This is a description of the trip that Don, Edward and Patricia Shillingburg (and Winston) took to the Gormania/Mt. Storm area of West Virginia and Gorman area of western Maryland in July 1998. The trip was to visit the area in which Don and Edwardís father, Donald Metzner Shillingburg, had been raised. Donald Metzner left the area in late 1913 or early 1914 for New Mexico.
A. Background of the Trip
A year ago, Patricia and Edward had begun to collect Shillingburg genealogy material and Patricia had organized the material into a computer program and posted the results on the Internet (www.shillingburg.com). Edward had spent some time with the printed materials on the family (Tom Kirkís article, the Chisholm book, and Emily Shillingburg Wernerís books and poems) and prepared a timeline on our father and his family. One of the fruits of Patriciaís work was to become acquainted, via the Internet, with Shirley Minnich of McHenry, MD, whose mother Thelma Gertrude Friend is a Shillingburg and who had been researching Shillingburgs for a number of years. Shirley had given Patricia the date of a Shillingburg reunion to be held in Blacksville, WV on Saturday, July 25, 1998, about a half hour drive west of Morgantown, WV, and said that she and her mother were planning to attend. Edward passed this date on to Don with alternatives for a trip, and they decided that the reunion would be an event around which to build a trip to the Gormania area.
Don, who lives in Littleton, CO and Phoenix, AZ, and Patricia had not previously visited the area. Edward visited the area in 1961, when he first moved to Washington, DC., but found that while he could remember events of the trip he could not remember scenes of the area.
Don and Edwardís grandfather and grandmother, Thomas Edward Shillingburg and Mary Evelyn Chisholm, lived in Gormania, WV for a number of years. The railroad came to Gormania in 1881 and possibly the tannery soon thereafter; Elmer, their eldest child, was born there in 1884. It is believed that all of their family (two daughters, Emily Dare and Inez, and five sons, Thomas Edward, Donald Metzner, Condon Gordon and Herbert Thompson) were born there. Thomas Edward was an accountant and manager of the Gormania branch of J. G. Hoffman & Sons Company, a tannery headquartered in Wheeling, WV. Mary Evelyn died in 1902. Thomas Edward thereafter remarried, to Christie May Fulmer, in about 1910. Thomas Edward became ill and was an invalid for a few years before his death on November 27, 1911.
In 1905 Inez had gone to New Mexico to teach in an Indian school; the drier air of the West had been recommended for her health. A beau, John J. Kirk, of Westernport, MD followed her to New Mexico. They were married in 1908 and operated a trading post in Chinle, AZ, for several years before moving to Gallup, NM. Emily had married Dr. Harry Werner in 1906 and they lived in Thomas, WV (and later moved to Akron, OH). Elmer graduated from medical school in 1910 and went to Peru to work with a mining company; he died there in 1913. When Thomas Edward died in 1911, the younger brothers went (or had previously gone) in different directions. Tom (about 20) went to Alaska, Donald Metzner (age 16) probably went to live with Harry and Emily in Thomas before going to business school in Baltimore; Con (age 15) went west to live with Inez and John Kirk; Herbert (age 10) went to live with Emily and Harry Werner in Thomas.
Donald Metzner and his brothers visited Gormania occasionally after 1911. Donald Metzner and Arlene Weedman, who were married in 1926, visited during their honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls before making their home at Daltonís Pass, near Crownpoint, NM. Don was born in 1927 and Edward in 1936, while at Daltonís Pass. However, Don and Edward never visited West Virginia with their father, who died in 1950. In 1953 Don and Edward, with their mother Arlene, visited Harry and Emily Werner in Cedarville, in northern Michigan, and Uncle Tom, Aunt Neta and (Florida) John, and Marshall and Edith Werner and their family in Akron, OH but they did not then visit West Virginia.
In the isolated area of northern Arizona and New Mexico where Donald Metzner and his brothers lived, their West Virginia experience was a strong bond. Don and Edward remembered hearing many stories of the area, and regret now that they can recall so few. They remembered names such as Nydegger, Kitzmiller, Elk Garden, Duling and Westernport and were uncertain to some extent which were persons and which were places and in all cases just what the connection was.
When Edward visited the Gormania area in the summer of 1961, he met ìDocî Williams and his wife Ethyl in Gormania whom he knew of as friends of the family; they owned the gas station and general store in Gormania. In 1961 the Williams also lived in the house in which Thomas Edward and Mary Evelyn had raised their family, a white house that backed onto the Potomac. They had directed him to a family burial plot on a farm on the Maryland side. In 1961 three elderly people, two brothers and a sister, lived on the farm. The sister directed Edward to the plot, and he recalled grave markers for Thomas Edward and Mary Evelyn. He also recalled other markers for other Shillingburgs, with some spelling variations, as well as a number of markers for members of the Williams family. The plot was not maintained; it had a rough fence around it. In 1998 Edward did not remember how to find the farm.
We knew that Uncle Tom and our other uncles had had their parents moved after 1961 to a maintained cemetery, and Don had a picture (in Colorado) of the headstone. He did not know where the graves were located. Edward recalled seeing the picture but did not recall where it was located.
