Nicholas DiGregory

Luminarias Photo-1Bells have long been a cherished part of the firefighting tradition. Long before the invention of the radio or even the telephone, bell systems were used to signal firefighters throughout the day. The bell of the firehouse was rung to signify the beginning of a new shift, or to call members of a particular fire department to their station. When a fire occurred, the bells of the fire alarm telegraph system would be rung a specific number of times to indicate the precise location of the fire. These telegraph system bells were also used to call for backup if a particular fire department needed support in putting out a fire.

While the tolling of bells has been a part of firefighters’ lives for hundreds of years, there is one specific ring that no firefighter has ever wanted to hear. Three sets of five tolls, each set apart from the others by a short pause, has been the universal signal that a firefighter has fallen in the line of duty.

The somber fifteen tolls of the bell sounded in Emmitsburg once again during the 34th National Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend. During the weekend of October 3-4, 2015, hundreds of family members, friends, and fellow firefighters came to Emmitsburg to honor eighty-seven heroes who had died in the line of duty—eighty-four of whom had lost their lives in 2014.

The weekend was comprised of two major events: a candlelight service on October 3, and the official National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on October 4. Both events were set to take place at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park on the grounds of the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg; however, inclement weather forced both events to be moved indoors.

The candlelight service on October 3 was held inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The evening service, which was closed to the public, provided a comforting and serene atmosphere for families and friends to mourn their loved ones. Throughout the service, musical pieces were performed, tributes were read, and prayers were offered in honor of the fallen firefighters. All the while, the names and faces of the eighty-seven fallen heroes were displayed on a projector for all to see.

The centerpieces of the candlelight service were eighty-seven luminarias that were placed along the altar rails. Prior to the event, families and friends created and decorated a small luminaria for each of the eighty-seven fallen firefighters. Many of the luminarias were decorated with stickers and drawings, and each featured a portrait of a fallen firefighter. These luminarias remained lit throughout the candlelight service, casting a warm light upon all who were gathered.

An eighty-eighth luminaria stood above the others in front of the altar, to honor the sacrifices of all fallen firefighters. Tamie Rehak Vjotesak of Virginia, whose husband died in the line of duty in 2002, lit the honorary luminaria midway through the event.

“It is a traditional Hispanic custom to display luminarias on the eve of an important event,” said Rehak Vjotesak. “On the eve of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, we display these lighted tributes in honor of the eighty-seven heroes that we honor and remember.”

The light of the honorary luminaria was then ceremoniously passed to all gathered at the event. Gail Fowler of New York, whose husband died in the line of duty in 1997, carried the light in the form of a small electric candle. She touched the light of her candle to others, who turned on their electric candles and passed on the light in a similar manner.

The candlelight service concluded with the performance of a new song, written this year and performed by singer/songwriter David Carroll. Entitled “The Fallen and the Brave,” the song drew on Carroll’s experience as a volunteer firefighter.

Several times throughout the service, members of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) thanked the Daughters of Charity and the Rev. Frank Sacks for providing a location to hold the candlelight service.

“On behalf of the foundation, I would like to thank the Daughters of Charity and recognize Father Frank,” said Chief Dennis Compton, chairman of the board for the NFFF. “They offered their assistance immediately and in a genuine display of compassion . . . we could not ask for a better neighbor.”

For the memorial service on October 4, all proceedings were moved from the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to Mount St. Mary’s Knott Arena in the PNC Sports Complex. The service, which began at 10:00 a.m., was open to the public.

The memorial service began with a tolling of bells and a procession of flags led by the honor guard and the pipes and drums. The American flag and the NFFF flag were processed in first, followed by the flags of the fire departments that lost firefighters. At the end of the procession, active duty firefighters carried a folded flag for each of the eighty-seven fallen firefighters.

Following the flag procession, the national anthem, and the pledge of allegiance, all of those gathered were greeted by Mayor Don Briggs of Emmitsburg and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner. Both officials thanked the families present for the sacrifices of their loved ones, lauding the heroes for their bravery in the face of danger.

Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland then addressed the crowd, offering his condolences to the grieving and highly praising the fallen for their courage and willingness to sacrifice themselves.

“Here in Emmitsburg we inscribe the names of loved ones and heroes—it is a place we can come to remember those who have fallen in the service of their communities, of their neighbors, and of our country,” said Hoyer. “It is a place where all of us can find solace and fill those empty spaces in our hearts through the power of love and remembrance.”

Following Congressman Hoyer’s remarks, live broadcast feed of Memorial Park was projected, showing the placement of the presidential wreath at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

Immediately following, Chief Ernest Mitchell of the United States Fire Administration and FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate also addressed the crowd. Both men strongly praised all firefighters for their service to the country.

“If you really look into the heart of a firefighter, the question is not about them—it’s about who they serve,” said Fugate. “They never think about if they’ll go home. They always think about who they’re helping, who they’re serving, oftentimes at great sacrifice.”

As Fugate concluded his remarks, he introduced President Obama. In speaking to the audience about the firefighting profession, the president drew on Christian scripture and lauded firefighters for being their brother’s keeper.

