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Clifford Stitely Died Helping Others 100 Years Ago

by James Rada, Jr.

On November 6, 1918, the peace talks between the Allies and Germans had been completed. Men who had fought so hard for years looked forward to the peace that would take place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive had started on the Western Front on September 26, and it continued as peace fast approached. It was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers. It was the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I. The men were worn down and tired. Over the forty-seven days of the battle, more than 55,000 soldiers lost their lives, including 26,277 Americans.

Clifford Stitely of Thurmont was a young private in the Army. He had been inducted into the 79th Division at Camp Meade just four months earlier.

“The departure of 110 Sammies for Camp Meade on Saturday wrung tears from many women and men alike,” the Frederick Post reported. “They tried bravely to put up a cheerful front to their sons, brothers and sweethearts, but many eyes were red and many cheeks wet before the final goodbyes had been said.”

The newspaper reported that a crowd of 3,000 showed up to see the draftees off at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot.

With less than a month of training at Camp Meade, Private Stitely boarded a ship in Hoboken, New Jersey, and headed overseas to France as part of Company B, 312th Machine Gun Battalion.

In France, he fought in the Avocourt Sector and Troyon Sector of the Meuse-Argonne. His great-nephew Bill Bollinger said that on November 3, 1918, “He was on a detail picking up the wounded, and he was killed by artillery fire.”

Records show that Stitely didn’t die right away. He was taken to a field hospital where he died three days later, with less than a week to go before peace was declared.

His parents, Jacob and Mary, must have wondered why they hadn’t heard from their son, especially after peace was declared. As the days turned to weeks, they might have suspected the worst, but luckily confirmation did not arrive until after Christmas. A telegram arrived on December 28 with the news that Clifford had died “under honorable conditions,” trying to help others.

Clifford is one of eleven men that Thurmont lost during World War I. His name is inscribed on the WWI Monument in Memorial Park.


Roll of Honor

Thurmont’s lost heroes of WWI:

  • Louis R. Adams
  • Murry S. Baker
  • Benjamin E. Cline
  • Edgar J. Eyler
  • William T. Fraley
  • Roy O. Kelbaugh
  • Jesse M. Pryor
  • Clifford M. Stitely
  • Raymond L. Stull
  • Stanley M. Toms
  • James Somerset Waters

Photo Courtesy of Bill Bollinger

by James Rada, Jr.

1965 — Training the Unemployed from the Catoctin Mountaintop

Catoctin Mountain can boast a lot of interesting history from Camp David to the Blue Blazes Still raid. From an Office of Strategic Services training camp during World War II to Camp Misty Mount for children.

“Also on the Government side is the ‘mother’ camp of President Johnson’s Poverty Program,” the Frederick Post reported in 1965.

President Johnson had been the Texas director of the National Youth Administration. It was a New Deal program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, similar in objective to the Job Corps. Johnson convinced Congress it could work again, according to Barbara Kirkconnell in Catoctin Mountain Park, An Administrative History.

The camp, called Camp Round Meadow, opened in January 1965 and served as the place to train people who would be sent out across the country to depressed areas to open and operate other similar camps.

At the camp, 75 people were hired and trained on how to run a poverty training camp. “While these people are being instructed, some 20 persons accepted as trainees by the new program, will be working in the area,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Consideration of using the park for such a site began in May 1964. Federal government officials visited the park and inspected possible sites for the camp. Within a month, the government began converting the 60-acre Central Garage Unit Area in the country’s first Job Corps Center, according to Kirkconnell.

Besides building the camp, officials met with residents of Thurmont, Hagerstown, and other communities where the camp attendees might spend their off hours. They wanted to make sure that there would be a good relationship between the camp and towns.

“Thurmont merchants were wooed by an expected $200,000 in revenue from supplies, equipment and food sold to the camp for the program,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp officials spoke at civic meetings and invited officials and organizations out to tour the camp.

“On January 15, 1965, 85 young men between the ages of 16 and 21 arrived at Catoctin MP to inaugurate the job Corps Program at a site ‘largely unimproved’ since the CCC left in 1941,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The Jobs Corps Center was dedicated on February 27.

