The Rise and Fall of Wade Warfield and Other Calamities – Part One – Sykesville for Sale
It’s a Saturday in October in the late 1920s and Sykesville, Maryland, is for sale. This is week two. Already, controlling interest in the stock of the Sykesville National Bank, the Herald Company, the Sykesville Realty and Investment Company, and the Maryland Milling & Supply Company has sold.
But that was last Saturday when money guys swooped in from the eastern shore and southern Maryland and Baltimore and Frederick and joined a few from Sykesville and Carroll County to buy stuff up. A man named Knapp from Baltimore now controls the local bank. An area farmer named Frank Beasman has taken over the Sykesville Herald.
Now, on this second Saturday of the selloff, they don’t come for stock. They’re gathered at the Arcade Building at 7566 Main Street. It’s three stories tall, one of the best buildings in town, and the men who’ve come aren’t here to admire it, they’re here to own it, the Arcade and a few buildings that go along with it.
And these buildings, like the stock last week, all have one thing in common, every brick, every board, every hunk of concrete and glass is, or was, owned by the same man.
The man himself has been sick and mostly in bed since July and seems helpless to stop the dismantling of his empire, as one by one, the assets of a lifetime are sold out from under him. Farms, horses, prized bulls, the best buildings in town, most of Sykesville really, and the entire town of Marriottsville.
1917 – Broke in a Winkling
But let’s stop for a moment and go back even further, back a decade to June of 1917, when a different group gathers in downtown Sykesville. Only this time it’s not a bunch of well-dressed, well-off, booming-twenties bankers, rubbing their hands and trying to get more rich outbidding the locals.
This time the men are dirty, their faces grim, their fingernails grimy, their clothes worn. They don’t come to buy. They come to survive. They gather in the Lyceum in the top floor of the bank building right beside the Arcade.
The Lyceum started life as a theater, but now it’s the town movie house, where for 15 cents, or 10 if you’re a kid, you can watch a film called “The War” that week, featuring “Actual Motion Pictures of The Great European War.” During the film, you can hear the projector. You can hear the shuffling of feet, coughing, gasps, but you can’t hear the guns or the engines or the shouts. Movies are silent and will be for another decade.
By now, the town’s namesake, James Sykes, is a forgotten man. He died at 90 in 1881, and most of what he built is long gone, wiped out in the “Black Friday” flood of 1868, shortly after the town escaped the Civil War mostly unscathed, even though plenty of the town’s men fought on one side or the other. This is a different Sykesville, a different time, dominated by a different man, and concerned with a different war.
This time it’s the great European War, which will someday be known as World War I. It’s insane, brutal, mechanized, and very bloody, an all-consuming disaster in the process of snuffing sixteen million lives.
American is finally getting in, and soon boys from Carroll County will leave in cars and wagons and trains and sail overseas with thousands of other Americans to charge out of trenches in France and turn the tide of what’s become a suicidal stalemate.
Now, though, in June of 1917, none of this matters to the gathering in the Lyceum. Sykesville is a small lightly populated island in a sea of farms. Most of these men are farmers, and they’ve just suffered a disaster that has nothing to do with the catastrophic squabbles of the European nobility.
Once again, as in 1868, when a flood washed away most of town, and 1913, when an out-of-place, out-of-season tornado ripped a swath of destruction through the surrounding countryside, nature, not man, is the enemy, and farmers all over the area are in desperate need.
The meeting was arranged by members of the B. F. Shriver Canning Company, which has just opened across the river and will build the large complex depicted in this 1936 photo, and also by the most important man in Sykesville, who sold the land, once owned by Sykes, to the canning company.
The man is a Democratic State Senator representing Carroll County in Annapolis. He parts his hair in the middle. He’s 53 and immaculately groomed. He wears pince-nez glasses, like Theodore Roosevelt, spats, a necktie, and the most stylish clothing of his era. He owns a fancy Cadillac convertible, wears a derby hat, carries a cane or a riding crop, and has a chauffeur who drives him about town.
He owns the Arcade. He owns the bank building where they’re gathered and the building after that one.
