The Great War – Robin Frazier Versus Piney Run Lake

by Jack White on January 20, 2015

Piney Run Lake 2014

A few years ago Bob Allen and I wrote a story about Commissioner Robin Frazier’s contributions to the effort to turn Piney Run Lake into a water treatment plant. It’s time for another visit and a new ending. Will it be happy?

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“The wild-eyed one walked up to me, and said, ‘Commissioner, I just want you to know we’re not planning to kill you, but we will destroy you politically. You will never hold office in this county again.’” – Julia Gouge

“We’re two votes; you’re one.” – Robin Frazier

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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Water and Money

Piney Run is one of the county’s most popular recreational areas, and in 2001, it drew 100,000 visitors a year. Most saw it as a source of fun and beauty. Others saw it as a potential source of water. At the time, we had a serious water problem. Our main water source was, and still is, Liberty Reservoir, which is owned by the city of Baltimore. Most summers, there were water restrictions of some sort; odd-numbered houses could water one day, even houses the next, or worse, depending on the situation.

But it was not necessarily the result of insufficient rainfall. The existing Freedom Water Treatment Plant in South Carroll was more than 30 years old, and rampant unplanned development had seriously taxed the system. There was too little supply, too much demand, and demand was growing. In other words, we needed more water.

There were three possible solutions. Build a plant with more capacity than the existing system at Liberty Reservoir (which is what eventually happened), supplement the water from Liberty with wells and other viable, less-expensive water sources, or build a new plant at Piney Run Lake to supplement Liberty.

County Commissioners Donald Dell and Frazier chose the lake. And with fierce support from the pro-development community, particularly a group called the Carroll County Landowners Association, they stuck with their decision to the bitter end.

Founded and run by Ed Primoff, an aggressively pro-development landowner with his own airport and money to burn, the Carroll County Landowners Association was primarily focused on the rights of farmers to sell their land to developers. They viewed the lake as a route around state restrictions standing in the way of more development. Remove the restrictions, sell more land, make more money.

Of course, Dell and Frazier couldn’t put it that way. Among their arguments were that the county already owned the lake, that the cost of buying water from Baltimore would continue to rise, that a new plant provided backup in the case of shortages, and that in the end the plant would pay for itself. All with minimal risk to the lake.

But most residents weren’t buying it. Ross Dangel, a former member of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, and a leader in the fight against the Piney Run plant, puts it this way.

“They picked Piney Run because they didn’t want to abide by development restrictions, plain and simple. Developers were salivating for an end run around state environmental guidelines.”

“The citizenry of the Freedom Area has spoken”

In some ways it’s more complicated than that, but in others it’s quite simple. People with money on their minds were willing to risk the health of the lake. Others set out to stop them. A fierce battle ensued, with several dramatic confrontations, including a huge “Save the Lake” rally on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May.

Two thousand people of all ages showed up. Families brought blankets and picnics and homemade signs. The Freedom Area Citizens Council (FACC) gave out Frisbees and beach balls. There were crafts, music, games for the kids, a magician. And FACC Chairman Mike Naused led 250 marchers, including many children, around Piney Run, chanting, “Save the lake.”

Save the Lake collection Save the Lake collection

 

Dangel spoke first, and he says, as he revved up the huge crowd, “It reminded me of a rock concert.”

And the star was Commissioner Julia Gouge. Dangel says, “She was terrific. She was so strong. She permanently endeared herself to the citizens of our district that day as someone who defends the little guy and fights for what’s right.”

While Dell and Frazier were conspicuous that afternoon by their absence, Ed Primoff was conspicuous by his presence, snapping pictures, following Gouge everywhere with his camera.

Gouge says, “When I got up to speak, he got right in front of me and started taking pictures, trying to throw me off, so I just looked above his head.”

The Banner, the quarterly publication of the FACC, declared the rally a “huge success.”

By the time it was over, another 760 people had signed a petition opposing the plant, bringing the number of signatures to 3000 plus. Banner editor, Mike Naused, wrote: “The citizenry of the Freedom Area…has spoken loud and clear: We do not want a water treatment plant at Piney Run! A community has come together here in South Carroll.”

The rally united more people behind the cause, generated good press and tremendous awareness, but it’s unlikely it affected the thinking of Primoff, Frazier, Dell, and the many others who were determined to build the plant. They would alter their tactics, but they would not change their minds.

“Fresh water clams dead in the mud”

Dot Sumey and her husband, Merrill, have a beautiful view of the lake from the deck of their home near Sykesville. A long-time volunteer at Piney Run Park, Dot is a former president of the Piney Run Recreation and Conservation Council. She has a thick manila folder of articles, editorials, letters to the editor, flyers, and pamphlets that document the poisonous politics and bitterness that characterized the battle.

When they first heard talk of the treatment plant, she and Merrill were immediately alarmed. They knew firsthand what happened when the water level went down. They still have pictures of the lake during the severe droughts in the late 1980s and these pictures from 1999 that show the effects of lowering the water level to build bulkheads.

A depleted Piney Run Lake circa 1999. Photos courtesy of Dot and Merrill Sumey. - See more at: http://sykesvilleonline.com/about-21784/188-save-the-lake-ten-years-later#sthash.4ySu6jzb.dpuf

Merrill says, “There were times the lake was only about a third full. It would be a mud puddle. There were fresh water clams just dead in the mud.”

“With a drop of just 5 feet, the boat launching ramps were entirely out of the water,” Dot says. “Many of the smaller coves and the wildlife management area were completely dry.”

She continues, “When plans for the water treatment plant were first announced, the commissioners didn’t even have a meeting for public input. It was definitely coming from Dell and Frazier that it was a done deal and there was nothing we could do. But people started taking a stand. It just kind of snowballed as more and more people found out. People were just not going to let it happen. It’s almost like the whole area spoke out.”

But was anyone listening? The Carroll County Times didn’t think so. They wrote: “Had Dell and Frazier embarked on their campaign to generate support prior to voting on Piney Run, and had they addressed legitimate citizens’ concerns in an open, public environment, much of the dissension and discontent evidenced today could have been diffused or even avoided outright.”