The center got off to a rocky start, with staffing problems and too many visiting dignitaries, not only from the federal government but also foreign governments, such as Japan, Canada, British Guinea, England, Israel, the Philippines, and the Ivory Coast.

“Continual recruitment brought a total of 157 recruits into the program but 57 left before the end of June.  The bleak winter contributed to homesickness; stark conditions of the camp without indoor recreation facilities and high expectations added to the general ‘depressive atmosphere,’” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp Director C. A. Maxey blamed the high drop-out rate on the recruits who had “temperamental and emotional problems in boys who had known little but failure,” according to a Baltimore Sun article.

The boys had been recruited from families earning less than $3,000 a year (around $23,000 today) and had an average of a ninth grade education. At the camp, they earned $32 a month plus $50, which was put in a bank account for them. “If they made a family allotment of $25 from the $50, the government matched it with another $25,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The program included a half day of work and a half day of education in the winter. The work time increased and the education time decreased as the weather warmed up. The work consisted of park projects, such as building trails, picnic tables, and needed buildings. They also did work improving the Gettysburg Battlefield.

As they mastered basic skills, they were given more-complex work.

“A sign construction program teaching printing, mechanical drawing, hand routing, measurement skills, painting, and organizational skills produced 225 signs for Catoctin, Greenbelt, Cunningham Falls State Park and Antietam Parks in Fiscal Year 1965-1966,” Kirkconnell wrote.

They also performed work in the surrounding community, such as building a ball field and picnic pavilions for Thurmont parks.

By 1966, things were running far more smoothly. By the end of eighteen months of operation, 439 men had been recruited to the camp. And 102 had transferred out, 165 had resigned, 24 graduated, 16 went back to school or jobs, leaving 111 Corpsmen in camp at the end of June 1966, according to Kirkconnell.

By that time, it became an election year issue. Congress criticized the program and cut funding. Discipline was a problem and so were community relations.

The Job Corps Center finally closed in May 1969.

nixons at easter service 1971Easter at Camp David

by James Rada, Jr.

Anyone with eyes knew just where President Richard M. Nixon and his family were Easter Sunday morning in 1971.

It was pretty widely known through town that the Nixons would be spending the weekend at Camp David, a favorite retreat for the president. Since it was also Easter weekend, speculation was on whether they would attend church on Sunday and which church they would choose.

“Gold Cadillacs, television cameras, photographers, newsmen, and Secret Service agents do not stand outside of a church in Thurmont for the average person,” the Catoctin Enterprise reported.

The church was the Thurmont United Methodist Church, where the Reverend Kenneth Hamrick was pastor.

Prior to the Easter service, Mrs. Hamrick had received a call from Camp David asking for her husband.

Rev. Hamrick was officiating at another church, but when he returned home, his wife had him to return the call. That is when he found out that he would have special guests during his service that day.

This visit apparently came about because of Mrs. Hamrick.

“Rev. Hamrick, a part-time White House employe[e], attended a staff reception last Christmas at which time Mrs. Hamrick had asked Mrs. Nixon to bring the President to her husband’s church sometime in the future,” The Frederick Post reported.

Not only did the president and first lady attend, but they were joined by Julie and David Eisenhower, former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, and Tricia Nixon and her fiancée Edward Finch Cox.

“I didn’t mention their presence to others attending the services,” Hamrick told The Frederick Post. “I did mention the President, as well as other world leaders, in my prayers at the end of the service.”

Rev. Hamrick’s sermon dealt with the rejection of both Christ and Christianity in biblical and modern times.

Afterwards, Hamrick told the Catoctin Enterprise, “The President said the sermon was ‘very good, very pertinent’ and it appeared that I ‘had done my homework’.” He added that the first lady told him, “It made my Easter Day.”

The Nixons and their guests then returned to Camp David for an Easter dinner. Two months later, Tricia Nixon and Edward Cox would return to Camp David to spend their honeymoon there after their June 12 wedding.

President Nixon enjoyed spending time at Camp David. It was a place where he could think, relax, and get work done. He had worked on his first acceptance speech as the Republican presidential nominee there as vice-president. Although John F. Kennedy won that election, Nixon would return to Camp David in 1968 as president.

W. Dale Nelson tells a story in The President Is at Camp David that Nixon speechwriter William Safire tried making a case to Nixon’s appointment secretary, Dwight Chapin, that the president should spend more time in the White House, not on an isolated mountain.

