Written By Linda Morton
Silver Run: An intriguing name for a place, filled with innuendo and metaphorical possibilities for the imaginative mind.
In reality, the name fits the community perfectly. There is mystery, allegiance, beauty, and a sweet serenity to this historic northern Carroll County community.
It is a simple, yet surreal place, an incongruous juxtaposition of the present and past that plays with our sense of reality, time, and place.
Commuters whiz up and down Highway 97 (Littlestown Pike) between 21st century jobs and homes, while imagined ghosts of German farmers from the 1700s, soldiers from the Civil War era, and cannery workers from the early 1900s linger in the shadows.
A lot has happened in this rural community over the past 250 years.
Germans who settled Silver Run Valley in the 1700s were migrating south from Pennsylvania in search of new lands to farm. With names like Shriver (yes, as in the in-laws of Eunice Kennedy Shriver), Utz, Baugher, and Feeser, they were known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Silver Run Valley offered the kind of Shangri-la they wanted, so they stayed and put down roots, many renting land from Lord Baltimore at 1 cent an acre.
The name “Silver Run” refers to both the community and one of three streams that intersect the area. The namesake stream runs parallel to and north of Cherrytown Road to the right of Littlestown Pike about a half mile north of the intersection of Mayberry Road and Littlestown Pike.
The name also refers to a local legend passed down in oral history from the German settlers. According to the legend of the lost silver mine of Silver Run, a German silversmith was befriended by the Susquehannock Indians. They let him take silver from a secret mine with the stipulation that he would tell no one about their agreement. On his daughter’s 13th birthday, he gave her a beautiful brooch that he had made. She begged him to show her the mine.
He blindfolded her and took her to see the mine and his workplace. On the way back, she broke branches to leave a trail and later took a friend to see the spot. For this betrayal, the Indians killed the silversmith and his daughter. The legend says their ghosts still roam the valley, and three people will die looking for the mine before it will be found again. Supposedly, two people have already died looking for it.
Some say the mine is where Silver Run stream and two others join together somewhere near Kirkhoff Road. Today this location is private property.
According to longtime Silver Run resident and unofficial mayor, John Stuffle, some believed the mine must have been under the stream because there was no evidence of mining the land. Others have heard that the silver vein was in a cave, the entrance of which is covered now by a large rock.
Local author Lois Szymanski has researched and written about the legend in her children’s book Silver Lining (out of print but returning in 2007 under the new name, A Pony to the Rescue). A resident of Silver Run for 25 years, Szymanski says her book gives the true version of the legend which she discovered in Jesse Glass’s book Ghosts and Legends of Carroll County.
At the center of the rural village, two St. Mary’s churches maintain the continuity of the community. Despite their separate affiliations, they remain inextricably intertwined by a common heritage as well as the same namesake.
The earliest residents of Silver Run shared a worship space as a union congregation, two different churches using the same building, both founded in 1762. By the 1890s, the congregations were large enough to build their own churches, but they did not move far from each other.
The German Reformed Church, now St. Mary’s United Church of Christ, built its brick church house in 1890 on Mayberry Rd. St. Mary’s Evangelical Lutheran congregation built a stone edifice two doors down on the corner of Littlestown Pike and Mayberry Road in 1894.
Silver Run residents share a cemetery that is owned by neither church. Descendants of original Silver Run settlers serve in a Cemetery Association to see that the burial grounds (across Mayberry Road and in between both churches) are carefully maintained. Just above the plots to the left, a grove of trees has overgrown the location of the original log church. The community’s first cemetery covers the hill leading back up to Mayberry Road, but today it looks like just another grassy slope. The only clue that this was once a graveyard, other than the occasional sunken rectangle in the topography, is two rows of vintage tombstones marching shoulder to shoulder across the top of the hill.
When encroaching weeds and vines interfered with mowing the cemetery and maintaining the fragile stones in the 1920s, locals moved the tombstones to the top of the hill and lined them together in two long strands.
They stand tightly together in this odd arrangement because descendants of the deceased wanted to preserve the old markers commemorating the lives of their ancestors.
Between the collected tombstones at the top of the hill and the grove at the bottom, a giant tree stump intrudes upon the open green slope of the hill. It remains because captured in its bark, literally swallowed in its growth, a tombstone leans at an angle, stuck in the tree that sprouted too close to the grave. The stone, engraved in German, demands attention. The unique melding of nature and civilization was featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not catalog of oddities (probably in the 1960s, according to longtime Silver Run resident Doris Brewer).
A more recent tombstone, probably placed 100 years later in the 1800s, stands alone on Arters Mill Road, far from the German founders of Silver Run. It marks the solitary grave of the “Beloved Slave Eliza.” Questions abound regarding this tombstone: Who owned Eliza? Which family did she serve back then? How did she die? Why is she buried in an isolated grave? No one knows for certain.
