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Randy Waesche

Fifty years ago three of Thurmont’s leading citizens figured in two of the most remarkable episodes in town politics. The men were Donald L. Lewis, Roy W. Lookingbill, and Calvin G. Wilhide.

Mayor Lewis

Mayor Lewis

Donald L. Lewis was one of Thurmont’s most-progressive mayors. Although only in office for just over five years, the effects of his tenure are still felt today. Of impressive stature and fitness, he came from a large and prominent Thurmont family. He was a staff sergeant in the Army Rangers during World War II and landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. In 1956, he opened Lewis’ Confectionery on the square, a widely known general store that sold everything from fountain sodas to fishing rods. Forty years old when first elected mayor in 1959, he embarked on an activist course and worked with political leaders at all levels, and courted anyone with an eye to expand local business. Concerned that unregulated land use had allowed Thurmont to become blemished with such nuisances as dilapidated house trailers, he secured federal grant funding and developed Thurmont’s first planning and zoning ordinance, master plan, and subdivision regulations. He brought the state economic development commission to Thurmont where they touted the local spirit of cooperation and new local opportunities for progress. Surveys were undertaken to evaluate and improve town water and sewer service and establish policies for underground electric in new growth areas. He was in front of the Maryland Department of Forests and Parks advocating for local recreation areas. He opened discussions that eventually led to the Town’s ownership of what is now the 20-acre Thurmont Community Park. Lewis worked with local businessman Victor Leisner and broke ground for Greenfield Estates, a major subdivision on the town’s eastern edge then at Blue Ridge Avenue. The project promised to include the largest sewage and water development ever undertaken and was the first under the town’s new developer’s policy. He appointed the first planning and zoning commission, chaired by his brother Harry “Buck” Lewis, who owned a Sinclair auto service station diagonal from the confectionery. When plans stalled for a new north county high school, Lewis and some Emmitsburg officials headed to the Board of Education, kept the project moving, and within five years Catoctin High School opened. He worked with magistrate M.T. Mathwig to relocate local court from a rented Water Street building to the Town Office. Revision of a new town code was introduced. There seemed to be no end to the energy of mayor Donald Lewis.

Mayor Lookingbill

Roy W. Lookingbill owned and operated Lookingbill’s Barber Shop in the first block of East Main Street for 22 years. He had twice won a town commissioner seat and in 1963 ran for mayor against Lewis, but lost. Two years later in April 1965 Lewis was unexpectedly alone on the ballot for mayor and seemed to have an easy path to a fourth term. Although short on time and in uncharted legal territory, Lookingbill launched a write-in candidacy for mayor. To guard against spelling disqualifications, several thousand stickers were printed with his name and distributed across town. Voters were asked to become “sticker lickers for Lookingbill” and were instructed how to affix the stickers onto the ballot and mark an X alongside. A car with loudspeakers slowly drove the town’s streets loudly asking for votes for the mayor’s challenger. Hundreds of orange handbills from the Lookingbill campaign were spread through town that contained a list of allegations against the incumbent, and the town was rife with opinion about the upstart long shot bid. It would be weeks following the election before debate quieted about the accuracy of the handbill, but the vote was in. In an election where 627 votes were cast for mayor, Lookingbill had narrowly won by 19.

Calvin C. Wilhide

Calvin C. Wilhide

One of Thurmont’s more colorful personalities, Calvin G. Wilhide was the owner of Wilhide Chevrolet-Oldsmobile on Water Street, formerly owned by Fred Redding and started by Edwin Creeger over 40 years before. Wilhide also owned the Texas Lunch on West Main Street, operated an amusement machine business, owned and raced prize horses at Shenandoah Downs, and also had a trucking business and garage on Carroll Street Extended that included his Thurmont Star rural mail route. Known by many as Pud (pronounced like the first syllable of “pudding”), he had run for mayor in 1959 and 1961 but lost both times to Lewis. He won a town commissioner seat in 1964. On the town board he was especially critical of the town’s new zoning policies, which he declared were ruinous to business. He was again nominated to oppose Lewis in 1965 but surprised many when he declined, setting the stage for Lookingbill’s successful bid. With a year to go as commissioner, Wilhide settled in with the new mayor and board. Then came a situation that eclipsed April’s upset election in local lore.

Carroll E. Kinsey was a local developer. Among his real estate holdings was a brick building that is now the Thurmont Senior Citizens Center on East Main Street. It was in a town zoning district that allowed commercial uses. In the fall of 1965 Kinsey leased half the building to the Board of Education to hold 60 students from the overcrowded Thurmont Elementary School across the street. The other half he leased to a business called Shankle Body Works. Only thin sheets of drywall separated two grade-school classrooms from the noisy riveting, hammering, and welding operations of the truck trailer assembly plant. Amid the racket, classroom instruction was impossible. Thurmont zoning inspector Austin Bruchey stepped in and declared that the operations of the body shop were industrial rather than commercial, and therefore not allowed under the zoning policies. He ordered it shut down. To relieved parents and a grateful board of education, if ever there was a reason to have zoning policies, this was it. To Calvin Wilhide, the snuffed business proved if ever there was a reason not to have zoning policies, this was it. At the next town meeting on October 11, 1965, Wilhide sought to reverse the ruling. After a bitter and contentious meeting, the board refused to override their zoning inspector. Wilhide quit. Within days he reconsidered, and said he would return if allowed. At first, the board said no, but after being lobbied by some civic leaders, new mayor Lookingbill scheduled a meeting for October 21 to further discuss the matter. Controversy again swirled and for the second time that year, the town was consumed with opinion about the latest political drama.

On the evening of October 20 in his office at his car dealership with his son and Kinsey, Calvin Wilhide was stricken with a heart attack. He was dead at the age of 51.

A little over a year later on the first of December 1966, following a normal day at his barber shop, mayor Roy Lookingbill suffered a heart attack and died at his home. He was 57. Former mayor and commissioner C. Ray Weddle again took the helm, and during his long service to Thurmont was elected mayor ten times.

In 1970 Donald Lewis was elected to the Frederick County Board of Commissioners and was named vice president. He served two terms. Today he has been with us longer than any former Thurmont mayor or county commissioner, still sharp at 96.

by Jim Houck, Jr.

U.S. Army

Private Alfred Woodrow Clark

102 Years Young

Born June 13, 1913, in Washington, D.C., to Henry and Edith Clark, was a boy they named Alfred Woodrow. Alfred’s family had a tradition of giving newborns of the family a nickname. His family was together nine days after he was born at their home in Takoma, Maryland, and his one aunt said, “Well, I am going to call him Boogie.” His mother confirmed it, and Alfred was stuck with that nickname from that point on.

Alfred had twelve brothers and sisters; he said several of them passed away when they were young. He stated that if they were born today, they probably could have been saved, but they just didn’t have the medical knowledge back then that they have today.

Alfred went to elementary school in Takoma Park and dropped out in the fourth grade, as many did back then. He took care of the huge family vegetable garden, along with his siblings and mother and father.

Alfred stated that at one time he was a heavy drinker. One day, he was in a beer joint; when he came out, this old man was right behind him and asked him which way he was going. Alfred asked the man which way he wanted to go. The old man told Alfred where he wanted to go, and Alfred said he would take him home. When he pulled up in front of the man’s house, the old man said, “Come on in and meet the folks.”

They sat Alfred down around this big round table, and this girl was sitting right across from him. They started talking; the rest of them got up and left. He sat there talking to her for just as long as he could, and then he asked her for a date. The girl told Alfred to come down next Sunday and they will go to a meeting. If Alfred had known it was church, he wouldn’t have gone. Alfred thought that if you broke a commandment, you were done for, and he didn’t know there was any way back. So, that Sunday, they went to the meeting, and the man preached on the five kings: the mineral kingdom, the vegetation kingdom, the animal kingdom, man’s kingdom, and God’s kingdom. Alfred explained that what the preacher said woke him up. Alfred said it was 1936, and he got saved. He married his wife a little over a year later on May 29, 1937. He started into construction work at a young age and, other than the two years he was in the army, made it his life-long career.

Alfred joined the U.S. Army on January 4, 1944, and landed overseas eight days after D-Day; he was all over Europe for the next eighteen months.

When Alfred came home from the army, he went back to work as a construction carpenter for a man named Clark (no relation to Alfred). Clark had come to Alfred’s home and asked him to come to work for him right away. Alfred bought a truck from the man for $200.00; not long after that he was asked to pick up supplies for the construction jobs and wasn’t receiving any pay for his time or the use of his truck. Clark had also wanted Alfred to work extra time after hauling his supplies and not pay him for it. He didn’t stay with that outfit very long; Alfred had just gotten out of the service and needed to be paid.

Alfred got a job as a superintendent carpenter with a construction outfit in Takoma Park for a couple of years before he and his boss had a falling out, and he left that job. That was when Alfred went to work for Poretsky Management and started making kitchen cabinets.

Alfred had his own way of doing heads on cabinets that would only take him two minutes. He remembers his boss telling him to do the cabinet heads, and when his boss came back after an hour and a half and saw Albert just standing there, his boss said, “I thought I told you to do those cabinet heads.” Albert told him that they were built. The boss told Albert that it takes everyone all day to do the heads, so he walked down and looked and said, “I’ll be darned, they are done.” Albert said the boss was very happy and paid him good wages; he stayed with him from 1949-1975. His back and hip were giving him trouble, and his doctor said that if he didn’t retire, his back would retire him. He was old enough to retire, and the doctor wrote a letter to the company explaining it to them. He retired after twenty-six years; the company gave him a big send-off with a check for $1,700 (a nice sum for that time; you could buy a new Chevy Impala) and a plaque with a golden hammer on it with the words “Boogie” Clark, Poretsky Management, 1949 -1975, The Maintenance Crew. He has the plaque on his wall in his room. Alfred said he did more work after he retired than he did before retirement. He sold firewood and said when someone bought a cord of wood from him they got a good cord. Alfred was living in Burkittsville, Maryland, and he and his wife had a daughter, Gwen, and a son, Jerry. Gwen and Vernon Troxell have four boys and are living in Thurmont and Jerry Clark and wife have two girls and are living in Burkittsville, where Jerry has a garage. Alfred has so many great and great-great grandchildren that he said he could not count nor even begin to name them. Alfred said that when you get up there in age, names just don’t stick with you. Alfred has a picture of a dove that had a nest on his back porch; he said the dove used to eat out of his hand, being the only one who could get close to her.

Alfred lost his wife in 2002, after sixty-nine years of marriage; she was just short of 91 years of age. Alfred said, “We got along well; she would say jump, and I would say how high.” Shortly thereafter, Alfred went to live with his daughter Gwen in Thurmont. Gwen pulled her arm out of socket while taking care of Albert and could no longer give him the care he needed, so he is now living at Village of Laurel Run Nursing Home at Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. Alfred said there is no place like home, but he likes it there and the staff is very nice, the food is good, his room is kept clean, and, most of all, he has all the assistance he needs.

I very much enjoyed my interview with Alfred and enjoyed the hospitality he showed me. I found him to be a most interesting man who became an army veteran at thirty-one years of age and already had a wife and children, but loved his country and proudly served. Alfred has had a full life, and I hope he continues to for many years to come.

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

by James Rada, Jr.

Bessie Darling’s Murder Haunts Us Still

Bessie Darling House 07-09-1941 001 JAK (2)When the mail train from Baltimore stopped in Thurmont on Halloween, more than the mail was delivered. George F. Schultz, a sixty-two-year-old employee with Maryland Health Department, left the train. Schultz hired Clarence Lidie and his taxi to give him a ride to the Valley View Hotel, which was ten minutes away on the side of Catoctin Mountain.

