Won't you take me to...Funkytown
Region: Western Maryland
Metro Area: Hagerstown
-The Funk Brothers-
Before the Civil War
began, when the country was still full of rolling hills and farmland
vistas uninterrupted by office buildings and telephone poles, Washington County, Maryland
was inhabited by several German
families carrying the name Funk
However, we are not interested in all of these families just two brothers
, Jacob and Henry Funk. These two American born Funks
are a slight mystery
. Records show that one set of brothers carrying the names Jacob and Henry were born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
at the same time that a set of Funk brothers were coming into the area from Virginia
. The brothers who came from Virginia eventually returned, that much is certain, but there's no real documentation
as to which of these two sets our story is about. Just keep that in mind if anyone ever asks you where the founder
of Funkstown came from.
After many years, of growing up perhaps, Jacob Funk became one of the largest landowners
in the county.3
In 1754 he and Henry put their money together and purchased 88 acres of land from Frederick Calvert, the sixth and last of the Lords
. Calvert's land, Black Oak Ridge
, was surrounded on three sides by the east bank of the Antietam Creek
It took the brothers over ten years to lay out a town
on the property they had dubbed Jerusalem
. In 1767 there were fifteen log cabins
on the Main Street and a mill
on the Antietam Creek. Two years later Jacob built a large stone house
on the Main Street.
Jacob Funk was the more aspiring of the two brothers, as evidenced by his decision in 1771 to leave Jerusalem and go east towards the Potomac River
to develop a town he would call Hamburg
. The land he had spied was not destined to be Hamburg however, but Washington, D.C.
In 1791 he left Maryland
with fifty other German settlers
and set off for Kentucky
Henry Funk was less of an adventurer
, and was more interested in settling in Jerusalem and developing the town. When Jacob left, he moved into the stone house and set up residence
Maryland was an area highly populated with German immigrants
, so it should be no surprise that the town founded by two Germans would attract mostly German settlers. With them these settlers brought their customs
. They exercised their love of horticulture
and cultivated flower gardens
with enthusiasm, having competitions to see whose was the best. At Easter
they held egg hunts with colored hen eggs
and told their children tales of an egg carrying rabbit
who had visited the town. At Christmas they put up trees and hung sugar candy
and cake from them. Tales were told of a jolly
old man wearing a mask
, named Bellsnichol or Kriskringle
, who came with nuts and cakes for good children
and a rawhide whip
for bad ones.
The town's history
is filled with many stories, both exciting and bizarre. The tale
of Mrs. Smith is not an unusual one. She lived on Cemetery Street with her husband
and their eight daughters and two sons. One day, while gathering wood
on the other side of the creek, she was taken captive
. They did not kill her though, in fact they kept her for so long that her husband began looking for a new bride
. Imagine his surprise, and that of Polly Hess, his intended, when one day a weary Mrs. Smith came home. She had managed to escape her captors and, traveling by night, get home safely.
Jerusalem was bustling with business from the mills, but also from the several inns
, the wagon yard
and local tradesmen
. Adam Iseminger was known for his spinning wheels
in 1809. Frederick Kerler for the $4 a gallon wine
he made and sold from vineyards
on his property in town. Situated on a busy wagon
road, the town saw many wagoners hauling cargo
to Wheeling, West Virginia
and then on the National Pike
. In fact the town prospered until 1832 when the B. & O. Railroad
, located a mile west of Jerusalem, took freight
By the early 1800's there were quite a few mills on the creek around Jerusalem; a paper mill
; a sawmill
; a powder mill
; and, a woolen mill
that made blankets. Many disputes had to be settled concerning waters from one mill backing up water to a neighbors wheel
. In 1808 John Henry Shafer decided the creek could be used for more than just mills. Shipping freight
by boat from Jerusalem twelve miles away to the Potomac River became a vision
he wanted to see made real. It took him three years to build two locks
and a boat
one hundred feel long.