In lieu of meetings, the commissioners released a brochure, a fact Baltimore Sun reporter, Mike Burns roundly ridiculed. Speaking of Dell and Frazier, he wrote: “They have magnanimously taken steps to share…with the public through an information-packed brochure soon to be available at a few carefully selected locations. That thoughtfully saves Carroll County citizens from the inconvenience of attending a public hearing and, indeed, from the chore of thinking up any embarrassing questions that might be posed to the county commissioners and their staff.

“As for any possible procedural requirements and niceties, we are informed by Commissioners Dell and Frazier that they do not apply. Two heads nodding in agreement are all that count in the tri-cornered county commissioner system of government.”

So they released a brochure to inform the public.

Meanwhile, Dell said, “We are listening to our consultants and experts. The people of South Carroll are not the experts.”

At least they were listening to the consultants and experts who agreed with them. Around this time a water resource specialist on the county staff was fired, and the environmental services department was eliminated by Frazier and Dell. Eventually, as pressure mounted, they relented to meeting their constituents, but insisted on calling the meetings “informational” – in other words, they would tell South Carroll why a treatment plant at Piney Run was a great idea.

“We’re not planning to kill you”

The “dissension and discontent” the Carroll County Times pointed to was in full view during a late July meeting at the Sykesville-Freedom Fire Hall. Emotions ran high. Two sheriff’s deputies in plain clothes merged with the crowd. It was standing room only.

As Gouge walked toward the hall, Primoff and a contingent of allies greeted her with angry shouts and signs. “Down with Julia Gouge.”

She remembers one who “was all wild-eyed. He had a sign that said ‘Julia Gouge votes with Parris Glendening’ (the current governor).

“I stopped for a minute and looked at them and the wild-eyed one said, ‘We will destroy you!’ I said, ‘Is that a threat?’ He said, ‘No, that’s a promise.’”

Dangel remembers it vividly. “I was walking beside Julia through all these people waving signs and shouting, and a guy just jumped out of the crowd. He was a member of the county Republican Central Committee. His eyes were crazy and red like someone on cocaine. He got two inches from her face, wagging his finger, and accusing her of all kinds of horrible things. It was a chilling moment. She was very shaken.”

Over 400 people packed the hall, most adamantly opposed to the plant. One wore a huge fish costume with Pfiesteria sores. (Pfiesteria in fish was a big issue at the time.) Others wore their “Save the Lake” rally shirts. Frazier took the podium to boos and with an air Gouge describes as one of divine guidance.

“Robin went through all this stuff about how she had been praying and had finally come to her decision. People had questions, but she said, `I don’t think you understand: I’m in charge. I was elected to make decisions.’ People were irate.”

Dangel says, “Dell and Frazier basically told us we’re a bunch of idiots.”

Another participant, Brian Green of Eldersburg, wrote to the Carroll County Times: “I was informed by Commissioner Frazier…that after much prayer and thought she had realized several truisms. Two plus two equals four and the water treatment facility at Piney Run must be built. Anyone who dares to disagree with her is either misinformed or incapable of understanding logical truisms.

“This arrogance is insulting to those of us who care about the future of our county. She is the almighty knower of all things who decides what is right and wrong, notwithstanding the desires of her constituents.”

While Frazier was largely scorned and despised, Gouge received a warm reception. But afterward, she says, “The wild-eyed one walked up to me, and said ‘Commissioner, I just want you to know we’re not planning to kill you, but we will destroy you politically. You will never hold office in this county again.’”

“We’re two votes, you’re one”

Despite the threat, Gouge would win two more elections, but during the battle of Piney Run, she often found herself in a lonely and precarious place. She received threatening anonymous letters, and life at the county office building gradually became a nightmare, as her fellow commissioners more or less gave their friends in the development community run of the place.

Gouge says sensitive files would vanish from department heads’ desks, only to reappear several weeks later, and that one commissioner was caught snooping through files in the middle of the night. It finally reached the point that whenever she raised any kind of questions or objections, Frazier would curtly remind her, “We’re two votes; you’re one.”

And the two had powerful financial and political backing. Primoff held benefits and fundraisers in their honor, his association had a list with thousands of names. (In the 2014 Republican Primary, Ed Primoff was a primary financial backer of the group known as Keep Carroll Conservative, which supported Richard Rothschild, Robin Frazier, and three other losing candidates for county commissioner.)

Gouge says, “The night of the 1998 elections (when Dell and Frazier were elected) several of my campaign people heard Ed Primoff say, ‘I’ll run Carroll County from my living room.’ ”

A Done Deal Undone — “Whose voices are they listening to?”

As opponents piled on with calls, at community meetings, in letters to editors and newspaper columns, Dell and Frazier dug in their heels. They appeared impervious to criticism and defiantly resistant to it.

The Carroll County Times took note in August:

“The only constant…has been Frazier’s and Dell’s teaming up to make decisions without any public input. And since, on many occasions, they have not listened to the voice of the people, people should be wondering just whose voices these commissioners are listening to.”

Whoever’s voices they were listening to, in the end it was not Julia Gouge, the FACC, the Carroll County Times, the man in the fish suit, or the countless angry citizens of South Carroll who brought the plans of Dell and Frazier crashing down. It was their arrogance, incompetence, and their willingness to pick fights with powerful forces outside the county.

Turning to the lake had not been their original plan. First they tried to alter the Regional Watershed Protection Agreement that Carroll County had been endorsing since 1979 and last signed in 1996. The watershed is basically just the area that feeds water into the reservoir. To protect the drinking water of 2 million homes, the agreement said Carroll County would not build in the watershed.

The language and terms of the agreement hadn’t changed over the years, but Dell and Frazier decided to change it. Their reason? They wanted to rezone 390 acres in the watershed to commercial and industrial use. The agreement prevented that. But both Baltimore City and Baltimore County rejected their amendments. Furthermore, Baltimore City, which owns the reservoir and the water in it, would not permit an expansion of the Liberty Reservoir water treatment plant, unless Carroll County signed the original, un-amended agreement.

And as mentioned earlier, this happened when South Carroll had suffered through several summers of drought, Liberty Reservoir was precariously low, outdoor water use restrictions were in place, and new developments continued to come on line.

Plan B — “A drought ravaged lake”

When plan A failed, they turned to plan B. They would build a $14 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Lake. No environmental restrictions. Less reliance on Baltimore. And with abundant water, potentially unfettered development. It seemed like a great idea.

