You now stand in front of Gary Memorial United Methodist Church, one of the remaining structures built during an era when the mill towns not only produced the commerce of trade, but also developed communities that would shape the lives of generations. This marker is a testament to the history of a small town cradled be the Patapsco River Valley and the people who would come to know its banks as home.
The original settlement of Elysville dates back to 1810 when the family of Thomas Ely came to this part of the country and built a textile mill. The family of James S. Gary purchased the town in 1853 and renamed it Alberton in honor of son Albert Gary. The factory remained in the family until 1940 when the Daniels Company bought the town and changed its name to Daniels.
While most of the town was located on the Howard County side, village residences and churches were also constructed across the Patapsco River in Baltimore County. As a result, four areas of housing emerged: Guilford, Calf Hollow, Lower Brick Row, and Upper Brick Row.
By the late 1960s, approximately 90 families lived in Daniels. In 1968, residents were given notice that the town's owner, the C.R. Daniels Company, would close all housing within a few years. History would prove this decision to be wise. In June, 1972, tropical storm Agnes unleashed its force on the Patapsco River Valley destroying everything in its path. In the wake of the storm, the mill, which had operated for nearly 130 years, would close. Although portions of the town's buildings still remain, the only structure to survive intact would be Gary United Methodist Church - the church on Standfast Hill.
Still standing after tropical storm Agnes, the retaining wall, located along Daniels Road, suffered structural failure in the late 1990s. The board of Gary Memorial UMC appointed Clare Straw as chair of the restoration committee charged with its repair. As initial steps were being taken, he suffered serious illness that would lead to his death before the project's completion in the summer of 2005. This marker not only gives witness to the history of the Patapsco River Valley; it stands as a memorial to our brother, Clare Straw, who rejoined the Father before his work here could be finished.
All history is filled with the paradox of tragedy and human triumph, achievement and goodness. One constant is the reality, power and goodness of God, demonstrated abundantly by this marker. Throughout all the changing scenes here in the Patapsco River Valley, God's faithfulness to his children has remained constant and sure.
It is rewarding to look back across the years and give God thanks for His blessings and for all those whose dedication and faithfulness had helped preserve what we have today. While doing that, our challenge down the road is to rededicate ourselves to God's work in this place for years to come.
Text with upper left photo: Aerial View of Daniels, November 27, 1956 Clearly visible is the mill complex of the C.R. Daniels Company. The distinctive cupola of the bell tower is prominent. The former st. Alban's Church on the green sits to the upper right. The town featured a company store and was encircled by rows of housing. The railroad bridge still remains in use today, although the mill race seen here that used to provide power for the operation was restored to land. Note the swinging pedestrian bridge parallel to the railroad tracks once connecting both sides of the river.
Text with lower left photo: Church on Standfast Hill, c. 1890 This vista of western Alberton shows both the 1879 Gary Memorial Church and the town's public school located uphill. The town's icehouse is seen in the foreground to the bottom right. After suffering a partial collapse, the angled granite retaining wall below the church was restored by the congregation in 2005.
Text with upper center photo: Housing in Daniels, c. 1968 Duplexes like these below Gary Memorial existed throughout town. Notice the carved out steps in the foreground along with the low retaining wall still in place today.
Text with lower middle-left photo: View of Agnes, June 1972 From this viewpoint, flood waters created by tropical storm Agnes have covered the dam located in the middle distance. The result of this disaster would ultimately place the area on the National Register of Historic Places.
Text with lower middle-right photo: A photo of the mill factory and valley swelled with the waters of the Patapsco River following tropical storm Agnes.
Text with upper right photo: Retaining Wall Damage, July 2004 Damage dates back to the Winter of 1999. By the Summer of 2004, only vines remain where a portion of the granite wall once stood for over a century. The construction technique employed a gravity-based system to anchor the structure, eliminating the need to build into the hillside. Evidence of this can be seen in the interlocking material still intact along the top center. Nature also reclaimed much of the wall's facade. Retained storm water over time most likely caused the wall's structural failure.
Text with lower right photo: Wall Restoration, September 2005 The wall facade, now fully intact, resembles past images of the church grounds. Trees were removed and cleared to open views of the church from Daniels Road. Notice the brick classroom and meeting hall addition behind the tree line in the top center. Further enhancement of the grounds will include drainage redirection and landscaping of areas opposite the dam to reinforce this gateway feature.