Catoctin Mountain Park
Historic Resource Study
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Chapter Four:
The Eve of Acquisition (continued)

Moonshining and Blue Blazes

By the early twentieth century, Americans were increasingly aware of the unique culture and society that existed in the Appalachian chain of mountains. In 1921, John Campbell published his classic The Southern Highlander and his Homeland, detailing the distinct folk culture of the isolated mountain areas. Campbell did include the western reaches of Maryland (although not the Catoctin area) in his study. Yet few others since have included Maryland in any definition of Appalachia as a region. More recently, some scholars, concluding that the area was simply "too culturally diverse to be regarded as a unit," even have questioned the usefulness of viewing Appalachia as distinctive region. [43]

Attempting to salvage some understanding of Appalachia as a region, Ronald Eller, suggested that Appalachia might be approached as a "cluster of scattered, self-sufficient island communities" with commercial settlements often at their gaps. The upper Catoctins do appear to share some of the characteristics highlighted in Eller's definition. But from the earliest settlements, mountain residents of the Catoctin region had contact with the outside world through trading and the turnpike that passed through the mountain area. While certainly not a dynamic force, mountain farmers, to some extent, were integrated into the local economy and society. Town residents considered mountain dwellers to be somewhat distinct and odd, but a Mechanicstown resident also might hold someone from Catoctin Furnace or any outlying farm area as different. [44]

The issue of moonshining--particularly the tragic affair surrounding the Blue Blazes raid--reveals both the secluded and distinct aspects to Catoctin mountain life and yet how the area also remained very much tied to ongoings in western Maryland and the rest of the state. As evident in the Wolf Tavern Ledger, distilling alcohol long had been a part of mountain life. Efforts on the part of the state and federal government to tax whiskey, dating back to Alexander Hamilton's levy against whisky in the late eighteenth century, encouraged illegal distilling. During the Civil War, the federal government licensed distilleries and taxed liquor at increasingly higher rates. Stills safely located in the mountains, beyond the reach of tax collectors, proliferated. Opposition to drinking also spread. In 1866, prohibition advocates circulated a petition to prohibit the sale of alcohol in Mechanicstown district. [45] The Women's Christian Temperance Union also thrived in the region during the late nineteenth century.

With high liquor taxes and an active temperance movement, illegal alcohol production, no doubt, was a facet of mountain life well before Prohibition. However, the beginning of national prohibition in 1919 brought new incentives and profits to the old business of moonshining. Overnight the price of "backwoods grog" soared from $2 a gallon to $22. [46] Without question, moonshining was profitable, and distilling alcohol became big business in the Catoctin mountains. The mountain provided a secluded protected area with ready sources of water. Meanwhile, using nearby roads, moonshiners could ship their product to Baltimore or Washington within two hours. [47] Very quickly, local moonshine gained a national reputation. Thurmont native Howard Damuth, while working as a salesman, traveled to New York City where he was stunned to learn that the high quality of Catoctin moonshine was common knowledge in the Big Apple. [48]

The authorities, of course, took a dim view of moonshining. The Frederick County sheriff's department mounted a series of raids on stills nestled in the mountains between Thurmont and Foxville. Police launched several raids on a site known as Blue Blazes, set on the small bubbling Harman's Creek, five miles west of Thurmont (see Map 4). [49] In the summer of 1929, the sheriff's department began planning yet another assault on the site, setting in motion events that would lead to a tangled tragedy.

According to police testimony, Charles Lewis, a Foxville resident, contacted the sheriff's office with information about a still at Blue Blazes where he was employed. Lewis, already having been convicted of larceny and shooting a man, was no stranger to trouble. He apparently met with Deputy Sheriff Vernon Redmond at a Frederick restaurant. The two established July 31, 1929 as the date on which police would raid the still. [50]

On the given date, at roughly six in the evening, Redmond and four other deputies from the county's sheriff office, including Deputy Sheriff Clyde L. Hauver, drove a caravan of cars up the "unfrequented road" that led to the hamlet of Blue Blazes. [51] Leaving their cars, they proceeded up a narrow path through the thick undergrowth leading to the still. As they moved, they may have tripped a wire or set off a warning to those working the still above the raiding party. Whatever the case, the moonshiners were ready for the raiders. Gun shots suddenly rained down upon the police officers. They fell back and returned fire. Appearing to trip on a root, Deputy Hauver fell to the ground. It was only when the moonshiners retreated that police discovered Hauver had suffered a gun shot wound to the head. His fellow officers rushed him down the mountain to a Frederick City hospital where he died. [52]

