Sunday, June 26, 2011

First Emergency Responder to Arrive on Scene of 1963 Plane Crash Recalls Tragic Night

Lt. Don Hash (Retired) of the Maryland State Police, the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene of the plane crash east of Elkton on December 8, 1963, recently talked to the Historical Society about his recollections of that dark, stormy night in a Maryland cornfield where 81-people perished

On a stormy December Sunday evening in 1963, Maryland State Trooper Don Hash, a 23 or 24 year-old rookie one year out of the academy, was cruising northbound on Route 213 near Brantwood Golf Course. As an unusual late fall thunderstorm rolled across Cecil County, heavy rain pelted the patrol car when a powerful bolt of lightning in the shape of a wishbone suddenly came out of low hanging clouds, illuminating the area. One or two seconds after that a large airplane enshrouded in an orange glow flew out of the cloud. The doomed craft continued in flight for 10 to 15 seconds before a wing fell off and the plane nosed straight down into the ground. Trooper Hash radioed to alert the barrack as he raced toward the crash site, somewhere east of Elkton near the state line.

Don, who would retire from the Maryland State Police as a Lieutenant, talked to us on June 9, 2011, about his experience that troubling, unforgettable dark night in a Maryland cornfield. He was the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene. “I could see flames on Delancy Road,” he recalled as he neared the crash site. “It wasn’t a large fire. It was several smaller fires. A fuselage with about 8 or 10 window frames was about the only large recognizable piece I could see when I pulled up. It was just a debris field. It didn’t resemble an airplane. The engines were buried in the ground 10 to 15-feet from the force of the impact.”

By this time everyone was mobilizing. The state police called for troopers from other barracks to help the three troopers covering the county that evening. In a few minutes the fire company arrived and during the next hour officers from throughout the state started arriving on the scene to help. Trooper Hash stayed on the crash scene throughout that long stormy night until he was relieved the next morning.

 

Click here to hear part of the interview with Lt. Hash (retired).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Society Welcomes Two Family History Groups to Cecil County in June 2011


Photo Coutesy of Mount Harmon:  The heritage Troupe performs at Mount Harmon
Early this morning in downtown Elkton, a bunch of characters were hanging out in the vicinity of the Historical Society. The buzz around the Main Street crowd was unusual for a Saturday, and when passersby took a closer look at this gaggle curiosity was peaked even more. The eccentrics were dressed as if they stepped out of aother era. Some men in tricorn hats were styled just right for the 18th century. A finely and properly dressed lady and gentlemen were out of the 2nd-half of the 19th century and children were scampering around in colonial garb.

This early morning crowd was actually the Cecil County Heritage Troupe, a volunteer group sponsored by county tourism, closer investigation revealed. The company formed in the 1990s to entertain and inform audiences in a different way by taking them back in time to centuries old happenings right here in northeastern Maryland. During lively skits, they tell the county’s story theatrically as skits about the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and much more unfold for attentive audiences.

They were at the Historical Society to welcome about 50 visitors to the county, the Teague family History Group. The Teague association traveled from around the country to visit here as part of an annual family get together. And they were in for a treat as they chatted with Zebulon Hollingsworth, Judge Sample, Kitty Knight, other important people, and children who lived through these troubling times.

Soon after being welcomed to the Society by librarian Carol Donache the visitors to our historic region were treated to an excellent stage show about the history of the county by these fine performers. It was great to see Zebulon Hollingsworth return to the stage for he keeps things rolling along with some history, plenty of humor, and the best interplay with an audience you’re ever going to see. But there was Judge Sample, too. The old man, present when the enemy attacked Cecil County, recalled those troubling days when the cry the British are coming, the British are coming frightened citizens. Kitty Knight told her story about confronting the British, and there was a dramatic skit as local citizens and children worried and argued about the upcoming Revolution War.

For an hour or so this morning some of the most interesting people from our past, individuals with stories of dramatic times were hanging around downtown welcoming visitors to this place with so many historical connections. The Troupe does an excellent job and has great performers, taking our visitors on a fun filled and enjoyable trip to the past.

A week earlier another Descendants of Valentine Hollingsworth were at the Society for their annual reunion, so it’s been a busy time in Elkton for visitors making our county a destination because of our past and the institutions that are working as our heritage-keepers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Old Building Caught Up In Discussion About Demoliton by Elkton Officials Yields Up Some Interesting Archeaological Features From Earlier Era

You never know what kind of buried treasures might turn upwhen someone starts digging around older parts of Elkton. Many parking areas, streets, and buildings lots have yielded relics that were tossed aside and buried long ago. It’s been that way for centuries as people are  often astonished after unearthing Revolutionary War and War of 1812 artifacts. Beyond projectiles of war, the soil yields up relics of everyday living including old building foundations, architectural elements, bottles, coins, ceramics, buttons, and arrow-heads. One bona-fide archaeological dig produced Spanish coins, stoneware from prehistoric peoples, and human bones from an aboriginal burial ground.

These archaeological discoveries put the spotlight on a dimly illuminated part of Cecil County’s history as our written record here is strong so we know lots about that extended period. But in earlier times, as the manuscripts grow  weaker, we have to depend on archeology to help puzzle out the past. So whenever a contractor starts digging deep into the earth in some of the oldest parts of the county seat, one has to wonder what’s being unearthed. Some of  those discarded materials would help us solve historical mysteries since our  soil is crammed with lots of artifacts that have been buried for centuries.

The exposure of some fascinating architectural elements of a building being demolished this past week at 124 and 124 ½ E. Main Street is what brought this subject up. The frame commercial, vernacular structure that stood on the property circa 1880, replaced a much earlier building. Once it was torn
down, some below Main Street elements became visible from Howard Street. On the west side of the frontage lot was an attractive arched brick structure, which probably supported something heavy such as a multistory fireplace, from an earlier period (see photo). On the east side was another
opening under Main Street.

A few weeks ago, unidentified town officials decided to rush through the governmental bureaucracy a request to tear down the late 19th century vernacular structure, bypassing the town’s procedural requirements. As it turned out in this instance, just as it has in other cases, the decision to ignore municipal regulations simply made it far more complicated than necessary. Officials
had to stop the contractor’s work so everyone could back up and go through the regulatory steps enumerated by Elkton ordinances. When they stepped back to address the requirements, the historic district board approved the demolition in a split vote, only requiring that an “attractive fence” be installed on Main Street as it was unclear what the future held for the parcel.

Main Street area in 1858

This is a property that is connected with some of the municipality’s earliest development so one never knows what types of surprising artifacts are waiting to be found and how they will yield insight to the past. Whenever an archaeological study is done around Elkton, the investigators frequently find historical secrets in the ground. The key is there is a lot of stuff we don’t know about that’s buried under Elkton soil. Hopefully officials, in their rush to restore the downtown, will think about archeology as a minimum, though we also suggest they require some minimal examination of properties being considered for demolition. Presentation of data concerning a site will help everyone make an informed decision and document the basics on the parcel's history, as a minimum.