This week we'll look at a little old treasure from the chest, "History of Cumberland, Md," by William Harrison Lowdermilk, originally published in 1878. My copy is one of those put out by a publishing company and billed as ,"Affordable & High Quality Paperback Edition". I'm cool with that because I don't have to be too precious about handling. Think I paid about $10 for this reproduction about a year ago and you can still find it on Amazon. The collector's editions go for up to $300!
The reproduction paperback is perfect for my use. It's 580 pages of sheer local history from George Washington's Journals and Indian graves to local bits of interest in 1876, the last year Lowdermilk covered. The book ends with General Braddock's Orderly Book in which he recorded a lot of trivia about the colonial period in the territory that would eventually become Allegany County, Maryland.
As you can see from the photo below, I have snips of paper marking pages of interest. This was an inexpensive book and a perfect candidate to mark up, but alas, I can't bring myself to write in it!
One of the things that fascinates me is the names of places and how they have either changed or stayed the same. Old Town was Shawnee Old Town, while Wills Creek has been that name for as long as people have been recording it when the "white man" first set foot in the area.
I have been impressed with the great amount of time George Washington spent in the area, from his earliest years with Nemacolin who showed him the trail west, to the days of the revolution. Back and forth he came, first as a scout, then with General Braddock in the French and Indian War. Sometimes the descriptions tell me exactly where Washington strode and other times the manes have changed or the old chestnut tree grove has been long gone.
I must confess that most of the pages of Washington's Journal leave me requiring a nap. But then just as I start to doze off there's an exciting passage and I learn something of use. The best part of this early matter is the descriptions of the lush forests and abundant wildlife and fur animals. That, of course, has vanished, but it busies the mind to imaging how it all was in times past.
Eventually, careful reading reveals an ancestor or two. Because this fine old book has no index (drat) I examine every page for surnames I know. On page 264 I find my 5th great grandfather, George Adam Eckhart, known as Adam, listed amongst those individuals who settled on the land west of Cumberland before the Bounty Lands were awarded, as is Isaac Workman, also a 5th great grandfather and listed on the next page.
I read the pages carefully because if an ancestor is not there, I know that helpful background information will be there. On page 334 I find listed the names of those men responsible for the upkeep of the National Road west in 1834. From the names such as Josiah Porter (related), Meshack Frost (related), and Josiah Frost, I can roughly guess where each section of road lies from where their property was.
On page 350 I find that Peter Yeast is serving as County Commissioner in 1841 - 42 for Allegany County before it was divided yielding Garrett County to the west. Peter Yeast was the second husband of my 3rd great grandmother. Did not know he was such a respected man. This explains why his son-in-law, and my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph E. Whetstone, is mentioned on page 215 in another book about the area, "The Old Pike: A History of the National Road," by Thomas B. Searight, as running a tavern about that time when the 1850 census shows clearly that the tavern was then run by Peter Yeast. Looks like the SIL took over for Peter Yeast while he served his county as a commissioner. Details like this fill out the lives of the ancestors.
I love old books about local history for the background they give. I could read this stuff all day!
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