Currently viewing the tag: "Frederick county"

When it rains,It Pours

by James Rada, Jr.

A freak storm hit Frederick County and Adams County in Pennsylvania on June 18, 1996, and stalled over the region as it dumped rain. When the storm ended on June 19, it had dropped 11 inches of rain in Northern Frederick County.

“A series of storms, like boxcars, followed the same line, dumping all their rain on the same spot,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Rivers and creeks overran their banks. Water covered bridges and flooded into basements. The Frederick Post reported that residents near the Monocacy bridge at Bridgeport “woke to find their homes in the middle of an ocean.”

Farmers lost crops that were inundated in water and mud. Even some livestock in fields were floated away, often being found in neighboring farms, if found at all.

Police, fire, and ambulance units spent a busy day responding to calls. Both of Emmitsburg’s ambulances were disabled in the flooding, and one was missing for a while because the radio shorted out in the water, and the crew was unable to communicate.     

The Monocacy River reached a high-water mark of 24.45 feet, a record.

“In our nomenclature, it’s much greater than a 100-year flood,” USGS hydrologist, Bob James, said in an interview.

A Maryland State Police helicopter had to rescue one man stranded on top of his car at Flat Run. Four young women ran into a similar problem when their car stalled trying to cross over Owens Creek at Annandale Road. The helicopter was unable to reach them because of tree cover, so an air boat was sent to them. The water was 28 to 36 inches deep on the road. One firefighter was swept away during a rescue and had to be rescued himself.

“The entire town of Emmitsburg was closed to traffic for several hours Wednesday morning (June 19th) as overflow from Toms and Flat Run creeks virtually surrounded the Frederick County town,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

At least 47 basements reported flooding in Emmitsburg. Some had water as deep as five feet. Emmit Gardens, the lowest point in town, had to be evacuated.

“This place was like a little island to itself,” Art Damuth told the Gettysburg Times.

Four people died in the flood, but only one from the north county area.

The Red Cross set up at Mount St. Mary’s to provide food and shelter to displaced families.

As the water receded, people assessed the damage to their homes. The Town of Emmitsburg estimated that $100,000 to $200,000 damage had been done to municipal properties. Although the amount of damage didn’t reach a threshold for federal aid, the north county death apparently was enough for Congress to waive the threshold and offer aid to the north county area.

In the aftermath of the flood, officials from Emmitsburg and Frederick County looked at ways to mitigate future flood damage, such as dams or dredging Flat Run. In the end, the most cost effective option that helped the most people was to flood proof 20 homes in Emmitsburg by elevating the homes and building walls around them. The Frederick News reported it “is among the first and largest flood-control proposals advanced in western Maryland after three severe floods in the mountainous region this year.”

The plan also included the regular clearing of brush, fallen trees, and debris from Flat Run. The estimated cost for this plan was estimated to be around $100,000.

“Moving people out of their homes or building a dam are both impractical. This is a good plan,” Emmitsburg Mayor William Carr told the newspaper.

Buying or Selling in Today’s Market

By Elle Smith, J&B Real Estate, Inc. Realtor

It’s no secret that the real estate market in our area has been in a strong sellers’ market. And, it’s no secret that Frederick County is a desirable area. I’ve been blessed to call this area home my entire life, and I would not want to live anywhere else. So, I can understand why our area is so popular. Whether buying or selling a home, it’s never too early to start preparing.

During the holiday season, the market tends to slow down. This year is no exception. While the market is still healthy, we have seen a slowdown in activity. This makes it the ideal time to prepare to sell. If you have been considering selling, take this time to get your home ready for the spring selling season.

When I go on listing appointments, the number one question I get asked is “What do we need to do to prepare to sell our home?” The biggest thing you can do is declutter. The less clutter, the more spacious a home will feel. This may involve boxing things and putting them in storage. Make sure all appliances and major systems are in good operating condition. Touch up paint and drywall—neutral colors are always an excellent choice. Enhance the curb appeal: keep grass mowed, leaves raked, snow shoveled, and make a welcoming entrance. Remove or minimize personal items and photographs. Finally, clean your home top to bottom. Try to view your home through the eyes of a potential buyer. Think about what would make it appeal to you if you were seeing it for the first time. Updated bathrooms and kitchens will get more interest from potential buyers. And, with the increase in working from home and virtual school, home office areas are increasingly important. Outdoor living spaces—patios, decks, sunrooms—are also a big draw for potential buyers.

Selling your home during the holiday season can be challenging, but do not let it deter you from listing now. There are advantages to selling your home this time of year. Traditionally, there are less homes on the market, and therefore, less competition. Some buyers want or need to buy a home before the end of the year for job reasons. Even if you are waiting for spring to put your home on the market, it is never too early to start preparing your home for sale.

Buyers, don’t let the term “sellers’ market” scare you if you have been wanting to buy a home. With interest rates at record lows and rental prices at record highs, this is a good time to buy a home.

Depending on the property, you could pay a monthly mortgage payment that is less than a monthly rental payment. And, with the lack of rental properties in our area, buying a home is a realistic option.

When writing an offer on a home in this market, you want to be a competitive buyer. So, always be pre-approved with a mortgage lender before beginning your home search. A pre-approval will tell you how much house you can afford and will give you a summary of cash you would need at settlement. Meeting with a real estate agent is also one of the first things you should do. Maryland encourages all parties to have representation, so having an agent represent you as a buyer is in your best interest.

A buyer’s agent will meet with you to discuss your needs and wants. They can create a search for you that will alert you to “coming soon” and “active” properties on the market. They will represent your best interests in the home-buying process. Looking online is great, but sometimes the home you love may be under contract before you see it online. A buyer’s agent can send you alerts the minute a property hits the market.

 Buying or selling a home can be an exciting, yet overwhelming, step. Having a professional there to help you along the way can make it less stressful.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year.

Within a few weeks, founding group members of the Sabillasville Environmental School—A Classical Charter, will know if their hard work has paid off. Over the past year, the group wrote a charter school application as a solution for keeping a school in Sabillasville.

If approved, the public charter would operate out of the current Sabillasville Elementary School building. As a public charter, the school would be free and open to all students in K-8 who live in Frederick County.

The group is proposing a school that will teach a classical curriculum, with a focus on environmental science, which will include several hands-on learning projects, such as a green house and garden space and market days where students will apply math and business skills to sell their produce. If approved, the charter would start operation in August 2022.

On August 18, the superintendent of Frederick County will make her recommendation to the Board of Education as to whether or not they should approve the charter application. On September 10, the Board of Education will conduct a final vote on approval of the charter school application.

Founding group members are encouraging community members to email their letters of support for the school to the Board of Education prior to their final vote on September 10. Emails may be sent to For more information about the Sabillasville Environmental School, visit their Facebook page.

In Frederick County, as of January 21, 2021, over 12,000 residents have received their first vaccination for COVID-19. Currently, the county is vaccinating people in group 1A and those who are 75 years and older who live or work in Frederick County. Residents who are interested in receiving the vaccine must visit the website at, and complete the “Vaccine Interest Form” located in the blue box.  Please note, completing this form does NOT make an appointment for you to get the vaccine.

They will contact people who have registered on this form by priority group as they receive more vaccines.

You will be contacted by the email you provide in the form. When you are contacted, you will need to register for your appointment online.

You only need to complete the form once.

It may be several days, weeks, or longer until you are contacted since it depends on vaccine availability.

