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Grace Eyler

Friday, October 13, 2017, marked the beginning of the 54th Catoctin Colorfest weekend in Thurmont. On this morning, the streets were busy with locals snagging a great deal at the yard sales that were set up all over town. The town had started to bustle. Some locals were preparing for the busy weekend by getting their errands done early to avoid the clog of crowds expected to attend the festivities beginning early Saturday morning. Vendors were seen throughout town setting up their own temporary storefronts. Some even set up camp. After a few rainy days leading up to the weekend, the forecast was showing sun.

By Saturday morning, the crisp fall air and overcast skies snuggled the area, still with no chance of rain. By 9:00 a.m., the sidewalks were busy on Church Street with families and their children, or groups of friends, walking purposefully in the same direction—towards the center of town. Individual people disappeared and many became a crowd as they swarmed in search of great finds like hand-crafted items, gifts, and home decor, or delicious food from diverse vendors.

For some ladies, Colorest is a chance for a “girls day” while they carried wooden tables, bags and carts of home decor down the street. Children passed by with colorful painted faces while indulging in funnel cakes. Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird cruised the streets, kindly offering a ride on his red “Mayor Mobile” golf cart to those walking a distance.

By the time visitors had passed the square, the aromas of the unique food vendors filled the air. Just around the turn, on Frederick Road, area local Scott Haines beamed with excitement for the first day of the festival. In the spot that was once occupied by “Gertie’s Hot Sauce Pretzels,” he and his dad, Allen, sold wooden handmade Maryland flags. “I still flip the Gertie’s neon sign on, just to have people come up and ask (his dad Allen) about the pretzels,” Scott laughed.

Across from the park, the Stebbing Family displayed a wooden forest of beautiful handmade sculptures. Locals Mandy Stebbing and her daughter, Sophia, busily answered questions about the carvings from intrigued customers. As she enjoyed an oversized snow cone, Sophia exclaimed, “I love Colorfest! I love seeing all of the different vendors and what they have to offer…and the snow cones across the street are delicious,” she added, pointing to the trailer.

At the entrance of the grand Catoctin Colorfest at the Thurmont Community Park, people waited patiently for one of the Thurmont Community Ambulance Company’s famous apple dumplings. Some attendees make it their single goal to purchase one of these fresh desserts. “Every year I’ve come to Colorfest, I don’t leave until I’ve had a dumpling,” explained Brittney Wivell, as she enjoyed her dumpling while touring the craft tents.

In the middle of the park, Scott Hornbaker, a craftsman from St. Mary’s, Georgia, displayed his wrought iron hummingbird feeder hooks. He said he looks forward to Colorfest every year, “It’s great, I can even camp out behind my booth.”

Right down the path, local writer and author, Jim Rada, and his son, Sam Rada, sold Jim’s books. By mid-Sunday, Diaries of Catoctin had sold out. Jim took the opportunity to sneak off and do a little shopping of his own while Sam (age fifteen), manned the booth and greeted the interested customers. “I love the fact that everything is handmade. You can see some really beautiful stuff here,” Sam reflected, as he showed his appreciation for a steampunk style necklace he purchased earlier in the day. It’s like early Christmas for Jim. He returned with a new small metal figurine of a time machine that was made by a neighboring vendor. Even though the Radas have only been setting up for three years at Colorfest, they’ve been attending for nine years. Jim makes sure he gets a new little metal robot for his collection every year.

Criswell Auto made space for a variety of vendors, while also taking the opportunity to display the best of their new vehicles. As husbands would gather around the decked-out trucks, their wives would meander into the nearby craft tents. You’d even hear a few razz their husbands, “We aren’t here to buy a new truck,” as they moved on to the next place.

Away from the main Colorfest drag, crowds traveled around Thurmont’s Memorial Park over to East Main Street. Hobb’s Hardware housed several vendors, including locals John and Kathy Dowling of Old Field Woodworking. Brenda Rigby, an enthused Colorfest attendee, makes it a point to visit their display every year. She said, “It’s a great chance to get friends together; we’ve made a tradition of attending.” On Sunday, the Thurmont Historical Society’s Beer Garden provided a shaded oasis on the eighty-degree afternoon. Adults took the opportunity to enjoy a cold beer and try Josh Bollinger’s Uncle Dirty’s BBQ. Robert Eyler and other Historical Society volunteers were upbeat about the outcome of the weekend, and look forward to bartending again next year. Silas Phillips, Megan Setlock, and Timothy and Brittany Renoylds stopped by the beer garden to take a break on the busy afternoon. Megan claimed that they look forward to the Colorfest activities every year as an opportunity to get together with their friends.

As five o’clock neared on Sunday afternoon, crowds began to dissipate, and the Town of Thurmont rejoiced and reclaimed its streets. Vendors packed up. Buses delivered tired shoppers back to parking lots that were now sparse with vehicles.

Life started to return to normal in the town, as the work to remove the rubbish from thousands of people began. While cleaning up, the plans began for the 55th Annual Catoctin Colorfest.

Photo by Grace Eyler

Mandy and Sophia Stebbing proudly display wood carvings at their Joe Stebbing Sculptures booth during Colorfest.

Thurmont’s Scott and Allen Haines are shown at their Colorfest display.

Sam Rada shows one of his father’s book covers at their James Rada, Jr. Book Sale booth at Colorest.

Neighbors Skeeter and Willie watch the crowds of people come and go during Colorfest in Thurmont.

Eileen Dwyer

Each October in Emmitsburg, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation sponsors the nation’s official tribute to firefighters killed in the line of duty the previous year. The annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend features special programs for family members and coworkers, along with moving public ceremonies, rich in fire service tradition. Members of Congress, Administration officials, other dignitaries, members of the fire service, and families of these fire heroes, attend.

