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Then & Now: Montgomery County Police Department Motorcycle Unit

This blog entry is posted today to commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery County Police Department. It was 98 years ago on July 4, 1922 that the MCPD was first established, consisting of five officers and a Chief. Each of the officers was issued a police motorcycle for routine patrol duties and was allotted $300.00 a year for the upkeep of their motor. Thus, the Montgomery County Police Department was formed upon the foundation of the motorcycle.

Montgomery County Police Department Motorcycle Unit (THEN): Posing in front of Reed Brothers Dodge on July 4, 1922 Chief Charles Cooley, center, and his men of the first mounted unit of the Montgomery County Police Force, were on their first day of duty. For several years, since there was no police station, the officers would meet for “roll call” on the steps of the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville at 2:00 p.m. every day to let each other know they were alive and well. Chief Cooley was given the privilege of a Model T Ford. The chief was paid $1,800 a year (the chief now gets $112,564) while the officers got $1,500. Each of the officers was issued a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun, a black jack, law book and was allotted $300.00 a year for the upkeep of their motorcycle. Jones patrolled Silver Spring, Rodgers the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area and Burdine, Clagett and Gaither the Upper County areas.

The county’s population in the early 1920s was just 35,000 (it’s now more than 800,000). Much of the county was farmland, which accounted for the thefts of livestock. It also was the Prohibition era, when bootlegging and moonshine still factored routinely on an officer’s shift.

The officers worked 14 hours at night, 10 hours in the day, with two days off every two weeks. But they were on call at all times. Since there was no mobile radio contact (the first one-way radio system was installed in cars in the early 1930s), the officers tended to hang around the courthouse or a local firehouse that had a phone.

One of the officers came up with the idea of placing a flashing red beacon light on a pole atop the Rockville courthouse. When flashing, it would alert police that they had a call or were wanted at the office. In 1927, similar lights were used at district stations in Silver Spring and Bethesda.

Montgomery County Police Department

This is the first known photograph of the entire MCPD. Pictured left to right: Earl Burdine, Lawrence Clagett, Guy Jones, Chief Charles Cooley, Leroy Rodgers, and Oscar Gaither. Photo taken by Lewis Reed on July 4, 1922.

Montgomery County Police Department Motorcycle Unit (NOW): Currently, the Motor Unit consists of forty-two full-time motor officers who make up six decentralized motor squads. The squads are assigned to each of the six district police stations and are under the command of a sergeant. The primary missions of the squads are traffic enforcement, collision reduction, pedestrian safety and maintaining the orderly flow of traffic in the county. The squads are also involved in special details to include, dignitary and Presidential escorts, funeral escorts, the Montgomery County Fair, the Tiger Woods Golf Tournament and numerous foot races and parades.

The Motor Unit currently fields twenty-eight 2007 and 2008 Harley-Davidson Police motorcycles of which four to five are assigned to each of the district stations. The squads at each station are divided into a day work and evening shift and those officers share motorcycles as necessary. The current work period for the squads is eight hour shifts, Monday through Friday. The current work period for the squads is eight hour shifts, Monday through Friday.

The Unit also fields a Competition Team which participates in events that include both the United States and Canada. The team has received numerous awards in both the individual and team categories at these events. The Unit will also be hosting the Mid- Atlantic Police Motorcycle Safety Competition in Gaithersburg, Maryland in September of 2010.

The Montgomery County Department of Police Motor Unit continues its traffic safety mission today as well as the furtherance of police motorcycle safety and awareness throughout Montgomery County and the State of Maryland.

MCP Motorcycle Unit

MCP Motorcycle Unit Competes in Annual Motorcycle Rodeo 95 years later.

Thank you to the entire Montgomery County Police Department for all you do in keeping our community safe. Salutes!

Sources: “Montgomery County, Two Centuries of Change” by Jane C. Sween
Montgomery County Police Department

Early Montgomery County Road Paving Equipment

These vehicles below, strangely recognizable as forerunners to our modern equivalents, date from 1909. At this time, a lot of the equipment was still horse-drawn, such as the horse-drawn tanker wagon. Steamrollers (more correctly called road rollers) were literally powered by steam, like locomotives, and were similar to motorized farm vehicles of the time period. Road rollers were the last type of steam engine to be used on the roads. Before the hot tar has a chance to cool, sand, small pebbles, or small pieces of crushed rock are spread on top of it and compacted with a road roller, which also helps to bind it all together into a long-wearing, waterproof pavement.

vintage paving truck

PAVING TRUCK, 1909 – photograph by Lewis Reed

The early 1900s paving truck seen in the photo above is equipped with a high-powered spray mounted on the back of the truck. The truck consists of a storage tank, a burner below it to keep the asphalt hot and liquid, and a pump to pressurize it and send it to the spray bar and through the nozzles in the back. You can see the massive chain that puts power to the rear wheels.