Catoctin Furnace resident Charles Anders had spent the summer in charge of Lawrence Richey's fishing camp, at which President Herbert Hoover was a frequent visitor. Upon hearing of the botched raid, he borrowed one of the cars that the president kept at the camp and rushed to Blue Blazes. By the time he arrived in his White House car, dozens of others already had gathered at the site. What they saw was startling. Blue Blazes was no small operation. Twenty large vats filled with 500 gallons of mash alongside coils, cooling boxes, and hoses made up what was the largest and best equipped still ever found in Frederick County. [53] Anders watched as the mayor of Thurmont struck a match and tossed it onto some spilled alcohol. When the puddle immediately lit up, the mayor pronounced it "good alcohol." Suspicious of his out-of-state car, police stopped Anders on his way back from the mountain. Managing to explain with some difficulty why he was driving the president's car, Anders was allowed to pass on. [54]

As the police continued their intense manhunt for the moonshiners, word of the tragedy spread to the family of the deceased officer. Thirty-five-year-old, Clyde Hauver, in fact, was a direct descendent of Peter Hauver, one of the eighteenth-century settlers of the town. He had attended Thurmont High School and played amateur baseball before joining the sheriff's department. He was the father of three young children. His killing shocked the large, closely-knit Hauver family. [55]

Within a few hours police rounded up those responsible for the ambush. Paul Williams of Hagerstown surrendered along one of the roads leading from the still. He was shirtless and had several days growth of bread. Another moonshiner, Lloyd Lewis stumbled into a doctor's office in Smithsburg, seeking treatment for a gun shot wound to the head. The doctor quickly notified authorities. Police found yet another suspect, Lester Clark, drunk and hiding in the woods. [56] In addition to Williams and Clark, police arrested Osby McAffee, William "Monk" Miller, Norris Clark, Charles Lewis, and Floyd Williams, the brother of Paul. [57] McAffee owned a home on the Thurmont-Foxville Road, where the gang apparently stayed and took meals while working the still. Several of the moonshiners were locals. Charles Lewis was the son of prominent fruit grower Hooker Lewis from Thurmont. [58] But the Williams brothers were from Hagerstown and hailed originally from North Carolina. Lester Clark was a Virginian. [59]

Authorities then had the difficult job of unraveling the events leading up to the botched raid. Police initially insisted that they had been double-crossed. Charles Lewis, they claimed, lured them into an ambush. [60] But the day following the ambush, the sheriff's office released Lewis from custody. Frederick County Sheriff William C. Roderick, who strangely had been in Pittsburgh during the raid, returned and insisted that his officers had not been double-crossed. Likewise, not all local authorities seemed concerned with illegal moonshining in the mountains. Thurmont Constable Charles W. Smith, who had participated in several still raids, insisted that the "moonshiners appear to want to be let alone. They won't disturb anyone unless they are interfered with. To the man they are opposed to the prohibition law." [61] Seeking to contain the confusion and suspicion surrounding the case, the Frederick Sheriff's Department arranged to have Special Detective Joseph F. Daugherty, from the Baltimore Police department, act as a special investigator in the case. [62]

Eventually State's Attorney William Strom sorted through the evidence and rearrested Charles Lewis. He then charged Lewis, McAffee, and Clark with the murder. The other moonshiners faced charges of manufacturing liquor for sale. [63] A Grand Jury that convened on September 9, 1929 subsequently indicted Lewis and Clark for murder. An overflow crowd gathered for the trail, held in December in Hagerstown. A surprise witness from Baltimore, W.L. Poole testified that Lewis had threatened "to get [Deputy] Redmond by fair means or foul." Osby McAffee testified that Lewis wanted to use the McAffee house for a meeting at which to set up the police. McAffee insisted that he had refused. [64] A few days after his testimony, McAffee's home burned to the ground. Authorities suspected arson. As the newspaper explained "firing property is a mode of revenge that has been practiced in some mountain sections." Attorneys for Lewis and Clark insisted that, while both men had fired shots, Hauver had been shot from the rear. Therefore, the killing was an accident. [65] Facing the Christmas holiday, the presiding judge held night sessions to speed up the trail. After several days of confusing and conflicting testimony, the case went to the jury, who convicted both men. Three Maryland circuit judges then sentenced Clark to 15 years and Lewis to life. [66]