This year marked the 36th annual Memorial Weekend, with between 4,000 and 6,000 in attendance, and over 1,200 fire service volunteers contributing their time. Hundreds of firefighter honor guard and pipes and drums units from across the country participated in the Weekend. According to Chief Ron Kanterman, 2017 Memorial Weekend Incident Commander, ninety-five firefighters were honored, seventy-five of which were line-of-duty deaths occurring in 2016, and twenty from previous years. Half of the firefighters from previous years died from illnesses related to the 9-11 tragedy.

The annual Memorial Weekend began on Thursday, October 5, 2017, with a ceremony held in the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C. Members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus presented ninety-five American flags, previously flown over the U.S. Capitol, to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. These flags were also flown over the National Fallen Firefighters Monument in Emmitsburg. During the Memorial Service on Sunday, October 8, these flags were presented to each family, along with a red rose (the symbol of the fire service) and a customized badge imprinted with their firefighter’s name and year of death.

Also on Thursday, members of the fire service placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Family members of firefighters previously honored arrived, ready to assist the new families and just “be there” for support. New families arrived on Friday, October 6, and were welcomed by these empathetic volunteers. Additionally, each family was assigned a fire service escort from their loved one’s department to accompany them to all Weekend events.

Saturday, October 7, was Family Day. Events included small group sessions, various family activities, a silent vigil in the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel, and the annual Red Helmets Motorcycle Ride and wreath-laying ceremony. Family Day concluded with the Candlelight Service. Earlier in the day, children decorated luminary bags in honor of their special firefighter. These keepsakes were placed at the Monument. Right before dusk, families lit the candles, signaling the beginning of the Candlelight Service.

This year, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation observed its 25th anniversary. To commemorate both this event and the Memorial Weekend, it created Light the Night for Fallen Firefighters. As dusk turned to dark at the end of the Candlelight Service, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel, along with more than thirty iconic buildings and landmarks across the country, were illuminated in respect for the fallen firefighters and their survivors.

On Sunday, October 8, as part of fire service tradition, the families walked through a “Sea of Blue” of uniformed fire service personnel, standing at attention. Once seated, Dennis Compton, the chairman of the Board of Directors, called the Memorial Service to order. At that moment, the honor guard and pipes and drums began their procession.

The Memorial Service is typically held outdoors at the site of the National Fallen Firefighters Monument. This year, however, the weather did not cooperate. Mount Saint Mary’s University graciously offered its sports complex as the venue. The Memorial Service is the final event held during the annual Memorial Weekend. After the Service, and as part of Bells Across America, bells rang out from coast to coast as a grateful nation paused to honor these fallen firefighters.

Congress created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to lead a nationwide effort to honor America’s fallen firefighters. Since 1992, the non-profit Foundation has developed and expanded programs that fulfill that mandate. The mission of the Foundation is to honor and remember America’s fallen fire heroes, to provide resources to assist their survivors in rebuilding their lives, and to work within the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries. For additional information about the Foundation, visit


Photo by Coral Ruggiero for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Frances Smith’s oldest dated poem that he has is dated 1946, more than seventy years ago. Over that time, he has penned thousands of poems.

“I enjoy words and how they sound,” Smith said from his Taneytown home, which is filled with notebooks of his poetry and more than a few loose scraps of paper with his poetry on them.

As essential a part of his life as his poetry is now, it wasn’t always that way. When he was a young man studying to be a priest in the seminary, he had a hard time catching on to what is so wonderful about poetry.

His poetry instructor was a patient Catholic priest. Each day he would come into the classroom and begin by reading a poem. Then he would look at Smith.

“I would shake my head to tell him that I didn’t get it,” Smith said.

Day after day, poem after poem, Smith struggled to understand. Then, one day, the priest read a poem; Smith doesn’t recall what it was titled or who wrote it, but he remembers one line: “Meekly no angels fancy.”

Something about the poem touched him, and he understood. When the priest looked at him that day, Smith nodded. The priest went to his desk and picked up a large list of names and checked off Smith’s name. Apparently, Smith wasn’t the only seminarian who didn’t get poetry.

From there, his understanding of poetry multiplied, and he was soon tutoring a friend in it.

During his years at the seminary, he majored in philosophy and also taught at St. Joseph Prep School in Philadelphia. This served him well, because when he decided not to become a priest, he instead became a Carroll County teacher. Smith taught English in Sykesville High School, Taneytown High School, and Francis Scott Key High School, for forty years.

When he finally retired, Smith’s poetry and painting became his life’s pursuits. He is a cancer survivor, but it left him weak and unable to do strenuous activity. However, he can create pictures from word and paint.

“Writing and painting are my life,” Smith said.

He is poems are regularly published in The Catoctin Banner, and some of his collected poems have also been published in limited-edition books.

Frances Smith is shown with some of his own artwork.

Carter Jones, Special Projects Coordinator, S.C. State Firefighters Association

On February 17 and 18, 2018, South Carolina and the will observe “The Burning of Columbia” by the Union Army, under the command of. During the nearly forty-eight-hour siege, General Sherman and his troops ravaged more than half the City by fire and destroyed much of its infrastructure. When the fires and smoke had cleared, most, if not all, of the City’s fire apparatus and equipment lay in ruin.

Many graphic accounts of Columbia’s indiscriminate destruction by the Union Army have already been written, but little narrative is spent describing the heroic efforts of the volunteer firemen of the day to control and suppress the many fires that preyed on the symbols of politics, military, education, religion, enterprise, and private properties.

It is important to remember that Columbia hosted the Secession Convention at the First Baptist Church on December 20, 1860, and was the capital of the first seceding state, which withdrew from the Federal Union. It was well known that the Union Army had a score to settle with South Carolina, and specifically the City of Columbia.

The Independent Fire Engine Company of Columbia was one of several fire companies located throughout the City that played a prominent role during the burning of our Capital City. But, the history of this struggling fire company, in my opinion, is probably more rich and absorbing than any in the City.