“Every single day, across our country, men and women leave their homes and their families so that they might save the lives of people they’ve never met,” Obama said. “They are good stewards, serving their neighborhoods, their communities, our nation, with courage and fortitude and strength. We can never repay them fully for their sacrifices.”

Obama also offered his condolences and those of all Americans to the families and friends of the fallen firefighters.

“Words alone cannot ease the pain of your loss,” Obama said to the grieving who were gathered. “But perhaps it helps a little bit to know that the American people stand with you in honoring your loved ones. We admire them, we cherish the work that they do, and we hold you in our hearts today and always.”

After Obama concluded his speech to a standing ovation, he officially unveiled the 2014 memorial plaque, to be mounted on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Obama then personally met with each of the families of the fallen firefighters. After each family met with the president, they were presented with a folded flag, a personalized fire badge, and a single red rose. Each of the flags had been previously flown over the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial and the Capitol dome.

Once all of the families had met with the president, the bells were tolled the traditional fifteen times to signal a final farewell to the fallen heroes. The Rev. Thomas Mulcrone of the Chicago fire department offered a final prayer, commending the fallen heroes and their families to the care of God.

While the 2015 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend has passed, the NFFF is still offering ways to honor the fallen heroes. Names and biographical information for all of the eighty-seven fallen firefighters can be found online at Donations to the Foundation in their honor can also be made at the same website.

Photos by Bill Green, Courtesy of NFFF

Obama Photo-1

President Obama unveiled the 2014 plaque to be placed on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, featuring the names of eighty-four firefighters who passed away in 2014, and three who passed away in earlier years.


VFW Building- Veterans COLUMN2You are eligible to be a member of any VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Men’s Auxiliary if you are a man over the age of sixteen, a citizen of the United States, and are a husband, widower, father, son, grandson, brother, foster brother, step brother, foster son, or step son of persons who were or are eligible for membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. The very first thing you should know—and I will attest to—is that these organizations are not formed just for a cheap drinking establishment; we are comrades in aiding our parent organization, the VFW, our Veterans and our community families. We have standing committees for membership, relief, publicity, youth activities, Americanism, community activities, and safety. We have fundraising functions and urge everyone to volunteer their time and expertise to make the events enjoyable, as well as profitable. We have as our objective to promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and constructive service to local communities.

The VFW has a National Home for Veterans Children, and they are celebrating their 90th year this year. The National Home’s community is open to active duty military personnel, Veterans, and—recognizing that the effects of war can last for generation—descendants of members of the VFW and its auxiliaries. The families can be one or both parents with one or more children. Families are welcomed to their small community, where they can live for up to four years. They work to identify what they need and want to accomplish, during which time they are provided with housing, education, day care, basic needs, recreation, case management, and a military and family helpline. We urge everyone to get involved by telling others about it and by donating to their fund or holding a fundraiser for them.

VFW Men’s Auxiliary 6658 President Leo Hobbs does a great job of leading. Leo is regularly on top of things; when we have a fundraising feed, he keeps things well organized and moving. We have a meeting once a month on the first Wednesday. From October through April, we hold our meetings at the Post, located on the square in Emmitsburg; from May through September, we hold our meetings at VFW Park, located off Harney Road (off of Rt. 140, east of Emmitsburg). We usually arrive at either site around 6:15 p.m. for the meal we have before our meeting, so we can start the meeting at 7:00 p.m. We have a few members who have been in the military but did not qualify as regular members because of the times and places served when they were in, and they are very welcome as our comrades. Our treasurer, Steve Wojciechowski (he says pronounce it “where’s your house key”), is one with a military history, and I would like to interview him some time. He was a Sgt. Major, and I’m sure he has led an interesting life for me to write about. One of our member’s fathers was once Post Commander, Luman Norris’s son, Luman and he is one of our trustees. Leo’s son, Josh, is our secretary or adjutant and takes a great interest in doing his job; he is also at most of our functions and does a great job on the floor keeping our patrons happy. Mark Zurgable is our chaplain and is also an asset when it comes to our functions; he will do just about anything that is asked of him. Mark’s dad was one of the members of the VFW who helped keep things together with the Post. I am senior vice president and truly enjoy my position and all of the functions I am privileged to attend and help out with. My dad was also a member of the VFW and was in WWII. Dick Fleagle is also a trustee and a great help at our functions. Lewis Smith is also an asset when it comes to functions for fundraising. The people I have mentioned so far as Men’s Auxiliary members have over 500 years of age between them, with me included, and it’s about time for some younger blood to come in and get involved. We have a new incentive for joining our organization—besides the obvious one of giving you a sense of satisfaction in helping Veterans, kids, and your community—we are going to begin in January to give a PUFL (a paid-up-for-life membership) to one lucky winner each January. Stop in and get an application with all of the details on how you can qualify for the PUFL; it is really quite easy.