His last name is at the top of the bank building. His name’s on the next building, too. Wade Hampton Devries Warfield, usually abbreviated as Wade H. D. Warfield.
The storm hit on June 6th, and the Sykesville Herald reports that “barns were overturned, roofs of dwellings ripped off, trees uprooted, stock drowned and planted fields devastated beyond comprehension.”
Warfield created the Herald in 1913. He enticed three Baltimore journalists, William S. Church, David W Dean, and Albert M. Hall, out of the city as part of his plan to make Sykesville matter, to give it some self-respect and identity.
The paper’s only four years old. Before The Herald, Sykesville was virtually ignored, occasionally reported on in the Baltimore Sun and The Democratic Advocate of Westminster. On shaky financial grounds at first, it became a fixture when a group of the town’s businessmen, including Senator Warfield, formed the Herald Company, Inc. in 1918.
And for the next 70 years, the town will have its own paper, but the writing will never again be as vivid as it is in these first years, as it writes of thunder and lightning and wind and a downpour of rain, then hail “increasing in volume and size till raining down the size of hen’s eggs.”
The hail broke windows, ripped through roofs, “banked up several feet,” and killed several hundred chickens. The river overflowed, cellars flooded, tons of coal washed away.
Wheat fields were stripped to nothing. Local damage exceeded a hundred thousand dollars. State-wide, it exceeded a million. The town itself, though battered and flooded, did not get the worst of it, but those just outside, on the farmland over the river, were less fortunate.
“In Howard County, the storm cleared everything in its path. It ruined fruit trees, roads and buildings. Among those who suffered most were Lee Warfield [cousin of Wade Warfield], William Frazier, Oscar Streaker, George Arrington, S. S. Belt, James Gaither and Mr. Atkins.
“At Mr. Warfield’s farm his entire wheat and corn crop was a total loss. The wind overturned one barrack and reduced it to kindling and moved another six feet from its foundation. [Lee Warfield’s home, known as Salopha, still exists on River Road, just outside Sykesville and is occupied by its current owners, Ray and Pat Greenwald.]
“William Frazier besides losing his entire crop, also had his farm blown over. Nearly every window in his home was broken. At the time the storm broke, Mr. Frazier, his wife, and a friend were at supper. Before they had time to finish the meal the hail had broken every window in the dining room…The dishes they were eating from were broke in a winkling.”
A Herald columnist, going by the name of Uncle Mort, summed it up this way:
“The labor of a season and the prospects of a profitable return, were swept away in a few moments. In some instances the labor of a lifetime in bringing fine farms to a high state of cultivation, was destroyed, for the top dressings were washed away.”
So they gather in the Lyceum. They form a committee headed by J. Brooks Mellor. The farmers who’ve survived will lend plows and teams of horses to those who need them. The Springfield State Hospital will make its fancy new tractor available. The B. F. Shriver Canning Company will help the farmers salvage what’s left of the growing season by providing enough seed for 1200 acres of sweet corn and only charge if the crop is successful.
It’s better than nothing.
There’s no social security, unemployment, welfare, food stamps, or organized state or federal emergency relief. And yeah, there’s a war on. Your only hope is insurance. Wade Warfield’s insured and will collect $1250. Others are insured, as well, but recouping some damage and rebuilding is not the same as making a profit.
These are not subsistence farmers. They raise a crop, sell it, use the money to pay their bills, their mortgages, and live off that money the rest of the year. If things go well, there’s some profit, and in these days maybe a big one.
Farming’s all but stopped in Europe. European farmland is European battlefield now, and European farmers are European soldiers, scrounging the countryside for food. Russia’s stopped exporting grain. America’s filling the gap. Wheat farming, in particular, is booming, as prices hit all-time highs. Europe’s disaster is the American farmer’s gain.
But in Carroll County and across the river in Howard, for 1917 at least, that’s all over. A lot of hard work, hopes and big dreams just got buried in crunchy ice. Or maybe it’s worse. Maybe you’re just ruined. It happened to Sykes. It will happen again, soon. Sykesville’s prone to disasters of one sort or another. Most are natural. Some are financial. All are catastrophic.