“Do you want to be the one who tells the president he can’t go to Camp David? Because it sure as hell isn’t going to be me,” Chapin said.

According to Nelson, when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower died in 1969, Nixon wrote his eulogy at Camp David. He made the decision to order troops into Cambodia during the Vietnam War there. He wrote his 1972 presidential nomination acceptance speech there.

The Nixons also spent Easter 1972 at Camp David. They also celebrated David Eisenhower’s 24th birthday during that Easter weekend.

by James Rada, Jr.

Emmitsburg Gets Three Burgesses in Four Months

Emmitsburg once went through three burgesses in the span of four months in 1939.

It began when Burgess Michael J. Thompson died unexpectedly on May 31. He had gone out walking through Emmitsburg, including stopping at the Hotel Slagle, before heading home. He had only been home a few minutes when the heart attack struck and he died about 12:20 p.m.

“Mr. Thompson had been in ill health for the last two years, and the attack this morning was third he has suffered within the last year,” The Frederick Post reported.

He was only sixty-one years old. He had been born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1877. He loved playing sports, but, in 1893, while playing football for Suffield Academy against Taft School, he broke his right leg. He healed, but then broke it again the following spring while sliding into second base during a baseball game.

His playing days were over.

When he attended Holy Cross, he organized the school’s first football team and coached it in 1896, while he was still only a freshman. The following year, he refereed his first game between Boston College and Brown.

He soon became a regular referee for college games.

“His most famous game was the Harvard-Carlisle Indians contest in 1903, when he allowed the ‘hidden-ball’ play. Jimmy Johnson, the Indian quarterback, in a close formation, slipped the ball under the jersey of Dillon, a husky tackle, who lumbered unmolested down the field and across the goal line,” The Frederick Post reported.

He came to Mount St. Mary’s College in 1911, and served as a coach and referee for twenty-three years before retiring.

He was also a former publisher of the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

Two days before Thompson was buried, John B. Elder became the burgess, since he was the head of the town council. Like Thompson, he was also a publisher of the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

With Elder’s move to burgess, Council Member Charles Harner became the head of the town council.

Harner and Elder were the only two members of the town’s governing body at this time. Usually, there was a burgess and three members of the town council. However, the third seat on the council had gone unfilled in the last election. Thompson had been planning on appointing a person to fill the seat, but he had died before it could be done.

One August 21, The Gettysburg Times reported that “Emmitsburg now has its third burgess since the May election as municipal affairs underwent a second unexpected change, occasioned by the sudden resignation last Friday of Guy S. Nunenbaker, retired engineer.”

Elder had unexpectedly resigned from his position as burgess at the beginning of the month. Luckily, Thornton Rogers had been appointed to town council before Elder’s resignation, so Harney wasn’t left as the sole member of town government.

Richard Zacharias became the new burgess and served out Thompson’s unexpired term.

This wasn’t the first or last time that Emmitsburg would have trouble finding people to serve in Emmitsburg’s government. Many of its elections lacked contested races and, once, no one even filed to run for the office of burgess.

“A light vote is anticipated inasmuch as apathy of local citizens to run for office was prevalent during the past week when no one filed his intentions to run for the office of Burgess,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported in 1955 just before the election.

The newspaper speculated that most people probably thought that incumbent mayor Thornton Rodgers would run again, but he, too, chose not to seek re-election. When no one had filed for burgess in the election, Rodgers allowed himself to become a write-in candidate.

He was re-elected with 91 votes (out of 438 registered voters) of residents who wrote in his name.

James Edward Houck was elected burgess in 1961, but even then, people referred to the position as mayor. He won the election by only four votes over the incumbent Mayor Clarence Frailey.

Houck wrote in an article for the Greater Emmitsburg Area Historical Society about his time in office, “Being elected Burgess of Emmitsburg in the early 1960s was quite an eye-opening experience for me. The regular duties that you expect to do and the things you want to accomplish are only a small portion of the job.”

Additional charter changers in 1974 made official the change from a burgess to a mayor.

In 2006, the number of commissioners on the board was increased from four members to five. Changes were also made to keep the mayor from voting on issues since he also has veto power.