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"Old Franklinville"

A. W. Cissel

Just north of Mechanicstown, the Frederick-Emmitsburg Turnpike made a wide swing to the west, curving as it crossed Owens Creek. The bustling community that developed along both sides of the creek and this section of the road was called Franklin Mills, later Franklinville. At the turn of the 20th century, it had its own Post Office, (officially named Roddy's), a schoolhouse, general store, blacksmiths and other small shops interspersed with the large orchards and farmlands.

Since 1954 when the highway (now Route #15) was rerouted to straighten the road, the Franklinville section was bypassed but echoes of its past remain. Take Franklinville Road as it, begins at the Gateway Market, and as you drive it, paralleling the highway you pass some of its history in its farm houses, the old brick toll-house and the yellow brick building that was the last Franklinville schoolhouse.

Franklinville developed around the site of an early mill first established in 1828 and sold by Jacob Firor to tanner Daniel Rouzer in 1831. Daniel conveyed it to his son-in-law William Landers in 1834 who operated it for 40 years. The mill was located just south of creek on the main road. The stagecoach from Frederick to Emmitsburg ran three times a week, but the road was so bad, the trip began before dawn. In 1858 the Mechanicstown to Emmitsburg Turnpike was built, requiring the payment of a fee or toll to use this "improved" road. One of the toll houses was located north of Landers Mill. (This two-story brick house is still standing, though in ruinous condition).

The original mill was three-stories with water wheels that were 12 feet high and 7 feet across. In the last quarter of the 19th century it was owned by Gettysburg College and leased to various millers. J. Wesley Creeger bought the mill and the surrounding farms, but died shortly thereafter. In October, 1912 Carl Gall purchased the "Mill Farm" from his (Creeger) father-in-law's estate, paying $45.00 an acre for the 173 acres, with the grist mill, new bank barn, brick "Mansion House" and orchards. The mill operated until 1918 when Mr. Gall sold the machinery to Henry Finnyfrock for $500, before demolishing the building. In 1920 J. Hooker Lewis purchased the Mill Farm for $25,000."

The meadows around the creek and mill saw some history on July 5, 1863 when Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and about 2,000 of his exhausted Confederate cavalrymen stopped to rest and to feed their weary horses as they covered the left flank of Lee's army retreating from the horrors of Gettysburg. According to the "Baltimore Sun" correspondent they spent five hours at Franklin Mills before moving off toward Deerfield. Eyewitnesses later recounted that the oats, wheat and rye taken from the mill was strewn out along the roadbed to make a giant feeding trough for the horses and mules. Although patrols galloped over the nearby roads scouting for Yankee troops, little damage was done, except for the loss of 6 mules and two horses appropriated from Mr. Landers.

Just before the northern end of the old road curves east again to rejoin the highway, the yellow brick schoolhouse can still be seen. Built in 1889/90 it was the third at Franklinville, the second having been located on an island in Owens Creek , was heavily damaged by the same storm of May, 1889 that caused the Johnston Flood in Pa. The new school would consolidate nearby Payne's school with the Franklinville children. Contractor Joseph Weddle's bid of $1,097 was successful. Specifications called for a 60 X 40 foot brick building of one-story, two classrooms and halls. When nearing completion in January,

1890 the "catoctin Clarion" pronounced it an imposing structure" and one which "would enhance the neighborhood".

Hundreds of children went through the 7 grades at Franklinville school before it was closed. The Thurmont newspaper usually published an annual picture of the students.

Even after teaching was no longer done there, the building was used as a community center for village meetings, Sunday schools and local entertainments. Later the building was turned into a private residence. Though shorn of its bell tower and boasting some modernizations (the privies are gone), it is still a tangible link to the past for many local families--- one of the landmarks of "Old Franklinville".

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Read more articles by Anne Cissel