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Joan Bittner Fry

Few people in the history of Frederick County, Maryland, can claim to have been a mother to thousands, yet Ambrosia Elizabeth “Rose” Derwart Clarke (who shall be called Rose) could. She was born in south Baltimore on August 4, 1895. Her father owned and operated a saloon and the convenience store next door on Hull Street. If she were alive today, she would be doing one of two things: donating blood or visiting sick and wounded service members in hospitals.

It isn’t certain why she became so devoted to servicemen, but the fact that her father’s two businesses catered to the sailors docked in Baltimore may have had some influence. On Christmas Day 1916, she married Charles H. “Jerry” Clarke, Sr., a route driver for Rice’s Bakery. Rose and Jerry met on an excursion boat named “LOUISE” in Tolchester, Maryland. A painting of “LOUISE” later hung on a wall in the front living room of their home.

After their marriage, Rose often accompanied her husband on his daily rounds from Baltimore, which included Northern Frederick County. The young couple later chose to make Thurmont their home. Rose gave birth to twenty-four children, twelve of whom lived. As the years passed, Jerry bought a candy store across from O’Toole’s Garage on the Old Emmitsburg Road (at that time) and quit his job at Rice’s. The store was turned into a beer saloon and sandwich shop. Jerry bought additional land and a seventeen-room, three-story house (Altamont and 550) up the road from the restaurant-beer saloon. Eventually, the entire saloon was completely transported up the main thoroughfare of U.S. 15 (now 550) to where Mountain Jerry’s came to permanently be (Liberty Gas Station is there now.).

One would think that raising twelve children and helping a husband run a business would be exhausting, but not for Rose. Her desire to help others was boundless. At the beginning of WWII, Rose and Jerry made sandwiches daily and took them to the soldiers who stood picket duty along the road. There were so many military convoys traveling the highway that guards were needed. This simple act of kindness on their part began a lifetime of devotion to Veterans and, eventually, earned Rose the title of “Mother Clarke” to thousands.

In 1942, Rose was the first woman in Frederick County to give blood for the war effort. When she signed up for the first donation, the newspaper noted that a woman from Thurmont, who had given birth to twenty-four children, was to donate blood and wished to remain anonymous. At age sixty, her doctor ordered her to stop giving blood; but, by that time, she had given fifty-one pints, a pint every two months from 1942 to 1955. Also, in 1942, she began to visit wounded servicemen in three military hospitals. She once said, “Arthritis hasn’t stopped me. If God lets something happen to my feet, I still have my hands.” At age eighty-six, she said, “As long as God gives me health and strength, I’ll continue my work.”

For twenty years, she never had time to leave her hometown. In fact, she had never left her native state of Maryland. So, in 1947, The Thurmont Lions’ Club thought it was time for Mother Clarke to take a breather, and they provided a trip to California for her.

Jerry died in 1954, and although Rose was deeply grieved, she turned more and more of her energy towards the comfort of Veterans. When she was hospitalized in 1966 for surgery on an arthritic knee, she remarked, “When they would take me for physical therapy, there would be hundreds of our boys trying so hard to get used to their artificial arms and legs; oh, how my heart ached for them. That’s why we must keep their morale up, make their hospital stay a little more cheerful, and show them we won’t forget them.”

She was a friend to all servicemen, and during the war won their respect and admiration for the many little favors she did for them. Her home was a “home away from home” for the servicemen, contributing much to their morale. When the war ended, she continued this service, begging and borrowing to carry on this personal service for her “boys in uniform.”

She made frequent visits to numerous hospitals and sought small gifts from retailers in both Frederick and Baltimore for “her boys.” Military leaders at every medical facility in Maryland wrote to thank her, and she was a guest on several national television programs, soliciting gifts that she donated to Veteran’s hospitals. At nearly eighty years of age, she was feted at the Thurmont American Legion, where tributes came in from around the country, including from many Veterans whose lives she had touched while they were hospitalized.  She was remembered for her many acts of kindness shown to the servicemen, and as the Vietnam war grew more intense, she was kept busy visiting the hospital wards and providing the Veterans with little pleasures that only a mother would consider. Her work, which she considered a mere pleasure, won her the respect and admiration of the entire community, as well as thousands of servicemen throughout the country.

In 1983, two years had passed since she had seen any of “her boys.” That year, she received a letter from President Ronald Reagan, thanking her for thirty-eight years of devotion to servicemen. This was not her first letter from a president. She also received notes from Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Eisenhower, and was recognized by national publications such as Samaritan of the Year. She received citations from Francis Cardinal Spellman and Pope Pius XII, who also had an interest in servicemen.

None of that fame changed her personality. She was a simple country woman, proud to be Mother Clarke to men and women in uniform and preferred if she could remain anonymous. She was always a good mother to her children: Charles, Jr., Jerome, Kate, Mary, Ellie, Pat, Rose, Joe, Mike, Paul, Ronnie, and Francis (in no particular order). Their last child was born when Rose was forty-five and Jerry was sixty. Many in the community may have known one or more of them. (Special thanks to Mike for naming his siblings.)

Rose’s last public appearance was at the change of command at Fort Detrick in June 1985. She died April 22, 1987, at age ninety-one and was survived by ten of her children and forty-eight grandchildren. Her son, Paul, compiled a book entitled Memories of Mother Clarke, The Veteran’s Mother in 1985.  It may be viewed in the archives at the Thurmont Regional Library.


Note: Some information was excerpted from Gateway to the Mountains by George Wireman,  . . . All Our Yesterdays by John Ashbury, and The Veteran’s Mother by Paul Clarke, 1985.

Rose and Jerry Clarke.

Blair Garrett

The 55th Annual Catoctin Colorfest may have been rainy, but it did not stop lovers of arts, crafts, and great food from flooding the streets of Thurmont.

Business owners and Colorfest workers trekked through the mud during the peak hours of the morning to bring one of the East Coast’s biggest craft shows to life for the people of the Catoctin Area. Locals and visitors poured in from dusk until dark, grabbing the best deals they could find from their favorite vendors.

Even with the overcast skies and muddy terrain, nothing was going to stop Thurmont visitors and residents alike from picking up their favorite hand-crafted carvings and ornaments.

From turkey legs to airbrushed paintings, Colorfest offered something for everyone to enjoy. It also offered an engaging experience for patrons to discover the talented works of local business owners.

One family business, in particular, makes gel-based candles that resemble fan favorite food and drinks. Between delectable apple pies or gallon-sized pitchers of beer, Jeff Bartos’ candles smell as good as they look. Bartos and his wife Donna have been making candles for decades under the business name “D.J. Flickers Candles,” finding the perfect fusion of realistic looking desserts and fragrant aromas to make a candle that lights up a room.

The Bartos family took quite the route to finding their way to becoming a mainstay at the annual Colorfest. Jeff was a truck driver, and Donna was the head designer of a candle company. Donna eventually split from her company, and the pair created a candle shop in the garage of their house.

