XVIII. BAKERTON NOW
The effect of the shutdown of the Bakerton plant was comparable at the local level to the events experienced by local residents during the Depression. During the earlier catastrophe, the limited amount of work at the plant, the generations of community ties, and the public services provided by Standard Lime and Stone were responsible for holding the community together. When the Bakerton plant closed in 1957, new jobs were more plentiful than they had been 30 years earlier. However, the support services provided by the company ceased to exist and the large national corporation that had absorbed Standard had little interest in the plight of the local workers. Brian Houser and other plant supervisors were successful in finding jobs for some of the local residents, and many of the more skilled workers found jobs outside the county or the state. However, most people were left to shift for themselves. Bakerton, the village, still remained, but the "company town" had ceased to exist.
During the next four years, the old Standard property lay idle, although several tenants on Ten Row were allowed to remain in their homes. In October 1961, the property originally owned by Standard was transferred to Martin-Marietta Corporation as the result of a merger between the Martin Corporation and American-Marietta.
Welsh's store and the post office, run by Martin "Skeeter"  Welsh and his wife Dottie, continued to operate throughout the 60's and 70's, although no other businesses were able to maintain a foothold for long in the area. After the Welshes both suffered strokes in 1981, the general store was sold to Peter Ausherman and the post office moved to Knott's store. Approximately one year later, Welsh's store was sold to Joseph Thompson. The post office is now located in this building.
Stores and businesses in the Engle and Moler's Cross Roads areas also shut down during this period. However, much of the available farmland still remained in the Engle, Knott, and Moler families, and family farming continues to survive.
When the Bakerton plant closed, the pumps had been pulled out of the tunnels, allowing the quarry to fill with water until it looked much as it does now. Word soon spread that there was a new swimming hole where people could do anything they wanted with virtually no restrictions. Young people began arriving in Bakerton and staying all summer, living in tents, lean-tos, and tree houses, cultivating their own marijuana crop, and generally making the established residents of Bakerton hostile and miserable because of the noise, drugs, nudity, and profanity.
George Dozier, who lived on Ten Row at that time, recalled that he "stayed there until they gave us notice we had to move out.... These hippies come in and went down to the quarry. It was getting so bad, they gave us notice we had to move . There was three of us there then. There was Louise Jamison's mother, and the Jones family. Us three were the only ones over there."1
When the local residents could stand the "hippie" invasion no longer, they and the police destroyed the shacks erected around the quarry. The actions of the Bakerton residents reduced rather than eliminated the problem. The Bakerton and Engle quarries are still plagued by trespassers, littering, accidents, and drownings.
After allowing the old Standard property to lay idle for 11 years, Martin-Marietta finally decided that mining operations could not be profitably restarted. The plant buildings were torn down and the property was put up for sale. A new era in Bakerton's history had begun.
Two hundred years before, in the 1760's and '70's, speculators like John Semple and Henry Lee had left their mark on the Bakerton area by acquiring vast quantities of land. They had hoped to resell it at a profit when navigation improved on the Potomac because the area lay next to a major trade route to the West. In the 1960's and '70's, large tracts of land were once again available, including the Orebank property and all of the land owned by Martin-Marietta in the Bakerton-Engle area. Growth trends in the metropolitan Washington area indicated that Jefferson County would soon feel the effects of the suburban population explosion. The Bakerton area, close to both the B. & O. railroad and U.S. Route 340, was targeted for residential development.
Jefferson County, like virtually all of West Virginia, was vulnerable to development problems because it lacked a subdivision ordinance and other tools to regulate land use. In addition, it was prohibited from having a building code until its population reached 45,000. This lack of regulation and the minimal property taxes were particularly attractive to people in Maryland and Virginia counties who wanted neither the suburban lifestyle nor the land use restrictions that were being instituted.
Three major developers arrived in the Bakerton area and proceeded to prepare for residential development. Robert Mason acquired land near the center of the original Orebank property and created a subdivision named Glen Haven. Another developer bought property south of Mason along the Potomac River and created the Potomac Terrace subdivision.
The bulk of the Martin-Marietta property was purchased by Maryland developer Daniel Sheedy in December 1972. The property was sold to Sheedy in two parcels. The one north of the Bakerton Store, called Valley View, contained approximately 560 acres and included three pieces of common property: the Bakerton quarry, a parcel on the Potomac River, and a 1-acre tract containing Preston Millard's rebuilt brick company store. This area was divided into approximately 50 lots ranging from 4 to about 25 acres. The parcel south of the Bakerton Store, called Potomac Farms, contained roughly 300 acres. The land was purchased for approximately $1 million or about $1,150 per acre.2
A fifth subdivision was created out of the land owned by Martin-Marietta south of Engle. This subdivision is known as Elk Run Estates.
Two types of subdivisions emerged in the Bakerton area. The Glen Haven and Potomac Terrace subdivisions, owned by resident developers, are both adjacent to the Potomac River and consist of flat or gradually sloping land. Although some of the lots are subject to flooding when the river reaches severe flood stage, terrain has not generally created problems in home and road construction and road maintenance. However, property owners in these developments will eventually have to face the challenge of maintaining community water and road systems.
The Potomac Farms, Valley View, and Elk Run Estates subdivisions, intended for resale as undeveloped land, were poorly laid out and became the prey of at least one unscrupulous builder. The list of shoddy building practices foisted on the Bakerton area during the early 1970's is enormous and includes improperly built foundations, structures not attached or improperly attached to foundations, cess pools installed instead of septic tanks and drainage fields, community water lines installed at ground level, and inadequately supported roofs and windows.
