There are names of streets and small towns all over our country that tell the story of our ancestors, except we are often too busy to take note and or, more than likely, we have lost the voice of the story-teller.
In northern Baltimore County, there are seven square miles that wrap around the intersection of Harford and Joppa Roads and is known today as Carney.
Thomas Carney was one of the lucky ones to escape Ireland during the potato famine and to arrive in Maryland, healthy and able to work. From County Roscommon in the geographic center of Ireland, to Texas in the heart of Baltimore County, it was a move that gave him opportunity and hope. He was one of hundreds of Irish immigrants that became part of the quarrying industry. By 1860, he was employed at the Beaver Dam Marble Quarry as a stone cutter and by 1881, he was laboring to cut stone for construction of the Loch Raven Dam.
Thomas Carney, no doubt, tiring of the backbreaking work of quarrying, was industrious enough to imagine alternative ways to provide for his growing family. He purchased, partially on credit, an interesting property called “Vineyard Hill” located on the southeast corner of the Baltimore and Harford Turnpike, now the intersection of Harford Rd and Joppa Rd. The property contained the “Eight-Mile House” considered by the Baltimore Sun in 1881 as a mansion. The “Eight- Mile House,” under Carney became a welcome center for the community. It was where local farmers would take their produce to sell, where groceries could be bought, and provisions traded. Thomas Carney was smart enough to anticipate the needs of the community. The “Eight -Mile House” also served as a tavern to refresh travelers on the Turnpike. He was also instrumental in opening a bank. The Carney Permanent Savings and Loan Association of Baltimore County was incorporated in 1887.
According to Thomas Carney’s granddaughter, Anne Carney Brown, “People began to say that they were taking their goods to Carney rather than refer to it as the former, Vineyard Hill.”
At the time, there were existing post offices in nearby Hamilton and Cub Hill but Thomas Carney applied to the United State Post Office and was granted a permit to establish a post office in the “Eight- Mile House.” Mail was henceforth addressed to the town of Carney.
Mr. Carney, when he died in 1907, left behind a family that included his wife, seven daughters and one son. You can be sure that present day descendants of this family feel a secret satisfaction of knowing this corner of the world remains named in tribute to their ancestor.
With St. Patrick’s Day celebrations now taking over the month of March, it is interesting to note that Thomas Carney also was the first President of the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick at their first meeting on March 17, 1873 at the Irish congregation of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Cockeysville. It was a local chapter of an international benevolent society meant to aid victims of starvation and eviction from Ireland. Now 143 years later and with the purpose behind St. Patrick’s Day obscured with excuses for celebratory binge drinking, the sobering truth is there are still countries for which starvation and eviction are the biggest concerns.
I can think of no better reason to toast then to the spirit of the Irish immigrants like Carney who humbly never forgot that their good fortunes were in juxtaposition to their less fortunate countrymen and with that, to remind ourselves to continually pay attention to the starving among us.