The New Sykesville
Between the flood of 1868 that washed away the first version of the town and this gathering in 1917, Sykesville rebuilt. Not much survived the flood. There’s the rugged stone building that started out as a general store in 1865 and serves as the parish house of St. Barnabas Episcopal church today. There’s the town’s Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s, which wasn’t quite finished when the flood hit, but survived as it was, up on its hill looking down over the stone store toward the river and the tracks.
There’s St. Barnabas church, where Sykes once prayed, on the high ground south of the river, and Springfield Presbyterian further inland on the highest point in town. There’s St. Lukes just over the river, built by the African American community on the spot where St. Paul’s United Methodist Church once stood before moving across the river in 1889 to its present location off Main Street.
Sometime after the Civil War, a guy named John Harvey Fowble started building things. In 1878, he built the row of stores called the McDonald block on Main Street, no doubt named after the Irishman, John McDonald, long time owner and proprietor of the stone store right across the street. In 1884, E. Francis Baldwin, the head architect of the B&O, built the Sykesville train station.
The station brought vacationers from Baltimore. In summer, Baltimore stank. It was hot, bug-infested, and a good place to get sick. Sykesville was cooler, there was farmland, the river and nature.
A relative of the famous Pattersons named Frank Brown, who would go on to become the only resident of Carroll County ever to govern Maryland, built a series of cottages to accommodate these summer visitors. Most were eventually converted to houses and many still stand, although modernized and disguised.
And Fowble kept building. Main Street Sykesville’s only two blocks long, and he built most of it. He attached an attractive bank building to the end of the McDonald block. That bank would fail rather quickly, but the building would endure into modern times.
And on the second block, referred to as Arcade Place, he built the Arcade Building, another bank building, and the Wade H. D. Warfield store. Earlier, he built the present Sykesville Townhouse, which started life as the home of John McDonald.
In 1906, he built a beautiful home for his family on Norwood Avenue, and in 1907, he built the home of Dr. Frank Lucas way up on a hill on Main Street, which according to Linda Greenberg’s Sykesville Past & Present, a Walking Tour, “was one of the first to have indoor plumbing,” and the construction required a “massive excavation and removal of quantities of rock,” which was then used to build retaining walls.
Amazingly, according to Greenberg’s book, Fowble “received his architectural training from a correspondence school.”
So by 1917, most of the structure of modern Sykesville already existed, and you could pretty much say that, except for the churches, the stone store, the railroad station, Brown’s cottages, and a few other houses, Fowble built most of it.
The Visionary – Wade Warfield
But Fowble was not a visionary with some grand desire to build a wonderful American town. He built what others paid him to build. So yeah, he built most of Sykesville, but Wade Warfield created it.
Warfield started the newspaper. He created the Sykesville Lumber, Coal and Grain Company, which would become the Maryland Milling and Supply Company. He took advantage of the railroad to ship out grain and flour and bring in lumber and coal and the supplies the local farm economy depended on. He created the Sykesville Bank. He bought property and built houses. He hired Fowble to make the biggest buildings in town.
He was born on October 7, 1864, not long before Sherman’s famous march through Georgia and some six months before Lee surrendered. He grew up just outside Sykesville in a mansion named for a Mexican dog, Chihuahua. Today it’s owned by the state of Maryland and called Raincliffe.
His parents were Charles Alexander Warfield and Caroline DeVries. Charles Warfield bought Chihuahua in 1862 from a veteran of the Mexican War, who’d apparently been impressed by the small dogs south of the border. Charles Warfield ran a large dairy farm, a business young Wade would learn and love.
Wade attended the local public schools, and in 1883, two years after they buried James Sykes in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, Warfield graduated with honors from the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia.
In 1889, while only 25, he opened a supply business in downtown Sykesville.
In 1891, he married Blanche Waterhouse from Wheeling, West Virginia, and they quickly set about having daughters.
First came Josephine on February 21, 1892, then Helen on June 13, 1893, and then Blanche, named for her mother, on March 11, 1895.