Both Lewis and Clark denied having fired the shots that killed Deputy Hauver. Given the confusion at the scene and the unresolved issue of who double-crossed whom, many in the local area long have wondered whether justice was served in the Blue Blazes case. Naturally, hearsay and rumors--all unsubstantiated--developed around the story. In 1972, the Youth Conservation Corps, a federal project to employ young people, sent forty youths into the community surrounding Catoctin Mountain Park to gather local folklore. When it came to the Blue Blazes story, some locals claimed that out-of-town "tar heels" had operated the still and that the tip-off to police came from local moonshiners upset about competition. The story has some validity since the Williams brothers were from North Carolina. Others insisted that the raid was the product of a revenge plot relating to a love triangle. According to the romance-gone-wrong story, Deputy Hauver was the innocent victim of a bullet meant for someone else. [67] The fact that Charles Lewis was a locally-known figure, considered to be "a nice guy," and a member of a well-regarded family added to a sense that justice had not quite been served. [68] Ultimately in 1950, Governor Theodore McKeldin commuted Lewis's life sentence. And the now-elderly inmate, suffering from tuberculosis was released from prison. 94Clark had been paroled in 1946. [69]

The exact circumstances surrounding the Blue Blazes raid and the murder of Clyde Hauver most likely will remain a mystery and a testament to the confusing times and effects of a law with little popular support. Beyond the window opened to the Prohibition era, the event also suggests the dual nature of mountain life at the time. On one hand the secluded whiskey still, the secrecy, the role of revenge all are suggestive of stereotypes of Appalachian mountain peoples. Yet several of the persons involved were from the large towns of Thurmont and Hagerstown. And the still itself was a large, sophisticated operation--in a sense, industrial moonshining. Unlike some areas in Appalachia, which were more culturally and economically isolated, even the more secluded areas of the Catoctins had links to the world beyond.

The Mountain on the Eve of Acquisition

Having suggested that Catoctin Mountain life both was both secluded and yet still tied to the world beyond, we might take a closer look at some of the people who made their lives on the mountain in the years before the area became parkland. While the government officials who arrived to purchase land in the 1930s often depicted residents as dirt-poor farmers barely eking a living from the substandard soil on the mountain, in truth the local population was much more diverse. Wealthy local businessmen, vacationers, well-to-do fruit growers, and others owned mountain tracts alongside subsistence farmers. Likewise, while some poorer farmers lived on the mountain, the majority managed to provide, usually with the help of a second line of work, a healthy existence for their often large families.

In the area that is now Catoctin Mountain Park, several farms sat on the west side of the mountain in the Foxville-Deerfield area. Two main roads, still in existence today, ran north from the Thurmont-Foxville Road (Route 77) connecting the small farms. The current Foxville-Deerfield Road, then known simply as Foxville Road was the major artery. A secondary road then known as "the backroad," today Manahan Road, ran parallel. [70] Life on the westside of the mountain continued to revolve around the Foxville store, the former Wolf's Tavern, well into its second century of use by the 1930s. The store offered the community both groceries and necessary farming implements and accessories. [71]

