Currently viewing the tag: "catoctin mountains"

Michael Betteridge

There is a distinct sound this time of year that can be heard up against our beautiful Catoctin Mountains, off in the distance, when the wind blows just right. You can hear whistles blowing and coaches yelling on the practice field. When we hear that distant sound, we smile and we know that Catoctin Football is back! 

There are many things that define our community, just as there are many things that define the time of the year. Catoctin football does both. No one will soon forget those two epic state championships in 2009 and 2019 and what they did to electrify and unite our community. 

Those were enormous wins for the Cougars and Northern Frederick County, but there is one game that will stand out in history above all the rest…..November 29, 2019: Catoctin versus Fort Hill in the second round of the playoffs. The Cougars were overwhelmed in 2018 by the Sentinels 55-6 at Cumberland, and the sting of that loss, which ended their season, was burned into their minds and their consciences. When 2019 began, they took it out on five straight teams, with wins starting against Boonsboro. In the sixth game, they suffered their only loss of the season against Walkersville by a meager field goal in overtime, which brought them to new territory: playing perennial state powerhouse Fort Hill once again, but unbelievably, here in Thurmont.

Fort Hill had never played a road game in a 1A playoff. There was complaining and grousing all over social media by Fort Hill fans, and they seemed a bit put off by the very idea that their “elite” large stadium fan base and program would have to lower themselves to play in tiny Catoctin stadium. There were suggestions that it would be impossible for our community to serve the massive Fort Hill crowd.  That our facilities, traffic, and resources would be overwhelmed, and that, perhaps, the game should, after all, be played in Cumberland, to be fair to the fans. The state said: “No,” we play in Thurmont.

Then something very special happened. Signs popped up all over town…. Cougars will crush Fort Hill. Townsfolk stepped forward and volunteered to help out. Businesses mobilized. The mayor and town councils in both Thurmont and Emmitsburg got involved. The Catoctin High School administration shifted into high gear. Everywhere you went, there was this BUZZ. The excitement was palpable. On game day, busloads of Fort Hill fans poured into the streets and parking lots in Thurmont dressed in red….cocky…arrogant…. boastful, while Cougars fans just smiled because they knew. And when all the shouting, cheering, and hoarse voices faded out against those beautiful mountains that rise above the playing field, the scoreboard seemed to have grown in size with a simple message to Fort Hill: You scored ZERO points; we scored 41. Get on your buses and go back to Cumberland because tonight everyone in Thurmont is a winner.

That was the day we really learned what Catoctin Cougars football means to our community.

And now, that sound rises up again in the distance. You can feel the excitement building. The past several years have been surreal.  Football canceled? A spring football season? Do we play? Are the fans allowed in the stadium? But this year feels different. All of that seems like a bad dream. Everything is coming together. The Cougars recognize that their story is special, and they need to preserve that legacy. Cougars offensive and defensive lines stand out from the 2009 state championship team, Brady Ridenour is one of several of Coach Mike Rich’s new talented coaching staff, linking past to present. They’ve added 2015 Urbana QB sensation, Donovan Pannell, to the coaching staff, who will help refine junior Catoctin quarterback Haydn Mathews into a lethal threat.

But, the real change you can see at Catoctin High School takes us back to the community. Recently, during practice, Coach Rich challenged his team by reminding them that they are part of this team, an identity, a legacy. They are being watched closely. They are no longer kids from Thurmont or Emmitsburg. They ARE Catoctin Cougars football. He called on them to step it up, to hold each other accountable, to cover the next guy’s back by doing the simple things. He asked them to be the last to leave the cafeteria. To pick up any trash left behind. To straighten up the chairs and tables. To look after their school and set an example.

“You are Cougars….don’t forget it,” Coach Rich implored, adding, “If you work hard in the little things, the rest will take care of itself at Boonsboro.” 

So, the Cougars’ season and our story resume on Friday, September 2, at 7:00 p.m. in Boonsboro, just like it did three years ago.

Cougars scrimmage at North Hagerstown High School on August 20, 2022.

T h e Y e a r i s…1 9 2 8

by James Rada, Jr.

She Wa s the F i r s t L ine in Fire Defense

Photo Courtesy of

Alice Willard knew all about struggling to get by. The Foxville resident was a 30-year-old single mother of an 11-year-old son, living in a rural area. Even though she had family who could help watch her son, Atley, Alice still needed to earn a living to support the both of them.

In April 1928, she became the only female “lookout” in Maryland. C. Cyril Klein, the district forester for Western Maryland, appointed her the lookout for the Foxville fire tower. A lifelong resident of Foxville who lived in a house her father built the year she was born, Alice knew the area she was to watch over.

