James Rada, Jr.
There was a time in Frederick County when workers needed to follow the work. Every year, a couple thousand workers would journey up the East Coast to work on farms and in factories in the county. They lived in migrant camps in Thurmont, Frederick, and Araby.
Galen Hahn was among them. He didn’t travel with them or work the jobs they did. He ministered to them in the 1960s.
Born and raised in Frederick County, Hahn is the son of John and Helen Hahn. He was confirmed and ordained into Christian ministry at Grace Reformed United Church of Christ in Frederick.
While in high school, Hahn spent a couple summers working with the pastors who served the migrant communities in the county. He initially served as a guide, getting a pastor who wasn’t local to the different places he needed to go, but he continued volunteering and serving the migrants. After he graduated college, Rev. Hahn returned to the county as the migrant pastor.
“It wasn’t just a meeting on Sunday,” Hahn said. “I had to go day to day, week to week. The bulk of the people I worked with were children and a few women.”
This is because the men, and most of the women, were in the county to work, and they worked seven days a week. In the Thurmont area, they worked in a canning factory owned by J. O’Neill Jenkins.
The migrant camp was a set of run-down barracks that were “falling apart,” according to Hahn. For these poor accommodations, the families paid $2.00 per person, per week. The camp, which was near the Weller Church cemetery, no longer exists.
Hahn has written a book about his time as a migrant pastor, called Finding My Field. It includes pictures, which he has since donated to the Maryland Room in the C. Burr Artz Library in Frederick.
The book is the story of the migrant ministry in Frederick County and the people who cared enough for the migrant farm workers to pursue justice for them.
“Toward the end of my life, I am enjoying the opportunity of revisiting some of my early days of involvement in ministry before ordained ministry became my life,” Hahn said. “I was early affected by race, poverty, justice, and ministry to children where these were issues. These issues stayed with me throughout my ordained ministry.”
Although he now is retired and living in North Carolina, Rev. Hahn previously served as pastor of the Mt. Pleasant Reformed United Church of Christ and the Sabillasville United Church of Christ. He has also served as a chaplain at Stauffer Funeral Home, Victor Cullen Center, and Victor Cullen Academy.
You can purchase his book online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Copies are also available to check out in county libraries.
Thurmont Migrant Camp
Before Migrants Arrived in 1963
Connie Stapleton at the Thurmont Camp Garbage Area.
Thurmont Camp Barracks Family Room.
Photos Courtesy of the Maryland Room, Frederick County Public Libraries