- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — The Old West is said to be dotted with ghost towns, shells of once-thriving communities abandoned because of blight, economic necessity or just changing times.

In rural Maryland, towns have vanished so completely that not even the husks remain.

The former town of Tyrone in Carroll County is an example.

Once upon a time, Tyrone had a general store and post office and a cluster of homes grouped along Old Taneytown Road. Residents, when asked, would tell visitors they were in a town called Tyrone.

Today, the former town is identifiable only by State Highway Administration road signs staking out a half-mile strip of Old Taneytown Road. And if asked, residents are most likely to tell visitors that they are in Westminster, though they live outside Westminster’s incorporated borders and don’t pay city taxes or receive city services.

Tyrone also has disappeared in the hearts and minds of all levels of government — from county planners to the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. census.

There are dozens of lost villages in Carroll County alone — communities that exist only in the fading memories of older residents.

Bethel, Ebbvale, Wakefield and Watersville were once associated with thriving communities. Some of those names remain on maps, road signs, street names, church names or parks, but the characteristics that made the locations a village have faded.

An 1877 county map lists more than 30 post offices in towns and villages, and nearly as many small communities that did not have a post office. In 2007, there are fewer than a dozen post offices, and the handful of surviving unincorporated towns exist, at best, in name only.

What happened?

First, because there were no set rules defining a town or a village, many existed only as long as the people living there thought of themselves that way, said Barbara Lilly, former executive director of the Historical Society of Carroll County.

“If it was more than you and me, it became ‘us,’ ” Mrs. Lilly said.

When the original residents died or moved away, the identity of their town left with them.

In addition, many unincorporated towns and villages got swallowed by incorporated towns and villages, which at least had a formal document to remind them of their existence.

As with the ghost towns in the Old West, villages and towns in Maryland died as the economic and transportation factors that bound them changed. In Maryland, towns often took their names from the mills or rail stations near them, Mrs. Lilly said.

And streamlining by the U.S. Postal Service during the 1950s eliminated many rural post offices that gave communities their identity.

Paul Wardenfelt, a longtime volunteer at the Historical Society of Carroll County, said he compiled a list 15 years ago of as many old towns and communities as he could find. He used old newspapers, such as the American Sentinel, the Democratic Advocate and the Union Bridge Pilot. He came up with more than 70 that no longer exist.

Many of them had vanished so thoroughly that he had to look at old censuses and maps to search for clues as to where they existed.

“The little villages fascinated me,” Mr. Wardenfelt said. “I thought if I don’t write it down, they’ll be lost forever.”

He found colorful names such as Buzzard’s Glory, Frog Bottom, Gossipville, Ogg Summit, Possom Hollow, Sunny Side and Whiskey Springs.

Richard Blacksten, a Carroll County historian, said politics sometimes decided a town’s fate.

For example, Uniontown was originally slated to be the county seat, he said. But Uniontown didn’t have a railroad stop, and Westminster did, so the Westminster supporters were able to persuade county government to set up in their city.

Westminster grew, he said, and Uniontown didn’t.

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