My 2021 New Year’s resolution was to make more driving tours this year. Accordingly, I set off on January 23 to visit the mountains of Western Maryland and Southwestern Pennsylvania. There was no snow in the forecast, but, with a new set of Michelin Pilot Alpines on my Mercedes-Benz SL550, I was ready for anything. (Or so I thought…)
The Journey is the Reward
I used a slightly modified version of a route from the September/October 2020 edition of RoadRunner Magazine. It proved to be a great choice, with a lot of scenic vistas, interesting historical sites, and a number of entertaining roads I’d never been on. To get to the start of the route, in Frostburg, MD, I first went through Berkeley Springs, WV, and then to Great Cacapon. From the Route 9 bridge over the Cacapon River, you can see this old railroad bridge, just shy of where the Cacapon empties into the Potomac River.
In January 1862, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s army destroyed the wooden trestle bridge that stood on this spot, to disrupt the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad that was critical to the Union’s movement of troops and supplies during the Civil War. The Union force defending the bridge had to retreat across the Potomac River into Maryland, climbing the far bank “encased in sheets of ice.”
Did I mention that Route 9 from Berkeley Springs to Paw Paw is one of the most entertaining and scenic roads around? And it’s on the Washington Heritage Trail, since George surveyed much of this area as a teenager and later bought 200 acres of land close to Great Cacapon.
With the temperature sitting at 18 degrees (Fahrenheit), I was reluctant to get out of the toasty SL550. But the handsome old Enon Primitive Baptist Church warranted a better shot than I could get from inside the low-slung car. The meetinghouse was built in 1881, and it still holds services every fourth Sunday.
So far, early in my trip, the Mercedes was still looking pretty clean. Now that the engine is properly broken in, it was exciting to see what 449 turbocharged horsepower could accomplish. With the 9-speed automatic transmission firing off shifts in rapid succession, it was virtually impossible to stay within posted speed limits—or even within double those limits!
In the winter, with no foliage, it’s much easier to spot things like this long-abandoned Western Maryland Railway bridge across the Potomac River near Paw Paw. There is interest in making a new rail trail that would go across this bridge. The historical photo below (courtesy of Western Maryland Railway), is a look back to the bridge’s construction in about 1905—when “men were men, and danger was danger.”
In Search of Fort Cresap
After crossing the Potomac at Paw Paw and re-entering Maryland, I found my way to Oldtown. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal ran right by the town on its way between Washington, DC and Cumberland, MD. The canal was built during 1828-1850 and is 184.5 miles in length, with 74 locks. Lock 70 and the lockkeeper’s house have been kept in excellent condition by the National Park Service. Note how wide the canal is here: it allowed room for the canal boats to tie up, while the operators stopped in at the general store that used to be next to the lockhouse. (Unless otherwise noted, all historical photos are courtesy of the Library of Congress, the National Register of Historic Places, or Wikipedia.)
Native Americans had lived in this area for thousands of years, but they abandoned their village of “Shawnee Old Town” in about 1725. Fifteen years later, Thomas Cresap arrived and built a fortified house and trading post here. I’ve run across Colonel Cresap dozens of times in my travels around the Mid-Atlantic, but, until this trip, I hadn’t ever discovered where his house was or where he is buried. In preparation for this trip, I spent a lot of time online looking for clues, and I had a general idea of the location.
Hiking up the hill next to the C&O Canal, I first found the Old Moore House, also known as Ginevan’s House. It was built in about 1860 for Elwood Ginevan in what is said to be the “transitional Greek Revival-Italianate style.” (Whether Elwood had a brother named Jake has been lost to history…)
On the other side of the house, there is an interesting earth mound, with an apparent ventilation device on it. It looked a lot like an underground “fort” of the type I’ve seen elsewhere, for protection against Indian raids. (See, for example, Fort Philip Long as described in Virginia’s Fort Valley and Fortified Houses (Part II).) There was an entry at one end, and inside was a vaulted stone ceiling—but no rifle embrasures (ports). Could it have been associated with the long-lost Cresap’s Fort?
