June 30, 2013

June 29, 2013

Wild Flower, Tame Flower

Queen Anne's Lace, A Wildflower

Oriental Lily

Mother and Ducklings

The little lake by our house has been quite the nursery this year! We counted three separate families of Canada Geese with goslings, and now we have a new family of ducks!

Mother Duck herds her babies away from people. We got these shots from the car window.

June 28, 2013

This Evening's Sky, Front Royal

Thunderstorms missed us this afternoon but dark clouds came and went. This was the scene outside Cracker Barrel before dusk.

June 27, 2013

The Hagerstown Connection

For most of my life I knew that I had ancestors from Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Most had come through Pennsylvania Dutch Country at some point. It was only recently that I learned that some of them once lived in the Hagerstown area, a part of Maryland which is not far from Northern Virginia where I grew up.

A few weeks ago we drove to Hagerstown and nearby Sharpsburg and Beaver Creek. At the Visitors Center in Hagerstown we picked up some maps and brochures. (Note for young readers: maps and brochures are what travelers used to plan trips in the days before the internet. They are still pretty handy!)

I got directions to Rose Hill Cemetery, where at least one of my ancestors is said to be buried. It turned out to be a large cemetery and since the office was not open that day, I decided to not take the time to look for George Hammer's grave because I really wanted to visit the Newcomer House and Beaver Creek.

George Hammer was born around 1765 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and died in 1829 in Hagerstown. His wife was Catherine Hull (sometimes spelled Hall), born in 1769 in Lancaster County, married 1790, and died in Hagerstown in 1853. It was his son John who married Eliza Witmer, whose mother was Barbara Newcomer.

George is said to have served in the Revolutionary War with a unit from Pennsylvania. However, the war wound down after 1781 (Yorktown) and when it officially ended in 1783, he was only 18, so he probably did not serve very long.

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June 26, 2013

More Scenes at Doub's Mill

Beaver Creek, Maryland

As I wrote yesterday, we sought out this property that was once owned by the Newcomers, ancestors on my mother's side. It turned out to be a beautiful place!

I am grateful to Mr. Perini for posting extensive documentation on the property on his Doub's Mill website. It provided me information on my ancestors and directions to the property.
Records show that Newcomer family members came to this area shortly before the American Revolution.
In what was to become Washington County, on April 1, 1775, the brothers Henry and Christian Newcomer paid 5000 pounds for the three tracts of land totaling 692 acres from Michael Cyster (FCLR, 1775) that Cyster had acquired from John Stull Jr. in 1772... The Beaver Creek area was now in the possession of the Newcomers... A year later, July 2, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia PA and signaled the beginning of the revolutionary war with England.

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June 25, 2013

Historic Beaver Creek, Maryland

As mentioned in an earlier post, I found a document online (in PDF) that gave a lengthy history of the village of Beaver Creek in Maryland and the mills that were there. The author, Luigi Perini, is the owner of Doub's Mill, built in the early 1800's on the site of an earlier mill, once owned by Henry Newcomer. Newcomer was an ancestor of mine as follows: My great-grandfather Judge D. H. Hammer was the son of John Hammer and Eliza Witmer (sometimes called Elizabeth). Eliza's mother was Barbara Newcomer, daughter of Henry Newcomer. Barbara and her husband John Witmer are mentioned in the history as owning another mill which stood upstream on Beaver Creek.

When we visited Antietam a few weeks ago, we searched out Beaver Creek. I knew that a shop on the property was open to the public but I did not know how close we would get to the mill, which is a private residence.

It turned out that we walk right past the mill to get to the shop, which sells fabric, quilts, and nice quilted items such as handbags. The property is lovely!

Doub's Mill is a large old limestone building, restored to beautiful condition. The nearby shop is charming, and the mill pond and mill stream are landscaped. Sounds of a waterfall add to the ambience. I couldn't help thinking that my mother would love this! She liked to visit old gristmills, and would even compare the types of waterwheels. She never mentioned that her ancestors owned a mill. I don't think she was aware of it!