By the 1800s, Silver Run families were entrenched, but they were not of one mind about their allegiance to the Union. Troops from both sides passed through the area. More than 60,000 Union troops came through Carroll County enroute to Gettysburg. The dust of the soldiers marching up Littlestown Pike could be seen from Little Round Top, and the guns from Gettysburg could be heard in Silver Run as the battle raged.
Carroll County historian Tom Legore confirms the story of Confederate prisoners enjoying some Silver Run pie on their way to prison camps in Westminster after the battle of Gettysburg. His great, great, great grandfather, Jonas Legore, then 16, was the enterprising lad who swiped a couple of pies cooling on his mother’s window sill and offered them to the hungry prisoners – for a price. Tom Legore inherited a piece of tattered Confederate money, a 25 cent note, that paid for the pie.
After the war, Silver Run flourished during the 1880s and into the new century. The community boasted two hotels and a weekly newspaper called The Chatterbox.
In the early 1900s, Carroll County was home to more than 30 canneries. A. W. Feeser owned the largest with operations in three locations: Silver Run, Taneytown, and Keymar. Although Feeser died in 1945, his company continued under the leadership of family members into the 1960s.
Across Littlestown Pike from the Lutheran church and impossible to miss is the Greek Revival mansion built by Feeser, probably the community’s wealthiest resident of his day. The mansion was built in 1919-20.
Armond and Ann Darrin purchased the mansion in 2002. According to the Darrins’ research, the canning company was founded in 1908, incorporated in 1924, and sold in 1967. Products included corn, peas, string beans, sauerkraut, and tomatoes, all grown on Feeser’s farms or on contracted land. Close to 8 million cans were processed annually by 60 full-time employees and several hundred seasonal workers.
Feeser’s operation was both prolific and exemplary. In 1939 his white Ayrshire dairy cow, Nellie Gray, won Best of Show at the New York World’s Fair. Feeser installed automatic scales on site so that farmers were paid for their produce by the pound. They were able to drive their trucks onto the scales and weigh their produce by the load, a rare convenience in those days. He was also instrumental in bringing electric lights to Silver Run and Union Mills.
Today, after two centuries, the agrarian community of Silver Run is changing into a commuter’s haven, but the land is still good for growing.
Out Cherrytown Road, the grapes at Montbray Vineyard today contribute to Basciani wines. The vineyard was started in 1962 by Dr. G. Hamilton Mowbray. He grew grapes there until 1992 and was well-known for his agricultural research.
Silver Run is the proud location of one of Maryland’s special Wye oaks, a descendant from Maryland’s honorary state tree. Silver Run’s Wye was planted in 1955 by John Stuffle near the ball field on the south side of the community.
Businesses in Silver Run today include the Almega stair company, Brewer’s Market and Silver Run Station restaurant, all on Littlestown Pike. Brewer’s Market is the local grocery where community news is shared and the coffee is fresh and hot.
Founded by a man named Zacharias in 1916, the business began in a house across the street from its present location; back then it was half house, half store. George Bemiller ran the store from 1925-65. Guy and Doris Brewer owned the business from 1965-2005; their son, Doug, is now the owner as the market begins its ninth decade of continuous operation.
Silver Run Station offers contemporary fare in a building that has sheltered many residents and businesses. Owned today by Larry English and his partners, the restaurant has had many proprietors and titles since it was the Union Hotel in the 1800s.
The idyllic hamlet of Silver Run has had its share of notorious characters. During Prohibition, the operator of a prolific still on Georgetown Road supposedly advertised his product by diverting water from the creek to flow across the road. When the water ran, so too did the moonshine, thus signaling customers that a batch was ready for sale.
Apparently, Carroll County’s last hanging avenged a Silver Run resident’s murder on Friday, April 14, 1916, when Solomon Sudler was executed for the murder of William F. Brown.
According to a Carroll County Times April 20, 1997 reprint of the April 14, 1916 American Sentinel article about the hanging, Sudler admitted killing Brown, but Sudler claimed that Brown died from a stone wound and that the death was not intentional.
The deceased’s father-in-law, Theodore Kauffman, had the undertaker exhume the body for an autopsy. In fact, Brown had been shot. Sudler later confessed to taking a gun from Brown’s storeroom, hiding behind the stable door and shooting Brown as he emptied a pail of milk into a can.
Although farming and canning are no longer the primary industries in Silver Run, the countryside that first attracted German settlers remains a rural paradise. In an attempt to keep the community connected to its past, several Silver Run residents are working to maintain the community’s history and charm.
In September, they sponsored a gathering entitled, “The Secrets Among Us,” where Silver Run history and lore were presented. More events are being planned. Like the legendary veins of silver hidden somewhere close but still unreachable, Silver Run’s history remains embedded in the valley just waiting to be mined.