Currently viewing the tag: "northern Frederick County"

James Rada, Jr.

The Seton Center has been part of Northern Frederick County since 1969. Over those 53 years it has helped thousands of people, yet most people in the area don’t realize what the center does for the community.

“Most people think of the Seton Center as a store,” said Vickie Grinder, a Seton Center board member. “Some people still think of it as a day care center.”

However, the center offers a variety of services, such as financial assistance with rent, a GED program, dental care, and referrals to other programs.

“We’re here to help you because that’s part of what we do,” said Sister Martha Beaudoin, the Seton Center Director.

The staff and volunteers at the center have recently undertaken an effort to let the communities in Northern Frederick County know about the services available and that the center is much more than just a store. They have been speaking to groups and organizations throughout the area to find those people who are living at or below the poverty level and need help.

About half of the center’s clients come from Emmitsburg, while 45 percent are from Thurmont, and the remaining 5 percent come from other north county communities.

The largest need recently has been for housing. “We get a lot of requests for help with rent and housing,” Beaudoin said. “It’s hard to find anyone who will rent at a reasonable rate.”

Some of the center’s programs include:

•  Build Your Resources: Monthly resource workshops for anyone, regardless of income level.

•  Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World: A small-group program lasting 16-20 weeks to help people impacted by poverty to build their resources.

•  Staying Ahead Program: For Getting Ahead graduates to continue meeting monthly and building on what they learned.

•  DePaul Dental Program: Eligible clients can get reduced-cost dental care from area dentists and oral surgeons.

•  Holiday Helping Hands: The Seton Center helps about 250 families each year celebrate the holidays by providing gift cards to local grocery stores and helping the families plan their meals. The center also distributes toy and gift cards to children and teens.

•  Seton Center Family Store: Find gently used items at bargain prices and help support the Seton Center programs.

•  Workforce Development: A program to help match job seekers learn the skills needed to find and keep a job.

The center started a GED program in July that will run twice a week until the attendees take their GED test. They also offer COVID tests through the Frederick County Health Department.

Each year, the center helps hundreds of families through its programs; however, it wants to do more, which is why it has focused on outreach this year. Beyond the direct programs the center offers, the Seton Center can also make referrals to many other programs.

“We can’t apply for a person, but we can help,” Beaudoin said. “A lot of people don’t know they are eligible for certain programs.”

The center’s goal is to do more for the community than simply provide financial assistance and to do it for more people.

“We are trying to find those in need who don’t know the programs are there,” said Grinder.

For more information, visit the Seton Center’s website at

Blair Garrett

Keymar Outdoors, Frederick County’s newest hunting, fishing, and outdoor supply specialty shop, has officially opened its doors.

Outdoorsmen in the Northern Frederick County area can rejoice now that they have a new hub in Keymar, housing everything from fishing rods to deer feed, and much, much more.

Those of us who have stopped by Keymar Outdoors’ former location, Craig’s Mower and Marine, will see a familiar face among the walls of boating supplies and lawn care accessories.

Craig Eichelberger, owner and operator of Keymar Outdoors, has changed things around a bit. Eichelberger’s new shop has a new look and offers plenty of equipment to keep your mowers running and the fish biting. He now sells ammo and gun accessories, too, and plans to expand his hunting section even further.

“I applied for my Federal Firearms License (FFL) back in March, so I’m waiting on that to come through now,” Eichelberger said. “Once that comes through, we’ll be adding guns and stuff into the mix.”

While the store does offer much of the gear that hunters need, Eichelberger believes adding the guns to the store will take his business to the next level.

“Right now, we do everything hunting except for the guns,” he said. “In this area, there are a lot of hunters and a lot of farmers, so I think once the FFL comes in, it’ll be a really good thing once we get everything up and running.”

Despite the shop just opening its doors back in April, Eichelberger and company have been building this business for a long, long time.

“I originally started just doing mower repair. I worked part-time just down the road around 1990, and I decided to go into it full-time in ‘92,” Eichelberger said.

An unlikely call led to an opportunity that allowed his business to expand, and he ran with it. 

“Fort Ritchie got me into the boating side,” he said. “They called me when they were open as a military base, and they asked if I’d be interested in servicing some of their equipment.”

As he worked on some of their outdoor motors, locals began to take notice, and a new branch of his business was born.

