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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 22:  Further Progress

As Mechanicstown grew, the need for water facilities was soon felt and in 1887 the Mechanicstown Water Company was formed. Water mains were then laid throughout the town, bringing the pure water from the head-springs of High Run into the homes of the towns-people. This organization was owned privately until in recent years the Commissioners of Thurmont voted to purchase it. They felt that the Town of Thurmont could provide better facilities and maintain it at a lower cost.

Although the Town of Thurmont now owns and operates the Mechanicstown Water Company, its name has not been changed and thus still links Thurmont with its historic past.

On June 27, 1887, shortly after water from High Run was cut into the water mains, the citizens of Mechanicstown organized their own fire company known as the Guardian Hose Company. Those responsible for forming the organization were M. E. Leatherman, James C. Mackley, Charles E. Cassell, S. M. Birely, John F. D. Miller, Frank Stokes and H. C. Anders.

The first officers of the company were:

  • M. E. Leatherman, President
  • S. M. Birely, Treasurer
  • James C. Mackley, Vice President
  • Frank Stokes, Chief Hoseman
  • Charles E. Cassell, Secretary
  • H. C. Anders, Chief Pipeman

In those days there were no modern pieces of equipment like we have today. The original pieces of apparatus were two heavy hose reels which the men dragged through the streets to the fire.

Today the Guardian Hose Company's equipment includes the following: two 500-gallon pumpers, two 750-gallon pumpers, one 800-gallon tank truck with a 350-gallon pumper. In addition to the tank truck, two of the pumpers carry 400 gallons of water with them, and a third one carries 500 gallons of water.

Misfortune befell the Guardian Hose Company on July 2nd, 1907 when the old Stocksdale warehouse was destroyed by fire and the company's records were lost. As a result of this loss, the company was then reorganized with the following officers:

  • S. B. Bennett, President
  • L. S. Birely, Treasurer
  • E. C. Kefauver, Vice President
  •  E. L. Root, Foreman
  • Charles L. Stocksdale, Secretary
  • Clayton Creeger, Chief Hose Director
  • Howard Creeger, Chief Pipeman

Early disastrous fires in the area included one which almost wiped out the village of Creagerstown, one which leveled the Root Brothers Cannery, and the Stocksdale Warehouse. These fires, which caused considerable damage, occurred many years ago and was attributed to insufficient water. Today, this condition does not exist, and the town is well protected.

The original Fire Hall was located in the basement of the old Town Hall which was built in 1890. In 1949, the old Town Hall was torn down and a new and modern fire house was built on the same site and dedicated on July 22, 1951.

Membership of the Guardian Hose Company totals 135. The average number of calls per year ranges from 60 to 70 and the average number of men responding to each fire alarm is 18. From the very beginning of the organization in 1887, the Guardian Hose Company has had 8 Presidents, 16 Vice-Presidents, 16 Secretaries, and only 6 Fire Chiefs. The Fire Chiefs were Edward L. Root, John M. Creeger, Roy Creeger, Omer J. Dubel, George Black, and the present Chief, Harry O. Miller.

Present officers include the following:

  • D. S. Weybright, President
  • Eugene McKissick, Trustee
  • John Wood, Vice President
  • Richard Willhide, Trustee
  • Donald Stitely, Recording Secretary
  • Philip Zentz, Trustee
  • John E. Firor, Financial Secretary
  • John E. Firor, Trustee
  • Robert L. Willhide, Treasurer
  • Eugene Valentine, Trustee

The Guardian Hose Company is a member of the Maryland State Firemen's Association and the Frederick County Volunteer Fire-men's Association.