Don had talked several times about Gormania with John Shillingburg (Uncle Tomís son) (usually called ìFlorida Johnî because he lives in Florida and to distinguish him from Donís son John, who lives in the Denver area). Florida John had spoken well of a cousin, Gay Abernathy, who lives in Mt. Storm, WV. We resolved to try to meet her, but we lacked her address and phone number.
Patriciaís work on the Shillingburg genealogy, drawing on the research that Kathleen Shillingburg Strock, Alberta Shillingburg Taylor, Shirley Shillingburg Minnich, Rebecca Shillingburg Harper and Donna Shillingburg Nye had been carrying on for many years, indicated that the Thomas Edward family and all of the others in the area who spelled their last name ìShillingburgî were descended from William Shillingburg and Margaret Murphy, who appeared in the Mt. Storm, WV area in the 1800 census. They had a large family; Thomas Edward was descended from their third child, Jacob, who was born in the Mt. Storm area in about 1807.
Additional information had come to Patricia from Alberta Shillingburg Taylor, who lives in Alexandria, VA. Alberta had been working for many years on family research; her mother lives on a farm southwest of Keyser, WV, near the J. Randolph Lake on WV 46 (northeast of Elk Garden, WV). Alberta had sent us two sketch maps of the Mt. Storm area, showing the present roads and the places where the early Shillingburgs had their farms, etc. Edward brought the sketch maps on the trip.
The regular road map atlas did not show enough detail for the area; we relied on a Michelin map of the eastern U.S. but it lacked detail on some of the roads that we used. Don and Edward would drive (with Winston, a 14 year old Shih-Tzu, an excellent traveler). Patricia would fly into and out of Morgantown, WV because of her schedule of computer classes on Thursday and Tuesday afternoons. Our focus was to be on Mt. Storm and Gormania, WV, about 7 miles apart on US 50, Gay Abernathy in Mt. Storm, Shirley Minnich in Morgantown, and the Blacksville reunion. We might be lucky and have other adventures.
(To assist the reader, Fig. 2 shows the general area from Oakland, MD to Keyser, WV. Gormania is located on the south (WV) side of the north branch of the Potomac River; Gorman is located on the north (MD) side; both are very small unincorporated communities. Fig. 3 shows Gormania to Oakland in more detail.)
B. The Trip
1. Day One -- Wednesday, July 22
Don got up about 3:30 am in Littleton to drive to the new Denver airport and to be early to get a good place in the standby group for American Westís first flight to Phoenix.. He got on the flight to Phoenix, was on the ground there in time to get a good place in the standby line for the flight to Newark, and arrived in Newark about 4:30 pm (a long day, not yet over). Edward and Patricia worked on projects in their offices. Edward picked Don up at the airport and drove him to Patricia and Edwardís condo in Newark. They had dinner and went over their plans.
2. Day Two -- Thursday, July 23
Thursday, Don, Edward and Winston got off about 9:00 am, took I 78 west to Allentown and then southwest to Harrisburg (it changes to I 81 just east Harrisburg). We lunched, switched drivers, gave Winston some water and went on I 81. As we approached Maryland, we discussed more just how far we wanted to go that day. Don suggested that we stay overnight in Cumberland where the Dressners, parents of his son-in-law Chuck Dressner, live. Don called ahead, found the Dressners in, and arranged to meet them for dinner. A call was made to the Holiday Inn in Cumberland and a reservation made. We took I 70 from Hagerstown to Cumberland, and checked in about 4:00 pm, with the arrangement to meet the Dressners about 6:00 to have dinner at the Holiday Inn. Edward took Winston for a walk in the downtown area of Cumberland, which is a shopping mall. There are some wonderful buildings, going back to the 1800ís, but the out of town malls have had a bad effect on the downtown area. Cumberland is squeezed between the Potomac River and the railroads, and clearly had been the eastern portal to the timber and mining resources of northern West Virginia.
At 6:00 pm we met the Dressners (Winston was in the hotel room) and they suggested having dinner at a new resort that had opened in the Rocky Gap State Park about 10 miles east of Cumberland. (We had driven around the resort on the way into Cumberland and were very ready to return and see more of it.) So, with Winston still in the hotel room, the people went off to have dinner, and we had a delightful time. Don and the Dressners caught up on their grandchildren and the Dressners described the area. The resort was very attractive. They dropped us off at the hotel, and we could hear Winston barking as we got off the elevator on our floor. He was glad to see us; Edward put him in the canvas bag and took him outside for his walk along the railroad tracks.
3. Day Three -- Friday, July 24
We got off to an early start and drove southwest on US 220 through Keyser, WV. We had to be in Morgantown by 1:00 pm to pick up Patricia, who was coming in from Newark and Pittsburgh on U.S. Air, and we did not know how long it would take, except that Shirley had said that it was 2 1/2 hours from Gormania to Morgantown. We did not stop in Keyser, the country seat of Mineral County, WV, but continued on WV 972 to pick up US 50 at New Creek, WV. After Claysville, WV, the valley narrows and we came to some long hills, all going up, passed through Hartsmansville and then there was a sign that said ìMt. Storm Unincorporatedî. We took pictures of each other in front of the sign.