We have our annual Shrimp and Chicken Feed coming up at the Post on November 7, 2015, and it would be a great opportunity for you to see everyone in action and better yet come in and fill out an application (available at the bar.) Ee have a meeting coming up November 4, and we can vote you in just in time to give us a hand at the feed. I would sure like to see you there and I’m sure the rest of the members will feel the same way. November 14 we are having a Turkey and Ham Give-A-Way at Post 6658 and all you have to do is show up at 6:00-10:00 p.m. and every half hour a number will be drawn and a turkey or ham will be given away and the nice thing about it is, it doesn’t cost you anything because you will be given a ticket at the door when you arrive absolutely free. There will also be light refreshment for everyone to eat free of charge. It is our way of saying thank you for attending our feeds throughout the year. We also raffle off meat trays and oysters and, maybe, bacon. We will be holding another identical event on December 12th so mark your calendars. We are all looking forward to seeing you at the upcoming events starting on November 7. A big thank you in advance to all of you.

I look forward to seeing everyone out trick or treating on October 31 in Emmitsburg and seeing you in the parade. I have been asked to be the official Halloween photographer and plan on taking a ton of pictures of you to put in The Catoctin Banner. Don’t forget to give me your name— how else are we going to recognize you?

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.

Deb Spalding

Twenty-one year old Corporal William Ferrell—Kyle to those close to him—was known for doing good things for others. While serving with a Marine Corps security force, he helped stranded motorists along Route #15 in northern Frederick County, Maryland, on more than one occasion. He was known to use his free time to do good deeds.

Around 10:50 p.m. on the evening of Tuesday, September 29, 2015, while helping a stranded motorist in the northbound lane, approaching Catoctin Furnace in Thurmont, he was hit and killed by a driver of a dark heavy-duty truck that is said to have been carrying two cars on a car carrier. The weather was dark and miserable, with a downpour of rain. It was a difficult night to be driving.

The driver of the hit-and-run vehicle has not yet been caught, and should have significant damage to the right side of the dark-colored, heavy-duty vehicle. It is hoped that someone notices the truck, with a double axle on the back and front-end damage. Please turn this person in. There is also a reward out. Call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP or text CRIMES (274637), or you can submit a tip online at You may also call local law enforcement at 301-600-4151. Your information will be kept confidential.

“Cpl. Ferrell’s last stop before being hit along Route #15 was to have dinner at The Furnace Bar and Grill. It seemed fitting that a tribute in his honor be held there,” said a Marine in a leather jacket, named Tony. Tony is a member of the Hagerstown Chapter of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, Intl., Inc., a motorcycle club made up of active-duty and former Marines. These folks put together a fundraiser to honor Cpl. Ferrell at The Furnace on October 23, 2015.

Leathernecks, members of Cpl. Ferrell’s unit, and others, gathered to pay tribute to a man loved by his community and friends. Funds raised will be used toward the purchase of a traffic light in Cpl. Ferrell’s honor for the Carthage Fire and Rescue Company in North Carolina, where Ferrell volunteered. Additional donations can be made online at

“Someone knows where the perpetrator is. The damage I saw on Cpl. Ferrell’s truck—someone’s seen it, but doesn’t know they saw it. We are going to catch this guy,” stated Tony.

Locally, residents in the Catoctin area extend sincere condolences to Cpl. Ferrell’s family and unit. We are outraged that someone would hit, kill, and run away. The tragedy of the accident is amplified due to the fact that Cpl. Ferrell served our country, his home community, and ours.

Let’s keep our eyes open, tell our friends, tell our social media contacts, and when you’re somewhere that might have surveillance video that may have recorded this vehicle on the run—ask to take a look. Please help spread the word.

Photo by Deb Spalding

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Members of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, members of Cpl. Ferrell’s unit, and others, gathered on October 23, 2015, at The Furnace Bar and Grill in Thurmont to pay tribute to a man loved by his community and friends.

Emmitsburg film maker, Conrad Weaver of ConjoStudios, LLC, is excited to announce that his 2014 documentary The Great American Wheat Harvest film has received a Mid-America Regional EMMY® Award! On Saturday, October 3, 2015, the Mid-America Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences held the EMMY® Gala in St. Louis, Missouri, and The Great American Wheat Harvest was selected as the winner for Best Documentary–Cultural.

The Great American Wheat Harvest is the story about the American harvesters who risk everything to put food on our tables. Each year, they travel from Texas, north across the Western Plains, harvesting wheat and other crops that feed the world. The film follows their journey and tells their stories.

The film aired on WQPT (Quad Citiies PBS) this past February, and consequently qualified to be submitted for the EMMY® nomination. As one of nineteen regional chapters of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Mid-America Chapter is the standard-bearer for excellence in the television broadcasting industry and the gatekeepers of the prestigious regional EMMY® Awards.

It’s the first EMMY® nomination and win for Weaver. “It’s an incredible honor to be recognized in this manner; it truly was unexpected! First, I want to thank my family: my wife, Jodi, and children, Laken and Spencer, who supported me throughout the four years of production that went into making this film. Without their support and love, I couldn’t have worked on a project like this. I also want to thank all of our sponsors who helped make this film possible, and for the staff at WQPT for airing the film on their Quad Cities PBS station. And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank the harvesters who took a risk and allowed me to document their lives and work. I’m truly blessed to call them my friends!”

Weaver is currently working on a new documentary film called, Thirsty Land. It’s the story about the drought in the American West, and its impact on agriculture, communities, and the environment. Thirsty Land is expected to be released in late 2016. Be sure to check out the photos and videos on the Thirsty Land Facebook page or visit

conradJodi EMMY (2)

Conrad Weaver is pictured with his wife, Jodi.