And then, seven days after giving birth, Blanche Warfield died. She was 29.
Concerning the death of young Florence Patterson, our story on the Pattersons mentions that “childbirth was a dangerous business in those days. Many died during labor, but many more died soon afterward. As Helen Burn points out [in her book on Betsy Patterson], ‘There was no remedy for the postpartum infections known as fevers beyond strewing straw on the cobbled streets to quiet the sound of wagon wheels while the patient lay dying.’
“The killing fevers were actually infections of the uterus spread by doctors and midwives.”
Blanche Warfield’s death came less than 20 years after the death of Florence Patterson. It was the same neighborhood, more or less, same era, and medical science had not made great strides in the interim. It’s quite possible Blanche Warfield died of puerperal fever, also known as “the Doctor’s Plague,” because so often it was caused by doctors too ignorant, rushed, or proud to wash their hands before delivering babies. There was a time when it was not uncommon for dirty, blood-splattered doctors to move directly from handling cadavers to guiding babies into the world.
By 1895 when Blanche Warfield died, doctors mostly knew better, but it’s likely her death was due to medical negligence or ignorance of some sort related to childbirth.
Regardless of the cause of death, suddenly Sykesville’s most ambitious young man, only 30, lived on a farm without electricity or running water, with no wife, a three-year old, a one-year-old, an infant, and greatly diminished prospects.
He needed help, and it came from Wheeling, West Virginia in the form of Ellen Waterhouse, the attractive young sister of his recently departed wife. When Ellen arrived to help take care of the babies, she was about 20 and just a few years out of Mount de Chantal Academy of Wheeling, the Catholic school in West Virginia where she’d completed her education.
When she married Wade Warfield in her home state three years later, on April 20, 1898, she was 23. And things were back on track. Warfield was 33. He needed a wife, his kids needed a mother, so Ellen would make the transition from aunt to mother, from sister-in-law to wife. And would take over the raising of three girls all six and under.
Ellen was a Catholic. Warfield was not. They would have no children of their own, but Josephine, Helen, and Blanche would have a mom, and Warfield would have a family once more and could concentrate again on the things that drove him.
Building an Empire
In 1901, Warfield started the Sykesville Bank. In 1907, he created the Sykesville Realty and Investment Company. Sykesville incorporated as a town in 1904, and by 1909, while still short of 40, he became the town’s third mayor. In one election he received 116 out of 125 votes.
He was an amazing combination of farmer, businessman, politician, and what you might call “dandy.” There’s hardly a picture where he’s not decked out in fancy shoes, a fancy hat, and stylish clothes. He seldom smiles for the photographer.
He was a man concerned with his image, who appears typically dapper and serious. In the one picture where he does smile, he looks not like some great turn-of-the-century capitalist, but rather like Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp with a hat and a cane, fancy shoes, and a flower on his lapel.
But Warfield was no innocent sad sack tramp. He was the most powerful businessman in the area, a politician, and a farmer, running at one point what the Herald described as “four extensive farms nearby, always in a high state of cultivation.”
In 1914, the Herald described him as “a thorough countryman,” who “considers farming the ideal life and believes more solid comfort and satisfaction is to be found in the rural districts and on the farm proper than in the large and crowded centers…”
Sykesville, of course, was in no way a large and crowded center. It was a backward rural outpost with muddy streets and a small population, nestled on a river at the border of two counties. Cars were scarce. Few farmers owned tractors. There was plenty of poultry, which it seems were always being poisoned, stolen, or washed away in floods, but not much cash.
In 1913, Warfield ran an ad for “The Christmas Savings Club of The Sykesville National Bank.” Customers could deposit a quarter, 50 cents, or a dollar a week and collect a check for $12.50, $25.00, or $50.00 with interest, just in time for the next Christmas season.
People for the most part were poor. Warfield, of course, was just the opposite. In a 1910 article, Westminster’s Democratic Advocate called him “A captain of industry and a man of great business foresight.”
