Real stories from Baltimore County history, Maryland
In its report to the National Education Association the Committee of Eight on the Study of History in the Elementary Schools, appointed by the American Historical Society, said: "Our history teaching in the past has tailed largely because it has not been picturesciue enough."
If this criticism were justified by the colorless history teaching observed in the presentation of material throughout the grades, doubtless the same truth applies to the teaching of local history, for all too often that which is near and immediate, by virtue of its nearness, loses its romantic quality and becomes prosaic and commonplace fact. It is true that distance does lend a kind of enchantment as well as dignity to what may have been, once upon a time, a commonplace event, but any significant character or event takes on new meaning, may even have a quality of picturesqueness, if placed in its right perspective. Therefore it behooves us to choose such material from out the past experiences of the communities as will interpret the present, and to manifest such skill in method of presentation that local history teaching may not fail "because it is not picturesque enough."
The history of any community is the history of the common man, and as there is a constant struggle in adjustment to environment, history is ever in the process of making, is not static, but ever in a fluid state, progressing, changing as time goes on. The aim of local history teaching may then said to be "to make the children more intelligent with respect to the more crucial activities, conditions and problems of present-day life," by selecting those typical activities which serve this purpose. Certain interesting elements indicative of changes constantly taking place appear in the study of every community in which the people should have wholesome pride.
Certainly Baltimore County has a rich background which lends dignity to the present and out of the days of long ago step stately figures who add charm to every scene; stirring events that warm the blood; and spots hallowed by the acts of brave ones; yes, changing persons and events — moving pictures emphasizing three distinct periods: "In Those Days," "Yesterday" and "Today." With sufficient fact and the gift of imagination at one's command, one can weave about even the commonplace event the veil of enchantment and give that touch of human interest which will help children to realize in simple fashion that the past contributes to the present.
In the "Real Stories from Baltimore County History" an attempt has been made to record simple facts gleaned from firsthand sources in the neighborhood by teachers and children through talks with the oldest residents, by means of old letters, manuscripts, wills, old newspapers, church records, publications made by land companies, and from that most reliable source Scharflf's "History of Baltimore County." The events which indicate changes in the community have been chosen and these naturally enough fall into the three groups, viz, the early pioneer days, the colonial days, and after stage-coach days, into the present, for each community has passed through the same typical experiences.
A close study of the early development of the whole country reveals the fact that there was a large stream of emigration filtering through the county at approximately the same time, settling on the large land grants; therefore one part of the county has not much priority over another as far as the early settlements are concerned. It is interesting to find that the northern and eastern portion was settled as early or earlier than the shores of the bay and river.
Baltimore County, like the State, had a flourishing period of country life when the needs of the manor house and the small home were supplied by the varied home industries on the estates. This is the colonial period of which one desires to make so much because it has the quality of picturesqueness and affords a desirable background against which all later developments may be contrasted to advantage. It is interesting to note that in this period Baltimore County had no towns; very few, if any, had come into existence — Joppa, Elkridge Landing, Baltimore Town — these were the great centers of trade. Therefore few towns and villages of the present day can boast of colonial history.
For this reason it is essential that the historical facts of the immediate environment be placed in their proper relation to the larger community, the district and the county as a whole, for only in this way can an intelligent interpretation be made. This is perfectly obvious in the study of Catonsville and environs, which practically includes every town in the district, or in Reisterstown, with its background of Soldiers' Delight Hundred and Green Spring Valley. The history of any small town and village within the district is practically the same, barring the few differences within the town itself. Whatever has formed the past of one has also been the inheritance of the other. The history of the district is the heritage of every child of that district.
Further, not only is it essential to familiarize one's self with the history of the local community which reaches beyond the environs of the village, but it is also necessary to stress certain pertinent historic facts which are of more than local interest, to gain an idea of the changes through which Baltimore County has passed and the air of dignity which she has worn throughout the years.
The material has been arranged to give the teacher a point of view; to give her perspective, in short, in order that the apparently insignificant event may assume the place it deserves. There has been little attempt to change the rehearsal of fact from the standpoint of the adult to that of the little nine year old; that still remains as a part of the teacher's magic as she meets her class face to face. The stories should be told in simple, narrative style, enhanced by pictures and other illustrative material, together with visits to available spots whenever possible. Occasionally an old resident should be invited to give some reminiscences to the children. A colonial loan exhibit would be invaluable. Various kinds of constructive work, such as making candles, afford enjoyment, as well as the means by which to vivify and clarify what might otherwise have little meaning.
Two programs, Reisterstown and Arlington, are incorporated, illustrating the principle of motivation in school work. Suggestive treatment of the material from the standpoint of both the teacher and the pupil is presented in some detail, and indicates the dignity which the local history may assume when unified by untiring effort of the teacher in securing co-operation of the children, parents and others in the community. The task is not insurmountable, though it requires thoughtful consideration of the subject matter, placing emphasis only upon those features which help to make today intelligible to the little children, for one is never to lose sight of the fact that the past is taught, not for the sake of the past, but for the sake of the present.
While the material has been arranged in chronological order with the purpose of emphasizing sequence of changes which time hath wrought, the psychological order takes precedence in its presentation to children. We can never ignore the fact that children are primarily interested in those persons and places and events which are closely associated with their own meagre experience first of all. Concrete, firsthand experience with real persons, places and events are essential in developing the historic sense which is only gradually emerging in little Third Grade children, consequently it seems best to present the story of "Once Upon a Time in Our Town and Vicinity" before presenting "Baltimore County" in any detail. The Contents aim to indicate a time sequence as well as to suggest the selected group of stories which seem properly to be the heritage of all Baltimore County children. The arrangement and amount of detail will, in each instance, be determined by the background of concrete experience which can be made available to the children.
It is desired here to express appreciation to those principals, grammar grade teachers and their children who have contributed both data and illustrations from time to time, and to that innumerable host of parents and friends who have answered the queries of children from day to day with such unfailing courtesy.
Grateful acknowledgment is here made to the spirit of co- operation which has made this compilation possible.
Table of Contents
A Foreword 1
I. Once Upon a Time in Our Community
II. Once Upon a Time in Baltimore County
III. Once Upon a Time in Baltimore Town 46
IV. Once Upon a Time in Our Town and Vicinity
V. After Stage Coach Days
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We have many new buildings in our neighborhood. The one we like best of all is our new Community Building. It is just what its name suggests, a building for the community or neighborhood. Many interesting things occur in this community center, or common meeting place. Let us name the different departments, all under one roof, and see if something is not provided for everyone in the community. There is the drug store, where all sorts of drugs are kept in large glass bottles; there is the soda fountain, where one may get a cooling drink on a hot summer's day; and better than all is the candy case, which holds all kinds of sweets for you. In another corner of the building you will find the grocery store, and nearby is the lunchroom, where one may obtain sandwiches and a glass of milk. Nor is this all. This community building has playrooms for grown-ups, for above is the hall where dances are held, where musicals are given, where neighborhood plays are presented. Just below this large room is a pool-room and bowling alley, and at the rear is the fire-engine house. The building was opened to the public October 9, 1915. Since then many neighborhood affairs have been held there. One cannot fail to see it, as it is a large building standing on the corner of Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak avenues.