Oldtown Celebration & Picnic - 2000
Perfect Day - Wonderful People - Lots of History
Summary of the Day by Carol Askey; Picnic Photos by Carol Ann Nida


Our Very Own Family Tree

When the topic of this year's picnic was first mentioned on the list, Becci Haines suggested we meet in Oldtown on July 8th. I am happy to report that Becci's suggestion has proven to be perfect in all respects. The weather was perfect. Who would have thought that the second Saturday in July would be sunny with low humidity, a cool breeze and temps in the low 80's at most? Becci arranged to have picnic tables gathered in a shady spot, within sight of Michael Cresap's house, a stone's throw from the canal. What more could a group of family history enthusiasts ask for? Becci, all of us, who were lucky enough to make it to this year's gathering, thank you for arranging a perfect day.

First to arrive after Becci Hartsock Haines, who was on the scene early setting everything up, were Connie Beachy and Pat Thomas. Pat, who lives in Utah, arrived in Frostburg for a family reunion after returning from a vacation in Switzerland. She won the virtual prize for having traveled the furthest to get to our picnic. Connie was busy all day gathering signatures for the Petition for help with the Flintstone Hotel. I pulled into the picnic area next, followed pretty closely by Ken Shuck. Both Ken & I are from the DC area and left early enough to avoid the beltway traffic. Ken, feeling adventurous, took the Town Creek Road route and after one slight miscue, found his way to the picnic site. Yours truly whimped out and traveled to Cumberland and took route 51 south.


Pat Thomas

Becci was occupied most of the day with other events of the Oldtown millennium celebration. While Connie, Pat, Ken & I were wondering when others would arrive, Bob & Jane Bantz stopped by. They had come to enjoy the Oldtown celebration and found us accidentally. While chatting with Bob & Jane, we found out that they are seeking information about the Jenkins family of Frostburg. If you have information about this family, you can contact them at bobb@hereintown.net.

Janet Weatherholt Grams, an Allegany County native now living in Phoenix, Arizona, was the next to arrive. There is no doubt in my mind that Janet was the most successful researcher in the bunch that gathered in Oldtown. In addition to finding useful information and sharing her research, Janet gathered names of others who may have additional data relating to her research. When Janet brought out her laptop, we all knew she was having a really successful day.


Joyce & Janet

Arriving around the same time were Sharon Banzhoff (who found approximately where Harrison Twigg lived in 1860), daughter Tammy Hoover and granddaughter Shahla Barnhart; Pat Hook and Joyce Simmons Reiss, who came together; the Brown/Butler troops -- Pauline Reckley Brown, her husband and their daughter, Susan Brown Butler with her husband and son Matt. I think that Matt brought a friend along as well. After the initial introductions, the boys (husbands included) disappeared quickly, partaking of alternate entertainment, including fishing in the canal. Carol Ann Nida (photographer for the day) and her friend Jim Myers arrived next. Jim, who has roots in Ohio, raised the curiosity of those gathered, as Myers is a common Allegany County name and many Ohio settlers hail from Allegany County. In addition to having ties in Allegany County, Carol Ann can trace some of her family to Prince George's County. Interestingly, in 1740, when Thomas Cresap settled in the Oldtown area, close to where we were picnicking, the land was part of Prince George's County. Thomas lived to see it become part of Frederick (1748) & Washington (1776) Counties, but died shortly before Allegany (1789) County was established. The last list members to arrive were Ken & Lynn Burdette along with grandson Kirk. Kirk hooked up with Matt, who had met at a previous picnic.

Descendents of Harrison & Jane Twigg (Locktenders)
(L to R) Sharon, Shahla and Tammy


Pauline Reckley Brown

 

(L to R) Pat Hook, Joyce, Kirk, Ken, Lynn & Carol Close up of folks in previous snapshot

Other non-list members to stop by included Al Feldstein, known to any Allegany County researcher as one of the most prolific authors of books on Allegany County history, Rita Knox, currently with the Parks Service, providing historical information to visitors of the C & O Canal. At one time, Rita held a leadership role in the Allegany County Historical Society. She and Al are both well acquainted with the history of the area. While they were visiting, we took the opportunity to ask a number of questions. John W Norris, looking very much like a pioneer in his buckskins and sporting a very real long white beard, also stopped by to chat. Turns out he is a WW2 vet with ancestors who "ran the boats" on the canal. We also had the chance to meet Becci's daughter, who stopped by with her husband and child.


John & Connie

Toward the end of our gathering, I presented Connie with a wee little something, so she will be able to remember just how much all of us really appreciate all she does for us. Here is what it looked like:

Now that I've filled you in on who attended, it's time to tell about how we spent our day. Becci provided us with the perfect spot and enough picnic tables for the "business" of researching families, which did indeed take place in earnest. The first order of business was to hang our family posters. This we did on the sizable shade tree near the tables, dubbing it "Our Family Tree." Needless to say, this attracted a number of passers-by to stop and chat. We were located along the street leading from Michael Cresap's house past Lock #70 and on to the grounds of Thomas Cresap's original settlement and his grave site. Talk about being smack dab in the middle of the history of the area!!! To add to the sense of history, in connection with the Oldtown celebration, just down the road was a pioneer encampment, complete with a good number of volunteers dressed in pioneer garb and toting period musketry. Displays, video tapes and speakers were present at the school. There was also a parade and horse drawn wagon rides. It was clear to all that the folks of Oldtown are proud of their history and love to share it with others.

Becci, among the proudest of the present day Oldtowners, took us on a tour of Michael Cresap's house. The stone house is said to have been built in 1764 and the brick addition in 1781. The house has been beautifully restored and inside you can find a large collection of area artifacts. These include arrowheads, rifles, furniture, coins and bottles. One chest on display was recovered from a canal boat. Also on display are pictures from various periods of time. As Becci took us through the house, she pointed out contributions her father made to the collection, including a Civil War era cannon ball about the size of a tennis ball. While we were in the basement of the original house, Becci told us of coins and other valuables that were found in a large fire place as it was cleared out. This basement was used at times as the local jail. Our tour of the house was very special, thanks to Becci.


Captain Michael Cresap's House - Front view - courtesy of
Norman Collier

 


Captain Michael Cresap's House - Rear View - courtesy of
Norman Collier

(More Oldtown and Canal Pictures)

In addition to visiting Michael Cresap's house, some of us stopped by the Locktender's house at Lock #70 and roamed the towpath near the lock. One room of the Locktender's house is open to visitors. There you will find a display of photos which give a sense of what it was like to be a locktender. We found out that Becci's son-in-law, working with Rita Knox created the display. Becci's father together with other area sportsmen were instrumental in having the waters of Mill run diverted to fill this portion of the canal. The area north of the lock, pictured below is a popular local fishing spot.


Lock #70 looking North - tow path on left - courtesy of
Norman Collier

One other little tidbit I learned as the gathering was winding down, was that Becci lives in Oldtown and also leases a farm along the canal. She tends to her horses and cattle there on the farm. Becci is doing her part to maintain the historical sense along the canal. Many Oldtown residents, in the heyday of the canal were farmers. As cyclists and hikers travel the towpath today, past Becci's farm, they are treated with a real sense of the past in Oldtown.

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