I have some more pictures which I'll post later. Meanwhile, here is an excerpt on Newcomer family history from the remarkable document on the Doub's Mill website.
The next major family name connected with the Beaver Creek area is Newcomer, Mennonites of Swiss origin. The family was mainly from a small town called Eggiwil (pronounced Eggy-Ville). There is a notable exception, in that Wolfgang Newcomer's (spelled Neukommet before the American change) wife, Elizabeth M. Weber, appears to be descended from a long line of English nobility. She descended from several Barons and several Lords Dudley, among many other English lords and ladies. There line has been traced back to the French Normans that invaded England in 1066 (Brantley,2011).
... Peter Newcomer was listed as a resident of Lancaster County, PA in 1719 (Rupp, 1965, p. 437). Peter's son Wolfgang married first Baer and second Elizabeth Weber and had seven children. The influx of the Mennonites into the Cumberland Valley of Maryland from Pennsylvania occurred in the late 1700's and included in this migration were the three sons of Wolfgang Newcomer: Christian, Peter and Henry. By the time of the revolutionary war the Mennonites were of sufficient numbers in Maryland to form church congregations and to demand recognition from the state convention on their refusal to bear arms during the war.

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June 24, 2013

Hay Field near Front Royal

Bales of hay are a common sight in the Shenandoah Valley. This scene is near the Warren County Airport. In the distance we see the Blue Ridge Mountains and the northern end of Skyline Drive.

Interesting bit of trivia: In the 17th century explorer John Lederer recorded the Virginia Siouan name for the Blue Ridge as "Ahkonshuck."

June 23, 2013

Clouds and Awning

This late-afternoon was followed by a sudden storm. Notice how the brighter clouds can be seen through the cloth awning.

June 22, 2013

Roadside Deer

Deer like to browse along the side of the road because grass usually grows there.  We slow down when driving in late afternoon, at night, or early in the morning because that's when they are out in force.

Mountain Laurel In Bloom

Kalmia Latifolia

June 21, 2013

Blog Post #3900 +

I've made it a tradition to pause every hundredth post and write something about myself or about blogging. However, I missed post #3900 so this is five posts late. Not that anyone's counting!

Recently I passed my 8-year anniversary of blogging, which is a long time! But I've been publishing on the web twice that long, 16 years! (See Wayback When, posted last year.)

You may have heard the Google is retiring Google Reader effective July 1.  Fortunately they are keeping Google Friend Connect for the foreseeable future. (See the postscript on Blogger Buzz for a statement about Friend Connect.)

Not too long ago I added a gadget for those who want to subscribe to this blog by email. It's at the bottom of page.

I am still looking for a blog reader that would make it easier to comment on other blogs. There may be a way to do this via a spreadsheet, but it would involve integrating an RSS feed into a cell, and that sounds like it's beyond than my skill level.

Meanwhile, today is the first day of summer! I haven't experienced very much of the mood-lift that I usually feel when the days get long. Whether that's due to the wetter-than-usual weather or getting older, I don't know.  I sense that I need more of a purpose, a feeling of accomplishment.

Anyway, I hope you have a great summer, or if you are in a different hemisphere, a happy winter!

June 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, West Virginia

West Virginia celebrates it's 150th birthday, having separated from Virginia during the American Civil War. It was admitted as the 35th State in the Union on June 20, 1863.

There are still people who feel the state should not have seceded from Virginia. West Virginians did vote to separate from Virginia, but many of the citizens were away fighting for the Confederacy at the time. A similar number men of from there were fighting for the Union, but since that part of Virginia was Union-occupied, many members of the latter group were able to return to their homes to vote, while Confederate soldiers could not cross Union lines to do so.

The area that became West Virginia was very much split in sympathies during the war. This was also true in some counties that stayed in Virginia, as well as in other border states. In many cases families were divided in loyalties. It was a bitter time.

Anyway, West Virginia is a beautiful state and I recommend visiting it.

This is my Skywatch Post for this week.

History at the Newcomer Farm

A sign in front of the Newcomer House provides some history of the property. It starts with a quote from Joshua Newcomer, the owner during the Civil War: "They fed their horses all my corn and pasture that had not been previously ruined by the soldiers during the skirmishing and progress of the battle."