“She went on duty Wednesday [April 4] and for the next eight weeks, until about June 1, she will occupy a small room at the top of a 60-foot steel tower in the heart of the Catoctin mountains, about 12 hours a day, on the lookout for mountain fires,” the Frederick Post reported.

Her pay for this job was $60 a month (about $925 in today’s dollars). It was a low-paying job, even among common laborers at the time, but it helped pay her bills.

From the fire tower, Alice had a 12-mile view in every direction.

“At the first indication of fire or smoke, she will telephone to the nearest warden, who in turn will investigate the fire. If it is of a threatening nature, a force sufficient to combat the flames will be summoned and efforts will not be relaxed until the blaze is extinguished,” the Frederick Post reported.

She had experience with the job. She had substituted when her brother needed time off from the job years earlier.

“While she will be some distance from the nearest house, Mr. Klein said she is courageous and he added that she knows how to shoot,” the newspaper reported.

Not only was Alice the only female lookout in Maryland at the time, she was the first woman put in charge of a fire tower in the state. Women had done the work before, but only as a substitute or an assistant.

She said of her experience years later in a Frederick News Post article, “Indeed there were lots of fires! And no lightning ever set those fires. Men set fires! Tossing a cigarette or some other fool thing, that’s what done it. Many’s the fire that was set on purpose, too. Did you know that? I’ll tell you just why! They’d set fires to burn off a clearing in the woods. Then the huckleberries would grow up thick in the burned out places. Huckleberries were a big cash crop here in those days. Many a berry’s been picked and sold for three cents a quart. Every child on the mountain’s picked huckleberries at one time or other.”

In 1930, she was mentioned in an article talking about a rash of fires on Catoctin and South mountains. She had been the first lookout to identify some of them.

She was named an assistant fire warden in 1931.

In 1933, she had a near-fatal encounter with a copperhead that the Hagerstown Morning Herald said she handled with “remarkable coolness and bravery.” She was burning brush while on the job when the snake bit her above the ankle. “She cut open the wound and applied a tourniquet to stop the circulation of blood, then walked to a neighbor’s house, where she secured medical attention.”

She left her job with the State of Maryland in 1934.

The Frederick News noted in 1971 that Alice was still driving a tractor, chopping wood, farming, feeding livestock, keeping house, quilting, sewing clothes, baking, and canning at age 76.

She was also living alone. She had never married, and her son had died from cancer in 1962 at 45 years of age.

“She values her privacy, resents any encroachment upon her land or her rights, and is the personification of the attitudes and traditions of the mountain folk for over two centuries,” Ann Burnside Love wrote for the Frederick News.

Alice died in 1993, a week before her 98th birthday. She is buried in the Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church cemetery.

by Randy Nusbaum

The year was 2020 as Christmas Eve was settling into the frost-covered Catoctin Mountains. The air was crisp, the Christmas lights glowing, the soft church bells echoing in the distance. The cool night air was filled with the warm aroma of pies, cakes, and Christmas Eve dinners. The hustle of the day was past, the excitement of the coming day starting to build. There was a comforting calmness wrapping its arms around the night. The jolly ‘ole elf stood on the corner, taking in the magic of the night.

St. Nick pondered that the year had been like no other. The routine of everyday life turned upside down. The peculiarity of shutdowns, closings, sheltering, social distancing, and covering our faces, offering up new challenges to folks’ traditional level of contentment. Questions looming, “Would our lives ever be the same?” As he often did, Nick wondered what possible gift he could bring this year to ease the burden.

As St. Nick strolled the quiet streets, he observed the last-minute preparations. Through the windows, he could see parents smiling as they placed gifts under the trees while the children slept. There was the occasional flutter of curtains in rooms where children pretended to sleep in an effort to catch a glimpse as he passed by.

Then it occurred to him, the gift had been arriving throughout the year. As folks adjusted their lives, they were spending more and more time in a place called home. Spending more time enjoying what they had, the things they worked so hard for throughout the year. Spending more time with their spouses, children, and families, something many had lost sight of in their busy lives. This gave Nick pause to smile before continuing on his Christmas journey.

From one Santa to another, this Christmas, take time to enjoy your homecoming. And in the immortal words of Tiny Tim: “God bless us, everyone.”