Now, To The Rest of The Story

According to The Burning of Columbia, the destruction of our Capital City was a major event in American history. By February 1865, the  had turned against the Confederacy, and no significant Confederate forces were left to give serious challenge to General Sherman’s determination to demoralize the population. During the evening of February 17 and the morning of the 18th, Columbia experienced almost total destruction by the invasion of General Sherman’s troops. It is reported that Sherman’s troops lit bales of cotton that were situated in the middle of Richardson Street. Accounts say “the wind being quite fresh, the flames increased and spread with fearful rapidity and, in short time, the whole, or at least the greater part, was in a blaze. The fire engines of the City were brought to the spot as expeditiously as possible and the fire was extinguished in the course of an hour.”

As has already been noted, the Independent Fire Engine Company played a major role in the attempted control of fires during Columbia’s onslaught by the Union Army. In the end, practically all of the City’s fire equipment and apparatus were destroyed. Accounts of hardships experienced by the fire companies of Columbia were reported in the March 23, 1865, edition of The Columbia Phoenix. “The experience of the firemen in putting out the fires in the cotton and jail building were of a sort to discourage their further efforts. They were thwarted and embarrassed by continued interference of the soldiery. Finally, their hose was chopped with swords and axes or pierced with bayonets, so as to be rendered useless. The engines were in some cases demolished also.”

Again, The Burning of Columbia reports that “the engines were taken from their captains, and so injured as to be useless. The hose was cut, as testified to by Captains Stanley and McKenzie of the fire companies of the City, and the town lay helpless before them. Captain Stanley was the captain of one of the fire companies, and whilst working at the fire in the rear of the Commercial Bank, fifteen or twenty armed soldiers forcibly took possession of the hose, stuck their bayonets into them, carried off the pipes, and beat in the air vessel of the engine.”

As one can imagine, the reorganization of the fire companies of Columbia was a challenge of monumental proportions. Captain Stanley, mentioned above, was later appointed to Chief of Department in1866 and tasked to inventory the apparatus and equipment destroyed, develop a plan to rebuild station houses, and devise measures to replace all that was lost, even with no financial resources to do so. It’s interesting to note that the City of Charleston responded to Chief Stanley’s requests for assistance by loaning the department a used hand-drawn pumper (hand tub), which is believed to have later been sold to the Town of Walhalla and is now on display in their headquarters station in working condition.

Word spread quickly during the ensuing days that Columbia was in desperate need of rebuilding its fire department. Through the determination and skillful networking of the department’s leaders, the New York Firemen’s Association responded with great generosity by raising nearly $3,000 for the purchase of a hand-drawn hose carriage, designated to be given to the Independent Fire Engine Company. The “Sickles” carriage was built by Messrs. Adams and Conne’s Carriage Repository of No. 684 Broadway in New York City, a leading manufacturer of fire apparatus.

The March 16, 1867, headlines of Harpers Weekly read The article says that “the members of the New York Firemen’s Association have lately indulged a commendable effort at the restoration of good feelings between themselves and their Southern brethren. They have purchased a splendid hose carriage, which they intend to present to the Independent Engine Company No. 1 of Columbia as a token of good-will from the firemen of New York.” A further description of the hose carriage reveals that it was built “of the very best materials and in the most substantial manner. The height to the top of the hose reel is about eight feet. On either end of the front box is painted a figure of Liberty, while on the rear box are the coat-of-arms of New York and South Carolina. The front arch is surmounted by an elegant scroll-work of plate and a fine set of Russian sledge bells of silver. The hose reel is ornamented with bouquets of flowers. It holds one thousand feet of the finest hose, made to fit the water hydrants of Columbia.”

A photograph of members of the New York Firemen’s Association standing beside the hose carriage just prior to its shipment captures the pride of their members who sacrificially helped in raising the money for this acquisition. In late February of 1867, the hose carriage was carefully loaded on the merchant steamship, Andalusia, birthed at a dock in the New York harbor. On Saturday, March 2, the ship cast off at 3:10 P.M. under full steam toward its destination of Charleston. Tragically, the Andalusia caught fire the following day off the coast of Cape Hatteras and was destroyed. Four passengers and eight crewmen were lost in the fire and sinking of the Andalusia. Also lost was the hose carriage, equipment, helmets, nozzles, and speaking trumpets being shipped for presentation to the Independent Fire Engine Company of Columbia.

When the Andalusia burned and sank off Cape Hatteras, a committee of the New York Firemen’s Association were traveling by train to meet the steamer in Charleston. Upon learning of the loss, the committee members traveled to Columbia where a reception was held in their honor and to thank them for their efforts in helping to restore fire protection in the City of Columbia. According to The New York Times of March 12, 1867, a dinner was given at the Nickerson Hotel in honor of the committee. A Mr. Wilson, President of the New York Firemen’s Association, arose to make a few comments in which he said, “the loss of the hose reel had caused them a sad disappointment, but that it would be replaced by a far more substantial one. The accomplishment of the object had been frustrated for the present, but only a brief period should elapse ere the lost treasure would be replaced, Providence permitting.”

At the same gathering, former Confederate Colonel Samuel Melton rose to address the group from New York and is quoted as saying, “Should misfortune ever be yours, I hope Columbia would obey that golden rule by which you have been prompted in the performance of this most munificent kindness to a people in distress.”

The New York Firemen’s Association was as good as its word and returned to New York where nearly $3,000 in additional contributions were raised so the Independent Engine Company “should not be a loser by the catastrophe.” (The New York Times, June 2, 1867) A description of the replacement hose carriage again indicates that it was built by J. H. Sickles and painted by Thomas Miller. “The running-gear is of polished iron; the wheels painted in crimson and gold, edged with a blue and lilac stripe; the hose-reel is of polished rosewood, with silver rims; the front and back boxes are of polished rosewood, with silver-plated molding in panels; on the first panel are the words “Organized 1837”, and on the back panel the name of “Independent”’; on the ends of the front box are painting of the coats-of-arms of the City of New York and the City of Columbia, and on the end of the back box a painting of Peace and Plenty; on the front box is a frame mounted with two silver bells of high tone and finish, surmounted by a silver spread eagle. In the centre is a silver plate in shape of the front of a fire cap, with the following inscription: “Presented by the New York Firemen’s Association to Independent Fire Engine Company of Columbia, S. C., June 1867.” The New York Times indicated that the hose carriage would likely be “shipped on the Manhattan, which leaves port on June 20, and would be accompanied by a Committee who would make the presentation in due form.”