Steamrollers, more correctly called road rollers, were the last type of steam engine to be used on the roads. Before the hot tar has a chance to cool, sand, small pebbles, or small pieces of crushed rock are spread on top of it and compacted with a steamroller that’s powered by steam, which also helps to bind it all together into a long-wearing, waterproof pavement.

vintage steam roller

STEAM ROAD ROLLER, 1909 – photograph by Lewis Reed

This take-off of the steam traction engine was designed specifically for road building and flattening ground mimicking today’s modern rollers used for compacting road surfaces. A single, heavy roller replaced the front wheels and axle and a smoother rear wheels replaced larger wheels without strakes. (strake – name for the diagonal strips cast into or riveted onto the wheel rims to provide traction on unmade ground).

Steam Road Roller

STEAM ROAD ROLLER, 1909. Note the horse-drawn flusher adjacent to the steamroller – photograph by Lewis Reed

In 1900, ninety percent of the roads in Maryland were dirt roads; in Montgomery County the figure was ninety-five percent. In 1909 the State Roads Commission paved the 5.47 miles of Old Georgetown Road with a six-inch macadam covering, and the state did further paving in 1921, 1923, 1926, 1927 and 1929. You can see how much things have changed for the people who work on our roads.

Photos cannot convey the raw power of a steam road roller: the way its pistons, valves, gears, and wheels are locked in constant motion. You really have to see this machinery in action.

Here is a video of a vintage steam roller in action as it chugs along past a camera.

A Look Back at Montgomery County High School from 110 Years Ago

Montgomery County High School

Originally known as Montgomery County High School, later as Rockville High School and Richard Montgomery High School. Located at the corner of Monroe Street and East Montgomery Avenue. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1906.

The tradition of graduation ceremonies, complete with pomp and circumstance, caps and gowns, and awarding diplomas, marks a rite of passage at schools in Montgomery County and at other high schools across the country. Not this year. The coronavirus pandemic has left in its wake widespread cancellations of annual events and ceremonies. This year’s 2020 graduates will be honored in the minds and hearts of loved ones for their achievements, and individual efforts will be made to celebrate the moment, but this year’s graduating seniors won’t be able to participate in the traditional graduation celebrations. In honor of this year’s high school graduates, here is a look back at a collection of photos of graduates from Montgomery County High School that were taken by Lewis Reed in 1910.

A bit of history: Located in the City of Rockville, Richard Montgomery High School is the oldest public high school in Montgomery County. An allocation in 1892 by the then Board of School Commissioners of a $300 addition to the existing elementary school in Rockville brought to fruition the then named “Rockville High School” that served students from grades one to eleven. The first class of twelve seniors graduated in 1897. In 1904, the Board of Education purchased land at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Monroe Street for the construction of a new school building, to be renamed “Montgomery County High School” at Rockville. Students came to the school by train, trolley, and later by school bus from all corners of the county. In 1935, when the new “Rockville Colored High School” building opened in Lincoln Park, the Board of Education officially renamed the old Rockville High School, “Richard Montgomery High School.”

1910 Montgomery County High School class photo

Montgomery County High School class, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Back row: Edward Story, Lena Ricketts, Tom Young, Louise Larcombe, Miss Ford, Fred Hays, Lucius Lamar, name unknown, name unknown.
Middle Row: name unknown, name unknown, Jesse Wathen, Jesse Higgins, name unknown, name unknown, Mary Hyatt, name unknown, name unknown.
Front Row: Maude England, Rebecca Lamar, (first name unknown) Garrett, Helen Pumphrey, (first name unknown) Lehman.

Old Rockville High School class photo

Montgomery County High School, Academic Department, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Back: Harry S. Beall, Katherine Hughes
Middle: names unknown
Front: Edith Prettyman, Virginia Darby

From The Baltimore Sun, Thursday, May 26, 1910 newspaper:

The Baltimore Sun 26 May 1910

The Baltimore Sun, Thursday, 26 May 1910.

Old Rockville High School’s First Baseball Team

Inter-school athletics in Montgomery County began with a meeting, duly noted in the Sentinel of February 18, 1910, of the principals of the high schools at Rockville, Gaithersburg, Kensington, and Sandy Spring to formulate plans for a baseball league. Within a month, the athletic association of Rockville High School was formed with Roger J. Whiteford, principal, as manager of the baseball team, Edward Story, teacher, as assistant manager, and Jesse Higgins student, as captain.