                                                ~Merry Christmas

Mark Allen Lewis

A Life Well Spent

by Priscilla Rall

Mark Lewis was born in 1924 in the hamlet of Garfield, high up in the Catoctin Mountains. He died there, in a place he knew well—the home where he was born. When I consider Mark’s life, I realize it encompassed an entire century of our country’s history: from her agricultural roots to the Great Depression, from the horrors of World War II to the Cold War.

All that was rural America can be summed up in Mark Lewis’ life. He was born at home, not in a hospital, 1 of 10 children. The Lewis family scratched out a meager living in the rocky fields and orchards of Frederick County. He could not remember when he was not working on the farm. He went to a two-room school, Forest School, and then began working on a neighbor’s farm when he was just 13, plowing the fields with a team of horses, just as farmers had done for a hundred years.

The little store run by his father had all that the mountain people needed. Traveling hucksters provided a small income from eggs and butter. Mark’s mother, Annie, toiled long hours and, sadly, died too soon. She impressed on her children the need for an education. His hard-working father, Claude, was a pillar of the community.

These beginnings gave Mark all that he needed to face the uncertain years of the Great Depression. He joined the National Youth Administration at 16 years old. He worked at Fort Ritchie, where he saw the last of the cavalry regiments!

The world was changing.

As our country plunged into war, Mark joined up. Trained as a paratrooper, he rode a glider into Germany amidst savage enemy fire. He trudged through the snow to relieve the troops at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. This mountain boy, with little education, became a combat engineer, detecting mines, blowing up enemy bridges, and then building pontoon bridges for the allies. He was wounded three times and was ready to be sent to invade Japan when the war was ended by the atomic bombs.

Mark came home to his family, and then began his own. He married his beloved Dorothy, who he met picking beans in a field at the home farm. Like other GIs returning home, he began a new life. And like many other combat Veterans—then as now—he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. However, with drive and ambition, he succeeded, working for many years as a construction project superintendent at such American institutions as the Library of Congress, Camp David, and Site R. But Mark never lost his love of the land. He never lost his pride in being an American.

With his love of history, he wrote and published many articles on local lore and of the people he knew so well. From his writings, others learned about the strength of the people who lived in the hills and hollows of the Catoctin Mountains. To talk to him was to open a history book, with footnotes provided by Dorothy. He shared his own story with the Veterans History Project in 2006. It is fitting that his own history now resides in the Library of Congress, where he had once worked.

Mark was a remarkable man—smart, hard-working, devoted to his community and his family. Just as he had fought in the fields of Europe as a young man, he bravely fought his illnesses during his last years, with Dorothy and their children by his side.

One would never mistake his voice for another, “Mark, here….” I would begin. “How’s my gal?” he would ask.  I will miss those phone calls. I will miss the visits I had with Mark and Dorothy. I will miss my friend, Mark Lewis, someone I consider a true American Hero.

Courtesy Photo of Mark Allen Lewis

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Smith

Forrest School opened its doors in the fall of 1882, serving children in the Garfield area, between Wolfsville and Foxville in Frederick County. Located at the intersection of Stottlemyer and Forrest School roads, the school closed its doors in the spring of 1939.

Deb Abraham Spalding

Amongst our abundant natural resources in our local Catoctin Mountain, seekers will find a tranquil treasure at ThorpeWood. ThorpeWood is a retreat nestled in the woods on Mink Farm Road in Thurmont. It boasts 160 acres of forests, meadows, an arboretum, wetlands, a native brook trout stream, a timber-framed lodge, a cottage, barn, pavilions, pond, and trails.

ThorpeWood is a unique place, being both a venue for events of all types that mostly use its timber-framed lodge as home base and also a nature and farm-based safe-place, hosting educational and emotionally supportive programs. Frederick County’s Head Start Program is one of the beneficiaries of ThorpeWood’s programs, engaging 260 three- to five-year-old children who upon entering kindergarten will have had 30 ThorpeWood farm experiences.

Additionally, older youth groups such as Way Station’s Camp Journey, Hospice’s Camp Jamie, Frederick County’s Kids Like Us, Laurel Hall and Brook Lane Schools, Baltimore’s So What Else, and area-wide Boys and Girls Scout troops take advantage of the lovely mountain-top setting of ThorpeWood. At its Stoney Lick Farm, ThorpeWood also offers an equine-assisted learning program, which entails doing the work necessary to form a bond with a horse, all on the ground (i.e. no riding), and in so doing, developing better overall communication skills. Incidentally, all non-profit use of ThorpeWood is offered free of charge.