According to the book Antietam Farmsteads, Mr. Newcomer was not able to recover financially from the damage done to his farm and mill, and sold the property and business a few years later. Today his house and barn are all that remain of the once-prosperous farmstead and mill complex.

Shortly after the 1862 Battle of Antietam, photographer Alexander Gardner documented the battlefield.  Newcomer's property appears in several of the photographs.
Newcomer's House is in the background of the Gardner photo.
The barn still stands across road from the house. The barn, along with the house and other buildings, was used to shelter wounded soldiers after the battle.

I am personally intrigued by this property because it was owned by a relative of my ggg-grandmother, Barbara Newcomer. (I previously wrote cousin but a closer look at the Newcomer Genealogy shows Joshua was her nephew.) I'm also interested in the Civil War, and several Civil War interpretive signs are next to this house: Gettysburg Campaign — Invasion and Retreat, Antietam Campaign — Lee Invades Maryland, and Early's Washington Raid (of 1864). This area saw it's share of action during the war!

June 19, 2013

Idealized Statue at Antietam

Near the Newcomer House stands a large monument to Robert E. Lee. A park ranger explained that it was erected by a man who owned the property before the park service obtained it. Unfortunately, it is facing the incorrect direction and shows Lee on horseback, where he rarely was during the battle at Antietam due to an injury to his wrists. He was unable to hold the reins that day!

I Visit the Newcomer House

In a post earlier this month I mentioned the Newcomer House on Antietam Battlefield. When I saw it mentioned in a tourism brochure, I was curious because I have ancestors named Newcomer from that part of Maryland. A little checking revealed that the house was once owned by Joshua Newcomer, a cousin of my ancestor Barbara Newcomer. So naturally I drove up to Washington County and visited the house.

It house the "Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area Exhibit and Visitor Center" and is open to the public. The house has been repaired and cleaned up but the interior shows few of the original furnishings, just the fireplaces and a staircase. Still, I felt excited to be able to walk inside the house.

June 18, 2013

At the Visitors Center, Antietam

I've toured the Antietam Battlefield several times so when we were in Sharpsburg recently, we skipped most of the sites. However, I did go into the Visitors Center to buy a book and my very own Senior Pass for our National Parks. Frank has had one since our visit to Yorktown in 2007 but I figured it was a good idea to buy my own.

Like we see in many Civil War sites, the landscape today is serene and pretty, in striking contrast to the way it would have been after the battle. Antietam is known for the tragically high number of casualties in a single day, September 12, 1862.

Link: Antietam Battlefield (NPS site)

June 17, 2013

Some Gardens in Maryland

We did a number of garden tours this spring. I watch for them on event calendars because they offer a chance to see gardens (and sometimes homes) that are only rarely open to the public.

On June 8th, we visited a few gardens in nearby Maryland.

At the Rural Heritage Museum

Last weekend we drove to Washington County, Maryland. One place we visited was the Rural Heritage Museum, between Hagerstown and Antietam. It has a frontier farm set up in the back, and gardeners were there working.

A guide explained that the Reeder family built this cabin on their farm and lived in it while their larger house was built. Then this small cabin became a utility building where they did their laundry.

June 16, 2013

Music Makers of the 70's

Here's Marie, George, and Lynn. He and I split up decades ago but bygones are long gone and after all, it is Father's Day.

June 15, 2013

Frank's New Ride is an Antique

Frank bought this 380 SL on ebay. It's old enough for antique plates, but the seller fixed it up and it runs well. Yes, we got a good deal. Frank's a real bargain hunter!

I had him pose in Denny's parking lot in Strasburg because there's a nice view of the Massanutten range in the background.

June 14, 2013

Clouds Near Strasburg

Looking West from Stony Pointe
We drove up a road onto a hill in Strasburg on a recent rainy day. We were curious about where the road went, which turned out to be just through a subdivision. But the homes had great views!
Looking Toward the Massanutten Range

June 13, 2013

Another Sunset at the Lake

See other bloggers' Skywatch pictures.


Lynn and a friend caught fish right from our yard.

She used a Zebco 202 reel when she was a little girl and here she was using one again!