As Schultz climbed into the car, Lidie noticed that he was carrying a .38-caliber revolver and remarked on it.

“Shultz laughed and remarked that ‘he didn’t know what he might run into,’” Edmund F. Wehrle wrote in a study about the history of Catoctin Mountain Park.

The Valley View Hotel was actually a summer boarding house, which had been run by Bessie Darling, a forty-eight-year-old divorcee, since 1917. It was a large house built in 1907 that sat on a steep tract of land near Deerfield.

Darling, a Baltimore resident, had purchased the property from Mary E. Lent after Darling’s divorce in 1917.

“She generally managed the hotel in the summer and returned to Baltimore in winter, where she used her considerable social contacts to drum up summer business for her hotel,” Wehrle wrote. “Her skill at cooking and baking, as well as the scenic site, helped build her a solid clientele.”

In the early twentieth century, people took the Western Maryland Railroad from Baltimore to Pen Mar Park to enjoy the cooler mountain temperatures and to get away from the stresses of the city. Such was the appeal of the Catoctin Mountain area as a summer retreat that visitors always needed a place to stay.

“These such boarding houses offered the women of the area a rare opportunity to operate businesses,” Wehrle wrote.

Schultz had known Darling since 1926. They had become so close that Schultz had even spent Christmas 1930 with Darling’s family. Newspaper accounts at the time said they were romantically linked, and he often spent weekends at the hotel while Darling was there.

Darling, who was fourteen years younger than Schultz, met a lot people, both men and women in her work. In the summer of 1933, Schultz had become convinced that Darling was seeing Charles Wolfe, a sixty-three-year-old man who had lost his wife a year earlier. He also lived in Foxville, much closer to the boarding house than Baltimore. (Wolfe later told the Hagerstown Daily Mail that he and Darling had been little more than acquaintances.)

The thought of Darling with another man made Schultz angry, and he was known for his displays of temper.

“One Thurmont resident remembered that Schultz frequently drank, and, on one occasion, assaulted Darling during an argument in front of the Lantz post office,” Wehrle wrote.

While Darling forgave him that time, she was not so forgiving in this instance. Schultz and Darling got into a loud argument apparently over Wolfe, which ended when Darling left the hotel. She went to a neighbor’s home to spend the night, and told the neighbor that Schultz was no longer welcome in her home, according to newspaper accounts.

Darling didn’t return to the hotel until Schultz left for Baltimore, and Darling didn’t return to Baltimore at the end of the tourist season. She decided that she would spend the winter in the hotel rather than having to deal with Schultz and his jealousy.

Around 7:00 a.m. on Halloween morning, Schultz came up to the rear entrance of the hotel as Maizie Williams, the eighteen-year-old maid, was coming out for firewood. Schultz demanded to see Darling. Williams said Darling was in her room and tried to close the door on the man.

Schultz forced his way inside. Williams hurried upstairs to Darling’s bedroom to warn Darling, with Schultz following. Williams entered the bedroom and locked the door behind her.

This didn’t stop Schultz for long. He forced the lock and opened the door. Then he entered the bedroom and shot Darling who fell to the floor dead.

Schultz then calmly told Williams to make him coffee. She did, and when he finally let her leave the house to get help for Darling, he told her, “When you come back, you’ll find two of us dead.”

Williams rushed out of the hotel to the nearest home with a phone. She called Frederick County Sheriff Charles Crum who drove to the hotel with a deputy around 9:30 a.m.

They entered through the basement door, because Schultz had locked all of the doors and windows. When they entered the Darling’s bedroom, they found her lying dead at the foot of the bed.

They also found Schultz nearly dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to his chest. Crum brought Dr. Morris Bireley up from Thurmont to treat Schultz, who was then taken to the hospital in Frederick.

Once Schultz recovered from the wound, he was tried for murder on March 13, 1934. The prosecution called twenty-six witnesses in their case of first-degree murder. Schultz claimed that Darling had also had a pistol, and his killing her had been an act of self-defense. The jury deliberated an hour and found him guilty of second-degree murder; Schultz was sentenced to eighteen years in the Maryland State Penitentiary in Baltimore.

Wehrle recounted the story of Charles Anders, who had been in the courtroom when Schultz was sentenced and, sixty-six years later, still remembered watching Schultz sob as the verdict was read.

The drama of the murder fed into the tabloid-style journalism of the day, and people followed the case with interest.

“Even today, the murder stirs an unusual amount of residual interest,” Wehrle wrote.

Most recently, the Thurmont Thespians performed an original musical based on the murder case.

James Rada, Jr.

Freemasonry conjures up images of a secret society with hidden rituals and, thanks to the movie National Treasure, hidden treasure. Yet, the Masons are far from secret. They are men who work hard to find brotherhood, enlightenment, and truth.

When John Hagemann first came to Thurmont in 2006 and joined the Acacia Lodge No. 155 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, another Mason pointed to a long row of 8×10 photographs hung on the wall of the Masons’ lodge social hall in Thurmont. They were the Worshipful Masters (lodge presidents) of the Acacia Lodge, and Hagemann recognized many of the last names as members of long-time Thurmont families.

“I was told that if I worked hard, one day my picture could be up there, and it is,” Hagemann said. He is the current Worshipful Master of the Acacia Lodge #155 in Thurmont.

The Masons came to Maryland in 1750, not in Baltimore, which was the largest population center at the time, but in Leonardtown. They weren’t established in what is now Frederick County until just before the Revolutionary War. Not much is known of the early lodges in the county. The largest lodge was called Hiram Lodge, and there was a lodge that served the army during the War of Independence. Those two lodges, along with other small lodges, combined to form the Columbia Lodge in 1815.

“The Masons met in a home at the corner of Market and Second Street,” said Kenneth Wyvill, Grand Master of the Maryland Masons. This combined lodge was enough to meet the needs of the county Masons for sixty-six years. “As population centers grew and shifted, Masons would decide to form new lodges,” said Wyvill.

The first lodge to break off from the Columbia Lodge in Frederick was Acacia Lodge No. 155 of Mechanicstown (now Thurmont). In all, six new lodges formed in Frederick County between 1871 and 1906.

Thirteen Masons in the area formed the lodge in Mechanicstown, with Robert Lyon as the first Worshipful Master (lodge president). The new lodge’s first meeting was held on May 22, 1871, in a room on the third floor of the John Rouzer apartment house, opposite the Lutheran Church on Church Street. Besides choosing officers, it was decided to name the lodge the Acacia Lodge.

Not all of the charter members of the Acacia Lodge came from the Columbia Lodge. Others came from lodges in Baltimore, Westminster, and Union Bridge.

Even before the Acacia Lodge received its charter and was officially recognized, it had begun to grow as two new members were added.

The Acacia Lodge was examined by other Maryland Masons in October 1871 to see if its membership was proficient enough to support their own lodge and on November 21, 1871, the Acacia Lodge was granted its charter. “They first rented the International Order of Odd Fellows hall to meet in,” Hagemann said.

The Acacia Lodge continued to grow between 1872 and 1876; however, for the next two years, many of the members found themselves working away from Mechanicstown. “Membership dwindled and the Maryland Grand Lodge actually took back our charter, but the members still continued to pay dues,” Hagemann said.

The charter was revoked in 1879, but the local Masons still paid dues and worked to establish stability to their lodge. They applied for restoration of their charter in 1887 and it was granted on December 19.

One of the things that the members decided would help their stability was to own their building rather than continue to rent space. Beginning in 1894, the Masons under Worshipful Master Leonard Waesche began looking into buying the Bussard Building (where the lodge is currently located at 12 E. Main Street) and adding a third floor to it. “The lodge bought the building in 1898 and added the third floor to it for our lodge hall,” Hagemann said.

The Masons also made repairs to the first and second floors of the building and began renting out the space. Over the years, the first two floors have been a livery, doctor’s office, post office, grocery store, drug store, beauty parlor, and more.

When the lodge celebrated its first fifty years at the Thurmont Town Hall on November 29, 1921, only three of the original members were still living: George Stocksdale, Leonard Waesche, and David Martin.

World War II saw a surge in attendance at lodge meetings, mainly because of servicemen stationed at nearby Camp Ritchie who came to the Acacia Lodge. The Acacia Lodge conferred Masonic degrees on servicemen on behalf of other lodges through the Masonic Service Association.

“At the end of World War II, we had 156 members, which is the largest we’ve ever been,” Hagemann said. Of that number, 84 were veterans.

In 1959, the U.S. Post Office moved out of the first floor of the lodge building and into a stand-alone building that the Masons had built. However, a new tenant was found to fill the vacant first floor of the lodge building.

The last tenant for the second floor of the lodge left in 1960. The space remained vacant until 1962, when it was decided to use the floor as the lodge’s social hall, and it continues to be used for that purpose today.

Though generally believed to be a Christian group, Masons include many faiths. Each lodge has a book of faith on its central altar. The Acacia Lodge uses a Bible, but other lodges can include a book of faith for the predominant religion of the lodge. “It doesn’t matter what religion you are, you just have to believe in a higher power,” Hagemann said

The Acacia Lodge in Thurmont currently has 77 members, although Hagemann notes that like many civic and volunteer organizations, the average age among members seems to be rising as fewer young people become involved with organizations. The Acacia Lodge is one of 102 Maryland lodges and 15,000 Masons.

Emmitsburg also has a lodge, Tyrian Lodge #205. Ernie Gelwicks is the Grand Master of this lodge at the present time, a Past Master, a Grand Inspector for the Grand Lodge of Maryland, Sir Knight in the Knights Templar, and Noble in the Scottish Rite Shriners. The Emmitsburg Lodge was formed and met above Annans Store, later moved and merged with Acacia in Thurmont before being re-charted in 1906, they met after that above the Vigilant Hose Fire Co., then met in Taneytown until buying their present location. Many prominent Emmitsburg Leaders and businessmen founded Tyrian Lodge in Emmitsburg.

The Masons are involved in many civic activities and participate in parades and building dedications. They can be identified in full regalia that includes tuxedos, top hats, and aprons. The local Masons dedicated the cornerstone of the Thurmont Library and have contributed money to many local efforts, such as purchasing a new flag pole for the town and paying for the memorial stone for servicemen in Memorial Park.

“We also have an annual $1,000 scholarship that we award to a senior in the Catoctin High district,” Hagemann said.

Hundreds of Maryland Masons will be participating in a parade in Baltimore in full regalia for the re-dedication of the Washington Monument on July 4. The Masons laid the cornerstone for the original monument in 1815, and re-laid the stone in 1915.

“We’ll be using the implements from the time period of 1915 to rededicate the cornerstone,” Wyvill said.

Young people who are interested in becoming a Mason may join as members DeMolay for young men or JOBS Daughters for young ladies. Women join the Order of the Eastern Star. Ernie Gelwicks added, “The Knights Templar is another branch which many Master Masons also join, as is the Scottish Rite Shriners, which are responsible for Shriners Hospital fame and support this worthy cause.” For more information in our area’s Masonic membership, please call John Hagemann at 301-271-2711 or Ernie Gelwicks at 301-447-2923.

mason 3

Members of Acacia Lodge #155 in Thurmont are shown dedicating the cornerstone of the Thurmont Regional Library.


Thurmont Acacia Lodge No. 155 members and Maryland’s Grand Master, Kenneth Wyvill (third from right), are pictured with a scholarship recipient, Lydia Spalding, in June.

by James Rada, Jr.

Thurmont Gets A New School

It used to be that if students in Thurmont were going to be late to school, they simply didn’t go because they would have been sent home anyway.

At the beginning of the 1877-1878 school year, Thurmont, which was still known as Mechanicstown at the time, had two schools. Both of them were one-room schools that could hold a maximum of 60 students each, “which is as many, if not more than can be comfortably seated in either room,” The Catoctin Clarion reported.