“People would come in and see we had a boat motor sitting there, and they’d ask if we’d work on those,” Eichelberger said. “We really didn’t, but we’d take a look at it, and then we added that in for quite a few years.”

Keymar Outdoors no longer does the boating repairs it did at its previous location, but Eichelberger and his team have still got you covered on your boating needs. 

“We added hunting, fishing, and crabbing supplies, and that’s been a real hit, but we still sell all the boating parts and the accessories.”

While he now has a well-rounded outdoors store, he may be best known for his help fixing up faulty mowers. There’s a level of dependability leaving your engine repairs to a technician with the amount of experience that Eichelberger has.

Eichelberger has been fixing things for the better part of three decades. Before he got his start in his own business, he worked as a mechanic for a small plumbing company in Germantown, repairing generators and small engines. It was the first sign of foreshadowing for a business opportunity from which he would eventually be able to create a career.

Fortunately, Eichelberger’s willingness to adapt to his consumers’ needs has historically opened up avenues for business that have kept him successfully in this line of work for 30 years.

“I still have a lot of my normal customers, but we’ve picked up a lot of new people here, too, even if it’s just to stop by and see what we have in stock.”

If you’re someone who likes to spend your time out on the water or out in the woods, or needs lawn or garden equipment, stop by Keymar Outdoors and they just might have exactly what you’re looking for.

Keymar Outdoors is located at 1067B Francis Scott Key Hwy in Keymar. Hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; and closed on Sundays. Call 301-271-2196 or view the advertisement on page 26 for more information.

Owner Craig Eichelberger mans the front of the store, offering patrons friendly advice on outdoor supplies.

Photo by Blair Garrett

James Rada, Jr.

Northern Frederick County lost a landmark last month when the Shamrock Restaurant was torn down. It gives the west side of Route 15, north of Thurmont, an empty look.

The 2.7-acre property sold last year to Two Farms, Inc. of Baltimore for just under $4 million. Two Farms is a holding company for properties for Royal Farm Stores.

Royal Farms is a convenience store/gas station chain, much like Sheetz and Rutter’s. It is well known for its fresh-cooked chicken. The chain has been around since 1959 and has 205 locations in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The building had to have asbestos removed earlier this year. Site work for the new Royal Farm Store will now begin. It is expected to be built between the old Shamrock Restaurant and Franklinville Road.

Traffic flow in and out of the location and across Route 15 is expected to complicate things.

It is believed that the Franklinville Road crossover of Route 15 will have to be closed and northbound traffic rerouted to Route 15. This has yet to be determined, though as things still seem in the early stages.

Photos by Kirby Delauter

by James Rada, Jr.

Rural Free Delivery

in Northern Frederick County

Better late than never, as they say.

The United States Post Office started experimenting with Rural Free Delivery in 1891. Despite starting in neighboring Carroll County, the home delivery of mail didn’t reach Frederick County until 1901.

However, it wasn’t as if the county was clamoring for it. The Catoctin Clarion reported in 1900, “The rural free delivery grows more unpopular every day, with our citizens. There are constantly being new disadvantages and inconveniences discovered which will never be made satisfactory under our present system.”

In February 1901, it looked like the system would be instituted in Frederick County in early 1902. The system employed mail wagons and carriers on foot to deliver mail to the homes of residents.

The Clarion reported, “Regarding the proposed extension of the system over the whole of Frederick County. Representative Pearre says, in a letter to The News: ‘It will put into Frederick county about $20,000 a year in the shape of salaries to letter carriers. In a nut shell, the system furnishes to the man in the rural district the same conveniences that the carrier system furnishes to a man in the city. I have absolutely no interest in the introduction of the rural free delivery system, except to give added conveniences and facilities to the people. Convinced as I am that the government is ready to furnish this great convenience to the farmer, I am going to try to introduce it.’”

As the year progressed, so did support for rural free delivery (RFD). In July, a group of Thurmont-area businessmen organized the Sweigart Manufacturing Company of Frederick County. Webster W. Sweigart had developed and patented a mailbox that the government approved for use on RFD routes.

An early problem with RFD was that people set out all sorts of boxes for their mail. The postal service issued a rule that all mailboxes had to be one of 14 approved designs. If a resident didn’t have an approved mailbox within 30 days of the start of the service, they wouldn’t receive mail.

The following month, orders were placed for blue mail wagons that would have yellow running gear and white canvas tops.