Now, the goal was to locate Gay Abernathy. Mt. Storm, which is in fact on the top of a mountain, consists of a series of attractive farms and houses, with little commercial activity, and no apparent village center. (Our view of this changed as we later spent more time in the area.) We stopped at a house close to the road and Don, knocking on the door, asked a young man about Gay. Don learned that her daughter lived nearby and that Gay lived on the lake at the power plant (the Vepco lake) (Mt. Storm Lake, near Bismark, WV).
We pressed on, trying to follow the road map and Albertaís sketch maps (Figs. 4 and 5) and not really picking up the details. We went down a long mountain descent (we later learned that it is called Difficult Hill) and suddenly came upon a sign ìGormania Unincorporatedî. We pulled in at the gas station (Fig. 6), parked on the side and took a long look. Edward did not recall anything of the layout of the houses, etc. Edward asked in the gas station for the Williams and drew a blank from the young girl working there.
We took some pictures, and talked to a very elderly man with one eye who appeared and asked if his picture would appear in LIFE magazine. He seemed to live in the area, said that there were Shillingburgs living on the Steyer Road (pronounced ìStroyerî) (near White Church) but didnít seem to focus on much else. Our impression was that, aside from the new Post Office and the gas station, nothing had been build in the town in many, many years. Indeed, time had not been kind to Gormania. Aside from the gas station, a few boarded up commercial buildings, a church and a number of houses, there seemed to be no reason for its being; there was no sign of the tannery.
We pressed on, crossed the Potomac River to Gorman, MD (a loose collection of houses), continued on US 50 to Redhouse, MD, turned north on US 219 to Oakland, MD and then went west on MD 7 to Morgantown. We found the airport and Patricia -- we thought that we were right on time, but she had been waiting about 30 minutes.
We checked in at the Hampton Inn in Morgantown, and had lunch at a chinese restaurant nearby. We filled Patricia in on the morning and decided to return to Gormania, hoping that by taking I 68 east to Friendsville, MD and then MD 42 down to Oakland, the drive might be easier and the road better. (We had noticed that the roads in West Virginia seemed to be a bit rougher than those in Maryland.)
I 68 is a beautiful road, going through a wonderful mountain and forested area. At Friendsville we went south on MD 42 to US 219 through the beautiful Deer Creek Lake area around McHenry, where Shirley Minnich lives. We would see her on Saturday; she was in Washington, D.C., as we drove through. Again we came to Oakland, MD; it has a striking courthouse as the county seat of Garrett County, MD, and seems to be set in a prosperous area.
This time we tried to take MD 560 to Gormania, but ended up on US 219 to Redhouse and then US 50 to Gormania. Again we parked near the Gormania gas station, and each went off in different directions, resolved to knock on doors to try to find someone who would talk to us about the town, the Shillingburgs, etc. (Figs. 7 and 8).
Patricia took pictures of some of the commercial buildings (see Figs. 9 and 10)). Edward knocked on doors on the street with houses backing up to the river. At the new Post Office, Edward asked the postmaster about Williamses in the area and was told that this was the postmasterís first week on the job. But the postmaster did have a telephone directory, and Edward found Shillingburgs on the White Church Road and a number of Williamses but not in Gormania. He also found an Abernathy (but not Gay) located on Vepco Lake, and noted it as a lead to Gay.
Don knocked on doors along US 50. Suddenly, he waived to us, and we joined him at one house (see ìD. Williamsî on Fig. 8) and were introduced to Don Williams. Donís parents, ìDoc M. E. and Ethyl Williams, had owned the gas station and general store in the 1960ís, and their house had been previously owned by Thomas Edward. ìDocî Williamsí mother was Elizabeth Jane Chisholm, a sister of Mary Evelyn, Don and Edwardís grandmother. Thus, Donald Metzner and Doc Williams were first cousins. M. E. Williams got the nickname ìDocî because at one point he drove the buggy for Dr. Drinkwater, the town doctor. Don was a professor of advertising and marketing; he has a Ph.D from a Colorado university and had spent some time on Madison Avenue in New York City (Fig. 11). His parents had died. The family house burned about 10 years ago; it had been located on what was now a vacant lot to the left of the old Post Office (see ìold POî and ìvacant lotî on Fig. 8, and Fig. 12). Don had inherited the house he was now living in (Fig. 13). The house had previously been a tenement housing workers in the tannery; it is now much smaller, a single family home. He said that the tannery had been located where the new Post Office was now located. Don gave us a tour of his backyard, which overlooked a bend in the Potomac River, an idyllic spot.
Edward asked about the Williams family cemetery on a road north in Maryland. Don Williams said that his family had been buried in a plot on a farm off the White Church Road, but he did not visit it; his parents were in a cemetery in Oakland, Md. He also remembered the Chisholm place, off White Church Road at Chisholm Road, in Maryland, and thought that there was a burial plot there.