If you traveled to Funkstown today and asked to see the Antietam Canal
you'd likely get blank stares. This is because the plan never worked. Shafer loaded his boat with one hundred barrels of flour
and sent it on its maiden journey
. It made it through the two locks, unfortunately it made it no further than that capsizing
at the second dam
and spilling flour into the creek. Where the locks had been built a sawmill and cement mill
were constructed by Shafer, hiding his failure.
-An Irish Rebellion-
In 1823 Jerusalem was teeming with Irish laborers
who had come from Cork County Ireland
to work on the road
and the bridges6
over the Antietam Creek. They were living in the eastern end of town. On St. Patricks Day
some locals made a Paddy, an effigy to St. Patrick, and hung it on a lamp post
in the Irish end of town. Offended and outraged, the laborers marched through the town looking for the culprits, causing a riot
. A company of soldiers
from Hagerstown had to come and help end it.
It wasn't until 1840 that the town was officially changed to Funkstown, although it had been called that by locals
as early as 1754. Funkstown is one of nine towns in Washington County to have been incorporated
in the 1800's. The others are:
When a town was incorporated it built a townhall
in which a mayor8
would meet and carry on the business of the town. These towns are also represented on the county flag
by a star
. Why incorporate a town? Well, when a town was large enough it had the usual problems and disputes so laws, often in the form of charters
, had to be made. Elections
would decide who would make up the town government
and people would have a chance to be heard about issues concerning the town. The town government worried about the water supply
, sewage disposal
, dealt with questions about streets and sidewalks, organized a police force
put up street lights and had a vested interest in the fire company
. Basically, if it concerned the town it concerned the town council.
-The Battle of Funkstown-
Washington County citizens saw lots of action during the Civil War
with skirmishes happening all over the county. As General Lee
was retreating through Williamsport
, after the Battle of Gettysburg
, he found himself unable to cross a flooded Potomac River
. He ordered his troups to dig trenches
along the river
; to protect this activity from the Union Army he sent General James Ewell Brown Stuart, known as "Jeb," to hold Funkstown and seal off the National Pike.
On the morning of July 10, 1863 General
John Buford, along with General Stuart, led Federal troops
to meet the Union
army in battle. The Battle
of Funkstown lasted all day with 479 soldiers killed
by nightfall. The Chaney House, named for the doctor
living there at the time, was utilized as a military hospital
to treat the massive numbers of wounded. Operating tables
were set up in the yard under some trees, and a number of amputations occurred there. As soon as someone's wounds were dressed they were carried into the house
and laid somewhere on the floor, often in rows. Funkstown citizens ministered to the wounded, watching as many died from their injuries.
-In Memory of Fallen Soldiers-
On July 23, 1921 a memorial, just off Baltimore Street, was dedicated to those who died during World War I
. Every year a Memorial Day parade
was held in Funkstown, until 1949. After World War II
, interest in the parade declined drastically.
Today the town is much the same as it was while having made the usual technological advances
. It's a small close-knit community
where everyone knows everyone else's business. On the main street, now known as Baltimore Street, the log cabins are still scattered about. Although the original log cabins were burned down, those now standing are close replicas
that have been restored over the years, retaining the historical
elegance of the originals. These buildings are used as homes
now. The mill the Funk brothers built is gone and now stands the present day Fire hall
, where bingo
is held weekly and once a year the Chip n Dale dancers
make a fundraising appearance. The Chaney House, where soldiers were mended after the Battle of Funkstown, is now known as Ruth's Antique
Shop. In fact, one of the biggest draws of tourism
to Funkstown is the plentiful Antique shops scattered about.
is a major trade
in Funkstown. Being near the Antietam Battlefield
it draws many tourists with its historical aspects. Much like the rest of the area, there are annual reenactments
of the Battle of Funkstown. Every citizen in town can take part in it, if they so choose. The soldiers dress up in full costume
, start shooting their muskets
at dawn, and pause shortly for lunch before continuing the battle into the evening hours. It is during the lunch
break that the rest of the town gets to participate
. The citizens know that the soldiers will be tired
and have been told that if they would like to help, to have fruit
available to give out. The reenactment is as true to history as possible, and in those days the soldiers would have gone door to door
asking for help from anyone still in town. So the actors will knock on doors as they walk all over the town in search of food. The request for only fruit and bread is also an attempt to remain true to history.