RFD came to Frederick County two months earlier than expected, starting on November 15, 1901. The new mail carriers were civil servants. “Appointments of them will be made from persons residents of the neighborhood, wholly for fitness and irrespective of political or personal considerations,” according to the Catoctin Clarion.

Thurmont had one mail wagon and three mail carriers. An additional mail carrier for Lewistown worked with the Thurmont carriers. C. C. Currens drove the mail wagon, and Morris Rouzer served as the Thurmont mail clerk. William H. Damuth, Frank Albaugh, J. H. Freeze, and W. P. Mohler (for Lewistown) were the mail carriers. The wagon’s route took nine hours, running from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The carriers walked their routes from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Emmitsburg had four mail carriers: James G. Bishop, Charles R. Lander, A. E. Weaver, and Vernon Lantz. Charles Gillelan served as a substitute carrier. The average route for the Emmitsburg carriers were 21 miles.

Some of the new regulations that the mail carriers had to get used to were, according to Carl V. Besore and Robert L. Ringer in A Reflection of the History of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania and Vicinity:

•   The mail carriers had to keep a count of all mail picked up on the route each day.

•   Any mail the carrier collected that could be delivered before returning to the post office, first had to have the carrier cancel the postage with an indelible pencil.

•   The carrier had to keep postage stamps, cards, stamped envelopes, and money order blanks with him. “If patrons entrusted him, the carrier could act as their agent, enclosing their money in the stamped addressed envelope given him by the patron,” Besore and Ringer wrote.

•   If carriers met one of the people on their route while they were driving, they could deliver their mail to them if requested, but only if it cost them no time on their route.

•   Carriers had to deliver registered mail and pension to the addressee’s home as long as their mailbox was less than a mile off the route. If the house was further away, a note would be left in the mailbox, explaining who could get the mail and where it could be obtained.

•              Special delivery letters would be delivered to the addressee’s house if it was within a mile of the mailbox. If the house was further away, the letter would be left in the mailbox as ordinary mail.

A mailman servicing an RFD in Pennsylvania.

The Northern Frederick County group of volunteers will again offer free preparation of Federal and Maryland tax returns this spring. You can call 301-471-5757 (the same phone number as last year) to make appointments for the first week in March or later. They are starting their appointments a little later than usual because of COVID, but there will still be plenty of time for them to complete your return. The Federal deadline is April 15, but Maryland has extended this year’s deadline for filing Maryland taxes to July 15. The group, working under IRS guidelines and certified by IRS to prepare certain types of returns, will follow the same general process for making appointments and preparing tax returns as last year. When you call for an appointment, a volunteer will ask you several questions about your 2021 income, filing status, and other tax factors to determine if IRS allows them to prepare your taxes. If IRS does, the volunteer will arrange to meet you at the Thurmont Library parking lot to pick up your documents. Then, the volunteer will call you again when they are done to drop off the finished returns and your documents.

James Rada, Jr.

With the State of Maryland encouraging people to stay in and reducing the ability of businesses to operate, Christmas was sadder than usual this year. However, at least one of the two vaccines against COVID-19 was expected to be approved and starting to be administered by this month.

As of December 19, Frederick County has had 9,380 cases of COVID-19, and 160 deaths from the virus. The Frederick County Health Department also reports cases, but not deaths, by zip code.

Locally, here’s how things look by zip code:





Rocky Ridge—37

Looking at the county data on December 19, it showed that hospitalizations from COVID-19 were up from their peak in May, but ICU hospitalizations were down. This seems to indicate that although more people were getting sick enough to go to the hospital, fewer cases were critical.

Getting Tested

If you are interested in getting tested for COVID-19, you have various options in Frederick County.

Frederick Health Hospital offers curbside testing at Frederick Health Village behind the Walmart on Monocacy Boulevard, from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily. Testing is done using a nasopharyngeal swab. The health department will phone you with your results and notify the state health department of any positive cases.

The health department is also providing community testing sites. The locations and dates vary, but you can find out information on the Frederick County Health Department website or local government websites. Testing at these sites is primarily done using a nasopharyngeal swab, but oropharyngeal or anterior nasal swabs may be available depending on supplies.

Pixel by LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics offer at-home test kits. You can get more information from their websites.