If you are unable to complete the form online, you may call the Frederick County COVID-19 Appointment line at 301-600-7900, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please note that this call center is specifically to help people make appointments if they cannot do so themselves online. They are asking our community to please check on friends, family, or neighbors who may not be able to make their appointment online and help them with that process so that the call center can help those most in need. Appointments slots continue to be limited, but more will be available each week.


James Rada, Jr.

While the national election may be tied up in the courts for some time yet, the results for Frederick County are clear. Most people stayed home and voted for Joe Biden as President of the United States.

While President Donald Trump commanded large leads in the early voting and Election Day totals, more than three times as many people voted for Biden over Trump by mail. The final tally in the county was 61,692 votes for Trump and 73,491 votes for Biden (44.3% vs. 52.8%). The Libertarian, Green, and Bread and Roses parties also picked up 3,050 votes in the county.

For our U.S. Representative in District 8, Frederick County went for Republican Gregory Coll (57.2%) over Democrat Jamie Raskin (42.6%). However, the district covers more than Frederick County, and Raskin, the incumbent, won re-election.

Other county races included:

Board of Education (Vote for 3)

Sue Johnson (21.5%)

Jason “Mr. J.” Johnson (16.3%)

David Bass (15.1%)

Rae M. Gallagher (14.6%)

Lois Jarman (13.9%)

Dean Rose (13.8%)

Judge of the Circuit Court—Theresa M. Adams (97.7%), Others (2.3%)

Judge, Court of Special Appeals At Large—E. Gregory Wells to Continue, Yes (86.6%), No (13.4%)

Judge, Court of Special Appeals—Kathryn Grill Graeff to Continue, Yes (86.2%), No (13.8%)

Local Ballot Questions

All four county ballot questions concerned charter amendments, and all four passed with more than 75 percent approval.

Local Charter Amendment A: Council Non-interference

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to require the County Executive to provide any information that is requested by an individual County Council member that is for the purpose of introducing and evaluating legislation or to engage in the review and monitoring of Government programs, activities, and policy implementation.

Local Charter Amendment B: Borrowing limitations

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to reduce the percentage of assessable property the County can pledge from debt from 5 to 3 percent of assessable real property, and from 15 to 9 percent of assessable personal property.

Local Charter Amendment C: County Council Special Elections

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to provide that the County Council shall fill a vacancy on the Council by choosing one of three persons from a list submitted by the central committee of the same political party as the vacating member. If no list is submitted or the vacating member was not a member of a political party, the Council shall appoint a person it deems best qualified to hold office. If the Council fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the County Executive shall fill the vacancy by following the same procedure. All persons considered for appointment shall be presented to the public and shall be interviewed by either the Council or Executive, allowing for public comment, prior to appointment. If the vacancy occurs in the first year of the vacating member’s term, after a person is appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy, a special election will be held to elect and fill the vacancy for the balance of the term.

Local Charter Amendment D: County Executive Special Elections

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to provide a process to fill a vacancy in the position of County Executive. The County Council shall fill a vacancy of the Executive by choosing one of three persons from a list submitted by the central committee of the same political party as the vacating Executive. If no list is submitted or the vacating Executive was not a member of a political party, the Council shall appoint a person it deems best qualified to hold office.  If the Council fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the Council shall appoint the County’s Chief Administrative Officer. All persons considered for appointment shall be presented to the public and shall be interviewed, allowing for public comment, prior to appointment. If the vacancy occurs in the first year of the vacating Executive’s term, after a person is appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy, a special election will be held to elect and fill the vacancy for the balance of the term.

by James Rada, Jr.

Things That Go “Boom” In the Night

January 2, 1887, was a cold day in Frederick County. Thermometers hovered around eight degrees. Fireplaces and stoves were stoked with roaring fires to fight back the cold that was pushing its way through every crack and crevice of a home.

Several inches of snow, hardened with a covering of ice, covered the ground, and sheets of ice coated the roofs of buildings. Moonlight reflected off the frozen snow, giving it a slight glow even at midnight.

“A young gentleman returning home in his sleigh about this time, says the cracking of the ice on a roof, by which he passed, was so loud and forcible, that it scared his horse,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported.

Although few people reported feeling anything, doors swung open, and objects toppled over “as if burglars were doing the houses,” according to the Clarion.

Many more people described hearing sounds that sounded like explosions. The Emmitsburg Chronicle compared it to the sound of a well being excavated.

“But mostly the sounds were above, as some describe them—like unto the clatter of tearing off a roof,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported.

The Catoctin Clarion reported, “At this point the report was sufficiently loud to suggest to Mr. J. W. Weast, a merchant at that point, that his safe had been blown up and he hurriedly dressed himself and visited his safe, only to find it intact.”

Reports came in from all over Frederick County and parts of Carroll County. Westminster residents seem to have felt the earthquake and experienced damage.

The Frederick Daily News reported that because no one in Emmitsburg felt any tremors, no one actually considered it an earthquake.

The Emmitsburg Chronicle offered a scientific reason for the noises not being an earthquake, writing “to one suddenly awaking in the night, and considering that there have not been received any accounts of clocks being stopped, or household things displaced, as in earthquake manifestations, together with the simultaneousness of the occurrences at points, miles apart, we infer the who matter was purely electrical. Indeed a writer not long ago undertook to prove that seismic phenomena were but electrical manifestations, on the earth’s surface and not from the interior.”

Although the county is not prone to earthquakes and doesn’t sit on a fault line, it was an earthquake—albeit an unusual one—that hit the county that night. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, east of the Rocky Mountains, fault lines are a poor indicator of where earthquakes will hit. The USGS website states, “In contrast, things are less straightforward east of the Rockies because it is rare for earthquakes to break the ground surface. In particular, east of the Rockies, most known faults and fault lines do not appear to have anything to do with modern earthquakes. We don’t know why. An earthquake is as likely to occur on an unknown fault as on a known fault, if not more likely. The result of all this is that fault lines east of the Rockies are unreliable guides to where earthquakes are likely to occur.”

Whatever the reason for the earthquake, it was a disturbing way for Frederick County residents to welcome in the new year on January 2, 1887.

Recently, the Frederick County Retired School Personal Association (FCRSPA) had its fall luncheon at the Lewistown Fire Hall. The guest speaker was Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

Dr. Hrabowski has been credited with transforming a commuter college into an institution known for its research and innovation, especially regarding African American students. He has written three books and been the recipient of many awards and honors. Dr. Hrabowski spoke about the role of higher education in American society and the importance of telling our own stories.

Membership in the FCRSPA is open to all those who have retired from Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS). For membership information, email or call the FCRSPA Member Chairperson at 301-788-1117.

With four homes in the Thurmont-Emmitsburg area and four more in planning for construction next year, Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County is already helping make homes affordable in the area.

Now the organization has joined Habitat for Humanity organizations across the country to launch a new national advocacy campaign aimed at improving home affordability for 10 million people in the United States over the next five years.

Nearly 19 million households across the United States are spending at least half of their income on a place to live, often forgoing basic necessities such as food and health care to make ends meet. In Frederick County, the ALICE Report from the United Way tells us that 34,688 households, or 39 percent of our local population cannot afford basic needs such as housing, childcare, food, transportation, and health care. The stability that housing should bring continues to remain out of reach for many people.

“We want to start focusing on where the ALICE Report identified the greatest need,” Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County Executive Director Ron Cramer said. Emmitsburg and Thurmont show the highest need, and Brunswick and Frederick City also top the list.