Don Williams said that he had visited our Uncle Con and Aunt Ruth in Granite Peaks, CO, that his parents had visited there several times, and indeed his parents had been visiting Con and Ruth in Durango, CO when Con died in 1986. Don described Con as having had a heart attack while driving alone on an errand; his parents and Ruth awaited his return which became overdue.
Don said that he thought that the historical society in Oakland had a pamphlet on Gormania. He said that the gas station had been changed substantially from what it had been when his parents had owned it and that he refused to use it.
Don was clearly as amazed to see us as we were pleased to find him. He remembered Con and Ruth clearly; they had been close to his parents. Don gave us information on the neighboring buildings, and went on to say that the coal mining, now about a mile down, would soon reach the town and would go under the River. Don Shillingburg asked about the river and whether there were fish in it. Don Williams replied that the river had gone through a number of phases in the last 30 years -- from black to green to orange. While mining continued in the area, great effort had been made to clean up the river and trout had been planted in it a few years ago.
We took another look at the vacant lot on the left side of the old Post Office (Fig. 14), and a look at the adjoining houses. Don said that our cousin, H.T. Shillingburg had a picture of the house and planned to send a copy to Don.
We continued on to Mt. Storm. Again working with Albertaís sketch
maps (Figs. 4 and 5), we located Stoney River; the iron bridge over the
river on US 50 was being reconditioned, and focused on a homestead on the
south side of US 50 and just west of the bridge. The homestead looked
as neat as could be, but the gate was closed. Don walked in and knocked
on the door and received no answer. The grass was cut, but the place
did not look active. The focus was the cemetery noted on Albertaís map
on ìShillingburg landî (Fig 5, and ìhomesteadî on Fig. 14).
We drove a 100 yards or so west on US 50 and into a house on the north side of the road where a number of people were gathered. We asked about cemeteries and Shillingburgs and were directed to a cemetery at the end of a road directly across US 50. We crossed US 50, passed about four houses, found an open gate and took the dirt road that went up the side of the hill through a field in which several men were bailing hay to a cemetery. We visited the cemetery, which was very organized with a chart of the sites taken and reserved -- but no Shillingburgs. The cemetery has a wonderful setting high on a hill looking northeast over rolling grass fields. (We later learned that this was the Alkire Cemetery at Longview (see Fig. 14).)
We next tried the Bismark Road (see Fig. 14). We had a lead that there was a cemetery across the road from a white church, some distance off of US 50. We finally found it, but it seemed only to have Costners.
Returning to US 50 and turning west toward Gormania, we turned
south on the Bayard Road (Fig. 15), stopped for directions and were directed
to the Bayard Cemetery further down the road. There, we found the
grassmowers in action. We didnít seem to be having any luck; Patricia
asked if they knew of any Shillingburg grave markers; and a young woman
pointed out one for Beal D. and Twila D. Shillingburg. (We tried to take
pictures of all of the Shillingburg gravestones that we saw on the trip
but Edwardís didnít turn out well, while Donís pictures were excellent.
Edward kicked himself for not having kept a better notebook of each cemetery
and other features of .
It was still daylight, but we were beginning to loose track of where we had been. We returned to Gormania, crossed the river, took the right turn onto MD 560, and watched for the Chisholm Road, as Don Williams had indicated. We found it in about a mile, going off to the east and clearly marked with a road sign (Fig 16). We followed it to a ìTî at a yellow victorian house which turned out to be the Chisholm house (now lived in by the Paughs) (Fig. 17). A young woman directed us through the grass to a plot to the right and rear of the yellow farmhouse. The plot is marked by an iron fence (Fig. 18). We looked at all of the headstones, noted one for Mary E. Chisholm, but decided that that there was no headstone for Mary Evelyn Shillingburg (as reported in the Chisholm book). There were more than eight headstones in the plot (Attachment A). One of the headstones was for James Chisholm, Sr., Mary Evelynís grandfather (Fig. 11).
From the Chisholm farm, we returned to MD 560 and drove to Oakland; we needed dinner badly and found an attractive restaurant housed in an old house next to a cemetery on Memorial Drive, off US 219 north of the courthouse. We then returned to Oakland center and drove on to Morgantown on US 50 and WV 7, not an easy drive at night (and the second time that we had been on that road that day).
In Morgantown, we found that the Hampton Inn was quite comfortable and, in addition, hospitable to pets. Winston walked in and out without any questions.
4. Day 4 -- Saturday, July 25
Saturday morning, our arrangements, confirmed by email and telephone, was that Shirley Minnich would pick us up about 11:00 am and we would follow her and her mother and others to the reunion site in Blacksville, WV, about 30 minutes west of Morgantown, off of WV 7 and 218.