Continuing on, I eventually found the grave of Thomas Cresap. He was born in about 1694 in Skipton, England, and came to colonial America at age 15. The crude engraving on his tombstone reads, “TC dcd Jan 31, 1787” where I assume “dcd” stands for “deceased.” He was once described as “a Rattle Snake, Colonel and a D — d Rascal,” which other accounts tend to corroborate. He was reviled by Pennsylvanians, but Marylanders viewed him as a “pathfinder, pioneer, and patriot,” all of which are also accurate. The full history of Col. Cresap is fascinating and well worth digging into (see Thomas Cresap, Maryland Frontiersman for a comprehensive biography).
Fort Cresap at Oldtown is mentioned in many historical documents. A 15-year-old George Washington stayed there for 5 days in 1747, waiting for heavy rainfalls to stop and allow him to ford the flooded Potomac River. (He recorded a colorful and wildly misspelled account of this visit in his journal.) However, it wasn’t until 2010 that a team of archaeologists, led by Dr. John Bedell, managed to identify the actual site of the fort. They were doing an archaeological survey of the C&O Canal for the National Park Service and discovered a great many relics associated with Cresap’s settlement. (Volume 1 of their report, River and Mountain, War and Peace, is an excellent read, with substantial detail about Oldtown, Thomas Cresap, and his fort.)
The fort was situated somewhere in this field, but its exact location has not been revealed by the NPS. It may have looked like the 1878 drawing below by William H. Lowdermilk (courtesy of his book The History of Cumberland. After all the other fortified houses had been abandoned during Lord Dunsmore’s War and the French and Indian Wars, Col. Cresap continued to maintain a small militia at Cresap’s Fort. They were attacked on several occasions, and one of the Colonel’s sons was killed in a nearby battle, but his fort never fell.
Dr. Bedell, who as it turns out lives near me in Catonsville, answered my question about the underground bunker I saw near the Old Moore House: it was just a storage cellar and was not related to the fort in any way.
Another of Thomas Cresap’s sons, Michael, built the stone portion of this house in Oldtown in 1764. There is a spring in the basement, for fresh water, and if you look closely you’ll see bars on the cellar windows. They are not to keep vandals out; they were to keep prisoners in, when the cellar served as a jail. In 1775, Michael raised the first southern militia in response to George Washington’s call for armed forces at the start of the American Revolution. The men marched 550 miles in 22 days to reach Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sadly, Michael contracted a fever soon after arriving in New England and attempted to return back home. He died in New York City and is buried there. The brick portion of the house was built in 1781 by the Rev. John Jacobs, who married Michael Cresap’s widow. In 1961 a different minister, the Rev. Irvin Allen, rescued the house from imminent demolition and founded the Michael Cresap Museum here.
In a strange footnote to history, in 1774 Michael Cresap was leading a small militia on the Ohio River when they received word of possible imminent attacks by Native Americans. Taking the offensive, Michael’s group quickly killed two different small groups of Indians they encountered on the river. Shortly thereafter, in one of the most malevolent and gruesome episodes in colonial history, some of the frontiersmen in Cresap’s party lured a peaceful group of Indians from their camp at Yellow Creek and murdered them all (except for a young girl whose father was a white settler). The murdered Indians included the wife, pregnant sister, brother, and nephew of the highly regarded Seneca Chief Logan. (See A Tale of Vengeance for the story of this atrocity.) Michael Cresap was blamed by Logan and many others—including Thomas Jefferson—but in fact the lead perpetrators were Jacob and Daniel Greathouse, who were traveling with Cresap’s group. A year later, when Michael Cresap formed his company of riflemen to support George Washington, Daniel Greathouse was one of his officers. Daniel soon died of measles, and his brother Jacob was eventually found by Indians and tortured to death for his role in the Yellow Creek Massacre.