Once the hose carriage was delivered to Columbia and formally presented on July 2, 1867, another gala reception was given in honor of the New York delegation. They were welcomed by the Mayor and other dignitaries of Columbia. According to another New York Times article dated July 8, 1867, “they all ate, and drank, and gave speeches together, and enjoyed themselves and the occasion hugely.”

In an article written by former Columbia Fire Chief, John Jansen, he noted that “little did Colonel Melton know that Columbia would step forward and repay that act of kindness from the citizens of New York 134 years later.”


134 Years Later America Attacked on September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001, was a beautiful fall day in most of the northeast. The sky was clear, and the air had the feel of autumn. People were going about their business and had no indication the stage was being set for events that would change our lives forever. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City followed in less than 30 minutes by the crash of Flight 175 into the South Tower. At 9:37 a.m., Flight 77 impacts the Pentagon in Washington, and at 10:03 a.m. a plane crashes into a rural countryside in Pennsylvania.

We all know the rest of the story. In a brief 56 minutes after the second plane hit the South Tower, the symbol of America’s prosperity collapsed followed a short time later by the total collapse of the North Tower. Very quickly America knew its liberties were being attacked by Islamic terrorists who were determined to make a statement by creating as much horror, fear, and confusion as possible.

Fires burned throughout buildings in the center of commerce in lower Manhattan; debris and dust spread all over New York; and the shocking degree of destruction and loss of life became apparent. When the events of the day were over and the toll was eventually revealed, America was horrified to learn that nearly 3,000 people were killed, and, of that number, 343 firefighters were killed in the line of duty. So, 134 years later, the Fire Department of New York and the great City it serves, found themselves in much the same plight as Columbia in 1865….only the number of lives lost was distinctly different.

The Chief of Department (Pete Ganci), the First Deputy Fire Commissioner (William Feehan), their beloved Chaplain (Father Mychal Judge), renowned Chief of Tactical Operations (Ray Downey), and other heroes in the department’s rank and file lost their lives serving their City. Nearly 100 engines, ladders, rescues, tactical units, support vehicles, ambulances, and staff cars were destroyed. 75 of their firehouses were touched by at least one member dying in the line of duty, and many others lost entire companies.

Remember the words of Colonel Samuel Melton in 1867? “Should misfortune ever be yours, I hope Columbia would obey the golden rule by which you have been prompted in the performance of this most munificent kindness to a people in distress.” Those words rang loud in the heart of retired Columbia Fire Chief John Jensen who offered his assistance to help raise money to return the favor so graciously given after the Civil War by our brothers in New York. To make a long story brief, the students at White Knoll Middle School wanted to make a difference and approached their principal and other school leaders with the idea of raising money to help purchase a fire truck to give to the FDNY. With the help of Chief Jansen and former Fire Marshal John Reich, along with many benefactors, including the membership of the State Firefighters’ Association, the story of the Independent Fire Engine Company spread like a wildfire. Newspapers, TV and radio stations, and other news outlets picked up on the story. Money began pouring in at the school and at fire departments across the State given by people from all over the country who wanted to help in the cause.

At first, the goal was to raise sufficient funds to purchase an engine for the FDNY, but it soon became apparent that there would be enough money to order a ladder truck. Chief Jansen was asked to select a firehouse in New York to receive the ladder truck. From his younger days as a member of the New York Fire Patrol and an avid fire buff, Chief Jansen suggested that it be assigned to Ladder 101 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn which lost seven members of that company as well as their truck. On June 1, 2002, a group from South Carolina attended a dedication ceremony at the Red Hook station where the ladder truck was officially placed in service and ceremonially repaid the debt owed over 135 years earlier.

The story of the little Independent Fire Engine Company of Columbia is a remarkable bit of history which affirms that our brotherhood is like no other. As Dan Byrne of the Burton Fire Department once wrote, brotherhood “defines and illustrates the best of who we are.”

Note: A special thanks to the following individuals whose works contributed to this story: Chief Librarian Dan Maye, FDNY Library, Honorary Chief Jack Lerch, FDNY Library, Chief John Jansen (Retired), Fire Marshal John Reich (Retired), Chief Photographer Robert Busbee, Columbia F.D.

Photo Courtesy of Carter Jones

Hose carriage prior to being shipped to South Carolina.


Horseshoe Pitching Contest and Log Sawing Contest

Winners in the 37th Annual Robert Kaas Memorial Horseshoe Pitching Contest for 2017 were: 1st place—Jeff Powell and Dick Glass; 2nd  place— Johnny Buhrman and Ray Helsley; 3rd place—John Holt and Donnie Kaas.

The 37th annual log sawing contest was held with the winners as follows:  Children’s Team (13 years old and younger): 1st place—Colton Whetzel and Wyatt Davis (1.01.75); 2nd place—Colton Whetzel and Braden Whetzel (1.04.54); 3rd place—Caroline Clark and Jessica Martin (2.09.05); Men and Women’s Division: 1st place—Mark Valentine and Jessica Valentine (.35.39); 2nd place—Cadin Valentine and Jessica Martin (1.08.09); 3rd place—Ashley and Michael (1.08.81); Men’s Division: 1st place—Robert Hahn and Alan McIntyre (38.25); 2nd place—Bernie Hobbs and Daniel Hobbs (45.45); 3rd place—Robert Hahn and Ray Martin, IV (49.00); Ladies Team: lst place—Kelly Glass and Brittany Brown (1.15.14); 2nd place—Jessica Valentine and Stacey Ridge (2.21.55); 3rd place—Stephanie Moreland and Alexis Morgan (3.31.98).

