MIDLAND CENTENNIAL BOOKLET
A SHORT HISTORY OF MIDLAND
It has been the author's endeavor to recount in brief outline, the outstanding events of the past which have influenced the development of our present town of Midland. Naturally, there may be errors, as research was difficult. There may be omissions which we regret. So for the accuracy of future writers of this story, please inform the author in writing or all errors and omissions, so that at a later date a revision may be made, in the best interests of the town.
----James Q. Kenny
HISTORY OF MIDLAND (Page 1)
One hundred years ago, where the town of Midland now stands, was the Staup farm. The orchard of this farm covered almost the entire area where the town now stands. The basis for determining the centennial anniversary of the town rests upon the fact that in 1850, two energetic and thrifty Scotchmen, Alexander and Thomas Gimmel organized The Hampshire and Baltimore Coal Co. and opened a mine [in] back of the place where the school now stands. This is the first recorded instance of development on the site of the present town. In 1859 the same two brothers built a row of brick houses, some of which still stand on the right hand side of the road to Lonaconing within corporation limits. But before we proceed, let us examine the events that led to exploration and development of the Georges Creek area and finally to the development of our own Midland.
Geographically, Midland is situated in George's Creek Valley about three miles upstream, north of Lonaconing and five miles downstream, south of Frostburg. Its elevation is sixteen hundred feet above sea level. Miller's run and Paradise run join and enter George's creek from the east off Dan's mountain. Squirrel Neck run enters George's creek in Midland from the west off Savage mountain. Why the town was so named we have been unable to discover. Possibly, because of its situation roughly midway between source and mouth of George's creek and then again for the midland counties of England.
Allegany county was formed in 1789 and given its name from the Allegany plateau and Mountain range, which in turn derived its name from the Allegni or Algonquin Indian of which the Shawnes[sic] at Oldtown, New Creek and Will's Creek seem to have been the chief local representatives. Another tribe of this nation were the Pottawami, who gave their name to the Potomac River.
Probably the first white men to explore in the neighborhood were William Mayo and Thomas Savage, who spent a winter of hardship 12 miles south of Midland, whee the Savage river enters the Potomac, on the present site of Bloomington. They were trying to establish the headwaters of the Potomac on commission from the British King and settle a boundary dispute between Maryland's Lord Baltimore and Virginia's Lord Halifax. It is believed that the river was named Savage after Thomas Savage.
Thomas Cresap, a representative of Lord Baltimore, was one of the first settlers in this territory prior to and during the French and Indian Wars. Nemacolin, an Indian guide helped him trace a trail from Wills Creek toward Redstone, now known as Brownsville, Pa. From this Nemacolin, or his tribe, the Lonaconi, the town of Lonaconing is supposed to derive its name. His son George, who lived with the Cresaps, and had this valley as his hunting ground gave his name to George's Creek, though some say it was named for King George the third.
A SHORT HISTORY OF MIDLAND - (continued)
High Rock or Dan's Rock, about three miles east of Midland is the highest peak in the county, nearly three thousand feet above sea level. Dan's Rock and a long ridge called Dan's Mountain, named for a son of Thomas Cresap, who was killed on its slope in a duel with a young Indian, who was part of a raiding expedition again the Will's Creek settlement.
Allegany County was slow in being settled because Lord Baltimore kept it, as well as Washington and Garrett County closed as a private reserve, until it was confiscated during, or just after, the Revolutionary War. Surveys were made and by 1790 land grants were given to the soldiers of the Maryland line. Many of these were sold or forfeited. By 1810 there were very few inhabitants between here and Frostburg. George Washington is reputed to have had headquarters at Westernport, during the Revolutionary War and may have journeyed up George Creek, since some say the creek was named after him.
In 1812, walnut timber was cut on the creek and made into rafts on the Potomac at Westernport to float to the government arsenal at Harper's Ferry to be made into gun stocks for the War of 1812. In the Barton region, a hill of coal was uncovered by a flood along George's Creek, some of which was dug and hauled to Winchester. The mines were being worked around Frostburg, and Eckhart about 1835 and there were sawmills around Barton and Lonaconing. A sawmill was erected on Elk Lick Creek some time later and from it was sawed the timbers for the first houses in Gilmore.
Some English, Welsh, Irish, Scotch and Scotch-Irish had been early settlers, but 1820 to 1840 brought many German families to the creek district. But they were soon outnumbered by newcomers from the British Isles from 1840 to 1880 when the big coal operations were opened and the railroads were built. The C. and O. canal reached Cumberland in 1850; the B. and O. Railroad reached Cumberland in 1842 and to Piedmont in 1851. The C. and P. Railroad entered George's Creek in 1852 and joined the road built earlier from Piedmont to Knapps Meadow in 1858, by the George's Creek Coal and Iron Co. Therefore it must have passed through Midland a short time earlier.
