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Deb Spalding

As a youngster, Thurmont Historical Society Board Member, Robert Eyler, remembers seeing the Creeger House on his visits from his home in Frederick to his great-grandparents Joseph and Anna Mary Eyler’s house in Thurmont. “As a kid, it was the coolest looking haunted house,” recalled Robert.

Robert was enamored with haunted houses then, and still is. He participates in paranormal investigations. He said his interests have “come full circle” since he orchestrated an investigation of the Creeger House by the Gettysburg Ghost Gals last spring, and serves on the Society’s Board of Directors. He first became familiar with the Thurmont Historical Society when he utilized the Society’s volumes of history to research his family heritage. Robert’s fifth great-grandfather, Frederick, settled Eyler Valley. His son, Benjamin, helped build Eyler’s Valley Chapel for the Eyler family and their friends, because they had no place to worship there.

One day last fall, Robert and Board President, Donna Voellinger, were observing the progress of the brick sidewalk being installed at the front of the Creeger House. Oddly, they noticed dust emanating from the bricks on the front of the house. This seemed to be caused by the vibrations of a jackhammer being used on a patio.

The front of the Creeger House is a facade of bricks, encasing the original log cabin. The bricks are old and soft. To explain the current decay of the bricks, Robert said, “Bricks then weren’t made to withstand the road salt, jarring from equipment, and constant traffic.” Donna added, “At one point, the whole house was covered with Ivy and Wisteria, possibly adding to the decay.”

The Thurmont Historical Society Board of Directors have received a $60,000 quote for repairing the brick.

The Creeger House, located at 11 North Church Street in Thurmont, was originally owned and occupied by Daniel Rouzer and his family in the early 1800s. It is named after Edwin Creeger, who purchased the house in 1926. Edwin was the local Chevrolet dealer. His only son, Edward, was a naval aviator who lost his life in World War II. He was the first war casualty from Thurmont and is memorialized in the naming of the American Legion Post. After Mr. Creeger’s death in 1969, his wife, Ethel, left furniture, clothing, and books behind and never returned to the house. It was vacant for twenty years. In 1990, at the suggestion of Sterling Kelbaugh, Terry Best, and Buzz Mackley, she donated the house to the Thurmont Historical Society. Ethel died in the summer of 1995 and never saw the renovations and restorations that have been made to her old home.

Inside the house, the stories of triumphs and tragedies of the families who lived in the Creeger House, and other families of Thurmont, are housed and shared. Carol Newmann, with the help of Liz Stitely, currently manages the Society’s research library. This library has grown from a foundation of information and collections provided by the late Ann Cissel. It now includes many donations of genealogy and history provided by Thurmont resident and non-resident contributions.

“We have a good collection of books and papers. Most are local. Some are from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Carroll County, and Frederick County,” Newmann said. She can lead you to resources for tracing your family’s lineage, or show you historical photos and documents. You can visit the Creeger House on Sundays, between noon and 4:00 p.m., or call 301-271-1860 to make an appointment.

Donna Voellinger takes pride in managing the relics or “physical objects” that are part of the Society’s collection. See a wooden check that was written and cashed (see photo on page 12); stand in Edward Creeger’s bedroom and view his World War II uniform; see a Seatmore Ice Cream and Soda Table Set where people sat to enjoy ice cream at Wisotzkey Brothers Ice and Ice Cream on the square in Thurmont (see photo on page 12).

Carol and John Ford are the unsung heroes at the Society, quietly giving time and talent to various projects that need to be done. New volunteers are always welcome.

With determination and purpose, the current Board of Directors of the Thurmont Historical Society are tackling the next project in the life of the Creeger House. Monetary help is needed to “Save the Creeger House.” An estimated $30,000 will be raised and matched with grant funds. To help, send a donation.

Online donations can be made with PayPal by visiting, by mailing to Thurmont Historical Society, 11 N. Church Street, Thurmont, MD 21788, or by dropping by the Creeger House on Sundays between noon and 4:00 p.m. Call 301-271-1860 for inquiries.

Pictured is a wooden check that was written and cashed, part of the Historical Society’s collection.

Displayed at the Creeger House is a Seatmore Ice Cream and Soda Table set, where people sat to enjoy ice cream at Wisotzkey Brothers Ice and Ice Cream on the square in Thurmont

Whether it’s the Weis Pharmacy robbery, the rebuilding of Roddy Creek Covered Bridge, or the deterioration of the Creeger House, they have all caught the attention of Thurmont’s newest newsman, Warren Schaefer.

Warren brings a new perspective to local news: a kid’s perspective. The Thurmont Elementary School third-grader has started a YouTube channel called Thurmont News – a kid’s perspective. The first episode was posted on January 23 and a second episode was posted on February 6, with more on the way.

“After the first one, I had a giant positive response,” Warren said.

The idea for Thurmont News was born out of Warren’s early efforts of filming himself broadcasting weather reports whenever a major weather event hit the area, according to Warren’s father, Steve Schaefer.

Warren wants to be a news reporter, so this was a natural extension of that idea.

Warren comes up with the stories that he wants to write about and then researches them using newspaper and online resources.

“I also ask the mayor (John Kinnaird) if anything is going on,” Warren said.

Warren then goes out with his father to take pictures and interview people. Once he has all of his information, he writes the script, which he said is “pretty hard.” His parents then review it to tighten it up and make sure it reads well.

Then it’s into the spare bedroom in his house, which has been set up as a studio. Steve Schaefer films Warren reading his script until they are satisfied with the result. Steve then edits in photos and the beginning credits.

“It is fun and challenging,” said Warren. “Sometimes we have to film takes over and over, and it gets frustrating.”

“I love being able to work with him and help him explore his passion and ideas,” expressed Steve.

The response to Thurmont News – a kid’s perspective has not only encouraged Warren to continue, but he has expansion plans. He announced in his second episode that his next episode will have a new segment called “Have You Noticed.” Warren plans on going out and finding things in town that adults tend not to notice. He may also expand the length of the shows, which are under five minutes currently.

“I’d like to have my friends on as guest stars and do the weather,” Warren said.

You can find his program by searching for Thurmont News – a kid’s perspective on or visit

Young broadcaster, Warren Schaefer, is shown in his home studio.

by James Rada, Jr.