Reenactments aren't the only things held annually in Funkstown, however. Every year there is an Old Tyme Christmas Open House
held the first Friday in December
. The residents set out luminaries
on their porches and sidewalks; some putting the candles
and sand in the readily available white paper bags
handed out, others putting the candles in mason jars
that sparkle and offer a more classic
glow. The lovely night vision
is not all that is offered at this event; there are also carriage rides
through town; refreshments
at the townhall; and, Santa
is around to visit with children. Prizes are alloted to the top three or four homes in Funkstown with the best Christmas decorations. This doesn't mean that loading up your house like the Griswalds
, with hundreds of lights and plastic
Santa's, will win
you the small check and brief mention in the paper. The homes that most often win are decorated in a classic
look with candles in their windows, and greenery
tastefully draped on porch banisters
Another draw of tourism in Funkstown is the Cinderella Grave in the cemetery
. People come from all over to see the grave of 19 year old Cinderella Morgan who died in 1852.
Funkstown is about friendly people and quaint
living. It's a very small town
that usually goes overlooked by neighboring towns. Often people drive through it without even noticing they left Hagerstown. It has one elementary school
, one townhall, one fire hall, one church
, several bars, one strip club
, a post office
, one general store
, several antique shops, a florist9
, a scattering of artists shops
and other small stores and an American Legion
. We're a small town but we have big hearts
. Whenever a new family
moves to Funkstown, they aren't greeted with pulled curtains and crinkled shades
. Instead they find themselves welcomed with warm smiles
, friendly phone calls, and home cooked hellos.
1This population statistic is via the 2000 census, citizens may have moved to or from Funkstown and may have been born or died in the 3 years since.
2Funk is the anglicized version of the German name Funck. Most Germans, and for that matter immigrants from any country, altered their family name when they came to American shores. This was done, not in an attempt to deny their heritage, but to fit in with those already here better. They thought that if they sounded more American they would have an easier time finding work, being accepted into neighborhoods and making friends.
My own ancestors did the same, which made it easier to track down relatives when writing out the family tree. Every Warrenfeltz in America is related in some way; we all descended from the same German immigrant, Jacob Werenfels. Unfortunately not many people have this bit of luck when tracking down their genealogies.
3You should probably know that back then Washington County had yet to be formed. The area was known as Frederick County until 1776 when it was divided up and Washington County was formed. Actually when the division happened Funkstown was in the running with Hagerstown to be the county seat. Unfortunately Jonathon Hager beat Henry Funk to Annapolis and convinced the Maryland convention to choose his town, which at the time was known as Elizabethtown.
4The creek forms a horseshoe of water and on one side it turns and flows back the way it came, forming a little peninsula. This peninsula is known today as Johnson's Island, after the man who lived there in 1901.
5The stone house is the oldest permanent building in town, and during the Civil War was known as South's Hotel.
6The three bridges crossing the Antietam Creek in Jerusalem were designed by James Lloyd. The bridges still stand today and are historical landmarks. The Funkstown Turnpike Bridge was widened in the 1900's so it's original stonework is only visible on one side. However the Old National Bridge still remains a one-laned bridge exiting Funkstown from the main street and is, for the most part, still constructed as it originally was.
7It was quite common then, as it is now, for there to be multiple towns with the same name.
8Since most of the county was inhabited by Germans, the mayor was often called a burgess in those days.
9My cousin Denny runs the flower shop, Rooster Vane, if you find yourself in need of a lovely arrangement and you're in town, just tell him you were sent by family.
Lyrics from Funkytown by Lipps Inc.
The Story of Washington County, by Mary Michael. Library of Congress, 1993. ISBN: None
Images of America: Washington County by Mary H. Rubin. Arcadia Publishing, 2001. ISBN: 0-7385-1418-7
Funkstown: "Unofficial" Antique Capitol of County, http://www.marylandmemories.org/proof/funkstown.html