Before 1850 we have been unable to find any notes concerning the peoples or lands of Midland. Up to that time it was mostly farm and forest, with the few settlers depending for church, banks, cemetery, doctor and merchandise on Frostburg and Lonaconing. Scharf's History of Western Maryland states that the 1880 census included the following figures: Midland mining village 276, Miller mining village 100, Ocean Mining village 126. A Firley family tradition, according to Carl Firley of Cumberland, states that his grandfather, a Holland Dutchman, sometime around 1850 bought a large tract of land in Midland for $200 and could have, at that time bought the underlying mineral rights for another $100, but refused and perhaps missed a fortune in coal royalties. This purchase was, in all likelihood, a part of the Staup farm mentioned in the beginning of this work.
As far as the town of Midland itself is concerned, mining has been the chief industry. Some of the richest and highest priced deposits of Bituminous coal in the country have been taken from out local mines. In 1860 the Consolidation Coal Co. was formed by the joining of several operations, and Ocean No. 1 was opened in December, 1865, with David Bruce as the first superintendent. Some other well known names in the mining industry were the Midland Mining Co., Charles J. Eagan Co., McGowan Brothers, and Campbell Brothers Coal Co.
With the extensive development of mining and the advent of the railroad, Midland grew and acquired the other elements so necessary to community life. The religious needs of the people were one of their first concerns. St. Joseph's Catholic Church was erected and in use in 1891 through the efforst of Father Manning and was blessed by Cardinal Gibbons in 1892. The Grace Methodist Church was erected in 1891 with Rev. D. Haskell as the first minister. The First Presbyterian Church was organized in 1900 but later was united with the Grace Methodist congregation.
Education had an early start in Midland, with the first elementary school being erected in 1870. The same building, now beautifully remodeled is the residence of Graham Gray on Main Street. The build-[ing]
A SHORT HISTORY OF MIDLAND - (continued)
[build]-ing housing the High School and the new elementary school was erected in 1921, and served the townspeople proudly until recent consolidation proved the high school unfeasible. St. Joseph's Parochial School, conducted by the sisters of Notre Dame, has been receiving students since Sept. 1899. While dwelling upon the cultural influences in the town, it seems appropriate to mention Midland's weekly newspaper, published in the Knight's of Labor Hall by C. T. Clayton, editor and proprietor in 1900. When it suspended publication, the author has been unable to determine. Midland also boasted of a concert band, conducted by Jack Anthony, former station master at the railway station and another band, probably earlier than this, was conducted by "Honey" Thomas and was known as the Midland Band, which built an envious reputation for itself.
Midland may well pride itself on it Fire Department, an organization that, in equipment and efficiency, is equal to any group its size for any town this size in the country. In 1902, the year the town was incorporated and elected John E. Steiding its first mayor, the Midland fire company was organized. At that time, with E. R. Grant as president and John Caddon as chief, the company boasted 1000 feet of hose, two hand drawn reels and one hand pumping engine. Today they have one of the most modern equipped engines, as well as an older model, plus all the latest fire fighting equipment, to say nothing of a well trained body of fire fighters who volunteer their time and efforts for fire prevention. Their home, the old Marshall building, renovated plus additions, stands as a community centre of recreation, as well as an up-to-date house for their equipment.
Two other industries that took their place in Midland history should take their bow now. A shirt factory opened by Solomon Rosenbloom of Baltimore about 1910 and closed in September, 1926. The Ort Brothers established a wide reputation with their bakery built in 1902 and for 44 years conducted business in Midland until it was moved to Cumberland in 1946. In 1900 the First National Bank of Midland was opened and did business until the bank holiday of 1933 of which too many of us are familiar. Other outilities[sic] were furnished the population by the Midland Elk Lick Water Co., the Midland Electric Light Co., and the West Virginia and Maryland Gas Co. Some of these of course have been absorbed by monopolies in the course of expansion.
A few old land marks about town are the site of the Bowen Hotel, built in 1902 and later burned down, the Marshall building, now the firemen's hall, built by J. H. Marshall in 1905 as a thriving dry goods store. The opera house was built first by Jack Eagan, burned down and the present structure erected by the late Harry Ward in 1905. The Grant building, now demolished, was built by David and Salem Koontz in 1870. A new landmark, of which the community is justly proud, is the memorial commemoration the heroes of the area who made the supreme sacrifice during World War I and World War II. This was erected by community effort guided by a committee of public minded citizens. It is kept by the Midland Post 169 of the American Legion, which was formed by the veterans of both wars in 1946. The post home is the old bank building and all veterans affairs receive immediate attention there.
Other active organizations of the town not already mentioned in this history, and of which the town can be just proud are the Improved Order of Red Men, Tioga Tribe No. 126, Juniors, Pythian Sisters, Ladies Auxiliary to the Fire Department, Women's Society, Ladies Sodolity[sic], Homemakers, Knights of Pythias, Groundhog Rod and Gun Club, and Midland Parent Teachers Association.
Today with the mining industry at the crossroads, the people look for employment to the Celanese Corporation of America, which entered the area in 1925, and the Kelly Springfield Tire Co., which erected a plant in Cumberland and built its first tire around 1921. A few residents of the community earn their livelihood through employment with the W. Va. Pulp and Paper Co. at Luke, Md. For a community that has weathered the good and the bad, the people of Midland look to the future with faith in themselves, hope for the best, and charity to all.
(Courtesy of John McGowan)