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A History of Rocky Ridge

James Rada, Jr.

Rocky ridge has always been there. That is the rocky ridge the ironstone ridge that runs from Virginia up to Gettysburg, Pa. and produces the red slate soil.

Rocky Ridge the town is a different matter. No one is quite sure when the name came into use.

"Even residents knowledgeable about their local history are reluctant to assign a specific year as the village’s date of founding," Marie Anne Erickson wrote in a 1991 Frederick Magazine article.

A 1980 Frederick Post article noted that "Time has swallowed the name of the man who gave Rocky Ridge its name."

The land that makes up the town, or parts of the town, has been called by various names depending on the owners. The Historical Society of Frederick County has a typewritten document titled History of Rocky Ridge, Maryland that in 1789, the village was called Ogleton after the family who owned the land. It is apparently noted on a privately-held deed of property owned by the by Valentine family at the time.

The Valentine Family, whose members appear throughout Rocky Ridge’s history, owned a large amount of property northeast of town. Jacob Valentine owned land called "Stony Hill." He bought a tract from George Valentine called "White Oak Hill" in 1783 and had the properties resurveyed and listed as "Valentine’s Good Will."

Henry Krise, a Revolutionary War soldier, owned a large parcel east of the present-day town that he called "Turkey Thickett." He had bought additional property and had it resurveyed in 1800 and the name became "Krise’s Establishment."

John Eigenbrode was a blacksmith who owned property west of town on the road to Loys Station.

Other people joined this group of founding citizens, building businesses along the roads and their homes near their businesses. Rocky Ridge has never been a large community, even in its heyday when it had five general stores, dance hall and churches, the population was less than 100 people within the town itself.


The Church of the Brethren is oldest church in Rocky Ridge. The Monocacy Congregation, which uses the church, was formed in 1842 and met in a log school every other week. Elders Philip Boyle, O.E. Michael, Peter Miller and Daniel Miller, all from the Pipe Creek Church in Carroll County formally organized the new congregation in 1855 at which time a stone church was built. Daniel P. Saylor was the minister in charge of this new congregation for more than 30 years until his death, according to the History and Biographical Record of Frederick County, Md., Volume I.

The Mt. Tabor Lutheran and Reformed Church was built in 1875 of stone from the John Ott Farm, about a mile north of the church. The original trustees were Edward Long and Michael Lippy for the Reformed congregation and James E. Valentine and Michael Eichelberger for the Lutheran congregation.

Though Mt. Tabor Park is now thought of as the park with the wooden slide, it was originally conceived as a religious retreat. In the early part of the 20th Century, the land owner, Howard Brevard, decided to cut down the oak trees on the property and sell the lumber.

"Dr. [P. E.] Heimer [the pastor at the Reformed Church] has always been and still is a great lover of trees and he thought it would be a shame to destroy all of those beautiful trees," according to History of Rocky Ridge, Maryland. "So, it was decided to buy six acres of this ground. This was purchased on August 30, 1919 and was dedicated September 21 of the same year."

A tabernacle, which could seat 200 people was built the following year. It is still used for Sunday services during the summer. However, the park also became a popular gathering spot for picnics, festivals and family reunions.

Because of the popularity of the park, additional land was purchased in 1923 and 1925, bringing the total acreage to 16. Community picnics at the times were so popular that as many as 10,000 people might attend.

A group of volunteers built Frederick County’s longest and steepest slide in the spring of 1950. It is made of hardwood flooring surrounded by a structure made of lumber in the park. The slide is 35 feet high and 100 feet long.

A 1951 fire destroyed the slide, which became one of the first fire calls for the Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company. Firefighters were on scene for 7.5 hours. The slide was rebuilt after the fire and remains a popular attraction.


Nothing is known of the first schoolhouse in Rocky Ridge except that is was made of log and was where the Church of the Brethren met until 1855.