Decorated Animal Contest

The winners of the Decorated Animal Contest were: Champion—Laura Dutton (Ketcup and French Fries – goat); and Reserve Champion—Caroline Clark (Eat More Chicken – sheep). The judge of the decorated animal contest was Tess Hahn of Sabillasville. Each of the contestants received a ribbon and prize money will be divided among each of them.

Livestock Champions and Reserve Champions

Livestock winners were: Champion Swine—Logan Long; Reserve Champion Swine—Wyatt Davis; Grand Champion Sheep—Kaitlynn Neff; Reserve Champion Sheep—Caroline Clark; Ridenour Lamb—Laura Dutton; Grand Champion Goat—Gavin Valentine; Reserve Champion Goat—Katie Glass; Grand Champion Steer—Austin Ridenour; Reserve Champion Steer—Hayden Hahn.

Pictured from left are Catoctin High School’s FFA Ambassador Stephanie Moreland (left), with the buyers of the Grand Champion Steer that was shown by Austin Ridenour (far right).

Photo by Karen McAfee

Deb Abraham Spalding

In the October issue of The Catoctin Banner, the cover article was called “The History and Mystery of McAfee Falls.” In it, we explored the McAfee family, who were the landowners of the falls, now called Cunningham Falls and part of Cunningham Falls State Park. We invited people to help solve the mystery about why the falls were named Cunningham Falls at some point in the early 1900s. Despite hundreds of hours of research, the reason Cunningham was selected as the name of the recreation area and falls remains a mystery. After printing the article, some tidbits came to light that may further help to eventually uncover the mystery about the naming of the falls to Cunningham Falls after being called McAfee Falls or Hunting Creek Falls in various news articles.

After our article published, one of the McAfee family’s patriarchs, Rob McAfee of Foxville, was told by a lady that she believes there was a family of Cunninghams that lived near the falls on the way to Foxville. Also, a family in Thurmont invited me to take a photo of an 1822 watercolor painting of the falls by Samuel Reinke (see photo). The artist painted himself and his wife, holding a parasol over him, in the lower center of the picture. From The History of Graceham, compiled by Rev. A.L. Oerter in 1913 from the Graceham Moravian Church diary, “Friday, October 25, 1822 Bros. and Sr. Samuel Reinke arrived from Lancaster to participate in the dedication of the new church on Sunday, October 27, 1822.” 1822 is the date of the painting.

The inscriptions or marks on the bottom of the painting say Herman’s Falls Near Graceham Maryland, signed lower right: S. Reinke pxt. 1822.

Note: This past July, the McAfees held a family reunion and staged some family photographs that were similar to those taken by their ancestors at the falls. In last month’s cover photo, Becky Hurley was misnamed as Pauline McAfee. Our apologies, Becky

Thank You

The sponsoring organizations, consisting of the Thurmont Grange, Catoctin FFA, and Catoctin FFA Alumni, would like to thank those individuals who helped with the 61st Annual Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show. We sincerely thank the community businesses and individuals for advertising and sponsoring our show booklet, as we had excellent attendance and great community support during the entire event.

During the opening ceremonies, approximately thirty-five community organizations participated in the opening flag ceremony on Friday evening, led in a bagpipe processional by Bill and Andrew Douwes. Addison Eyler, Rocky Ridge 4H Club and Thurmont Grange member, sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” during the program. Along with many county and local officials, we were honored to have Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools Dr. Theresa Alban give remarks. Stacey Brown Hobbs, president of St. John’s Christian Preschool of Thurmont, announced the 2017-2018 Catoctin FFA Ambassador, Stephanie Moreland. We honored the 50th anniversaries of WTHU Radio Station of Thurmont and the St. John’s Christian Preschool of Thurmont.  Special thanks extended to the many exhibitors who entered items at the show, and to the over 150 new exhibitors this year, which is a reflection of how our show has grown over the years.

We had approximately 280 baked products entered and sold at our baked products sale. The grand champion cake (a chiffon cake), made by Dawn Hobbs of Rocky Ridge, was purchased by Mountaingate Restaurant for $1,050. Monies received from the silver offering, and the Junior and Youth Department Champion Cakes, totaling $1,100, was donated equally to the Thurmont Food Bank and the Emmitsburg Food Bank.

Bob Valentine, livestock chairman of the Community Show, was pleased with the results of John Nichols of Pennsylvania, who judged the Beef, Sheep, Swine & Goat Show. The livestock sale on Saturday evening was well attended and the sale averages were: beef ($2.32 lb.); sheep ($3.50 lb.); swine ($2.54 lb.); and goats ($262.00/head).

The dairy and goat show was also held on Sunday and was judged by Katie Albaugh of Walkersville. Our show is viewed as a learning experience for many 4-H and FFA youth, who later exhibit at the Frederick Fair, Maryland State Fair, and other shows and sales.

Many individuals helped with the pony rides, petting zoo, alpaca display (by Lynn Cherish of Baggy Britches Farm), litter of pigs (by Chip and Logan Long), horseshoe pitching, log sawing, and martial arts programs; the Thurmont Grange Turkey & Ham Dinner; the Catoctin FFA Alumni Bar-B-Que; and the Beef, Sheep and Swine Show and sale.

We would also like to thank all of the department superintendents and the many volunteers who helped to take entries, hauled tables, and helped in any way to make our show excellent, and also to the many commercial exhibitors, including the Thurmont History display by John Kinnaird and the Thurmont Library for sponsoring its annual book sale, as well as to the many other commercial and animal displays that make our event community oriented.