Depleted Piney Run Lake in Carroll County, MD ca. 1999 - See more at: http://sykesvilleonline.com/about-21784/188-save-the-lake-ten-years-later#sthash.4ySu6jzb.dpuf

And since the lake was originally created to serve as an additional public water supply, this wasn’t all that farfetched. When Maryland authorized construction of the lake in 1967, the primary purposes were to control flood damage, reduce sediment flowing into the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor, provide recreational opportunities, and meet water needs in the area.

In 1973, a $2.7 million contract was awarded for building the lake. In 1975, the lake reached its full level for the first time. In 1988, the county obtained a water appropriation and use permit, and again, in 1996, the county obtained a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment to draw a daily average of 3 million gallons of water from the lake.

So, in theory, it could be done. But the county had never obtained the additional environmental permits required for regulating and monitoring the downstream water from Piney Run. And a 1989 study commissioned by the county, referred to as the Greenhorne and O’Mara report, warned that withdrawing 3 million gallons of water per day from the lake would likely cause environmental degradation and limit boating, fishing, and similar recreational activities.

A letter to the Carroll County Times referenced the Greenhorn and O’Mara report as describing “a drought-ravaged lake, one-half its current size…no boating because the docks are sitting in mud flats 50 to 100 yards from any water. Generations of fish and submerged aquatic vegetation…destroyed.”

In a September 2001 article for the Sun, entitled “Nature in the Balance,” Mary Gail Hare quoted several biologists and water quality experts about the “serious ecological damage” the lake would suffer due to the rising and falling water levels if used as a drinking water source.

Aside from permitting and environmental concerns, there were practical objections. Why endanger the 2-billion-gallon Piney Run Lake, which averages a depth of 10 feet, when the nearby 45-billion-gallon Liberty Reservoir was available at a fraction of the cost and none of the risk, and there were wells on the Springfield Hospital grounds and other locations that could supplement it until the plant was expanded?

But not only had Dell and Frazier refused to heed the crescendo of objections and criticism; they’d simply not done their homework. They never bothered to analyze the water quality to determine its suitability as a public supply, and as it turned out, during the nearly three decades since the lake was built, residential construction around it did not concur with guidelines for a reservoir.

Dangel says, “They let people build right up to it. You got people mowing and fertilizing their lawns and building their septic systems right against the tributary and the lake. The water quality was already on the endangered list since 1989 with green and blue algae and farm nutrient and waste runoff. That’s why we’re not allowed to swim in it. And now they expected us to drink it?”

There was more. Another Sun article quoted state officials as saying the required water quality and environmental impact studies could take 10 years. They also pointed out that a permit was required from the Maryland Department of the Environment, and that the permitting process required another round of public hearings.

And that’s how Dell’s and Frazier’s well-laid plans came tumbling down, but only after they’d spent $477,550 commissioning a design for the ill-fated plant and another $450,000 to pave a county road to provide access to the treatment plant that never was.

To the surprise of almost no one but the two commissioners, the Maryland Department of the Environment notified the Carroll County Board of Commissioners in a letter that they would not issue a permit for the plant. What Dell had publicly called “a done deal” was, in one fell swoop, effectively undone.

But, the Sun reported: “That news has not deterred two Carroll Commissioners supporting the…project, Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier, who accused the state of practicing partisan politics. Frazier called the letter political rhetoric and said it perpetuates Carroll’s squabbles with Gov. Parris N. Glendening over growth issues in Carroll.”

So, despite the opposition and the ruling from the state, like headless chickens that don’t know they’re dead, the commissioners plunged forward with their plans, till finally the blunt force of an election laid them cold.

Nonpartisan 'Get out the vote' sign, that grew out of the lake rally movement, to activate people

A new ending? Or a terrible new beginning?

Our original story went on for quite a bit more, but now I’m writing a new ending.

When Robin Frazier was voted out of power the first time, she could hardly have been less popular. Frazier finished sixth in the 2002 Republican primary with 4,453 votes out of 41,975 cast.

She would never have won a county-wide election again. But somehow, in the new five commissioner system, she managed to slip back into power, and sure enough, she managed to be just as divisive and unpopular as the first time around, and sure enough she was once again thoroughly defeated in her bid for reelection.

Unsatisfied with the voters’ rejection in the primary, she ran in the general election as a write-in candidate. Her opponent, Steve Wantz, received more than 10,000 votes, and assuming all the write-in votes went to her, Frazier received 1,141, not even 10 percent of those cast. In comparison, Jim Rowe, running as a write-in against Frazier’s ideological soul-mate, Richard Rothschild, collected 3,232 votes for an impressive 27 percent.

Frazier was defeated for the third time. And the county breathed a sigh of relief.

And then, in total secrecy, five members of the Carroll County Republican Party Central Committee decided that Robin Frazier deserved to go to Annapolis as a state senator. There was a vacancy, you see, and they decided that she was the best person in the county to fill it.

There’s a petition asking Governor Hogan to do something about this. A fellow named George Otto left a note on Robin Frazier’s Facebook page that said this about the petition:

I looked into who was behind Change.org, and the best way to check out any leftwing political activity is to follow the money!!! And when you follow the money in this bogus attempt to derail the Carroll County Republican Central Committee’s recommendation of Robin Bartlett Frazier to fill the vacant State Senate seat, it leads us to New World Order billionaires, and other leftwing anti-constitutionalists. IN OTHER WORDS THIS PETITION IS A FRAUDULENT JOKE—WHOSE SIGNATURES ARE FROM SOCIALISTS ALL OVER THE WORLD—TRYING TO DICTATE THE POLITICTS OF CARROLL COUNTIANS!!! NO WONDER THE CARROLL COUNTY TIMES WAS SO FAST TO PUBLISH THIS FRAUD (January 13th) JUST 3 DAYS AFTER THE RECCOMMENDATION AND TWO DAYS AFTER THE START OF THE PETITION!!!

That’s the kind of following that Frazier attracts. I know the woman who started the petition. SHE’S NOT A BILLIONAIRE. SHE’S A MOM.