“She was doing little craft shows on the weekend, and I was still driving trucks,” Bartos said. “You make three times what I make just doing the craft shows. This is what we’re going to do for a living, and we’ve done it for a living for the last twenty-four years.”

The Bartos’s story is one that many families who make up the vendors of Colorfest have lived. Taking a chance on their dream to produce something they love to make for a living is what keeps Colorfest thriving year after year, and it is what keeps locals and visitors coming back for more.

There is no shortage of variety among the hundreds of vendors showing off their products, as well as the broad variety of great food and dessert choices found at Colorfest. With two days to travel across all the parks and streets, event goers can discover the many amazing talents of artists while having a tasty meal with the kids in an environment perfectly suited to satisfy your hunger and your sweet tooth.

Colorfest not only offers families from around the East Coast to get out and have some fun, but it also allows them to tap into a piece of the local culture of the greater Catoctin area, which is a big reason why the event is an annual smash hit.

From stand to stand and person to person, there is a story to be told. Vendors may have gotten their starts in different ways, and may have vastly different industries, but everyone has one common goal in mind: to put on a great show for the community.

Though the streets are no longer be filled with fine arts and trademark foods until next year’s Colorfest, our local residents have the lasting keepsakes and memories from another successful Colorfest.

Scouts pose for a picture with Mayor John Kinnaird at their booth in front of the American Legion, selling popcorn, beef sticks, drinks, and candy bars to help support their camping adventures.

The folks from Mason Dixon Hydro Dipping show off their colorful, handcrafted tumblers.

Grace Eyler

Former students of Emmitsburg High School met on Saturday, October 20, 2018 to celebrate class history, reminisce, and enjoy time together as the group congregated for another year of the popular reunion. The Vigilant Activities building in Emmitsburg, where the reunion took place, quickly filled as 191 attendees checked in at the front desk for a name tag. They were greeted by the familiar faces of Sam Valentine (Alumni Treasurer), Connie Fisher (Secretary), Betty Valentine, Joyce Bruchey (Historian), and Alan Brauer (2019 Vice President).

To open the event, Alumni President, Bill Wivell warmly welcomed guests and their families. Dinner was blessed by Bill Simpson, Class of 1941. As a tradition, Bill also led the Pledge of Allegiance, and sang an excerpt from “America the Beautiful.” Live entertainment was provided by local talent, Ronnie and Cheryl Carney (from Harney).

After a meal, the President introduced the honored classes — those that ended in either a three or an eight including the classes of 1938, 1943, 1948, 1953, 1958, 1963 and 1968. He also introduced former teachers of Emmitsburg’s High School, who included Betty Ann (Hollinger) Baker, Joyce (Meadows) Bruchey, Dorothy Arsenault, George Kuhn, and Marvin Laws.

For the class of 1968, this made their 50 year reunion; they also had the largest turnout of the honor classes. All of the honor classes had great stories to share about pranks, crushes, clubs and other classmates.

Joyce Bruchey recollected, “Class of ‘68, do you all remember when you fed Mr. Corl brownies with laxatives?” The entire class roared out in laughter. Franny Brock defended their decision, explaining how Mr. Corl would always eat their candy, so they repaid him with a special treat.

Betty Mumma, class of 1958 shared some of her fond memories, and then thanked the Alumni Board for their efforts to make the reunions so successful each year.

After Joyce provided the classes with interesting tidbits of their history, she informed everyone that in the Emmitsburg Town Office, outside of the meeting room, there is a display case filled with Emmitsburg High School memorabilia. She invited everyone (or if they know anyone) to contribute memorabilia to add to the collection.

The Emmitsburg High School Alumni take great pride every year in providing a few lucky recipients of the high school descendants a scholarship to help with furthering their education. For 25 years, they’ve raised a total of $73,000. This year, the recipients of the scholarships were Allison Rippeon, Jessica Welty, Michaela Persinger, Stacie Baust and Myra Swiderski. All of the recipients were very grateful for the help.

During the class meeting, the alumni president offered an opportunity for alumni members to contribute with suggestions, changes and correction of the past year’s meeting minutes. This year a motion was made to vote on a change of time that the banquet would be held in the upcoming years. The suggested time would move the event to 1:00 in the afternoon, opposed to 2018’s 4:00 p.m. start time that had already been moved back from 5:00 p.m. in 2017. This year, a new Vice President was voted into the board, Alan Brauer of Rocky Ridge. Vice President Brauer served his class once before in high school as President in 1964.

Sam Valentine commented, “I think moving the banquet back by an hour really seemed to help the overall outcome of the event.” Also, new this year, members were able to see photos of past banquets on the large TVs that surround the activities building. The board plans to continue adding content to the slide show for attendees to see each year.

The Emmitsburg Alumni association works hard to make the multi-class reunion a success each year and provides the opportunity to see old friends and family, but most importantly, classmates. Like a big welcoming family, the Emmitsburg High School Alumni Association would like to extend future invitations to anyone who attended the school, whether they graduated or not.

Pictured are members of the Emmitsburg High School Class of 1968 who were in attendance at the 94th reunion.

William Eiker, Sr.

My father, Bob Eiker Sr., was a life-long resident of Emmitsburg, who resided at 116 South Seton Avenue, located directly across from the Chronicle office. From his garage, he operated Bob’s Archery Shop, the only supplier of archery accessories within 25 miles. He crafted custom shafts, bow strings, new and used bows, and free advice.

A straw bale was used as a target in the back yard. Arrow shafts evolved from cedar to fiberglass to aluminum to carbon over the years, and from long bows to recurve to compound.

Bob also provided services to the Trojan Sport Shop near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Producing custom bow strings and straightening aluminum shafts were among some of his services. He was responsible for many potential archery and bow hunting buffs in the surrounding communities.

In the early 1950s, Bob and several friends of the community endeavored to form a local archery club, equipped with a shooting range that would be open to enthusiasts for competition. This dream was realized when land was leased southwest of Emmitsburg, off Riffle Road.

Some of the early founders and members of Indian Lookout Bowmen were Bob Eiker, Harold Hoke, Weldon Shank, Elwood Eiker, Gilbert Eiker, Morris (Mickey) Eyler, Jack Umble, Jim Brown, John Adelsberger, Tom Zurgable, and Mac Ancarrow.

Competitors from miles around came to shoot this rugged terrain and challenging course. The club disbanded in the late 1950s due to the loss of the land.

Bob also assisted in the formation of a new archery range in the 1960s, off Pumping Station Road near Gettysburg, and then again when this range relocated near Bonneauville, Pennsylvania.

Bob was so respected for his knowledge and successes in bow hunting that his friends referred to him as “The Fred Bear” of Emmitsburg.

Fred Bear was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, in 1902 and earned the reputation of “the Father of Bowhunting.”

Over the years, Bear would become an international bowhunting legend, tackling all manner of dangerous game with his trusty bow and arrow. Bear broke six archery world records for various big game species: Alaskan brown bear, barren-ground caribou, mountain caribou, Canada moose, polar bear, and stone sheep.