Old Rockville High School Baseball Team 1910

Rockville High School First Baseball Team, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Front: Billy Beck, Tom Young, Edward Storey, Harry Beall, Roy Warfield.
Back: Otis Hicks, Lucius Lamar, name unknown, name unknown, Jesse Higgins, name unknown, name unknown, Frederick Hays, Roger Whiteford
Holding pennant: Griffith Warfield

Announce Line-Up of High School Team. Special to The Washington Post, Sunday, March 13, 1910:

The line-up of the baseball team that will represent the Montgomery County High School this season has been decided upon, and the team will start the season as follows: Catcher. Harry Beall; Pitcher, Edward Story; First Base; Thomas Young; Second Base, Griffith Warfield; Third Base, Marshall Darby; Shortstop, Jesse Higgins; Left Field, Roland Garrett; Center Field, Frederick Hays; Right Field, Lucius Lamar; and Substitutes: Otis Hicks, Marshall Manion and William Beck.

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

On May 27, 1910, commencement was held in the Rockville Opera House. The major address of the graduation ceremony was given by Judge Hammond Urner. Then came the presentation of diplomas by Roger B. Farquhar and the seniors marched into the history of Montgomery County High School, as will their 2020 successors, all proud graduates.

Credit to: E. Guy Jewell, “Richard Montgomery High School.” The Montgomery County Story Vol. 24 (1981)
Other sources of information: and Montgomery History

Reed Photo Collection: Transportation Before Cars

The story of transportation in Montgomery County is the saga of people constantly on the move. The difficulties people faced when they transported themselves or their goods from one place to another during the late 19th and early 20th century are almost impossible for us to comprehend today. Before the invention of trains and automobiles, animal power was the main form of travel. People were continually searching for new and better ways to transport people and goods as dependably and as fast as possible, and they started with the horse.

Many of the problems associated with the automobile today were common to the horse and carriage in the in the early 20th century: traffic jams, parking problems, noise, accidents, pollution. Of these, the most distressing was the last. While the horse emitted no exhaust, it did emit, often dropping excrement into the middle of the road. A typical horse produced more than 30 pounds of dung each day. Furthermore, horse-drawn transportation required constant attention and care, so much that wealthy Americans seldom managed horses themselves and often hired coachmen and grooms as intermediaries. The blacksmith was an important man, running a business like a modern car repair garage.

The following images from Lewis Reed’s collection illustrate various modes of transportation before highways and cars.

1915 mule-power

Mule provided power for canal boats traversing the 180 miles between Cumberland and Georgetown, 1914. Photo by Lewis Reed.

During the 19th century, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal provided transportation for goods between Cumberland and the Chesapeake Bay. Mules were the preferred “engines” of the C&O Canal boat because they were cheaper to purchase than horses and were less prone to illness and injury. Mules adapted very well to life on a canal boat and could pull a 140-ton boat eight hours a day, seven days a week. Mules had both longer life spans and longer work lives than horses and could pull canal boats for twenty years if they were taken care of properly. To get a loaded boat going, the mules would have to walk until the line was taut, then put their weight into it, and step once the boat had moved, and repeat this process. Within 25 feet, the boat would be moving.

Popes Creek Post Office 1910

Popes Creek Post Office. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

It’s hard to imagine a world without cars, buses, and trucks. But put yourself back in the early 20th century. Before the invention of trains and automobiles, animal power was the main form of travel. Horses, donkeys, and oxen pulled wagons, coaches, and buggies. Early settlers often used oxen to pull their big wagons. Oxen were slower than horses, but they could pull four times as much weight.

In this circa 1910 photograph two men pose with an ox-drawn wagon in front of the little Popes Creek Post Office on the Potomac River. Two elegantly dressed women with hats stand outside on the porch. Note the two-person horse buggy on the right. The Potomac River is visible in the background. The Popes Creek Post Office probably served as a social gathering place for the community.

1911 Oxen pulling cart

A pair of yoked oxen pull a wagon in Point of Rocks, Maryland. Edgar Reed, second from left is seated on the railing. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1911.

Everyone’s heard the phrase, “as strong as an ox”. Oxen often were used as draft animals in the early 20th century. They supplied much of the power associated with agriculture and were used to haul heavy loads, plow fields, and for carrying goods. A two-animal team usually can manage several tons. Interesting fact: Oxen cost half as much as horses, required half the feed and could be eaten in an emergency.

