The threat of Hurricane Florence this past September reminded people across the Mid-Atlantic about past hurricanes that have devastated the area.
In June of 1972, Hurricane Agnes came roaring into Maryland. It would go on to cause over $110,000,000 worth of damage in Maryland alone. Susan S. Garmon was a 17 year-old teenager at the time, living in Lockhouse 6 with her family in the newly-created Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. This is her story.
My father, Garland B. Williams, Jr., worked for the National Park Service as the Administrative Officer at George Washington Memorial Parkway headquarters in Virginia at the time of Hurricane Agnes. Our family lived in several lockhouses during my childhood. Lockhouse 13, located under the American Legion bridge (the lockhouse was torn down in order to construct the bridge), Lockhouse 8 in Cabin John, and later Lockhouse 6 in Brookmont.
I was 17 at the time of Hurricane Agnes and remember the police knocking at our door in the middle of the night requesting that we evacuate. So my parents, my little sister Peggy Sue and I grabbed our pets and a few belongings and, following the police officer, waded in waist-deep water from the house to a path that led up the hill to the parkway. We then crossed the Clara Barton parkway to our car parked at the bottom of Valley Road. We stayed with relatives for a short while and also in the basement of the church in Brookmont until we found a house to rent. We never moved back to Lockhouse 6. I can remember going over there the next day or two, and seeing water as high as the first floor window swirling around the house. The pressure from the water must have broken through the door leading to the basement from the side of the house because I can remember some of our belongings like toys, fishing rods, etc. floating in the water nearby.
It was interesting living in the lockhouse because I kept a small rowboat in the canal that I tied to a tree. I fished a lot, sitting on the edge of the lock. I would put my ice skates on in the kitchen and walk outside a few steps to the canal where I would skate with my friends near our bonfire on the towpath. Those were the days!
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Susan S. Garmon worked for the National Park Service for 20 years and was a Senior Budget Analyst for the National Capital Region until 1994. Her grandfather was the first Superintendent of Catoctin Mountain Park in Western Maryland.
Lockhouse 6 is one of six lockhouses available for overnight stays in the C&O Canal Trust’s Canal Quarters program, which offers overnight stays in the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Each lockhouse is furnished to depict and interpret a different time period in the canal’s history from the 1830s to the 1950s. Swains Lockhouse will join the Canal Quarters program this fall, becoming the seventh lockhouse in the program. Learn more about the Canal Quarters program and book your stay here.