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The life and Times of
John & Helen Fuss

John Fuss Jr.

Chapter 1: John's Early Years

John M. Fuss, Sr. was born on February 8, 1897.  He was the son of Edward Meade Fuss and Mary Catherine Baumgardner Fuss.  He was born on the farm about three hundred yards east of the old Toms Creek Lutheran and Methodist Cemetery on the road leading from the Emmitsburg-Taneytown Pike to Four Points.

The farm had been in the Fuss family since the 1850's when John and Hettie Fuss (his grandparents) moved there.  Prior to this, they lived on a farm on the same road but closer to the Taneytown Pike, and apparently rented this farm out to others.  Edward M. Fuss married Mary C. Baumgardner in 1888 and moved to this farm.  The children born to this union were: 

  1. Carrie Mabel born November 5, 1890 
  2. Charles Russell born September 2, 1892 
  3. Elmer Lloyd born May 24, 1895 
  4. John M. Fuss, Sr. born February 8, 1897 
  5. Clarence Meade born March 8, 1900 
  6. Marian Ruth born 1903, died 1904 
  7. Robert William born November 14, 1908

There were many relatives living on nearby farms.  John's Uncle William owned the farm adjacent to the south.  His great aunt married a man named Weant and lived in the small house across the field.  The Ohler families were cousins who lived on the other side of the cemetery.

My father often spoke of a cousin, Rueben Morrison, who was related in some way to the Ohlers and lived on the same road north of the cemetery.  When John and his brothers were little boys, the much older Rueben would don a sheet and they would see him moving around the cemetery.

The Fusses were very active members in the Toms Creek Methodist Episcopal Church.  Edward Meade served on the Official Board, as a Trustee, and as a Sunday School teacher.  John was an active participant in the church from a young age.  He had many recollections of the old Toms Creek Church located between the two cemeteries before it was torn down in 1904.

John began his formal education at the one-room elementary school called the Ridge School.  It was just south of the present Toms Creek Church.  He walked to school accompanied by his older sister and brothers, but also remembered being carried there on horseback when the snow was deep.

When John was seven, Edward Fuss purchased the former Gillelan farm on the Emmitsburg-Taneytown Road.  The farm was located about one mile east of Emmitsburg and close to Middle Creek.  This was a fertile farm of 140 acres and considered one of the best in Emmitsburg district.  Middle Creek flowed through it, providing a good water supply for livestock.  It was also transversed by the Emmitsburg-Taneytown Road, and a lane went from the Emmitsburg - Taneytown Road to the Harney Road.  The Harney Road was the northern border for part of the farm.

Soon after this move, an accident occurred which would affect John for the rest of his life.  The children had been given some sort of tricycle as a present by one of their aunts from New York City.  The children were playing with it and somehow an accident occurred where John's leg was badly bruised.  Some medical attention was given, but evidently it was not adequate, and the leg became badly infected.

As a result, John required medical care for more than a year and spent substantially all of that time at the Frederick Hospital.  It probably would have been only a short recovery with today's medical knowledge and techniques.  At that time, the Frederick Hospital consisted of less than twenty beds and a small nursing staff and a few doctors.  John was subjected to at least fifteen operations.  Doctor Johnson was the medical person in charge, and the nurse in charge was Miss Nies.

Miss Nies herself told me that everyone associated with the hospital was so pleased with this fine little boy who was in their hospital for almost a year.  He was kept in the hospital because they knew that continual treatment was required and that many more operations would be necessary.  It was felt that he might have difficulty in leaving his home again and again, and resist returning to the hospital.  His father came by train about every four weeks to visit him and evidently to see about his treatment.  His mother did not come often, probably due to fear of the trauma caused by the separation at the end of the visit.

While he was in the hospital, one of his ward mates was Mr. Nead who lived in Frederick.  An older gentlemen who had served as a fireman on a railroad locomotive, he had also worked as a boiler fireman for a local company located in the eastern part of Frederick.  When he recovered, he did not forget the little boy in the hospital.  When John was finally permitted to leave, Mr. Nead, a bachelor, took John to his own home and also took him on train rides to such places as Harpers Ferry, Washington, and Baltimore.

Some of the medicine prescribed included arsenic.  John started out by taking two drops a day.  Then it was increased to four drops, and then six drops, until he was finally taking eight drops per day.  In any event, the treatment was finally completed, but the numerous operations left his right leg about two inches shorter than the other one.  The knee was greatly deformed because the bone had been set differently than normal.  However, when he was 88 years old and examined by a doctor in my presence, the doctor commented that someone with a leg like that would be considered handicapped today.

John never permitted this infirmity to interfere with his life.  After leaving the hospital and returning home, he evidently was given different chores from the other boys.  He often mentioned that, when he was young, he would prepare the breakfast for the rest of the family.