My father catered to his customers in Emmitsburg for nigh onto fifty years. His last two buck successes were acquired when he was eighty-two and eighty-three years of age.

Bob Eiker, Sr. was born January 21, 1917, and departed this life May 10, 2004.

May his legacy live on!

From Friday, October 29, 1954, issue of Frederick Post:

“Pictured are winners of championships and trophies at the recent championship archery match, sponsored by Indian Lookout Bowmen’s Club. Elwood Eiker was awarded the trophy for winning the championship at the tournament held at the range on Riffle Road near town. Other winners at the shoot were Maurice Eyler, medal and ribbon; Robert Eiker, medal; and Johnny Adelsberger, medal. The first junior award was claimed by Robert Eiker, Jr., ribbon and medal, with James Brown second. Weldon B. Shank won the flight medal award.”


James Rada, Jr.

Emmitsburg and Thurmont received two of Frederick County’s first Municipalities Impact Awards in September.

The Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED)recognized local municipalities for their commitment to serve businesses. The project began last year with a municipal survey to gather economic impact data from each of the town’s in the county.

The awards were created to recognize all that municipalities do to increase the number of jobs and businesses in the county, according to a county press release. This is because municipalities are where the majority of county businesses are located. According to the OED, while only 41 percent of Frederick County residents live in a municipality, 62 percent of the businesses are located in one.

“We know that our cities and towns serve a critical role in attracting businesses to our county,” OED Director Helen Propheter. “When businesses look to locate or expand their business, they’re not just looking at what land or vacant property might be available. They also want to be sold on the total package of each town or city. They want to know the quality of the local workforce, what infrastructure projects are being completed to support their business, and what quality of life factors exist such as tourism attractions.”

The Municipalities Impact Awards recognize business attraction, business retention and expansion, infrastructure and large projects, business marketing, and small business and entrepreneurship.

The winners were: City of Brunswick—Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Town of Emmitsburg—Infrastructure and Large Projects; City of Frederick— Business Attraction; Town of Middletown—Business Retention; Town of Mount Airy—Infrastructure and Large Projects; Town of Myersville—Infrastructure and Large Projects; Town of New Market—Business Expansion; Town of Thurmont—Business Marketing; Town of Walkersville—Infrastructure and Large Projects; Town of Woodsboro—Business Retention.

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland announced that the Town of Emmitsburg was one of eight Maryland municipalities honored at the Sustainable Maryland Awards Ceremony at the Maryland Municipal League’s annual Fall Conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in October. Emmitsburg received its first Sustainable Maryland certification in 2015.

Highlights of Emmitsburg’s accomplishments include:

  • The Town has two solar fields that generate approximately 250,000
    kilowatts/month. The Town’s electrical use in municipally-owned
    buildings is now supplied by over 95 percent renewable energy.
  • The Mayor and Board of Commissioners approved the Town of
    Emmitsburg’s Sustainable Procurement Policy for use by the Town staff.
    The policy requests town staff use sustainable purchasing practices
    when choosing vendors and supplies for the Town.
  • Approximately 15 miles of natural surfaced multi-user trails for
    mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers, and trail runners have been
    created as part of a stacked loop network in the Emmitsburg

“We are honored to receive our second consecutive Sustainable Maryland Certified award,” said Emmitsburg Mayor Donald Briggs. “Our green team worked very hard for the award and is very much looking forward to the challenges of receiving the award for a third time.”

According to Mike Hunninghake, Program Manager for Sustainable Maryland, “This year’s class of Sustainable Maryland Certified communities represents significant continued progress on sustainability issues, in small towns and large cities, from all across the state. The Green Teams, elected officials, and municipal staff that have accomplished so much provide both inspiration and real-world examples for their peers to follow.”

For detailed information about Emmitsburg’s sustainability initiatives, please contact Town Clerk Maddie Shaw at or 301-600-6302.

Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets holds the Sustainable Maryland Certified Award at the Maryland Municipal League Conference.




October 2018

by James Rada, Jr.


Incumbents Re-elected

The Emmitsburg Town Election was held on September 25, 2018. Incumbents Clifford Sweeney and Timothy O’Donnell ran unopposed for two open commissioner seats. Forty-eight ballots were cast. Sweeney received forty-four and O’Donnell received forty-one. The winners were sworn in for their new four-year terms during the October 1 town meeting.

Following a recommendation from Mayor Don Briggs, the board of commissioners was reorganized. Sweeney became the new president of the board and O’Donnell became the treasurer. Glenn Blanchard became the new vice president of the board. Elizabeth Buckman remained the liaison with the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and Joseph Ritz, III remained the liaison with the Parks Committee.


Rezoning of Emmit Gardens Property Approved

The Emmitsburg Commissioners held a public hearing during their October 1 public meeting to consider rezoning the property at 600-602 East Main Street Ext. Joseph Baldacchino, representing the Sarah E. Baldacchino Trust, asked that the property be rezoned from low-density residential (R1) to neighborhood commercial (B1). This zoning better represented how the property had been used years ago when it served as a home and dentist office.

The commissioners agreed that a mistake had been made in the original zoning, but they had concerns that B1 zoning would allow a future property owner to install a large sign that was out-of-character with the neighborhood. Another concern was the placement of required fencing would impinge on a utility right-of-way.

After much discussion, the commissioners approved the rezoning, while reserving the right to approve signage and fencing when, and if, it happened.


Commission Turns Down Group Asking to Hunt on Scott Road Farm

The Indian Lookout Conservation Club asked to enter into an agreement with the town to allow its group to hunt on the town-owned Scott Road Farm if the group took care of the maintenance of the property. Town staff did not recommend this agreement to the commissioners for numerous reasons, such as making it harder to enforce the no-hunting ban and showing favoritism to a small group of citizens. The commissioners decided to stick with their original decision to re-evaluate its no-hunting rule next August.


Town Sees Big Insurance Savings

The Town of Thurmont entered into an agreement with the Local Government Insurance Trust. The trust is a pooled insurance fund among government entities that allows their combined size to get them better insurance rates.

The Thurmont Commissioners had allocated $100,000 in the current budget for insurance. The town’s insurance provider at the time quoted the town $96,143. However, town staff decided to shop around to see if a better rate could be had. LGIT quoted $60,471 for the same insurance. Chief Administrative Jim Humerick told the commissioners that LGIT also offered an extensive line of online training in different areas of municipal government that LGIT customers can use for free.

Commissioner Marty Burns raised the issue as to whether Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird had exceeded his power by authorizing town staff to change insurance providers without approval from the commissioners.

Kinnaird said, “It’s my duty to see we don’t exceed our stated budget.” It was pointed out that the line item was for insurance and did not state a specific company. Those types of things are typically left to the decision of staff and/or the mayor. Kinnaird also noted that had the insurance quotes exceeded the approved $100,000, he would have brought the issue back to the commissioners to decide what to do.