This could benefit Thurmont and Emmitsburg because the towns also have affordable land compared to other locations in the county.

“We build where we find land that we can afford,” Cramer said.

Marking significant growth in Habitat’s commitment to ensuring that everyone has a safe and decent place to call home, the Cost of Home campaign seeks to identify and improve policies and systems through coordinated advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal levels.

Cost of Home focuses on improving housing affordability across the housing continuum in four specific policy areas: increasing supply and preservation of affordable homes, equitably increasing access to credit, optimizing land use for affordable homes, and ensuring access to and development of communities of opportunity.

Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County already has taken steps toward these goals. The local organization has advocated in the past for a change to the County’s Impact Fee structure, and is now asking local residents to join that effort through the Cost of Home campaign.

Frederick County is one of the only counties in the State that has “flat-rate” impact fees, meaning the fee is the same, regardless of size, type, density, location, or any other factor on the home. A nonprofit homebuilder like Habitat for Humanity can waive these fees; however, if they do so, the fee passes to the low-income homebuyer as a lien on their home. The result is that these flat-rate impact fees have a regressive effect, falling disproportionately on those with lower incomes.

As part of this campaign, Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County is continuing to advocate that the County Council revise the legislation on Impact Fees to make them more affordable for lower-income homebuyers.

by Buck Reed

If you were not lucky enough to learn the art of cooking from your mother or, even better, your grandmother, all is not lost. It really is never too late to practice and obtain the skills needed to use the most important room in your home.

There are a number of outlets here in Frederick County that offer a glimpse into the culinary world. Frederick Community College offers classes to both professional and novice cooks who are looking to expand their cooking chops. The Department of Parks and Recreation also offers classes for kids, adults, and couples. Both offer a delicious experience in a relaxed professional atmosphere.

But what about learning to cook from a book? Can you gain the finesse needed to become a skilled cook between the pages of a cookbook? I would say no. I do not care what current culinary superstar wrote the book, there is no way you will be able to pick up every single idea they have about cooking. I do believe that if you read a successful, chef’s words you can develop your own philosophy on cooking. You may eventually be able to duplicate their signature dish as well and, given time, you my even be able to make some subtle changes to the dish to make it your own.

If you are working from a book you need to concentrate on the techniques that the chef/writer is working with and duplicate and perfect them. Then, you need to concentrate on getting your flavors down. All this takes time and effort, and there is no shortcut. Nobody is born or wakes up one day with the skills and knowledge it takes to be a great cook. You must practice. You must taste new dishes and try to figure out what ingredients and techniques were used to obtain their results.

Which brings us to the internet. Right now, there is no shortage of videos, blogs, and even websites promising a complete set of cooking courses that promise to make you a culinary icon, if not in your kitchen then in your own mind. As soon as I run out of ideas for this article, I promise I will start working on my own website, promising the same lofty goals. And given my experience, it is very easy for me to say that I can learn something from almost all of these outlets. But, if you do not have the basics down, it might be very difficult for you to gain any benefit from these sources.

Cooking is made up of a great deal of science; you can glimpse that science from a book to some extent, but the rest of it is art. And art is pain and understanding and calls upon us to open our minds to new ideas. Finding the right source of instruction that would suit you is something you will have to seek out yourself.

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 and Copies are also available to check out in county libraries.

Thurmont Migrant Camp

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Thurmont-Camp-1963.jpg

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

Frederick County hides a wealth of natural resources underground. It is mined for iron, copper, gold, lead, silver, zinc, aluminum, stone, limestone, silica, calcium, and clay. At one time, Frederick County also had a short-lived coal mine or did it?

In October 1877, coal was discovered on the farm of Mary Ann Cretin near Motter’s Station. This was an amazing find. Maps of Maryland coal resources with the Maryland Department of the Environment show the state’s coal deposits are in the Western Maryland mountains, beginning beneath the mountains that run along the border between Garrett and Allegany counties.

After the mine opened, the Catoctin Clarion announced that it “is really amounting to something and coal in large quantities is being taken from it.”

People were apparently visiting the farm just to see the coal mine in operation. They said that the coal seam being mined was about a foot thick.

Samples of the coal were tested by a blacksmith whose last name was Weaver “who pronounces it equal to any he ever used for his purposes. All who have seen the specimens taken from the vein pronounce it genuine coal and the owner of the land is in high glee in anticipation of a big fortune,” according to the newspaper.

Many people were comparing it to the high-quality bituminous coal mined in Allegany County. Coal mining was a major industry in that county, and some hoped it could become so in Frederick County.

“This will be a big thing in Frederick County and the cost of coal in the future will be lessened a great deal,” the Catoctin Clarion reported. “It will also cause others to make an examination of their lands and probably bring to light some richer minerals, which must be about in this region so close to the mountains.”

Despite the hoopla, the newspaper announced that mining on the property had ceased in November after less than two months in operation.

“The proprietor is still hopeful, however, that a big let lies buried under the ground, but he doesn’t feel justified in digging for it just now,” the newspaper reported.

A letter that appeared later in the Catoctin Clarion suggested the coal mine might not have been what it seemed. The letter writer said that a man named Harris Bush had been hauling coal to Emmitsburg years ago when the load proved to be heavy to pull. Bush unloaded much of the coal to make it easier for his horses to pull the remainder. The letter writer believed this to be the source of the coal mine. Although the letter writer said the coal had been dumped near Motter’s Station, it doesn’t seem likely that it would have been the coal mine on Cretin’s farm. For one thing, the coal wasn’t found near a road. Also, witnesses saw the coal seam and coal being dug from the ground. Bush’s excess coal would have sat on top of the ground.

However, the Motter’s Station coal mine is improbable. It was found in a region where coal has not been found, even today. The coal seam also petered out quickly.

So, was there a coal mine in Northern Frederick County?

Cretin believed so, but when she died in 1899, no other coal had been found on her farm or in the county for that matter.

Although coal seams are only known to be found in Western Maryland, Motters Station once had a short-lived coal mine in the late 1800s.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner announced the appointment of Kevin Fox (pictured far right) of Thurmont as Deputy Fire Chief and Director of Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services.

“Kevin brings years of experience in both the volunteer and career fire service,” Executive Gardner said. “He is well-respected, professional, and will hit the ground running. As the Director of Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services, he will be able to listen to the many needs of volunteers around the county, represent their interests, and build consensus on complex issues. I am confident Kevin Fox will do an outstanding job for the citizens of Frederick County.”

In this role, Fox will support the work of, and coordinate with, Frederick County’s volunteer fire and rescue companies. Fox has served as acting director since December 2017, when Clarence “Chip” Jewell retired.

Fox was selected through an open recruitment process. He has extensive knowledge of both the career and volunteer sides of emergency services. He has volunteered as an EMT and firefighter for more than thirty years, serving in numerous leadership positions, including past president of the Thurmont Community Ambulance Services and vice president of Guardian Hose Company in Thurmont. He has worked for Frederick County Government since 1990, first as an emergency communications dispatcher, and then, in 1999, as a firefighter with the Division of Fire and Rescue Services. For the past four years, Fox has been the division’s spokesperson. In 2015, he was promoted to battalion chief. Fox also teaches part-time for the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute.

Pictured from left are VHC Fire Chief Chad Umbel, Dave Zentz, and Director/Deputy Chief of Frederick County Volunteer Fire/Rescue Services Kevin Fox.