Town Approves a New Pool

A pressure test of the Emmitsburg Community Pool plumbing has revealed that it should be replaced. Also, the beams beneath the pool are showing damage and need to be replaced.

This is not entirely surprising. The pool is forty-five years old, and during that time, no significant work has been done to it.

The commissioners had authorized renovation work, but this may prove only a temporary fix that might not be worth the money. Replacing and reconfiguring the plumbing in the filter room, repairing the beam, running a leak detection test, and having a structural engineer examine the pool will cost at least $260,000. A new pool will cost around $369,500.

“If we’re going to do this thing, we might as well put the new one in and be done with it,” said Commissioner Cliff Sweeney.

The rest of the commissioners seemed in agreement, but they need to find the best way to fund the project. The unused funds allocated for the renovations can be applied to the project, and money that is usually paid to a management company for the summer could also be reallocated. They decided to take the balance needed to fund the project from the fund balances in other capital projects so that no money will need to be borrowed to fund the project.

The new pool is expected to be less expensive to run, primarily because water and chemicals won’t be leaking from the pool.

The company making the renovations, Makin’ Waves, is also the company installing the new pool.

Because of the extent of the repairs needed, the pool will not be able to open this summer.


Voluntary Water Restrictions Continue

Although rains in the area raised the level of Rainbow Lake, Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets told the Emmitsburg Mayor and Commissioners that the town wells are still forty-one feet below their optimal levels from May 2011.

“Although all this rain brought our lake up, it hasn’t had much effect on our wells,” Willets said.

Because of this, the voluntary conservation of water in Emmitsburg will continue.

An Emmit Garden Playground?

A group of citizens asked the Emmitsburg Commissioners to consider building a playground in the Emmit Gardens areas. Currently, the closest playground is in Silo Hill, which requires Emmit Garden users to cross MD 140.

The citizens are asking for a baseball field, swing set, slide, and monkey bars.

Commission President Tim O’Donnell passed the request onto the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee to consider the request and any possible options.


What Brown Water Means

In February, some residents saw brown water coming out of their faucets. It was reported to the town office, and staff investigated.

Brown water is caused by a sudden spike in water pressure, which comes from unauthorized access to the water system. In this case, it came from an unauthorized access to a fire hydrant. It is illegal to tap into a fire hydrant without approval from the town. Not only does it cause brown water, it can damage the water pipes.

Please notify the town immediately at 301-600-6300 if you see any individuals, other than town staff and the fire department, using fire hydrants.


Algae Control System Approved

The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners approved a new algae-control system that will destroy algae in the water of Rainbow Lake.

LG Sonic uses ultrasound waves to destroy algae. It modulates the ultrasound frequency to target different types of algae to prevent them from rising to the surface to reach sunlight. Without sunlight, the algae die and sink to the bottom. Most of the systems use solar panels to power the technology, so there is little energy consumption.

The cost of the system is $38,650, which not only pays for the system, but gets it up and running. After that, the town will pay $13,000 a year for calibration, interactive monitoring to adjust the sonic waves for the different types of algae, and on-site servicing.

If the system doesn’t live up to the commissioners’ expectations, Kershner Environmental Technologies will buy the system back for $15,000.


Town Gets Clean Audit Report

The Town of Emmitsburg received an unmodified opinion (good) in its annual audit of town finances, conducted by Draper and McGinley of Frederick. The audit is required of all municipalities, to be conducted annually to make sure that they are following the best financial practices, and if they are not, alert them to changes that need to be made.


Commissioner Appointments Made

The Emmitsburg Commissioners appointed Joyce Rosensteel to a five-year term on the town Planning Commission. The alternate member position is still vacant.

The commissioners also appointed Dianne Walbrecker to a three-year term on the Board of the Appeals. Ronald Lynn was also appointed to fill out the unexpired term of Larry Pavek, who resigned from the board, and a three-year term following the end of the unexpired term. This still leaves two vacancies on the board: one for a regular member and one for an alternate member.



Thurmont Police See Jump in Calls for Service

In 2014, the Thurmont Police Department’s calls for service were 8,465. Last year, that number was 12,482.

“I’ve been here eleven years, and that’s the highest I’ve seen it since I’ve been here,” Chief Greg Eyler told the commissioners.

He attributed some of the increase to more crime, but he also noted that citizens were being more proactive in reporting suspicious activity. Answering a question from a commissioner, Eyler also noted that some of the crime increase could be from crimes, such as vehicle break-ins, that people are committing to fund drug habits.

He pointed out that despite the increase in calls for service, Thurmont has a low level of serious crime.

Some citizens were concerned about the number of calls that took Thurmont Police officers out of town to assist other law enforcement agencies. This came about from some misinterpreted data in the Frederick News Post. According to Eyler, of the 12,482 calls for service, only 252 were to assist other agencies, and of that number, only 110 required a Thurmont officer to leave Thurmont. This is less than one percent of the calls for service that Thurmont Police answered in 2016.


Creeger House Needs Repairs

Members of the Thurmont Historical Society told the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners that the home of the Thurmont Historical Society Creeger House is desperately in need of repairs. Ethel Creeger donated the house to the historical society in 1989. The original portion of the house is a log cabin built in the 1920s. Col. John Rouzer, a state senator and Civil War soldier, called the building home. It is not only a historical structure, but it contains artifacts, documents, and genealogy of local interest.

The building has “big problems,” according to Historical Society President Donna Voellinger.

The exterior bricks are deteriorating, and, in some cases, turning to sand. The brick cladding on the log cabin is also threatening to pull away in some places. The roof has holes in it that sunlight can be seen through.

The Historical Society is seeking donations to help pay for the needed repairs. The funds will go toward a matching $30,000 grant from the Maryland Historical Trust. This means that for each donated dollar, the historical will get another dollar.

“The Creeger House does not belong to us,” Voellinger said. “It belongs to the community, and we’ve lost a lot of buildings already; we don’t want to lose this one.”

The Town of Thurmont is considering adding a donation to the town’s budget to help the Historical Society. Work on the Creeger House would not start until at least July.

Last year, more than two hundred people visited the Creeger House from twenty different states.