Chief Logan, who had long been a friend to all Indian nations and to white settlers alike, swore revenge for the murder of his entire family, thereby beginning Lord Dunmore’s War. His plaintiff “Logan’s Lament,” about the loss of his family, is considered one of the finest known examples of Native American oratory.
Maryland’s First Coal Mining Company
Leaving Oldtown, I continued on to a small community on the outskirts of Frostburg, MD. George and Mary Eckhart first settled here in 1780 and operated a farm. Over time, a small community formed around them. In 1815, the National Road was being constructed through the town, and a rich seam of coal was discovered. Before long, the Maryland Mining Company was formed (the first such company in Maryland), and its directors discovered that the Eckharts had no proof of ownership for their land. (It had been “patented” to them, but they did not have a formal deed.) Although the land was now worth a fortune, the MMC leased the land from the State of Maryland for practically nothing, and the Eckharts lost their property. In a distressing example of “cold comfort,” the MMC named the town “Eckhart Mines.”
Everyone knows that West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio produced huge quantities of coal, beginning in the early 1800s. For a time, however, Maryland was right there with them, mining the “Big Vein,” which was part of the famous Pittsburgh Coal Seam. Eckhart Mines was at the forefront of this industry, and at its peak the mines were producing almost 400,000 tons of coal annually. By 1950, however, oil was becoming the primary source of energy in the U.S., and the Elkhart Mines were largely played out. The mining company closed for good.
Eckhart Mines was one of the first “mining towns” in Maryland. The company owned the housing, which they leased to the miners each year for about 10 to 15 percent of the cost of construction. This building was the Eckhart Gem Theatre, run by James Barry. Jay Barry and a Mrs. Seifert would play the piano during the silent films.
The old photo above shows a dilapidated building next to the theatre. Today, however, it’s pretty spiffy and houses a very eclectic antique shop. Sometimes these old buildings do come back to life. Back in the day, it was in fact a butcher shop, with a saloon in the basement. The Eckhart Band used to practice on the second floor. Elsewhere in town, I’m sad to say, I failed to get photos of Grouchy Burner’s saloon or Skeetz McKenzie’s Grocery, Hardware, & Pool Room.
The three stone houses on the left have long been identified as coal miners’ houses, provided by the MMC. That claim is correct—but a descendant of George Eckhart says they originally served as housing for George’s enslaved African American farmworkers.
Here are examples of later company houses for the mineworkers.
Of course, what I was really looking for was the entrance to the old Eckhart Mine No. 4—the most productive of the coalmines in the Georges Creek Valley. I knew that all the mining buildings, tipples, and equipment were long gone, and all I had was this old photograph and a vague-ish description of where the entrance had been. One reference indicated that the mine entrance was now below ground and no longer visible.
After hiking down a couple of snowy trails, up a steep embankment, and then down one of the trails again, I finally spotted what I thought might be the top of the old entrance. See it?
I wasn’t able to get closer, due to acres of really nasty brambles, but that’s what we have zoom lenses for, right? Zooming in, I could just make out most of the “1842-1916” lettering on the tunnel entrance. In the spring or summer, foliage would completely obscure the view. So the entrance is still there!
The Knights of Labor (and Mine Draining 101)
Walking back to the waiting SL550, I was struck yet again by how vertical western Maryland is.
Although generally very successful, there were two major problems with Eckhart Mine No. 4. The first involved pay rates for the miners. By 1882, the MMC had evolved into the Consolidation Coal Company, which in turn purchased many of the coalmines in the Georges Creek Valley. Like most coal companies of the time, the CCC was not much interested in the welfare of its workers. When the newly formed Knights of Labor union proposed better working conditions and an increase in miners’ wages—from $0.50 per gross ton of coal to $0.65—the “Consol” directors ignored the union’s request and refused to meet with them. Further, based on stiff competition among coal companies, the CCC announced that wages would be reduced from the existing level. (Using a pick, shovel, hand drill, and explosives, a miner could produce 4 to 5 tons of coal on average in a standard 12-hour workday.)