Stay Safe

Remember to stay safe, particularly if you are an at-risk population, such as an elderly person or someone who is immunocompromised. Even if you aren’t in an at-risk group but worry about catching the virus, stay home as much as possible, and get tested if you think you have come into contact with the virus.

Also, having COVID-19 is not a death sentence. The current best estimates from the Centers for Disease Control show the percentage of people who have coronavirus and survive in the following age groups:

0-19 years old—99.997 percent

20-49 years old—99.98 percent

50-69 years old—99.5 percent

70+ years old—94.6 percent

As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 or recover from the virus, the hope is that we will soon reach a point where the virus loses its hold on us, and we can begin recovering from the other damages coronavirus has done to Frederick County…and everywhere.

Helpful Websites:

Pixel by LabCorp —

Quest Diagnostics —

Frederick Health Hospital —

Frederick Co. Health Dept. —

James Rada, Jr.

Northern Frederick County is not known for growing tobacco, but it has had a cigar box manufacturer and a few cigar manufacturers who used cigar boxes to pack their products.

On May 1, 1905, the federal government made it illegal to give away, sell, or display empty cigar boxes. The reason for this ruling from the Internal Revenue Department was “It is alleged they frequently make cheap cigars and place them in empty boxes that contained high-priced cigars. Through unscrupulous dealers, it is an easy matter to get the cigars on the market,” according to the Hagerstown Morning Herald.

The reason that cigars were sold in boxes in the first place was because of the federal government. The Revenue Act of 1864 required all cigars to be packed in boxes in bundles of 25, 50, 100, or 250 cigars.

“Although the majority of cigar boxes were made of wood, examples can be found in numerous other materials, such as glass, plastic, aluminum, brass, tin, and china. They come in a range of shapes and sizes, from intricately carved and decorated wooden chests to cardboard boxes with bold, attention-grabbing advertising text,” according to Collector’s Weekly.

The most-common box was six pieces of wood nailed together to hold 50 cigars. As simple as this sounds, the Catoctin Clarion reported, “The construction of a cigar box passes through nineteen different processes before it is ready to receive the cigars.”

The wooden boxes could be decorated and carved to be more attractive. This is why tobacconists liked using the empty ones for displays.

According to the Catoctin Clarion in 1883, 35,000 to 40,000 cigar boxes were sold every year in the area and that number was only expected to increase.

The main reason for Internal Revenue Department’s decision about empty cigar boxes was the federal government wanted to make sure it got its cut of any cigar sales.

“A decision has been rendered in the matter of making use of empty boxes, containing the label, caution notice and brand, for window displays, to the effect that the use of such boxes is illegal, but the decision does not appear to include boxes that have been stamped and filled with cigars and then emptied in the regular retail way,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

However, when those boxes were emptied, the owner was supposed to destroy them. This typically wasn’t what happened. Tobacconists used the empty boxes in their store windows for display to attract more customers. These empty boxes all had the required revenue stamp and caution notices needed to sell cigars. Nothing stopped the retailer from simply refilling boxes with cigars and not paying the taxes on them.

For a retailer caught breaking this rule, the fine could be anywhere from $50 to $500. If the reuse of boxes was a deliberate attempt at fraud, the fine rose to up to $5,000 or six months in jail.

Retailers who only wanted to use the boxes as displays eventually realized they could get around this problem by scraping off the stamp and notice.

The Englar Cigar Box Company in Rocky Ridge was the best-known cigar box manufacturer in this area. The company’s motto was: “Superior quality, best lumber, neatly finished.” Operating from 1887 to 1920, the company made wooden cigar boxes.

Many of them would have been destroyed under this new law, which is why they are considered collector’s items now if you can find one.

Blair Garrett

Wines come in all flavors and varieties.

The care and attention to detail that goes into producing award-winning wines is fine and intricate, and the wineries of Northern Frederick County are no stranger to that.

There are five vineyards and wineries on the Maryland side of the Mason Dixon, just a short drive away. Each offers a very distinct style and service, but all five have unique differences worth experiencing for yourself.

Catoctin Breeze Vineyard, 15010 Roddy Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

Detour Vineyard & Winery, 7933 Forest and Stream Club Road, Keymar, MD 21757

Red Heifer Winery, 12840 Red Heifer Winery Lane, Smithsburg, MD 21783 (Nearby in Washington County.)