The Mechanicstown School District had around 200 students. Most of those students were sharp enough to tell you that seating limitations left 80 or more students without a place to attend school.

The catch was that it wasn’t always the same 80 students who were without a seat in the classroom. It was first come, first taught, with students who showed up late to a full school being told “that there is no room for them; the school room is over crowded and they must go home,” the newspaper reported.

With both the newspaper and the public demanding a solution, the Board of Education took action. Less than a month after The Catoctin Clarion took up the cause for a new school, the newspaper announced that Mechanicstown had its third school, another one-room school.

“Now all can be accommodated and the cause of education progresses in a more satisfactory manner,” the newspaper reported.

The new school also meant that 34-year-old Ephraim L. Boblitz had a new job. The young teacher had married his wife, Emma, in 1866, and they had recently had their first child, Caroline.

“We congratulate friend Ephraim in thus securing a school nearer home as it will save him the long walk, in all kinds of weather, which has been his for many years past, and also the scholars in getting such a good teaching,” the newspaper reported.

A few years later in 1880, the town got its first four-room school, which was built on East Main Street, according to The Frederick News. The students from the three one-room schools were all consolidated into this new school. Boblitz joined John Landers and Frederick White as teachers there.

Boblitz remained as a teacher in the school until he resigned in 1892 to become the superintendent of Frederick County Schools.

Meanwhile, Mechanicstown got its first high school that same year. William M. Martin was the high school’s first principal. At the time, it was a three-year high school, and the first commencement was held in 1895. There was only one graduate. The building later became the Maple Inn and was torn down to be replaced by Riffle’s Garage, which was also later torn down.

Boblitz served as the superintendent of schools until he died near the end of November 1906.

His funeral was held at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thurmont, where he had been an elder on the church council. Rev. Isaac Motter, president of the Board of School Commissioners, called him a good and just man, “…there were many who rise up and call him blessed for the training that had been received under him,” The Frederick News reported.

He was survived by his wife and five children, Carrie, Frank, Hattie, Nellie, and Lucy. He is buried in Wellers Church Cemetery.

IMG_1847-1A Unique Life Experience

Michele Cuseo

Most people who live in Emmitsburg know or have heard of Mrs. Williams, as she has lived here for 101 years. I know her because I went to high school with her son, Richard, who is also a personal friend. Born in 1914, she is not just unique due to her advanced age but also because of her race. She is an African American who has lived through times of major change in America, as well as in Emmitsburg.

Born Elizabeth Kathleen Richardson, Mrs. Williams’ earliest memories involve living on Old Frederick Road with her family. Her father (William Richardson) worked at Mount St. Mary’s College as an all-around handy man doing a variety of work. Her mother (Marie Butler Richardson) had five children: Joseph, Francis, Billy, Marie, and Elizabeth Kathleen. The boys all died during the flu epidemic of 1918. 

Her family always had a garden, chickens, and an occasional hog that was butchered by her Uncle Bob. She remembers that they had a natural spring and a smoke house. For holidays, her cousins would visit and they would eat together, play cards, and sing songs. She recalls that her Uncle Joe played the violin and her Uncle Charlie could sing. She also remembers visiting her grandfather Butler (her mother’s father) on a farm on Irishtown Road to see some piglets. Other than this memory of her grandfather, she does not know much about her grandparents’ history. And, having no opportunity for education at that time, her past relatives would not have been able to write any stories to pass on. Any history would have had to be passed down through verbal stories. 

Starting around the late teens or early 1920s, Kathleen and her sister Marie would walk to school in Emmitsburg, attending St. Euphemia (Catholic school started in 1889, managed by the Sisters of Charity) from first through eighth grades. There was a group of other children who walked together with them through two large fields and over fences in all kinds of weather. It was quite a long way to get to school, probably about one mile or more. Once at school, the two Richardson sisters and the other African-American children were segregated from the Caucasian children into a separate room for instruction. Mrs. Williams remembers the nuns who taught them: Sister Cecelia and Sister Beata. She said that Sister Beata hated when someone used the word “ain’t.”  Sister would say, “Don’t talk like those ‘Darkies’ down south!”  Mrs. Williams said they did learn the basics (reading, writing, and arithmetic) from the nuns.  There was no public school for blacks and they were not allowed at the public (white-only) schools.   She says that her parents never had the opportunity to go to school and wanted their children to have an education. Therefore, going to school at St. Euphemia was their only opportunity for an education. However, after eighth grade, there was no high school for blacks to attend unless they went to Baltimore, Maryland. Traveling to Baltimore wasn’t logistically possible for the family. 

Mrs. Williams stated that she can’t remember exactly how she met her husband, Martin Williams, who was from Gettysburg. Most likely, they met because her parents knew his parents. She said that Martin was a good man. Mr. Williams served in the army for a time and also worked at the Mount. She also remembers that blacks experienced different treatment in Pennsylvania than they did in Maryland (Martin grew up in Pennsylvania and Kathleen in Maryland). In Pennsylvania, blacks were allowed to go to the theatre (sit wherever they liked) as well as other public places. This was not allowed in the state of Maryland at that point in time (seeming to reflect the lingering struggle between North and South from past Civil War conflict). 

Martin and Kathleen had seven children together: Lois, Mary, Joan, Pat, Marty, Marie, and Richard. Mr. Williams died at the young age of fifty, and it was a very difficult time for Mrs. Williams having young children to raise on her own.

Mrs. Williams did get the opportunity to buy a house in town at some point after her husband died. A man named Bernie Boyle offered to sell her the house. The house had previously been owned by Mrs. Williams’ relatives, Aunt Rose and Uncle Brown. Mrs. Williams had a good amount of money to put down on the house, but she had some trouble getting a loan from the bank to cover the rest. Mr. Boyle intervened to help by telling the bank that he would go to the Thurmont Bank if they would not cooperate.  They did cooperate and Mrs. Williams was able to purchase the home where she still lives today. Mrs. Williams worked a majority of her adult life for the nuns and was known for her great cooking ability that she states she learned from her mother. Chicken pot pie was her favorite dish.

It would be an understatement to say that the Catholic Church has been a big part of Mrs. Williams’ life. She attended church at St. Anthony’s near the Grotto in earlier days, where blacks were required to stay in the back of the church. Mrs. Williams remembers some misbehaving boys who used to play in the back of the church. She also remembers when things changed at the church. She distinctly remembers a priest named Father Riley who approached her and said that she could sit wherever she wanted to and no longer had to stay in the back of the church.

In the past, when a loved one died, they had a special place for blacks to be buried that was—as Mrs. Williams described—at the bottom of the hill (in the graveyard on the way to the Grotto). When Mr. Williams died in 1960, he was the first African American to be buried at the top of the hill, alongside the previous white-only burial area.   

Marie Williams, Mrs. Williams’ youngest daughter (named in honor of her grandmother and aunt), said that education was very important to their family. She stated that her mother did a great job raising her seven children. They all went to Catholic school, with some continuing on to college, and all of them working at great jobs. There are now ten wonderful grandchildren. 

Mrs. Williams acknowledged that the person she admired most in her lifetime was her mother. She was a wonderful mother and wonderful person. Mrs. Williams stated that she doesn’t know why she has lived so long, but that longevity does run in her family, with many members living until almost 100 years old. These days, she enjoys crossword puzzles, watching jeopardy, and is well attended by her daughter Marie, who works as a nurse. 

I thanked Mrs. Williams for sharing her memories with me and embraced her hand. She embraced back with a firm grip! As I was leaving her home, I glanced over to see that she had already started working on her crossword puzzles.


Photo of Mrs. Williams’ mother and father, Marie Butler Richardson and William Richardson.


Photo of Mr. Williams as a young man.

This article includes excerpts from Karen Gardner’s article in a 1991 Frederick Post titled The History Behind the Doughboy and Joan Bittner Fry’s research in her compilation of local history titled, Did You Know? published in 2013.

A doughboy is the popular name for a World War I foot soldier. A statue commemorating the doughboy and called the Doughboy is located on West Main Street in Emmitsburg. One can’t help but feel pride and sorrow when noticing a statue that commemorates sacrifices in war. Emmitsburg’s Doughboy was created by E. M. Viquesney, a French sculptor who lived in Spencer, Indiana, to honor Veterans and casualties of World War I.  Visquesney was, perhaps, the most popular Doughboy designer. It is interesting to know that not only are there other Doughboy statues around the nation, but that Emmitsburg’s Doughboy statue has an identical twin.

In her book, Did You Know?, Joan Bittner Fry said, “…supposedly, there are seven Doughboys in Maryland. They are made of copper, bronze, granite, or marble. Emmitsburg’s Doughboy statue’s twin is located in Crisfield, Maryland. Other Doughboys in Maryland are located in Funkstown, Elkton, and Williamsport. After research, Joan could only account for five.

In her article, The History Behind the Doughboy that was published in the Frederick Post in 1991, Karen Gardner references the late T. Perry Wesley of Spencer, Indiana who set out to remind people of the importance of these doughboy statues and located 110 of them around the nation but also indicated that he believed that several hundred actually exist.

Joseph Boys, who published an article about the Emmitsburg Doughboy statue in 1981, said, ‘There’s one in practically every small town.’ The statue stands on the lawn of the Emmit House, once a hotel that frequently hosted Maryland governors, but is now an apartment house. It was erected in 1927. The Emmitsburg monument was in its heyday before World War II. Since then, other monuments at the town’s American Legion have gotten considerably more attention, Mr. Boyle said.

Emmitsburg’s Doughboy is walking between tree stumps, left boot firmly on the ground, right toe touching the ground, and the rest of the boot upraised in a marching pose. The right arm is raised, holding a hand grenade, and the left hand clutches a rifle with bayonet pointed horizontally.

Other doughboy statues are missing the tree stumps, and often have the right foot in the air, held aloft by a bar.

For more information, Joan Bittner Fry’s books of local and regional history are available by calling her at 301-241-3295 or emailing

An Honor Roll at the Emmitsburg Doughboy, * indicates killed in action:

Adelsberter, Joseph Dwen, Althoff, C. Raymond, Alvey, James McSherry, Annan, Louis L., Annan, Samuel McNair, *Bentzel, Arthur H., Barrick, Moffis, Baumgardner, Raymond, Baumgardner, Clarence, Beatty, Albert, Bishop, James Lloyd, Bowling, J. William, Brown, D. Irwin, Brown, Ward, Butler, Charles E., Byard, James A., Byard, Sidney C., Byers, Harry Bryan, Cadle, W. R., Click, Earl Norman, Cool, John, Coombs, C.C., Coyle, Edward J., Damuth, Lester, L., Coyle, Edward J., Damuth, Lester L.,  Dodd, Rev. Francis J., Duffy, William H., Eckenrode, Henry B., Jr., Eichelberger, Charles D., *Elder, Francis X., Eyler, Cleo M., Eyler, Roy, Felix, Joseph Webb, Ferguson, Russell David, Fitez, Robert Glenn, Florence, George, Florence, Vincent, Fox, Leslie, Frailey, Clarence G., Frailey, Thomas J., Frailey, William A., Galt, Sterling, Jr., Gelwicks, Albert, *Gelwicks, Charles, F., Gelwicks, Lillian, Gelwicks, Roy, Gelwicks, William R., Gillelan, Charles D., Gillelan, Rhoda H., Glacken, Joseph J., Glonneger, John R., Gruber, Charles, Hahn, Charles A., *Hahn , Martin Luther, Harbaugh, Charles E., Harbaugh, Charles L., Hartdagen, LeRoy, Harting, John Mark, Hays, James T., Hobbs, John, Hoke, Clarence, Houser, Jacob W., Kelley, Luther, Kerrigan, J. Ware, Kerrigan, Robert V., Knight, Harry, Kreitz, Allen A., Kreitz, John C., Kreitz, Joseph W., Kugler, Martin L., Kump, Charles Wm., Liday, Edgar R., Malloy Arthur, Marshall, Thomas, Martin, Maurice C., McCullough, Richard, McNair, Charles A., Miller, William, Moser, Allen E., Moser, Maurice H., Moser, Roy Jacob, Myers, Clarence, O’Donoghue, D. Allen, O’Donoghue, John A., O’Donoghue, Sidney E., Ohler, Charles F. Ohler, Glenn E., *Ohler, Vernon Ross, Ott, George L., Pittinger, Harvey, *Reifsnider, Robert B., Rauth, Carl M., Rauth, John W., Rosensteel, Allen C., Rosensteel, John H., Rowe, Charles J., *Rowe, Francis Edward, Ryder, Gerald N., *Schley, Reading J., Sanders, J. Basil, Saylor, Roy W., Schildt, Elvin R., Sebold, Felix B., Saffer, J. Albert, Sellers, Charles E., Sellers, Robert R., Seltzer, Earnest T., Seltzer, James E., Sharrer, Charles L., Sherff, William C., Shuff, Joseph, Staker, Arthur, Sterbinsky, William, Stinson, O.H., Stokes, Arthur M., Stokes, Charles K., Stokes, George H., Stone, David E., Stoner, Louis H., Topper, Benjamin M., Topper, Francis S., Topper, Joseph M., Troxell, Charles, Turner, Joseph M., Valentine, Harry E., Valentine, Robert, Wagerman, George, Walter, John W., Warthen, Henry W., Weant, Frank W., Wetzel, John S.