As I write this, about 4,000 people have signed the petition. That’s nearly 3,000 more than voted for Frazier. I’ve read hundreds of the comments on the petition. And, although I’m sure George Otto would consider me a leftwing anti-constitutionalist, you can still trust me when I say, with some assurance, that those comments are not coming from socialists all over the world, but rather from normal people right here in Carroll County, who thought they’d made it very clear to Robin Frazier on three occasions that they did not want her working for them anymore.

But either Robin Frazier has never learned to listen, or just doesn’t care. Or is it both?

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Jack White is a writer and leftwing anti-constitutionalist. You can get his latest book here.

Author’s Note: We have disabled comments on this article, because managing them is time consuming. Feel free to comment on Facebook.

Greetings friends, what with all this hullabaloo about former county commissioner Robin Frazier getting everyone in a bad mood, I thought I’d change the subject to underwear to cheer people up. Well, not just underwear. Fruitcake, too, which isn’t really my area of expertise.

rosieandwarren

You see, a couple weeks ago we packed Sykesville’s old schoolhouse, despite an annoying rain, and I thought I’d share a few pictures and videos and absurd insights about the aforementioned underwear, fruitcakes, politicians, and things of that nature.

So first here’s Warren Dorsey, the star of my book, and his sister, Rosie. They’re sort of a comedy team. Warren is the straight man. In this little bit, Rosie’s basically accusing Warren of being too, uh, kind of frugal, to stick to the traditional Dorsey family fruitcake recipe, which has been passed down for at least 80 years from Dorsey to Dorsey and Christmas to Christmas.

Now Warren definitely does not come lightly to his fruitcake frugality. I mean, come on, if you spent your first 17 years wearing underpants made of chickenfeed sacks, you’d probably grow up skimping on fruitcake ingredients, too. I’ve never eaten a fruitcake or worn a chickenfeed sack, and I’m too old to start now, but I imagine it might leave a permanent mark on your psyche, and maybe a rash, too. [read more…]

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Sykesville Gets a TARDIS

by Jack White on May 18, 2014

What the heck is that strange little box on Main Street? Is it the Sykesville Snog box? Is it a TARDIS? Is the Doctor having a crêpe at the French Twist?

tardis1

It’s a pretty lame excuse for a TARDIS by the way. [read more…]

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Now, if you scroll down, you’ll read my TARDIS post. Theoretically that should have come before this post, and maybe it did, and maybe you should scroll up. Either way that’s based on the premise that time is linear.

Time is actually wibbily wobbeley. However you spell that.

And who cares, because we’re in big trouble? Notice the picture. Can you read it?

badwolf1

I’m not going to tell you where that is. I want you to guess, and then I want you to stay away from there at all cost. I will tell you two things. One, it’s very much too close to Sykesville for comfort. And two, if you can’t read the words, they say “Bad Wolf.” And you know what that means. Correct?

And if not, for God’s sake, find someone who watches Doctor Who and panic. Because, here it is again, and there’s been a TARDIS spotted on Main Street. Something bad is going to happen.

badwolf2

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The Amazing Adventures of Dusty and Goat

by Jack White on May 14, 2014

Clearly the biggest news in the Freedom area today is the continued freedom of an escaped goat who’s been spotted just about everywhere, but has somehow managed to elude capture. People have been trying to come up with a cute name for him, but I’m just going to call him Goat, because a cool guy like Goat shouldn’t have a cute name. Here’s Goat in someone’s backyard. Lisa Wheeler Grimes took the picture.

goat1

Now if you look closely at Goat, you’ll notice a couple things, first off, he’s pretty damned good looking. Second, he’s saying, “Lady, don’t mess with me. I’ve got horns.” And third he’s saying, “I don’t want no cute name.”

[read more…]

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In Search of Warren’s Magic Rocks

by Jack White on May 13, 2014

It was Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, and I went out to find Warren’s rocks. Rocks are big and old, and the way Warren described them, they were so big that just because he used to swim among them naked 85 years ago, didn’t mean I couldn’t swim among them naked in 2014.

I had no intention of swimming among them naked. Or fully clothed.

I just wanted a picture. I just figured I could find them. I just figured they had to be there still. People destroy nature, they mess with the past, but they don’t go into the Patapsco River and haul away rocks the size of Pluto.

rock1

Warren had given me directions. He mentioned something about west of this and east of that and upstream from something or another. He might as well have recited a Shakespearean soliloquy to me, because when it comes to upstream and downstream and east and west and stuff like that, I have no idea what people are talking about. But nonetheless with my modern camera and its big long lens hanging around my neck, and wearing a pair of flimsy sneakers, and carrying my phone, which has a compass app, I went looking for Warren’s rocks. [read more…]

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The Most Important Intersection in Sykesville

by Jack White on May 11, 2014

Can you tell me why this intersection is the most important intersection in the history of Sykesville?

intersection1

Oh fine, I’ll tell you. It’s because in 1937, this brick building helped stop the fire that took down most of the first block of Main Street from crossing to the second block and burning down the whole town.

Here it is in 1907. It looks a lot better in color, doesn’t it?

1907

I’ll bet the fire looked better in color, too.

fireblack

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If You’re Looking for the Shoemaker Center

by Jack White on May 11, 2014

It’s moved.

shoemaker1

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We’re Back with a Tortoise

by Jack White on May 11, 2014

Well, I’ve been away awhile, and it’s a little embarrassing, but you see I met this guy named Warren, and we’ve been writing a book together. Well mostly he talks, and I write. Plus Juliette’s in college now and that requires money, actually a lot of it, so there’s two jobs, and the book and regular life, and Sykesville Online has just sort of languished.

But that’s about to change. So to get back in the swing of things, I’m going to write a few posts and show you a few pictures, including this one, which I took today, and which I think sort of captures our progress as a website over the past few months.

turt1

Now, I hate to admit it, but I’m not really sure what this is, so please feel free to fill me in. I’m sure it’s either a tortoise or a turtle, and whichever it is, it’s definitely the biggest one I’ve ever seen out of captivity.

turt3

In fact, when Anna pointed it out and suggested I take a picture, after Barkley gave it a quick sniff and found it uninteresting, I asked her if maybe we’d be better off just running. But then she reminded me of the fact that the thing, whether tortoise or turtle, was by reputation and all appearances, notoriously slow. So I snapped a few shots, including its really long tail, which is too creepy to publish here, and then we got out of there. It did not pursue us.