Corn, potatoes, and berries were the primary crops grown in the area. [72] One farmer recalled that one could "grow the best kind of potatoes" on the mountain. [73] Area growers found a ready market for such farm produce at the canning factory located in Thurmont. [74] Farmer Roy Lewis, for instance, owned a 98-acre tract (tract 18), along Foxville Road in the area that is today Round Meadow (see Map 4). Roy and Lillie, his wife, shared a two-room house and managed enough income to afford a farm truck, one of the few in the area. [75] Across from Lewis, on Foxville Road, lived the family of Victor and Berta Brown (tract 154, see Map 4). The Browns raised four daughters in an eight-bedroom log house. As was the case everywhere on the mountain, the Browns had no electricity and hence "lived by oil," lighting their homes with oil lamps. [76] The family grew raspberries, potatoes, green beans, wheat and other produce. Livestock included hogs, chickens, sheep. To make ends meet, Victor Brown sheared sheep for farmers in the general area. The family also harvested crops on neighboring farms. On one particular day, the daughters and Berta made $10 "pulling beans" on a Sabillasville farm. The Brown daughters particularly looked forward to Saturday nights when, on the back of Roy Lewis' truck, they would travel to Thurmont to enjoy ice cream or a movie. [77] Closer to home, mountain-area social events included cooperative butcherings, where neighbors would gather to slaughter hogs and socialize. Butcherings continued in the mountain area until 1993. [78]

Even larger families lived alongside the Browns. Ike and Della Smith (tract 93) raised nine children on their 213-acre tract (see Map 4). The strawberries produced on their large farm enjoyed a particularly good reputation. With nine children, Smith supplemented his income by working as a butcher in the colder months, then returned to farming when the weather turned warmer. Walter Shatzer (tract 109) owned a farm just to the north of Victor Brown and Roy Lewis (see Map 4). He and his family moved onto the farm in 1920. They lived in a frame house built in 1873. [79] Shatzer, like Smith, supplemented his income by hauling goods, including fish, from Baltimore, in his truck. [80] He also bought and sold dogs. [81] For virtually everyone on the mountain, sales of timber--in some cases hauled down the mountain in an old, barely-running truck--provided much needed supplementary income. But such practices carried with them dangers, and, by the 1930s, National Park Service officials warned that "the [Catoctin] forests are rapidly being denuded" and such cutting practices could not continue forever. [82]

Not all farms in the mountainous area offered a solid living. For instance, the 212 acres (tract 94) owned by R.A. Fox, a 73-year-old lifelong bachelor, who appeared "quite feeble" to appraisers, offered him little more than a subsistence living (see Map 4). [83] During the Depression, Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area project manager, Garland Williams, reported that of the roughly 50 families residing on the mountain, only eight managed a living solely from the land and had "adequately stocked and equipped" farms. Another twenty six supplemented their farm incomes with other jobs, and some sixteen families were on the relief rolls. [84] Yet statistically, family farms generally (to this day) rely on income generated outside the farm to supplement earnings. This would have been particularly the case in the period after World War I, when falling prices for farm goods made life difficult in rural areas.

Not all residents of the area east of the mountain were involved in farming. Addison, Elmer, Hampton, and Jackson Wolf were brothers who owned separate tracts of land that they later sold to the government. Yet none of them ever farmed. Instead they worked a variety of different jobs. Elmer Wolf (tract 105), for instance, owned a saw mill for a time and later worked as a gunsmith. [85]

East of Foxville, the mountain areas of highest elevation remained largely uninhabited, enjoyed largely by tourists and children who might hike up to Chimney or Hog Rock. [86] On the east side of the mountain there were fewer farms and no real roads, other than the Thurmont-Foxville Road and a series of long-forgotten logging trails. A diverse group of land owners held most of the wooded acres on the mountain's east side. Some used their property for recreational purposes. Dr. Morris Birely (tract 84), a respected physician and town leader in Thurmont, owned 42 mountain acres, which he held with an eye "toward possible summer home development." Another owner, Guy Lanzilotti (tract 313), a resident of Washington, D.C., owned a two-acre tract along Hunting Creek apparently as a fishing camp (see Map 4). [87] Joseph Gernand (tract 104) kept sixty acres, as an extension of his Crow's Nest boarding house (see Map 4.5). William and Lillie Willhide also ran a boarding house in a still-standing purple house (480 West Main) on the Thurmont-Foxville Road. They owned mountain land (tract 101), later purchased by the government, for the use of their summer guests. [88]

Some larger-scale agriculture did exist east of Foxville. Thurmont fruit grower Hooker Lewis owned over 260 acres on what has become Camp David. The mountain land was only a small part of Lewis' much larger holdings throughout the area, especially in the area south of Thurmont where he lived near Camp Cozy. Lewis, who employed a large crew to work his orchards, grew peaches, apples, raspberries, potatoes, and tomatoes, often supplying the local canning company in Thurmont (see Map 4). [89] Smaller-scale orchard owners included Emory Moser (tract 118), who made his home in Thurmont, and Daniel Himes (tract 276), of Foxville. [90] Edgar Nicodemus, a well-to-do fruit grower from Zulinger, PA also owned an extremely large (3360 acre) tract near the furnace (tract 16). [91] It is unclear whether Nicodemus intended to establish fruit fields on the site or if he sought to develop vacation land.