Springfield Manor Winery/Distillery/Brewery, 11836 Auburn Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

Links Bridge Vineyards, 8830 Old Links Bridge Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

Each winery gives both the wine novice and connoisseur an opportunity to explore the depths of Frederick county’s best red and white wines, and tours are often the best way to dig into how each place makes its best wines.

Most wine drinkers know that wine is made from the fermentation of grapes, but the process is often finicky and difficult to perfect, which is why batches made using very similar methods can often taste quite different.

During the fermentation process, there is no need for sugar, water, or other acids to be added for grapes to turn into wine. The natural chemical balance of the grapes allows the process to produce wine, independent of any other additives. Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat.

Fermentation and stable temperature is just one step to the process, but it is the key ingredient to making high-quality wines, consistently.

White wines and reds, while possessing overwhelming chemical similarities, are made very differently. Red wines come from red grapes, while white wines come from white grapes. But the key difference between the two is that red grapes derive their flavor from the skins and seeds of the grapes, while whites are created through the juice of pressed grapes, where the skins are discarded from the process. This “juicing” of white grapes creates a much different color and flavor compared to its red counterpart, offering wine fans a greater variety of types to try and enjoy.

Wineries have become so efficient at producing quality products, that they’ve even expanded the fruit necessary to create wines outside of just grapes. Vineyards across the country are now planting blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and many others, to make a unique spin on traditional wine.

It is important to consider the sugar content when making non-grape-based wines. The higher the sugar content in the fruit, the higher the alcohol percentage in the finished product. So, fruits like pineapple, a common fruit found in wines in Thailand and Southeast Asia, would be monitored closely to ensure the sugars and acids in the fruit are creating a balance during the fermentation process. 

While wines offer a means to gather with our family or a reason to go out with close friends, there are more benefits with wine than meets the eye. Grapes and similar berry fruits are jam-packed with antioxidants, which is an important compound in fighting numerous medical issues. Red wine is known to have more antioxidants than white, but there is a balance in not over-doing it. Most scientists agree that the “glass a day” rule is likely the way to go.

Scientists also believe that young red wines may be better for you than older ones, even though the common conception is that the older the wine, the better it tastes. The tannin levels on young wines are higher, which is a compound shown to be healthy for the maintenance and longevity of the heart.

Wines develop very complex flavors over long periods of time due to a natural chemical reaction between sugars, acids and other compounds inside the bottles. So, the aging of a bottle can dramatically change the flavor and color over time, but not all wines need 60 years to taste great. Most wines produced today are ready to drink, and give off the intended flavor by the brewers, so it may not be necessary at all to put it away in a dark cellar until you have a special occasion.

The history of wine is nearly as old as civilization, with the practice of wine production showing evidence around the world as early as 4100 B.C. in ancient Armenia, and possibly even thousands of years earlier. People have been enjoying all that wine has to offer for thousands of years, and while the process has certainly become more refined, the social nature of a bottle of wine between friends remains the same.  

Whether it’s a white wine with a sweet kick or a dark dry cabernet sauvignon, the wineries scattered around Northern Maryland have created a warm and inviting atmosphere for customers to sample in order to find the wines that suit their taste. Some people have a balance between the reds and whites, and some specialize in one or the other; however, no matter where you go on the wine tour, you are sure to find a wine that satisfies your interests.

In researching facts related to some fire and rescue banquet reporting recently, it almost escaped our notice that several of our community’s fire and rescue volunteers received recognition by the 2018 Frederick County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association. Some awards have been reported in The Catoctin Banner by their department but many missed our coverage. Please take a moment to congratulate the following for their dedication and service to our community.

Robert E. Albaugh of the Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company received the Charles H. “Mutt” Deater Apprentice of the Year Award; David Zentz of the Vigilant Hose Company earned the Firefighter of the Year Award; the Graceham Volunteer Fire Company received a Fire/Rescue Departmental Training Award; Elyssa Cool of Vigilant Hose Company received the James H. Stavely Fire Prevention Award; James Click of Vigilant Hose Company received the Michael Wilcom Officer of the Year Award; Joshua Brotherton of the Vigilant Hose Company received the Millard M. “Mick” Mastrino Instructoe/Safety Award; Allen “Frank” Davis of the Vigilant Hose Company received the Mumma Outstanding Service Award; the Thurmont Community Ambulance Service, Inc. received the Outstanding Unit Award;

Bonny Hurley of the Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company, Michael Stull of the Lewistown District Volunteer Fire Company, Paulette Mathias of the Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company, and Austin E. Umbel of the Vigilant Hose Company were each inducted into the Frederick County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association’s Hall of Fame.