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Good Year Blimp Flies Over Sykesville

by Jack White on May 18, 2013

Wow, here’s something you don’t see every day.

Good Year Blimp flies over Sykesville

I heard this weird noise in the sky, like a really slow loud helicopter. I nearly jumped out of my shoes when I looked up and saw this thing.

Here’s a shot Patti Meyer sent me.

Good Year Blimp

Betina Koontz sent me this one.

Another shot of the blimp

This one I took in our back yard.

Blimp from our yard

I haven’t been this excited since the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

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Sykesville Has a New Mayor – Ian Shaw

by Jack White on May 8, 2013

Well folks, this is already old news, but I just thought I’d post it for the historic record. Here’s the score.

Ian Shaw 295, Mike Miller 118, Stacy Link 258, Leo Keenan 210, Debbie Ellis 206, Anna Carter 187, John Ellis 141, and Joe Moltz 136.

Best of luck to Mike Miller and Chris True, who will no longer be  part of town government. Welcome, Stacy, and welcome back, Debbie.

Here’s the story in the Carroll County Times.

And if you’re wondering what happened to all the election questions and a couple of the articles about the election, I hid them. Maybe they’ll reappear someday, but it’s not likely.

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I’m not sure exactly what easy peasy means, but here’s what former town council head Jeannie Nichols thinks about who you should vote for.

Easy peasy, I am voting for Ian Shaw – enthusiastic, actually would like being mayor, likes working with people, and is respectful of other’s opinions.

Debby Ellis – truly brilliant, has been on the council before (we served together) knows the budget numbers, been to almost ever council meeting in the last four years and takes NOTES!

John Ellis – also been to almost every council meeting in the last four years, long time volunteer, tech savvy, enthusiastic.

Stacy Link – forward thinking, enthusiastic, smart, dedicated to the older part of town and has boundless energy.

We need to have a vision and look forward into the future. We have the potential in town to thrive in the future but this will not happen unless the council is not afraid to do what is right and not just what is politically correct at the moment.

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Oh, man, it’s time to vote for town council, and I’m kind of stumped. The problem is they all seem so nice. They all seem so qualified and dedicated and truly concerned about the town. They all volunteer their time and do good things.

What is wrong with these people?

Why isn’t anyone fighting? Why can’t we have a big war over big issues like basketball hoops or the post office or…something…anything? Jeez, this race is friendly to the point of boredom. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get to vote without someone sitting in the corner to make sure we don’t cheat.

But still, despite what might look like a lack of controversy and big issues and big differences between the candidates, you should vote. Let the winners feel like they won something. Let them have a sense of accomplishment and a bit of a mandate to do whatever it is they say they’re going to do. Being on Sykesville’s town council is not exactly a cushy job. It’s basically volunteer work.

I’d love to be on town council, if it wouldn’t require me attending meetings twice a month for almost no money, making decisions, and getting hated by people for things I might not even do.

So let’s look at some ways you can divide up your votes.

First you could go with sex.

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While sipping and sometimes gulping too much wine at yesterday’s festival, I came across Wiley Purkey, painting by the fountain. Wiley and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but somehow or another we seem to get along just swell. Anyway, he asked if he could endorse some candidates, and I said, “Sure.” So here’s what Wiley has to say.

Wiley Purkey

While attending the Sykesville Art and Wine Festival Sunday, I was thinking about the election on Tuesday, May 7th. There I sat on a bench chosen by former Mayor Jonathan Herman, in a park he supported, in front of a fountain that he designed, looking at the Old Main Line Visitors Center that he supported, at the train station that he oversaw the renovation of, at the McElroy parking lot, his own restored home on Norwood Ave., and the Norwood Mansion that he restored, and I was struck by how important it is to have true leadership qualities in our Mayor.

Wiley Purkey at the 2013 Fine Art & Wine Festival

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Candidate Videos

by Jack White on May 2, 2013

Well, apparently the Carroll County media center offered the candidates a chance to create a short video. Three of them took them up on the offer, so here they are in alphabetical order. [read more…]

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Spring Morning at Cooper Park – 2013

by Jack White on April 21, 2013

Just held up the phone camera and snapped.

Cooper Park in Sykesville

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Tributes to Corporal Lewis

by Jack White on April 15, 2013

Well, Barkley isn’t the only one who liked Corporal Lewis. I thought I’d share some of the nice things people said. Apparently he had some other skills, like breaking into trucks (to help people), feeding the dogs of random citizens, and hugging very sad postal workers.

Sykesville's Dave LewisHere you go, Dave. (I don’t think Dave’s on Facebook.)

Patti Meyer

Oh no!! He was the best one there. I’m so sad to hear this…

He helped me last year, when I locked my keys in my truck at the Convenience Store. I asked him to give me a ride home, but he said wait a second, I can get your truck open for you. He did, in record time!

HUGE loss for this town police department, whatever the circumstances. There will never be another that cared as much for the people and this town, and was always a professional. Wonderful story.

I’ve had many contacts with Dave since he became an officer for our town, and believe me, he will be deeply missed. He is the most kind, caring and compassionate person the town police department has ever had. Check out the museum in the PD, his doing. Look at the mannequin in the PD lobby, dressed in my father’s old uniform, his doing. When my Mother was living in town, and we had to call an ambulance for her, if Dave was working, he was there to make sure she was ok and to see if we needed his help with anything. My Mom would also call the PD in her later years, and he always responded and assisted her the best he could. Once, he even ran the rabbits out of her garden for her! What a loss for this town. Dave, I’ll miss seeing you. I hope I never have to call for town police assistance, because if you aren’t there, I don’t want anyone!!! Much love and good luck to you in whatever you move on to…. Patti & Marty

Connie McKay

Dave Lewis’ leaving is truly a great loss to Sykesville. As all have attested here, he cares about people (and animals). He used to visit us at the OML Visitor Center Post Office just to check on our well-being. His demeanor was that of interest and caring. He exuded security and always with a light-hearted sense of humor. He was on duty the day we handed in our letters of resignation to the town. He hugged each one of us and said that he didn’t want us to go. I wish we could have been there last week so that we could have hugged him and said, “Dave, we don’t want you to go.” [read more…]

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“What I’ll miss most is doing the school crossings and getting all the high fives from the kids.”

