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The namesake of our local ‘Cunningham’ Falls has been a mystery for years. Before the reference to the falls as ‘Cunningham’ Falls, around the 1920s, the falls were known as McAfee Falls, Harman Falls, the Cascades, and Hunting Creek Falls.

Recently, a potential answer to the ‘Cunningham’ mystery has been uncovered via the release of a transcript of interviews conducted in 1969 by representatives from the National Park Service with some of the McAfee descendants who were alive during the name transition. These transcripts have been made available by Robert McAfee of Foxville, a descendant of the interviewees.

The interviewees named Mr. and Mrs. Charles McAfee explained that there were several McAfee ‘home places’ around the falls. They acknowledge having births ‘at the falls’ and getting married there. Charles said, “I lived there four years. In 1907, 8 and 9 and10. Then I went up to Foxville.”

Charles explained that he worked in construction ‘under’ Goldsborough and Williams who were constructing youth camps. He said, “They’re the ones – Williams is the one – that named it Cunningham Falls…Williams named it that. Never nobody known like that around here.” When asked why Williams called it Cunningham Falls, Charles said, “I don’t know. No real reason for it. He just picked that and called it that.”

Charles went on to say, “…afterwards [Dr.] Bowman and a bunch of us got together to get rid of that Cunningham business…So, that’s when we tried to get it named McAfee Falls.” Conversation continued about names of the falls, referencing Hunting Creek, the Cascades, and, “when we went to school, it was called the Falls.” They estimated Charles’ reference to attending school to be around 1901.

According to Rose McAfee in a separate interview, it was, “…after they sold the timber long before the government purchased the land, the name was changed to Cunningham Falls. People from away called it Cunningham Falls all of a sudden and people around here called it McAfee Falls.”

To date, these interviews point to the most plausible explanation for the naming of ‘Cunningham’ since the timeline and printed references align.

A May 23, 2018, Frederick News-Post’s “Yesterday” post from “50 Years Ago” referenced that, “A mistake of more than 30 years standing (as of May 23, 1968) was righted recently when Maryland’s Commission on Forests and Parks renamed the falls in Cunningham Falls State Park. The official name is now McAfee Falls, honoring an old Frederick County family which settled in the area in 1790. As a logical follow-up the Forests and Parks Commission is now considering renaming the park Hunting Creek State Park.”

When looking back at the corrective actions taken to remedy this ‘mistake,’ not much was done. At one point, signage was posted “McAfee Falls” at the Falls hiking trail inside Cunningham Falls State Park. Otherwise, correcting the ‘mistake’ referenced in Frederick News Post’s “Yesterday” post has been forgotten.

With this newest discovery of information, we’ll call the ‘Cunningham’ mystery solved. It’s been an interesting path to the ‘facts,’ and we thank all who gave insight.

Regardless of its name, thousands of visitors enjoy the falls every year, which is the State of Maryland’s largest cascading waterfall, standing at 78 feet.

Article by Jane Savage, Administrative Secretary, Sabillasville Elementary

Many parents currently serving on the Sabillasville Elementary School (SES) Parent Group, Inc. are SES Alumni. They started chatting about all the great memories they had of the spring bazaar that was held years ago when they were students, and they wanted to give current students and the community an opportunity to create their own memories, as well, so they re-created the event. They hoped the bazaar would raise funds for the SES Parent Group. Currently, the Parent Group provides activities and educational resources for the students including field trips, cultural arts activities, subscriptions to online reading programs and books, magazines and classroom supplies, and events throughout the year.   

The SES Parent Group revived the bazaar three years ago, and it has grown significantly each year. This year’s Planning Committee consisted of Alisha Yocum (coordinator), Priscilla Blentlinger, Dawn Fisher, Dawn Harbaugh, and Kelsey Norris.  Parent Group members volunteered to put on the bazaar, as well as families, community members, and staff. Alisha Yokum said, “We tried to re-create the event so that it would just be a day of good family fun, while supporting the school. We included ‘old-fashioned’ carnival games, some of which were the same as when it took place 30 years ago. Back then, an auctioneer auctioned off donations from local businesses. This time, we changed that to be a silent auction. We received so much support from businesses within the community, as well as the surrounding communities, through donations to the silent auction.”  The school receives much support from the community and surrounding communities in many different ways all year. Contributors include individuals, businesses, and service organizations. In the past, the bazaar was held the Saturday before Mother’s Day; and plants that were purchased from the Ag classes at the high school were sold at the bazaar. This year, the bazaar was held the first Saturday in June.