The other side of what ThorpeWood is features events, expertly handled by Mountain Memories at ThorpeWood, a company owned by Julie Castleman. Mountain Memories at ThorpeWood manages all facility rentals and special events. The tagline is “More than a venue,” and indeed it is, as Julie and her team handhold those who need it, assuring everyone that their event is the most important thing at the moment. There are six wedding-appropriate gathering sites on the property.

Sam Castleman has been called, “the heart and soul” of ThorpeWood. He serves as its president and executive director. In that role, he has enjoyed a journey with ThorpeWood that started 25 years ago and has taken many directions, much like the stream that flows through the property. Upon arriving at the property in 1995 with his Bachelor of Science in Forest Management, he has nurtured it to become a place of safety, comfort, and growth. This path was sparked by his stepfather, the late Merle Thorpe, Jr., a securities attorney who owned ThorpeWood’s original 23 acres. Sam calls his work at ThorpeWood “sweetly rewarding.”

ThorpeWood is proud to support a strong environmental and protection ethic. For example, the lodge is constructed in an environmentally sensitive way, using an earth-friendly insulation (air-crete); operable cupola windows that when open create convection currents, drawing in the cooler outside air while expelling the hotter air out onto the roof; construction material reuse: 300 year-old chestnut wood comprises the flooring and many posts and beams; composting toilets that reduce water consumption by 90 percent; and nutrient-rich solids and liquids that are carefully land applied.

Being at ThorpeWood is a farm, arboretum, stream, pond, and hiking experience. All 10 horses, 2 goats, 2 cows, 11 chickens, barn cats, and many family-friendly dogs can be involved in the visitor’s time on the property, or if one just wants to sit and reflect—that is great, too.

Time at ThorpeWood is spent connecting with nature, conducting business, getting married, celebrating special occasions, and much more. Folks from FCPS employees, Leadership Frederick County, St. John’s Regional Catholic School, and church group retreats utilize the property. Every December, ThorpeWood welcomes the community to enjoy its free annual Holiday Open House. The date for this year is Saturday, December 5—mark your calendar!

Designated acreage at ThorpeWood is used by the American Chestnut Foundation to sustain the growth of American Chestnut hybrids. The Native American chestnut was prized for its use in furniture because of its beautiful honey color and grain patterns, for characteristics that made it a great building material—straight-grained and light but very strong and for its usefulness as fence post and other outdoor uses because of its rot resistance. One-third of the eastern deciduous was chestnut, but, unfortunately, this forest giant completely (nearly) died out due to an imported blight. The hybrid program crosses Chinese chestnut with American chestnut, seeking a back cross that is essentially 97 percent pure American with only a trace Chinese, that trace containing the blight resistance.

Please note that ThorpeWood is not a park. It’s not open all the time, but you can catch up with the happenings at ThorpeWood by visiting, following them on Facebook:, or reading their blog posts. Call 301-271-2823 for more information.

Sam Castleman (pictured right) chats with a program participant at ThorpeWood.

Program participants are always happily curious at ThorpeWood.

blair Garrett

From small-town journalist to big-time sports director, Dave Ammenheuser, a native of Thurmont, has done it all.

Ammenheuser, 57, is now the sports director for a major news network, USA Today, but his journey began like many of us, humbly, in a small town, shadowed by the Catoctin Mountains.

Developing into a great sportswriter requires time, attention to detail, and intimate knowledge of your sport of choice. Athletes can make great sportswriters, knowing the ins and outs of their particular area of expertise, but a devotion to writing has to be there.

For Ammenheuser, that passion for writing was always there; yet, his entry into the sports world is as unique as his rise to success. “I was the worst athlete ever,” Ammenheuser said. “I always liked the competitiveness of it, and liked to write, so I kind of put the two together. It’s kind of ironic I ended up making my career in sports.”

As a student at Catoctin High School, Ammenheuser cultivated his love for sports as the high school newspaper sports editor and the statistician for the historic ’79-80 basketball team.

The ’79-80 and ’80-81 teams were the two most-successful Catoctin basketball teams at the time, and Ammenheuser’s most-recent visit to the area is to organize a reunion for the players who garnered so much success some 40 years ago.

Although Ammenheuser now lives near the USA Today headquarters in McClean, Virginia, friend and family ties bring him back to where it all began from time to time.

Ammenheuser’s professional writing career took its first steps at the Catoctin Enterprise, a small paper located in Thurmont. He then graduated to the Frederick News-Post, where he wrote and developed while attending Hood College. As a communications major, with a minor in gerontology, Ammenheuser continued to craft sports stories throughout college, gaining valuable experience and laying the groundwork for his future.