Some of Frederick’s favorite artists, merchants and well-known civic leaders will be digging into their holiday decorations early this year in preparation for the Historical Society of Frederick County’s “Festival of Trees” event, November 28-December 13, 2015, in which local individuals volunteer to decorate holiday trees that are sold in a silent auction. Yvonne Reinsch and Linda Roth, Historical Society board members, are co-chairing the event that draws upon a wide cross section of Frederick’s well-known and talented.

Participating artists include: Ellen Byrne, Goodloe Byron, Jane Byron, and Yemi; merchants: Christina Christopher, Country Shabby Chic; Wendy Flynn, Dream House; Sharon Mesa, En Masse Flower Market; April Reardon, The Velvet Lounge; and civic leaders: Ric Adams, Elizabeth Cromwell, Karlys Kline, and Cindy Miller.

The Festival includes a VIP Reception on Saturday, December 5, 2015, from 5:00-7:30 p.m., featuring jazz by the Rocky Birely Trio, hors d’oeuvres, wine and champagne, and a very special silent auction of highly desirable items available only that evening. Tickets are $50.00 per person. The public can view and bid on the trees throughout the run of the event during regular business hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Thursday: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sunday: 1:00-4:00 p.m. Winners will be announced the week of December 14, 2015. All proceeds benefit the work of the Historical Society. For more information,, 301-663-1188.

Fred Shinbur, Coordinator of the Maryland Public Television (MPT) Vietnam Project, visited the AMVETS Post 7 in Thurmont during a Wing Feed fundraiser on October 17, 2015. Shinbur was driving in style in a green KIA decorated with information about the project he’s promoting. He was on a trek throughout Maryland to spread the word about the project which honors Vietnam Veterans and includes a three-hour documentary film told by and about Maryland’s Vietnam-era Veterans, a weekend event to honor them, a motorcycle honor ride for them, a state-wide traveling exhibit, and an educators guide for Vietnam study in high school curriculum and middle school oral history project.

Vietnam Vets fought in that war because their country asked them to. They went to a far away, unforgiving, land where they endured unspeakable conditions. Many of them never came home.

Fred Shinbur is leading the way towards a long-overdue thank you to those who worked and fought in an unpopular war. To learn more about the initiative, please contact Fred Shinbur at

Courtesy Photo


Pictured from left are Tom Joy, past Post 7 Commander; Fred Shinbur, MPT Project Coordinator; and Ed Superczynski, Post 7 Commander. Mary Davis, Post 7 Auxilary member, is in the car.

James Rada, Jr.

It is estimated that more than 1,100 World War II Veterans die each day. The United States and Frederick County is quickly losing its “greatest generation.”

The Frederick County Veterans History Project is working to make sure those important histories are not lost. Working with the Library of Congress, these county volunteers have set out to record interviews on DVD with every Veteran they can find in the county. Their primary focus is WWII Veterans, but they are also interviewing any Veteran who is willing to share his or her story.

“We interview any Veteran,” said Priscilla Rall, director of the Frederick County Veterans History Project. “It doesn’t matter whether they were stateside, in the Cold War, anywhere.”

The group of volunteers was founded in April 2003 and, at this time, has interviewed more than three hundred twenty-five of Frederick County’s Veterans. Members currently meet bi-monthly in Rall’s Rocky Ridge home.

While there are committees with other organizations, such as the DAR, that also conduct interviews, Rall said, “To my knowledge, we are the only organization formed in the country just to do Veterans History Project interviews.”

The National Veterans History Project was formed in 2000 as part of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The goal of the project is to collect, preserve, and make accessible as many personal accounts from Veterans as possible so that their first-hand knowledge is available to future generations.

Rall, who has conducted more than one hundred interviews, said that her most-interesting interview was when she sat down with Howard Baugh, who flew one hundred thirty-five missions with the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military pilots in the armed forces.

“The white corps had a limit on the number of missions they would fly before they went home,” Rall said. “The Tuskegee Airmen didn’t have a limit and so they flew a lot of missions.”

Rall said that she was also very impressed with the Veterans who fought in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

The Frederick County group is always looking for the names of Veterans who are willing to share their stories. A volunteer will schedule a time to sit down with the Veteran and record the interview on a DVD. Copies of the interview are then sent to the Library of Congress’ Veteran History Project, the Maryland Room in the C. Burr Artz Library, and to the Veteran who granted the interview. A copy is also kept with the group.

“These Veterans have opened their hearts to us, usually painfully,” Rall said. “We should continue to give them our thanks and gratitude.”

The Frederick County Veterans History Project is always seeking volunteers to help conduct interviews, as well as the names of Veterans who would be willing to share their stories.

To help out, call Rall at 301-271-2868 or e-mail her at

murrah 2On October 6, 2015, a slab of granite that was removed from the face of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was added to the fire archive at The National Fire Heritage Center/Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum (NHFC) at 300B South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was the site of the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City Bombing; the building was destroyed in the domestic terrorist bomb attack.

The building’s remnant was dedicated into the museum’s archive during a ceremony where a delegation of fire officials from Oklahoma was present. The delegation was being led by Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Robert Doke, who arranged representatives from every major state-level fire organization, including the Oklahoma City Fire Department, to be present.