Corporal Dave Lewis of the Sykesville Police

Well, just when things were looking up for Barkley, our arthritic dog, Dave Lewis resigned from the Sykesville police force. It happened about a week ago and Barkley is not happy.

Corporal Dave Lewis

When Barkley talks, he sounds just like Dug in the movie Up.

Barkley says, “This is awful, Jack. I loved Dave Lewis. He liked dogs. He even liked people. I am going to be depressed all month, Jack.”

So we’re upping Barkley’s Dogzac.

Now, if you’re unsure why Barkley is so fond of Corporal Lewis, maybe you missed our story about the suddenly missing picnic table at Warfield. One day it was there, next day it was in the lake, depriving Barkley of one of his favorite pastimes, lifting his leg and marking the bench in various places with his scent.

A couple days after it mysteriously vanished, it mysteriously returned. Then we received this note.

Barkley,
Best I can do. Beer cans are all cleaned up, the suspected bong (wrapping for one of the new trees, as it turns out) recovered and disposed of. And with a lot of assistance from the police department’s new AWD SUV cruiser and a tow cable, the pic-a-nic table is back up where you can pee on it without getting your feet wet. Or Jack can.

So Corporal Lewis had gone in and gotten the bench out.

Barkley restored

The Mullet Man

Dave and I first got acquainted during the famous mullet man incident. As you may recall, a semi-naked man in chicken feathers, leather pants, riding boots, and an orange mullet, terrorized the area around Kalorama and Harlan Lane recently with a bad haircut and a knife, drawing cops from all over, including the Sykesville police. When someone made a crack about Barney and Andy, Dave took offense and took it out on me.

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Barkley’s Faith in Humanity Restored

by Jack White on March 2, 2013

Barkley says, “Jack, Jack, it’s back.”

“Why I’ll be darned,” I say.

Barley prepares

He says, “Can I pee on it, Jack?”

I say, “Certainly, Barkley.”

He says, “Would you like to go first?”

I say, “No, that’s okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, you see, they might arrest me for that.”

“Okay,” says Barkley, “Would you mind not taking a picture?”

So I lower my camera and Barkley raises his leg.

When he’s finished, Barkley says, “How did this happen, Jack? How did the picnic table come back?”

“Well,” I say, “I believe a man named Corporal Dave Lewis of the Sykesville police had something to do with it. He sent you a letter.”

And then I read the letter to Barkley.

Barkley,
Best I can do. Beer cans are all cleaned up, the suspected bong (wrapping for one of the new trees, as it turns out) recovered and disposed of. And with a lot of assistance from the police department’s new AWD SUV cruiser and a tow cable, the pic-a-nic table is back up where you can pee on it without getting your feet wet. Or Jack can.
I can’t change A-hole’s behavior, but I hope this helps.
P.S., Dad was right, there was more than one of them. That joker is HEAVY !

Barkley says, “I was wrong, Jack. Humans don’t suck.”

“Only some,” I say. “The trick is not to be one of them.”

Barkley prepares to leap

Barkley’s not the strongest of dogs. He has some kind of disorder and when he doesn’t take steroids, he can hardly walk. The steroids aren’t good for him and are probably shortening his life, but as long as he takes them he’s pretty much okay.

And sometimes, like today, really happy, with his faith restored in humanity, he gets back the old strength in his legs and makes a mighty leap.

Barkley restored

He’s a noble old fella.

 

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Beer Drinking Vandals Break Barkley’s Heart

by Jack White on February 28, 2013

The following post is rated PG due to cartoon violence, a talking dog, rude language, and a drug reference. Proceed with caution.

Barkley’s a simple fellow, being a dog and all, and mostly quiet, except for periodic outbursts of insane barking. He likes to go walking with me over at Warfield and peeing everywhere. He does the peeing, I just walk.

But today something terrible happened. You see right now, both of us notice something is amiss in the distance.

Where's the bench?

As we get closer, it becomes more clear.

Why is the bench still missing?

Finally Barkley can’t take it anymore. He says to me, “Jack, where’s the picnic bench?”

I say, “Well, it should be right here.”

Where's the stinking bench.

“But, Jack,” he says. “It’s not. How am I going to pee on the picnic bench if it’s not here to pee on?”

Which is a good question of the philosophical sort I often pose to myself late at night when having trouble getting to sleep.

Well, it doesn’t take a lot of detective work, at least for a moderately aware human, to unravel the mystery.

Beer in the water

There’s the beer in the water, you see. And there’s the other beer, and the crushed pack of Newports, and what appears to be a four-foot long discarded bong.

Another beer in the water

And of course, there’s this, which is what I would call incontrovertible evidence.

We found the picnic bench.

Barkley says, “Jack, the picnic table’s in the water.”

I say, “I see that, Barkley.”

Yep, it's in the water.

Barkley says, “How can that be?”

I say, “How can it not be?”

Barkley says, “Huh?”

Bench and bag in the water

I say, “Someone put it there, Barkley.”

Barkley says, “Who, Jack? Who would do such a terrible thing to a picnic bench?”

I say, “Assholes, Barkley. Probably more than one of ‘em.”

Barkley says, “Humans suck, Jack. No offense.”

“No offense taken, my friend.”

He’s been depressed ever since.

Depressed Barkley

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Was the Cauthorn House Haunted?

by Jack White on February 26, 2013

Well, this Cauthorn story just keeps getting more interesting. I wish I had time to research and write it up. Now I’m hearing their house was haunted. Here’s a picture from Fay Dowling taken in Autumn of 1982. Pretty, like a painting.

cauthornhouse

Just let me collect some snippets here from our Facebook site and some of the comments on other posts and see what kind of picture emerges. I hope no one minds.

Lauri Newcomer Leverett
The smaller red building to the left of the barn is/was the ‘carriage house’ as the Cauthorns called it. It was a drive through barrack type building on one half where they would pull the carriages through then unhook the team (you can just make out the opening on the side nearest the barn) and the other half was enclosed, with a wooden floor.

It was similar to a tack room where they would keep harnesses,  etc. The spring house would be directly behind the middle of the barn from this angle, but sadly not visible.

