Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mt. Clare Telegrapher John Edward Spurrier

The period ink inscription on the back of this post Civil War period tin type photograph indicates that this young gentleman is John Edward Spurrier who was the telegrapher at Mt. Clare. In those days the little trapezoidal brick Mt. Clare Depot (which replaced the first 1831 wooden station in 1851 and is still preserved as a part of the B&O Railroad Museum) still served some Baltimore passengers as well as freight trains alongside the new big city depot Camden Station located several blocks east.
John E. Spurrier began his career during the Civil War in 1862 as the telegraph operator along the B&O line near Mount Airy, Maryland before being transferred to the little depot at Mt. Clare in Baltimore. Though physically small, the telegraph office inside Mt. Clare Depot held an important post. It was the only telegraph office for the B&O’s huge Mt. Clare shop complex where, during this period, more than 2,000 workers plied their trades building and maintaining the B&O Railroad.
John Spurrier was not the first of his family to work for the B&O. His grandfather, Thomas, was an engineer on a “Grasshopper” locomotive that operated between Mount Airy, Maryland and Frederick, Maryland in the 1840s and his father, Edward, was an operating official in Baltimore.
It’s rare to find a photograph from this period that has both the subject’s name and occupation. Without someone’s forethought, this wistful young man and his story would have been lost to the ages. Maybe it’s worth going through your box of family photographs one wintry night and jotting down some names and, even, a few interesting facts about your relative’s life and times…you never know.
Courtney B. Wilson
Executive Director