We connected; Shirleyís mom, Thelma Friend, was not well but was coming, and we met Shirleyís daughter Tammy and her husband and their children. The reunion site was in a state park, the Mason Dixon State Park, a nice location with parking and a covered meeting area with tables and open sides. For Don, Edward and Patricia this was the first opportunity to meet Shillingburgs other than the uncles and cousins who lived in the West and were descendants of Thomas Edward. This group had met annually at this park for a number of years. They were principally brothers and sisters of Ernie (John Earnest) Shillingburg and their children (Fig. 1). Shirleyís mother Thelma was one of Ernieís sisters. Ernie (Fig. 19) and his wife Pauline, now in their 70ís, lived in Morgantown; he was a coal miner for 40 years, retiring as a foreman; their children and their families are concentrated in the Oakland-Morgantown area. (A year ago, when Patricia looked for all Shillingburgs in the computer telephone directory in the U.S. and mailed questionnaires to them, she found that 50% of the about 160 names with telephone numbers were concentrated in the Oakland-Mt. Storm area.)
We had a good time at the reunion; there were all ages, and dogs (Winston got into his usual barking stand-offs with other dogs). People were friendly and interested in talking with us. They were clearly interested in catching up on news and events of their family. Everyone had brought a dish, and it turned out that soft drinks, a cooked ham and other things were supplied out of funds raised at the previous reunion. Patricia and Shirley connected immediately; while they had communicated daily by email they had never met. We talked with everyone, and in the swirl of it all we came away with fewer pictures and names than we had wished. But we thought we were visitors and did not want to be pushy. Because of Patís Internet site, she was known to a number. We would have to learn how to handle this kind of group if we wanted to pick up information on the past. It was clear even here that the current oldest generation, such as Ernie and Pauline, lived in the present, and could reminisce but one had to be quick to pick it up and to be able to ask the constructive next question.
Late in the afternoon, we returned to Morgantown and to meet Shirley later. During this interval Don tried the Abernathy telephone number, found that it was Gailís number, and arranged for us to meet her at the VFW hall in Mt. Storm at 10:00 am Sunday morning.
Shirley came by in the early evening and filled Patricia in on some of the subtleties of the reunion -- who had come and who they were. She then drove us to the area west of town (Star City) were she and her sister Nellie had been raised, an area then of miner houses, and now of abandoned cars and houses, with poor roads and modest facilities. She stressed that whatever the Shillingburgs had now, they had lived in an area and time of hard times and they had very much had hard times.
Shirley recommended that we have dinner at the Texas Roadhouse in Morgantown, where we had a good meal, enjoyed the atmosphere, and reviewed the events of the day over a pitcher of beer and ribs.
5. Day 5 -- Sunday, July 26
We returned to Gormania, via I 69 and Oakland (clearly the better alternative to WV 7 and US 50), and drove directly on to the VFW hall in Mt. Storm. We were on time (the drive from Morgantown is about 2 hours); Gay arrived only a few minutes later. We settled in for some breakfast and conversation about who we are and why we were there.
Gay Abernathy has lived in Mt. Storm always (Fig. 20). Her father was Wesley Duling and her mother was Blanche Kitzmiller. Her motherís first husband was Tony W. Shillingburg, who was killed in World War I. Her mother then married Wesley Duling, and they had Gay and two other children. Blancheís sister was Carrie Janita (ìNetaî or ìDutchî) Duling who married Tom Shillingburg and lived first in Nazlini, AZ and later in Akron, OH. Patricia remarked suddenly that the person to whom Gail referred as ìUncle Tomî was the same person that Don and Edward referred to as ìUncle Tomî. And so, ìFloridaî John Shillingburg was Gayís first cousin.
Gay had seen Florida John a number of times over the years; they were close. She was unaware of much of the rest of the Shillingburg family in the West, but she did say that she had been to the gravesite of Thomas Edward and Mary Evelyn in Oakland -- the first solid lead that we had on where it was -- and we had been regularly driving through Oakland!
What could she show us? Well, we were a little unprepared,
but we brought out Alberta Taylorís sketch maps (Figs. 4 and 5) showing
various Shillingburg farms and cemeteries in the area. Gay picked
up on the cemeteries, particularly, the one on the homestead that we had
looked at on Friday evening (ìhomesteadî, Fig 14), and took us to a house
at the intersection of US 50 and WV 42 in Mt. Storm. She and Don
talked to the people there who were familiar with the property, the owners
had died and the heirs (the Steeles) lived in the Baltimore area and were
trying to sell it. They were certain that there was no cemetery there.
Gay directed us south on WV 42 to the Mt. Storm Cemetery (Fig. 14) where her mother, father and sister are buried, and we found four Shillingburg gravestones, including one for Ella Rea Shillingburg, who was Tony W. Shillingburgís sister) (Attachment A).
Then, Gay took us east, on US 50, past the house that she had formerly lived in (somewhat down the hill on the south side) (Johnny Cake Creek is a marker (Fig. 5)), and on passed the house that she was raised in (a large white house back from the road on the south side), to the Hartmansville Church and its cemetery (see Fig. 21). We found five Shillingburg gravestones there (Appendix A). Finally, she directed us north of US 50 to the Rehoboth Cemetery; isolated but mowed, with the church long gone, it had two Shillingburg markers (Appendix A).
