The Great Fire, Maryland Agriculture College, 1912

Edwin Powell

Edwin E. Powell is unofficially known as the "father of lacrosse" at Maryland. He organized the first varsity lacrosse team in 1910 and was an avid supporter of the program as an alumnus. Powell was a junior in Fall 1912 and witnessed the fire that devastated the Maryland Agricultural College. Powell took many of the photographs that appear on this website, having donated the images to the University of Maryland Libraries many years after the event.

After graduating from M.A.C. in 1913, Powell became a road builder in Western Maryland and worked in building construction in New York and Connecticut. He served 18 months in France during World War I and later returned to work in management for Mack Truck, the Pennsylvania and Illinois Bureaus of Public Roads, and for Black & Decker.

Edwin Powell in lacrosse uniform
Edwin Powell, pictured as a sophomore in the 1911 Reveille yearbook

We had a civilian inspector -- night watchman -- who watched two buildings. He was the one who discovered the fire. The fire was in my senior year.

That was the way I made my extra money. I had charge of the dining room for the food that they had at the dance. In the interval between my junior year and senior year, Professor Spence, who was on the board, sent for me when I was up on this road job at Beltsville, and he said that he didn't want me to be waiting on the tables as a senior. So, he asked me what experience I had with electricity; and I told him at one time I had worked in a moving picture parlor and I had taken an electrician's license. Okay, he said, we'll make you a college electrician. You'll have to supply the burnt-out bulbs and any short circuits or anything like that, you'll fix. So, that was the scholarship that I had.

As a result of the fire... We were scattered into the various homes throughout College Park, Riverdale, Berwyn, and Hyattsville, just to get rooms for the boys. There was four of us in two houses, four in each house, adjacent to each other. One of them was the Carroll home. On main university drive, College Drive -- is that what it is called now? ... or University Drive; I don't know which it is. Well, anyway, it's the main road that went down to the streetcar tracks. The eight of us ate at the Carroll home. They supplied the food. The eight of us decided that, in view of the fact that the college was down and the military was all off, and we didn't have it any more, that we would organize a fraternity. And so the eight of us formed the Gamma Pi Fraternity, which in 1917 was taken into the Sigma Nu fraternity. At the present time, there's only two of those eight living.

It was just wiped out. The whole thing was wiped... Nobody had any uniforms or anything, you know. There was a few of them that were there that managed to get into the trunk room and throw their trunks out the window. But whether or not they got their own uniforms or not, I don't know. But there was very little saved. I saved the college records -- the kids' records out of the record room -- because that was on the ground floor, and we got in there. But that was all.

I don't know whether you remember or whether you've ever heard about it, but the barracks sat up on the hill there where the old administration building is, and where the old dining room is behind it, and out in the front there was the parade grounds where we drilled. At the end of the parade grounds there was a great big flagstaff, and on either side of the flagstaff were two old cannons and two piles of cannon balls. That's where we played lacrosse, out on the parade grounds.

~This account was recorded and transcribed from an oral history interview in 1973. Cite as Maryland Manuscript item 1208

<<<Back to Personal Accounts

University of Maryland Libraries home University of Maryland home contact University Archives University of Maryland College Park home privacy policy