The miners at Eckhart were incensed and went on strike in March 1882. Soon, other miners in Georges Creek joined. The CCC directors responded by offering jobs to Germans, Swiss, Hungarians, and other Europeans willing to emigrate to the U.S. Part of the CCC plan was to use workers who could not speak English and who would thus be less open to persuasion by the Knights of Labor. The CCC also hired over 130 policemen to help prevent intimidation and violence against the new workers and sabotage against the railroads transporting coal to markets in Cumberland and elsewhere.
The Europeans were reviled and threatened by the Eckhart Mines population. Moreover, most were not experienced miners and had difficulty understanding directions from the mine supervisors. Nonetheless, they got the job done and were soon producing substantial quantities of coal. The Knights of Labor and the CCC continued negotiations, but the Consol was unrelenting and ultimately the strike ended in August. At Eckhart Mines, the striking miners had been completely replaced with foreign labor, whom the CCC did not want to replace after they had been induced to come to the U.S. Few of the original miners were rehired at Eckhart Mines and the rest had to look for work elsewhere.
The second serious problem with Mine No. 4 was that it kept filling with water. Steam pumps were used but often could not keep up. The mine was shut down from 1867 to 1881 and allowed to flood entirely. In 1881, however, Mine No. 4 was drained and mining resumed. The problem was not solved until 1906, when the Hoffman Drainage Tunnel was completed. It was 2 miles long and had to be dug through solid rock. Interestingly, workers started tunneling at both ends simultaneously, planning to meet in the middle. When they did, the two center points for each end differed by only 3 inches. Once the drainage tunnel was opened, 9 million gallons of water ran through it in just the first 24 hours. An elaborate tunnel exit was built, in recognition of what was then an “engineering marvel.”
The Hoffman tunnel continued in use until mining shut down in this area around the late 1950s. I was hoping to find the old tunnel exit—and, for probably the first time in my touring history, I succeeded on the first try! The soil and rock covering the last 200 feet of the tunnel have eroded away, leaving what looks like a stream that arises briskly from a hole in the ground. A portion of the elaborate exit is still there. Note the reddish color of the tunnel bed, a consequence of acid mine runoff.
A Ghost Train?
From Frostburg, I wandered along Alternate U.S. 40, crossed the Savage River, headed north past Finzel Park, and drove into Pennsylvania. To my surprise, there was quite a lot of snow. It was a pretty sight, and (so far) the roads were clear.
Near McKenzie Hollow Road and White Oak Hollow Road, I ran across the 1891 Mount Carmel Lutheran Church. A thick sheet of ice covered its sloping parking lot, but the Pilot Alpines had surprisingly good traction. I would really put them to the test late in the day…
Approaching Meyersdale, PA, I stopped to get a look at the old Keystone Viaduct, which carried the Western Maryland Railway across Flaugherty Creek. The bridge had been abandoned long ago—but I heard a train approaching in the distance. I realized that I had the opportunity of a lifetime to photograph a ghost train crossing the abandoned bridge! What could be better? Imagine my disappointment when a modern CSX locomotive hove into view and went under the bridge. Nuts!
Only then did I remember that the viaduct now carries the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail across Flougherty Creek, Glade City Road, and (apparently) some modern CSX tracks. The viaduct was originally built in 1911 and was designed to accommodate two sets of tracks, but Western Maryland only ever used one. (Historical photo courtesy of Building the GAP.)
The viaduct continues on for a total of 910 feet. It’s a stately old thing, and I’m glad it was rescued from demolition by the Great Allegheny Passage.
Flaugherty Creek was spilling along nicely, unmindful of Nature’s efforts to freeze it over.
Okay, no great challenge here. Even racing slicks would probably have propelled the Mercedes off of this level section of ground.
Can a Bridge Replace a Tunnel?