Thurmont Receives Clean Audit

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners received their annual audit during the February 7 town meeting. McLean, Koehler, Sparks and Hammond of Frederick conducted the audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. Megan Baker and Barbara Walker of MKS&H presented the highlights of the audit to the commissioners and answered any questions.

“This audit is probably one of the best we’ve ever had,” Walker told the commissioners. The town received a clean audit report, which means that the town is handling its money and assets and reporting it in a proper way.


Commissioners Want to Turn Railroad Bridge into Art

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners recently discussed how to improve the old Midland Railroad bridge over Church Street and turn it into something attractive.

Commissioner Marty Burns wants to spearhead the effort and form a citizen’s committee that will make recommendations to the town about what can be done with the bridge.

The 1936 bridge shows some rust and worn paint on the metal bridge, while the abutments show wear and water staining.

Mayor John Kinnaird supported Burns’ efforts and showed some pictures of what other communities have done with their railroad bridges. They have used the abutments to paint murals and painted the bridges with attractive colors.

Both Burns and Kinnaird said they would like to see the bridge painted with the word “Thurmont” or “Welcome to Thurmont.”

Kinnaird said that he believes that the bridge wouldn’t need to be sandblasted, which would save a lot of money. He said that he believed a fish-oil paint could be used on the bridge, and it would hold up well.

“It is quick, instantaneous,” Burns said. “People will see it change to the positive just with paint on it. It doesn’t cost us a lot of money.”

It would also allow the town time to see if a grant could be found to make improvements to the bridge. It is estimated that it would cost about $13,000 to refinish the abutments and prepare them to be painted.


Food Bank Parking Lot Expansion Approved

The Town of Thurmont had purchased the home at 8 Frederick Road with the idea of expanding the parking lot at the Thurmont Food Bank. The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners recently approved a bid of $33,925 from R. L. McNair and Sons to demolish the house, grade the property, and apply asphalt to expand the parking lot.


Appointments Made

New Thurmont Police Officer Richard Gast was sworn in during a recent town meeting.

Also, the commissioners reappointed Board of Appeals members Kirby Delauter and Carol Robertson to the commission. They also appointed alternate member Jason West to a new term as a full member of the board.


Mayor John Kinnaird

March is upon us and brings with it the hope of nice weather! With this in mind, the Thurmont Green Team is currently taking applications for the Community Garden on Carroll Street. This project was started last year by the Green Team as a way for residents to have small garden plots for growing vegetables, flowers, or fruit. The Community Garden was a big hit, and I am sure this year will be as well. Be sure to stop at the town office to reserve a spot before they are all gone. I thank the Green Team for starting this project, as well as many others, including the planting of wildflowers along the Maryland Midland tracks.

Speaking of the Maryland Midland railway, Commissioner Burns has once again brought forth the idea of getting the Church Street railroad bridge painted and having Thurmont added to the steel bridge to welcome visitors to our town. Once we get permission from the parent company, Genessee Wyoming, to move forward with the project, we will be asking for volunteers to help establish a committee to help guide the process. Several years ago, Karen and I approached the railroad but could not get a commitment from them to allow any work to be done. We had made a proposal based on a plan to paint the steel bridge, repair the abutments, and then add a mural to each of the abutments. I had proposed painting a mural of the Western Maryland Railway Station, with a steam locomotive on the West abutment. On the East abutment would be a mural of the Hagerstown and Frederick station, the adjoining substation and a trolley car. It is my hope that we can at least get the steel painted and have Thurmont, our town seal, and the Genessee and Wyoming logos placed, and have the abutments repaired and coated. The murals can be added as we get funding or donations of time. The murals may be a good way to get art students at Catoctin and local colleges involved in community service. Once we get going, please think about helping us with either a donation or hands on assistance with the work.

The repairs on the Roddy Road Covered Bridge are nearly complete, and Frederick County plans on it being open to traffic sometime in mid-March. One of the final improvements to be completed prior to the opening is the installation of height warning devices at both ends of the bridge. These will consist of two structures made of wooden posts, with a cross beam and a metal plate hung to the 8’ – 6” maximum height allowed over the bridge. The warning devices will be set far enough from the bridge that they will have little visual impact on the bridge itself. There is also going to be a truck turnaround area on Roddy Road, to the South side of the bridge. The town will be working with the County to improve the truck route signage within Thurmont to help guide trucks safely to Rt. 15. The bridge is looking great and looks almost exactly as it did before the truck damaged it last year. The County has also made vast improvements to the Roddy Road Covered Bridge Park. Roddy Creek Road has been moved away from the bridge and a small park with parking, picnic facilities, and nice walkways will now greet visitors interested in stopping at the bridge.

As a resident, and now Mayor of our community, I have always been very proud of our Police Department, and I am pleased to welcome our Force Officer Richard Gast. Officer Gast comes to us with many years of experience in the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and as a member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His duties will include investigations, traffic enforcement, and patrol. Please be sure to welcome Officer Gast to our community!

As always, I look forward to speaking to our residents and remind you that I can be reached via email at or by cell at 301-606-9458.

Mayor Don Briggs

With the winter banquet season now drawing to a close and the Super Bowl behind us, there is not much left to blur the stark reality of winter. Left to a sullen impatience is the unsettled longing for spring. While heartened by the unhurried longer daylight hours, it was the surprise guest of a few warm days that gave a nod to the hope of an early spring. Also stirred by the elixir of warmer temperatures so obliging to my anxious imagination, was the restless ambition of Lib’s perennials pushing up throughout the backyard to confirm the possibility. Oh, so tempting the signals be.

If I seem particularly attentive to the signs of spring, it is because this is the spring the Square – Main Street revitalization project is to begin. Yes, finally after four years of plotting and planning, that seems to us at times to be moving at a glacier pace, but to our development partner the State Highway Administration (SHA), as moving along at an unimpeded rush. This project along with the now underway East Street – Flat Run Bridge replacement, a 100 percent SHA project, when complete, will, for the first time, provide connected sidewalks through the downtown along Main Street, from the Brookfield and Pembrook Woods subdivisions to the west and the Silo Hill commercial area to the east.