In an interview with news, Wayne Powell, Executive Director of the NHFC said, The Oklahoma City Bombing is “often referred to [the bombing] as ‘Terror in the Heartland.’ We had never experienced in America anything of its nature,” adding that, “Leading up to the events of 9/11, it was the worst terrorist event to ever occur on American soil.”

Powell indicated that the stone is an important fragment, that is being added to an archive that represents a part of our nation’s history through documents and remains. The archive is the first fire-related archive in the country where visitors read, touch, observe the impact of fire and first responders in history. The archive is comprised of more than 8,000 objects with new items added continually. The goal of the NFHC is to preserve America’s written fire history, as well as display 3-D items that enhance their meanings.

About the Murrah Granite, Powell said, “The Granite with plaque supplements our collection of materials (reports, maps, videos, etc.) related to the role First Responders played the day of the Oklahoma Bombing and for many months afterward.”

The museum was established in 2005. Individual and organizational memberships are open to all interested in providing financial support and offers of historical print materials, too.

The NFHC is shares space with the Frederick County, Maryland, Fire/Rescue Museum at the same location in Emmitsburg, Maryland, within walking distance of the U.S. Fire Administration and its National Fire Academy, the Emergency Management Institute and related elements on the campus of the National Emergency Training Center where the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial is also located.

Visitors are always welcome (by appointment being best to assure proper support). The NFHC also is responsible for operation of the “National Fire and Emergency Services Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders” initiative and the “Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award” program. To learn more, please consult our website,

Denny Black

As all boys did in small towns during the 50’s and 60’s, I explored every street and alley in Thurmont. Nestled at the foothills of the beautiful Catoctin Mountains in Northern Frederick County, Thurmont offered a kaleidoscope of images, whether you were walking high on the Western Maryland Railway tracks along Altamont and Woodside Avenues, racing down Canning Factory Hill on your bike, walking the path along Big Hunting Creek to the old town office, or venturing through the backyards and alleys along Main Street. And at nearly every spot along the way, you would most likely see at least one of the church spires in town.

Back then, Thurmont was an idyllic place in which to live—no fast foods, no shopping centers, no drive-in banks, and no large developments. My boyhood world was bounded within just a few blocks surrounding our town square—all open to exploration to a boy and his bike. It was a place where local businesses delivered dairy and bakery products to your door, and families functioned quite well with just one car, one telephone, and one black and white television.

As a direct descendant of one of Thurmont’s founding German families (the Wilhides), who settled in and around the town, I developed an interest over the years in Thurmont’s early history, especially prior to 1894, when Thurmont was called Mechanicstown. Becoming an avid collector of old photo postcards later in life, I have been able to use those visual images to time-travel in my imagination back to what Mechanicstown must have been like for a young boy out exploring its streets and alleys.

Since 1751, when Mechanicstown was first settled, religious practice continues to be an integral part in the lives of many of our town’s citizens. By 1894, Mechanicstown changed its name to Thurmont, and the following eight denominations had built splendid houses of worship clustered together within a few blocks in this small town: (1) Weller’s United Brethren Church (1831); (2) Thurmont Methodist Church (1851); (3) St. John’s Lutheran Church (1858); (4) Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church (1859); (5) Thurmont Moravian Church (1874); (6) Trinity Reformed Church (1880); (7) St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (1892); and (8) Thurmont Church of the Brethren (1892). (Years are dedication dates.)

It is no surprise that religion has played such an important part in the history of Thurmont since it is believed that the first church structure (a log cabin) to exist in Frederick County was erected around 1732-1734, just a short distance away at or near the village of Monocacy (now Creagerstown).

I have seen numerous postcards and paintings depicting the Clustered Spires of Frederick, and have long wondered why no artist ever captured the images of the beautiful, historic church spires of Mechanicstown. By using the photographic images of the Mechanicstown churches preserved in my postcard collection, I could guide an artist on a trip back in time to an imaginary point in Mechanicstown where all of its houses of worship would be visible in one scene.

In July, I turned to award-winning local artist Rebecca Pearl about my concept. Rebecca is recognized for her paintings of many Frederick County scenes, and has taken a special interest in capturing historic Thurmont images in her artwork. During the past several months, with the use of photographic images, she and I have time-traveled back together to walk the streets of Mechanicstown as it existed over 120 years ago. It would be a challenge for any artist to convey my concept through their own artistic expression, while also trying to balance the historical accuracy of the imagery. I am confident that Rebecca’s creation, entitled “The Spires of Mechanicstown,” will soon become a recognized work of art, successfully capturing a special history of our unique town, located at the Gateway to the Mountains.

MECHANICSTOWN SPIRES_EAward-winning local artist Rebecca Pearl will be at the Thurmont Main Street Center during the Thurmont Gallery Stroll on Friday, November 13, 2015, where the original of her painting “The Spires of Mechanicstown” will be unveiled. The Thurmont Main Street Center happens to be located in the old Thurmont Moravian Church, one of the churches included in her painting.


Barbara Abraham

When we, or people visiting the area, think about the names of certain communities, thoughts jump to animals for being the origin. Why not think animals had an influence on the long-ago names? After all, back then, there were more animals than people populating the woods and meadows. But are these thoughts always right?