In the early 1980s, as a rising young sports editor, Ammenheuser stumbled upon the opportunity of a lifetime. The Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies were set to face off head-to-head, in a series that will forever remain special to Ammenheuser.

“I got to cover the 1983 World Series when the Orioles won, and that was my childhood favorite team,” Ammenheuser said. As a lifelong Orioles fan, he had the chance to see his team up close and personal as they won the greatest title in baseball, a feat that they have yet to replicate.

From the Frederick News-Post, Ammenheuser was ready for greater challenges. He later became the sports editor for the Carroll County Times, taking on new stories and responsibilities.

Breaking new ground is nothing new for Ammenheuser. Over his career, he has had many highlights, but one sticks out even to this day.

“When I was the sports editor in Carroll County, Maryland, I covered the first college football game ever played in the former Soviet Union,” Ammenheuser said. “Western Maryland College, now known as McDaniel, played there, and I went with the team. That was a cool experience.”

Sports journalists often have to adjust and adapt to each assignment, especially with drastically changing environments, and that is something Ammenheuser has become accustomed to over his 40-year career.

Traveling across the world has proven to be a theme for Ammenheuser, and his ventures have shaped his writing and guided him to where he is today.

After his local positions at the Carroll County Times and Frederick News-Post, he eventually moved on to Charlotte, Connecticut, California, Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville.

Many challenges come with adjusting to a new job in a new city, and Ammenheuser has established himself in many new assignments and cities. This skill, combined with a unique attention to detail, has contributed to his career development tenfold. “People write differently across the country,” he said. “A writer in Connecticut and how you would manage him or her is quite different from how you would manage a writer in Southern California or Nashville.”

Writing styles, tones, and content differs from place to place. Ammenheuser has become an expert at navigating that balance, and it has had an impact inside and outside the office. “Every person I’ve met throughout the way has helped me grow professionally and personally,” Ammenheuser said.

Throughout his career, Ammenheuser has written, developed, and managed content for various publications. He hit his final stop in February of 2019, after decades of hard work.

“Earlier this year [2019], I was named the sports director for USA Today Network, so I’m the sports editor of USA Today, but also our company owned 109 companies across the country, where more than 500 sports journalists report up to me.”

With such great responsibility in managing so many writers and editors, Ammenheuser does not get to write as much as he would like to these days. Instead, he focuses more on big-picture management.

“I was in Tokyo for a week, where we’re coordinating what we are going to do for the Olympics next year,” he said. “We’re taking 65 sports editors across the country to cover the Olympics.”

Part of covering such a massive global event is conceptualizing and eventually executing all of the moving parts that go with it. Ammenheuser plans to get everything set and organized to provide the best coverage possible, and that sometimes includes things one might not expect.

“I was looking at the venues, trying to figure out where our office will temporarily be, hotels for where we’ll put people, and more,” Ammenheuser said. “It’s big-picture stuff and strategizing how all of those people are going to work together.”

While NBC has exclusive broadcast rights over the production of television for Olympic Games through 2032, Ammenheuser and his team of sports journalists have big plans for Olympic coverage in 2020.

“No one covers the Olympics bigger than USA Today other than NBC,” he said.

Ammenheuser’s career trajectory has taken him to a place he may not have expected, but it was certainly a goal for the long-time sports editor. “It’s a dream come true, really,” he said. “This is it until I retire.”

Call it a stroke of circumstantial luck or even fate, but a seemingly innocuous event may have foreshadowed Ammenheuser’s move to USA Today.

“I remember back in 1982, when USA Today started, walking into the 7/11, and grabbing a USA Today,” Ammenheuser said. “It was the very first issue, and today, ironically, that issue is hanging in my office. It’s yellowed in its frame now.”

When all is said and done, Ammenheuser can look back on his career and near endless list of accomplishments fondly. From Olympic coverage to watching his childhood team capture its last World Series, this former local has clearly made a global impact.

James Rada, Jr.

It has been decades since Thurmont had a train station; however, this December trains will once again stop in the town.

Of course, each train is only a couple feet long.

The Frederick County Society of Model Railroad Engineers will host a weekend train garden throughout December. The group will use the empty storefront at 5B East Main Street in Thurmont. The trains will first arrive on December 1.

“The mayor contacted us because he wanted to have an extra event at Christmas in Thurmont that would engage the community,” said Dylan Owens, vice president of the Frederick County Society of Model Railroad Engineers and the member in charge of the Thurmont project.