Photo Courtesy of Vigilant Hose Company

James Rada, Jr.

Morris Blake spent decades working in security with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service, Francis Scott Key Mall, Frederick County, and Mount St. Mary’s; but, last year, he turned in his badge to become a hair stylist and has never been happier.

Blake, who turns fifty-seven this year, has lived in Thurmont all of his life.

“I live in the same house they brought me home from the hospital to,” Blake said.

He started working for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a ranger at Cunningham Falls when he was twenty-two years old.

One incident he remembers from this time is when he and his training officers approached a man near the dam, who was sitting on the pipe hole. They saw that he had weapons in his vehicle, and they convinced the man to come up from where he was sitting to talk to them.

The man was depressed, but cooperative. When the training officer asked if it would be all right to check the man’s weapons, the man reached into the vehicle, pulled out his shotgun, and racked it.

“They didn’t give up bulletproof vests, but I tell you, every day after that, I wore one,” recalled Blake.

Although this man proved to be harmless, Blake realized that he could easily have been shot, so he went and bought his own bulletproof vest to wear from then on.

After seven years with the State of Maryland, he moved across the road to become a ranger with the Mounted Horse Patrol at Catoctin Mountain Park. He enjoyed working with the horses, in particular, giving rides to handicapped children who came to the park. However, tightening budgets cost the park its two horses, Jimmy and Commander, who were sent to work at the St. Louis Arch National Park.

So Blake moved on to mall security at Francis Scott Key Mall. He found himself moving up quickly in rank (although his duties and pay remained the same). When he asked Director of Security Gary Wood about it, he was told that it was because he was reliable and could be trusted.

When Wood retired, Blake became the director and realized why his work ethic had been rewarded. The younger officers couldn’t be trusted to keep working without supervision. They would goof off or flirt with girls. This meant that Blake wound up working long hours to supervise them. “I became director of security, but the work was sun up to sun down, and I couldn’t take it any longer.”

Blake then served one year in security at the Mount before landing a job with Frederick County at Winchester Hall. Not too surprisingly, the politics of the place seeped down, even to his department, until he could no longer tolerate it. He left after ten years. “I gave up the badge and came to the clippers.”

He decided to become a hair stylist because he wanted a job that would allow him to work with the public and give back to them. He attended school to earn his license and became a barber and stylist at Here’s Clyde’s in Thurmont in March 2016.

He explained that three of the women at Here’s Clyde’s he grew up with, and he looks at all of them as if they were his sisters. He also enjoys seeing people walk into the salon that he hasn’t seen for years.

Besides working in security, he was an organist at the Grotto in Emmitsburg for ten years before becoming the music director at the Fort Detrick Post Chapel, which he has done for the past four years. While the security jobs have been work, the music work has been a labor of love.

Blake doesn’t regret any of the jobs he has done because he learned from all of them. Even when the jobs were wearing him down, he stayed happy for the most part. He continues to be happy with a short walk to and from his job and being able to spend time with friends, new and old.

Morris Blake is shown at Here’s Clyde’s in Thurmont, where he works as a  barber and hair stylist.

James Rada, Jr.

When Luther Powell and his brothers attended the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, they saw a presentation about raising goldfish. Upon returning home, they realized that their farm had a good water supply, so they dug ponds and began a new business venture.

The idea caught on with other farmers who saw it as a way to make money from their ponds, and within a few years, nearly all of the goldfish in America were coming from Frederick County.

“At one point, 83 percent of the goldfish in the country were from Frederick County,” said Bill Powell, Luther’s grandson.

Bred in China for their color, goldfish were the first non-indigenous fish brought into the United States.  The historical record does not confirm an arrival date, but stories with references to goldfish put their arrival as early as 1826. They were being sold as pets by the 1850s, and interest in them spiked after P. T. Barnum opened the first public aquarium in 1856.

One suggestion for the popularity of goldfish in the county is that the German families that settled in the county enjoyed a fish-rich diet, which had led to a depletion of fish in the local streams. They purchased carp from the government to supplement the natural fish population. The carp were shipped in cans, and some goldfish, which are cousins to carp, also stowed away in the cans.

Ernest Tresselt wrote in his book Autobiography of a Goldfish Farmer, “That’s how goldfish found its way to the Maryland countryside, on the tails of edible carp. It is easy to speculate that one or more farms in Frederick County got goldfish along with their carp during the period when the carp culture in farm fish ponds was advocated as a supplementary food supply.”

Charles J. Ramsburg of Lewistown is believed to be the first goldfish farmer in Frederick County.  By the early 1900s, Ramsberg was shipping about a million fish a year around the country, according to History of Frederick County.

Another pioneer in goldfish farming was Ernest R. Powell of Lewistown. In 1892, at the age of twelve, Powell began to breed goldfish. By 1910, when his biography appeared in History of Frederick County, Powell had become successful enough in his enterprise to be identified as “one of the largest dealers of goldfish in Frederick County.”

More farmers began entering the business, using existing farm ponds or new ponds dug by hand with shovels, wheelbarrows, and horse-drawn scoops. “In the early part of the century, I think people in the county, especially farmers, saw goldfish as a way of making extra money,” Tresselt said in a 2006 interview.

Tresselt believed that goldfish farming flourished in the county in part due to “the availability of water on many farms because of the mountain streams and springs. The temperate climate, with its distinct seasonal changes, is ideal for the propagation of goldfish.”

George Leicester Thomas, who founded Three Springs Fisheries in 1917 in Buckeystown, believed that the success of goldfish farming in Frederick County was largely due to the fact that the mineral content of the water was well-suited for goldfish. Thomas’ grandson, Charles, agreed, saying that the rich color of the goldfish resulted from good breeding stock and water rich in nutrients from truckloads of manure dumped in the ponds. “The manure has nutrients that fish thrive on and actually all they have to do is open their mouths in order to eat,” he told the Frederick Post in 1981. It was these nutrients in the water, according to Thomas, that gave Frederick County goldfish the reputation of being the best-colored goldfish in the country.

George Thomas started his business as a roadside stand in Buckeystown that sold the vegetables and goldfish that he grew on his farm. “He had a keen eye for finding some type of venture where he might be successful,” Charles Thomas said of his grandfather in a 2006 interview. While customers may have bought his vegetables, they tended to show more interest in the goldfish bred in his goldfish hatchery, Three Springs Fisheries. When the U.S. postal authorities agreed to establish a branch office near the fishery to assist in the shipping of the goldfish, they asked George Thomas to select a name; in 1932, the Lilypons post office branch was created. By the end of World War II, Thomas’ fish hatchery, now known as Lilypons, had become the world’s largest producer of goldfish.

Hunting Creek Fisheries near Thurmont was started by Frederick Tresselt, a graduate of Cornell University, who 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,” his son, Ernest, said in 2006. “Every farm that could, had fish ponds. It was a cash crop for them [the farmers].”  Hunting Creek Fisheries opened in 1923 and is still in operation today as a family-run business, raising ornamental fish and aquatic plants.

Tresselt believed that Frederick County might not have had the oldest goldfish farms in the country, but the county did have the most goldfish farmers. At the peak of goldfish farming in the county (1920s and 1930s), he estimates that as many as thirty or more farms were raising millions of goldfish.  The 1925 News-Post Yearbook and Almanac listed the county’s production at three-and-a-half to four million goldfish on 400-500 acres.

