Stroll through history

May 03, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

DOWNSVILLE - Visitors to McMahon's Mill Civil War Military and American Heritage Museum won't be allowed to fire the roughly 7-foot-long rampart gun, but they can turn the crank on the Gatling gun.

The rampart gun is a new addition to the museum Bill McMahon opened in 2000 at the site of his former restaurant.

The museum is one of 19 museums and historical sites in Washington County that are participating in the fourth annual Washington County Museum Ramble this weekend.

Several of the participating museums and sites are offering free admission during ramble hours, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


The ramble, a self-guided tour, showcases Washington County attractions, many of which local residents don't know about, said Joyce Stanley, secretary for the Washington County Association of Museums and Historical Sites.

The ramble is sponsored by the association and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Maps and directions to the participating sites are available at the Visitor Welcome Center at 6 N. Potomac St. in downtown Hagerstown as well as at most participating sites. The map and brochure also can be found at

McMahon, a retired CIA special agent, has collected various Civil War and pre-Civil War firearms, including black powder muskets, pistols and flintlocks.

Rampart guns, developed before the Civil War, were made to attach via a pin to the top of a fort wall or to a boat, said McMahon, 76. The gun improved long-distance shooting, leading to sniper-type weapons.

Whereas the typical musket was muzzle-loaded, a rampart gun was breech-loaded. This made it safer to reload because men didn't have to stick their heads over the wall to push black powder and a lead ball down the front of the barrel, McMahon said.

The .90-caliber gun weighs about 21 pounds, and the lead balls it fires are almost 1 inch in diameter.

The museums and sites participating in the Museum Ramble are:

· Boonsborough Museum of History, 113 N. Main St., Boonsboro, 301-432-6969. New exhibit, "Trench Art and Wartime Souvenirs."

· Bowman House and Boonsboro Historical Society, 323 N. Main St., Boonsboro, 301-432-8410. The Bowman House, built by Jacob Powles, is typical of log houses built in Western Maryland during the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1868 John Bowman purchased the log house and established the Boonsboro Pottery. His kiln was located about 75 feet to the rear of the building.

· Christian Heritage Museum, 14111 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown, 877-313-9002. A privately owned collection of historic Bibles, books, manuscripts, sermon notes, and documents of Christian history.

· Discovery Station and Hagerstown Aviation Museum, 101 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, 301-790-0076. "Fly" in a flight simulator. Refreshments. See A on the map.

· Fort Frederick State Park, 18 miles west of Hagerstown, one mile south of Interstate 70 (Exit 12 for Md. 56), 301-842-2155. Living history programs.

· Hagerstown Railroad Museum, Hagerstown City Park. Steam Engine 202 was a locomotive built in 1912 to haul passengers, mail and baggage between Baltimore and Hagerstown. Retired in 1953. See G on the map.

· Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, 300 S. Burhans Blvd. (U.S. 11), 301-739-4665. See a trolley built in 1918, torpedoes for railroad tracks, and a special lantern designed to measure color blindness. Working model trains. Drinks and cookies. See C on the map.

· Jonathan Hager House and Museum, Hagerstown City Park, 301-739-8393. Private frontier fort and original home of Hagerstown's founder, large collection of 18th century antiques, and frontier forts display. See E on the map.

· The Mansion House, Hagerstown City Park, 301-797-6813. Valley Art Association headquarters. Paul Rhymer and wife Carolyn Thome will show their paintings and bronze sculptures in the North Gallery with reception Sunday afternoon. Artist demonstrations both days. See H on the map.

· Miller House and Washington County Historical Society, 135 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, 301-797-8782. Exhibits include Bell pottery, doll/toy collection, historic items from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the C&O Canal. Antique taxi display. Refreshments. See B on the map.

· McMahon's Mill Civil War Military and American Heritage Museum, Avis Mill Road, south of Williamsport, 301-223-8778 and 301-223-9314. See a Gatling gun, Civil War weapons, jewelry from around the world and more.

· Pry House Field Hospital Museum, 18906 Shepherdstown Pike, Sharpsburg, 301-695-1864 or 800-564-1864. See a special medical display showing battlefield surgery following the single bloodiest day in American history.

· Smithsburg Historical Society, 20 E. Water St. (former town library), 301-824-7154. Smithsburg-area artifacts, Smithsburg High School memorabilia and artwork by local artists.

· The Train Room, 360 S. Burhans Blvd., Hagerstown, 301-745-6681. Collection of nationally renowned Lionel items. Buy one admission, get one free. See D on the map.

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