Sometime after 1882, the Joshua Biggs family donated two acres of land along the road from Rocky Ridge to Creagerstown for the purpose of building a house for the school teacher and contributed to the building of the second school house. "This was a one-room brick building in which Dosia Long, the writer’s aunt taught for several years. Miss Long was also an artist having studied in Paris, France," according to the History of Rocky Ridge, Maryland. Other teachers who taught at this school were William Martin, Marian E. Eichelberger, Emma J. Eichelberger and J. H. Seabrook.

This property and the building was sold in 1927 and a new school was built on the south side of the road leading from Rocky Ridge to Thurmont just a short distance from the town square.

Roy Dinterman remembered playing hooky from school as a child and playing practical jokes at school. "Someone would untie the bell rope, which then dropped through the hole. The teacher would pay a quarter to one of the kids to put it back up," Dinterman recalled.

This school had two rooms and was built of brick. It closed in 1942 when the Frederick County Board of Education began busing students to schools in Emmitsburg and Thurmont.


Rocky Ridge got its own U.S. Post Office in 1870. James Black was the first postmaster and the post office was located in his store, which was on the southwest corner of the town square. William Biggs became the postmaster on August 1, 1893, and the post office was moved from Black’s store to Biggs’ home. Even as late as 1915, mail was still delivered on horseback.

When the U.S. Postal Service closed the Rocky Ridge post office in 1991, the Rocky Ridge Fire Company voted to rent the meeting room in the fire hall to the post office for free. The post office signed a $1 a year, five-year contract with the fire company and dedicated the new post office on December 16, 1991.

Electricity first came to Rocky Ridge in 1922, according to History of Rocky Ridge, Maryland.

Robert Biggs, a former resident of the town who was then a lawyer in Baltimore, gave the community a $1,000 endowment for a library in 1934. The community raised another $600 and added a wooden room onto the school building that served as a library for the Rocky Ridge Community. The interest from the endowment was used to buy new books each year. It became the Robert Biggs Memorial Library. When the school building was sold, the library’s contents were moved to the Junior Order United American Mechanics.

The Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company took responsibility for the library in 1990. The company officers also became the library officers. The library is now housed in the Rocky Ridge Activity Building.


One of the early named businesses in Rocky Ridge was the Western Maryland Railroad. A station opened in Rocky Ridge in 1870. Sheridan Biggs was the first freight agent and telegraph operator. He served in that position until 1907.

W. H. Albaugh opened the first store in Rocky Ridge in 1882. James Black eventually bought the store and began operating it. The building burned down in 1912. Elsworth Valentine built a combination store and house on the same site in 1918.

The Englar Cigar Box Company operated in town from 1887 until 1920. The factor was located where the volunteer fire company parking lot is now. The company manufactured wooden cigar boxes cigar makers before cardboard boxes became the norm. The company’s motto was: "Superior quality, best lumber, neatly finished." The wooden cigar boxes are now considered collector’s items if one can be found.

Isaac Fisher opened the Rocky Ridge Elevator Company in 1900. It closed in 1914 when the building was destroyed by fire. N.O. Sharrer and Charles Wood reopened the business on the same site in 1915. It continued until 1945 under various owners until the Thurmont Cooperative took it over.

Grayson Valentine and his son, Ira, built a general store in town in 1902. It was located on the town square opposite the Elsworth Valentine store.

William Clem opened a garage in town in 1921 that is located on the road between Rocky Road and Detour near the town square.

The largest business currently in Rocky Ridge opened in 1966. The Baltimore Brick Works was located on 800 acres and used Gettysburg shale to make 40 million bricks a year in 30 different colors. It was a subsidiary of the Arundel Corporation. Today, the company is one of the four Redland Brick Company manufacturing plants. The bricks are now fired in a computer-controlled kiln and formed by placing mud in wood molds.

Some of the other businesses that were known to have been in the town were a blacksmith shop owned by Michael Eichelberger, a stone mill along the Road from Rocky Ridge to Creagerstown was owned first by Jerry Martin and then John Long. The latter operated well into the 20th century. A couple of people have run small coal mining operations in town over the years as well.