All of this has been done as a compatible part of a State of Maryland Sustainable Communities Program. One of the first decisions I made when I came into office was to go with the Sustainable Community Program, and not the state Main Street program, a decision I haven’t regretted for a minute. Private property façade grants under the program, together with our own initiatives, have exceeded expectations. To the five consecutive years of matching grant awards, totaling $250,000, results in $500,000 invested in the town historical property façades area. During the same period, pedestrian connectivity and safety has been enhanced, with eight sidewalk connections throughout the town. Now with the downtown revitalization project about to start, it is all coming together. We are moving to a goal of a more walkable town. Thank you for your patience.

On April 6, 1917, the United States, through joint congressional action, declared war on the German Empire. On April 8, 2017, the American Legion and VFW will recognize the 100th Anniversary of this declaration at noon at the Doughboy.

Working through the State House is a blighted properties bill. Though giving much-needed attention to a municipal problem, the bill seems to give a pass to banks and their foreclosed-on properties. The bill might have to be accepted as at least a step in the right direction.

Another pending bill is Senate Bill 141 that would require Maryland’s local board of elections to establish polling places at each public and private college and university in the State that awards baccalaureate or graduate-level degrees and has campus housing. The local election boards must pay a reasonable fee to cover the costs of the space. Imagine everyone in Emmitsburg having to go to the Mount.

My response: If public schools need to take back a normal closing day, Election Day, the Town of Emmitsburg has an optional location for polling. Moving the polling site to the Mount would be inconvenient and expensive for the town residents, and particularly devastating to our senior residents. More to come on the progress of this bill.


Deb Spalding

The members of the Thurmont Community Ambulance Service, Inc. have officially opened a large facility for public event rentals and their own fundraising activities. This 28,600-square-foot venue was designed by Company member, Jim Rice. It is situated on 21.5 acres of ground, adjacent to the Thurmont Little League baseball fields in Thurmont, and accessed by Lawyer’s Lane off of Route #550.

The 10,000-square-foot main room seats eight hundred people spaciously, and can accommodate many more, standing. The stage is 46’x18’ and is accessed by stairs or a lift. Five ambulance bays, a storage bay, and a huge, and a fully-equipped (thanks to a gracious donor) kitchen complete the spacious facility. From the main room, there are several serving windows, including a self-serve soda fountain and two bar windows.

Future plans include the use of the grounds for festivals, weddings, and outdoor events. In the future, pavilions and amenities will be built on the grounds for that purpose. The water wheel from the former Cozy Restaurant will eventually be installed in some manner for all to enjoy.

The Company’s president, Lowman Keeney, said, “The construction took two-and-a-half years, and there were many road blocks. Our own membership did a tremendous amount of the work.” Donations and grants were heavily relied upon throughout the process. Funding was provided through Frederick County Bank, with Denise Guyton Boyer and Roxan Welch managing the allocation. “Thanks to all who volunteered to make the project come to life,” expressed Keeney.

Renters may either arrange that the Ambulance Company to cater their events or rent the facility and contract their choice of caterer. The Ambulance Company has a full liquor license for events they sponsor. The Ambulance Company has planned sportsman dinners, seafood feeds, bingos, and concerts inside the complex, beginning with an Open House for the community to tour the facility on February 11, 2017, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Upcoming events include a Turkey, Ham & Oyster Dinner on February 18, a Wing & Fried Shrimp Feed on March 25, a Pot Pie & Fried Chicken Feed on March 31, and the band, The Amish Outlaws, on November 11.

“We appreciate when citizens attend a function, because their participation comes back as a donation for the community to provide emergency services. The alternative is paying taxes for the services. We do have twelve-hour career staff from 6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday,” said Keeney.


The spacious main room at the new Thurmont Community Ambulance Event Complex is shown.


Pictured is the grand, fully equipped kitchen at the new Thurmont Community Ambulance Event Complex.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice were meant to be together. Some of the family members joke that their marriage was an arranged one. Earl and Gene first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont, from which, the wall paper, now in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, came.  Their mothers—Jessie (Rouzer) Matthews and Helen (Creager) Rice—grew up as next-door neighbors, and were visiting their childhood homes with their first born on the same weekend, sometime in 1924—when someone snapped the above picture. It must have been love at first sight, because they grew up separated by a mountain range and thirty-five miles. They would see each other on occasion during these kinds of weekend visits and dated during their teens and early twenties. They mostly double-dated—the only way Jessie found acceptable—and have many fond memories of those times. Earl sometimes got to borrow his mother’s Lincoln Zephyr, so they got to date in style. Mostly, he came in the Model A that he and his lifelong friend, Henry Steiger, owned together.

After their courtship, they were engaged, and Earl was off to fight in WWII, training to be a bombardier on the B-29, the most advanced warplane of its time. Gene had earlier graduated from St. Joseph’s College, with a major in home economics and a minor in physics. Her first and only teaching job was at Emmitsburg High School, teaching physics. One of the classes she taught was engine basics.

Not being able to stand the idea of being separated, Earl and Gene decided to marry in California, where Earl was training at Victorville Army Air Base. Gene quit her job and got ready to travel west. Francis Matthews brought his daughter by train on the 2,500 mile trip to bring these two together for their seventy-plus year journey. In keeping with the good customs and scarcities at the time of war, Earl shared a room with Francis the night before the wedding, which he often jokingly asks, “How many men have done that?”  They were married in San Bernardino, California, on February 24, 1945. Francis, after giving away his and Jessie’s most precious daughter, travelled alone back to Emmitsburg.

Earl and Gene lived for a time in California, then onto various assignments, including Pecos, Texas, where these East Coast kids had to contend with such things as spiders and West Texas dust storms.   Earl and his crew had to travel separately on a troop train, while the wives followed with one of his fellow officer’s mother as a chaperone, another sign of a different time. Gene made some lifelong friends, with many of the wives demonstrating the love that has endeared her to all those around her.  Only a short time after their marriage, Earl and his crew were assigned to their B-29 in the South Pacific Island of Tinian. They had to travel on a troop ship to meet up with their aircraft.  Gene headed back home.

At the war’s end, they settled outside Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where Earl worked at his family’s goldfish farm. In 1952, he decided to take his dedicated wife and two boys, Earl A. Rice III (Gus) and Robert “Scott” Rice, to Emmitsburg to work for Gene’s father, Francis, whose business was struggling at the time. In 1954, they were blessed with a daughter, Mary Ann Rice Clever. Earl’s efforts helped to save the business, for which Francis was always grateful. They have lived in Emmitsburg for the rest of their marriage.