Congratulations to each of these dedicated public servants!

Northern Frederick County now has an additional bus trip, taking people to and from Frederick. The new trip on midday Tuesdays leaves the Frederick Transit Center at 12:15 p.m. The shuttle bus then stops at the College Park Plaza in Frederick, DePaul Street in Emmitsburg, Jubilee Market in Emmitsburg, the Thurmont CVS, South Center Street just south of Route 550 in Thurmont, Mountainview Plaza in Thurmont, and the Catoctin Zoo.

“It’s our hope that the addition of this midday service will make a difference to the lives of citizens, by helping them to regain some time and hours in their day and by making the service more convenient,” Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner said during a press conference.

To arrive in Frederick by 8:00 a.m., DePaul Street riders were picked up at 7:10 a.m. The returning bus leaves Frederick at 4:15 p.m. This meant riders had to plan to spend the day in Frederick.

Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs and Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird had been encouraging the county to add an additional daily trip so that riders who needed to go to Frederick for a single appointment wouldn’t have to give up an entire day. Briggs said during a press conference that transportation to Frederick was “becoming a dilemma” for citizens.

County transit surveys consistently mentioned the need for more rural transportation. Missy Shank of Emmitsburg started a petition for an additional daily trip as part of a class she took at the Seton Center. She gathered more than three hundred signatures on the petition.

In December, Frederick County Transit added one additional midday trip on Tuesdays, as a pilot program. This trip leaves Frederick Monday through Friday at 12:15 p.m. and returns at 1:40 p.m. The program will be evaluated after six months and twelve months to see what ridership is for the shuttle trip and whether there is a demand for additional trips.

“We’re trying to grow into where we have it five days a week,” Mayor Briggs said, during an Emmitsburg town meeting.

The cost of the additional trip will be about $10,000. About one-quarter of this will be paid by the county, while the rest will be covered by state and federal funding. Gardner said that the hope is that the county’s portion will be able to be paid through savings, by matching paratransit riders with the new midday trip.

Kinnaird said he believes the additional trip will make a big difference for north county residents.

Frederick County Transit was also named the 2017 Outstanding Transportation Program in the state by the Transportation Association of Maryland.

Christine Schoene Maccabee

The Swallows Are Back

I often wonder how many other people feel a thrill when the swallows return to our area in early May. In late April, I began to watch for the swallows with high expectation. Every year, the swallows are drawn back to my home like a magnet, much to my amazement and joy. Their nest of mud and grasses, lined with soft feathers, is perched in a corner of the eaves of my A-frame house. Due to the strength of this nest, and how well it is “glued” to the wood, it has lasted through many a fierce storm. It is the second nest the swallows created there in more than twenty years, the first one falling down just a few years ago. That particular spring, upon their return, they built another strong nest in the very same place, and I expect it to last just as long as the other one.

The first sign of the return of my feathered tenants is their excited chirping, and my day is immediately happier upon hearing them. They sound like they are having a lively conversation, which I guess they are, and my loneliness is displaced by their cheerful company. Since arriving here several days ago, the mated pair has been zooming all day through the skies, eating whatever they can find. Every spring and summer, they keep my atmosphere completely free of mosquitoes, so no Zika virus here. However, due to all the rain and cool weather this spring, the flying bug population is not so great yet. Hopefully the birds had plenty of food while traveling north after wintering somewhere in Mexico or some country in South America. Some swallows winter as far away as Argentina!

I wish I knew my swallows’ entire story, but at least I do know part of their story here in northern Frederick County. I have seen mothers, and fathers, sitting on their nest until the babies hatch. Thereafter, the wonderful partnership of the parents continues, taking turns feeding the nestlings, and themselves. It takes a lot of energy zooming around all day. It is a true joy to watch them fly far out over the fields, gathering what they can at lightning speed, and then bringing the food back to their eager nestlings. Usually there are four young ones, and once these fledglings leave the nest, the mother and father occasionally settle down to raising four more.

