Cumberland Times-News

Latest news

July 6, 2013

Looking Back: A murder at Paw Paw Tunnel

Paw Paw, W.Va. — Canallers were surprised one morning in the late 1890’s as they exited the somewhat frightening Paw Paw Tunnel only to meet a sight of true horror.

The lock house at lock 64 2/3 just below the east end of the tunnel was a charred mess.

It had burned to the ground during the night.

It was probably just by luck that it hadn’t started a forest fire.

The first canallers on the scene went ashore to search for the lock keeper. He was a friendly man who lived alone in the house and tended the five locks — 61, 62, 63 1/3, 64 2/3 and 66 — at the east end of the tunnel.

Another lock had originally been planned in that group of locks, but financial difficulties forced the C&O Canal Company to drop the plan for lock 65 and renumber the locks around it, which is why two of the locks had fractions in their number.

According to George Hooper Wolfe in his book, “I Drove Mules on the C&O Canal,” the lock keeper “was found in the ruins, dead of burns and crushed skull, evidently murdered.”

Because of the isolation of the area, word of the crime had to be sent back to Paw Paw, which was the nearest town more than a mile away.

From Paw Paw, a telegram could be sent to Cumberland to get the Allegany County sheriff down to the scene.

It all took the better part of a day.

Because of the difficulty required in reaching the lock house, the murderer had to know that something was there that he wanted.

Wolfe wrote that the lock keeper “was a collector of rare and unusual coins and delighted in showing them to Canal boatmen and anyone else interested. Many of the Canal boatmen would pick up coins for him as he was well liked by those who knew him.”

As search of the house’s ruins showed that the coins were missing, but the sheriff was unable to find a clue as to who had committed the murder.

“The incident was just about forgotten and people heard rumors that the affair was probably a local, well-planned inside job,” Wolfe wrote.

However, the canallers were reminded each time they passed through the tunnel locks of the friend whom they had lost.

They also remembered some of the coins in the lock keeper’s collection.

Some they had found for their friend and others were unusual enough to stick in their memories.

Months after the murder, some canallers were in one of Shantytown’s many saloons closing the place down.

A stranger walked in and offered to buy the canallers a drink, which they readily accepted.

When the stranger paid for the drinks, he used a coin that the canallers recognized as one of the missing coins from the lock keeper’s collection.

“The boatmen took the stranger in hand, searched him, and found other coins that had been shown to them by the locktender many times before. The boatmen handled him roughly and would have killed him on the spot had not the barkeeper interfered,” Wolfe wrote.

Police were called to arrest the stranger.

At his trial, canallers testified to which coins had come from the dead lock keeper’s collection and businessmen testified that the stranger had tried to pass other rare coins at their shops.

“On this evidence he was found guilty and hanged, maintaining his innocence, but finally admitting his guilt in the end,” Wolfe wrote.

Even today reaching the locks at the east end of the Paw Paw Tunnel is about a mile walk from the nearest parking.

 

1
Text Only
Latest news
  • Sheriff warns of scams targeting taxpayers

    CUMBERLAND — Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson cautioned residents Thursday to be aware of continuing telephone scams that are targeting taxpayers.

    April 17, 2014

  • DSC_0446.JPG Oakland returns to normal after tanker accident

    OAKLAND — Nearly 12 hours after a propane tanker overturned in the heart of its business district, the town of Oakland returned to normal early Wednesday night.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • New River Gorge bald eagle dies from injuries

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A female bald eagle that nested in the New River Gorge has died from injuries suffered last month when she was hit by a train and later by a vehicle.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
     

    April 17, 2014

  • Park Service opens Canal Classrooms Park Service opens Canal Classrooms

    CUMBERLAND – The National Park Service held a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday for a new program called Canal Classrooms, which will offer students pre-K through fifth grade accredited classwork on the Canal Place grounds.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • City, county officials to talk baseball at work session

    CUMBERLAND — During today’s Allegany County Commission work session, a proposal to study the possibility of bringing a professional-level baseball team to the area will be vetted again, this time with participants from the city of Cumberland.

    April 17, 2014

  • EversolCody004.jpg Cody Eversole named Kelley Award winner

    KEYSER, W.Va. — Keyser High School senior Cody Eversole was named this year’s J. Edward Kelley Award winner during a ceremony Wednesday morning at Potomac State College.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0464.JPG Cranes set up to remove overturned fuel tanker in Oakland

    OAKLAND — Two large cranes were being set up early Wednesday afternoon in downtown Oakland to remove a fuel tanker that overturned several hours earlier and forced evacuation of the business district.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Students support renovation of Southern Middle School

    OAKLAND — Students from both Southern and Northern middle schools presented a list of reasons why Southern Middle needs to be renovated during the Garrett County Commission meeting Tuesday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Oakland business district evacuated after tanker overturns

    OAKLAND — The town of Oakland business district was evacuated Wednesday when a tanker carrying 10,000 gallons of liquid propane overturned at Oak and Third streets at about 9:35 a.m., according to Garrett County officials.

    April 16, 2014

Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military Holder: Americans Stand With KC Mourners Obama Greets Wounded Warriors Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads
NDN Video
Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video
NDN Video
Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video