Emmitsburg Doughboy Statue Postcard


Elkton, MD Doughboy Statue Postcard


Funkstown, MD Doughboy Statue

nixons at easter service 1971Easter at Camp David

by James Rada, Jr.

Anyone with eyes knew just where President Richard M. Nixon and his family were Easter Sunday morning in 1971.

It was pretty widely known through town that the Nixons would be spending the weekend at Camp David, a favorite retreat for the president. Since it was also Easter weekend, speculation was on whether they would attend church on Sunday and which church they would choose.

“Gold Cadillacs, television cameras, photographers, newsmen, and Secret Service agents do not stand outside of a church in Thurmont for the average person,” the Catoctin Enterprise reported.

The church was the Thurmont United Methodist Church, where the Reverend Kenneth Hamrick was pastor.

Prior to the Easter service, Mrs. Hamrick had received a call from Camp David asking for her husband.

Rev. Hamrick was officiating at another church, but when he returned home, his wife had him to return the call. That is when he found out that he would have special guests during his service that day.

This visit apparently came about because of Mrs. Hamrick.

“Rev. Hamrick, a part-time White House employe[e], attended a staff reception last Christmas at which time Mrs. Hamrick had asked Mrs. Nixon to bring the President to her husband’s church sometime in the future,” The Frederick Post reported.

Not only did the president and first lady attend, but they were joined by Julie and David Eisenhower, former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, and Tricia Nixon and her fiancée Edward Finch Cox.

“I didn’t mention their presence to others attending the services,” Hamrick told The Frederick Post. “I did mention the President, as well as other world leaders, in my prayers at the end of the service.”

Rev. Hamrick’s sermon dealt with the rejection of both Christ and Christianity in biblical and modern times.

Afterwards, Hamrick told the Catoctin Enterprise, “The President said the sermon was ‘very good, very pertinent’ and it appeared that I ‘had done my homework’.” He added that the first lady told him, “It made my Easter Day.”

The Nixons and their guests then returned to Camp David for an Easter dinner. Two months later, Tricia Nixon and Edward Cox would return to Camp David to spend their honeymoon there after their June 12 wedding.

President Nixon enjoyed spending time at Camp David. It was a place where he could think, relax, and get work done. He had worked on his first acceptance speech as the Republican presidential nominee there as vice-president. Although John F. Kennedy won that election, Nixon would return to Camp David in 1968 as president.

W. Dale Nelson tells a story in The President Is at Camp David that Nixon speechwriter William Safire tried making a case to Nixon’s appointment secretary, Dwight Chapin, that the president should spend more time in the White House, not on an isolated mountain.

“Do you want to be the one who tells the president he can’t go to Camp David? Because it sure as hell isn’t going to be me,” Chapin said.

According to Nelson, when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower died in 1969, Nixon wrote his eulogy at Camp David. He made the decision to order troops into Cambodia during the Vietnam War there. He wrote his 1972 presidential nomination acceptance speech there.

The Nixons also spent Easter 1972 at Camp David. They also celebrated David Eisenhower’s 24th birthday during that Easter weekend.

Last To Fall CoverRichard D. L. Fulton and James Rada, Jr. will be holding a book siging at St. Philomena’s on the Emmitsburg Square  in April.

When were the last U.S. Marines killed in the line of duty on the Gettysburg battlefield? If you said 1863, you’d be wrong.

The year was 1922. Two marine aviators crashed their bi-plane on the battlefield during military maneuvers that summer and died in the accident.

Their story is part of a new book by Richard D. L. Fulton and The Catoctin Banner’s Contributing Editor James Rada, Jr. called The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg.

“This is a story that Rick, with the encouragement of his wife, Cathe, and I have been wanting to write individually for years,” Rada said. “We finally combined our efforts and put together something that neither of us could have done alone.”

The 176-page book is 8.5 inches by 11 inches and contains more than 155 photographs depicting the march from Quantico to Gettysburg and the simulated battles on the actual Gettysburg battlefield.

“The march involved a quarter of the corps at the time,” Fulton said. “It was part PR stunt, but it was also an actual training maneuver for the marines.”

As part of the march, the marines stayed two separate nights (going to and coming from Gettysburg) on Hooker Lewis’s farm just north of Thurmont. They showed visitors around their camp, visited Emmitsburg and Thurmont, showed movies in camp, and played a baseball game against the Emmitsburg team.

“On their way to Gettysburg, they marched into Emmitsburg and were greeted by Civil War veterans who were still living in town,” Fulton said.

While on the Gettysburg battlefield, many of the marines were willing to hike back into Emmitsburg to enjoy the hospitality there, rather than go into Gettysburg, which was much closer.

The Last to Fall also contains pictures of the marines in Emmitsburg and Thurmont.

“It’s surprising how few people know about this event nowadays,” Rada said. “It involved a large body of marines marching through Washington and Maryland and got a lot of national coverage at the time.”

Rada, Fulton, and Cathe, who served as a research assistant, searched through hundreds of documents and photographs, looking for the details of the march and battles, but the book was meant to tell a story. For that, they went hunting through lots of newspapers in order to piece together the stories of the marines on the march and the people they met along the way.

“What’s really fun is that the marines re-enacted Pickett’s Charge both historically and with then-modern military equipment,” Rada said.

The event was also marred by tragedy when something happened to one of the bi-planes and it crashed into the battlefield, killing the two marines flying it. The pilot, Capt. George Hamilton, was a hero of World War I.

President Warren G. Harding and his wife, along with a number of military personnel, politicians, and representatives of foreign governments, stayed in camp on July 1 and 2 with the marines and witnessed some of the maneuvers.

Richard D. L. Fulton is an award-winning writer, who has worked for many of the local newspapers. He lives in Gettysburg with his wife, Cathe, who was also a big help in tracking down photos of the 1922 march. The Last to Fall is Fulton’s first book.

 James Rada, Jr. is an award-winning writer, who Midwest Book Review called “a writer of considerable and deftly expressed storytelling talent.” Small Press Bookwatch listed Rada’s Saving Shallmar: Christmas Spirit in a Coal Town as “highly recommended.”  He is the author of five historical fiction novels and seven non-fiction history books, including No North, No South…: The Grand Reunion at the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and Battlefield Angels: The Daughters of Charity Work as Civil War Nurses.

The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg retails for $24.95 and is available at local bookstores and online retailers.

Fulton and Rada will be signing  books at St. Philomena’s on the Emmitsburg Square on Saturday, May 2, 2015, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

by Jim Houck, Jr.

My Thank You and Explanation to All My Family, Friends, and Faithful Readers of my Catoctin Banner Column

Me and the cannonThank you one and all for taking the time to read my column, which is dedicated to the Veterans in our local neighborhood communities and across this great land of ours. I am aware that quite a few of you know that I have been in the hospital, and I thank all of you for your prayers, as I greatly believe that the good Lord answered them and that is why I am able to write this today.

I had not been feeling well for quite some time, and was struggling from day to day just to keep myself moving. I was tired all of the time and found it hard to get my breath. I also had a hard time concentrating on things that used to be routine chores. I knew something was just not right, but I was putting in long days and long weeks, so I blamed it on that. I did a god job of fooling my wife, because I didn’t want her worrying about me, as she is not in good health. Well, I fought for as long as I could and, finally, when the severe headaches and sweats were at the worst, I asked her to call the doctor and make an appointment for me. She made the call and I had an appointment the following day.

I arrived at the doctor’s office at 9:30 a.m. and signed in, after driving the ten or so miles from my home with chest pain. The nurse came out to the waiting room and escorted me back to one of the examination rooms and started checking my vitals. My blood oxygen was at the bottom line; she said I had to get it back up, so I did some deep breathing, trying to get it to whatever level it should be. She took an electrocardiogram and it showed some inconsistency, so she called the doctor in. The doctor read the vitals and the printouts and said I needed to get to the Gettysburg Hospital emergency room. I wasn’t buying it, because I just wanted something to make me feel better so I could go home; I had too much to do. The doctor kept talking to me until I finally agreed to let Joan, my wife, drive me to the emergency room. I arrived and everything was already set up, so they brought me a wheelchair and wheeled me to a room. I got undressed, of course—if I would have had to sneeze, I would have had to undress. More vitals were taken and another electrocardiogram was done; blood was drawn after an IV was inserted in my hand. I laid there for what seemed like forever, and then the cardiologist came in and said the test showed irregular, and that they were admitting me for a stress test the following day.

That night, I was restless and, of course, the nurses were in and out all night taking my vitals and blood for testing. I could have nothing to eat or drink after midnight. Around 7:00 a.m., the cardiologist came in and explained that I could not do the treadmill and that they would inject radioactive medicine in my bloodstream to make my heart race. I was to have a set of pictures taken of my heart, and I had to lay flat on my back with my hands over my head. Then I would be taken to the waiting room for one hour, and then be taken to the stress test room and have the medicine injected into my blood while an electrocardiogram was taken. After, I was taken back to my room and given two slices of toast to wait another hour to be taken to have more pictures, the same as before. They came in and said the first set of pictures before the stress looked pretty good. Then came the news from the second set of pictures; I was told I had to be transported by ambulance to York Hospital to have a cath done, because I had blockage. They didn’t know how many or exactly where, but it was one of my main arteries. So, they loaded me into an ambulance that rode like a log wagon and hauled me to York Hospital. They took me to a room they had ready for me and started taking vitals and blood and everything I was getting so used to.

The next morning I was taken to the cath lab and prepped for the procedure. They took me in and transferred me to a big table with huge monitors above it and positioned me for the procedure. They said that I would soon be going to sleep and they were right, the lights went out. When I awoke on the table, I was amazed at how well I could breathe; and for going through the procedure, I thought “Wow, I feel peppy.” I was taken to the recovery room and had to wait until my blood was right to clot before they could remove the plug in my artery and put pressure on the cut to start the clotting procedure. When the nurses were done, I was taken back to my room for the rest of my recovery. The cardiologist came in and said I was very lucky to have gotten there when I did, because my right side main artery was 99 percent blocked, and they put some kind of special stent in.