The Powells eventually had 45 acres of ponds on their properties, and would ship out 120,000 goldfish a week from September through November.

“In the early days, we would get the fish out of the ponds and ship them around the country to five and dime stores,” Powell said.

These goldfish were sold for $10 to $50 per thousand, and the value of the yearly production was approximately $75,000. By 1932, production increased to seven million goldfish on 500-600 acres, with goldfish selling for $35 to $70 per thousand (retail price five-ten cents each). Reports estimated Frederick County goldfish farmers had brought $1.5 million into the county.

In 1920, county farmers organized the Gold Fish Breeders Association of Frederick County, in part to fight against the high cost of shipping, property assessments on goldfish ponds, and other issues of importance to Frederick County goldfish farmers. The organization ended once many of the county goldfish farmers left the business.

Early goldfish farming was relatively simple. In the spring, farmers stocked their ponds with breeder goldfish. The goldfish reproduced, and the young grew through the summer. Feeding the fish was kept at a minimum. Generally, some form of ground grain, like wheat middlings or ground corn, was the food of choice. The breeders were kept in the deepest ponds since these ponds provided a good water supply over the winter.

Powell said that his family looked for fish with long fins and thick bodies. They would spread Spanish moss in the ponds where the goldfish could lay their eggs. The moss was then moved to empty ponds so that the goldfish wouldn’t eat the newly hatched fish.

In the fall, the goldfish were harvested and sorted by size. Buyers would come driving trucks full of fish cans in which to carry the fish, or farmers would ship the fish to the buyers. A single farmer might ship thousands of fish each day during the harvest.

“At first, we were shipping dark fish to bait shops for fishermen, but later they began to say that the colored fish caught more fish, and they wanted them,” Powell said.

Goldfish production in Frederick County soared. By 1920, eighty percent of goldfish produced in the United States originated in Frederick County. By 1931, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the goldfish industry was a $945,000 business in the United States.  Throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, the publications of the News- Post Year Book and Almanac note that Frederick County had “more goldfish produced than in any part of the United States.” Interestingly, the yearbooks list goldfish as “selected crops harvested” rather than “livestock on farms.”

Competition was inevitable, however, and by the late 1930s, the appearance of larger, more diversified, growers across the country reduced the demand from Frederick County farms.

Modern technology also worked against county goldfish farmers. Advances in shipping techniques, and the increased variety and quality of goldfish available from growers around the world, gradually changed the goldfish market. By the 1950s, fish could be shipped in plastic bags by air freight. The plastic reduced shipping costs and the planes extended the distance the goldfish could be shipped. This further increased the competition in the market. Air transportation allowed areas that had not previously engaged in goldfish farming—such as Arkansas—to become competitive or even better locations than Frederick. “By going south, you had a longer growing season,” said Charles Thomas. “In a place like Arkansas, instead of having only one crop each season, you could have two.”

The result was that farms producing only common goldfish seasonally, such as those in Frederick County, could not compete. By the 1940s, only a few farms in Frederick County were still cultivating goldfish. “Everything changed,” Tresselt said. “We have to supply fish year round. The competition made it unprofitable for most farmers, and they went out of business.”

Powell’s family got out of the goldfish business in the 1960s. “People didn’t want them. They were starting to ban them from being in lakes. The county had a severe drought that made it hard to keep the ponds full. Fishermen were using spinning lures more than live bait, and kids didn’t want goldfish as pets. They wanted tropical fish that were harder to care for,” Powell said.

By 1980, Lilypons, once the world’s largest producer of goldfish, had diversified so that it now specialized in water garden supplies and plants more than in fish. Hunting Creek Fisheries and Eaton Fisheries also survived by diversifying their offerings into plants, game fish, and/or other types of ornamental fish, such as koi.

Today, there are still fish ponds in Frederick County. Lilypons devotes some of its nearly 500 ponds to goldfish. Hunting Creek Fisheries still has ponds in Thurmont and Lewistown, as does Eaton Fisheries in Lewistown.

Other goldfish ponds have disappeared, however. The Claybaugh fish ponds in Thurmont are now covered over by Mountain Gate Restaurant, Exxon, and McDonald’s. Fish ponds belonging to Ernest Powell and Maurice Albaugh, along Moser Road, no longer exist. The area east of the Maple Run Golf Course used to have Ross Firor’s ponds, but does no more. The ponds on William Powell’s Arrowhead Farms on Apples Church Road north of Thurmont and Frank Rice’s goldfish ponds alongside Route 15 south of Thurmont have been filled in and turned back to pasture.

Frederick County no longer is the biggest producer of goldfish in the country, but there was a time when the county led the country in growing the fish of emperors and kings.

The story of Frederick County’s heroin crisis will soon be shown on the big screen in a documentary film, being produced by Emmitsburg, filmmaker, Conrad Weaver.

“The heroin and opioid epidemic has devastated hundreds of families, individuals, and businesses all across our county. We see it in the news nearly every day, and it’s easy to think that it’s someone else’s problem. We think that it’s a Frederick or Baltimore issue. It’s not! It’s in our neighborhoods. My neighborhood. My small town. It’s our community’s problem, and we must work together to solve it. I couldn’t simply stand by and watch; I had to get involved. That’s why I’m making this film,” said Weaver.

The film is being called Heroin’s Grip and will tell the story from a variety of angles. Weaver intends to interview current addicts, healthcare and mental health workers, officials from the law enforcement community, as well as families whose lives have been shattered by heroin and opioid addiction.

“We need more documentary films like this so that you become a part of the solution,” said Charlie Smith, State’s Attorney in Frederick. Smith was interviewed for the film to include his perspective on the epidemic.

Filming began in early February and will continue through the spring months. Weaver hopes to complete production by early September in order to submit the project to a number of major film festivals around the country. He plans on releasing a DVD version, along with educational materials related to the film sometime in 2018.

Weaver is not working on this alone. He’s recruited Caressa Flannery, a Frederick entrepreneur and mother of a heroin addict who’s in recovery. Together, they have partnered with the Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates, who will help manage the fundraising efforts for the film.

Weaver is launching a Crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo to raise money for the production of the film. Interested donors should visit the film’s website at for more information.

Weaver is an award-winning filmmaker. Most recently, he received a Mid-America Regional EMMY© Award for his 2014 documentary, The Great American Wheat Harvest.

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont recently received recognition from Safewise as the ninth safest city in Maryland.

Safewise looks at the most recent FBI Crime Report statistics and population of cities with more than 3,000 residents. They look at violent crime and property crime that occurs per 1,000 residents.

According to Safewise, Thurmont has .46 violent crimes per 1,000 residents and 11.76 property crimes per 1,000 residents. It is the only city in Frederick County to make the top ten.

“We don’t depend on county or state for police, and I think it shows in how safe our streets are,” said Mayor John A. Kinnaird.

The safest cities in Maryland are: 1. Brentwood (Prince Georges); 2. Sykesville (Carroll); 3. Manchester (Carroll); 4. Smithsburg (Washington); 5. Boonsboro (Washington); 6. Ocean Pines (Worcester); 7. Hampstead (Carroll); 8. Taneytown (Carroll); 9. Thurmont (Frederick); and 10. Glenarden (Prince Georges).

While still in the top ten, Thurmont has tumbled a few spots from its number two position in 2013

For many cancer patients, getting to and from treatment is one of their toughest challenges. The American Cancer Society needs volunteer drivers in Frederick County to help provide transportation for people in your community.