As I continued on my trip, I realized that I was encountering bridge after bridge. I didn’t plan it that way; sometimes “themes” just appear. Here is the Wills Creek Bollman Bridge today, crossing Scratch Hill Road. Note that there is no sign of Wills Creek, or even the railroad tracks shown in the historical photo. Nor is there any sign of the single-lane tunnel that used to be here. Confused? Excellent, my work is done! The answer to these apparent contradictions is that the bridge has been moved twice. Originally, the 81-foot bridge carried the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad over Wills Creek from 1871 to 1910. By then, it wasn’t strong enough to carry newer, heavier locomotives, so it was moved and used as an automobile bridge over CSX Railroad tracks from 1910 to 2007. About that time, local residents tired of having to use a blind, curving, single-lane tunnel on Scratch Hill road, so the tunnel was blown up and the road widened. That left no way for the Great Allegheny Passage to go over the road, so the Wills Creek Bridge was moved here. Sheesh…
Just to complicate the story further, the builder, Wendell Bowman, was the inventor of the innovative Bollman Truss—but the Wills Creek bridge doesn’t use that design. It was, however, built by the Patapsco Bridge & Iron Works in Baltimore, MD, which also built many Bollman Truss bridges. Only one such bridge remains in existence—and it crosses the Patapsco River about 4 miles from where I live. Don’t worry, there will not be an exam at the end of this lesson.
Treating Gunshot Wounds on Your Honeymoon
Finally, I arrived in Meyersdale, PA. It was my first visit here since a very snowy New Year’s Eve in 2008. I first located the beautiful old Levi Deal Mansion, where my wife Nancy and I stayed with my college roommate Buzz and his wife Linda. It’s just as beautiful as ever—and it’s still a bed and breakfast. Levi Deal was a coal and timber baron, and he built this home for his family in 1900.
Not far from the mansion is the old Meyersdale train station, which now serves as the town’s historical society and a stop along the Great Allegheny Passage.
In 1919, Dr. Creed C. Glass completed his medical internship and purchased the medical practice of a noted Civil War veteran, Dr. H.C. McKinley—including this house. Two years later, Dr. Glass married Hazel McGilvery, who had just finished training as a nurse. The couple were enthusiastic medical practitioners and even spent part of their honeymoon in the baggage car of a train, tending to a man with a gunshot wound. The following year, they started Meyersdale’s first hospital, working out of their 17-room home. The Hazel McGilvery Hospital expanded substantially over the years, and continued in operation until a new community hospital opened in 1952.
Meyersdale is known as the “Maple Capital of Pennsylvania,” with maple syrup having been produced here for hundreds of years—dating back at least to the time of the Monongahela Native Americans in 1050 AD. The annual Pennsylvania Maple Festival is held on the former grounds of the Meyers family. Although I was several months too early for the festival, I took a little look around anyway.
This is the Meyers ancestral home. Their original log cabin dates from the late 1700s and forms the downstairs portion of the southern section of the house (on the right in this photo). An upstairs was added in the early 1800s, followed by a northern addition and clapboard siding in 1839. The Meyers operated a gristmill, woolen mill, tannery, distillery, and other businesses here. Elsewhere on the property is the “Antique Doctor’s Office” museum—created when Dr. Glass donated all of the old hospital’s medical equipment to the town.
It Wouldn’t be Pennsylvania without Covered Bridges
By now the poor SL550 was showing the effects of PennDOT’s winter road treatments. I anticipate being drummed out of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America at any moment…
On my way out of Meyersdale, I naturally had to stop for a photo of this abandoned railroad bridge on the Casselman River.
And north of town, I located the spectacular Salisbury Viaduct. It is 1,908 feet long and 101 feet high, and traverses the entire Casselman River Valley. The Western Maryland Railway built the viaduct in 1912 for its extension line to Connellsville. As with the Keystone Viaduct, it was designed to accommodate two sets of tracks, but a second set was never added. It ceased operation in 1975 and is now part of the Great Allegheny Passage.