Wolfsville: It was a Wolf (Wolfe) by the name of Jacob who built the first house on the site of Wolfsville in Catoctin District, Frederick County, Maryland. It was Jacob for whom the place was named. He owned $3,100 worth of real estate and was a farmer (1850 Census). He married Catherine Main, and they had children. Jacob died in 1892 at the age of eighty-six, and lies buried in the old Reformed Cemetery (the church is no longer there) in Wolfsville.

One son of Jacob and Catherine Wolf, Samuel, was also a farmer. He rented until 1835, when he purchased 100 acres of farm and timber land from his father. He was one of the first to own and operate a saw mill in Frederick County, Maryland. In 1857, he disposed of his land and saw mill, bought seventy-five acres in Frederick City, Maryland, and moved there.

From route 77, at the intersection of Foxville Deerfield and Stottlemyer Roads, Wolfsville is located six miles south on Stottlemyer Road.

Thos. C. Fox - goes with article by Barb AbrahamFoxville: It was a Fox (Fuchs).          George Fuchs moved to Frederick County, Maryland, when he was a young man. He bought a tract of timber land, located in what is now known as Hauver’s District, named it “Foxes Ranges,” and afterward, Foxville. He cleared part of his land and erected buildings. Then, he opened a store. He purchased more large tracts of land, on which he farmed and felled timber. He attended Apples Church in Mechanicstown (Thurmont), where records show some of his children were baptized. He donated land for the first Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church in Foxville in 1830, the congregation having been formed in 1829.

George Phillip Fox (son of George Fox) was born in 1795. He purchased part of his father’s land, built various buildings, and spent the rest of his life farming and felling timber. He was magistrate of Hauver’s District, and was one of the first judges of the district.

Thomas Cline Fox (son of George Phillip Fox), remained at home in Hauver’s District until he married Ruth Ann Buhrman. After marriage, in 1863, he bought a small farm and store from his father-in-law and became a successful farmer and merchant. Some years later, he purchased the historical Plantation in Foxville, together with the old Colonial Tavern where George Oats (later changed his name to George Hauver) put up his first tavern sign, on April 3, 1803. After George Oats (Hauver), the next proprietor of the tavern was a Mr. Need, followed by David Wolf. It was here that many celebrated, people were entertained, and political meetings were held and addressed by prominent speakers from distant towns. It was here, also, that farmers rested while on their way to and from Baltimore via Manahan Road with their season’s yield of wheat.

Thomas C. remodeled the old tavern by replacing the plaster on the outside with wood siding, making changes on the inside, and erecting a new barn and store. He then moved into the tavern and lived there until his death. This old tavern was, and is, located on the right side, before entering Manahan Road at Foxville. (The old tavern’s interior has been modernized in the past few years, and the barn torn down.)

Thomas C. was one of the directors of Citizen’s Savings Bank (since demolished) of Thurmont, and a generous contributor to the second and third Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church buildings. Thomas C. and Ruth Ann Fox had six children, four of which reached adulthood. After the death of Ruth Ann, he remarried Clara Marker. They had no children. Thomas C. died at the age of eighty-six.

In 1882, Foxville was a busy community with two stores, two schools, two churches, a doctor, a post office, a blacksmith, two carpenters, two shoemakers, and a constable. Foxville is located on Foxville Deerfield Road north from Route 77. The intersection is west of Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park. Mail is now delivered from Sabillasville, Maryland.

Beartown: It was a Bear (Baer, Bare, Barr, Bair, Bayer). This Bear family was of Swiss origin. Jacob T. Bear was born in 1783 in Pennsylvania. He owned land and lived in what was called “The Mansion House” (no longer there) at Beartown, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He served in the War of 1812, married Elizabeth Grimm, and they had eleven children. He died in 1863 and was buried in Union Cemetery, Fountaindale, Adams County, Pennsylvania.

Jacob Daniel Baer (son of Jacob T. Bear) was born in 1844 in Beartown, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, the second son and seventh child in order of birth. He served in the Civil War. He enlisted in Company E, 126th Pennsylvania Infantry and was attached to the Third Division, Fifth Army Corps under Fitz John Porter. His first hard fought battle was at Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his corps lost half its force. He also participated in the battle of Chancellorsville. His term of enlistment had expired before the battle, but he prolonged the time to nine months and twelve days to cover this engagement.

Being discharged from the regular service, he for a time occupied positions in the Quartermaster’s department and in the commissary department, but desiring more active service he re-enlisted, this time in Company G, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and was mustered in on August 24, 1864. He was then in the first Division, Cavalry Corps, under General Sheridan, and was one of the company who escorted Sheridan to the fort at Cedar Creek on his heroic ride from Winchester, Virginia. From here, he followed up Cumberland Valley, and at Gordonsville, he had a horse shot under him. His command reached Waynesboro, Virginia, too late to effect Early’s capture. From here, the cavalry was sent to join Grant at Petersburg. Jacob D. Baer was mustered out of service at Washington, D.C. and he returned to his home in Pennsylvania in June 1865. In December 1867, he married Anna Maria Miller, of Washington County, Maryland. Five children were born before they removed to near Bellwood, Butler County, Nebraska where Jacob D. filed a homestead claim in 1876. Six more children were born in Nebraska. (From a Butler County, Nebraska, newspaper.)