Fire Company and Fires

A large fire swept through town on a Saturday night in 1911, marking Rocky Ridge’s greatest catastrophe.

"I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do," Ethel Mumma told the Frederick Post in 1980. She was only 15 years old at the time. "We had no fire department, and all of the people living in the nearby houses were busy taking all of their furniture out of their homes and putting it in the street. They were sure that their houses would be engulfed in the fire."

The fire began in one of the five general stores in town at the time. A bucket brigade was formed that tried to douse the adjacent houses and keep them from burning. The store was lost as well as the dance hall above it.

For the most part, though, Rocky Ridge was fire free as long as the residents were vigilant. For example in 1931, sparks from the Western Maryland Railroad engine ignited nearby brush and started a fire that was moving toward town. Luckily, a group of people at a reunion in Mt. Tabor Park saw the flames and moved quickly to put them out.

The Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company was formed on May 9, 1949, with Marshall Fishpaw as president. A light company was being formed at the same time and one of the first duties of the fire company was to maintain the street lights in Rocky Ridge as well the was pond that the company would draw water from to fight fires.

The Rocky Ridge Hall Association provided the company with its first fire hall on Longs Mill Road just south of town in 1950. At the time, it was also agreed that any Rocky Ridge organization would be able to use the hall free of charge.

Fire calls in the early years of the company were rare. Many years there were fewer than 10. Nearly all of these early calls were made verbally rather than with an alarm.

The first piece of equipment purchased was a Model A Ford engine from the Vigilant Hose Company for $1,000 in 1951. It was paid for through the company’s fundraising efforts that included dinners, card parties and festivals.

An engine room was needed for the engine and William Martin and his wife sold the company the land in 1952. Leon Stover and Roy Dinterman built the engine room.

The first new fire engine was purchased in 1955. It was a Dodge truck with an American Fire Apparatus body that had a 400-gallon booster tank and a 500 GPM front mount pump. The engine and the equipment for it cost $1,175.

In 1964, the fire company purchased 1.5 acres north of the town square on Motters Station Road. The land already had a house on it, which the fire company rented. Construction of a new fire hall on the land began in October 1965 and the building was dedicated a year later with Congressman Charles MacMathias and Maryland Comptroller Louis Goldstein attending.

The Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1955.

According to history of the fire company on their web site, "The blizzard of 1993 took its toll on fire calls, the company had a diabetic call where the ambulance crew came on snowmobiles, and then the company had to watch a house burn down, because the road was blocked and the engines could not get there."

The company purchased land for $35,500 in 1994 from the Church of the Brethren to build a new fire hall. The land is on Motters Station Road. The following year, the fire company purchased a Morton building for the new hall, a 90 x 81-foot engine room and a 30 x 102-foot office area. The building’s total area was 10,350 square feet and cost $255,000.

The fire company celebrated its 50-year anniversary during 1999 with a number of different events throughout the year. During the kick-off banquet on January 28, the web site history noted, "We gave the souvenir booklets, mugs, and pocket calendars away at the banquet. We had around 216 people there. The banner was displayed inside the fire hall, and we set up another little display at the back of the fire hall. It was a fun and exciting year. We had T-shirts, golf shirts, and sweatshirts made up with the old fire station and the model A and the new fire station and Engine 132 on the back. The banner that was on display was a picture of the Model A Ford with 50th anniversary and 1949-1999 dates on."

Other events included a breakfast in February, a banquet in March, a ladies auxiliary basket bingo in April and an open house in May. More than 265 people attended the open house event.

Rocky Ridge Today

Although there are several thriving businesses in town most residents prefer the quiet, bedroom atmosphere that continues to exist.

Rocky Ridge remains a community that is primarily made of up of farmers and commuters to surrounding areas. But no matter how you are or ware you came from, if you live in Rocky Ridge, you know your living in God’s country!

Read other histories of local communities