We would also like to thank the Taylor Brown – Elvis Tribute Artist and “Catoctin the Band” for their performances to a large crowds on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Many families who attended the show were able to enjoy participation in the pony rides, the kiddie pedal pull, the cross cut sawing, the pet show, the decorated animal contest, and the horseshoe pitching contest.

Special thanks to Bollinger’s Restaurant for sponsoring a free meal ticket to all department champions and our food stand vendors; the Catoctin High School Junior Class and Thurmont Lions Club were busy all weekend with sales. We would also like to thank all of the individuals, businesses, and families for sponsoring show awards, for purchasing baked goods at our cake sale, and for supporting our livestock show and sale.

In addition, we would also like to thank CHS Principal Bernie Quesada and the entire faculty, cafeteria, and custodial staff for their professionalism, cooperation, and understanding during the show.

The Community Show is an agricultural educational event and is a total community effort.  Many community citizens volunteer many hours to make the show one that our area can be very proud of, and visitors comment on the large amount and quality of entries. These efforts are appreciated by the show sponsors: Thurmont Grange; Catoctin FFA Chapter, Catoctin FFA Alumni, The Maryland State Grange, and the Maryland Agricultural Fair Board.

The 2018 Community Show dates are September 7-9, 2018, at Catoctin High School in Thurmont.

President C. Rodman Myers, Vice President Robert N. Valentine, Secretary Jennifer Martin, Catoctin FFA

    Chapter Advisor Amy Poffenberger

So, for school, I had to write a paper describing a person who was a place, and the place was the person. If you wanna read a little something about one of the most amazing men I know, my Pappy, I’ll put it here…

Larry Bruce May was an amazing man and, apart from his family, there was nothing he loved more than his business. He ran the Emmitsburg Auction, and it was his life. He was integrated into every aspect of the business. When you walked in, you could count on seeing Bruce in his pink button down flannel, a pair of medium wash jeans, suspenders crisscrossed in the back, and a pair of snakeskin cowboy boots. If you did not hear his deep, husky voice on the phone, schmoozing a customer, you would hear it singing the oldies. His favorite song was “Amazing Grace,” and the radio was always playing. He was the best grandfather I could ever ask for.

Pappy Bruce spent his life at the auction. I stayed with my grandparents a lot when I was younger. He was always up before the sun, around four or five in the morning. He would go to the Exxon, get a cup of coffee and a newspaper, go check on the auction, and come home. Then he left again to go in to work for the day, around seven. He was never home before six in the evening—hungry and happy.

The auction was a direct reflection of Pappy. The dusty, dirty floors came in on his boots from the rocky ground outside. The slow, even music was his favorite from his younger days. The old, musty smell of antiques and his cologne was everywhere, even when he was not at the auction house. Even the atmosphere of the place was completely him. It was straight to the point, business-like, but also full of love for things that were no longer new, and even more beautiful, a love of fellow human beings.

My grandfather passed away a couple of years ago, around Easter time. To this day, I remember the feel of that pink flannel, soft and thin, like a child’s favorite blanket. I remember his voice, comforting, and so, so full of love. I remember the smell of his cologne, musky and manly and just so him. I remember his smile, his stern voice when we were bad, and all of the sayings that just made Pappy Bruce who he was.

Even though he is not at the auction every single day anymore physically, every time you go in, you can still feel him there. It hasn’t been easy to keep the auction going without him. In fact, a lot of things have been almost impossibly hard without him there to guide us. That being said, it would be impossible to forget him.

Now, when you walk into the auction, the scent of his cologne is gone, the oldies are rarely ever playing, and none of the guys who work there wear pink, but his legacy lives on. It lives on in all the family that works there: my grandma, my mom, me, my dad, my uncle, and my cousins. It lives on in the auctioneers and the people that go there, who still say the things that he used to. When they call out “Cheap! Cheap!” or “We have got to sell this now…lady is having a baby” or “The only thing wrong with this is the price!” you can almost hear his voice saying it and it is impossible to not chuckle to yourself. Every time someone walks up behind me and rubs my shoulders for a second, I feel his rough hands and hear his voice saying “Where have you been?”, even though he knew I had been there working for hours. Even his jokes stuck, like how everyone picks on my cousin, Chelsea, for always, always being late.

Not much has changed about the way the business is run either. It is still open on the same days and still has the same days off. It carries the same hours. The schedule on sale day is the same. The way the clerks “clerk,” the office girls check people out, and the auctioneers handle themselves, is all the same. All of his “rules” are followed—even though he is not around—by almost everyone, merely out of his memory.

There is nothing about the auction that does not remind me of Pappy Bruce. It was his baby, and he was very good at raising it. Even when he was horribly sick with COPD, he was there more often than not. He would be tired, slow, and pale in the face, working hard through the pain, but he was there, happy and loving as ever. His humor was never ending.

My grandmother’s last promise to him was to keep the auction open, to keep it going. Now, it is even more of a family business, as my dad joined the team and we all keep his memory alive by just being influenced by him. All of the things we do reflect him, all of the things we say there. There are times when there are breaks or people will just come up to us to reminisce with us about him because something there made them think of him. All of the stories make my heart warm, all of the happy memories of him handing out lollipops to kids (which we still do), memories of him laughing or joking, memories of him putting his foot down with customers who took his kindness for weakness, and many more. There is never a negative thing to be said about him.

Every time I go to the auction, for even just a minute, if I relax and take a minute to just think, he is all I can think about. I hear him, smell him, and miss him more than I could ever express. The only thing that makes missing him better is the auction: I can go there and just feel his presence, to this day. I can sit and remember all the things he said there and did there for others. I can also remember how above-and-beyond he always went for me. He was the most generous, amazing, smartest man anyone could have ever met. All who met him loved him and many of the customers he had, still come in to the auction and remember him there, the same way I do—at least every Sunday on sale day. My Pappy, the antique master, the auctioneer, the best boss; he was the auction and the auction is him.

by James Rada, Jr.