They wrote: “In 1889 began a new era in the commercial history of Sykesville. New life and activity seemed to spring into existence from the inception of the aggressive business policy adopted by Mr. Wade H. D. Warfield and Company.”
Between his store and his lumberyard, which may have been the largest in Maryland, Warfield carried everything: tools, paints, oils, varnishes, brushes, blacksmith’s supplies, brick, tile, sewer pipe, cement, lime, hard and soft coal, grain, feed, hay, straw. And he sold hundreds of tons a year of his own wheat and grass mix.
He had a private switch from the B&O so the trains could pull up out back and fill his bins with coal. The coal went straight from the trains to the bins to the wagons to the homes and the farms.
And as Bruce Greenberg, current owner of the Arcade building, pointed out during a recent tour, Warfield’s lumber and supply business benefitted immensely from the huge, long-term construction project just across the road, namely, the building of Springfield State Hospital, which began in the late 1890s on land formerly owned by the Pattersons, acquired by the state from Frank Brown.
Warfield also built a huge mill and sold flour by the ton. Something called Cook’s Delight. He bought a town, Marriottsville, including the houses, the store, and the post office. It was on the railroad and filled with limestone.
In 1914, he lived on his Carroll Farm, operated another, and was about to open a third. He bred standard horses, dairy shorthorns, Shropshire sheep, Berkshire swine. Even his poultry were thoroughbred.
And if all that wasn’t enough, he set out to build houses.
“Mr. Warfield proposes developing about 3 acres of ground to be known as ‘Carroll Heights,’ lying in front of Clark’s blacksmith shop, one of the highest and most beautiful spots within the city limits,” wrote the Herald.
In 1913, as President of the Sykesville Merchants’ & Farmers’ Carnival Association, he put on a massive three-day show based on the theme that “all roads lead to Sykesville,” promising “the largest aggregation of attractions ever held in Carroll & Howard Counties.”
There would be prizes for prettiest girl, heaviest pumpkin, and largest man. Thirty-eight hounds would race over a six-mile course in pursuit of the scent of a dead fox that had been dragged over the course forty minutes before the race. Assumingly, the fox was killed before the dragging.
It was his town. The Herald was his paper, and if called upon, would immediately do his bidding. Not only did he run an advertisement in March of 1914, but in what would certainly be considered a breach of journalistic standards today, he convinced the paper to write an article about the ad.
“Wade H. D. Warfield is offering in an advertisement in The Herald today a young bull calf from his Carroll Farm Herd of Dairy Shorthorns, sired by his herd bull, ‘Clay Royal,’ whose dam was ‘Lady Clara 13,’ with a record of 10,811 pounds of milk in one year.”
But as Warfield’s fortunes continued upward in 1914, John Harvey Fowble’s went the opposite way. Fowble’d arrived in Sykesville while Warfield was a boy at Chihuahua, but by 1914, while Warfield was busy selling bulls with impressive parental credentials, things were going badly for Fowble.
A March, 1914 issue of the Herald ran the following headline, “Fowble Property Sale.”
And in maddeningly typical fashion, without answering the key questions, such as why, or what went wrong, the Herald dryly recounted:
“The sale of the Fowble personal property and real estate took place as advertised on Saturday. There was a good attendance and bidding was lively. The fine dwelling was purchased by Elmer Jenkins for $3900. It is one of the finest homes in Sykesville and cost much more than the selling price to build. The trustees will now proceed to close up the matter growing out of Mr. Fowble’s unfortunate financial difficulty.”
Somehow Fowble’d lost the big three-story home he’d built for his family, and Fowble’s days as Sykesville’s builder ended. But once, he and Warfield had formed an extremely successful collaboration. In 1901, they built the bank building with Warfield’s name at the top, then the Warfield building for Warfield’s retail supply business, and finally, the Arcade Building, each, as Bruce Greenberg pointed out, “very well built” with “heavy masonry and wood-joist construction,” and although compatible with one another, each in a different architectural style.
They were strong, sturdy, attractive buildings, constructed by a talented architect and builder, to stand the test of time. And they would. Unlike Warfield’s business, which would not.
