Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


 Emmitsburg Skits Debate Over Birthday

David Loos
Frederick News Post

After spirited debate over whether the town was founded in 1757 or 1785, the Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to skirt the entire controversy and change the date on the town's official seal and flag to 1825.

That year, which will replace 1757, marks the year Emmitsburg was incorporated as a town and is a date accepted by everyone as legitimate

But the founding date issue remains unresolved, and it appears the town commissioners won't take it upon themselves to make a decision. Resolving the dispute will be left up to the Emmitsburg Historical Society.

"This is a major win," said historical society president Michael Hillman, who believes the town was founded in 1785. "I don't want them (the commissioners) to touch the issue. ... History has won."

Mr. Hillman has enlisted the help of history professors from Gettysburg College and Hood College in trying to firmly establish a founding date. He said he is still seeking old records, and that his group will eventually write a book documenting the town's history.

The commissioners' discussion in front of a standing-room only crowd lasted about half an hour before they voted 3-1 to change the seal and leave the founding date unresolved.

"The only thing we can do as a council is to change the seal," said Commissioner Ted Brennan. "The government was established in 1825."

Mr. Brennan, who initially asked to table discussion until April 4, admitted that the founding date issue had "polarized our town," but said "I hope the curiosity in this town's history remains alive."

"Mr. Hillman does not accept oral history, and therefore I cannot accept the findings in his packet," said commission President Patrick Boyle. "I say we keep the 1757 as the founding and 1785 as when the town was laid out."

Mr. Boyle also questioned the legitimacy of the Emmitsburg Historical Society, asking Mr. Hillman whether the group had officers or paid dues. Mr. Hillman contends the group is official and that he is the president.

According to Mr. Hillman, who made a 20-minute presentation to the commissioners last month, the town did not exist until Aug. 18, 1785, when Samuel Emmitt transferred 35 acres of land to his son William.

The proponents of the 1757 date contend that the town's history began that year when the elder Emmitt bought 2,250 acres of land around what would later become Emmitsburg.

"This could be the great debate for this century, and we should allow this debate to continue," said Mr. Brennan.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government