Town Hopes to Dedicate New Flat Run Bridge to Fallen Firefighter

Mayor Don Briggs asked the Emmitsburg Commissioners for their support in a proposal he is making to the Maryland State Highway Administrate to dedicate the new Flat Run Bridge in Emmitsburg in honor of a fallen firefighter. Terry L. Myers was a member of the Vigilant Hose Company and died in the line of duty on  February 15, 1999.

“I believe he’s the first and only company member to die in the line of duty,” Briggs said.

Approaching the commissioners was Briggs’ first step in preparing to send an application to MSHA.


Emmit Garden Playground May Become Handicap Accessible

The Thurmont Civitan Club, which spearheaded a new fully accessible playground for special needs children in Thurmont, has expressed interest in creating a similar playground in Emmitsburg. Emmitsburg currently has enough money set aside to build a playground in Emmit Garden. However, since it will be located in a floodplain, the Maryland Department of the Environment will need to approve the project. With the Civitan Club showing interest in the project, new plans may need to be drawn up.


Town Changes How It Will Handle Accrued Leave

As of June 30, 2017, Town of Emmitsburg employees had accrued leave time that totaled $128,328. Although it is unlikely that the town would have to pay out all of that time at once, the commissioners have seen that even one employee retiring, who has accrued a significant amount of time, can be costly. Also, a number of town employees have more than twenty years of time in and are nearing retirement.

To plan for future payouts, Town Manager Cathy Willets asked the commissioners to be allowed to create a new line item in the budget and begin making budget transfers to the line item, which will be used to cover personal time payouts.

The commissioners told her to proceed with the idea and plan to add between 20-25 percent of the needed amount into the line item each year until it covers the required amount.

Dog Waste Bag Theft

Emmitsburg has had a thief stealing the dog waste bags that it provides for people who walk their pets in the town’s parks. Three times so far, a thief has taken all of the bags, and it is beginning to add up for Emmitsburg. Each time, the town orders the bags, it costs $150.

Commissioner Elizabeth Buckman suggested that perhaps the town should consider buying waste stations where people could recycle their plastic grocery bags.


Algae System Adapting to New Algae

Emmitsburg’s new LG Sonic Algae Control System in Rainbow Lake has been performing as promised since it was installed. Town Manager Cathy Willets told the Emmitsburg Mayor and Commissioners that now that the water level in the lake is dropping somewhat, a new type of algae is appearing. The algae control system got feedback on the new algae and is changing its sonic pulses to effectively destroy it.


Leak Detection Survey Results

Fluid Pinpointing Services conducted a system-wide leak detection survey of Emmitsburg’s water system this summer. The town owns about 75 miles of water lines. The system found four leaks that accounted for nearly 55,000 gallons of water wasted each day. One of the leaks had to be addressed by a property owner, and the town fixed the other three leaks. Town Manager Cathy Willets pointed out that the leaks amounted to nearly 5 million gallons of water lost each quarter.

“This is a recurring thing that we’ll have to stay on top of with our aging infrastructure,” she said.

Fluid Pinpointing Service is recommending that the town conduct a system survey at least annually, preferably semi-annually.


Board of Appeals Position Filled

Richard Kapriva was unanimously re-appointed to serve another three-year term on the Emmitsburg Board of Appeals.


Thurmont to Allow Cluster Development

The Thurmont Commissioners approved an amendment to the town’s subdivision regulations. The new change will allow for lots in a subdivision to be smaller and clustered together to allow for more open space in the subdivision. The smaller lots are expected to make housing more affordable. Also, the clustering of lots requires less infrastructure, so it is easier to maintain. The open space can be used for a variety of things, including a town park.


Moser Road Sidewalk Project Approved

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved the Moser Road sidewalk project, although it may cost more than initially projected. The sidewalk will run along the south side of Moser Road, from Fredrick Road to the Thurmont Regional Library.

Originally expected to cost around $181,000, the final bid came in at over $215,000. However, Mayor John Kinnaird said that $20,000 of that amount is to manage traffic, which the commissioners will have town staff do. This should reduce the costs.

Also, the county has allocated $100,000 in its budget to go towards the project. Highway user revenue from the State of Maryland is expected to cover the difference.

Romano Concrete Construction will be doing the project. The company is currently installing new sidewalks in the Town of Emmitsburg.


Unexpected Sewer Repair Needed

Sinking roadways had been noticed in the area of Rouzer Court, Mantle Court, and Apples Church Road. When Thurmont town staff investigated, it was discovered that for some unknown reason, the ground beneath the town’s sewer lines in those areas had changed, leaving the sewer lines unstabilized.

Chief Administrative Officer James Humerick asked the commissioners to authorize repairs to the ground and sewer lines on Apples Church Road, behind Gateway Printing, into the residential areas off the road. The lines themselves aren’t badly damaged at this point, but the longer the problem continues, the more costly the repairs become.

  1. F. Delauter and Sons was the low bidder of three bids submitted, and the commissioners approved the company to do the work for $238,134.68.


Board of Appeals Positions Filled

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners appointed Rob Renner to serve as a member of the Thurmont Board of Appeals and John Woelfel to serve as an alternate member on the board.


Well Building Repairs Approved

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved a bid from Blue Line Home Improvements of Emmitsburg to repair the well No. 7 building. The repairs and improvements include removing the shingles and tar paper, making any needed repairs to the plywood, replacing the shingles and paper, installing new drip edge, soffits and fascia, and new ridge vents. The cost of the contract is $6,800, which is well under the $15,000 budget.