The other commissioners had no issue with Kinnaird’s decision, particularly since it saved the town more than $35,000. The commissioners unanimously approved the agreement with LGIT.


Colorfest Looking Good

A few days before the 55th Annual Catoctin Colorfest, the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners received an update on the number of permits issued for the festivals.

Last year (which was the record year for permits issued), a total of 764 permits were issued. This year, with three days to go before the festival, 719 permits had been issued with more expected. This is more than either 2016 or 2015. Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick told the commissioners that he expected the 2018 total permits to be at least as many as 2017 and possibly more.

The town issues permits for craft vendors, for-profit-food vendors, non-profit food vendors, information-only booths, parking, and yard sales. Craft vendors make up the majority of the permits, but the for-profit-food vendors pay the most for their permits.

All income from the permits is used to pay for the services that the town provides during Colorfest. This includes staff overtime, security, trash removal, porta-potties, and shuttles.


Mayor Don Briggs

For our active town, the first two weeks of October, predictably, are always busy, but this year was off the charts. It started off with the town meeting on the first Monday, Thursday, a teleconference with Maryland Mayor’s Board executive committee; and Friday night, Catoctin High homecoming float judging with Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird. We quickly deferred our votes to my granddaughters, Kiernan and Peyton, who chose the 4-H float as the winner. Saturday morning, town offices opened to host the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Memorial weekend activities. At noon, I attended and spoke at a ribbon-cutting grand re-opening of McDonald’s. That night, I attended Motorola – NFFF Board of Directors dinner at the Carriage House Inn. Sunday morning, I attended the 37th NFFF Memorial Service, where 103 fallen firefighters were honored, and I gave the welcoming address, which is always an honor. Monday welcomed the National Fire Heritage Board at its annual meeting. Tuesday, I attended and received an award for the town from the International Society of Arboriculture at its annual meeting, held this year in Frederick. Then, off to Annapolis I went to the League of Conservation Voters awards dinner, where the town was recognized. Wednesday and Thursday, I attended Maryland Municipal League Fall conference, where the town’s application for Sustainable Maryland re-designation certification was awarded.

More on the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) award: The International award is given out annually. ISA is an international non-profit organization that serves the tree care industry. The organization has 22,000 members and 31,000 certified tree care professionals. It has 59 chapters in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.

The town was honored to receive the 2018 ISA “Harry J. Banker Gold Leaf Award” for Outstanding Arbor Day Activities. This is a great honor, and kudos go to our staff for forging ahead on our green stewardship goals to take care of the wonderful blend and backdrop to our town. What we did was plant trees in the park along Willow Run. It was a fantastic town effort, with every civic organization, including the Mount, FEMA, the Basilica, and the whole Mount rugby team.

Thank you to the Seton Center for hosting another round of job fairs. A convenient, friendly way for residents of Northern Frederick County to meet area employers. They’re coming to us.

While winter sports are ramping up, Catoctin High School and Catoctin Youth Association fall sports teams are on a roll. What a year. A few losses here and there, but as any coach will tell you, a loss can sometimes prove to be your best win.

Thank you to all the service groups, led by the Lions Club, involved in the planning and organizing of the Emmitsburg annual Halloween event.

The town office will be closed on Thursday, November 22, and Friday, November 23, for Thanksgiving.

Monday, December 3, is the Christmas tree lighting in front of the Community Center. Music and caroling begin at 5:45 p.m. Santa visits from 6:00-6:30 p.m., then it’s down two blocks to the Carriage House Inn for the annual “An Evening of Christmas Spirit,” featuring free hot dogs, cider, hay rides, and entertainment.

The Town council meeting is Tuesday, December 4.

Happy Thanksgiving wishes to everyone.

Emmitsburg, a great place to live and work.


Mayor John Kinnaird

Now that the elections have come and gone, I want to congratulate those returning to office and those who have been newly elected to serve our residents. I also want to thank those whose campaigns were unsuccessful for trying to make a difference. As we all witnessed during the campaign, things can get very nasty. In today’s world, it is getting more difficult for people to decide to run for public office; those that do must be able to withstand the onslaught of negativity that seems to surround our election process. It is my belief that the thought of negative campaigning has kept some from stepping up to serve. I hope we can work together to overcome this unfortunate aspect of elections.

Christmas will soon be here and with it comes Christmas in Thurmont! This year’s event will be held on Saturday, December 1, 2018, beginning at 9:00 a.m. with the arrival of Santa at Mechanicstown Square Park. Kids can register for free prizes all day at the Park; prizes will be drawn at 5:30 p.m. (must be present to win). Adults can register for prizes by picking up a prize map and visiting local businesses; the drawing is also at 5:30 p.m. (must be present to win). There will be horse and wagon rides available at the Thurmont Municipal Parking Lot. Please watch for more information about the wagon rides on the Thurmont or Main Street Facebook pages. After the ribbon-cutting, there will be free photos with Santa in the Gazebo until 12:30 p.m.; kids, parents, grandparents, and pets are welcome. Santa will then be at the Thurmont Regional Library at 1:00 p.m. to read to the children and sit for photos. Santa will return to the Mechanicstown Square Park at 2:15 p.m. for more photos with his friends. Pictures with Santa will end at 4:30 p.m. The Catoctin High School Marching Band will be performing, as will the Gateway Brass Ensemble.

We are happy to announce a great new feature at this year’s Christmas in Thurmont: a model train setup at 5B East Main Street. The Frederick County Society of Model Engineers (FCSME) will have an indoor train set up, not only for Christmas in Thurmont, but for each Saturday and Sunday in December. The display will be open Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; and Sundays, noon-4:00 p.m. As a special treat, Santa will be visiting the display several times to speak to the children and for photos. The Society will be asking for a donation to help with the renovations to its historic rail car in Frederick. We are very pleased to partner with the FCSME for this amazing opportunity!

This time of the year brings added difficulty for many of our neighbors, and I encourage everyone to support the Thurmont Food Bank and Clothes Closet. Your donations of non-perishable foods, clothing, or cash can help make a positive difference in someone’s life during the holiday season and into the cold winter months.

If you have any questions, comments, or recommendations, please call me at 301-606-9458 or e-mail me at


James Rada, Jr.

For 62 years, the Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show has been highlighting the role of agriculture in northern Frederick County and spotlighting the talents of area residents. This year’s show was held at Catoctin High School on September 7-9. More than $13,000 in prizes were awarded to the hundreds of exhibitors.

On one end of the school, area residents spread out artwork, agricultural items and baked foods in the large gym. On the opposite end of the school, other students groomed animals preparing to show them. In between these two points, businesses and local civic organizations displayed their services and purposes.

The show is sponsored by the Thurmont Grange, Catoctin High’s FFA Chapter, Catoctin Area FFA Alumni, the Maryland Agricultural Fair Board, and the Maryland State Grange. It comes together each year through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers.