By the early 1930s, mountain residents had been harvesting timber in the area for almost two hundred years. As long had been the case, large sawmill operations were responsible for much of the lumber cut on the mountain. Ralph Miller owned a small mountain tract (115a) that supplied lumber for his Thurmont sawmill. But he hardly restricted his cutting to his own property. He had a reputation for logging anywhere--whether he owned the land or not. [92] Indeed, locals viewed much of mountain region, especially on the land formerly belonging to the furnace, south of Hunting Creek, as a "no-man's land," open to anyone who wished to take a few trees. [93] Another Thurmont sawmill owner was J. Howard Creeger, who employed one to two men at his mill and would periodically hire cutters to harvest timber. Creeger owned various mountain tracts (including tract 147) which he used to supply his mill with timber and satisfy his love for hunting. [94] In addition to Creeger and Miller, Catoctin Furnace sawmill operator James Stevens, who made his home in Creagerstown, also had land on the mountain (tract 148). [95]

Alongside these larger operations, farmers, generally from the immediate surrounding area but some as far away as Creagerstown, owned mountain tracts that they generally used as a source of firewood. Some local residents can still remember farmers driving their wagons up old Catoctin Hollow Road--which, since the days of the furnace, was essentially a logging road--into the mountain to retrieve firewood. In the mountain areas, farmers marked their property with piles of stones and notches on trees. [96] Albert Zentz remembered his father's periodic treks to his plot (tract 190) for firewood. Zentz would drive his wagon, led by four horses up the mountain, cut his wood, then chain large logs to the front part of his wagon (the back portion of the wagon having been removed) to drag them back to town. One could transport between two and three big logs on such a "log wagon." [97] Other farmers, including Charles Weller (tract 177) and Ivie Brooks (tract 88) kept similar small mountain plots. For many of these farmers, Catoctin Hollow Road was the main route to and from their mountain holdings.

Reuben McAffee and his wife Rosa (tracts 26, 26a) lived south of Hunting Creek on a plot that included McAffee Falls (later Cunningham Falls). In his seventies by the 1930s, McAffee continued to do some farming but also took in boarders at his home conveniently located on the Thurmont-Foxville Road (Rt. 77). He also sold the rights to cut timber on his substantial holdings, thus providing himself with another source of income. [98]

A number of other Thurmont residents kept mountain tracts for what were probably a variety of reasons. Harry Finneyfrock (tract 219) was a junk man, living in Thurmont, who, in particular, sold scrap iron in Frederick. For whatever reason Finneyfrock kept a twelve-acre plot in the mountains. Samuel Weybright and his wife Lillie (tract 149) owned a hardware store in Thurmont and a 35-acre plot in the mountains. Edwin Creeger (tract 252), brother of J. Howard Creeger, owned a Chevrolet dealership in Thurmont. And Frank Anders (tract 91), who operated a motel on West Main Street in Thurmont, owned a 264-acre parcel of land, along the south side of Hunting Creek, along the eastern border of the McAffee plot. [99]

The mountain area that later became Catoctin Mountain Park, then, meant different things to different peoples on the eve of acquisition. On the west side of the mountain, families owning farms found that survival required cooperation and much hard work. But the farms generally provided a subsistence living for the families, many of whom were quite large. As one former mountain resident recalled, "no one ever went hungry." [100] On the east side of the mountain, toward Thurmont, there were fewer farms. Land instead offered important resources in the form of timber or recreational outlets. In fact, it would be this recreational use of the mountain that would define the next stage of development in the Catoctins.

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Last Updated: 21-Nov-2003