The doctor came in when he was discharging me and looked me in the eyes and said, “If you don’t take your medicine as directed and don’t stay on your diet, the next time I see you, it won’t be for a stent or a heart attack, it will be me saying goodbye.” That scared me, and I think I will listen to what he said for the rest of my life.

I want to thank the staff at Gettysburg Hospital and York Hospital for all the professional service and all the kindness and gentleness they gave me for my entire stay.

I am so thankful for my professional internist, Dr. Ronald Krablin, who saved my life by having the skills to know I needed help and for talking me into following through.

I am planning to have a very good column next month and will be ready to hit the ground running.

God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the American Veterans, God Bless Family and Friends, and God Bless You.

F_X_Eby Jim Houck, Jr.

Note: This is the story titled “History of the Francis X. Elder Post, No. 121 American Legion From its Beginning,” as written by “Abigail,” a writer for the Emmitsburg Chronicle. The article was published in the Emmitsburg Chronicle in 1940.

Original Post Founded In 1920. Present One Originated in 1936. Lester J. Damuth and Charles J. Rowe Instumental In Its Formation.

By Abigail

An American Legion Post was organized here in 1920 for the first time and was named Francis X. Elder Post No. 75. The original Post was the nucleus of American Legion activities in the community and undoubtedly served as an incentive to augment the membership and the splendid spirit that is a part of the present Post.

It was not until March 12, 1936 that the present Francis X. Elder Post, No. 121, Department of Maryland, was organized by Mr. Lester J. Damuth and his committee. State Commander Charles S. Houck, of Walkersville, addressed the veterans and assisted in the organization of the new Post. Those veterans who were members of the organization at that time follow; John H. Rosensteel Jr., C. C. Combs, Charles J. Rowe, Louis H. Stoner, Clarence Baumgardner, Gerald N. Ryder, Lester J. Damuth, Maurice H. Moser, Clarence G. Fraley,  James M. Alvey, J. Ward Kerrigan, George Wagerman, Raymond Baumgardner, Guy C. Angell and J. Ralph Angell.

It was agreed to name the Post the Francis X. Elder Post in honor of the first Emmitsburg boy to enlist and the first to be killed in action. Francis X. Elder, son of the late Mr.  and Mrs. James B. Elder, was born in Emmitsburg on June 30, 1893. He inlisted in the service of his country on May 9, 1917. He was in France from June 15, 1918 until death. He was killed in action on October 11, 1918. Others killed in action were Captain Henry higbee Worthington and Martin Hahn. Killed by accident was first lieutenant john Reading Schley. Died of disease, Charles Francis Gelwicks, Francis Edward Rowe. Robert Bruce Reifsnider, Arthur Bentzel and Vernon Ross Ohler.

The following Officers were elected for the year of 1936-1937; Post Commander, Lester J. Damuth; Post Adjutant, Charles J. Rowe; Vice Commander, Maurice H. Moser; Finance Officer, Louis H, Stoner; Historian, C.C. Combs; Sergeant -at-Arms, George Wagerman; Chaplain (Temporary), Reverend Father Francis Dodd; Membership Chairman, Clarence G. Frailey; Grave Registration Chairman, Gerald N. Ryder; Service Officer, Charles J. Rowe; and Child Welfare Chairman, Clarence Baumgardner. The Executive Committee was composed of John H. Rosensteel Jr., Clarence Baumgardner and James M. Alvey, and was asked by the Post Commander to draw up the by-laws of the newly formed Post.

During the year, the Post took an active part in flood relief by sending food, clothing and money to the relief committee of the Francis Scott Key Post in Frederick. They were one of the first Post to receive the “Community Service Citation”.

All veteran’s graves were marked and registered this year. In November the by-laws submitted by the above named executive committee were unanimously approved. The Armistice Day Services were held on November 8 in Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, Rev. Francis Dodd, Post Chaplain was in charge of services.

A military funeral was conducted for John S. Hobbs, a World War veteran, at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in December of that year.

In February 1937 the Post donated $47.00 for flood relief in the Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio River section. The money was sent to the Red Cross. Again the Post received the “Community Service Citation”.

In March 1937 the local Legion Post celebrated its first anniversary in the Fireman’s Hall with a banquet and dance at which 135 Legionnaires and their guests were present. The Colors of the Legion were presented to the local Post by Bryon Hobbs, Department Commander. At the same time C.L. Shrine, Vice Commander of the Western Maryland District and Morris Frock, Post 42 of Hagerstown, presented the charter and citation. Among the notables present were; Major Elmer J. Munshower, Superintendent of Maryland State Police; Rev.John L. Sheridan, President of Mt. Saint Mary’s College; Rev. William J. Groeninger, Pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church; Rev. E.L. Higbee, Pastor of the Reformed Church of the Incarnation; Rev. Phillip Bower, Pastor of the Elias Lutheran Church; Rev. Francis Dodd, Chaplain of the local Post; Miss Louise Sebold, President of St. Joseph’s College Alumnae; and Mr. John D. Elder, brother of Francis X. Elder and Editor of this paper.

In May of 1937 the Post sponsored the Walk-a-Show, on Decoration Day the services were held in the Methodist Episcopal Church at 3 pm; Rev. Raymond E. Cook, Department Chaplain, delivered the sermon. Charles J. Rowe, Post Adjutant introduced the speakers after a brief talk and introductory remarks.

In July the following Officers were elected for the year 1938; Post Commander, Maurice Moser; Vice Commander, C.C. Combs; Adjutant, C.J. Rowe; Finance Officer, Louis H. Stoner; Sergeant-at-Arms, John Walter; Historian, William S. Sterbinsky; Chaplain, Rev. Francis J. Dodd; Raymond Baumgardner was named to the Executive Committee. A committee of two was named to investigate insurance for the colors, Charles J. Rowe and James Alvey.

In September Adjutant Charles J. Rowe announced that the Mayor and Commissioners granted the Post permission to take over the Doughboy War Memorial. The Armistice Day services were held in the Reformed Church of Incarnation and the Pastor, the Rev. E.L. Higbee, delivered a very eloquent address for the occasion. About 30 members were present.

In January 1938 the Posttook action to reduce hazards to motorists on Tollgate Hill. On January 19, the Legion turned out for the funeral of Mrs. James B. Elder, mother of Francis X. Elder, for whom the Post was named. in March of 1938 about 75 Legionnaires, Ladies of the Auxiliary and friends attended the second annual banquet of the Post held in Hotel Slage. Post Adjutant, Charles J. Rowe, presented two rifles to the Post, purchased by his mother, in memory of her son, Francis Edward Rowe, who died at a Naval Training Station during the war.

The memorial services in this year were held at the Presbyterian Church, with the Pastor, Rev. Irwin N. Morris, delivering the impressive sermon. In June the following Officers were elected for 1939; Commander, C.C. Combs; Vice Commander, Raymond Baumgardner; Adjutant, J.E. Prendergast; Chaplain, Rev. Francis Dodd; Historian, William S. Sterbinsky; Treasurer, Dr. O.H. Stinson; Finance Officer, Charles D. Gillelan. Charles J. Rowe and James Alvey were appointed as delegates to the State convention with C.C. Combs and Allen Rosensteel named as alternates.

In August the newly-elected Officers were installed by the State Commander, Bruce Blair. A bugle was accepted as a gift from Mr. Ralph S. Sperry. In September the Post was honored in having one of its members elected as one of the State’s Vice Commanders. This outstanding Legionnaire was Charles J.Rowe. The Armistice Day services were held at Elias Lutheran Church. The Pastor Rev. Phillip Bower, gave a very appropriate and impressive address. In the afternoon the Armistice Day Parade was held with the following

Posts represented; Drum Corps of the Francis Scott Key Post No. 11, Frederick, members of the same Post with the Forty and Eight; Members of the Morris Frock Post, Hagerstown; Carroll Post, No. 31, Westminster; Hesson-Snyder Post, No 131, Taneytown; Drum and Bugle Corps of Albert J. Lentz Post, No. 202, of Gettysburg; and the colored Post of Frederick of Frederick with its band. Immediately following the parade all assembled on the local Community Athletic Field where the Hon. Judge J. Fred Johnson, of Washington gave the principle address. State Commander Herbert L. Rhodes, and past State Commander Bruce Blair, both spoke briefly. There was singing by the entire assembly led by Post Historian, William S. Sterbinsky, accompanied by the Fairfield High Band.

On November 20 the Post attended the funeral of Mrs. Edward H. Rowe, the mother of the Vice Commander, Charles J. Rowe, which was held from her home.

On March 23, 1939, the Post celebrated its third anniversary in the Green Parrot Tea Room with about sixty guest present. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Frailey was the principal speaker and District Vice Commander, Charles J. Rowe, disclosed some interesting information concerning the local Post.

Memorial services were held this year at the United Brethren Church, in Thurmont. The Rev. Ivan Naugle, a recent member, and the Pastor, was in charge of the services. At a meeting held on September 4 the following Officers were elected for the ensuing year of 1940; Commander, Raymond Baumgardner; Vice Commander, L. Mackley; Adjutant, J.E. Prendergast; Treasurer, Lesley Fox; Historian, Allen Rosensteel; Sergeant-at-Arms, Henry Warthen. The new committees were appointed by the Commander.

The Charter Members of the Post follow; James Alvey, Guy Angell, Ralph Angell, Morris Barrick, Clarence Baumgardner, Raymond Baumgardner, C.C. Combs, Lester Damuth, Francis J. Dodd, Lesley Fox, Clarence G. Frailey, William Frailey, Edgar Freeze, David Gall, Vincent Hartdagen, J. Winfield Houser, Luther Kelly, Harry Knight, Arthur Malloy, William Miller, Maurice Moser, Allen Rosensteel, John H. Rosensteel Jr., Charles J. Rowe, Gerald N. Ryder, Arthur Starner, William Sterbinsky, Dr. O.H. Stinson, Louis Stoner, Harry Valentine, Robert Valentine, George Wagerman, John Walter and Curtis Weddle.

The deceased members of the Post are John H. Rosensteel Jr. and Robert Valentine.

The present total membership is sixty-one.


I would like to share with you the last words written by Francis X. Elder in a letter to his mother from the front line in France.

                                                         Dearest Mama,

As I am about to enter the big fight for Democracy it is my desire now, whilst I have the opportunity to pencil you a few lines briefly, and bid you, Papa and all, a sincere farewell and may our dear and most precious God always protect you in this life, and knowing this, I will die cheerfully for a good cause, if it to be his holy will, otherwise it will be the happiest moment of my life when I can once more kiss those motherly lips. If the worst happens to me, take the news, courageously be brave!, as I am going to try and be. If I come through O.K. I will write at once and let you know.

Hoping for the best and trusting I will see you all on earth, or that we will meet in Heaven, I am your most affectioate and loving son.”

                                                                                                                                  Farewell,                                                                                                           Priv. Francis X. Elder


Happy Birthday, Francis X. Elder American Legion Post 121.

God Bless America, God Bless our American Veterans, and God Bless You.

by James Rada, Jr.

Emmitsburg Waits Seventy-three Years for a New Post Office

The effort for Emmitsburg to get its current post office took nearly thirty years. At that point, the people who had started the push had passed on.

Many long-time residents of Emmitsburg will remember the post office when it was located on the southwest corner of the square. The building served as the post office from 1893 to 1966, according to The Gettysburg Times.

In the beginning, the building remained a private home and the U. S. Post Office Department paid rent for the front room of the home. As the town grew, so did the business in the post office.

A group of people in town decided in late 1937 that the volume of business handled by the post office warranted a government-owned building like many other communities were getting.

When U.S. Senator Millard Tydings was approached about the possibility of getting a new post office for the town, he said that he couldn’t back anything unless there was a petition and request sent to the Post Office Department.