The line for the Thurmont Regional Library’s annual used book sale began forming even before the community show’s 6:00 p.m. start time Friday evening.

The show opened with its traditional flag ceremony highlighting all of northern Frederick County’s civic and public service organizations. The evening honored the 50th anniversary of the opening of Catoctin High School.

Catoctin High’s current Principal Bernie Quesada and all of Catoctin’s former principals — with some of them in attendance — were recognized for their contribution to the Catoctin community. “They’ve all had distinguished careers and made a difference in thousands of lives of young people,” Quesada said.

Catoctin High was born in turmoil but has since become a binding force for northern Frederick County. It is due, in part, to the efforts of these men and women who led the school and fostered its growth with the community.

Dr. Harper Long, Catoctin’s first principal who currently resides in Iowa, wrote an e-mail to Principal Bernie Quesada, saying, “One of Mr. Goodrich’s and my highest priorities that first year was to bring together the communities of Emmitsburg and Thurmont. The Board of Education’s site selection for the new school did not sit well with either community. Both towns wanted the new school to be nearer their town. Since we could do nothing to alter the physical position of the school building, we tried to bring the two communities together. We all worked to develop respect for each others’ needs.” It is a mission that all of these principals have worked at accomplishing.

The professionals who served as Catoctin High School’s principals since its opening include Bernard Quesada (2010 – current), Jack Newkirk (2005 – 2010), Ann Bonitatibus (2001 – 2005), Marlene “Marty” Tarr (1996 – 2001), Earl Miller (1984 – 1996), Bruce Brown (1983 – 1984), James Fisher (1977 – 1983), Harper Long (1969 – 1977), and Howard Goodrich (1969).

During the opening ceremony, Catoctin High student Robert Hahn was chosen as the school’s FFA ambassador for the coming year.

National Grange Master Betsy Huber congratulated the community on putting together the show each year. She said, “Grangers everywhere are involved in fairs and shows like this one because we’re all doers.”

Frederick County Superintendent of Schools Theresa Alban said, “I sit here every year and find different inspiration.”

After the opening ceremony on Friday evening, the Community Show’s events continued through the weekend and featured a baked goods auction, a livestock auction, a petting zoo, music, pony rides, a pet show, a horseshoe pitching contest, log sawing contest and much more.

The Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show is the largest in the State of Maryland. It is exemplary. The strength of the show and the strength of agriculture in northern Frederick County stands on the shoulders of the volunteers who proudly teach and carry that heritage forward from generation to generation.

Photos by Deb Abraham Spalding, Gracie Eyler, Blair Garrett, and Taylor Clarke

Front row left to right: Jan Gardner, Frederick County Executive; Betsy Huber, National Grange President; Jennifer Martin, Secretary of the Community Show Committee; Mary Fisher, widow of Dr. James Fisher former CHS Principal; Marty Tarr, former CHS Principal; Cathy Little, Asst. Treasurer of the Community Show Committee; Robert Hahn, Catoctin FFA Ambassador.

Back row left to right: Dave Harman, Community Show Committee member; Bob Valentine, Vice-President of the Community Show Committee; Daniel Myers, Community Show Committee member; Rodman Myers, President of the Community Show Committee; Earl Miller, former CHS Principal; Jack Newkirk, former CHS Principal; Bruce Brown, former CHS Principal; Bernie Quesada, current CHS Principal; Terry Alban, Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools; Amy Jo Poffenberger, CHS Agriculture Education Teacher.

The 2018 Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show Champions and Reserve Champions are as follows: Fresh Fruits: Champion—Martha Hauver (Peaches), Reserve Champion—Christopher Black (Crimson Apples); Fresh Vegetables: Champion—Kylie Robertson (Red Tomatoes), Reserve Champion—Raymond Long (Bi-Color Ambrosia Corn); Home Products Display: Champion—Roxanna Lambert, Reserve Champion—Charlotte Dutton; Canned Fruit:  Champion—Ann Welty (Cranapple Sauce), Reserve Champion—Jackie Troxell (Blackberries); Canned Vegetables: Champion—Bridgette Kinna (Peach Salsa), Reserve Champion—Roxanna Lambert (Tomato Sauce); Jellies & Preserves:  Champion—Donald Stanley (Blackberry Jam), Reserve Champion—Roxanna Lambert (Peach Preserves); Pickles: Champion—JoAnn Fuss Ricketts (Relish), Reserve Champion—Pamela Long (Catsup); Meat (Canned): Champion—Catherine Miller (Canned Moose), Reserve Champion—Roxanna Eaton (Venison); Home Cured Meats: Champion—Robert McAfee (Country Ham), Reserve Champion—Robert Wiles (Country Ham); Baked Products (Cake): Champion—Dawn Hobbs (German Chocolate Cake), Reserve Champion—Dawn Hobbs (Lemon Sponge Cake), Honorable Mention Cake–Burall Brothers Scholarship—Debbie Wiles (Chocolate Cake); Bread: Champion—Maxine Troxell (Pumpernickel Swirl), Reserve Champion—Maxine Troxell (Raisin Bread); Pie: Champion—Joan Wiles (Raspberry Pie), Reserve Champion—Vicky Sharrer (Cherry Crumb Pie); Sugar Free: Champion—Ann Welty (Pie), Reserve Champion—Joyce Kline (Cake); Gluten-Free Baked Product: Champion—Stacey Smith (White Chip, Cranberry, Macadamia Nut Cookies), Reserve Champion—Marie Free (Rolls); Sewing: Champion—Karen Willard (Applique Quilt), Reserve Champion—Charlotte Dutton (Fiber Wool Lamb); Flowers & Plants: Champion—Roxanna Lambert (Side Table Arrangement), Reserve Champion—Christina Wisner (Pressed Flowers); Arts, Painting & Drawings: Champion—Marcia Johnson (Pencil Drawing), Reserve Champion—Andrew Smith (Pastel Drawing); Crafts: Champion—Carol Hocking (Craft), Reserve Champion—Nancy Rice (Dried Material; Color Photography: Champion—Ben Mathias (Miscellaneous Photo), Reserve Champion—Beth Shriner (Sports Photo); Black & White Photography: Champion—Joyce Kline (People Action Photo), Reserve Champion—Beth Shriner (Black & White Flowers); Corn: Champion—David Shriver (Hybrid Corn), Reserve Champion—Bridgette Kinna (Indian Corn); Small Grain & Seeds: Champion—Matthew Clark (Timothy), Reserve Champion—Preston Clark (Soybeans); Eggs: Champion—Robert Wiles (Brown Eggs), Reserve Champion—Josh Stewart (Blue Eggs); Nuts: Champion—Joan Staub (English Walnuts), Reserve Champion—Edward Hahn (Black Walnuts); Rabbit: Champion—Patti Hubbard (Breeding Rabbit and offspring), Reserve Champion—Laura Dutton (White Rabbit); Poultry: Champion—Kenzie Lewis (Farm Exhibit – 1 Rooster& 1 Hen), Reserve Champion—Kenzie Lewis (Bantams 1 Rooster & 1 Hen); Dairy: Champion—Jonathan Hubbard (Brown Swiss Fall Calf), Reserve Champion—Cadin Valentine (Ayrshire Spring Calf); Dairy Goats: Champion—Olivia Dutton (Doe 3 years and under 5 years), Reserve Champion—Laura Dutton (Dry Yearling); Hay: Champion—Matthew Clark (Alfalfa Hay), Reserve Champion—Robert McAfee (Timothy Hay); Straw: Champion—Daniel Myers (Barley Straw), Reserve Champion—Mary Clark (Wheat Straw); Junior Department Craft: Champion—Preston Clark (Flower Arrangement), Reserve Champion—Aiden Wiiters (Recycled Material Craft); Junior Department Baked Product: Champion—Owen Ott (Sour Cream Pound Cake), Reserve Champion—Avery Harbaugh (Frosted Cake); Youth Department: Champion—Caroline Clark (Dress), Reserve Champion—Zoe Willard (Sewn Item, Misc.); Youth Department Baked Product: Champion—Zoe Willard (Rolled Cookies), Reserve Champion—Joanna Genemans (Creamsicle Fudge); Beef: Champion—Austin Ridenour, Reserve Champion—Jameson Ruby; Sheep: Champion—Peyton Davis, Reserve Champion—Caroline Clark; Swine: Champion—Ashley Lescalleet, Reserve Champion—Tyrone Van Echo; Market Goat: Champion—Kelly Glass, Reserve Champion—Skylar Sanders; Pet Show: Champion—Warren Schafer (Prettiest Dog), Reserve Champion—Kenzie Lewis (Cat With Longest Whiskers); Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pull: Champion—Ryan Martin, Reserve Champion—Preston Clark, Honorable Mention—Eli Yocum.