Their time in Emmitsburg during the 50s, 60s, and 70s were dedicated to raising their children, instilling great values in them, and to running a business. As is the case for many marriages, theirs sometimes took work. These efforts were done with their sense of humor and knowing each other to the core. As an example, one time, when the family wanted to do something that Earl wasn’t supporting, Gene said, “Wait until it’s your father’s idea.” She was right.

Their years together blessed them with three children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Those of us who have known them are likewise truly blessed.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont…destiny bringing them together.


Statue of John Armstrong to be Erected

Emmitsburg’s famous gunsmith, John Armstrong, will have a statue erected to him at the Route 15 Visitor’s Center. Armstrong was the best-known of the local gunsmiths during the early 1800s. So distinct were their rifles that they came to be known as the Emmitsburg School of Gunsmiths.

Armstrong is most famous for the variation of the Kentucky long rifle. His rifles are highly sought-after collector’s items today. One collector wrote, “His pieces often draw comparisons to Swiss watches and Rolls Royce automobiles—classics that defy time.”

Gary Casteel, the sculptor who repaired the Doughboy statue when it was damaged, has been talking with town staff and Mayor Don Briggs about creating the sculpture. The catch has been trying to find an appropriate location for the statue to be displayed. The visitor’s center was finally selected. Briggs explained that it is considered part of Emmitsburg, since it is on the town’s water and sewer systems.

Town Planner Sue Cipperly sees this as a possible start to creating more heritage tourism sites in town. “We have these craftsmen here in town, and they should really be memorialized,” she said.

The statue could be dedicated as early as this spring.

In the Town Hall Notes item titled “Statue of John Armstrong will be erected” in the February issue of The Catoctin Banner. A number of possible future projects were discussed at the town meeting, and some of them got mixed up in the article. A statue of John Armstrong within the town is a future possibility, but is not imminent. The Route 15 Visitor’s Center was being considered for two things: a traveling display of Armstrong rifles and studio space for Casteel to work on a Civil War monument. Since the article was published, the state has decided to not allow these two things to happen in the visitor’s center. Sorry for the confusion.

James Rada, Jr.

Town Planning to Get Algae-Destroying System

The Town of Emmitsburg is considering installing a new system that uses cutting-edge technology to destroy algae in the water of Rainbow Lake. Bill Kramer, with Kershner Environmental Technologies, spoke to the commissioners about LG Sonic. The company’s algae-control technology actually destroys algae in the water. The company is located in the Netherlands and has been around since 1999. Although the technology is used in roughly 10,000 places around the world, in the United States, it has only been installed in New Jersey.

The technology uses ultrasound waves to destroy algae. It modulates the ultrasound frequency to target different types of algae to prevent them from rising to the surface to reach sunlight. Without sunlight, the algae die and sink to the bottom. Most of the systems use solar panels to power the technology, so there is little energy consumption.

“Getting algae out of the drinking water has a lot of positive benefits,” Kramer said.

The cost of the system for Rainbow Lake is $160,000 with about $15,000 annual in maintenance costs. It is projected to pay for itself in under two years. Savings would be seen in lower operating costs and more efficient water filtration.

Kramer said that the company and town staff would come up with benchmarks to determine the system’s success over a year. If the system didn’t meet those benchmarks, a portion of the funds would be refunded and the system would be removed.

The commissioners will continue discussing whether or not to move forward with this system during their February meeting.


Lions Collecting Winter Clothing

The Emmitsburg Mayor and Commissioners agreed to allow the Emmitsburg Lions Club to set up a collection box between the town gym and Emmitsburg Library. The Lions will be collecting scarves, hats, gloves, and coats, which will be donated to area schools to be given to students who need them. This project is part of the Emmitsburg Lions Club “Make A Difference Month.”



Town Makes Donation to Thurmont Food Bank

The Town of Thurmont donated $2,750 to the Thurmont Food Bank in December. This is in addition to the food donations raised at the annual Halloween in the Park event.

Pastor Sally Joyner Giffin told the commissioners that the food bank provides food to an average of 300 families monthly. In November, it provided food to around 400 families.


Thurmont’s Heroin Problem

Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler recently told the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners that twenty-five people overdosed on heroin in Thurmont in 2016, and of that number, three of them died. The rest were saved when Narcan was administered. Commissioner Marty Burns called the number “staggering,” and pointed out that it didn’t include residents who overdosed outside of the town boundaries.


Commissioners Approve Civitan Club Inclusive Playground

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved the first phase of the first all-inclusive playground in Frederick County. It will replace the old playground at East End Park. The park has been in the planning and fundraising stages since July 2015. The new equipment will be paid for with a $25,000 Program Open Space grant that the town received and a $50,000 grant that the Thurmont Civitan Club obtained from Civitan International.

Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick said, “This will be a one-of-a-kind playground in the area. There’s nothing close by. This is going to be something that kids with all disabilities and non-disabilities can come and enjoy.”

The playground is not only designed for physically challenged children, but also children with emotional problems such as autism.

The overall cost of the playground is expected to be about $280,000 and to be completed in three phases. Playground Specialists in Thurmont is helping with the design and will be installing the new equipment.


Police Commission Openings Filled

The Thurmont mayor and commissioners selected from among four candidates to fill two open positions on the Thurmont Police Commission. Shawn Martiak and Greg Seymour will fill out the seven-person commission.

Community Park Winter Closing

The Thurmont mayor and commissioners voted to close Community Park during the winter. This was done to discourage vandalism, which had occurred at the back end of the park during the winter when few people use it. The front parking lot will still be open for families who want to use the playground on Frederick Road.

A few of the picnic tables will be moved closer to Frederick Road to be available for anyone who might want to use them. The commissioners also allowed town staff the leeway to open the park on warm days or to end the closing early if winter weather ends sooner than expected.



Mayor John Kinnaird

This past week, I have had the pleasure of participating in the Thurmont Middle School (TMS) Kindness Week Challenge. As students arrive for their day, I have been greeting them and wishing them a good day. I am happy to report that every one of the young people I have spoken to are excited to be at school and are, themselves, very polite and considerate of others. The goal of Kindness Week is to encourage an atmosphere of kindness and consideration among all students. It is obvious to me that these goals are being meet by all students and staff at TMS! My thanks to all of the students and staff for allowing me to play a small part in their day.

