Our home, where I was born and raised, was one mile west of Hancock, Maryland, between Hagerstown, and Cumberland. It was called “Cohill Manor” from the time my Dad acquired the property. He purchased the property, which was near a small orchard that was owned by his father, E. P. Cohill, from a man that was known to us as we grew up as Mr. Deleplane. The home had a long history, and was originally built out of logs. The original home was much smaller than the 19 rooms I knew while growing up. At one time in the mid 1700s it was owned by a Mr. Flint, and was aptly called “Flint’s Chance,” apparently because of the risks taken by the owner in establishing a plantation from the forests in the area.
My dad and mother, who had lived in a nice home they had occupied in the middle of my grandfather’s 1200 acre Tonoloway Orchard, started immediately to repair and re-model the new property. They added another wing to the center core of the house, added a bathroom, a central coal fired, steam heating system, a large front porch across the entire length of the house, and a two-car, drive-through garage under the front porch. The house was originally wood frame, with a tin roof. My Dad, after the additions were completed, covers all of the outside walls, the archways supporting the front porch and the garage with white stucco masonry. The front yard consisted of about three acres of lawn, with three huge willow trees in the center. A very active spring-fed stream flowed through the lawn and a springhouse, which had been built over the spring at its head, and was located on the west end of the lawn. The spring water was always very cold, and the builders had constructed masonry drains through which the spring water flowed. This system was used to keep the day’s milk cool in the summer and prevented freezing in the winter.
Another of my regular jobs was to mow the grass around the home; all three acres of it! I did take pride in keeping it mowed, and I kept expanding the mowed area to keep down the rapid growth of weeds on the perimeter. It seemed to me that all of the chores such as mowing the grass, milking the cows, and feeding the hogs fell on me for a long period; from about the time I was age 7 or 8 until I graduated high school and went to college. My next oldest brother was 4 years ahead of me, and my next youngest brother was 4 years younger. So, for a period of 8 years I was the victim!
My Dad was a great entertainer, and we always had guests stopping in on the way from Baltimore to Cumberland (the house was right on the old U.S. Route 40). He also brought business friends from the office, and friends who stopped at the roadside fruit stand, to the house for a drink of applejack, a mint julep, or lunch. I don’t know how my Mother put up with it, but she seemed to like to entertain. Some of the apple buyers from out of town; Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Wheeling, New York or even London, were invited to stay over-night in the “spare room” with a beautiful 4-poster bed. I remember Joe Klug and his wife from Wheeling, Pat McTighe and his wife from Pittsburgh, and a visitor from London (I can’t remember his name).
While he was visiting, we had sweet corn for dinner. After he had eaten his ear, he exclaimed with a beautiful British accent, “oh my, I’ve eaten a whole ear of “maize”! One of us kids replied, “that’s nothing, Mother eats 6!” Needless to say, Mother was horrified!
Dad always had plenty of “apple jacks” around, and supplied it freely to his friends. I’m sure some of them cherished his friendship because they knew they would get a free drink or two. He was also liberal with the “hard cider” that was always available at the packinghouse and cold storage. There was one small cider mill at the roadside stand for sale to people who stopped for fresh apple juice, and another huge mill in back of the packinghouse that made commercial quantities that was sold to vinegar plants in Baltimore and Philadelphia. One time I hauled a load of cider, in 50 gallon barrels, to a vinegar plant in Philly, and then hauled a return load of processed vinegar in cartons of 4X1 gallon bottles. The load was to go to a wholesaler in Piedmont, West Virginia. The last 20 miles of the road to Piedmont involved the steepest hill I have ever seen on a highway. The truck was loaded to capacity, and wouldn’t climb the hill in the lowest gear. Somewhere I had heard that the reverse gear in a truck was more powerful than the lowest forward gear, so I turned the truck around and “backed” the truck up the hill. It wasn’t until I got near the top that I wondered what would happen if the gears stripped, and the brakes wouldn’t hold! At one point, we had a canning line installed in the large unused barrel shed next to the cider mill, and sold it under a colorful label, which featured my “curly-haired” brother Bill’s picture. Some trouble with sanitation and government regulations regarding the canning process force the plant out of business.
Another trademark of Cohill Manor was huge picnics and parties on the lawn around the springhouse. The Hagerstown Rotary Club had an annual picnic on the lawn, and the bar in the springhouse was a favorite spot. We had a big black man, Jim Marks, who worked on the orchard most of the time. He dressed up in a white coat and tie and manned the picnic table and bar. There were always piles of delicious country-cured ham and southern-fried chicken from our own production. Ruth Kerns of course did all of the cooking and preparation of the food, including freshly baked parker-house rolls. Jim Mark’s wife, Hattie, and his mother, May, assisted her in preparing the food. The all lived in tenant houses on our farm. Other occasions for lawn parties included a wedding reception for Pat and I in June, when we returned to Hancock after our “quickie” marriage in January. The party was beautiful, and the guests included many notable friends of the family from Hagerstown, Cumberland and Baltimore. We got a large number of gifts, one of which was six sterling silver butter dishes from a prominent Hagerstown Family, the Pangborns.
Other parties included Christmas and New Years, when all of us kids had our friends in for parties. If snow was on the ground, we’d hook up a team of horses to a bobsled and take every one out for a ride in the orchard. My older sisters, Mary Anne, “Coc” and “Bebe”, all were given a traditional “coming out” party preceding their acceptance as debutantes at the Hagerstown Assembly Club’s New Year’s Ball. When Pat first visited Hancock while on leave from the Navy, we went to the New Years Ball, and came back to Cohill Manor in the early morning hours to continue the party. A couple of my friends from U. of M. were visiting for the occasion and joined us in the fun. Later, while we were living in New York, our daughters, Mary Pat and Rosemary, were accepted at the Assembly Club, with all of the fan-fair associated with “coming out.” Unfortunately, the happy days of a party at Cohill Manor were over, but I’m sure they will remember the occasion of the ball and parties at the Alexander Hotel in Hagerstown.
Most of my memories of Cohill Manor were happy ones. Always a lot of activity, people, and social contact. We often brought our friends home on Saturday night for a midnight drink or snack in the kitchen. We were never restricted from having our friends in, but if the party continued too late, after one A.M. I think, “JA” (as we called Daddy behind his back) would come down in his bathrobe, turn out the kitchen light, and announce “party’s over.”
Recalled by George Roger Williamson Cohill, 10/28/02