Happy 50th Anniversary Catoctin High School Cougars! This milestone as a school is extremely important and that is why CHS’s Student Government Association (SGA) will be hosting several special activities specifically for our alumni. On October 5, 2018, at 4:30 p.m., the Catoctin SGA wishes to invite all alumni to the school’s cafeteria for an informal meet and greet reception followed by a tour of the high school as it is today. Take a peek and see how much our school has changed and how much it has stayed the same. These tours will be led by student government members. The reception beforehand will provide light refreshments to alumni and allow classmates to socialize .There will be yearbooks, trophies, hundreds of pictures and other memorabilia on display. This event is open to all alumni from 1969 all the way to 2018.

Another special surprise for this year’s Homecoming: the SGA members are bringing back Catoctin’s Spirit Week Homecoming Parade!

Several of Catoctin’s clubs will be entering floats, cars and trucks, and displaying the ultimate in school spirit. The parade starts at 6:00 p.m. and follows a route from the American Legion at 8 Park Lane in Thurmont to Catoctin High School at 14745 Sabillasville Road. Please note that only one lane will be open for the parade, which will be the right lane heading northbound on Water Street. At the end of the parade, the floats will be judged and awarded cash prizes.

Then, at 7:00 p.m., Catoctin’s Homecoming game will begin! We are hoping that our alumni are proud of what we have become.

At halftime (when victory is only a matter of time) we’ll be announcing our Homecoming Court; prince and princesses from the ninth, tenth and eleventh grades, and our King and Queen Seniors. Keeping with tradition, they will be escorted onto the field by their family members.

The SGA is also taking orders for special 50th Anniversary t-shirts. They make a great gift for your favorite Cougar! The price for a t-shirt is $15. They are available in an assortment of colors and sizes. For any additional inquiries about shirts, please contact Mrs. Kathleen Herrmann at Catoctin High School via, or call 240-236-8141 (leave a message).

We hope to see you at the alumni reception at 4:30, the parade at 6 and the game at 7. Thanks for supporting your hometown team!

James Rada, Jr.

The Year was 1969

Students at both Thurmont High and Emmitsburg High left school at the end of the day on Friday, February 7, 1969. However, when they boarded their school buses or walked to school the following Monday, February 10, they wound up at Catoctin High School. Students from the two rival high schools now found themselves classmates in a brand new school.

“If problems do arise between the two groups of students, it will probably not be a shock to Catoctin High, for this school, even before it was built, had one of the stormiest histories of Frederick’s educational growth,” the Frederick News reported.


The Need for a New School

A consolidation of the two schools had been talked about since the late 1950s. Both Thurmont High and Emmitsburg High were old schools. They needed updating. Thurmont High School, which had been built in 1919, was overcrowded. During a Frederick County Commissioners meeting about combining the schools, “A young woman told the commissioner that she knows a new school is needed for she has had physical education in the halls, classes in the warehouse, and has been a witness to ‘many other problems’ in the school system,” according to the Hagerstown Morning Herald. On the other hand, Emmitsburg High School, built in 1922, was much underutilized, which was limiting some of the educational opportunities available to students.

The Frederick County Board of Education decided to build a new school…but just one. By giving up their small schools in town, each community was told that their students would attend a modern high school located between the two towns.

The problem was where to locate that school?

This is where Catoctin High first became a contentious topic. Local committees couldn’t reach an agreement on where to locate the new school.

“Since the two committees appointed some time back to select a site for a consolidated school have not come up with a solution as to where the new school would be located, it is becoming apparent that the School Board just might take the ‘bull’ by the horns and pick a site itself,” reported the Emmitsburg Chronicle in July 1963.

One possible site was found midway between Thurmont and Emmitsburg, but the property owner wanted $1,000 an acre. Meanwhile, a suitable and larger site just north of Thurmont could be had for $750 an acre. It was also possible for the school to hook into Thurmont’s water and sewer system for additional savings.

The latter site, called the Staub property, was attractive to some members of the Frederick County Board of Education because bussing expenses would be minimized, considering the bulk of the students attending the new school were in Thurmont. Since the school was closer to Thurmont, it meant that while some students would travel further to school, more would have a shorter ride.

Faced with having a site forced upon them, the local committee met and unanimously recommended the purchase of forty acres on Payne’s Hill for the school. It was a site nearly halfway between the two communities.

“This site had previously been approved by both the County Commissioners and the School Board, and its selection, one of the most scenic in the northern section of the county, and one easily accessible off U. .S Route 15, is felt by the committees to be the most feasible and agreeable to the citizens and taxpayers of this area,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported.

However, negotiations on the cost of the property faltered.

Then, on November 27, 1963, Emmitsburg residents awoke to discover that the board of education had reversed direction and authorized the purchase of the Staub site for $30,000.

“However, the Board of Commissioners apparently threw caution to the winds and when the Board of Education, either by default or deliberate intention, offered no alternate site, the Commissioners went ahead and okayed the sight and appropriated the money,” reported the Emmitsburg Chronicle.