With the move to the former Gillelan place, he transferred to a new school, and now attended the one-room Ohler's School.  He and his brothers walked to the school up the old lane, through the covered bridge over Middle Creek, and on up the Harney Road to Ohler's school.  The distance was more than a mile.  He was quite active in school, and was apparently a very bright student.  However, he also owned a popgun, so he must have been mischievous as well.  He often talked about his first teacher, Miss Mary Weygant, who lived on the Gettysburg Road and walked to Ohler's School every day.

John spoke often of his Baumgardner grandparents.  Moses and Ann Stambaugh Baumgardner lived near Keysville.  They had ten children and most of these children had fairly large families of their own, so it was a large gathering when they all got together, as they often did.  The Keysville picnic was also held by the Church in their picnic grove on the first Saturday of each August.  At that time, Grandma Baumgardner would bring her Dayton wagon loaded with goodies and would feed and entertain all of the grandchildren.  Edward Fuss would not permit playing cards in his house nor would he allow his sons to play ball on Sunday.  They would skate on the frozen creek in the winter and sometimes take part in other activities, including fishing, on Sundays.

The Fuss boys did have a mischievous streak. They would sometimes place a pocketbook on the highway attached to a hard-to-see wire.  The boys would hide and wait for an automobile to come along and the driver to spot the pocketbook.  By the time the car stopped and driver got out to pick up his find, it would have been pulled away and out of sight.  There also were times when the old pocketbook would have been filled with material from the barnyard.  In these cases, the unwary driver was permitted to find the object, before throwing it away in disgust.

Little was mentioned about his Fuss grandparents because they died before John was born.

After completing six grades at Ohler's school, John went to high school in Emmitsburg.  John graduated from Emmitsburg High School in early June 1913.  He said that his father was very proud of him, because he was his first child to graduate from high school.  However, a few days later tragedy struck.

At that time, local farmers attempted to reduce the acidity in their soils and improve the productivity of their land by applying lime.  This limestone was mined from local quarries, smelted, and taken by the farmers to their fields to "slack" it before spreading.  The hauling was done by each individual farmer.

On one early June morning, Edward intended to go to get another load of lime.  My father vividly remembered what took place at the breakfast table that morning.  When the meal was finished, he told each of his children what to do.  Elmer, Charles and Clarence were given specific farm tasks.  Before leaving, he told my father, "John, you take good care of your mother." 

Edward went to the Roddy Quarry on Lime Kiln Road, southeast of St. Anthony's.  He picked up the load of lime and was driving his team of horses back to the farm.  The road south of Emmitsburg paralleled the tracks of the Emmitsburg Railroad.  While the team was going along close to the entrance to St. Joseph's College, an approaching train sounded the whistle.  This frightened the horses and they reared back, breaking the wagon tongue and throwing Edward off the lazy board.

A news article from the paper reported that Edward Fuss was trampled by the horses.  He was taken to the doctor's office in Emmitsburg, but never really regained consciousness.  He died within 48 hours at the age of 49.  My father described the funeral.  The undertaker performed his embalming and other work at the Fuss home and was assisted by my father in this task.  The funeral was very heavily attended.  After the internment, my father recalled a great gathering of people at the home.

Edward M. Fuss had been a widely respected person.  He had served very actively in Toms Creek Methodist Church and as a school director, and had organized the telephone company which served his area.

John continued his education despite his father's death.  He took the commercial course offered through the public school system at Thurmont High School.  An Emmitsburg High classmate, Ruth Linn, also studied in Thurmont for that year.  A member of the Linn family drove them into Thurmont on Monday morning in a horse and buggy. They roomed in separate homes during the week and attended classes.  The total cost for room and board was $1.80 per week.

On Friday afternoon, John's sister Carrie brought both students back to Emmitsburg.  John completed the two year course in one year and was able to type, take shorthand, and so on. Thus, he also graduated from Thurmont High School in 1914.  As I understand it, John was offered an opportunity for an office position in Frederick.

However, both Charles and Carrie were planning their marriages at that time, and the family felt that John was needed on the farm.  While he and Elmer were farming for their mother, John apparently took care of most of the book work and business affairs.  He also did most of the grocery and other shopping for the family.

After her husband's death, Mary C. Fuss continued to operate the farm.  Charles was married in 1916 and Carrie in 1917, and they left to set up their own homes.  Elmer and John continued to operate the farm for their mother.  They were paid $100.00 per year and later $200.00, and received free room and board.  At this time, there was a considerable amount of road building work taking place in the area, especially on the Emmitsburg-Taneytown Road.  The Fuss teams and wagons were rented out for up to $6.00 per day.  Their mother collected all the money, because she was paying the sons an annual wage.  Of course, Elmer and John did have a good living with the room and board provided and with some other income from work on other farms.

Read Chapter 2: The Bachelor Years

Read other chapters in the life and times of John and Helen Fuss

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