Point of Rocks is a far as one can go on Route 28 to escape urbanization and see the way things once were along the rest of the route in Montgomery County.

early 20th century horse and buggy

Two ladies dressed in their Sunday best pose in a Runabout Carriage. Photo by Lewis Reed

The carriage became a precise and very visible marker of mid-century class status. People in society were judged by their mode of travel. Just as today we know the difference in class between a Kia and a Mercedes Benz, people could tell the rank of others by a glance at their horse and carriage. The carriage in this photo was known as a runabout, which was a light, open, horse-drawn vehicle with four large wheels. Similar to a buggy, the runabout was used for informal travel or “running about” on errands.

early 20th century horse and buggy

Early 20th century horse and buggy. Photo by Lewis Reed

By the early 20th century, the most popular vehicle in America was the buggy, a light, four-wheel carriage with or without a collapsible top that seated one or two people.

Horse and Buggy

Hunting Hill Road near Rockville, ca. 1911. Photo by Lewis Reed

Buggies traversed rutted dirt roads across the Montgomery County countryside — sometimes their occupants needed a rest in the shade from the jolting motion of the carriage and the pounding heat of the sun.

Man on Horse

The most direct way to travel by horse was astride. Liveries provided horses for rent, which you could “drop off” at your destination, the way rental car companies work today. Photo by Lewis Reed

Less than a hundred years ago, before machines were invented, the horse was mans great partner.

woman holding rifle on horse

Why is she wearing a headdress and carrying a rifle? Photo by Lewis Reed

horse and buggy

Where in Maryland would that gigantic cactus be growing? Photo by Lewis Reed

early 20th century street scene with horses and cars

Horse-drawn buggies, wagons, and automobiles all share the street and park in all directions in this circa 1914 street view. Trolley tracks are visible at the bottom left. Photo by Lewis Reed

From the late 1890s to the 1920s, carriages and automobiles overlapped on city streets, as shown in the above photo.

2-wheeled pony cart

Young girl in a 2-wheeled pony cart. Photo by Lewis Reed

Youngsters, especially those born into wealthy families, needed to have experience riding and handling horses from a (sometimes very) early age.

Horse drawn baby carriage

Horse drawn baby carriage. Photo by Lewis Reed

The demise of horse-drawn vehicles began in the late-nineteenth century with the gradual transition to other forms of transportation, particularly motorized streetcars and automobiles. The man most responsible for putting the world on wheels, Henry Ford, had disliked horses since one had dragged him around his farm as a 9-year-old. He exacted revenge with the introduction of his Model T in 1908.

May 2, 1929 Montgomery County Tornado Disaster (Aftermath)

1929 Unity Tornado

Spectators view the destruction at the Benson farm, May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

Ninety-one years ago today, one of the worst tornado outbreaks in area history devastated a part of Montgomery County Maryland. At about 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, 1929, northeastern Montgomery County was struck by an F3 tornado, part of a large storm system that caused devastation from Florida to Ohio. The weekly Montgomery County Sentinel reported on May 10th that the “wind storm of cyclonic power . . . was of limited width and serpentine on its course. Everything in its path met with destruction.” These previously unpublished photographs were taken by Lewis Reed “after the tornado of May 2, 1929”.

1929 Unity Tornado

May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

The damage in the county was limited to the rural Unity area, north of Brookeville. The Sentinel article detailed each affected farm, noting that “thousands of persons from far and near visited the scene for several days to look upon the indescribable wreckage.”

1929 Unity Tornado

May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

From the Sentinel: “The storm showed its first violence upon the farm of Mr. J. William Benson. There it destroyed every building – the dwelling house, large barn, 117 feet long, including an attached shed, and all other outbuildings.” The farm was unoccupied, but furniture belonging to “a prospective tenant” was destroyed. Mr. Benson’s apple orchard was also significantly damaged, and the article claimed that “many [trees] were lifted into the air, carried over woods and landed several miles away.”

1929 Unity Tornado

Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane, May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

The fire departments of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Sandy Spring responded to the call made by farm worker James Leizear, who “extricated himself from the wreckage” and ran half a mile to a neighbor’s house to summon help.

The Post reported on May 4th that 28 people in Maryland and Virginia had been killed by tornadoes during the storm; most of the casualties were in Virginia, where an elementary school was struck full-force and at least 18 children died. In Montgomery County, the local Red Cross Chapter formed a citizen committee to raise funds “for relief of the sufferers.”

1929 Unity Tornado

May 1929. Photo by Lewis Reed

Note: These photographs were undated and unlabeled in my grandfather’s collection. My mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, who is seen above when she was almost 7 years old, positively identified these photographs and just about pinpointed the location! It’s amazing the things you remember from your early childhood.

Information Source: A Fine Collection

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