On January 21, Karen and I had the pleasure of attending the Thurmont Community Ambulance Company Awards Banquet, held in the newly completed Thurmont Ambulance Event Complex. The new building located off Lawyer’s Lane on Strafford Drive is a real gem of a facility. The main room is massive and can seat well over six hundred comfortably, with room for a dance floor. There is a large stage for presentations and concerts, as well as several drop-down video screens. The kitchen is a spacious room, with ample capacity for large banquets, weddings, or meetings. We would encourage anyone looking to rent a large venue to give the Event Complex a look! The banquet was prepared and served by members of the Rocky Ridge 4-H, and it was delicious. The Ambulance Company thanked the Scouts of Troop 270 and the Venturing Crew for installing the stone work on the exterior of the building and for planting over a hundred trees on the property. The Thurmont Ambulance ran a total of 1,258 calls in 2016; although I hope no one requires an ambulance, I can tell you from personal experience that you could not find better qualified, courteous, or professional ambulance personnel anywhere. I want to thank all the members of the Thurmont Community Ambulance Service for their hard work in getting this building built, and for their continued service to the residents of Thurmont and our neighbors in Frederick County.

Although we are still not through the worst part of winter, I want to mention a local project that will be worth visiting time and again once the weather warms up. Frederick County is currently making big improvements to the Roddy Road Park. These changes include moving the road away from Owens Creek in order to make pedestrian access to the stream much easier. There are new benches, picnic tables, walkways, dedicated parking, an infant playground, and even a new composting toilet. There are plans to develop a walking trail on the south side of Owens Creek that will wind along the embankment and up across the palisade. Of course, I can’t mention the park without saying something about the Roddy Road Covered Bridge. As everyone knows, the bridge was damaged twice in the last year and suffered major damages during the last incident. I am happy to say that Frederick County has stepped up and is repairing the bridge to a like-new condition. Many of the main frame timbers were damaged and have been replaced with identical woodwork. There are dozens of original supports being incorporated in the sides in the rebuilt bridge, and new steel beams will carry the weight of traffic under the wooden deck. The final touch will be a new metal roof and board siding. As I said, the County has stepped up on this project and it is obvious that they are intent on keeping the beloved Roddy Road Bridge in service. This landmark is a destination for many tourists and local residents, and the improvements will be a welcome addition. I want to also thank Fitzgerald Heavy Timber Construction for the fine craftsmanship they are investing in the rebuilding of the bridge.

As we get into February, I want to remind everyone that we will probably be seeing snow sometime this month and next. The Thurmont Police Department recently started a project called the Snow Team. Code Enforcement Officer Christy Wood has developed this project as a way to assist elderly and disabled residents with the removal of snow and ice from their sidewalks. The Snow Team is looking for teenage and adult volunteers to sign up to help clear snow for residents that are unable to do so themselves. Student volunteers can use the volunteer time as part of their community service requirements. Please stop by the Town Office or the Police Department to find out how you can help in this effort.

As always, I hope everyone has a safe and healthy month!



 Mayor Don Briggs

With the new year came the 133rd Vigilant Hose Company Banquet, an annual event Lib and I are always honored to attend. Over the course of the evening, I could not help but notice the parallel state of readiness and preparedness of the volunteer fire company and the teams that would compete in the upcoming College National Football Championship game. Both Clemson and Alabama and our fireman go through hours upon hours of rigorous training in preparation for yet unknown events and outcomes. Framing the comparison is not difficult. To no surprise, before a big football game, there is an elevated pitch in the locker room. Monday night players will go through a predictable series of steps in preparing for the game. Go to the stadium, tape up, suit up, loosen up, get a pre-game talk, and then go out on the field and play in the game. Looking across the Mother Seton auditorium, I knew that in a blink of an eye, the room could be emptied if a call came in and fire personnel were needed. Every firefighter and company support member would be gone. Gone to the fire house to suit up, but, unlike football, there would be no tape ups, loosening up or pre-game talk before going on to their “field”—on a call with no level field or fixed boundaries. A “field” of unknowns. If asked what it is like to be a volunteer fireman, knowing every day and every night that a call could come in, is only met with a shrug of the shoulders and a smile. Amazing people.

So what is the circle of care in Emmitsburg? One example is the first level of care: The volunteer Vigilant Hose Company responded to a call at a residence on East Main Street, where a fire would soon be extinguished, with limited damage and no personal injuries; but as a result, the family is now displaced. Hearing this, Sharon Hane and another concerned resident contacted Pastor John Greenstone, who manages the Emmitsburg Council of Churches fire fund, and told him of the family’s situation. The good Pastor concurred with the need and wrote a check. To accommodate the father’s schedule, one evening before Christmas, I gave him the check at the Community Center, where he was waiting to pick up his child from the town-sponsored after-school program. Volunteer Fire Company to concerned citizens to charitable resources and to town-sponsored childcare program is one way of how the circle of care works.

More “Green.” During the current drought conditions, predictably, the water levels at Rainbow Lake dropped. Unpredictably, though, was a natural consequence of algae levels that rose quickly, in part with more exposure to sunlight. Currently, the increased algae level necessitates more backwashing, which is expensive and exacerbates the water shortage by using and wasting water in the process. The town administration has proposed to the town council installing a solar powered “Advanced Ultrasonic Algae Control System.”

Soon there could be charging infrastructure for electric vehicles coming to Emmitsburg. From Shannon Moore, director of the Office of Sustainability: “As part of a settlement with the federal government, Volkswagen (VW) committed $2 billion over ten years to help advance the Electric Vehicle/Plug-In Electric Vehicle infrastructure in the United States. As a part of this settlement, VW is soliciting applications, due by January 16, 2017, from those interested in helping advance said infrastructure.  The COG (Washington Council of Governments) team is seeking project partners to receive the financial assistance to install chargers at host sites, either public or private. The team also is seeking partners to assist with education and outreach as well as vocational training.” To keep things moving, the town has expressed an interest in becoming a partner and possibly installing two charger stations. More to come on this.