Through the simple gift of a lift in your car, you can help carry patients one step further on the road to recovery. Schedules are flexible. Get in the driver’s seat in the fight against cancer. To volunteer, call 800-ACS-2345.

James Rada, Jr.

Thurmont has been a Maryland Main Street Community since 2005—one of twenty-eight in Maryland, five of which are in Frederick County. What is not as well known is that Thurmont has also been a nationally recognized Main Street.

According to Main Street Manager Vickie Grinder, the Maryland Main Street program works in conjunction with the National Main Street program, operated by the Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust sets the standard for Main Streets so that if a community is accredited at the state level, it also receives national accreditation.

Main Streets have to renew their accreditation each year, which means that Thurmont has continued to meet the standards for public outreach, programming, economic development, sustainable practices, and the creation of a business-friendly environment, annually.

According to a town press release, the highlights of Thurmont’s Main Street activity this past year include:
• The opening of the Thurmont Main Street Center at 11 Water Street, which serves as a visitor center with tourist information about Thurmont. It also serves as a venue where artists can display their work and make it available to the public. A public meeting area is available for group meetings. It is the headquarters for Christmas in Thurmont and other holiday events. The center is staffed by volunteers and open most weekends.
• Thurmont Farmers’ Market, Gallery Strolls, “Thurmont Think Pink” program, and the “Buy Local” program have all been rejuvenated.
• A recent downtown revitalization took place that included new sidewalks, new street lights, new benches, trash cans, and bicycle racks.
• Christmas in Thurmont, with photos with Santa Claus, prizes, caroling, and the lighting of the tree in Mechanicstown Square Park, continues to be a popular annual event.
• Partnerships were established with Catoctin Mountain Park, Cunningham Falls State Park, and Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

Grinder is especially pleased with the cooperation that the county Main Streets receive from the county government, including quarterly meetings with Sandy Wagerman in the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

“The meetings allow us to work together, brainstorm and feed off each other,” Grinder said. Four of the county Main Streets (Thurmont, Mt. Airy, Brunswick, and Middletown) actually have a lot in common and something that works well in one community may work in the other communities.

For more information about what is happening with Thurmont’s Main Street, visit

For many cancer patients, getting to and from treatment is one of their toughest challenges. The American Cancer Society needs volunteer drivers in Frederick County to help provide transportation for people in their community. Through the simple gift of a lift in your car, you can help carry patients one step further on the road to recovery. Schedules are flexible.

Get in the driver’s seat in the fight against cancer. If you are interested in volunteering, please call 410-781-6909 or email

Thurmont Elementary School and Catoctin High School were two of eight schools in Maryland, and the only schools in Frederick County, to recently be recognized as Maryland Schools of Character.

The awards are given annually by, a national advocate for character development. In Maryland, the program is sponsored by the Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University. The awards are based on how well the schools fulfill eleven aspects of character education, including that the school regularly assesses its culture and climate and the functioning of its staff as character educators, and the extent to which its students manifest good character.

“It’s a nice honor to receive to recognize the hard work that we’ve done over the year with character education,” said Beth Myers, Thurmont Elementary guidance counselor.

Schools had to submit a comprehensive application package that showed statistics and anecdotal evidence of how well they were meeting the different aspects of character education.

“It was a lot of work to prove that we have a solid program built on the eleven principles of character education,” said Dana Brashear, Catoctin High guidance counselor.

According to the website, the principles are as follows:

  • The school community promotes core ethical and performance values as the foundation of good


  • The school defines “character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing.
  • The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development.
  • The school creates a caring community.
  • The school provides students with opportunities for moral action.
  • The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed.
  • The school fosters students’ self-motivation.
  • The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students.
  • The school fosters shared leadership and long-range support of the character education initiative.
  • The school engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort.

The Maryland School of Character Award is a three-year award that can be reapplied for. Once the schools received the state award, they were automatically eligible to receive national recognition. A national team visited the schools last year, and met with personnel who were responsible for each of the character principles.

“Their feedback was invaluable,” stated Myers. “It gave us an awareness and focus on how we can continue to strive to do better.”

Although neither school received national recognition, it is an award that can be applied for annually. Brashear said that she is planning on having the Catoctin character teams make improvements so that she can submit an application at the end of this year.

Myers said that the effect of the award can be seen in how the students act, noting that they are recognizing more that they are responsible for their own behavior and working more collectively with the teachers.

Brashear agreed, adding that when things like that happen, it creates a culture in the school.

“I feel like we are raising good kids,” Brashear said. “They come out of here with good traits and skills.”

“A Well Manored Family”

by “My Father’s Son”

COLUMN - new -Catoctin ManorMost are familiar with the historic site of Rose Hill Manor alongside Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick. This classically southern home— built over eight years, beginning in 1790, for Thomas Johnson’s daughter, Ann, after she and her husband received the land as a gift from her father on the eve of their nuptials—became popularly known as the final home of Thomas Johnson. Rose Hill is a fantastic illustration of early-American residential architecture and the Maryland-style plantation home. Thomas Johnson spent the last twenty-five years of his life, from 1794-1819, living as a guest in the mansion.

Rose Hill is not the only trace of the Johnson family in Frederick County. Thomas Johnson, and his three brothers, had a huge impact on the emancipation of colonial America from the fringes of Thurmont, where their once prominent presence can still be seen. Our northern county region, between Lewistown and Thurmont, holds three sister-houses: Rose Hill’s lost relatives, standing within 1.7 miles of each other along the shoulder of the old Route 15 pavement (present day Maryland 806).

The story of these houses begins with James Johnson. In the late 1760s, James Johnson was a learned ironmaster. So, in 1768, he, along with his brother Thomas, lobbied for a plot of land they believed ideal for iron production. Prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and just in time for the American Revolution whose demand would allow the new iron-furnace to thrive, James began construction of the Catoctin Furnace. The first of the three local Johnson homes was conceived here. Positioned to oversee the daily operations of the furnace, “Catoctin Manor” was built by James on the corner of the “main road” (MD-806) and the “hollow road” (now Catoctin Hollow Road before it’s terminus was disrupted by the Route 15 bypass). The home was a side-hall, three-bay layout, built of stone and finished in a white plaster/stucco coating on the exterior. Some historic documentation questions whether James ever lived in this home, as another was built by him in or around the year 1775.

In 1826, the furnace was out of Johnson hands and bought at a sheriff’s sale in Fredericktowne for the sum of $10,000 by a man named John Brien. Brien greatly enlarged the Ironmaster’s mansion. Two more bays were added to the left of the front façade and, eventually, a large back section, forming the footprint of the house into a large “T” shape. This home stands in ruins at the Furnace Exhibit area of Cunningham Falls State Park, its stone remains crowned with cement for preservation. The still-visible foundation displays the original parameter of the house James Johnson built, as well as the later areas of addition. The Mansion and Furnace were acquired by the State Park in the late 1930s, and the home was once even under consideration to become a “Summer White House.” As the mid-twentieth century approached, citizens began to express concern over the deteriorating Ironmaster’s Mansion since the shutdown of the Furnace only a few years after 1900, one of the home’s last long-term residents of roughly ten to twenty years being the family of acting Superintendent L.R. Waesche. Ultimately, the Park Service had no funds to allocate to the large home, but did remove the stylish boxwoods that surrounded the residence to replant them at the White House.

