MYERSVILLE, Md. — To find out more about local families, Elmer Cline began by cleaning old gravestones.
That hobby led to him to genealogy, and he has become the lead researcher and historian for the descendants of the Philip Cline Sr. family, which has Civil War connections.
“My first love,” said Cline, 76, “was to clean old stones at old graveyards. To be able to read (a stone), it had to be cleaned. I would put lead in them so they are readable, and I would photograph them.”
The inscriptions reveal historical information about local families. They helped Cline discover that two of his ancestors, Philip and Elizabeth Cline, who settled in Frederick County in the mid-1700s, had 10 children.
Cline’s research led him to a book on the history of the Church of the Brethren in Maryland, which included information about a July 9, 1864, Civil War skirmish between Ellerton and Highland School roads near Wolfsville.
Not a lot has been written about the Cline family’s involvement in the Civil War, Cline said.
“So it was important to share that the Highland people were involved in a skirmish that took place on Highland School Road on the Blessing Farm,” where his ancestors were field hands, Cline said.
Farm owner George Blessing was later called “the Hero of Highlands” for fending off Jubal A. Early when Early marched from Hagerstown to Frederick through the Middletown Valley.
Blessing was assisted by several people, including John T. Gaver and Thomas Cline, the grandson and son, respectively, of Philip Cline Sr., Elmer Cline said.
Though the book’s discussion of “the Hero of Highlands” included his ancestors, Cline said, it neglected to use their surname.
“But I knew the field where the battle took place,” he said, and he used his research to fill in the historical blanks.
Cline made copies of the book and inserted the full names of his relatives in his own research, which he maintains on a computer.
Many people don’t know that the Clines from Wolfsville and the Klines from Myersville are related, Cline said.
“Through my research, I tied the two families together,” Cline said. "Everybody in the area thinks we are two separate families not related to each other, but we are."
A 1963 Middletown High School graduate, Cline said he was “put out for hire at 13 years old” by his father, and worked as a farmhand when he wasn't in school.
After high school, he worked at Fairchild Electronic Co., where he ran the warehouse that stored parts for the Army’s A-10 bomber, he said.
A bout of multiple sclerosis in 1984 significantly curbed his research efforts, Cline said, but his family members are grateful for the history he has compiled over 20 years.
“He’s worked at it for many years,” his aunt Creola Fawley said. “He’s put a lot of time and effort in that, and the family is very appreciative of him bringing up the history from way back.”
Cline takes his research to family reunions, and Fawley's grandson expressed interest in the project during a gathering in June, she said.
“He was very interested in it and asked Elmer for a copy,” Fawley said. “And Elmer was thrilled.”
Cline said he got his gravestone inspiration from author Jacob Mehrling Holdcraft, who wrote “Names in Stone,” a record of cemeteries and family burial plots in Frederick County.