Catoctin Banner Resolution 2017 Spotlight #1

Being a new contest, identifying our resolution contestants has been an adventure. We’re introducing our first contestant in this issue, and we will introduce another in our next issue. Then, we’ll give progress reports through the year to measure progress and capture their story.

Rachel Mohler is a thirty-nine-year-old artist and mother of three small children (four-and-a-half years, three years, and seven months). She moved to Sabillasville last November and has resolved to paint one tiny painting a day that is inspired by the view out the window of her new home. Each painting is created on a 2 1/2” x 3 1/2” piece of watercolor paper.

She has defined her objectives as: (1) to try and stay creative in the wake of small children, sleep deprivation, and all the chaos that comes with being a mom, wife, and business owner (she and her husband own a land surveying business); (2) to remind her to pause each day and take in the wonder that is nature and to be grateful for such a lovely place to live; (3) to watch the colors of the seasons change and to learn nature’s palette; and (4) to be open to the lessons this resolution has to teach and to have a record to share with her children when they get older.

Rachel has already begun her daily paintings as of January 1 (see samples below) and is looking forward to sharing her progress with the readers of The Catoctin Banner.

James Rada, Jr.

It’s a new year, and with it comes a new beginning. It’s a chance for you to challenge yourself to meet some of the goals you want, whether it’s to lose weight, find a new job, save for a dream vacation, or something else.

We at The Catoctin Banner hope you can achieve all of your goals, and we want to do our part to help. Along those lines, you’re invited to participate in our New Year’s resolution contest (see more information on the right side of this page). If selected as a participant, we’ll provide periodic checks on your progress, and cheer you on throughout the year.

We’ve compiled a list of some tips for setting and completing your New Year’s resolutions so that 2017 is your best year so far.

Keep your resolutions reasonable. For instance, if you want to run a marathon, don’t expect to do it next month. Find a marathon near the end of the year, and lay out a plan that allows you to work your way up to full marathon. If you’re not used to running at all, you might want to plan on running a half marathon this year and a full marathon next year. WebMD suggested thinking of your willpower as a muscle. Use it more, and you will be able to handle more.

Don’t try to do everything at once. We have developed bad habits over time and getting rid of them will take time. If you try and correct all of your bad habits at the same time, you will dilute your efforts. Using the willpower as a muscle comparison, if you have a lot of exercises in your workout, you will find that your energy has fizzled by the time you do the last ones. If you are trying to change a lot of behaviors, you will wind up shortchanging some of them.

Expect setbacks. It is very unlikely that you’ll hit your goal without stumbling along the way. How many people have lost weight only to gain it back? Those who try to exercise more may suffer injuries that cause them to stop their workouts to recover. Keep your eye on the long-range goal. If you have a stumble, refocus your efforts and start again with renewed energy.

Set intermediate goals. Staying focused for a year on a goal can be draining. Set intermediate goals with rewards if you hit them. Before you run that marathon, you may want to set a goal to run a 5K, then a 10K, and then a half marathon. As you hit each goal, you go and buy yourself a small present as a reward for making the goal. In this way, reaching the goal and getting the reward is still fresh in your mind as you pursue the next goal. This technique also helps when you start to feel discouraged. You can look back and see how far you have come in pursuit of your goal and benchmarks that you have hit.

Appeal to your other senses. Some people have photos of the body type they want to have, and they hang them on their refrigerators to remind them of their goal. You might fill water jugs with the amount of weight you lose. As the number of jugs increase, you will feel invigorated since you can see how much weight you are losing. Record a motivational speech for yourself that you can play once a day to remind yourself of why you are trying to reach your goal.

Write your goals down. Put your goals down in writing and keep track of them. It will help keep you focused on the progress that you are making. Place your written goals where you can refer to them each day.

Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or look for support in the pursuit of your goal. This could provide you a new viewpoint that you hadn’t considered and could give you new strategies and ideas to aid you in reaching your set goal. It also helps to have someone to whom you’re accountable. Who wants to admit that they’ve failed? No one. Many of us will work even harder to make progress toward our goal, when someone is holding us accountable, so we don’t have to admit failure.

Compete in The Catoctin Banner’s New Year’s resolution contest. If selected to participate, you will have the community cheering you on as you seek to change your life for the better. Go for it!


The Catoctin Banner’s New Year’s

Resolution Contest

We, The Catoctin Banner Newspaper Team, want you to be the very best you can be in your life. We want to help you achieve! Submit your 2017 resolution to us by January 20, 2017, to enter our Resolutions Contest.

Up to three individuals will be selected to participate in our year-long contest. We will announce our contestants and their resolutions in February, give updates on their progress every couple of months, and cheer them on via Facebook. In December 2017, we’ll announce the winner of our contest and review their progress through the year. The candidate who achieves the most progress wins $100.

Submit your resolution to us via Deb Spalding (The Catoctin Banner) on Facebook, email to, submit a contact form from our website, or stop by to enter in person at E Plus Copy Center in the lobby of Jubilee Grocery Store in Emmitsburg.

A resolution can be a personal challenge to get fit or lose weight, to kick a destructive habit, to do good things for others, or to earn something for yourself. It must be trackable, measurable, and attainable.

December 2016


Emmitsburg Institutes Voluntary Water Curtailment

The Emmitsburg mayor and commissioners voted on December 6 to implement Phase I water curtailment. This restriction asks residents on the town water system to voluntarily conserve water. It will remain in place until conditions change, and the curtailment can be lifted or more severe measures need to be taken.


Flat Run Bridge Work

Work on the Flat Run Bridge began on December 5, and continues. The work necessitates that the shoulder of Route 140 be closed; flaggers may direct traffic at times, which could create slowdowns.


Wi-Fi Concerns

The Emmitsburg commissioners and community deputy expressed concerns during a recent town meeting of people sitting in the lobby of the town community building to use the library’s free Wi-Fi after hours. The deputies have received complaints about loud music and marijuana smoking by some of the Wi-Fi users. The deputies plan to pay attention to the area and, if needed, send those people who are acting inappropriately away. They have the authority to do this because the area has no loitering signs posted.

Dog Park Site Selected

The Emmitsburg mayor and commissioners selected a wooded site behind the tennis courts of Community Park to serve as the site of the town’s new dog park. The site is still considered part of Community Park and should address most of the concerns that residents have expressed over past months about different proposed locations of the park.