Lawsuit and Funding Problems

The new school was named Catoctin High in February 1965. However, this wasn’t the first choice. It might have been named James A. Sensenbaugh High School, after the former Frederick County school superintendent who was the Maryland school superintendent at the time. The Frederick News reported that Sensenbaugh had rejected the honor because he didn’t like naming buildings after living people, even if it was him.

Three days after the school was named, six Emmitsburg residents filed suit against the county commissioners and the county board of education. The complainants included Emmitsburg Commissioner J. Norman Flax, Jr.; Chamber of Commerce Leader Bernard Boyle; and Chronicle publisher C. Arthur Elder. They wanted a site for the school closer to Emmitsburg and were charging that an incorrect decision had been made on purpose, ignoring things that would have made the midway location just as attractive as the Staub site. The state board of education heard the case in May but still favored the Staub site, despite Emmitsburg’s arguments.

The planning for the new school began, and in February 1966, the plans were released. Catoctin High would educate up to 1,000 students in 122,000 square feet. It would have an auditorium that seated 1,060 people, 41 teaching stations, a large gymnasium, an auxiliary gym, and cafeteria. Catoctin High was also to be the first high school in the county to have a heated indoor pool.

The Hagerstown Morning Herald proclaimed, “The 1,000 student capacity high school will be designed with futuristic educational facilities, enabling students to receive lessons and research material at home via microwave to television unit.”

The expected cost for all of this was projected to be $2.4 million.

The county board of education approved the preliminary plans in March 1965, with a few—mostly cosmetic—changes. For instance, the slanted roof changed to a flat roof, redwood trim on the exterior was eliminated, and oversized brick instead of split rock was used on the exterior. The Morning Herald reported that the Town of Thurmont had to raise its sewer rates to accommodate the increased needs of the school.

The costs of the school soon started rising. The lowest bid that came in was still $1 million more than the projected $2.4 million. Officials began discussing how to bring the costs down. Wall-to-wall carpeting and the pool topped the list of things that could be eliminated, if need be. Another suggestion was to make the auditorium smaller.

By 1967, the county commissioners still wouldn’t approve the budget. More cuts were asked for.

The Emmitsburg Town Council unanimously objected to the inclusion of a pool in the school. However, even if the pool were to be cut, it wouldn’t save the entire $118,000 cost.

“The controversial swimming pool was accepted by the board after they were informed that the pool would serve double duty as a reserve water supply for the school’s sprinkler system as a swimming pool,” the Frederick News reported.

Without a pool serving that purpose, a pond would need to be built to hold a water supply, and that would cost $50,000 to $75,000. A compromise was reached to move the pool outside.

Things seemed to be getting to the point that not much more could be cut from the plans without making the school’s student capacity smaller. North County residents blamed Thomas Johnson High School for using up construction funds.

“We are being punished in Thurmont for the money spent in Frederick. We are being taken advantage of,” stated Thurmont Mayor Ray Weddle.

Even as the board of education was trying to strip down plans for the school, costs continued to rise. Board of Education President Mary Condon Hodgson presented a $2.7 million plan that was “stripped of all frills” to the commissioners in February, only to have it rejected a second time.

The commissioners even suggested that perhaps a new site should be chosen and the whole process started over. Forty acres southeast of Thurmont were offered for free, but the Board of Education turned down the site, stating the two high schools needed to be consolidated and the new site would take more time to develop, thus opening old wounds between Emmitsburg and Thurmont that had started to heal.

“Mayor Guy A. Baker, Jr. of Emmitsburg said the citizens of that town would erupt in “open rebellion” if consideration is given to changing the site for the school,” the Frederick News reported.

A $2.6 million plan was finally agreed upon, and construction began in July 1967. “Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on July 28, 1967, and the first shovelful of earth was turned over by Ross V. Smith, a local citizen who is a member of the Frederick County Board of Education,” according to the first Catoctin High School yearbook.

Although much was stripped out of the approved Catoctin High School, it was noted that it would have the first mathematics lab in the county.

“A portion of the mathematics laboratory will be devoted to individual study areas where the student may pursue on his own an interest that may have in a specific branch of mathematics,” the News reported.

Some of the resources in the lab for student use included computers, film strips, and records.

The school was also in a scenic location. “The school is being built to take advantage of the view—mounds of the Catoctin range on two sides, the sprawling valley on another side, and a forested area on the fourth side. Even the trees of the orchard that once covered the school property have been left within a few yards of the school door,” the News reported.

When students returned to Frederick County schools in the fall of 1968, students were still attending Emmitsburg High and Thurmont High. The organizations and sports teams were starting to combine as Catoctin High, although Catoctin High was not yet operating.

When students began attending the new school on February 10, 1969, Catoctin High’s history was already starting to form. The Frederick News noted that Catoctin High’s history “is a malleable piece of clay that can be molded in to a fine and finished product of beauty and grace.”

Now fifty years later, that clay has been formed into a school of which Northern Frederick County can be proud.

The first graduating class from Catoctin High School is shown entering the auditorium. The photo appeared in the first Catoctin High School yearbook in 1969.

by Cathy (Wivell) Yoder and Phyllis (Wivell) Green

Since 1978, Grandparent’s Day has been celebrated the Sunday after Labor Day. September is a good time to make plans to honor past generations.  A few years ago, a friend described a memorable breakfast that she organized with cousins to honor their grandmother.  We liked the idea, so in March of 2015, the women in our Wivell family held the first “Grandma’s Girls” gathering to honor our matriarch, Helen Guise Wivell.  We have met annually for lunch since then to catch up with each other, share wonderful memories, and enjoy our time together.  The Wivell men camp each summer in Western Maryland, so this event is for the ladies.

Many local people have heard of, and even remember our grandparents, Roy and Helen Wivell.  They met at a barn dance at the Guise farm. They were the dedicated parents of 20 children.  They had a deep faith in God and a commitment to their community. They possessed a strong work ethic and passed this on to their children. For younger family members who never knew them, the “Grandma’s Girls” gathering is a good opportunity to learn about their ancestors and feel connected. Each year approximately 50 ladies, from babies to late 80s attend.

Our grandmother Wivell usually wore an apron, so aprons have been an ongoing theme at our gatherings. The first year everyone was asked to bring an apron to wear and small prizes in several categories were awarded. We all had a hearty laugh at the apron dance as the long line of apron clad ladies tried to keep time to the fast drum beat of the Hawaiian War Chant. Last year some cousins suggested that we make aprons for the family. That seemed like a lofty goal, but several aunts and cousins used nice cloth napkins leftover from a family wedding and fabric remnants on hand, to piece together more than 60 aprons, complete with lined pockets, at no cost. A lovely lady added a beautiful and priceless embroidered rose with “Grandma’s Girls” logo to each bib, making them a special keepsake. Everyone was encouraged to make memories with their new aprons, but we think they are too pretty to get dirty.

