.
On Sept. 17, 1862, the battle of Antietam was fought at Sharpsburg and one of its highlights was the encounter at the now famous Burnside Bridge. Even in this tableau the horror of war can well be left.
The old Dunkard church, now since blown down, served as a hospital for weeks after this, the bloodiest, battle of the war.
Lincoln himself visited Antietam several weeks after the battle. He conferred with General McClellan and others to determine the future policy in conducting the campaigns.
The Rochester house, which still stands, was a busy center of activity during the war. Food was prepared for the soldiers and sent to the hospital, and bandages were made for the wounded men. It was here that Oliver Wendell Holmes, jr., son of the poet, and later a Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was cared for by Mrs. Findlay.
General McCausland, a Confederate high officer acting under orders in time of war, threatened to burn Hagerstown unless the citizens met his stern demands for supplies and money. With great effort the demands were met and the town saved!
A pageant can be so real! Touched were we all when the train, "Thatcher Perkins", of the B. and O. lines, its bright yellow coaches made sombre by its drapery of dull black, brought, by reenactment, the body of the martyred Lincoln through the towns. We could almost see the silent, sorrowful people, many of them negroes, who had come to pay homage to the great Emancipator.
Came the C. & O. canal in 1873 and we are given insight to a picturesque existance where anything might happen, and did. Laborers were, for the most part, underpaid; life was ribald; there was fighting on the slightest provocation, and even the militia had to be called to quell the riots.
As time passed, the old freight engines became inadequate and one of the marks of progress of the late 19th century was the new type of engine known as the "Ross Winans." It was now possible to haul loads of coal and other freight at greater speeds.
Nearing the turn of the century we approached an age of daring: it was the Gay Nineties. Horses and carriages, gallant gentlemen and delightful ladies, were about to give way to a new era. The horseless carriage, the bathing girls, and Life Guards vied with the old as the twentieth century entered her cycle.
Twenty years ago! A world again at war! Our boys were in the thick of the bombardments and gas attacks of Europe. It was a nightmare of horror.
But the wheel of progress goes round and round and the vision of the future is one of finer towns and states, in a country incomparable—the United States of America! As the scenes came to a close with the full cast in action, steaming up the track was the most modern of stream-lined engines, "The President Van Buren" (we've gone back to the grand old custom of naming engines); rivalled by Blue Ridge Lines most up-to-date bus; a super-modern Railway Express truck; 1938 automobiles—visual testimony to all that spells.
Again! The whistles; bells; cannonades! "On Wings of Time" had come to a triumphant and dramatic close.
Are you able to grasp the panorama? Or is it rather stupendous to you? We still marvel at the staging, lighting, costuming, music and clear sound facilities.
This is a production such as has seldom been seen in the East and one of which the Antietam Celebration and Exposition Commission may well be proud.
Since the observance opened on September 4th and will not close until after the sham battle on the Antietam field on September 17th, you still have an opportunity to go to Hagerstown and witness a part of the program of events for yourself.
Should you contemplate said trip, the shortest, yet none-the-less picturesque route is as follows: Lewisburg to Shamokin Dam on highway number 404; route 11 to Liverpool; 17 to Blaine; 274 to Doylesburg; 75 to Spring Run; 641 to Roxbury; 433-333 to Chambersburg; 11 to Hagerstown.
You will be more than repaid for your visit to the southland; to Maryland, who sided with the North, but sacrificed her sons under both flags. But, we are now in a new era and let this still be our slogan:
"United we stand, divided we fall."
OF THE PAST, RECALLED, BRING
VISIONS FROM PAGES OF TIME:
HOW INCOMPARABLE, THE PRESENT!
Florence Utt Focht
With permission of the Standard-Journal.
FUF is Florence Utt Focht. She
worked with her husband, Brown Focht, in the Focht Printing Co., in Lewisburg, serving as vice president. She also was an editor of the women's page of the Lewisburg Saturday News, a weekly paper started by her father-in-law Benjamin K. Focht. (The Saturday News merged with the Lewisburg Journal in 1946.)
...Elaine Wintjen, Union County Historical Society, Pennsylvania.
Western Maryland Room, Washington County Free Library.
Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862: Centennial celebrations, etc
Washington County (Md.), 1937.