A group of citizens, with the backing of the Emmitsburg Burgess and Town Council, circulated a petition and quickly collected 170 signatures.

“It is understood that merchants and other business men of Emmitsburg are sending in separate letters to the Post Office Department urging the claims of the town to this building,” the Catoctin Clarion noted.

The petition noted that Emmitsburg was the third-largest municipality in the county (behind Frederick and Brunswick), and that the current post office served an estimated 3,400 people. This included town residents, people living out of town who used the post office, and students at St. Joseph College and St. Mary’s College.

The petition also pointed out that from 1934 to 1936, stamp sales had exceed $10,000 (a first-class stamp cost three cents at the time). Stamps sales for 1937 were also expected to exceed $10,000.

“For the investment of a modest sum the government could own its own property in Emmitsburg and provide its patrons with far more satisfactory accommodations in the way of a modern and up-to-date post office,” the petition noted.

The petition was submitted at the end of 1937, and hearings were held in Washington, D.C. the following June. A number of town officials and businessmen traveled to the city to testify for a post office.

Nothing happened. The project wasn’t approved.

The Emmitsburg Post Office continued to operate out of the building on the square, although it did take over more space.

It wasn’t until 1964 that a new post office was approved for the town. Even that project experienced some delays, but construction on the $50,000 building began in November 1965, and the new building opened in June 1966, at its current location on South Seton Avenue.

The Frederick News noted that the new building had 2,806 square feet of interior space, compared to 1,113 square feet in the building on the square.

Even though the federal money built the building, it had to remain in private hands because of various regulations. The Postal Service could only buy capital equipment for the building, not the building itself. The Postal Service still had to pay rent for its new space to a private owner.

However, Emmitsburg finally had its new post office.

Guardian Hose Company Makes a lot of Noise

by James Rada, Jr.

From November 16 to November 21, 1953, the fire sirens went off a lot more often than usual around Thurmont, and people took particular note of where they were when they heard the sirens.

It wasn’t that there was a rash of fires in Thurmont. Guardian Hose Company just wanted to see which of the two sirens they had could be heard the furthest away from town.

The officers of the Guardian Hose Company had asked that citizens listen for the sirens and call in their location to the company.

“So that they will be able to make the comparison, the firemen announce that the old siren will be sounded first with three blasts, and then the new siren will be sounded with three blasts,” the Catoctin Enterprise reported.

The fire company had installed the new siren in October of 1953 but hadn’t taken time to test it against their old siren. The test was to sound each siren at noon during the test week and see which one could be heard furthest away.

Since the siren alerted the firefighters that they needed to report to the station, the further away it could be heard, the more firefighters could potentially hear it.

In December, “D. Sayler Weybright reported that the new siren given to the company by Civil Defense officials was the loudest and could be heard the furthest, will be used at all times,” according to the newspaper.

The new siren was used in the relatively new Guardian Hose Company fire station. Guardian Hose Company had the old town hall on North Church Street razed in 1950. Then a new building was constructed on the site that was large enough for four firefighting vehicles, a meeting room, a furnace room, and a storage area. The cost at the time for the new station was $38,000 (about $375,000 today). It was funded through bonds from the Thurmont Bank.

The cornerstone for the building was laid on July 4, 1950. It was a big event in Thurmont that drew a large crowd.

Even with a loud siren, someone still needed to sound it. That job usually fell to one of the firefighters who worked closest to the station. When Wayne Stackhouse joined Guardian Hose Company in 1969, that job fell to the chief.

“The chief was a local barber named Harry Miller,” Stackhouse said in an interview last year. “The call would come into his shop, which was close to that station. He’d come in and set off the siren.”

Guardian is still protecting the community from its station on North Church Street, though it has been redone to fit more equipment that is larger. It also has more space for the firefighters. When there’s a fire, a lot of calls go out to pagers and cell phones and the siren still sounds.

GHC article by Jim

Photo Courtesy of Guardian Hose Company

Photo is the old Guardian Hose Company

James Rada, Jr.

museumAs the Confederate Army retreated from Gettysburg on July 4, 1863, they encountered Union troops in the area of Blue Ridge Summit. A two-day battle ensued in the middle of a thunderstorm that eventually spilled over the Mason-Dixon Line into Maryland.

“It is the only battle fought on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line,” said John Miller, Director of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Museum in Blue Ridge Summit.

While lots of books, movies, and stories have focused on the importance of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, little light has been shed on how the Confederate Army made its retreat south from the battlefield through enemy troops with weary men. The Battle of Monterey Pass involved about 4,500 men with 1,300 of them winding up as Union prisoners and 43 soldiers being killed, wounded, or missing. Major Charles K. Capehart of the 1st West Virginia also earned his Medal of Honor during the battle.

Through the efforts of Miller and other volunteers and supporters, Blue Ridge Summit has a small museum and a growing area of protected land dedicated to educating the public about the battlefield.

The museum opened last October on 1.25 acres along Route 16 in Blue Ridge Summit. The Monterey Pass Battlefield Museum displays a collection of artifacts related to the Battle of Monterey Pass. It has galleries that look at different aspects of the battle, such as the overall Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania and Washington Township at the time of the battle. Outside the museum is a marker erected by the State of Michigan commemorating the participation of Michigan troops in the battle.

“It is one of only five such markers outside of the state of Michigan,” Miller said.

Most of the uniforms, weapons, pictures, and other artifacts were donated to the museum, and the attractive building was built through the hard work of volunteers.

“The purpose of the museum is to educate people about the battle,” Miller said, “but it also can set a standard for other community organizations along the retreat route that want to see how they can do it.”

Places like Hagerstown and Falling Waters are among the towns looking at doing something similar in their communities.

Although the museum wasn’t open in time to catch a lot of the tourist traffic in 2014, more than 300 did visit.

“It’s been slow at first, but the number of visitors will grow as more people learn about it,” said Miller.

The Friends of Monterey Pass have been working with tourism councils in the surrounding counties to tie the museum into the counties’ Civil War tourism plans.

When it reopens in April, the Friends of Monterey Pass hope to add 116 acres of land over which the battle was fought to the museum. Miller said that before the museum reopens for 2015, he hopes to have some additional displays in the museum as well as some interpretive panels for a driving tour of the new piece of land.

Monterey Pass Battlefield Park is located at 14325 Buchanan Trail East, Waynesboro, PA 17268. For more information, visit their website at

by James Rada, Jr.

— 1938 —

The End of a Generation in Thurmont

When Thomas H. Shelton died on February 19, 1938, Frederick County lost its last Veteran of the Civil War, seventy-three years after the war ended.

Shelton died at the home of his daughter-in-law, Stella Shelton, who lived near Rocky Ridge. The ninety-seven-year-old had been healthy at the start of the month, but then his health had quickly turned, and he had been sick for about a week prior to his death.

As a young man of eighteen, Shelton had served in Company I of the 1st Maryland Regiment. He had missed fighting at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, because he had been taken as a prisoner of war at Harpers Ferry the day before.

Eventually he was paroled, and he returned to his company and was with them when they fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. His company did not fight in the other nearby battle at Monocacy in 1864.

When the war ended and his regiment was discharged, Shelton re-enlisted with the 13th Regiment.

Shelton was buried with full military honors in the Garfield Mt. Bethel United Methodist Cemetery. He had outlived all of his children, but he was survived by nine grandchildren, twenty-seven great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.

Frederick County had lost its last two Civil War Veterans within four months of each other.

Although Shelton hadn’t been a native Frederick Countian, Henry Clay Fleagle of Thurmont had been. He had been the second-to-last Civil War Veteran in the county, and the last one who had lived his life here.

Fleagle died in November 1937 at age ninety-four. He was a first-generation American whose parents had been born in Holland.

He had been born in Unionville and served in the Civil War under Capt. Walter Saunders.

“He served for nearly the entire four-year duration of the war, charging with the line of blue at Gettysburg,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The end had been a relief for Fleagle. The Frederick News reported that he had been only partially conscious the week before his death at the home of his son, George Fleagle.

Henry’s wife, Lillie Creager, had died two years earlier. He was survived by one daughter, who was married to Wilbur Freeze, four sons, nineteen grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren.

Henry was also the last member of the Jason Damuth Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Thurmont.

It would still be nearly two decades before the last Civil War Veteran died. The final Veterans of the Confederate States armed forces died in the 1950s. A number of men claimed to be last remaining Confederate Veteran. These men died throughout the 1950s. Many of their claims were debunked as more information about their births was uncovered. The largest problem in verifying their claims was that many Confederate records had been destroyed or lost, because the Confederate government had no official archive system.

Pleasant Crump of Alabama died at the end of 1951 at the age of 104. He was the oldest of the group of Confederate Veterans who had a verified service record.

The last Union Veteran was Albert Woolson, who died in 1956 at the age of 109.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, following Woolson’s death, “The American people have lost the last personal link with the Union Army … His passing brings sorrow to the hearts of all of us who cherished the memory of the brave men on both sides of the War Between the States.”


Photo is from 1916 and shows a group of Civil War Veterans posing in front of the grocery store that stood on North Church Street. This building was located in the now-vacant lot next to the Historical Society building.


Veterans Gathering 1916

A view of Veterans standing in front of the old town hall.

Photos Courtesy of

Dennis E. Black

The weather forecast for Sunday, November 9, 2014, called for a splendid day for anyone wanting to venture out on an antiquing trip. My friend, Larry Hauver, asked me to consider going along with him that day to the first York Antique Bottle Show. I was reluctant to go, with so many things that needed to be done, but he talked me into it—as he usually does. I’m thankful that he did.

There were a fair number of dealers at the York show, with the usual assortment of collectibles being offered for sale, in addition to bottles.  About an hour into the show, I happened to be checking out the display of a bottle dealer (Tom Gordon) from Manchester, Maryland, when I noticed a potential buyer beside me, holding a small Bible that the dealer had for sale. During the conversation between the two, I heard the dealer explain that the Bible belonged to a Frederick County, Maryland, Civil War soldier. That piqued my interest.

After the potential buyer returned the Bible to the dealer’s display case and walked away, I picked up the book and noticed the following inscription on the inside cover:  M.L. Brown, Co D, 6th Regt Md. V.I.   Now I am really curious!  Company D, 6th Regiment, of the Maryland Volunteer Infantry consisted of a group of 112 young Frederick County men, including those from the Hauvers and Mechanicstown Districts (Foxville, Wolfsville, Sabillasville, and Thurmont), who fought in the Union Army during the Civil War. (Ref. History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers – War of 1861-1865.)  My great-grandfather Josiah Edward Wilhide (1844-1915) was a member of Company D.  In addition to being wounded in battle at Winchester, Virginia, he was captured and held as a prisoner at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia.

While I examined the small 1863 Bible, the dealer further explained that his research confirmed the existence of a soldier in Company D named “M. L. Brown” from the Foxville area. He had acquired the book online, which had ended up in Indiana. Could this well-worn Bible, most likely carried by this soldier during the Civil War, have belonged to a relative of my brother-in-law, Ed Hatter?  Ed’s mother and John Brown (Brown’s Jewelry & Gift Shop in Thurmont) are both descendants of the Brown family from the Foxville area. I had to get home and further research this with Ed.

Some things simply can’t be explained. After further research that evening, Ed confirmed with much excitement that the Bible belonged to his great-grandfather, Martin Luther Brown (1836-1898), who had, in fact, served in Company D and was wounded in battle at Cold Harbor, Virginia. Two days after the York Antique Bottle Show, which coincidentally turned out to be Veterans Day, Ed was able to acquire the Bible. The incredible luck of standing in the right place at the right time at a small antique bottle show resulted in a local Civil War soldier’s Bible being returned to his family for safe-keeping—over one hundred years later. What are the odds?

by James Rada, Jr.