In July 1913, Jacob D. Baer returned to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, for the semi-centennial observance of the battle of Gettysburg. A Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, newspaper, Blue Ridge Zephyr, published an article regarding his visit and comments he made. He said he was an orderly for General Sheridan at times, and once or twice he was the only soldier with the great cavalry leader.

An excerpt from the newspaper, mentioned that Jacob D. Baer was with General Kilpatrick.

“Mr. Baer, after the battle of Gettysburg, was on his way to Beartown, to help protect his people from the retreating confederates. A dozen confederates in blue uniforms captured him near Monterey and he and David Miller, of Clermont House, sent Miss Susan Lookabaugh to tell the late Chas. H. Buhrman of their capture…

Miss Lookabaugh walked past the confederate pickets about 3:30 o’clock. At dusk Kilpatrick’s men came hurrying along.

The confederates had a piece of artillery in the middle of the road in front of the Clermont house.

When the union cavalry appeared they loaded this with grape and canister and discharged it. The union troopers, however, rode on the side of the road and the shot went whizzing between them.

The confederates left without their gun…

Soon General Kilpatrick rode up and dismounted at the Clermont house. He spent time on the porch, in conversation with Mr. Baer, getting from him information as to the roads.

While thus engaged, a messenger from General Custer rode up and presented the latter’s request for more men. “Tell General Custer he has enough men. Tell him to lick h— out of them!” was Kilpatrick’s reply.

Fifteen minutes later General Custer appeared with three stands of colors.

“I’ve got them, General,” was his salutation. He had cut to pieces a long line of Lee’s wagon train.

Beartown is located on Mentzer Gap Road, off of Route 16, west from Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. It has no post office. Mail is delivered from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.


James Rada, Jr.

Colorfest photo - taken by Traci SolichThe crowds have gone now, Colorfest 2015 is over, and life in Thurmont is back to normal. Many local non-profit organizations got their annual boost of funding from the estimated 125,000 people that crowded into Thurmont for the event that was held during the second weekend of October.

Although Colorfest started out as a nature walk fifty-two years ago, it has now grown into Maryland’s largest craft festival. It boasts 240 juried exhibits, plus many more vendors in and around the town. You could find original paintings, metal sculptures, hand-sewn quilts, homemade soaps, unique jewelry, and much more. Each year, there seems to be a new trend in which crafts are popular.

At one time, Colorfest had four juried areas: the Thurmont Community Park, Thurmont Middle School, the Guardian Hose Company Carnival Grounds, and the American Legion. Though the festival is as large as ever, Community Park remains the only juried area with 240 vendors.

Outside of the park, yard sales and non-juried craft shows have sprung up everywhere throughout the town. The town closes off parts of South Water Street and Frederick Road to accommodate the masses of people. The town government provides buses to shuttle visitors from various parking areas around town, including the schools.

The weather for this year’s Colorfest was near perfect, which brought out tens of thousands of visitors who clogged the streets throughout Thurmont. As a first-time vendor this year, but having attended many previous Colorfest festivals, I can tell you that the crowds this year were incredible. It was my best weekend ever for a festival.

The food vendors seemed to do particularly well with lines that seemed to stay steady with a dozen or more people in them. Colorfest represents the largest fundraiser of the year for many community organizations. The local school PTAs park cars at the schools and can raise around $4,000 in a weekend. The American Legion and Guardian Hose Company rent vendor spaces on their properties.

Over the years, Colorfest has donated more than $110,000 in scholarships to the local schools, made annual donations to the Guardian Hose Company and Thurmont Community Ambulance Company, purchased the town’s Christmas decorations, purchased playground equipment for town parks, sponsored family and children’s events, paid for the redecoration of the town office meeting room, and many more functions in support of the community.


C. L. Harbaugh

The weekend of October 10 and 11, 2015, featured cloudless blue skies and crisp fall temperatures, a glorious greeting for those participants who journeyed just a few miles off of the beaten trail to enjoy a less crowded, slower pace at the Sabillasville’s Annual Mountain Fest and 32nd Annual Kenny Clabaugh Car Show. Sponsored by the Northwestern Frederick County Civic Association (NWFCCA), the proceeds from the car show benefit the organization’s ongoing commitment to three annual scholarships awarded to deserving students within the local community.

Saturday, with temperatures in the 60s and no rain in site, participants enjoyed the beautiful day at Sabillasville Elementary School in the Catoctin Mountains, just a short distance from Thurmont. Over twenty vendors sold everything from antiques, crafts, and jewelry to homemade cakes and cookies.

Again this year, the food was provided by the popular and delicious Ron Eyler’s Country Cougars Pit Stop Pit Beef Sandwiches out of Rocky Ridge. Ice Cream was again provided by Antietam Dairy of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Local Churches, including St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Sabillasville, St. Stephens UCC in Cascade, and Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, sold homemade baked goods.

Saturday’s entertainment was provided by a Gospel Bluegrass Band. Entertainment for Sunday was provided by Twin Hill Express Bluegrass Gospel Band, a favorite among returning visitors each year.

