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Allegany County
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Giant twins (Gortner) page 2

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It was in this oak grove, presumably a sacred grove of the Druids, that Saint Columba (Columbanus-Columcille) founded a monastery in 546 A.D., and through this established other foundations. It was then that the sturdy army of Irish saints "set out to rekindle the Faith in Europe." They joined with the monasteries of Saint Benedict, commenced in the same century. One must not forget that Monte Cassino, the first Benedictine Monastery in the world was not far from Lake Como, the King of the Wood, and the "golden bough." The root meaning of the name "Columba" is associated with the oak. It was Saint Patrick that is given most credit for Irish Christendom. But the people of Ireland to this day hold Columba and the monastery at Derry in perpetual affection, largely because this was the place of origin of the missionary movement to Europe. And who knows if an ancestor of the giant oak might not have come from Derry?

That which was sacred to our ancestors has met with misfortune in this secularist society. Once upon a time when a man cut down a tree he did it with reverence and put a sprout in its place. We know enough about the white man's despoiling of the virgin forests in the Allegheny Mountains, including Garrett County, to almost cringe from the recounting.

Tobacco Planters from Prince Georges County, Maryland used Negro slaves to clear their large acreages of virgin forests in Garrett County. The Planters knew nothing of the conservation and fertilization of the soil. So when the soil of one farm had been depleted it was necessary to seek virgin soil elsewhere. As there was an abundance of unoccupied land in Western Maryland due to the confiscation of the Lord Baltimore estates during the Revolutionary War it was obvious that some of these tidewater Planters would try out the soil of the mountains. They soon learned that the tobacco yield, even from virgin soil, in Garrett County could not be a commercial success. These mountain tobacco plantations were then divided into smaller parcels and sold to the Pennsylvania Dutch. These were the people that established the agrarian culture in Garrett County.

The amplitude of the Garrett County forests was not jeopardized by the Tidewater Planters or the Pennsylvania-Dutch farmers. It was when the saws of the lumber mills operated by the robber barons began to chew through the forests that the great devastation took place. The railroad followed the sawmills to the very crest of the Alleghenies which were stripped bare. The lumber was transported to the growing towns and cities, and the people of the lumber camps were left stranded in their ghost towns, many remaining in such desolation even to this day. Oh the momentous surge of the winds that some day might reach the intensity of those that come down from the barrens of the Dalmatian coast where once stood a great forest with its protecting silence. It re-


Rev. J. C. Breuninger


Collection Location:
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland

Original Size:
22 x 15 cms

Editor: Felix G. Robinson

Maryland, History

Western Maryland, 1750-1963

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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