Visiting Family History Series Locale Was a Blast

By Elaine L. Orr

Earlier in May, I visited Garrett County, Maryland, which houses the (fictional) town of Maple Grove, home to Digger, Uncle Benjamin, et. al. in my Family History Mystery Series. I drove or took the train through the Western Maryland mountains many times, but didn’t visit as I wrote the series because of Covid restrictions and a crushed vertebra. (Note to self: human parts are delicate. Do not crush.)

 Fortunately, the Garrett County Historical Society mailed me materials and many scholars have written readily available articles on the region. The stories are fiction, but I like the history to be true when I refer to things such as building Deep Creek Lake or Civil War actions in the region.

It was fun to tour the many hundreds of artifacts in the society building on Second Street in Oakland. It also reinforced my choice to name the sleuth Digger Browning. When I did initial research, I wanted a name that would relate to the area, but would not point to a specific person alive today. I chose Browning because this was the name of an early pioneer (Meshach Browning) and he had eleven children — and thus many descendants. 

If you look at the photo of items in a display case, you’ll see a receipt pad for Brownings, Inc., which was a grocery store and purveyor of meat. In the books thus far, I haven’t tied Digger to the name, but there will be plenty of books in which to do so.

More important than historical information was getting a better feel for the locale. I had never driven down to Oakland from Interstate 68. It’s the county seat, and I mention it in the books so readers have a frame of reference. Because Garrett County is home to Deep Creek Lake, it’s a resort area. I hadn’t expected the town to ‘bustle’ as much as it does. 
The best surprise was Book Mak’et and Antiques Mezzanine. I had inferred it was primarily a children’s bookstore — and it has a large collection and special area for kids. However, it also has a great selection of adult titles and a very friendly owner, Judy Devlin. She graciously agreed to carry the family history series.

And then there are the libraries. For a small county, in terms of population, the Ruth Enlow Public Library has an impressive five branches. In mountainous terrain with lots of snow, most people can live near one of the branches. Such a gift. The photo is of the Oakland Branch. Note the words on the back wall — The More You Read the More You Know.

I don’t write a travel blog, but I would have to recommend the area as a terrific place to hike, camp, or simply get to know. I’ll talk more about the history — as it relates to the books — as I begin book five. 
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