Back in 1888, just a year after the organization was founded, the firemen of Mechanicstown had one of the finest drill teams in the area. This team was composed of two drummer boys, Victory Cramer and Harry Cover. Members were Edward L. Root, Calvin C. Fox, Charles Black, William Sefton, Martin Foreman, Edwin Gernand, John Cover, William Black, Alfred Weller, Charles R. Eyler, Sr., Samuel B. Bennett, J. Irvin Mackley, Martin Buzzard, James Stokes, Edward Zeck, Harry Gaugh, M. Luther Creager, McClellan Baltzell, J. Wesley Creeger, Morris L. Rouzer, Henry W. Henshaw, John A. Stull, Charles H. Osier, George W. Wireman, Charles M. Mackley, Elmer E. Black, Charles M. Root, Robert E. Creeger, Henry Bennett, and Frank Stokes.

Firemen's Drill Team of 1888

With all the industries in the community during the early days, the firm of Birely and Osier was organized in 1889 by Samuel M. Birely and Van B. Osier. They began in a small building on Main Street, and for twelve years conducted a general banking business upon safe and conservative methods. The present bank building was built in 1891. Mr. Osier died in 1901 and following his death, Mr. Birely took in several associates and the banking business was then chartered as the Thurmont National Bank with a capital of $25,000. Although the bank today is not a National Bank, it goes by the name of Thurmont Bank. In October 1967, the directors of the Thurmont Bank broke ground for a new Drive-In and Walk-In facility which is to be located on the corner of East Main Street and Apple's Church Road.

The Directors feel that this facility has been needed for quite sometime and will help to relieve the congestion which occurs on pay days at the central location. In December 1964, the Thurmont Bank opened their first branch bank at Cascade, Md. just adjacent to the entrance to Fort Ritchie.

Officers and directors of the Thurmont Bank are as follows: Chairman of the Board, Dr. James K. Gray; President, Ernest P. Hammaker; Vice President, William C. Birely; Vice President, Harry C. Masser; Vice President, Ross V. Smith; Vice President and Cashier, Ralph E. Stottlemyer; Branch Manager and Asst. Cashier, Dorsey J. Lovell; Asst. Cashier, David W. Harman; Asst. Cashier and Manager of Consumer Loan, Donald E. Stitely; Directors, William C. Birely, Raymond E. Creager, James K. Gray, Ernest P. Hammaker, Donald L. Lewis, Harry G. Masser, Charles F. Myers, Claude A. O'Toole, R. K. Remsburg, R. V. Smith, Ross S. Stull, Manuel M. Weinberg, Charles W. Winebrenner, Jr.; Advisory Board at Cascade Branch; Donald J. Gardner and W. Kenneth Haugh.

East Main Street Drive-in Branch

Now that the community had running water, an active Fire Department and a bank, the citizens began to feel that the town was large enough to support its own electric power company. In 1908,

the business men of the community joined together and organized the Electric Light and Power Company. Their first move was to install an electric plant to furnish light and power for the town. To accomplish this they floated a $25,000 bond issue to build a dam on Hunting Creek to furnish power and a plant to generate the electricity. A large wooden pipeline was laid from the dam, located on Route 77 West of town, to the electric plant, located on the site of the present Town Office Building.

This plant operated successfully for fifteen years, but due to the growing demands for current and a shortage of water in dry seasons, it soon became necessary for the community to purchase their current from the Potomac Edison Company. The local plant later proved entirely inadequate and was finally abandoned and all of the electric current is now purchased from the Potomac Edison Company.

The first telephone in the community appeared around 1906 and the first telephone exchange was established on December 29, 1906 at the home of Rev. Martin on West Main Street. The first local operators were his two daughters, Mary and 0llie Martin.

Later the exchange was set up in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Firor on Church Street. In 1948 the operators included Mrs. Luther Buhrman, Mrs. Maude Pendergast, Pearl Portner, Mrs. Audrey Riffle, Mrs. Pauline Firor, and Mrs. Jean Riffle. Thomas B. Stone was Manager and Harold Creeger, Assistant Manager.

As the town increased in size and the demand for more telephones was met, the C. and P. Telephone Company began to modernize their facilities in the County. Thurmont was then changed to dial system and a small building was erected on Frederick Road to house the dial equipment.

Wisotzkey's Store on the Square

Chapter Index | Chapter 23: St. Stephen's Church

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