Birds, as we all know, are amazing creatures. We humans are fascinated with both their flight and their songs, not to forget their amazingly artistic colorations. Many a poet has written eloquently about them and artists such as Audubon have painted detailed representations of them (more than 1,000 to be nearly exact). Songs like “The Little Red Lark,” an Irish ballad, portray their amazing flights and songs, and airplanes were invented as we grounded-humans decided we, too, had to fly. This idea may or may not have been a good one. After all, birds are following their natural inclinations, whereas humans do not, and we are definitely polluting our planet with all of our unnatural contraptions, are we not?

So, perhaps that is why I am so mesmerized by birds, particularly the swallows. They are so small, seemingly so vulnerable, and yet they can fly such long distances with the greatest of ease. In fact, once here, it is estimated they can fly the equivalent of 600 miles a day in quest of food for their young, according to the Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds. So how is that possible, you ask?

In my research, I have learned, as many of you likely already know, that birds are very light (as light as a feather in fact) due to the fact that their bones are hollow and filled with air. Also, according to a book on Natural History by Bertha Parker, connected with a bird’s lungs are tiny air sacs scattered throughout its body. These air sacs act like tiny hot-air balloons. Therefore, a typical swallow weighs far less than a mouse, lizard, or frog of the same size. A bird’s streamlined body is another help in flying. Humans have tried to mimic these qualities, the closest coming to gliders of various types, and hot-air balloons. I will not say anything about all the other larger, costly, heavy planes, especially of war, which have completely digressed from Nature’s perfect plan.

So, back to feathers. Feathers also serve the purpose of protecting birds from rain and cold. They shed rain because they are a little oily and the intricate parts of the feathers are cleverly put together in lovely, serviceable patterns. Feathers also keep the bird’s body warm, trapping the heat; think of your down sleeping bag. This past winter, I remember telling my chickens to huddle close and keep warm, as I closed them up for the night in their unheated coup. I even worried a bit, but they weathered the cold winter beautifully, as they are fully and thickly feathered.

I am in total admiration of birds in general, and sometimes I wish I were as free as they are, unfettered by coats and boots and layers of clothing, and independent of automobile expenses. I envy them for their ability to fly and feed themselves without growing their own food or going into a grocery store.

However, as Popeye so wisely said, “I yam what I yam, and tha’s all what I yam,” and there is no escaping that fact! I do rather like having two strong legs, and arms I can reach to the sky with, giving praise for all the wonders of life. I am also thrilled to have my swallows back here for another season. I will miss them when they gather to go south in August, and I can usually tell when the time is coming by all their excitement as they zoom around my house with their happy, chirping fledgelings, full grown by then, and fully independent. Sigh.

I wish I could fly free as a bird, and be light as a feather!






James Rada, Jr.

Training Center,Besides helping residents before and after the fires in Emmitsburg, the American Red Cross and Vigilant Hose Company (VHC) set out to stop fires from happening again.

Beginning on December 12, 2015, volunteers began going door to door to offer smoke alarm checks.

“Emmitsburg’s all-volunteer fire department, the Vigilant Hose Company, was challenged, to say the least, in terms of firefighting and rescue efforts, but, in spite of significant challenges, managed to accomplish what many locally, all across Northern Frederick County and surrounding counties, continue to say was amazing,” stated Wayne Powell with Vigilant Hose Company.

Vigilant Hose Company has offered installation of free smoke alarms for years, but with the two fires in town in December, residents’ interest in having their smoke alarms checked increased. The first fire occurred on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, mid-afternoon, at Paul’s Pit Stop on South Seton Avenue and the apartments above it. The second fire occurred on Monday, December 7, 2015, at 112 West Main Street, a few doors west of the Vigilant Hose Company fire station. In the second fire, two residents died from injuries, and one person was seriously injured.

“For years, VHC has installed free smoke alarms, but the men and women of the VHC knew they had to take full advantage of public attention—or ‘window of opportunity’ as it’s known,” said Powell.

Homeowners who had previously turned away volunteers doing smoke alarm checks were suddenly interested in having their alarms checked. First responders, community leaders, Mount Saint Mary’s University staff and students, and employees from the National Emergency Training Center, all pitched in to cover as many homes as possible.

Powell pointed out that the smoke alarms were free only as long as the volunteer teams were allowed to install them.

“We have found that if we give them away without installing them, they wind up in a drawer and people forget about them,” Powell said.