Margaret B. Smith
What a great picture Faye! When I was small and we went there it was always an experience and we so had to on our p’s & q’s when we went in the house. I much rather have been outside with Helen and Alex and the horses. The girls used to stop occasionally for tea at our house on there way back from Westminster because it was such a trip! [read more…]

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My Apologies to Mayor Miller and Wiley Purkey

by Jack White on February 25, 2013

Way back a few months ago, I wrote this article about Matt Candland.

What I didn’t know, because somehow our software screwed up, was that Mayor Mike Miller and Wiley Purkey, both of whom are mentioned in the article, left comments. I discovered the comments today mixed in with a bunch of spam comments about Viagra, which I’m pretty sure has nothing to do with Sykesville.

So here are their comments, and I thank them both.

Now, the mayor does mention that I made a $4 million mistake. I really don’t like making $4 million mistakes. So I’m going to blame Matt. Anyway, here you go.

Wiley Purkey 2012-08-17 05:16

I can’t believe that no one has commented on this brilliant article! Well researched, and well written. Matt will surely be missed, he was just about the only connection to the “Sykesville Vision” that was left. History will record the years from 1985 to 2006 as Sykesville’s “Golden Age”.

Mike Miller 2012-08-05 15:43

Excellent article, best read about Sykesville that I’ve seen in some time.

BUT that “free” intersection at 32 and Warfield was not free at all, like the article states. The Warfield Development Corporation has an outstanding 4 Million + dollar loan, backed by the Town, that is owed to the State and County and accruing interest each year. Where is that money coming from? Hmmmm…

Nevertheless, a GREAT thanks is deserved by all those who participated in bringing Sykesville back to life, including our excellent Town Manager, Matthew Candland.

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Yeah, that’s a long title, but here’s what it all means. This is a comment from our friend, Marie Hood Jones, on the Cauthorn piece. Now, my question is, was the Warfield in question Wade Warfield’s wife, thus adding a bit more to my story about the rise and fall of Sykesville’s most influential citizen?

Here’s Marie.

I’m not sure which branch of the Warfield family this pertained to, but my grandmother, Adelle Guy Wilson, worked for a Warfield family as a girl. One of her jobs was to trim the wicks of the oil lamps thruout the big house they owned. My grandmother died in March of 2009, just shy of her 100th birthday.

She recounted to me, that the day my mother was born, Mrs Warfield was sure Adelle must be deathly ill because she did not come to work in the house. And when she was told that my Mom was born, she responded that the ‘teller’ must mean my grandmother’s mother.

In the days when women kept having children from early to late in their lives, their daughters often had children the same age, and in a time when personal stuff was fairly quiet and not pronounced to everyone, and women wore long full dresses and aprons, they could be in a family way and no one knew.

In retrospect, I imagine that they also secretly hoped that the baby would be born alive and live long enough to be celebrated. Your tomb-stone reading reminds us of the sadnesses that plagued families of the time.

All was well and Mrs Warfield gave her a lovely piece of china to commemorate the event. This would have been about 1927.

Ellen Warfield died in 1932. She and Wade certainly lived in a large house, but they lost the house and most of their possessions in 1927. Perhaps Adelle Guy Wilson trimmed the oil lamps in the home of Wade and Ellen Warfield before they lost it all.

I sure hope so.

Click here to read the story of Wade and Ellen Warfield. And when you get to the end of part one, make sure you click through to part 2.

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More on the Cauthorn Sisters

by Jack White on January 21, 2013

It’s fascinating to watch the story of the Cauthorns take shape. Here’s a bit more from Lauri Newcomer.

I knew the Cauthorn ladies as well. I also know Fay [Dowling]. The Cauthorns farm was around the corner from my parents property, where I grew up. My father still lives there. My uncle farmed the Cauthorn’s property for years and my Dad was always available to help ‘the sisters’ out with errands, repairs, etc.

The springhouse Fay speaks of, did indeed have the most divine taste. Their carriage house, old bank barn and barracks were flashbacks in time. The house, which I was in as a guest multiple times as a child, was fascinating to me. It dated back to pre-Civil War. I remember the glass in the kitchen windows was the really old wavy glass. Some of the panes were signed by the glass makers.

I don’t remember Alex, but I remember his sisters, Miss Agnes, Miss Margaret and Miss Helen well. I remember sitting with them listening to their banter many times as a child.

Miss Helen rode her horse Rascal well into her later life. I’m not sure exactly how old she was but I expect somewhere in her seventies. Miss Margaret was the one who drove the family car. Miss Agnes was more of a home body and the quieter one of the sisters. To my knowledge they never married or had families.

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Here’s a nice comment on the angel. This from Marie Hood Jones. Thanks, Marie.

Looks just like the angel that my grandma placed over her baby’s grave….that baby was Helen Marie Wilson….called Marie…..She was my mothers baby sister and I was named after her and called Marie……but just almost…… because a cousin was named Helen in respect just before me—I became Ellen Marie…….As a child, I loved to visit the angel…and had no idea how painful those sweet little trips to see her were for my grandparents…….I know now..and shed a tear for their sorrow…….

The angel of Sykesville

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If you scroll down, you’ll see my little sad story about the Cauthorns. I thought it was fascinating that so many of them apparently were born and then died right away or died within a few years, and were all buried in a crooked row in Springfield Cemetery.

But there’s more to the story. I received a comment from Fay Dowling, who actually knew them, and here’s the nice story she told me about the Cauthorns who lived long lives.

cauthorn-long-view2

Here’s Fay’s account of the Cauthorns.

I knew the Cauthorns, sort of. I vaguely remember Alex and his three sisters. My father farmed their land for many years, and we rode horses through their farm to reach trails down to Ellicott City and beyond.

The water that rose from a natural spring up into the spring house below the barn had the most delicious taste – or perhaps it tasted so good from working hard in the hay fields on hot summer days.

I remember the sisters, Helen and Margaret, and their grand, tall thoroughbreds, watching them set out as if to ride a hunt. Elegant ladies, or so they seemed, to one so young as I was.

Their farm was up on Arrington Road, between Sykesville and Marriottsville. I often daydreamed of what it was like inside their grand home. I never did see myself, unless it was when I was very, very young. Before I reached my teens, my father was no longer farming their land, and the ladies no longer rode. I never knew them to not be old, and mysterious, and always, elegant.