Sunday marked the 32nd Annual Kenny Carbaugh Memorial Car Show. Again, mild temperatures and clear blue skies greeted this year’s partici-pants. The show was very successful, with over one hundred cars registered, including antique pickup trucks, fire trucks, sports cars, and a rare BMW car. Car show chairman, Jason Worth, awarded twenty-five top-voted plaques. Best of Show was awarded to Gerald Poffenburger from Hagerstown for his 1941 Plymouth Two-Tone Pickup Truck. Dash plaques were handed out to the first fifty entrants, and over twenty doorsprizes (which were donated from local businesses) were also handed out to ticket winners. Thanks to all who donated.

Many antique car owners attended the show for the camaraderie and common interest. Entertainment for the car show was provided by local DJ, Steve Hahn, for the third year. Thanks to Lori Worth and Harp Worth for their continued support and assistance with the car show.

Volunteer members of the Civic Association often hear that many venture to the Mountain Fest to enjoy the country atmosphere with the surrounding picturesque farms and orchards, the slower pace, and the safer environment for their families. The NWFCCA would like to thank the many volunteers who helped to make Mountain Fest weekend such a success. Those who merit special thanks for their many years of service are Kenny Howard; Arthur and Sarah Gernand; Edgar Hatter; and Ed Coleman and his daughter, Donna.

We at the Civic Association would again like to thank you for your continued support and commitment to the NWFCCA and the community! On a personal note, I would like to recognize my mother, Shirley Lee Harbaugh, of Sabillasville, and who was raised in Greenstone, Pennsylvania. Mom was a charter member of NWFCCA in good standing for over thirty years. She was always thoughtful and supportive and available whenever help was needed. Mom passed away in late May 2015. I loved my mother very much, and she will be missed by many that knew her, especially by Dad and me.

Photos by C. L. Harbaugh Photography

Mountain Fest 2

Best of Show was awarded to Gerald Poffenburger of Hagerstown for his 1941 Plymouth Pickup Truck at the 32nd Annual Kenny Clabaugh Car Show at Mountain Fest on October 11, 2015.

Deb Spalding

20151022_132431_resizedCongratulations to Helen Deluca of Thurmont, who was recently inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. Her volunteer contributions to the Thurmont Senior Center, senior citizens in general, her church, and the community are very deserving of acknowledgement. As a column contributor to The Catoctin Banner newspaper, Helen’s willingness to communicate with readers in regard to senior citizen news has been greatly appreciated. She has a kind heart and consistent purpose. She and her husband, George, have contributed great things to our community over the years.

The 29th Annual Awards Luncheon of the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, Inc., was held October 22, 2015, in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Of the forty-eight seniors citizens honored this year, Helen was the only representative from Frederick County. Helen was surprised by members of her family who flew in to celebrate with her.

Helen has lived in northwest Frederick County since the early 1970s. She was part of a concerned neighbors group, formed to preserve the conservation of the area where she lives from encroachment of a proposed ski resort, road closures, and sewage treatment plant on a mountain stream. She is a very active volunteer at her church, Our Lady of Mr. Carmel Catholic Church, in Thurmont. There, she won the 2008 Archdiocesan Medal of Honor Award for Service.

She retired from her position as Head Checker at Giant Food in Rockville in 1972, then became active on the Senior Council with the Town of Thurmont and became a member of the Thurmont Senior Center. At Giant, she received the “Cashier of the Year” award and with it, a trip to Bermuda.

At almost eighty-nine years young, she serves as an advocate for all seniors, through her words and actions. At the Thurmont Senior Center, she was instrumental in helping through the transition from Frederick County governance to an independently managed non-profit center.

We appreciate all of your work, Helen! Life has its “Senior Moments”—this one’s for you.

Photo by Lew Hamlett

helen deluca

From right (back of head is Helen’s daughter Nancy Hamlett, granddaughter Angela Cotie (flew in from Texas), George Deluca, Helen Deluca, Carol Humerick, Jim Humerick, Irene Matthews, Kathy Dowling, John Dowling, taking picture is son-in-law. Daughter Carol Council flew in from North Carolina on Friday to join them for dinner Friday night to celebrate Helen’s award.



James Rada, Jr.

 were sworn into office during the Emmitsburg town meeting on October 5, 2015. Both commissioners were unopposed and were re-elected in the September 29 town election.

The election saw a small turnout of just thirty-eight votes cast. This is less than two percent of the town’s registered voters.

“I know it was a little vote, but at least they came out to vote,” Sweeney said.

O’Donnell said that the low turnout could be looked at two ways. The negative way would be to say that people in Emmitsburg aren’t engaged in town politics. However, he chose to see it as the residents showing faith in the town’s leadership and not wanting a change.

O’Donnell has served on the board for six years, and Sweeney has served for seventeen years. They will each serve another three years.

As part of the election aftermath, Mayor Don Briggs submitted his suggestions for committee assignments and commission offices. Showing that he was content with the current leadership of the board, he recommended no changes and the commissioners unanimously approved.

O’Donnell will serve as board president. Sweeney will serve as board vice president and on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Glenn Blanchard will serve as the board treasurer. Jennifer Mellor will serve on the Parks and Recreation Committee. Joe Ritz will serve on the Citizen’s Advisory Committee.