He also said that some people took the batteries out and used them for other things. The smoke alarms that Vigilant Hose Company installed now have a ten-year long-life battery built into them that can’t be removed.

Despite years of Vigilant Hose Company public fire education and year-round smoke alarm promotion, teams found a number of homes with no smoke alarms at all, many non-working units, and others well over ten years old, plus a few with one alarm in homes with more than one sleeping level.

The initial results from the December home fire safety visits and smoke alarm checks was: seventy-eight homes visited and two hundred seventeen smoke alarms installed within three hours. Volunteers were broken into seventeen on-the-street “Safety Teams.” Their goal was to check and see if a smoke alarm was installed on each level and each sleeping area of a residence. A “Go-Team” at the fire station provided smoke alarm expertise from a smoke alarm expert of the U.S. Fire Administration staff, as well as additional literature and alarms as needed, plus handling other normal duties including fire calls.

“Phone call requests for VHC visits have been coming non-stop from across the community ever since,” Powell commented.

As of January 10, 2016, two hundred forty-eight smoke alarms had been installed.

Vigilant Hose Company has carried smoke alarms on its emergency vehicles for years in order to install them whenever possible. They routinely conduct safety presentations to any and all groups who allow it.

Those seeking further information or wish to schedule a visit, contact the Vigilant Hose Company via its website at or call the fire station at 301-447-2728.

Red Cross 121215 on TV

A Safety Team hit the streets in Emmitsburg on December 12, 2015; they were welcomed by residents, with many others now asking for visits.

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.


IMG_8191James Rada, Jr.

“Let’s play ball!”

The cry rang out on baseball fields across northern Frederick County on Saturday, April 18, 2015, as the Thurmont and Emmitsburg areas celebrated opening day and held their first games of the season.

Crowds flocked to the fields to cheer on the youngsters who were playing baseball for the first time.

Brooklyn Kehne, age seven, made her Little League debut playing on the Emmitsburg Angels. She has an older brother who played baseball, also, but opening day was her time to show what she could do. “I’m really excited to play,” she said. “I like playing.”

Down in Thurmont, Ja-Khia Smith, age eight, waited anxiously in line for the team to march onto the field, amid the applause of hundreds of spectators. “It’s fun,” she said. “I get to hit the ball a lot, and my coach helps me if I need it.”

The special guest to throw out the first pitch in Thurmont was Dr. Richard Love, who threw the pitch to Gage Eyler, the grandson of Love’s former teammate, Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler.

“It was pretty neat,” Love said. “Although I felt like we should have been switched, since I used to catch for him (Greg Eyler).”

Love had started playing Little League in Thurmont in 1965 for the Orioles, and had been a sponsor of teams for thirty years. He and Eyler had played together for seven years.

Sean Mazaleski, age twelve, plays with the Emmitsburg Red Sox. He showed up at the fields early, as he prepared to start his sixth year of playing baseball. “I really enjoy it, and I don’t mind the practices because I get better every time,” he said.

Once the Opening Day Welcome was finished at each location, the crowds separated to fill the bleachers at the different fields and to enjoy America’s favorite pastime, with perfect weather, tasty snacks, and lots of ball hitting, throwing, running, catching, and cheering.


Photo by Grace Eyler

Dr. Love, Greg Eyler and his grandson after opening pitch


Dr. Richard Love (shown left), Greg Eyler (far right), and his grandson, Gage Eyler, are pictured after the opening pitch was thrown by Dr. Love.



Thurmont Little League Diamondbacks

Diamond Backs

Pictured from left are: (back row) Assistant Craig Schwartbeck, Dylan Jessee, Ron Sanbower; (middle row) Madison Snurr, Levi Misnet, Hunter Sanbower, David Robey, Joshua Owens; (front row) Noah Schwartz??, Nicholas O’Conell, Jayden Worthington, Justice Glover, Damion Owens, Josh Wivell.

DiamondBack_Batter Up

Dylan Jessee at bat on Opening Day game on April 18, 2015.







Thurmont Little League Red Sox

Red Sox Little League

Pictures are: (players) Evan Morris, Aaden Gallion, Jordyn Bridgett, Michael Moran, Addison Tingler, Parker Davis, Gage Eyler, Leland Bare, Logan Shoobridge, Owen Scheetz; (Team Mom) Karen Morris; (Coaches) Phil Morris, Matt Gallion, Mark Tingler, and Ayrik Moran.