Mayor John Kinnaird

Thurmont has survived yet another Colorfest weekend, probably the best one we have seen weather-wise and crowd-wise in the past five years or so. Saturday was an amazing day, despite starting out cloudy, and Sunday was just as nice. First and foremost, I want to thank our residents for making this a great weekend; your patience and understanding go a long way to making this event work for all of us. As you may know, many of our local non-profits count on Colorfest as their biggest fundraiser of the year. I want to thank all the vendors and Catoctin Colorfest, Inc. for coming out this year and helping to make the weekend a success. Thanks, also, to our town staff, both our office workers and the outdoor crews. The office staff had been working for several weeks making sure everything was planned and that vendors were able to get their permits. Our outdoor crew worked all weekend making sure that things ran smoothly. The Electric crew handled an emergency outage on Friday evening and got everything back in working order in no time. Our Police Department was also out in full force making sure there were no issues. I want to thank our department heads including CAO Jim Humerick, Chief Greg Eyler and Public Works Superintendent Butch West for helping make this weekend a pleasant experience for our guests and vendors. I want to mention that we had three amazing companies helping us this weekend, Tim May Investigations and Security provided additional security personnel to help guide pedestrian traffic throughout the town in a very professional and courteous manner; Rill’s Bus Service supplied buses and drivers to help move our guests form the parking areas to Colorfest quickly and safely; and finally, Key Sanitation worked hard to provide our trash and sanitary facilities. Without these fine companies providing these services, Colorfest would not be the smooth-running operation that it is. Come Monday morning, our street crew had cleared away almost all remaining indications that anything had occurred over the weekend and things quickly returned to normal for another year.

The leaves are starting to change colors, the daylight is getting shorter, and the temperatures are dropping as we head into the Fall. Be sure to keep an eye open for our children as they make their way to school. They may not always watch when crossing our streets, so be sure to be on the lookout for them. Remember that these cool mornings can mean the roads are slippery!

Christmas in Thurmont will be here before we know it! This year, it will be held on Saturday, December 2, 2017. Be sure to watch for upcoming information about this annual event.

As I write this article, we are preparing for the Thurmont Municipal Elections on October 31. There are three seats up for election: two commissioners and the mayor. I want everyone to know that it has been an absolute pleasure serving these past four years as mayor of the Town of Thurmont. I have decided to run for office again, and I will be honored to serve our great community for another term if I am re-elected.

As always, I can be contacted by phone at 301-606-9458, by email at, or you can just stop me if you want to talk about an issue or concern in our community.

Mayor Don Briggs

At a recent National Fire Heritage Center Board meeting, a fellow board member, Carter Jones, told me of a story he had written about, “The Burning of Columbia,” South Carolina, during the Civil War. In forty-eight hours, February 17-18, 1865, more than half of the capital was burned to the ground by the Union Army, under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman on his “March to the Sea.” Throughout the siege, city fire companies fought the fires to near exhaustion and, in the end, most of their equipment and apparatuses were also destroyed. The small Columbia Independent Fire Engine Company, in particular, was in need to replace its destroyed hose carriage. To that news, the New York Firemen’s Association purchased a hose carriage for the company, “As a token of good-will from the firemen of New York.”  Tragically, the ship carrying the fire carriage was lost off of Cape Hatteras. But not to be deterred, the New York Firemen’s Association again raised money for yet another hose carriage. Upon receiving the gift, a former Confederate colonel stepped forward and said that if New York should have need, “Columbia, he hoped, would return the favor.”

One hundred and thirty-four years later, on September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers in New York were attacked, and 2,977 people died, including 343 firefighters in the line of duty. Without hesitation, off the Independent Fire Engine Company’s lead, other fire companies and many residents of Columbia joined in to raise money to help replace damaged FDNY equipment. The choice of the New York Firemen’s Association for the gift was Ladder 101 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, which lost seven members of the company, as well as their ladder truck. When today it seems people are more and more inclined on finding differences and division, after what would be an understatement observation, a very divisive time in our country, firemen bound by the code to serve the public were there for each other.

Thank you to the Seton Center for putting together an inaugural job fair at the Mother Seton School. The event was an overwhelming success. Representatives from thirty-eight businesses and organizations were on hand to welcome the many employment seekers. No doubt an event will be held again next fall. If you missed the fair and are interested in employment, contact Sister Martha at 301-447-6102 ext. 12 or

In October, congratulations to incumbent Commissioner Joseph Ritz, III, who was sworn in to serve his second three years as Emmitsburg Town Commissioner.  I am deeply honored to serve the town as mayor for an additional three-year term.

Thank you to Mount St. Mary’s University for providing the inclement weather site Sunday for the 36th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. Once again, thousands visited our town and, once again, the residents and town staff of Emmitsburg proved to be the consummate hosts.

Frederick County Fire Rescue Museum unveiled the “Wall of Honor” for the twenty-three Frederick County firemen who died in the line of Duty.

Congratulations to Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D. who was inaugurated as the 26th President of Mount St. Mary’s University.

I was honored to give the welcoming from the Town of Emmitsburg at the above three events.

Thank you to all the service groups involved in the planning and putting on of the Emmitsburg annual Halloween event.

November 23 is Thanksgiving Day. The town office will be closed November 23 and 24.

The first Monday on December 4, the tree lighting on the square, music, and caroling begins at 5:30 p.m., with Santa’s visit at 6:00 p.m., then down two blocks to the Carriage House Inn for the 29th Annual “An Evening of Christmas Spirit.”

Tuesday, December 5 is the Town Council meeting.

Happy Thanksgiving wishes to everyone.

Emmitsburg…a great place to live and work.

On the first Thursday of the month, from now until February, you are invited to bring a sandwich to Harriet Chapel on Catoctin Furnace Road in Thurmont at noon to have a peaceful break, watching and discussing a video series by Max Lucado, called Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. Each person will get a coloring book and markers for a relaxing activity as you watch the video. Drinks and snacks will be provided. If there is enough interest, an evening group will be formed. You can help by calling 301-271-4554 to register so there will be enough books, but registration is not necessary. View the advertisement on page 35 for more information.

Register now for the Lunch & Learn at the Carriage House Inn in Emmitsburg on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at 11:30 a.m. Learn about options and benefits of Advance Funeral Planning. Call today to reserve your free meal and a seat. View the advertisement on page 45 for more information.