I continued northwest, following the Casselman River, but detoured in Garrett, Pa to find the Burkholder Covered Bridge. Let’s see, steep downhill road, mostly covered by snow, and leading to a single-lane bridge: What could possibly go wrong? The bridge was built in 1870 over Buffalo Creek and is 52 feet long by 12 feet wide—not nearly wide enough to accommodate an SL550 traveling sideways! Fortunately, the Michelin snow tires kept the Benz on the straight and narrow.
There were pretty sights everywhere I looked.
The Penrose Wolf Building in Rockwood, PA is one of the more unusual places I’ve run across. Mr. Wolf first came to this town as a 21-year-old, to look after his ailing father’s businesses. In 1898, he built the wood-frame building as an office for the family’s lumber company—and, for good measure, he included an “opera house” on the second story. Stage productions, vaudeville acts, and other live shows were performed here, and by 1906 Penrose was showing the first moving pictures in the area. Dances and civic meetings were also held in the opera house.
In 1905 Penrose added the four-story brick portion to serve as a warehouse for lumber, grain, and many hardware items. A railroad spur ran directly through the lowest story, allowing easy transfer of goods between a train car and the warehouse. Over the years the businesses thrived—and, aside from a period of vacancy and the occasional pandemic closure, the property still serves as an antique store, opera house, restaurant, and assorted other shops. As suggested by the historical photos, the 1999-2000 renovation was a monumental effort.
As I was making another side trip to find the Barronvale Covered Bridge, I happened across King’s Covered Bridge instead. (Face it: Pennsylvania is crawling with covered bridges!) This one was built in 1802 and rebuilt approximately every 100 years thereafter.
I felt grievously guilty every time I looked at the insidious salt clinging to the sides of the SL. (Now, however, I apparently feel alliterative.)
The Barronvale Covered Bridge was a mile further up Laurel Hill Creek. Built in 1830, at 162 feet it’s one of the longest such bridges in the state.
Twelve miles downstream, Laurel Hill Creek is crossed by yet another covered bridge, namely the Lower Humbert Bridge. It’s a relative newcomer, having been built in 1891 and renovated in 1991.
Mae West Road and Getting Stuck in Snow
There was no shortage of other attractive structures in southwestern Pennsylvania, including this barn and farmhouse.
Eventually, Laurel Hill Creek joins the Casselman River and, a few hundred feet later, the Casselman empties into the mighty Youghiogheny River. All this happens, naturally, at a town called Confluence. In this photo, the Casselman is on the left, with the Youghiogheny on the right. The path carved by the three streams is called Turkeyfoot Valley. According to local legend, the name was born in 1754 when an Indian guide pointed out to Col. George Washington that the three rivers formed the shape of a turkey’s foot.
Hey, where did the road go? When you’re traveling tiny back roads, you park where you can to take pictures.
Confluence looks like a nice town in which to live, with scenic beauty, boating, hiking, and other sports activities, plus it’s right on the Great Allegheny Passage. This once-handsome brick home might be available inexpensively. The current owner has been slowly reconditioning the house, but there’s quite a ways to go. He says that when he bought the place, there were a dozen Rottweiller dogs living there, along with a great many rats. He owns a construction company and estimates that a full renovation would cost $300,000 to $400,000.
Prospective residents with a nervous disposition should be aware that the Youghiogheny River Lake sits just a mile upstream of Confluence and holds approximately 50 billion gallons of water. Its earthen dam was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1944 and is presumably much stronger than the Lake Conemaugh earthen dam above nearby Johnstown—which let go catastrophically in 1889, destroying the city with 4 billion gallons of water. Just sayin’… (Aerial photo courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers.)