The society began in 1966. It is housed in a 70-foot-long, six-door Chesapeake and Ohio horse car in Frederick. The car houses a 56-foot HO scale layout, showing off the imaginary Catoctin Central Railroad (CCRR) that crosses Frederick County and the Catoctin Mountains, where it connects with the HOn3 scale Catoctin Mountain Lines.

The Thurmont train garden will have three garden trains running along the floor, an N-scale layout on tables above, and Hagerstown and Frederick trolley running back and forth. The trains will weave between buildings, trees, parks, and other features.

“This is our first time doing a show outside of our clubhouse,” Owens said.

The train garden will be open throughout December: Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.; Sundays at 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Owens was unsure of just how large the final display would be. The society has a van that can be packed with track and trains.

“We were told to use however much we could legally fit and go for it,” explained Owens.

The garden will be free to visit, although donations will be accepted.

“If it’s a big hit, we will try to do it as a yearly thing,” said Owens.

The society sees the Thurmont project as a way to reach out to younger people and interest them in creating their own model railroad layouts.

Local Artist Yemi Fagbohn announced in spring 2017 that he would be completing the mural project on Main Street, on the former electric building, after the Thurmont Commissioners approved the project to proceed. The current Main Street murals depict Thurmont’s historical buildings, natural resources, and trolley history, which were completed in collaboration with the Thurmont Lions Club, Yemi, and the town of Thurmont. There are four panels left to complete on the building, and Artist Yemi’s aspiration has always been to ensure every empty panel is framed with a mural!

“Thurmont is one of the most beautiful places in the USA! The Catoctin Mountains are the backdrop, with tall majestic trees, the beachfront lake at Cunningham Falls State Park, wildlife, clean air, cycling, hiking, fishing, Catoctin Colorfest, and Camp David! Not too many communities can say they live or recreate with the president of the United States!” expressed Yemi.

The Main Street mural project will be completely financed by donations and grants. Dr. Jon Moles of Gateway Orthodontics is leading the mural project journey, and serves as general project chairperson and sponsor. Dr. Jon Moles and Artist Yemi are pleased to announce, “We are getting close to reaching 50 percent of our funding needs for the Thurmont Celebration Murals!”

In addition to Chairperson Dr. Jon Moles, the following associates have engaged their efforts to assist with the Thurmont Celebration Mural Project:

  • Dan Ryan Builders in Thurmont—major project partner and sponsor and will participate in unveiling activities.
  • Ausherman Family Foundation—signed on early as a matching grant sponsor.
  • George Delaplaine—signed on as a major sponsor.
  • Marlene and Mike Young—signed on as advisors and sponsors.
  • Catoctin Colorfest—signed on as advisors and sponsors.
  • Several anonymous donors have signed on to the project so far.

The Main Street murals are a celebration of the scenic beauty and tapestry of history for a picturesque town, located at the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains in Northern Frederick County.

“My goal is to have the viewers of the completed murals come away appreciating Thurmont as the jewel it is, and, hopefully, come to visit us often while rejuvenating their spirits in the mountains—relax, shop, dine, worship, and enjoy!” exclaimed Yemi.

Yemi Fagbohn was born in Ibadan Nigeria to S. I. Fagbohun and J. T. Fagbohun. His father was a well-known custom men’s tailor, his mother a wedding dress maker. Yemi came to New York, where he attended Pratt Institute and received both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Science in Art and Communications Design. For the years he has been an artist, he has done drawings for more than one hundred of the Fortune 500 companies.

For more information on the Thurmont Celebration Murals, you can contact Yemi at or 240-409-5728.

On Friday evening, May 26, 2017, the Myersville-Wolfsville Area Historical Society will sponsor a free PowerPoint presentation, exploring the rich history of the presidential retreat at Camp David.

The program is open to the public and will be followed by a social hour with refreshments. There is no charge.

Since 1942, the Catoctin Mountains have provided presidents of the United States with a respite from the pressures and stresses of Washington, D.C.

Camp David—formerly Shangri-La—has evolved from a highly secret, rustic facility to a resort-like mountain retreat, easily reached from the nation’s capital.

Established during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the “camp” was originally reached via a two-hour drive from Washington, through Frederick and Thurmont. Today, it is minutes away from the White House via helicopter.

This presentation will trace the fascinating 75-year history of Camp David, detailing the day-to-day activities of its occupants and the momentous decisions and events that have taken place there. In addition to anecdotes about the chief executives and their families, highlights include FDR’s wartime deliberations with Winston Churchill, Eisenhower’s talks with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Nixon’s intense days at Camp David during the Watergate crisis, and Carter’s successful efforts to piece together the Camp David Accords with Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin.