At least two of the subdivision surveys, those for Valley View and Elk Run Estates, ignored local topography and existing landmarks when lots were laid out. As a result, residents are still faced with roads that are virtually impassable in bad weather because of steep grades, portions of lots that are more accessible to neighbors than to owners, and property crisscrossed by fencerows and tree lines. The Potomac Farms Subdivision, laid out in two sections not served by the same roads and partially supported by a common water system, has never been able to function effectively as a unit.
It should be emphasized that not all of the houses built in the area during this period were substandard. However, the number of poorly built houses is substantial enough so that anyone thinking of buying an existing home in the area should determine the identity of the builder and talk to local residents.
As the population in the Bakerton area grew, more subtle problems became apparent. The community center, no longer maintained by Standard Lime and Stone, had been undermined and was structurally unsafe. It was torn down in the 1960's. The Bakerton Elementary School closed in 1965 and the remaining children were bussed at first to the Harpers Ferry Graded School and then to C.W. Shipley Elementary School.3 The schoolhouse was subdivided into apartments. The congregation of the Zion Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest standing structures in the area, left the building in the late 1950's and joined the congregation at Duffields. The church has been used temporarily by other congregations. The brick store formerly used by Preston Millard was razed by residents of the Valley View subdivision, and the stone and brick from the nearby pot kilns were reused as building materials.
Fire protection became another problem, for the water tower and fire suppression equipment no longer existed. Bakerton lay at least 6 miles from the nearest fire departments, who were hampered by the one-lane B.&O. underpass to the south, the twisting and rolling roads to the north and west, and the dangerous driving conditions in rain and snow. Fire protection remains a problem in Bakerton to this day.
Perhaps the most serious problem is the potential contamination of groundwater. The Bakerton area is vulnerable to water pollution from nonfunctional cess pools, drainage fields, and gasoline storage tanks because cracks in the limestone strata can serve as easy ways for contaminants to enter the ground water. In addition, the water-filled tunnels of the Bakerton quarry underlie much of the older section of Bakerton and serve as a ready source for dispersing pollutants and water-borne diseases. The quarry itself serves not only as a potential health hazard to swimmers but also as a possible dumping ground.
The restrictive covenants in the subdivisions, while serving as some protection against undesirable land use, have also limited the areas in which community services can be located. Little room remains for day care facilities, a community center, a fire hall, or additional stores. Several large tracts of land immediately south and west of Bakerton are potential sites for subdivisions, and some have already been developed.
The Bakerton, Engle, and Moler's Cross Roads of today are no longer communities, although they have the potential to become communities once again. The two active churches, the Church of God and the Bakerton Methodist Church, have been unable to regain the position of importance they once held in the area. The same can be said of the Methodist congregations at Engle and Moler's Crossroads.
Few of the residents from Bakerton's days as a "company town" still remain. Bound together by blood and memories, most of them will soon be gone. A gun club and a local Ruritan chapter sponsor a limited number of community events and projects, but they are hampered by a general lack of interest in the population. The subdivisions themselves have split people further into small groups that each focus their attention on the problems related to their few hundred acres rather than on the general problems facing them all. As more people choose to live in eastern Jefferson County and work in the metropolitan Washington area, the area becomes more of a bedroom community, empty during the day and uninvolved at night and on weekends.
Despite the problems in the Bakerton area, it is still a good place to live. Children are still safe on the roads. Most people are friendly and accessible if you take the time to get to know them. Noise and pollution have not yet taken their toll. But the area has no fire hall, no community center, and no playgrounds and there is no unified group willing to tackle Bakerton's problems.
What of Bakerton's future and that of eastern Jefferson County? Most of the geographical boundaries and natural resources that shaped the development of this area during its first 250 years not longer exist. However, three resources still remain ¾ agricultural land, undeveloped residential land, and a substantial history. Unfortunately, all three of these resources may disappear in the next decade unless the people in the area take positive steps to preserve them.
Farming now represents the longest continuously operating industry in eastern Jefferson County, but it is threatened by the same economic problems currently plaguing farmers throughout the country. As the demand for residential land increases, the temptation to subdivide existing farmland will become greater.
Excluding the land now being actively farmed, the Bakerton area still contains a substantial number of undeveloped lots within subdivisions and other land that has not undergone the subdivision process. Residential development creates demands for police, fire, and ambulance protection, wastewater treatment, playgrounds, and a central place to hold local functions. Because of limited financial resources in both the State and County, residents of Bakerton, Engle, and Moler's Cross Roads can expect little help from these sources. Unless local residents make an effort to buy some of the available property and set it aside for community services, the current problems will continue to grow.
According to growth projections, Bakerton and Engle will probably be near the center of the area in Jefferson County that will grow the fastest in the next 20 years. They have an option of being absorbed into a suburb that sprawls between Charles Town and Harpers Ferry or of redeveloping identities of their own. If the former occurs, then the names of Bakerton and Engle may be no more recognizable in the future than the names of Keller or Samples Manor are today. But perhaps the problems shared by area residents will be enough to bring them together to find solutions and provide needed public services. If this happens, then future generations may be able to recapture some of the closeness and pride experienced by the earlier residents of the village called Bakerton.
1. Interview with George W. Dozier, May 19, 1986.
2. Deed Book 352, pp. 540, 570; Book 353, p. 583; Book 360, pp. 674, 679; Book 385, p. 195; Book 392, p. 108; Book 394, p. 155, Charles Town, W. Va.
3. Jefferson County School News, February 1976, p. 6.
APPENDIX A. EXCERPTS FROM "A BRIEF BY L[ODONZO] C. ENGLE ON THE ORIGIN OF THE ENGLE NAME"