Reuben A. Whitmore (hermit)

From Kook Science

Reuben A. Whitmore
Alias(es) The Hermit of Rocky Ridge, Catoctin Hermit, Buffalo Bill
Born 23 July 1857(1857-07-23)
Richlevel Farm, Carroll Co., Maryland
Died 16 February 1935 (77) [1]
Rocky Ridge, Frederick Co., Maryland
Burial Mount Tabor Church Cemetery, Rocky Ridge, Maryland [2]

Reuben A. Whitmore (July 23, 1857 - February 16, 1935) was an American hermit, sometimes referred to as the Catoctin Hermit (after the Catoctin Mountain) or Buffalo Bill, notably a long-time resident of the wilderness around Rocky Ridge, along Fishing Creek, in Frederick County, Maryland.

Whitmore claimed in March of 1897, after being arrested and brought into the City of Frederick, to have devised a perpetual motion machine and that he had planned to sell the patent rights to an unnamed "Northern gentleman," but that the would-be buyer did not have the million dollars commanded for the sale.[3] He was committed to the Montevue Hospital, only to be released again just over a week later,[4][5] thereafter returning to his wild life.

In his later years, Whitmore rejoined society, coming to reside near Lewistown, Maryland, where he was the victim of an assault and robbery by two unidentified individuals in July of 1929.[6]


Reuben A. Whitmore, about fifty-five years old, a powerful, well-built man, six feet high — a modern Hercules was brought to Frederick city from Rocky Ridge, Saturday morning, where he had been arrested by Sheriff A. C. McBride, who found him living in a wild state in a dilapidated shanty in the woods. As he passed along the streets from the Pennsylvania station to the court house he attracted much attention. His large frame was entirely enveloped in an old log-cabin quilt, the surface of which, being torn into shreds, rendered his appearance all the more picturesque. He wore a pair of old boots, with his toes protruding through the ends, while upon his head was a derby hat of antique design, about five sizes too small for his massive head.

For ten years past he has led the life of a hermit in a hut, which he built with slabs from a nearby saw mill, the only aperture in it being a door at one end. His only companions in this hut in the woods have been two hogs, two cows and a calf and several dozen chickens and a dog. All of these occupied the same hut with their owner. Sheriff McBride said he experienced no difficulty in getting in the hut. The man had not awakened from his sleep and the chickens were still perched on his legs when he was aroused.

In one corner of the hut was a small stove with only one joint of pipe. When fire was made the hut was filled with smoke, and the man argued that people lost one-half the heat, which escaped with the smoke out of a chimney. He is known in that section as "Buffalo Bill." Although of respectable and well-to-do parentage, he prefers the primitive mode of life he has been following.

He was arrested at the instance of a number of farmers who feared his eccentricities might take a violent turn. He reluctantly yielded to being placed under arrest, but finally consented to go, after requesting that his live stock be well cared for.

His hair was about fifteen inches long and hung down in thick and matted locks over his shoulders, while his face was covered with a long heavy beard and mustache. He was taken before the court for a jury to determine whether he was of sound mind or not. He was perfectly cool and answered all questions in a rational manner.

In his statement before the jury he said: "I inherited some money from my people years ago, but time and again have I been cheated out of it. I also rented a large farm, but lost money. Then it was that I purchased my present place, containing half an acre, and have been prospering ever since, as you will observe by my appearance and healthy condition of my companions."

Being asked by States's Attorney Hinks when he washed and changed his clothing, he said: "I have not done either in the last ten years." This reply caused the young attorneys to draw away from him and allowed him ample room.

On being asked how he spent his time, he said: "I have devoted many years to the question of perpetual motion and eventually solved the problem. I have been negotiating for the sale of my patents to a Northern gentleman, to whom I submitted my models, but as he wanted credit and did not have the million dollars in cash, I stopped all dealings with him."

Being asked as to where the model was, he said: "For fear of its being stolen, I destroyed it, but still have the 'wheels in my head' and could easily construct them upon short notice for a ready purchaser."

The jury adjudged him unable to properly care for himself and committed him to the Montevue Hospital, where he was shorn of his locks with a pair of sheep shears and given a good bath by several of the attendants, much to his dislike, especially as he said his hair served him as a pillow. The sum of $171 was found concealed in his clothing by an attendant before the rags he wore were burned.


  1. "Obituary Notice", Frederick News Post: 5, 1935-02-18,, "Reuben A. Whitmore died at the Frederick County Emergency Hospital Saturday morning, aged 77 years, 6 months, 24 days. He was a son of the late Joseph and Anna Whitmore and was a native of Lewistown. He was the last member of his immediate family. Funeral this afternoon at 2:00 o'clock from Mt. Tabor Church." 
  2. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 9 April 2019), memorial page for Reuben A Whitmore (1857–1935), Find A Grave Memorial no. 51990951, citing Mount Tabor Church Cemetery, Rocky Ridge, Frederick County, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by pat callahan (contributor 46773012).
  4. "Release of Mr. Reuben A. Whitmore from the Frederick Hospital, Montevue. CATOCTIN 'HERMIT' SET FREE.", Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD), 1897-03-27, 
  5. "Reuben Whitmore Once More.", Catoctin Clarion (Thurmont, MD), 1900-10-25, 
  6. "Reuben A. Whitmore Bound and Clubbed by Two Men Who Enter Home", Frederick News (Frederick, MD), 1926-07-06,