Gay was not familiar with the locations of the old Shillingburg farms shown on Albertaís sketch maps. She had company coming about 2:00 pm, declined lunch with us to get back to prepare for her company, and left with our deep thanks.
We returned to the VFW hall for lunch, and discussed plans for the afternoon. We returned to Gormania, crossed the river and took the right road (MD 560) and then the further right on to the Steyer Road (pronounced ìStoyerî) (Fig. 22), intending to pass the property of Lee Shillingburg, who had been mentioned by Shirley. It was an exciting moment when we came to a driveway on the east side into a farm marked with regular street signs that read ìShillingburg Farmî on one crosspiece and ìLee and Ellenî on the other . We took pictures (Figs. 23 and 24), and then drove in. Unfortunately, no one was at home, and we left our cards with notes.
Continuing on the Steyer Road, and it is important to note that this road was paved but was a secondary road less prominent than MD 560, we came to a white church. Noting that there was a really large group of people in the adjoining meeting house and in the picnic area in back and remembering that Shirley had remarked that Lee and his wife went to church in the afternoon, we stopped. Don went into the hall and after some time emerged with a man and a woman whom he introduced to us as Lee and Ellen Shillingburg (Fig. 2). Lee is about 70 and had his right arm bandaged (he had been burning some brush and the fire got away from him), and Ellen is his third wife. Patricia and Ellen went off to look at the computer (we had the full genealogy with us) and to update Leeís family. Edward got the impression that our questionnaire had not found its way to Lee and Ellen. They were pleased to talk with us. They have no children themselves, but Lee has children from previous marriages. We were joined by a neighbor and his wife (they lived on Bethelem Road) whose name was Streyer (as in Streyer Road). All were interested in us and also in recent things that had happened to their families. Lee confirmed that the Shillingburgs in the White Church area would be having a reunion in August, but that he and Ellen would not be attending. He knew Ernie Shillingburg and remarked that Ernie and his family had used to come to reunions in the White Church area. We left them in good spirits.
We headed to Oakland to follow up on Gayís remark that she had seen Thomas Edward and Mary Evelynís headstones in Oakland. Driving through during the morning, we had seen a cemetery north of the Courthouse and just east of US 219 in town. We found it easily, divided it into three zones and walked it with no results. (A Chisholm marker was found.) Patricia talked to some visitors, who said that there was another cemetery just to the north on Memorial Drive. We went back to US 219, turned north a few blocks to Memorial Drive and the sign for the restaurant that we had dinner at on Friday night. The second cemetery did not look appropriate; all of the markers were bronze and flush with the ground, while the marker in the picture that Don remembered seemed to be upright. We stayed in the car, drove to the office building, noted a home number for ìBlueî Matucci and called it. Edward identified himself and said that he was looking for grandparents named Shillingburg and was there a third cemetery in Oakland. Mr. Matucci said that there were Shillingburgs in his cemetery, and that they had an Arizona connection. Edward said that they were the ones and asked how we could find them. Mr. Matucci regretted that he could not come over to show us because of an appointment, but directed us from the entrance to look left to a small building that was on the restaurant property, to walk toward the building and to look to the right and on about the edge of the cemetery. Edward thanked him, and we returned to the entrance. We followed his instructions and found the marker -- actually two markers -- one for Thomas Edward, Mary Evelyn and an infant daughter -- and one for Elmer Porter Shillingburg, our fatherís eldest brother, who had died in Peru (Figs. 26-29). We had done it!!
We drove back to Morgantown, sharing the events of the day and the unspoken goal -- finding their grandparentsí gravesite -- that Don and Edward had had but had never articulated to each other or to Patricia. And some questions followed -- what about the Chisholm bookís statement (p. 85) that Mary Evelyn was buried in the Chisholm cemetery (but we had been there and there was no marker for her there, and Edward had remembered that he had see markers for both of them in the Wilson farm plot), who was the infant, and what about the marker for Elmer Porter who had died in Peru and most probably had been buried there?
We returned to Morgantown and had a delightful dinner at Shirleyís other suggestion.
6. Day 6 -- Monday, July 27
We packed to leave; Edward finished some work for a client that Patricia would take with her. Patricia took a taxi to the airport for her 11:00 am flight, and Don and Edward (with Winston) returned to Oakland. We visited the Oakland Historical Association, found it closed and took its address. We visited a nearby bookstore on the same street, but the selection of books on the area was largely Civil War. We did not buy a book on Garrett County history; it devoted little attention to Gorman and Gormania, but it did refer to the Gorman area as the ìGladesî, a reference used frequently in the Chisholm book. The better lead, we thought, was to write the Historical Association and see what publications they had.
