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Bells ring in the 2008 museum season

(4/17) April 5 at 9:59 a.m. was a typical Saturday morning in Emmitsburg. Traffic was light through town. It was fairly quiet and many of the businesses still weren’t open for the day. At 10 a.m. … Clang! Bong! Ring! Clang! Bong! Ring!

Bells throughout Frederick County rang to mark the beginning of the 2008 museum season. If you listened closely enough between all of the metallic tones, you could have heard a sound that hadn’t been heard in Emmitsburg for 55 years … the ringing of the old Vigilant Hose Company fire bell.

Dan Meyers, dressed in an 1860s fire uniform, pulled on the bell rope out front of the fire company.

Betty Ann Boder and her husband stood there listening. Her father had been a former VHC chief and she remembered when the bell used to ring. She had come downtown to hear it once again.

This year’s Bell and History Day activities gave special focus to Emmitsburg and the Catoctin Furnace Community, where landmark anniversaries are commemorated, including the 200th anniversary of Mount St. Mary’s University and the approaching bicentennial of the arrival of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1809. Other sites in Emmitsburg included the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes, National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, Emmitsburg Branch Library and the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Museum.

Clarence “Chip” Jewell has been organizing the effort for the fire and rescue museum. He was at the former Emmitsburg Ambulance Company with a couple of pieces that will eventually be in the museum, including an elegant hand-drawn hose carriage used by the United Hose Company in Frederick at the turn of the century.

Bob and Rose Laudani and their sons turned out early to visit the sites. “We wanted to see the fire academy,” Bob Laudani said. “That’s usually not opened up.”

At Catoctin Furnace, sites included one of the old Catoctin iron furnaces, Harriet Chapel, Catoctin Mountain Park and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Olive Green Cabin.

Volunteers at Harriet Chapel dressed in period costume and cooked up cakes, breads and cookies for visitors.

“We’ve used old recipes from 1830-1850,” said Rev. Sally Joyner-Giffin.

Marjorie Hurd lives in Braddock Heights, but she used to live in Kansas. She drove Route 15 when visiting the area and remembered the small furnace worker homes that she could see from the highway. She took the opportunity of Bell and History Days to come to the area to see the inside of the houses that were open for touring.

The weekend’s events concluded with a concert of 100 handbell ringers at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton on Sunday evening.

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