How a Goldfish Stand Became the Center of the Free World One Afternoon During WWII

In the midst of WWII, all two of the world’s most-powerful leaders could talk about one Sunday afternoon in 1942 was goldfish.

About eighty percent of the goldfish sold in the United States came from farms in Frederick County, Maryland, in the early decades of the 20th century. Many of those goldfish farms were near Thurmont.

One of those goldfish farming operations was Hunting Creek Fisheries. Frederick Tresselt started the business in 1923. Tresselt was a graduate of Cornell and had worked at the state trout hatchery in Hackettstown, New Jersey.

“In driving around the county with a friend in 1922, Dad was amazed to see all the goldfish ponds in the area,” Ernest Tresselt once said in an interview.

Other Frederick County goldfish farmers included George English, Frank Rice, Earl Rice, Maurice Albaugh, M.H. Hoke, Ross Firor, Sam Eaton, David and Adam Zentz, Walter Rice, Joseph Weller, Richard Kefauver, and Martin Kefauver.

“Every farm that could had fish ponds,” Ernest Tresselt said. “It was a cash crop for them.”

On weekends, Frederick Tresselt ran a retail store next to the main north-south road through the county. According to Ernest, the store had a large pond with a Hunting Creek Fisheries sign in the middle of it. Above the name was a large fantail goldfish painted in bright orange. The area was nicely landscaped with water lilies, shrubs, and bamboo. It was an attractive location and an eye-catching sign, so eye-catching that one Sunday afternoon in 1942, three large black cars pulled off the road and stopped.

A military man stepped out of the car, and Frederick recognized him as General George Marshall, President Franklin Roosevelt’s chief of staff.

“Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt and I are interested in seeing your operation here,” Marshall said, according to Ernest.

Frederick agreed, and the drivers pulled the cars in closer to the fish house, the storage building with concrete pools and wire vats.

“President Roosevelt looked in the door, but he didn’t come in, since he was handicapped and couldn’t get out of the car,” Ernest Tresselt wrote in his autobiography.

However, Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain, got out of the car and walked into the fish house with Frederick. They began talking about Tresselt’s unique crop. Churchill showed an interest in the golden orfe, which were fifteen to eighteen inches long. Churchill said he had even bigger ones in his pond in England. Tresselt told the prime minister that he, too, had larger fish in his ponds on Hunting Creek Fisheries.

As the cars with Roosevelt and Churchill departed, a Secret Service agent told Frederick not to tell anyone about the visit.

“This made no sense to Dad because there were already at least a hundred local people out there taking it all in. But Dad didn’t tell anybody, not even us kids,” Ernest said. He found out at school the next day, when everyone but Ernest seemed to know about the visit of the two world leaders.

Ernest said that National Geographic Magazine looked into the story when they did an article about goldfish in the 1970s. The researchers could find nothing that definitely said the world leaders had stopped at the goldfish stand, but they did acknowledge Churchill had been in the United States at the time and visiting the Presidential retreat at Shangri-La, which was located in the Catoctin Mountains near Thurmont.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill are shown fishing at Shangri-La.

Photo Courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum

1280px-Approaching_OmahaDonald Lewis stood crammed among a group of friends and fellow soldiers, trying not to lose his balance. The landing craft they were on was pushing toward its destination on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France. A strong current threatened to pull them away from their destination.

Lewis was a long way from his hometown of Thurmont, but he, along with millions of other young men, had been drafted to serve in the armed forces during World War II. Though he had entered the army as a private, he had risen to the rank of staff sergeant.

Lewis stood at the front of the landing craft hanging onto the edge of the wall. Around him, he could hear the explosion of artillery and see the explosions on the water and beach. Things seemed a mass of confusion, but it was all part of the largest seaborne invasion ever undertaken: the coordinated D-Day attack on German forces at Normandy, France. The invasion involved 156,000 Allied troops. Amphibious landings along fifty miles of the Normandy Coast were supported by naval and air assaults.

Lewis’ job in the invasion seemed simple. He was to go ashore first and mark safe paths across the irrigation ditches that crossed the beach.

However, the landing craft couldn’t make it to the beach. It grounded on a sandbar.

Lewis and the other men were still expected to take the beach, though. The front ramp of the landing craft was lowered and Lewis ran into the water. He suddenly found himself in water over his head, weighed down by a heavy backpack.

“I just had to hold my breath and walk part of the way underwater until my head was above water,” Lewis said. Though amazingly he was not wounded during that invasion, he was later wounded in the leg during an artillery barrage. His wound was near his groin, barely missing his groin. Lewis remembers laying in a hospital in England waiting to be taken into surgery.

“A big, ol’ English nurse comes walking up and she pulls back the sheet and looks at the wound,” recalls Lewis. “Then she says to me, ‘Almost got your pride and joy, didn’t they?’”

Another time, Lewis barely escaped being killed. He and other soldiers were up in trees along a road, waiting to ambush the Germans. However, the Germans were being careful that day.

“A sniper must have spotted me up there,” Lewis said. “I knew he hit my helmet. I started down that tree as fast as I could, grabbing limbs and dropping.”

When he got to the ground, he took off his helmet and saw that there was a hole through the front of it and a matching one through the back of it. Only the fact that his helmet had been sitting high on his head saved his life.

“People wondered why I didn’t bring the helmet home as a souvenir, but I didn’t want anything to do with it,” said Lewis.

Perhaps his most-pleasant memory from the war was when he was discharged from the Army. He was in line with other soldiers being discharged after the end of the war. The soldier at the front of the line would walk up to the officer at the front of the room, receive his discharge papers, salute, and walk away.

“When I got my papers, I let out a war whoop and woke that place up,” Lewis said.

Once back in Thurmont, Lewis went to work on the family farm. He met his wife, Freda, who was a farm girl, also from Thurmont, and they married in a double ceremony with a couple they were friends with.

Donald LewisLewis also had a political career. He served two terms as Mayor of Thurmont and one term as a Frederick County Commissioner. He said a group of people tried to talk him into running for governor, but he turned them down, saying, “I’m too honest for that.”

Lewis and his wife ran a sporting goods store and greeting card store on the Thurmont square for many years. He is now ninety-six years old and still living on his own. “I want to live to be one hundred,” he said. “After that, I’ll take what I can get.”

Veterans Day is on November 11. Make sure to thank any Veterans you know for their service, and attend one of the special Veterans Day activities going on in the area.

The Germans started firing on the beach and the landing craft. Lewis focused on his job and began marking the paths where troops could cross.

“When I looked back, men were laying everywhere,” Lewis said. “Just about everyone on the boat was dead.”

After the war, when he was invited back to Normandy for the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Lewis always turned down the invitations. Now ninety-six years old, he has never returned to Omaha Beach.

“I’ve seen all I wanted to,” he said.

Mount St. Mary’s and the Civil War

by James Rada, Jr.

Looking Back COLUMN photoIn the years leading up to the Civil War, Mount St. Mary’s enjoyed prosperity. The college celebrated its golden anniversary in 1858, and student enrollment was around 200 young men and growing.

“The Mount was thriving, as was most of the South thriving before the Civil War,” Father Michael Roach, instructor of church history at the Mount, said on the DVD “Mount St. Mary’s University: The Spirit Continues…”

This changed with the outbreak of war in 1860; the school began to lose students and faculty who were sympathetic to the southern cause. More than half of the students prior to the war came from the South. Not all of them headed home, and the school wound up supporting them because funds from the students’ parents could not make it north.

The college expenses increased while income fell off. During the 1859-1860 school year, Mount St. Mary’s had 173 students, not including the seminarians; two years later, the enrollment had fallen to 67 students, its lowest number in fifty years.

The remaining students and faculty began to take sides in the conflict, either pro-Union or pro-Confederacy. While this created some tension on campus, it never became open hostility. The consensus opinion seems to be that a majority of the campus supported the Southern cause.

“[President John] McCaffrey eventually, and some of professors, were monitored, observed, by President Lincoln’s loyalty police. These were men appointed all over the country to keep an eye on folks who might be or were suspected of being Confederate sympathizers,” Steve Whitman, associate professor of history at the Mount, said on the DVD “Mount St. Mary’s University: The Spirit Continues…”

Though Confederate in his sympathies, McCaffrey was not hostile to the Union. A Pennsylvania officer wrote, “Two miles from Emmitsburg, we passed Mount Saint Mary’s, and taking advantage of a moment’s halt, a party of three or four rode up to the main entrance…We were cordially received by the president and with characteristic hospitality a collation was in preparation for us.”

In the fall of 1862, the sounds of battle during the Battle of South Mountain could be heard at the college.

“As we were going up to Mass to the old church on the hill, and as we were returning from Mass, we could hear the firing distinctly. Yet, recreation went on the terraces and the ordinary routine of college life was followed, as if nothing unusual was happening,” Monsignor James T. Dunn, an 1863 Mount graduate, wrote after the war.

After the battle of Antietam in September 1862, six of the seven seniors remaining in the school slipped away to visit the battlefield, leaving only a note for McCaffrey that read: “Dear Doctor McCaffrey: We are very sorry for what we are going to do but we cannot help it. Please do not be worried about us: we will be back surely on Friday evening. Yours truly. Class of ‘63.”

This wasn’t the first time boys had left the campus without permission to see a battle or soldiers. McCaffrey decided to put an end to it. When the boys returned three days later, McCaffrey expelled them. However, within a month, he changed his mind and reinstated them.

Small Confederate raids occurred around the college and “Vice-President, Rev. John McCloskey, an excellent horseman and a notable figure on horseback, rode for quite a distance alongside the commander, General J. E. B. Stuart,” according to Dunn.

The next big event for the college was in 1863, as troops entered the area on their way to Gettysburg. “Many of us sat on the fences along the road watching and listening to their sayings. We naturally looked upon the men as sheep led to the slaughter, and we were not a little surprised when we overheard two of them closing a bargain on horseback with the remark: ‘Well, I will settle with you for this after the battle. Will that suit you?’ The other party readily assented. The whole period of life is treated as a certainty, even by men going into battle,” Dunn wrote.

He wrote that his commencement was held about a week earlier than planned “on account of the threatening appearance of everything without, and so that the students might safely reach their homes.”

Mount President John McCaffrey was known for his Confederate sympathies and refused to let the U.S. flag fly. “When Lincoln was shot, Federal orders were issued ‘for every house to display some sign of mourning. An officer visited the college, but there was no sign visible,’ until Dr. McCaffrey produced ‘a small piece of crape’ on a door which had been opened back so that it would not be visible until disclosed,” according to the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

In the spring of 1863, Mount student Maurice Burn was arrested by Union soldiers for sedition. Burn, who was from Louisiana, had written his father and expressed his Southern sympathies. Burn was jailed when he refused to sign an oath of loyalty to the Union. McCaffrey wrote Lincoln pleading Burn’s case, and the youth was released to McCaffrey’s custody.

In all, three students were killed during the war, according to “Mount St. Mary’s University: The Spirit Continues…” One of these young men was Maurice Burn, who had been arrested and paroled for sedition. Those young men were buried at the college cemetery on the mountain.

by Valerie Nusbaum

The First Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year when we all start making plans for the holidays.   We have to decide who’s going to prepare and host Thanksgiving dinner, and what the menu will be. There’s usually a lot of stress and some squabbling involved, and sometimes even the guest list is an issue. This got me thinking about what the very first Thanksgiving celebration must have been like.  I shudder to imagine how much thought and preparation went into that dinner.