In the past, a pie in the face contest, where the principal took a pie in the face from students who won a raffle, was a highly anticipated activity. (Mrs. Severance started this activity when she was the principal).

In sticking with re-creating just “good fun,” the Parent Group decided to broaden the Pie in the Face contest with four staff members volunteering to be candidates. Students cast their votes and Mrs. Krietz (Principal) topped the contest with just over 8,100 votes. Two lucky winners (Abbey Sparkman and Hope LeGore) were then selected from a raffle to smash the pie in her face on the day of the event. A pie in the face of the principal was sure to draw a crowd to the event because who doesn’t want to see the principal take a pie to the face!

About the cover photo: Dalton Wolfe (boy in orange shirt), Noah Bradbury (boy in tank top), and Maycee Grimes (girl in pink shirt) observe as Abbey Sparkman smooshes a pie in SES Principal’s Kate Krietz’ face.

Pictured above: Alayna Sowers (age 8) plucks a duckie for a prize.

Pictured above: Kyle Mullennex is the winner (safety yellow shirt) of a Cake Walk.

Pictured above: Baked goods have always been a big seller at the bazaar.

Pictured above: Even the smallest of tractors competes in the Tractor Show.

The first annual Maryland Iron Festival was held the weekend of May 18 and 19, 2019 in historic Catoctin Furnace, in Thurmont, Maryland, to celebrate the state as a center for the craft of ironmaking. Activities were held within the historic village, as well as Catoctin Mountain Park, and Cunningham Falls State Park. The festival featured traditional blacksmithing, casting and molding demonstrations in partnership with Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, live music and performances, artists and craftspeople, spring plant and flower sales, children’s activities, a “feats of strength” tournament, tours of historic buildings and the iron furnace, delicious historic food, plein air artists, and local wine and craft beer.

Historic structures, such as the Collier’s Log House (ca. 1810) (pictured in background of our cover photo), the Stone Cottage (ca. 1820), and the Catoctin Iron Furnace were open to the public both days.

The newly constructed trail that was constructed and crafted by Catoctin Furnace volunteers with grant monies now links the furnace to the historic village. Visitors and locals enjoyed all facets of the festival. In our cover photo, Barry Riddle, Liam Deveney, Megan Deveney, Abbey Deveney (seated left to right) and Seamus Riddle and Matt Deveney (standing left to right) enjoyed the fresh streamside Catoctin Furnace Trail on Sunday, May 19.

The Catoctin Furnace was built by four brothers in order to produce iron from the rich deposits of hematite found in the nearby mountains. It played a pivotal role during the industrial revolution in the young United States. The furnace industry supported a thriving community, and company houses were established alongside the furnace stack. Throughout the 19th century, the furnace produced iron for household and industrial products. After more than 100 years of operation, the Catoctin Furnace ceased production in 1903.

In 1973, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc., was formed by G. Eugene Anderson, Clement E. Gardiner, J. Franklin Mentzer, and Earl M. Shankle to “foster and promote the restoration of the Catoctin Furnace Historic District…and to maintain the same exclusively for educational and scientific purposes…to exhibit to coming generations our heritage of the past.”

Today, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc. is undertaking groundbreaking research, including bioarchaeological research on human remains from the African American cemetery in Catoctin Furnace. In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and the Reich Laboratory for Medical and Population Genetics at Harvard University, this project is analyzing ancient DNA and the human genome of several revolutionary-era African American workers at Catoctin Furnace. Such research, in conjunction with other technologies, such as stable isotope analysis, could tell us where these workers were born, where they lived throughout their lives, and what constituted their diet. We believe that every life mattered, and every past matters now. By studying and disseminating the results of this research, we hope that people everywhere will get to meet some of these early workers and understand the critical roles they played in the development of our young nation, as well as appreciate the rich, varied trajectories of their lives.

For more information, please call 443-463-6437 or visit catoctinfurnace.org.