I know I’m probably a little weird in this way, but these sorts of stories fascinate me, as I slowly piece together Sykesville’s past, and I’m really grateful when someone leaves a compliment, or better yet, a comment, especially one as vivid and well-written as this one, that helps tell the stories better.

So thanks, Fay. I’m glad the Cauthorn story wasn’t all tragedy, and I’m glad to learn that they were elegant, mysterious old ladies on horses.

But then, I’ve got to ask. Did they never marry, never have children. Were they lonely, did they only have one another, and was it maybe, a sad story nonetheless?

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The Coolest Thing in Sykesville

by Jack White on January 12, 2013

Okay, you can argue with me, but show me one thing in Sykesville cooler than the angel on a bright Spring day in January, looking down and gently dropping flowers on the dead.

angel1-Jan2013

angel2-Jan2013

angel3-Jan2013

angel4-Jan2013

Is she not, perhaps, the most beautiful thing in the world?

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A short sad Sykesville Story – Meet the Cauthorns

by Jack White on January 12, 2013

While taking pictures of John Bennett, the Confederate boat captain buried in Springfield Cemetery, I came across the Cauthorns. Here is their short sad story.

cauthorn - stone

cauthorn - fanny

cauthorn - mary

cauthorn-alex

cauthorn - rhoda

cauthorn - wilmer

cauthorn-margaret

cauthorn-helen

cauthorn-long-view2

They lived long, or they barely lived at all.

The end.

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John W. Bennett and the Battle of Mobile Bay

by Jack White on January 12, 2013

Springfield Cemetery in Sykesville is loaded with cool graves and good stories and interesting links to most, but not all, of the town’s history – not to mention American history. This story, published by the Sykesville Gatehouse Museum in a recent edition of its ArtiFACTS newsletter, has something to do with this great picture from the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay.

battle-mobile-bay

It’s written by museum volunteer Fran Midkiff and tells the tale of one of the many Maryland men who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. His name is John W. Bennett and he settled nearby after the war and is buried in Springfield Cemetery not far from the grave of George Patterson, an owner of many slaves, and probably also a Southern sympathizer.

Here’s the grave. The tall structures in the background belong to the Pattersons.

bennett-grave

Bennett commanded a ship during the battle. Here’s the story.

By Fran Midkiff
During the Civil War, Maryland (along with Virginia, West Virginia, and Delaware) was one of four “border states” with residents sympathetic to both the Union and Confederate positions. Southern and eastern Marylanders tended to side with the South, while northern and western Marylanders tended to side with the North. One Marylander who served in the Confederate Navy is of particular note because, after the end of the Civil War, he settled in the Sykesville area and was buried in the Springfield Presbyterian Church cemetery.

John W. Bennett (January 11, 1822, to June 29, 1902) was the son of an affluent Talbot County family. He married Sarah (Sally) Lloyd Lowndes, daughter of Charles Lowndes, a Commodore in the U.S. Navy, and his wife Sarah Scott Lloyd. Both the Lloyds and the Lowndes were wealthy and politically active.

Commodore Lowndes’ wife was his first cousin and the daughter of Edward Lloyd, governor of Maryland from 1809-1811, of Wye, Maryland. Lowndes’ nephew, Lloyd Lowndes, Jr., was governor of Maryland from 1896-1900.

Bennett was a member of the first graduating class in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was designated a Midshipman on February 10, 1840, passed Midshipman on July 11, 1846, and received his Masters on March 1, 1855. He became a Lieutenant on September 14, 1855.

When the Civil War broke out, Bennett was offered a commission in the U.S. Navy; however, he sided with the South and joined the Confederate Navy in 1861. Although he resigned, he was officially dismissed on April 19, 1861, a common practice the Union followed with those who chose to serve in the Confederate Navy or Army.

The Battle of Mobile Bay

Lieutenant Bennett was originally assigned to the Nashville, a man-of-war, commissioned by the Confederacy in the fall of 1861. Later, he was put in command of the Gaines, a wooden side-wheel gunboat [pictured below]. Hastily constructed in order to create a navy for the South, the Gaines was built with inferior materials in Mobile, Alabama, in 1861-62.

ganes-phote

Bennett commanded the Gaines during the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864, and the ship was badly damaged in the battle. There is some belief that because the vessel was sinking due to shelling below the waterline and become grounded, the officers scuttled her to keep her out of Union hands. Most of the crew escaped to Mobile.

The Battle of Mobile Bay was a serious loss for the Confederacy because it led to the closing of Mobile Bay, an important Southern port for refueling and repairs. As a result, only the harbor at Wilmington, North Carolina, was left open for the Southern Navy. The city of Mobile, however, remained in the hands of the Confederacy.

After the War

After the war, Captain Bennett and his family settled in Carroll County. The 1870 Census indicated that they were living in District 5 with their two daughters, Ellen (1858-1942) and Harriett (1860-1938), and two sons, Charles (unknown) and Pennington (1869-1916). At the time of the 1880 Census, the Bennetts had added two more sons, Beverley (1871-1937) and Francis (1873-1946), and Bennett’s occupation was listed as “farmer.” Curiously, at the 1900 Census, Bennett’s occupation was listed as “sailor.”

Captain Bennett died on June 29, 1902, at the age of 80. His wife, Sarah died on March 14, 1905. They are buried with five of their six children in Springfield Cemetery, located at the Springfield Presbyterian Church on Spout Hill Road, Sykesville. Captain Bennett’s grave is marked with a large tombstone, inscribed “John William Bennett, Captain of the Confederate Navy.”

An anchor is carved on top of the tombstone.

 

bennett-anchor

While you’re here, have you read our story on Wade Warfield yet? It just might be our best ever. Click here to read it. Or else.

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I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what’s going on here, but someone sent me a link to this website called Keep Carroll Open, and a link to the following video showing the commissioners fighting over funding the county schools.

Apparently Carroll County has been identified as the 22nd wealthiest county in the nation, based on median income, but yet, at least a couple of the commissioners are fighting to fund the county schools at the absolute minimum level. There’s also been discussion of closing schools.

Maybe we should all start paying attention. Here’s the video.

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