…traveling back to 1621

It was autumn in 1621.  The Pilgrims had arrived in Plimoth (Plymouth) the previous year on The Mayflower, and they had been busy making a new home for themselves.  There were seven newly-constructed houses and a meeting hall, along with several storage buildings for food. The harvest was in and it was bountiful. At least one-third of the settlers, a Puritan sect, had left England to seek freedom from religious persecution, so it was thought that a time of prayer and feasting was in order. Cable hadn’t been installed in the colony yet.  Comcast has always been slow.  If you can’t watch football on Thanksgiving, you might as well eat, right?

Captain Miles Standish called Governor William Bradford to suggest that members of the Wampanoag tribe be invited to join the feasting. The colonists understood that their survival was largely due to help received from the Wampanoags, and the tribe had the only football. If they couldn’t watch football, at least they could play. Of course, there’s that whole thing about what the English call “football,” but beggars can’t be choosers.

The women, led by Priscilla Alden, gathered to discuss the menu and plan the day’s activities. Since the Wampanoag tribe would be traveling from many miles away, lodging would need to be arranged.  The colonists had only managed to build seven houses in ten months, and there were at least ten people living in each house. So it was decided that after the tribe walked for two days from their village, they could build their own shelters. Did I mention that the natives had the only tools? None of the colonists had thought to bring a hammer from England, and the Home Depot was just too far away.

Mrs. Alden, who was a sultry redhead not unlike Peggy Stitely, was none too happy about being saddled with entertaining so many people. She had relatives already staying in her home—some of them in-laws—and she and John were newlyweds. When John had informed Priscilla that she would be doing Thanksgiving dinner for several hundred people, her reaction was much as yours or mine would be.

“Thou wants me to do what?” she exclaimed.  “Art thou crazy?  What is WRONG with thee?”

But, after promising her that he’d go to Jared, John managed to convince Priscilla that she was the right woman for the job.

The ladies decided that they would serve roasted ducks and geese, and they promptly dispatched a hunting party to the forest to shoot the fowl. Another party was dispatched to go to the Wampanoag village and beg them to bring along some venison, because the women all doubted that their husbands would do much more than drink ale and lie about the one that got away. It is doubtful that turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving, although at that time the term “turkey” referred to any kind of wild fowl or several of the husbands.

There wasn’t any flour for bread, so corn would be ground into samp, or porridge, for some carbs.  It would be fried and on a stick because that’s where that whole concept began. There would be seafood, cabbage, onions, more corn, and squash. Games would be played, and there would be singing, dancing, and prayers. It was expected that the feasting would go on for several days, or until fighting broke out, as is the case with most Thanksgiving celebrations. Someone would have to travel to Walmart to lay in a supply of Beano and Tums.

The Wampanoag tribe arrived several days later, led by Massasoit (Great Leader). They quickly set up their tents, and proudly presented the Pilgrims with several fresh deer carcasses. The Pilgrim women grumbled about having to cook more food. Priscilla, who sounded exactly like Joanna Lumley from Absolutely Fabulous, went so far as to ask Massasoit if he had remembered the charcoal. He smiled and nodded his head, because he thought all the English sounded like their mouths were full of marbles.

A lot of head nodding, smiling, and hand gestures were seen around the table that day. There was the traditional loosening of breeches and loincloths, which presented some problems for the game of touch football that followed the meal. Mrs. Alden and the other ladies particularly enjoyed watching a young warrior called Chippendale, but that’s a story for another day.

Interestingly, there was no Thanksgiving feast the following year.

Bill Blakeslee, who happens to be a very good cook, told me that he plans to invite nearly half of Thurmont to his home for dinner on Thanksgiving. If you haven’t gotten your invitation yet, be sure to remind Bill about it.

The People in My Life for Whom I am Most Thankful

by Jim Houck, Jr.

I have many people in my daily life at this time for which I am very thankful. I would like to start out by thanking my wonderful family. I thank my mother, Mary Jean Wantz Houck, for giving me life and guiding me through my informative years. I thank my sister Connie and my brothers, Bob, Tom, and Marc for helping to keep my youth exciting and adventurous. I am very thankful for them today, because if I need them, I know that all I have to do is contact them and they will be there. I am thankful for my wonderful wife, Joan Wormley Houck, for putting up with my weirdness for… let’s see, November 7, 2014, will be fifty years of marriage and two years of courtship—wow, that’s fifty-two years! I am thankful for my beautiful and talented daughter, Missy Houck Saylor, and my workaholic son, Jim Houck III, for making me so proud through the years. I am thankful for my six grandchildren and my thirteen great-grandchildren, and regret not seeing them as much as I would like. I love my family and thank God for them every day, and pray for Him to watch over them. I am thankful for all of my relatives in the community, and you know who you are—way too many to name in my column.

I want to thank all of the great people at Francis X. Elder American Legion in Emmitsburg and, especially, Sons of the American Legion Squadron 121. I have been their commander for a few years now, and I can truthfully say I am proud of them all and, especially, my officers. My 1st vice commander is Mark Zurgable. Mark is well known in the community and operates Zurgable Bros. Hardware Store. Mark is always willing to help with our many fundraising events to help the people in need throughout our community. Mike Hartdagen is my 2nd vice commander and takes care of our membership and does a great job. Mike is very detail-oriented, which comes from the many years he worked in the air conditioning and heating industry. He has health issues, as I am sure anyone who knows Mike is aware, and he still continues being a great aid mentally, if not physically, to our projects. My treasurer is Gary Stouter, and he does a great job at keeping our finances straight. Gary owns Mountain Liquors, and he not only helps with events, but he donates a lot of things we use at the fundraisers. Fred Hoff is my adjutant (secretary) and does a good job taking care to keep our minutes from one meeting to the next. I can call Fred to assist with something one of our members has been assigned to but is not able to attend, and Fred—if he is in the area—will always say yes. Dick Fleagle is my chaplain and takes care of our opening and closing prayers. He keeps check on our members; if someone is sick, in the hospital, or has passed on, he sends them and/or their family cards, fruit baskets, or flowers. Tim Hane is my sergeant at arms and maintains order at our meetings, makes sure the flags are in place, and my gavel is present. Tim also guards the door; when we have ceremonies, such as the swearing in of new members, he instructs and escorts them to their proper post.

I am very thankful for having these people and our members in my life. A friendly reminder to all SAL members: dues are now payable for 2015 and are $20.00, but if you wait until after December 31, 2014, dues will be $25.00.

I am thankful for VFW Memorial Post 6658 and their people, but especially thankful for VFW Men’s Auxiliary Unit 6658, where I am the senior vice president. The president of this great unit is Leo Hobbs, and he does a great job of leading us. Leo controls his meeting and reminds everyone we exist to help the children in our community. When Leo has a plan for a fundraising event, he gets right to the point, and after discussion by members, his plan usually is voted a go. We are having our annual Shrimp and Chicken Feed on November 8, 2014, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Please check the VFW website and Facebook for all the information about Feeds and other events at the Post. Leo’s junior vice president is Josh Weatherly. Josh is in charge of membership and has done a great job for a few years now. He also is at most of our functions and helps in many ways. Leo’s secretary is Steve Seidel, and he has been taking minutes for MAVFW Unit 6658’s meetings for a few years. Steve recently got married and has been “missing in action” for a few months. Steve Wojciechowski is Leo’s treasurer and keeps the checkbook in order. He comes out to help at most events and does a really good job. Mark Zurgable is the chaplain for the unit and never misses a meeting, unless he forgets—you know how old age affects some people. He helps with most events and is usually there from start to finish. Leo’s trustees are Dick Fleagle, Bruce Weatherly, and Lu Norris; they all do a great job of double-checking the treasurer’s report, as well as volunteering at our events. Bob Kuhn is Leo’s sergeant at arms and announces and escorts in anyone visiting our meeting. MAVFW Unit 6658’s officers are all people of whom I am very proud, and I thank God to get to work with such a great group of people.

AMVETS Post 7 Thurmont has some fantastic people in their organization, and I am thankful I know a lot of them. I am also proud and thankful to be a member of Sons of AMVETS Squadron 7 and an officer under the command of Commander Mark Zienda. This is Mark’s second year as commander of Squadron 7, and he has done a great job thus far. Mark, along with taking care of his ailing father, manages to do his job and more. Even if he has to get back to his dad, he puts in an appearance to let the members know he is behind them. Mark’s 1st vice commander is Dick Fleagle, and he takes care of membership—there is no one better at it than Dick. Dick is a very serious person when it comes to his job of membership; he could probably get around a few things regarding membership, but his ethics won’t allow him to do that. With Dick, it is either right or wrong, and you can bet your last dollar that it’s always going to be done the right way. I am Mark’s 2nd vice commander, and my job is to report to National SOA with all of our volunteer hours accumulated monthly to get credit, and to give our delegates more power to negotiate on Capitol Hill for our Veterans. Mark’s 3rd vice commander is Brian Payne; his job is to come up with events for fundraisers to aid Veterans and our community. Brian has been doing a great job, and we are proud of him. He also volunteers at various functions at the Post. Joe Forrest is Mark’s adjutant, and he keeps account of all things happening at our meetings. Joe volunteers at our functions and supplies lots of desserts at our events. Mark’s treasurer is Bob Gouge, and he controls the money flow for Squadron 7. Bob gives an accurate and up-to-date report at each meeting. He also volunteers at many of our events when possible. Craig Williams is Mark’s chaplain, and he reads the prayer before and after meetings; he finds out who is sick and who has passed and handles them appropriately. Tim McKinnon is Mark’s judge advocate and interprets our standing rules and bylaws and enforces them. Tim also volunteers at many functions. Jim Payne is Mark’s VAVS officer and attends meetings at Martinsburg Veterans Center; he keeps us informed of what is happening with our Veterans. Jim is an active volunteer, also. Mark’s provost marshall is Pauly Krygier, and he guards the door and escorts those to be sworn in to the proper position. I am truly thankful for being able to associate with such a great group of officers and members.

The Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS is another organization of which I am proud to be a part. The Commander is Ed Stely and he is a fantastic man. I really gained a lot of respect for him when he and I were in Memphis, Tennessee, at our National Convention. Ed’s 1st vice commander is Doug Penwell, and he is the right man for the job. Doug takes care of membership and stays right on top of things, because he has to account for membership at the Squadron level as well. Wade Clem is Ed’s 2nd vice commander, and he takes care of the reports for volunteers at Squadron level and reports to National. I am Ed’s 3rd vice commander, and it is my job to come up with fundraiser projects for the Department of Maryland and distribute them to the Squadrons. Bobby Stouffer is Ed’s adjutant and keeps the minutes from one meeting to the next, and he does a very good job. Joe Forrest is Ed’s judge advocate, and he interprets standing rules and bylaws. Ed’s chaplain is Dick Fleagle, and he does a fine job, as he does in everything else. I am Ed’s public relations officer, and it is my job to keep us in the spotlight. Ed’s VAVS officer is Jim Payne; and, for being new at it, Jim is doing an excellent job. Doug Penwell is acting treasurer for Scotty and doing an excellent job. Billy Kolb is Ed’s provost marshall and has always been good at it. I am proud and honored and very thankful to know and be a part of this great organization.

The Catoctin Banner is the best monthly community newspaper I have ever read. I am proud to call Deb Spalding a friend. And I think she understood a long time ago that if you are going to publish a community paper, you write about things happening in your community, not things happening halfway around the world. The community you live in and the surrounding communities are the world for the people living there. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to write for the Banner and will continue writing for her as long as I am mentally able. I listen to a lot of feedback from folks and I see lots of people, and I feel confident this paper will be around for many years, as long as it prints the quality material it has been writing. I am thankful to be associated with The Catoctin Banner and all the great people that help to put it together.

Thank God for the United States of America; my family; the American Veterans; and our community newspaper, The Catoctin Banner.