No one could have known that in 1914, though. Warfield’s influence was enormous and growing. Fowble’s was on the wane. But Fowble’s influence was destined for permanence, while Warfield’s was transitory.
June 18, 1914 – Same Tires, Original Air
If the misfortunes of his close collaborator affected him in any way, there’s no evidence two months later when a cheerful Warfield took off by Cadillac convertible with his chauffeur at the wheel to attend the graduation of his daughter Blanche from Mt. de Chantal Visitation Academy in West Virginia, her step-mother’s alma mater.
Mt. de Chantal was an exclusive, private, and exceptionally beautiful Catholic school for girls founded in 1848, 15 years before the founding of West Virginia itself, and would remain open all the way until 2008 when it was closed and soon after demolished.
Blanche was 18 now. She’d never known her real mother. Her father was a man with a Cadillac and chauffer. She’d grown up in a house with two servants.
She was young, privileged, and destined to live through most of the great events of the 20th century. In 1916, she would marry Morgan Taylor of Wheeling. They would have a daughter and name her Ellen, and immediately after the First World War, the young family would live for five years in Zurich Switzerland, where Taylor served as Vice Consul of the United States. Taylor would die suddenly at 41, but Blanche would live 92 years before dying in August of 1987.
And in 1914, as young Blanche left the nuns of Mt. Chantal behind, she was about to learn of the catalyst for those great 20th century events she would witness. In ten days, a Serbian nationalist would assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and start the world’s first great slaughter.
But not quite yet. For now, her father was on the road and on schedule. He sent back a friendly letter describing his trip, which the Herald dutifully published.
My Dear Mr. Hall:
I am writing you as promised about our trip over the Old National Trail by automobile to Wheeling, West Virginia. My daughters, Josephine and Helen, with myself and the driver, Marshall Warner, (Mrs. Warfield having preceded us two weeks by train) left Sykesville promptly at 6 o’clock on Saturday morning, June 6, to attend the graduation of my daughter Blanche, from the Mt. de Chantal Academy, where she has been for the past six years. The only fellow-townsmen to witness our departure were Mr. Otto Leist and my good friend “Ed” Mellor, and I do not believe they would have been up had they not misread the dial.
Before leaving home I made out a schedule of our trip and mailed a duplicate to Mrs. Warfield at Wheeling. So on Sunday morning she left Wheeling to meet us en route at West Alexandria, Pa. We were so nearly on time that the Wheeling contingent was sighted just four miles east of West Alexander at 12:50 instead of the latter place at 12:30, as our schedule called for.
After exchanging greetings we proceeded to Wheeling, 25 miles distant, which we reached at 2:15 with the same tires and the original air with which we left Sykesville and we hope to reach home on Sunday the 14th under the same conditions.
Leaving Frederick about 9 o’clock we headed for Hagerstown over Braddocks Heights, through the beautiful Middletown Valley. We reached Hagerstown at 11:30, just 30 minutes behind schedule. From here we pushed on to Hancock, where we encountered large fruit orchards and Angora goats. Just before reaching Hancock we found a shady nook and a flat-topped rail fence, where we did ample justice to our supply of Berkshire ham sandwiches and Maryland fried chicken. It is remarkable what such an open air trip will do with your appetite. By the way, we came all the way through with the machine top down. The girls look as if they had been at the seashore all summer and my nasal appendage would be a dead give-away to any professed temperance man.
Our next stop was at Cumberland, which we reached at 4:40 p.m. Here we got our first replenish of gasoline. During our entire trip we consumed less than 12 gallons of gasoline, on average, including mountain climbing, of less than one gallon to twelve miles, and this is a new seven-passenger Cadillac.
We next reached Frostburg, a prosperous town noted for its fire-clay brick, at 5:45. As soon as we passed out of the city limits we had a lap supper. Our minds were now centered on a place to camp for the night, as we had visions of bears and wildcats, so as scheduled, we headed for Uniontown, Pa. Our faithful driver, Marshall, changed his position, took a fresh grip on the steering wheel, and we went spinning over the National pike and were at Titlow’s Hotel at 9:10 that night.
