Lonaconing:Home in the Hills
by Mary Meyers

The Growth and Development of Lonaconing, Maryland

Reprinted with permission of Mary Meyers. Transcribed for the MDGenWeb Project by Pat Hook pahook@hereintown.net
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A longing for knowledge makes us strive to ascertain what happened long ago in far off places, but especially in the community where we live. We stand in imagination with the Indians, the early German settlers, the builders of the iron furnace, the miners of coal and iron ore, the makers of brick and mortar and the skilled workmen who produced pig iron. We sympathize with their problems and glory in their achievements. We consider, with admiration and amazement, the lives of those brave souls who developed the coal industry and who made their living in the varied subsidiary occupations necessary to the successful establishment of a community.

In 1674, before there was a Lonaconing, the Iroquois Indians subjugated the Susqehannocks, the Delawares and their allies, the Shawnees, as well as smaller Algonquin groups. Artifacts found in "Indian Hollow", a depression in Dan's Mountain between Pekin and Lonaconing on the east side of Geroge's Creek, indicate that there may have been a Shawnee settlement in that area. Arrowheads, tomahawks and simiar items have been found in some abundance.

"Con" was the Indian word for creek. Aliconie (Allegany) refers to people of the mountain streams. Many scholars accept the translation of Lonaconing as "the meeting place of many streams." The claim possibly of Lonaconing being derived from the Delaware Indian guide, Nemacolin, seems far fetched.

Indians from what became known as the George's Creek area provided furs for Thomas Cresap's Ohio Company, with store houses at the junction of Will's Creek and the Potomac River on the Maryland side.

Nemacolin remained for some time in the service of Colonel Thomas Cresap. When he decided to rejoin his tribe, he left one of his sons with Colonel Cresap as his ward. The youth was given the Christian name of George. The Lonaconing creek valley was his hunting area, whence came the name "George's Creek".

The earliest white settlers-farmers, hunters, and woodsmen-came to Lonaconing in the latter part of the eighteenth century. They came with their families, prepared to stay, although the area at that time was an unbroken forest with just a wagon trail and bridges over the creek. Their names live on in their descendants, residents of Lonaconing to this day--Duckworth, Fazenbaker, Green, Dye, Grove, Van Buskirk, Knapp and Miller, to name a few. The stone house built in 1797 by Samuel Van Buskirk still stands in Knapps Meadow.

Lonaconing can trace its beginning as a town and a commercial center to the coming of the George's Creek Coal and Iron Company, a Baltimore and London, England, syndicate which purchased 11,000 acres of land along the George's Creek and, in 1837, built a furnace complex to manufacture pig iron, using coal and coke rather than charcoal for the smelting process. The Lonaconing iron furnace was the first in the United States to successfully use bituminous coal and coke in making pig iron.

Besides building a furnace it was necessary for the company to bring in workers and furnish houses for them. The local farmers contracted to erect log houses-about 20 from West Main Street to Watercliff and Knapps Meadow. The furnace workers and their families lived under the "Rules of Residency" set down by the George's Creek Coal and Iron Company. The company endeavored to meet the needs of the people. A store was opening and a post office established. A doctor was brought in to care for the health needs of the community. From the beginning, education and religion held a high priority.

The furnace produced pig iron from 1839 until 1855, when, because of a combination of circumstances, the operation ceased. By then the mining of coal had assumed a much more important industrial role and the George's Creek Coal and Iron Company, which already owned thousands of acres of land along with the mineral rights, turned to coal mining as its sole interest.

The developement of the coal industry issued in an era of growth and prosperity for Lonaconing as well as all of the George's Creek environs. Numerous coal companies were formed and mines were opened on all hillsides. Workers flocked in from Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland and Germany. Business was booming and all varieties of stores came into being to meet the needs of the people. Transportation improved and the railroad made several runs each day, bringing in people and materials and transporting goods to the market.

Hotels were opened in the vicinity of the railroad station and provided livery stables for the many "drummers" who came to sell their wares. Using Lonaconing as a base, these men would hire a horse and wagon and travel the country roads with the various items needed in households along the way. Many of thes drummers were so successful that they were able to open stores in town to sell their merchandise.

Eventually other businesses offering employment and economic stability were a glass factory, silk mill, brick plant, grist mill, ice plant, undertaking establishments, blacksmith, carpentry and tin shops, saddlery and livery stable.

With the growth of the population, schools came into being, each section of the town having its own small school, with the largest in the town proper. A library was established and newspapers published in Lonaconing furnished news of the world as well as items of local interest.

Music played an important part in the life of the town and a city band, along with several cornet bands, had no difficulty in getting members. Plays were presented in the "Opera House" by traveling companies and also local talent. Later, two moving picture theaters were quite popular with the residents.

On a more somber side the town experienced serveral fires and floods, tragic deaths in mine accidents, five wars and a depression. When the coal industry declined, men and women found employment in other factories in Lonaconing and surrounding towns. Sadly, many of these factories are no longer in existence or have decreased their work force to a minimum, so that the young people have had to seek employment in other areas. The town is now a community consisting mostly retired citizens and a minority of the younger generation. Through it all Lonaconing has been a friendly, happy place, with a prevailing neighborly spirit, where a warm welcome and a helping hand in time of need are ever present.

In all the wide world there is only one Lonaconing. It holds a unique place in the hearts of its people, whether they are still in residence or gone to far away places to make a living. To them Lonaconing is, and always will be "Home".

The people are the history of the town. Their strong desire to return to that home year after year attests to the solidity upon which Lonaconing was built and still stands.

Sources:

Harvey, Katherine A., The Lonaconing Journal, Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, 1977
Jones, Rev. Charles A., -- A History of Lonaconing Methodist Episcopal Church, 1904
O'Rourke, Hugh, The Peterian Keynote, 1955
Overman, Frederick, The Manufacture of Iron In All Its Various Branches, Philadelphia, 1850
Thomas and Williams, --History of Allegany County, Regional Publishing Company, (1923), Vol. 1

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