Family members lend their talents to make the occasion special. If we mentioned each by name we would surely miss someone. Prayers of thanksgiving are always offered and loved ones are remembered. One of our cousins brings her tea cup collection each year and we look forward to a special cup of steaming tea or coffee, served in dainty china from times past. Another cousin developed poster displays depicting family members and birthdates. Cousins make centerpieces from flowers, elaborately decorated cupcakes, or meaningful mementos. Food items are assigned alphabetically based on first names. There is always a good selection of delicious food.

Prior to the event, cousins have selected a theme, prepared questions, and interviewed family members. They then share these stories about our ancestors and life growing up in the 30s, 40s and 50s on the family farm. Times have certainly changed and the stories are quite interesting, like the laborious process of washing 12 loads of laundry three times a week with a wringer washer.  It starts with building a fire to heat the water. This year we honored our Grandfather, Roy Wivell, on the anniversary of his 120th birth year, with special memories from his children, an interesting picture and farm display, and a decorated birthday cake.

Chinese auction items are always a favorite and help to cover expenses. Popular prizes include copies of a framed family picture from times past, and expertly handcrafted gifts from family members. Games to entertain young and old alike have been a highlight. This year’s “Human Hungry Hippos” probably was the all-time favorite. Ladies from 4 to 70s tried their luck at snatching the most balls with a round laundry basket while lying on little wheeled dollies, as someone held their legs and pushed them in the right direction.

If this sounds like something your family would enjoy, we hope you will organize a family gathering to honor your ancestors. We hold our gatherings at a local church hall, but smaller families could go to a restaurant or home. It takes some planning, but it is a lot of fun and well worth the effort.

Pictured left, Roy and Helen Wivell of Emmitsburg are pictured on their wedding day, October 20, 1926. They were dedicated parents of 20 children. The male descendants of Roy and Helen enjoy an annual ‘Savage’ Wivell reunion. Since 2015, the female descendants now enjoy the ‘Grandma’s Girls’ Reunion.

Pictured below, Roy and Helen Wivell at their 25th wedding anniversary celebration.

Above left to right, daughters of Helen and Roy Wivell are Joan Matthews, Helen Reaver, Therese Topper and Genny Little wearing the aprons that are now a highlight of the annual Wivell ‘Grandma’s Daughter’s’ reunion

Jack Walker

Brimming with life, nature, and scenery, Catoctin Mountain Park embodies the vast beauty Frederick County has to offer. Take a look beyond this initial allure, however, and you will discover the park’s hidden past—one with a sizable impact on American history.

In 1942, soon after American entry into World War II, the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area, now Catoctin Mountain Park, was selected as a training site for a new United States intelligence agency. This was the Office of Strategic Services, or the OSS, a precursor to the CIA that organized wartime planning and espionage. The park was selected because of three key factors: its closeness to the capital, its access to railways, and its seclusion from the public. Originally located at Camp Greentop, the OSS quickly moved in its personnel and equipment, separating their territory into five new areas for training and trainee life.

Even prior to the United States’ official entry into the war, Catoctin had long maintained a significant military presence. During the summer of 1941, the Lend-Lease Act called for American support of Allied powers financially and politically. As such, British soldiers came to Catoctin seeking shelter and respite while their ships were docked in Baltimore. They stayed at the camps of High Catoctin and Greentop, as well as the Bessie Darling House.

Later in 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized the potential in the park’s land and converted the area now known as Camp David into a presidential retreat. In turn, the OSS stopped using some of its designated training areas in the CRDA in favor of those in Prince William Forest of Northern Virginia, where presidential security would not be an issue.

Nevertheless, training still went on in some parts of the CRDA. Trainees were stripped of their identities, given fake names and new clothes. They then learned basic military survival tactics, like how to avoid detection as a spy or militant. Kasey Clay, a veteran who served sixteen years with the United States Air Force and Army and a historian at Catoctin Mountain Park, describes the park’s further specifics. She says that OSS spies learned “condensed” skillsets. They were taught “how to blow up buildings, how to break and enter into houses, how to crack safes and [even how to] forge documents.” All were trained by the best in their fields—many of which came from prisons.

At a facility known as the “Trainazium,” personnel practiced their response to prisoner of war conditions. The course was intense, leading to frequent injuries, including the broken jaw of future CIA Director Wiliam Casey. This was built without permission of the park, using many park trees and leaving holes in their places, to the dismay of park superintendent Mike Williams.

After initial training was complete, trainees had to enter the ‘House of Horrors,’ a final testing area where their skills were assessed by their response to simulated war situations. Once they passed, they disappeared from the facilities entirely, with no word given to other trainees regarding their departure. If they failed, they were transferred to different locations to preserve the site’s secrecy. No current trainees knew about these tests; they were surprised with them when deemed ready.

The training of OSS operatives changed as World War II waged on. To help with the transition to different environments abroad, training centers were established in new locations that better matched wartime conditions. This limited the use of Catoctin to an initial-stage training facility. Additionally, the Marine Corps began to send marines to Catoctin to recover from the pangs of fighting abroad and to prepare for their next steps in the war effort. They lived and trained at Camp Misty Mount.

In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, the OSS transferred full use of Catoctin back to the National Park Service. The official OSS personnel files, however, were not released until 2008, leaving the history of the program defined solely by personal interviews and word of mouth. No official photographs of the training facilities were made public, save seldom training videos filmed for OSS use, making the history of the OSS at Catoctin all the more elusive. After World War II, trainees signed agreements ensuring that they would keep the events of their training secret. The impact of OSS training resided with trainees for long after the war. Psychological trauma and trust issues followed them, and fear for their own safety led many to live in secrecy for the rest of their lives.

The history of Catoctin Mountain National Park and its affiliation in World War II is still investigated today. Catoctin Mountain Park’s Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services Peggie Gaul says that the park is “working on a new exhibit for the visitor center” using assistance of Kasey Clay and other staff to help review documents. “Our hope is that people will get interested from the exhibit and want to do more research,” Gaul explains. “We want to better tell the history of the park.”

“History always matters because we can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been,” says Clay. “I think it’s really important for Catoctin Mountain Park and the people who love her because we get so lost in the big monuments [that we don’t realize] we’ve had a lot of stuff take place right here.” Clay wants people to walk the trails and see the history beneath their feet. She continues, “they can go ‘wow, somebody who walked the same trail was training to go fight, or became a prisoner, or was a Hollywood star.’ You can really connect to Catoctin that way.”

The beauty of Catoctin Mountain Park is that its roots run deep into the course of the past, and that there is more to discover with every visit. The role that the park played in wartime efforts is still being researched by the likes of Clay to help those who come to the park better understand the specifics of its role in American history. Clay loves the work she does and hopes that newcomers to the park can find the same novelty in discovery that she does every day. “After all,” Clay beams, “a bad day here is better than a good day anywhere else!”.


 An instructor teaching a shoot-from-the-hip technique, “Instinctive shooting” they called it.

Blowing up a structure during explosives training.

The OSS symbol at end of the OSS Ford training film.