The presentation will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Myersville Fire Hall, located at 301 Main Street in Myersville.


Vanessa (Maccabee) Niemann, professionally known as “Gal Holiday,” came to live in the Catoctin Mountains with her family when she was eleven, and made many friends throughout the county at church and at school. As fate would have it, she left here as soon as she could and began a long journey musically that finally ended up in New Orleans, where she formed a Honky Tonk band called Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue.

Armed with powerhouse vocals and serious songwriting with bass player and music director, David Brouillette, Vanessa and Dave have made Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue a vehicle to keep country dancehall culture alive, while paying homage to classic honky tonk greats such as Hank Williams, Connie Smith, and Webb Pierce.

They perform in New Orleans regularly at popular hot spots. In November, she took a long journey back home by van to begin an East Coast tour with her band. She packed the Ott House in Emmitsburg on a normally quiet Thursday night with family, old friends, old fans, along with many new ones. After playing drums at the Ott House with the band, Ashley Maccabee—Vanessa’s “little  brother” as she affectionately calls him—continued to play with them for the rest of the tour. Gal Holiday and the Honkey Tonk Band will tour popular dance venues in Virginia, New York, and New England.

To hear the music “The Gal” and her band create is magical. Their energy and amazing talent, as well as Vanessa’s charisma and good looks, are the perfect formula for a great night, whether one just wants to listen or “dance baby, dance!”

As her mother, Christine Schoenemann Maccabee, said, “She makes a sad song happy.”

At the Ott House, there were smiles on every face, and the joy was palpable. It was indeed a great night for dancing, whether it was with the one you came with or with complete strangers.

Gal Holiday has shared stages and performed with many other talented musicians, including Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Tim McGraw (Jazz Fest), Wayne Hancock, and other notorious crooners. After almost a decade, Gal Holiday continues to evolve through original compositions, which dominate their most recent release, “Last to Leave.” This song was featured in a statewide advertising campaign for Louisiana Propane.

Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Band will not be a regular local act, but will likely come back once or twice a year, we hope. Visit for more information.

gal holiday (2)

Vanessa Niemann is pictured performing, with her bass player and music director, David Brouillette, behind her.

Denny Black

As all boys did in small towns during the 50’s and 60’s, I explored every street and alley in Thurmont. Nestled at the foothills of the beautiful Catoctin Mountains in Northern Frederick County, Thurmont offered a kaleidoscope of images, whether you were walking high on the Western Maryland Railway tracks along Altamont and Woodside Avenues, racing down Canning Factory Hill on your bike, walking the path along Big Hunting Creek to the old town office, or venturing through the backyards and alleys along Main Street. And at nearly every spot along the way, you would most likely see at least one of the church spires in town.

Back then, Thurmont was an idyllic place in which to live—no fast foods, no shopping centers, no drive-in banks, and no large developments. My boyhood world was bounded within just a few blocks surrounding our town square—all open to exploration to a boy and his bike. It was a place where local businesses delivered dairy and bakery products to your door, and families functioned quite well with just one car, one telephone, and one black and white television.

As a direct descendant of one of Thurmont’s founding German families (the Wilhides), who settled in and around the town, I developed an interest over the years in Thurmont’s early history, especially prior to 1894, when Thurmont was called Mechanicstown. Becoming an avid collector of old photo postcards later in life, I have been able to use those visual images to time-travel in my imagination back to what Mechanicstown must have been like for a young boy out exploring its streets and alleys.

Since 1751, when Mechanicstown was first settled, religious practice continues to be an integral part in the lives of many of our town’s citizens. By 1894, Mechanicstown changed its name to Thurmont, and the following eight denominations had built splendid houses of worship clustered together within a few blocks in this small town: (1) Weller’s United Brethren Church (1831); (2) Thurmont Methodist Church (1851); (3) St. John’s Lutheran Church (1858); (4) Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church (1859); (5) Thurmont Moravian Church (1874); (6) Trinity Reformed Church (1880); (7) St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (1892); and (8) Thurmont Church of the Brethren (1892). (Years are dedication dates.)

It is no surprise that religion has played such an important part in the history of Thurmont since it is believed that the first church structure (a log cabin) to exist in Frederick County was erected around 1732-1734, just a short distance away at or near the village of Monocacy (now Creagerstown).

I have seen numerous postcards and paintings depicting the Clustered Spires of Frederick, and have long wondered why no artist ever captured the images of the beautiful, historic church spires of Mechanicstown. By using the photographic images of the Mechanicstown churches preserved in my postcard collection, I could guide an artist on a trip back in time to an imaginary point in Mechanicstown where all of its houses of worship would be visible in one scene.