From Oakland we wanted to return to the White Church where we had met Lee and Ellen Shillingburg and look at the cemetery, but somehow we took the wrong road. We found ourselves on Bethelem Road and indeed passed Mrs. Steyer in her garden. Realizing that we were really lost, going northeast but not having crossed the Potomac, we pressed on. At length we came to Kitzmiller (and MD 38) (Fig. 30), a town that we had remembered our father talking about. (And we had seen a number of Kitzmiller grave markers; there are several Kitzmillers married into the Shillingburg family; and Gay Abernathyís mother was a Kitzmiller.) It is on the Maryland side of the Potomac and on the railroad. The river is very attractive there; Don wondered why there were no fishermen on it. The town seemed fairly large, and had some substantial buildings, but the general store and other services are now gone. We found a gas station and bought some snacks; we were told that there was no chance of finding lunch in Kitzmiller.
We crossed the river to WV 42, wound up a hill and were in Elk Garden (Fig. 30), a name that we also recalled our father and uncles talking about. This town was much smaller and now in reduced financial shape. We stopped and looked through a cemetery and, hearing continued large noises, finally became aware that a bulldozer was tearing open a hillside about a quarter of a mile away.
From Elk Garden we went south on WV 42 to US 50, now east of Mt. Storm, turned east on US 50 and stopped at Claysville Church to look at its cemetery. The church is a little hard to find; it is on a slight rise north of the highway exactly at the intersection of US 50 with WV 93 (Map 1). The church had been there a real long time, but the cemetery had not been maintained and had only a few grave markers. Indeed, it looked as though the cemetery had been allowed to become a thicket of small trees and that the trees had only recently been removed.
We continued north on US 50 in a valley that continued to widen until we reached Keyser, the county seat of Mineral County (Fig. 2). The main street, not on US 50, shows hard times. We looked for a place for lunch, noted three ladies in their seventies crossing the street to the Royal Cafe and followed them in. The visitor must lunch there! It is a very large room, with the front half unremarkable with a counter, etc., and the back half a dining room. The dining room is nicely paneled with booths in the wall. Unfortunately, the center area is filled with dinette sets in various styles obviously acquired recently in the closing of a furniture company. The ceiling, being all one room, is a traditional tin ceiling in good repair. We were brought menus, and Don remarked that the prices were antique too and Edward remarked that he had finally found a place that fit his budget. We are talking about hamburgers in the $1.75 range!!
After lunch we crossed to the Mineral County Public Library, housed in a former bank building, and looked through books on the area. Edward looked at ìMineral County, West Virginia, Family Tracks and Trailsî (1980 Taylor Publishing Co.); the index showed many Shillingburgs in an article written by Alberta Taylor. Don enjoyed it. Edward also looked through a multivolume set of red bound volumes in an open shelf across from the circulation desk (the ìJ. C. Sanders Papersî) that seemed to consist of a great number of typed pages (mostly copies) of wills, deeds, articles, interviews and summaries of family histories of Mineral County people. He found no Shillingburg items, but it might be checked again.
We then set out to find a bookstore and located one on the same side of the street as the Royal Cafe. On its area shelf Edward found a reprint of an 1899 booklet, ìWest Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway Companyî, which ran through Gorman (on the Maryland side). He bought it and gave it to Don, and ordered one to be sent to himself. The lady operating the store warmed to us; we clearly were not the usual customers.
We continued north, but took a side trip west to Westernport, MD and Piedmont, WV (Fig. 2). These were names that Edward remembered. The towns cling to the sides of the mountains on either side of the Potomac and the railroads. The West Virginia side again is poorer than the Maryland side. Later, after returning, Edward found that John Kirk, who followed Inez Shillingburg west to New Mexico, had been born in Westernport.
We continued on to Cumberland and stayed the night in the same Holiday Inn. We had dinner in a Louisiana-style restaurant on the main street in the mall; it was wonderful. Edward smuggled Winston in and out again in the canvas bag for his walk.
7. Day 7 -- Tuesday, July 28
We resumed our trip north, following the same route (I 68 to Hagerstown and I 81 north). We got off the road in Carlisle, PA and drove around the central square; it is an attractive pre-Civil War town. We continued north, and got off to go to Hershey. In Hershey we walked around the hotel and its gardens, tried to find a garden center associated with the Hotel, enjoyed some ice cream and continued north.
We were able to pick up Edwardís computer monitor from the repaid shop on the way into Newark, and were happy to arrive about 6:00 pm to find Patricia looking for us. We ordered in a chinese dinner, stretched out and reviewed the events of the past week. We had been very lucky in finding Gay Abernathy, chancing on Don Williams and meeting Lee and Ellen Shillingburg. Shirley Minnich had become a good friend. And we had found Thomas Edward and Mary Evelyn gravesite almost by happenstance.
8. Day 8 -- Wednesday, July 29
Patricia took Don to the airport to standby for his return flight on American West. All went well and Don arrived home in Denver that night.
C. Post Trip Events
1. John W. Shillingburg and Sarah Moomau
A day or so after returning, Edward remarked to Patricia that possibly a next step would be to try to locate the gravesite for Thomas Edwardís parents. Before the trip Patricia had been in contact with a man who was researching the Moomaus; Thomas Edwardís mother was Sarah Moomau, and his father was John W. Shillingburg. After our return the Moomau researcher emailed Patricia that there is a man in Oakland MD who is researching churches in Gormania (there were three, apparently) and that he has run into some Shillingburg headstones. Patricia followed up and Sonny OíHaver (in Oakland) reported to her (8/4/98) that headstones for John W. and Sarah Shillingburg are located in an old cemetery on the hill near the intersection of US 50 and WV 90 in Gormania (see Fig. 8). Route 90 is the road that goes off of Route 50 just south of the gas station to Bayard and south. So, the next goal should be to visit the gravesite of our great grandparents, John W. Shillingburg and Sarah Moomau!