We had no sooner gotten our luggage off the car than the genial proprietor, Mr. Thomas Titlow, informed us that the dining room was closed for the night, but that he would be glad to take us to the Elk’s Club for supper, but as we had had early supper, a la lap, two hours before, we thought best to decline the unexpected hospitality and get to our beds as soon as possible, as we wanted to make an early start next morning.
The run over the mountains from 6 o’clock until we reached Uniontown was the most beautiful and most delightful of the whole trip.
We were up the next morning (Sunday) and breakfasted at 7 o’clock. The girls attended church at 8, and before 9 o’clock we were steering out the Old Trail towards Wheeling, our objective point. The sun was bright and our hearts were light, knowing that we would, in a few more short hours, be joined by those near and dear to us.
During our trip we passed through three States. I have yet to see a better country than we have right in our own county of Carroll! The red barns of Pennsylvania look big and clean, but when you size up the growing crops, stock and general surroundings, we can equal them down in Maryland. Since I left home I have talked to a number of business people in all kinds of trade–manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers–and I have come to the conclusion that the only real prosperous and happy man is the farmer, who uses the grey matter that God gave him to advantage and is not afraid to work against the collar. We are all thoroughly enjoying the trip.
I can’t even keep track of the days, so complete is the relaxation from the usual business cares. On my return I am sure I will be benefited in every way, ready to roll up my sleeves and knuckle down to business with renewed vim.
Politics, High School, and War
Which, of course, he did. Vim was his nature, and although a farmer and businessman, he also had a taste for politics and power and soon ran for the Maryland state senate, and won. He represented Carroll County now, but still favored Sykesville. In May he put up for sale 24 lots in what he called the Carroll Heights section, promising “wide streets and avenues” and “water to every lot,” then turned his attentions to another pressing need.
Sykesville was the only town of any significance in the county still without a high school, and Warfield intended to fix that. In 1917, he traveled to Westminster to make his case. The Herald had complete confidence in him.
“The Senator paid a visit to the Commissioners, with the result that in all probability a High School will be established here…”
But this time something unusual happened. Warfield failed. Yes, eventually, the town would get its school. But not now, not through Warfield’s efforts. And of course, the circumstances were extenuating.
We were going into the war at last. President Wilson decided to impose conscription, and most able-bodied young Americans, black and white, were ordered to register for the draft.
On September 5 of 1918, under the headline “Your Obligation,” the Herald wrote, “Are you between the ages of 18 and 45 (both inclusive)? If so, and you have not already registered, you must register on September 12th. And your full duty isn’t done unless you tell your friends of their obligation, and see that it is fulfilled.”
They advertised a special gathering at the Lyceum.
“Arrangements have been made for all men who come within the age limits of the new draft, or as many of them as deem it worthwhile, to come to the Lyceum this Friday night between 7:30 and 10 o’clock, when Four-Minute-Men will be present to give them information with respect to the draft law.
“Instruction will be given concerning the cards to be filled out on registration day, September 12, so that time will be saved for themselves and the Registrars at Eldersburg. The meeting will be entirely informal and any questions will be answered. It is for their information and convenience. You can come at any time during the hours mentioned.”
In that issue they also wrote: “Word has been received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Feeser, near the State line, Myers district, of the wounding of their son Charles, in France; also that a son of the late William Bechtell and a son of Howard Bechtell, of the upper part of Myers district have also been wounded over there.
“It is not known if they are fatally wounded or not.”
Fortunately for those in the area who hadn’t registered yet, the Germans, exhausted and demoralized by four years of all-out war, were in retreat from French soil, and the war would be over in two months. In all, 24 million would register, more than 3 million would be drafted, and during a few short months in 1918, young Americans would die often and in terrible ways. Before the Treaty of Versailles brought the war to an end in November of 1918, over 117,000 Americans would succumb and over 200,000 would be wounded.
But while other parents watched with grim patriotic fear as their children went off to war, Senator Warfield was lucky. His children were all in their twenties. But his children were girls.