Pavilion Fees Set

The Emmitsburg mayor and commissioners voted to charge residents $50 to rent the pavilions in the town park. Non-residents will be charged $100. On top of these fees, there is an additional $25 refundable security deposit required. The money from the reservations will be used to purchase the maintenance supplies needed for the parks.


New Town Clerk Hired

Madeline Shaw has been hired as the new town clerk for Emmitsburg. She will take over the position left vacant when Cathy Willets became the town manager. Shaw was chosen from among more than seventy candidates who applied for the position.

In addition, Amy Naill and Terri Ray both received promotions when their current responsibilities were expanded. Naill is now the parking and code enforcement officer, and Ray is the town office manager.



Open Burning Permits Change

The Thurmont Town Office no longer issues open burning permits. The permits must now be obtained through the Frederick County Health Department at 350 Montevue Lane in Frederick, or you can call 301-600-1717.


New Traffic Signal

The traffic signal on the square is being replaced and upgraded. Rather than four poles holding the lights up, there will now be two poles with 50-foot-long arms. Pedestrian crossing assistance devices will now be on all four corners of the intersection. All wiring for the lights will now be underground.

The project could cause traffic delays at times, and there may be flaggers at the intersection directing traffic. Use caution when traveling through the intersection.


$13,675 Raised for Hurwitz Fund

The Catoctin High football, cheerleading, and student spirit groups recently donated $750 to the Patty Hurwitz Fund. The group sold t-shirts and collected cash donations during the October 14 game.

Local businesses also helped raise funds during Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October). Gateway Candy and Gateway Liquors had employees wear pink on Fridays and donated $1.00 from every pink bottle of wine sold. The candy store sold lollipops with pink breast cancer awareness ribbons and pink ice cream.

Dr. Jon Moles of Gateway Orthodontics donated money from every patient who got pink braces during October.

Eyler Flea Market Stables donated 10 percent of their sales of Fridays in October to the Hurwitz Fund.

The town also sponsored a 5K race and some other breast cancer-related activities. All in all, Thurmont raised $13,675 for the Hurwitz Fund.

Mayor John Kinnaird

It is hard to believe that another year has come and gone! This past year, we had a lot of things going on in Thurmont, and I am happy to say that many improvements were made for the good of our residents. We completed another year’s worth of I & I infrastructure upgrades, including several new manholes and replacing and relining several damaged main waste water lines.  This long-term project is helping ease the burden on our waste water plant, and has made a significant dent in the inflow issues we have been working to resolve. The sidewalks on Main Street, Water Street, and North Church Street are now in great shape, and the new street light project is completed. You will notice that we have added to the Christmas decorations on the new street lights as well. There is a new gazebo in the Mechanicstown Square Park ready to welcome visitors as they take a break from the day’s business. The town has also purchased new work trucks this year, including a new pole/auger truck for the Electric Department, with the capacity to handle the longer poles required with the increasing electric loads. The Waste Water Department purchased a new high-pressure truck, with a vacuum system for cleaning our manholes and lines. Streets received a new dump truck with snowplow and salt spreader, as well as a new pickup and plow. We are very proud of the quick response all of our employees give when it snows, and these new vehicles will help insure that our streets are open as soon as possible for our residents when bad weather hits. The Water Department also got a new service truck, and they installed a generator at one of our wells, so in an emergency, the well can keep producing water. I want to note that all of our employees are doing a great job and all of our departments work together in emergencies to make sure repairs are made in a timely manner.

Thurmont is seeing some growth in residential capacity, with the town house project on Park Lane and several infill residential projects. I also want to welcome a new business to Thurmont, with the arrival of Playground Specialist to their new facility on Apples Church Road. Criswell Chevrolet continues to make amazing improvements to their recently acquired property on Frederick Road. I want to thank all of the businesses in Thurmont for investing in our town! A strong business base helps to insure the success of our community. As part of Thurmont’s commitment to insure a healthy business climate, we are establishing a new Economic Development position within our staff. This person will work to help promote our town to new businesses and will work with all of our existing businesses to help strengthen our community.

As always, I can be reached by phone at 301-606-9458, email at, or by mail at Mayor John Kinnaird, P.O. Box 17, Thurmont, MD.

As the new year starts, I look forward to working on many projects and opportunities to help our town be the best it can be, and I hope everyone enjoys the new year!

Mayor Don Briggs

During the month of December, Emmitsburg lost an outstanding member of the community when Bob Hance of the Carriage House Inn passed away. The Hance family has hosted the Annual Evening of Christmas Spirit in Emmitsburg the first Monday evening in December for the past twenty-eight years.

Mayor Briggs wrote the following letter to his friend, Bob, after attending the Evening of Christmas Spirit on December 5, 2016.


Robert “Reds” Francis Hance (March 19, 1961–November 23, 2016)

Dear Bob,

For Emmitsburg this was another special Christmas. To tradition on the ordained first Monday evening in December, the square was aglitter and again poised for the lighting of the town tree.  Under a canopy of uncertain skies, collars up to meet the crisp night air, our focus gathered on the stairs of the old hotel for the cherubim-like voices of the children’s chorales of Christ Community Church and Mother Seton School. Signaled by a visit by Santa arriving on a 1940s Vigilant Hose fire truck, three of our wisest, drawn from our youth, Jacob, Joshua, and Jeremy Talcott, then lit the tree before leaving for the Carriage House Inn for the 28th Annual Evening of Christmas Spirit. There, seemingly endless lines to see Santa, go on a hay ride, or for hot dogs and hot chocolate waited excitedly. On the second floor, all enjoyed comfort and local group entertainment. Your dream, your gift to the community.

Since taking office, our schedules seldom meshed, but a beep or a wave was enough for those many years of working together. Whether it was for the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association (EBPA), working to support FEMA/Fire Services, or supporting your great love—the Emmitsburg Lions Club, there was always joy and laughter when working with you. 

With time, Lib and I came to eat out less and missed the comforts of the Carriage House Inn, so instead made it a practice of ordering carryouts, as the Carriage House food quality was special.

Thank you for the tireless energy and humble persistent nudge you brought to serving the community. Always there, always willing. You will be missed.

We’ll do our best to keep things going.