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Town officials vote not to organize any celebration of the town’s founding date

Ingrid Mezo

(7/20) Emmitsburg town officials voted Monday night not to organize any celebration of the town’s founding date next year.

The date is in dispute between the town’s historical society and older residents who celebrated the town’s bicentennial in 1957.

Instead, town officials said civic organizations should organize some type of celebration, and then come to the town to request financial aid when something has been put together.

‘‘I required this to go on the agenda to see if we could get support from the town if a founding celebration" is to take place next year," Commissioner Clifford Sweeney said. ‘‘I don’t think history should be voted on."

In addition, town officials agreed to vote on removing the founding date from the town seal at the Aug. 7 town meeting, leaving only the incorporation date. The town seal now includes the town’s incorporation date of 1825 and a founding date of 1757.

Commissioner Bill O’Neil presented other board members with an ordinance he had drafted to that effect.

Members and supporters of the Emmitsburg Historical Society again argued that all historical facts point to a true founding date of 1785, while some older town residents again argued that people should be allowed to decide, and re-write history at their will, and that tradition should trump facts.

Catoctin High School teacher Talia Bookman pointed out why such a view is false.

‘‘We’re lucky we don’t have holes drilled in our heads anymore when we have headaches," she said.

Town resident Catherine Forrence pointed out that the Maryland Municipal League lists incorporation dates so far as town governments are concerned.

‘‘I think that’s the only date we need to worry about," she said.

Historical society president Mike Hillman said the history of the town is not the founding date being claimed by some older residents who want a party next year.

‘‘If you want to say generally, how about just the last 55 years," he said.

Hillman then produced a 1951 newspaper article listing the founding date as 1785, and two history books corroborating 1785 as the true founding date of the town.

‘‘Let’s stop our bickering, lets get together," Sweeney said. ‘‘So I think we all just need to get on with other things."

Commissioner Chris Staiger agreed. He asked civic associations to step up to the plate and work together to plan a celebration for the town next year, leaving mention of the founding date, and celebrating another aspect of the town’s colorful history.

Hillman said last week that he had thought of a way to compromise, by having a variety of historically-themed parties every year leading up to the 225-year anniversary founder’s day celebration in 2010. The Lions club has already stated their interest in helping with the organization of such a party.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government