James Johnson spent the last portion of his life, leading up to his death in 1809 at Springfield Manor, circa 1775 as reported by the Maryland State Archives (MSA). Springfield Manor, currently refurbished into an attractive event venue, vineyard, and distillery, stands proud over the farm fields of nearby Lewistown on Auburn Road. Springfield offers Georgian architecture, built of light-colored stone, once painted white, standing two-and-a-half stories tall, with the half-story constructed of red brick around narrow windows, providing ventilation to the former servant quarters. Springfield offers a centrally located, single-story covered front porch, similar to that of the enlarged Catoctin Manor. Based off the location of a matching stone summer kitchen near the home’s northeast corner, the MSA speculates that a Palladian layout may have been James’ intent for his final mansion. George Washington’s Mount Vernon is a prime example of a Palladian plan. Had Springfield possessed another matching stone structure, mirroring its summer kitchen, and pavilions or breezeways connecting these secondary structures to the main house to comprise two symmetrical wings, Springfield would surely have been the greatest Johnson house of them all.

The final sister, Auburn, came later in 1805. Beginning in 1793, Thomas and Baker Johnson operated the Furnace in a partnership after their brother James left the company. Thomas dissolved the partnership and left Baker in charge; Baker purchased the parcel of land between the furnace complex and his brother’s Springfield property and built Auburn. Auburn is a favorite to many who live in the area and those who frequently travel Route 15 alike. Perched in the trees, mere yards away from the southbound travel lanes, Auburn most resembles its proverbial niece Rose Hill, which is actually five to seven years Auburn’s elder. It is unaware how long Baker lived in his house at Auburn, as his 1809 will stated that all of the belongings of Auburn and the land on which it sat was to go to his son Baker Jr., who was already inhabiting the house at the time of Baker’s death. In recent history, Clem Gardiner and his wife Harriet graciously took care of the large estate before their passing and deserve all credit due to them for their accomplishment; their sons reserve life-estate on the property.

All three homes are of a central hall, five-bay symmetrical main house plan, built on fieldstone foundations with oversized multi-pane sashes and accompanying louver shutters with all but Catoctin Manor having smaller, informal side service-wings, some more ornate than others. Auburn’s service wing consists of both one- and two-story sections, possibly meant to go unnoticed in the grand scheme of the home, insignificant in design to the impressive main house. At Auburn, a centrally located porch, covering the front door and two small ornamental windows, rises two stories to create a columned portico, similar to, but less elaborate than, the Doric and Ionic combination of columns and carefully carved details of the portico at Rose Hill. The resemblance between the quartet of homes is surely not identical, but their liking to one another secures them as a proper collection.

Three men, four houses, and one business venture that tied them all to this area have left us a legacy of iconic treasures to share, so close their holdings once touched, and appreciate. Their beauty, scale, and symbolic wealth deem these homes be regarded with the extravagance and historic value that they represent. It is with hope that the next time one of these locations is passed, it is not with the absentmindedness of local daily normalcy, but with a special acknowledgment to those who left them behind.

Some of Frederick’s favorite artists, merchants and well-known civic leaders will be digging into their holiday decorations early this year in preparation for the Historical Society of Frederick County’s “Festival of Trees” event, November 28-December 13, 2015, in which local individuals volunteer to decorate holiday trees that are sold in a silent auction. Yvonne Reinsch and Linda Roth, Historical Society board members, are co-chairing the event that draws upon a wide cross section of Frederick’s well-known and talented.

Participating artists include: Ellen Byrne, Goodloe Byron, Jane Byron, and Yemi; merchants: Christina Christopher, Country Shabby Chic; Wendy Flynn, Dream House; Sharon Mesa, En Masse Flower Market; April Reardon, The Velvet Lounge; and civic leaders: Ric Adams, Elizabeth Cromwell, Karlys Kline, and Cindy Miller.

The Festival includes a VIP Reception on Saturday, December 5, 2015, from 5:00-7:30 p.m., featuring jazz by the Rocky Birely Trio, hors d’oeuvres, wine and champagne, and a very special silent auction of highly desirable items available only that evening. Tickets are $50.00 per person. The public can view and bid on the trees throughout the run of the event during regular business hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Thursday: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sunday: 1:00-4:00 p.m. Winners will be announced the week of December 14, 2015. All proceeds benefit the work of the Historical Society. For more information,, 301-663-1188.

Deb Spalding

20151022_132431_resizedCongratulations to Helen Deluca of Thurmont, who was recently inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. Her volunteer contributions to the Thurmont Senior Center, senior citizens in general, her church, and the community are very deserving of acknowledgement. As a column contributor to The Catoctin Banner newspaper, Helen’s willingness to communicate with readers in regard to senior citizen news has been greatly appreciated. She has a kind heart and consistent purpose. She and her husband, George, have contributed great things to our community over the years.

The 29th Annual Awards Luncheon of the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, Inc., was held October 22, 2015, in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Of the forty-eight seniors citizens honored this year, Helen was the only representative from Frederick County. Helen was surprised by members of her family who flew in to celebrate with her.

Helen has lived in northwest Frederick County since the early 1970s. She was part of a concerned neighbors group, formed to preserve the conservation of the area where she lives from encroachment of a proposed ski resort, road closures, and sewage treatment plant on a mountain stream. She is a very active volunteer at her church, Our Lady of Mr. Carmel Catholic Church, in Thurmont. There, she won the 2008 Archdiocesan Medal of Honor Award for Service.

She retired from her position as Head Checker at Giant Food in Rockville in 1972, then became active on the Senior Council with the Town of Thurmont and became a member of the Thurmont Senior Center. At Giant, she received the “Cashier of the Year” award and with it, a trip to Bermuda.

At almost eighty-nine years young, she serves as an advocate for all seniors, through her words and actions. At the Thurmont Senior Center, she was instrumental in helping through the transition from Frederick County governance to an independently managed non-profit center.

We appreciate all of your work, Helen! Life has its “Senior Moments”—this one’s for you.

Photo by Lew Hamlett

helen deluca

From right (back of head is Helen’s daughter Nancy Hamlett, granddaughter Angela Cotie (flew in from Texas), George Deluca, Helen Deluca, Carol Humerick, Jim Humerick, Irene Matthews, Kathy Dowling, John Dowling, taking picture is son-in-law. Daughter Carol Council flew in from North Carolina on Friday to join them for dinner Friday night to celebrate Helen’s award.



Catoctin High School Drama Presents Humbletown: The Greatest Town on Earth

Catoctin High School (CHS) Drama is proud to present its 2015 fall play, Humbletown: The Greatest Town on Earth. The play will be performed November 5-7, 2015, at Catoctin High School.

Humbletown: The Greatest Town on Earth is a new play by Jonathan Rand and Don Zolidis. Jonathan Rand is considered one of the most popular living playwrights, with his works having been performed in all fifty states, fifty-four countries. Over 16,000 productions have been done of his work.

Humbletown traces the history of a small Midwestern town from the late 1800s to the present with laugh-out-loud hilarity and a healthy dose of satire. The two narrators—an old cranky man (Thomas Cantwell, senior) and a young, perky modern girl (Josephine Isaacson, junior)—argue over the history, reminding us that history is usually only completely true to the person telling it.