2. Burial Information
Patricia wrote to the Garrett County Memorial Gardens to inquire whether they could share their file on the reburial of Thomas Edward and Mary Evelyn in their cemetery. They were pleased to send on copies of the papers in their file, which consisted of a form indicating that the previous burial had been on the Wilson Farm, White Church Road, that the transfer was done in 1965, and that our uncles had included a marker for Elmer as a memorial.
3. The Railroad Book
From the 1899 booklet, ìWest Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway Companyî, which Edward had located in the bookstore in Keyser, WV, we have a sketch of the Hoffman tannery in Gormania that does not seem reliable (Fig. 31); note the bridge in the upper right side. However, the booklet includes pictures of several Gormania businesses, as well as timetables, descriptions of local communities served by the railroad and the houses of the railroadís more prominent employees and officers. The timetable is interesting; it indicates that Gorman was 60 miles and about 2 1/2 hours south of Cumberland where connections were made to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (Fig. 32).
4. Alberta Shillingburg Taylor
During the weekend of August 7-10, 1998 Patricia and Edward (and Winston) traveled to Washington, DC and on Saturday, August 8, they visited and lunched with Alberta and Don Taylor in their home in Alexandria, VA. Alberta said that she had prepared her sketches (Figs. 4 and 5) while meeting with several ìoldstersî in the Mt. Storm area. Patricia and Edward related the high points of their recent trip to Gormania. Patricia was especially happy to connect with Alberta after months of letters. Don Taylor firmly took Winston under his wing. Patricia and Edward left with great appreciation for the research that Alberta has been doing and the feeling that they had made good friends in a common cause.
5. Garrett County Historical Society Materials
Patricia contacted the Society for information and received a small list of publications. She ordered the most likely ones, and one (ìGhost Towns of the Upper Potomacî (1998 Garrett Co. Historical Society) contains two views of Gormania (one in 1908) and the other undated, both apparently taken from the neighboring Ft. Pendelton hillside (on the Maryland side) (Figs. 33-34). We sent the two pictures to Don Williams who returned them with the extensive notes indicated on Figs. 35 and 36. Don indicates that the tannery closed about 1929-30, that the buildings marked ìAî and ìBî in the 1908 picture were Dr. Drinkwaterís house (burned) and a three-story hotel, and the building marked ìAî in the subsequent picture was Thomas Edwardís house and later the Williamsí house (burned New Yearís Eve, about 1985). Don also wrote that his present house (Fig. 13) was built in 1887 from green oak milled about three miles east of town. It originally had 24 rooms (presently 12); it was built for the tannery workers and was called ìHells Half Acreî. Ira and Edna Mason lived there for 50 years; Don acquired it in about 1985.
D. Some Conclusions
In visiting or revisiting family places, the locations are important, but we forget that while the locations change the people associated with them change even more. In preparing for a visit advance research is essential, research both of the locations and of people who may continue to be in the area. It is the combination -- people and places -- that provide the positive experience. In addition, if possible the visit will be assisted if the visitor is not alone. There is more energy in a group (driving, map reading, knocking on doors, etc. is hard work), and there is more push in a group; a number of times one or more of us would have stopped but the third person would rally the group.
We were very grateful for the support and assistance that we received from Shirley Minnich and Alberta Taylor, and especially appreciative for the curtesy and kindness that we received as complete strangers from Gay Abernathy, Don Williams, Ernie and Pauline Shillingburg and Lee and Ellen Shillingburg when we arrived on their doorsteps with little or no warning.
During the evening of Day 7 Edward asked Don if he thought he would return to the Gormania area. Don paused and then said that he was interested in fishing the Potomac River and in learning more about the vacation home aspects of the area as an investment. (Clearly, with the lakes established near Mt. Storm and their proximity to Pittsburgh and Washington, DC, the area is becoming a prime second home area.)
Edward found that he wanted to return to be clearer about just where he had been and seen; it all seemed to be such a blur. The area seemed to be very attractive, even in the heat of the summer. Our fatherís interest in trout fishing in Colorado seemed closer, not because of the Colorado mountains and pine forests but because of the subtler mountains and hardwood forests of the north branch of the Potomac -- and the river itself.
And Patricia already has talked with Shirley about meeting in
McHenry, MD to pursue their joint prime goal -- where had William and Margaret
come from when they came to Mt. Storm in the late 1780ís. However, Shirleyís
mother, Thelma Friend, is terminally ill and Shirley needs her time at
this point. Patricia and Edward look forward to returning -- and the fellow
in the waters below the Gormania bridge is likely to be Don.
with much appreciation for the assistance of Don and Patricia