In July, I turned to award-winning local artist Rebecca Pearl about my concept. Rebecca is recognized for her paintings of many Frederick County scenes, and has taken a special interest in capturing historic Thurmont images in her artwork. During the past several months, with the use of photographic images, she and I have time-traveled back together to walk the streets of Mechanicstown as it existed over 120 years ago. It would be a challenge for any artist to convey my concept through their own artistic expression, while also trying to balance the historical accuracy of the imagery. I am confident that Rebecca’s creation, entitled “The Spires of Mechanicstown,” will soon become a recognized work of art, successfully capturing a special history of our unique town, located at the Gateway to the Mountains.

MECHANICSTOWN SPIRES_EAward-winning local artist Rebecca Pearl will be at the Thurmont Main Street Center during the Thurmont Gallery Stroll on Friday, November 13, 2015, where the original of her painting “The Spires of Mechanicstown” will be unveiled. The Thurmont Main Street Center happens to be located in the old Thurmont Moravian Church, one of the churches included in her painting.


C. L. Harbaugh

The weekend of October 10 and 11, 2015, featured cloudless blue skies and crisp fall temperatures, a glorious greeting for those participants who journeyed just a few miles off of the beaten trail to enjoy a less crowded, slower pace at the Sabillasville’s Annual Mountain Fest and 32nd Annual Kenny Clabaugh Car Show. Sponsored by the Northwestern Frederick County Civic Association (NWFCCA), the proceeds from the car show benefit the organization’s ongoing commitment to three annual scholarships awarded to deserving students within the local community.

Saturday, with temperatures in the 60s and no rain in site, participants enjoyed the beautiful day at Sabillasville Elementary School in the Catoctin Mountains, just a short distance from Thurmont. Over twenty vendors sold everything from antiques, crafts, and jewelry to homemade cakes and cookies.

Again this year, the food was provided by the popular and delicious Ron Eyler’s Country Cougars Pit Stop Pit Beef Sandwiches out of Rocky Ridge. Ice Cream was again provided by Antietam Dairy of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Local Churches, including St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Sabillasville, St. Stephens UCC in Cascade, and Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, sold homemade baked goods.

Saturday’s entertainment was provided by a Gospel Bluegrass Band. Entertainment for Sunday was provided by Twin Hill Express Bluegrass Gospel Band, a favorite among returning visitors each year.

Sunday marked the 32nd Annual Kenny Carbaugh Memorial Car Show. Again, mild temperatures and clear blue skies greeted this year’s partici-pants. The show was very successful, with over one hundred cars registered, including antique pickup trucks, fire trucks, sports cars, and a rare BMW car. Car show chairman, Jason Worth, awarded twenty-five top-voted plaques. Best of Show was awarded to Gerald Poffenburger from Hagerstown for his 1941 Plymouth Two-Tone Pickup Truck. Dash plaques were handed out to the first fifty entrants, and over twenty doorsprizes (which were donated from local businesses) were also handed out to ticket winners. Thanks to all who donated.

Many antique car owners attended the show for the camaraderie and common interest. Entertainment for the car show was provided by local DJ, Steve Hahn, for the third year. Thanks to Lori Worth and Harp Worth for their continued support and assistance with the car show.

Volunteer members of the Civic Association often hear that many venture to the Mountain Fest to enjoy the country atmosphere with the surrounding picturesque farms and orchards, the slower pace, and the safer environment for their families. The NWFCCA would like to thank the many volunteers who helped to make Mountain Fest weekend such a success. Those who merit special thanks for their many years of service are Kenny Howard; Arthur and Sarah Gernand; Edgar Hatter; and Ed Coleman and his daughter, Donna.

We at the Civic Association would again like to thank you for your continued support and commitment to the NWFCCA and the community! On a personal note, I would like to recognize my mother, Shirley Lee Harbaugh, of Sabillasville, and who was raised in Greenstone, Pennsylvania. Mom was a charter member of NWFCCA in good standing for over thirty years. She was always thoughtful and supportive and available whenever help was needed. Mom passed away in late May 2015. I loved my mother very much, and she will be missed by many that knew her, especially by Dad and me.

Photos by C. L. Harbaugh Photography

Mountain Fest 2

Best of Show was awarded to Gerald Poffenburger of Hagerstown for his 1941 Plymouth Pickup Truck at the 32nd Annual Kenny Clabaugh Car Show at Mountain Fest on October 11, 2015.