NH alumnus crafts history books; Author explains inspiration

Ben Iampieri, Reporter

     Doug Washburn, a NH graduate from 1965, is an author for history books taking place near to where he grew up: Jarrettsville.

     According to Washburn, his first works were about the one and two room schools in the area, which were “largely based on the records of the school commissioners.” He ended up being included in the Harford Historical bulletins for four books for the Historical Society of Harford County. The first he did was on “Election District 5 (Dublin district includes Dublin, Whiteford, Cardiff, Pylesville),” he says. His second one was “Election District 4 (Jarrettsville, Norrisville, and Upper Cross Roads),” he explained. His “next two Bulletins were on the segregated schools in all of the county.”

     “Based on these works, I was approached to write the history of Pylesville,” Washburn says. “In addition to being asked, it was of interest to me because my mother was born in the Stansbury Mansion when my grandfather was the miller at Eden Mill from 1918-1930.”

     The author found prior histories on the Jarrettsville area, but “they had little or no citation,” he states. “I doubted their accuracy. My goal was to not use any of the prior histories unless there was absolutely no other choice.”

     “History without citation is just a novel,” Washburn explains. “It is like working on genealogy… you want primary or secondary sources not hear-say.”

     “Jarrettsville is about 50 percent land records and 45 percent newspaper accounts (which did not start until the late 1850s),” Washburn says. “It is astounding what [is] in the deed books.” 

   The author says he worked on his books for about “another four-five years,” and then “On The Road From Jarrettsville, Vol. 1: the Village of Jarrettsville was published in April of this year,” Washburn states. “I am now working on Vol. 2.”

     The author’s objective “was to cover a good bit of the Jarrettsville Election Precinct but that would have been 1500 pages.” He now has a plan, subject to change, where he has four volumes: “Vol. 1: the village of Jarrettsville (2020, 238-pages), Vol. 2: Cooptown and Federal Hill (hopefully 2021 and not another four years), Vol. 3: Madonna and Talyor, [and] Vol. 4: Shawsville and Madonna.”

   Washburn’s goal for these history books “is not to make money, but [on] the other hand it would be nice not to be in the red either,” he claims. “The original Pylesville was color and the three of us that put money in for the printing lost a good bit.” For this reason, all volumes of Jarrettsville will be black and white, dramatically reducing price.

     Washburn has a degree in Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME), but he “worked in the telecommunications industry for 34 years,” he says. “My father died in [1984] and that got me started on genealogy. History naturally followed,” he explains.

     The Harford County resident did not always want to be an author. “I enjoy the research,” he says. “Finding that nugget that no one else has brought to light for readers today is what motivates me.” He explains the motivation “in the Pylesville book, that was the Pylesville Baptist Church and John Wilkes Booth being at the tavern at Five Forks to plot the kidnapping (not assassination) of Lincoln.” For his Jarrettsville book, “it was getting the history of the general store and the hotel sorted out,” he says.

     “My engineer training makes me want to actually produce something,” Washburn explains. “I have research friends that have tons of interesting information but they never produce anything to share with others. When they die, the kids will probably just throw it out.”