Leaving Confluence, I made my way southwest on Mae West Road—so named because it’s rather curvy. I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line back into Maryland and headed for the town of Accident. I was anxious to see the James Drane House before the sun went down. Accident itself looks like this—if you’re looking through a 1903 lens, anyway. Since then, they’ve paved Main Street, and a lot of the old buildings have disappeared. A few still exist, including the white house on the right (originally the Ries Saloon and Hotel), the tallest building on the left (the J.L. Englehart General Store), and the Zion Lutheran Church at the top of the hill on the right. (Photo courtesy of The Town of Accident, Maryland.)
Just past that church, I turned right on Cemetery Road. Were the names Accident and Cemetery Road serving as omens? The road was clear of snow, but when I came to the cemetery, I realized that the road to the Drane homestead was steeply downhill and covered with snow—eight to ten inches of the stuff in places. Kind of like this, except I was at the top looking down:
I debated briefly about leaving the SL550 safely on the tarmac and walking down—but where’s the adventure in that? So I turned right and drove on down, plowing through the deeper stuff without difficulty. I was aware, of course, that I would also have to drive back up the road. When the homestead came into view, I looked for a good place to turn the car around. I pulled off into a snowy farm lane on the right—and immediately bottomed out on 10 or more inches of snow in a car with about 5½ inches of ground clearance. I tried reversing back out, but the Pilot Alpines just spun merrily. I was well and truly stuck in some farmer’s lane, with the sun going down and no one in sight.
Up to that point, my trip had been going just fine. I hadn’t expected any snow, so the small shovel I usually carry in the wintertime was back in the garage. As I scanned my surroundings in the fading light, I realized that the little lane I was stuck on appeared to continue downhill a ways further and then take a hard left in front of a barn. And that hard left looked to be level. If I couldn’t go back, maybe I could continue downhill and then get a running start on the level spot?
Fortunately, that approach worked. Not easily, but successfully. After rounding another left turn, the SL was parked near the cabin and pointed uphill toward the cemetery. I would still have to get underway from an uphill standing start and build enough speed to get through the deep area, but it was lots better than still being stuck.
First, of course, I needed to visit the Drane House, which is the oldest building still standing in Garrett County. James Drane was born in Maryland in 1755 and moved to the Accident area in 1800. With the forced labor of 6 enslaved African Americans, the Dranes began growing tobacco. They soon learned that the climate was not conducive to tobacco plants. Moreover, their German Amish and Mennonite neighbors were opposed to slavery.
After several years, Drane turned to other more suitable crops, and farming continued here until 1952. By 1987 the log home was rundown and in danger of collapse. It was saved when the town of Accident purchased the property and completely renovated it by 1994.
The room shown below was the original part of the cabin. A larger room was added at an unknown date. Google Maps has a nifty 360° “street view” of the Drane House that shows the rest of the interior.
Having seen the Drane House, it was time to see if I could compel the SL to climb back up to civilization. I was a bit worried about this prospect and consequently forgot to get any photos of the scene. I fired up the Benz, slowly eased forward, and gratefully found that I had enough traction to get going—and to gently but continuously accelerate enough to skid through the deep area and reach the top. Huzza!
Just past McHenry, MD, I stopped to get a photo of a small part of the giant Wisp Ski Resort on the other side of Deep Creek Lake. The “Main Street” and “Eye Opener” ski runs join at the bottom to form the V-shaped slopes in the center of the picture. Although the lift lights were on, I saw zero skiers coming down the mountain.
Deep Creek Lake itself was frozen over in most places. A young couple with their 5-year-old daughter ventured out on the ice but quickly retreated in view of the 18-degree temperature and strong wind.
I was all too happy to climb back into the Mercedes and begin the 174-mile trip back to Catonsville. It was a fun excursion, full of mountains, bridges, and snow (oh my!) Those elements, and their surrounding history, all made for a very welcome change from sitting at home, hiding from the coronavirus.
And a couple of days later, when the temperature was above freezing, I spent 2 hours washing the SL550 top and bottom and removing every last trace of salt! The car had performed flawlessly throughout the trip and was a joy to drive. I can’t wait for the next outing.