This ensemble cast is led by seniors Cameron Hallock, Taylor Garner, Mariam Harper, Jessica Late, and Justin Cissell. The lead, Humbleton, (in addition to Humbleton Jr., and Humbleton III) is played by junior Anthony Robertson. The cast is completed with the talents of Colleen Slotwinski, Victoria Hoke, Casey Ecker, Chris Reed, Soloman Weisgerber, Tyler McNally, Amanda Smallwood, Madeline Smallwood, Heidi Selders, Christine Seymour, Haley Kopper, Eliza Phillips, Natalee Williams, and Madeline Godlove.

The play is directed by CHS Drama Director, Karen Stitely. The show will run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, November 5-7, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. The play will be presented in the CHS Auditorium. All tickets are $8.00. Contact for further information.

CHS HumbletownCast is pictured after one of their many practices, preparing for their fall play, Humbletown: The Greatest Town of Earth.

Leo Club Holds First Meeting

CHS Leo’s had their first meeting on Club Day, September 10, 2015. Their meetings will be held every second Thursday this school year. They welcomed Ms. Eckenrode back as one of their faculty advisors, along with Ms. Kathy Herrmann. This will be her final year at Catoctin High School; they feel fortunate she will be with them before her retirement. There was a great turnout at their first meeting. Over fifteen applications to perspective new members were passed out, officers wete installed, and project ideas for the upcoming Leo year were discussed.

chs leo

Leo Marah Williams (pictured above left) was sworn in as Leo Club President by Thurmont Lion Club Advisor, Wendy Candela (pictured on right). Visit them at their website at

Thurmont High School Alumni Celebrate 100 Years

Bill Eyler, President of the Thurmont High School Alumni Association

The Thurmont High School Alumni Association will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the building that was located at 408 East Main Street in Thurmont. A slide show, special music, anniversary booklet, delicious supper, and a special speaker are all being planned for this fun event.

The presentation/supper will be held on June 4, 2016, at the Lewistown Fireman Activities Building. The class of 1966 will celebrate their 50th Reunion. Classes ending in 1 and 6 will celebrate special anniversaries.

The Alumni Association is attempting to update class lists from 1916 through 1972. Any information you may have about class members, living or deceased, would be helpful. If you have any information about classmates, or you wish to be included in this event, please contact Viola Noffsinger at 301-418-1760, or leave a message at 301-898-9898. You may mail any photos or memorabilia to Viola at 12510 Creagerstown Road, Thurmont, MD 21788.

This past year’s celebration featured door prizes provided by very generous local businesses, including Gateway Candyland and Liquors, Trout’s Market Woodsboro, Hillside Turkey Farms, Hobbs Hardware, Robin Rippeon (Longaberger Baskets), Browns’ Jewelers, Carriage House Restaurant, Shuff’s Meat Market, Bollinger’s Restaurant, Kountry Kitchen Restaurant, Nancy Rice, Mountain Gate Family Restaurant, Shamrock Restaurant, Gateway Flower Shop, ACE Hardware, Rube’s Crab Shack, Catoctin Mountain Orchard, and Maple Run Golf Course. We thank them and invite you to shop locally.

Lewistown Elementary School’s Annual Tiger Ride for Technology

Lewistown Elementary School held its annual Tiger Ride for Technology on September 26, 2015. The school hosted over fifty riders for a 5-mile family ride and a 42-mile ride through northern Frederick County. It was an overwhelming success, bringing in over $2,500. All the money will be used to purchase Chrome Books for the students. At the end of the ride, s’mores were a hit and will become a tradition.

Details for next year’s ride can be found at A huge thank you goes out to their generous sponsors: The Bicycle Escape; Home Run Inc, Baker Tree Service, Tom Lynch with Miles and Stockbridge, The Orr Group at Merrill Lynch, The Allnutts, and Grimes Graphics. Donations are always welcomed and can be sent to: Lewistown Elementary School, 11119 Hessong Bridge Road, Thurmont, MD 21788. Checks made payable to: LES Tiger Ride.

by James Rada, Jr.

1871 — Catoctin County, Maryland

Can you imagine a Catoctin County, Maryland? It would have included Frederick County, north of Walkersville, and Mechanicstown would have been the county seat.

It was a dream that some people in the northern Frederick County area pursued throughout 1871 and 1872. The Catoctin Clarion was only on its tenth issue when it carried a long front-page article signed with the pen name Phocion. Phocion was an Athenian politician, statesman, and strategos in Ancient Greece.

The issue had been talked about within groups of people for a while, and it was time to garner support by taking the issue to a larger, general audience.

“Some sober sided citizens in our valley are quietly discussing the question among themselves, shall Frederick county be divided and the new county of Catoctin be erected into a separate organization?” the newspaper reported. Wicomico County had been formed in 1867 from portions of Somerset and Worcester counties, so the idea of another new Maryland county was not far-fetched. In fact, Garrett County would be formed from the western portion of Allegany County in 1872.

The main reason put forth for creating a new county was the distance and expense of traveling to Frederick to register deeds and attend court. Opponents argued that creating a new county would be costly for the citizens in the new county. New county buildings would have to be constructed and county positions filled. All of this financial burden would have to be absorbed by the smaller population in the new county.

“Our neighbors across the Monocacy in the Taneytown District have but a short distance to go to attend Carroll County Court. Why shall we on this side be deprived privileges which were granted to them? Shall the people on one side of the Monocacy be granted immunities which are to be withheld from citizens residing on the other side?” the Clarion reported.

Besides northern Frederick County, Phocion said that in Carroll County, residents of Middleburg, Pipe Creek, and Sam’s Creek were also interested in becoming part of Catoctin County.

“If a majority of the citizens residing in Frederick, Carroll, and Washington counties (within the limits of the proposed new county) favor a division, I see no reason why it should not be accomplished,” the newspaper reported.

In deciding on what the boundaries of the new county would be, there were three conditions that needed to be met in Maryland: (1) The majority of citizens in the areas that would make up the new county would have to vote to create the county; (2) The population of white inhabitants in the proposed county could not be less than 10,000; (3) The population in the counties losing land could not be less than 10,000 white residents.

Interest reached the point where a public meeting was held on January 6, 1872, at the Mechanicstown Academy “for the purpose of taking the preliminary steps for the formation of a New County out of portions of Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties,” the Clarion reported.

Dr. William White was appointed the chairman of the committee, with Joseph A. Gernand and Isaiah E. Hahn, vice presidents, and Capt. Martin Rouzer and Joseph W. Davidson, secretaries.

By January 1872, the Clarion was declaring, “We are as near united up this way on the New County Question as people generally are on any mooted project—New County, Railroad, iron and coal mines, or any other issue of public importance.”

Despite this interest in a new county, by February the idea had vanished inexplicably from the newspapers. It wasn’t until ten years later that a few articles made allusions as to what had happened. An 1882 article noted, “It was to this town principally that all looked for the men who would do the hard fighting and stand the brunt of the battle, for to her would come the reward, the court house of the new county. The cause of the sudden cessation of all interest is too well known to require notices and only comment necessary is, that an interest in the general good was not, by far, to account for the death of the ‘New County’ movement. Frederick city, in her finesse in that matter, gave herself a record for shrewdness that few players ever achieve.”

A letter to the editor the following year said that the men leading the New County Movement had been “bought off, so to speak, by the promises of office, elective at the hand of one party, appointive at the hands of the other, and thus the very backbone taken out of the movement.” The letter also noted that the taxes in Frederick County were now higher than they had been when a new county had been talked about, and that they wouldn’t have been any higher than that in the new county. “And advantages would have been nearer and communication more direct,” the letter writer noted.