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It was 85 years ago, in the late afternoon of Monday, July 30, 1923, that an historic and terrible rainstorm hit Sykesville and other areas of southern Carroll County.

Before it was over, the storm set off floodwaters that "swept down the valleys, flooding hundreds of homes, forcing the occupants to flee for safety; carrying off hundreds of head of cattle and other livestock and causing great property damage," according to an Aug. 3, 1923, article in the now-defunct Democratic Advocate.

The damage was so great that in the follow year, the Board of County Commissioners announced a tax rate increase of 10 cents, in part, to pay for "the extraordinary expense for the repair or construction of bridges destroyed by floods ..." The results of the disaster rippled through Sykesville for a long time. In 1931, the Howard County portion of the town disincorporated, in part, as a result of failing to recover from the flood.

It wasn't the first time the town has had to overcome adversity, yet today that community has been best described as a "Norman Rockwell painting" by its current mayor, Jonathan Herman. (That comment, by the way, comes from an April 22, 1998, article in the City Paper by Bob Allen, who now writes for The Eagle.)

Indeed, in April 1923, a fire threatened the whole town. As a newspaper account noted, "At one time the town hall, (and) the jail ... were in flames..."

And in 1937 a fire destroyed a large portion of Main Street and many years later, another fire in 1969 burned down the firehouse.

Good grief. Further research is required to determine if the town was ever attacked by locusts.

One thing's for sure, the town doesn't have to worry about nuclear threats. In the 1980s, then-Mayor Lloyd Helt Jr. had Sykesville declared a nuclear-free zone.

Sleep well, Sykesvillians.

Back to 1923: An article regarding the big flood said it was "believed to have caused more property damage than the flood of 1868, when 38 lives were lost in the vicinity of Ellicott City."

The 1868 flood came just five years after an incident in June 1863 in which a "unit of General J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry burned the bridge linking Carroll and Howard Counties, destroyed the railroad tracks... on its way to Gettysburg," according to "Sykesville Past and Present," by Linda F. Greenberg.

I'm not sure if Greenberg's book, which features a walking tour of Sykesville, is still available. Maybe Sykesville Town Manager Matt Candland can tell us.

Commissioner Dean Minnich perhaps introduces the town best in his 1995 book, "Towns and Villages of Carroll County," in which he writes: "Sykesville traces its history to the early 1800s, and part of the story includes forbidden romance, wealthy landholders, international intrigue and a brush with the house of Napoleon Bonaparte."

All good stuff, to be sure, but nothing compared to the story Sykesville Police Chief John Williams can tell you about "Bigfoot" making an appearance there in the 1970s.

Next time you see him, ask about it.

Pond memories

On that note, let's go over last week's trivia question, which asked: "When was the Westminster Community Pond dedicated?

We heard from Jamie Wehler, Harry L. Mancha, Ruth G. Anderson and a mysterious fellow named "Oat Willie." (He is NOT Chief Williams ... probably.)

All of these knew that the Westminster Community Pond was dedicated by the Westminster Kiwanis Club, the Izaak Walton League and Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin on Sept. 18, 1954.

The famed Sunday Carroll Eagle mug goes to "Oat Willie."

For this week's trivia quiz, we'll stick with Sykesville. Only one Maryland governor has been from Carroll County. In fact, he was from Sykesville. Who was he and what were the years that he served?

Think you know? If so, drop me an e-mail me at kdayhoff@carr.org and you might win the coveted Sunday Carroll Eagle mug. Please put Sunday Carroll Eagle in the subject line, and thanks.

When he is not hot on the trail of Bigfoot, Kevin Dayhoff can be reached at kdayhoff@carr.org.


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