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An Emmit returns to Emmitsburg

Stephanie Long
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(2/21) One of the sons of Emmitsburg may soon make his way back to Emmitsburg, just a mere 150 years or so since he last visited.

In 2002, a woman in Pennsylvania sent a letter to the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society, informing the group that she had a portrait painting of William Cole Emmit, the son of Emmitsburg’s founder, and wanted to know if the society would at all be interested in acquiring the painting. But because of a delivery error, the letter went unanswered for two years until Michael Hillman, president of the society, got involved.

For a year straight Hillman tried track down the woman and her husband, who had moved in the years since she wrote the letter, to no avail. He knocked on doors in the couple’s old neighborhood trying to see if someone knew where the couple had moved and he searched the internet for help. Finally, after some tips and several phone calls, Hillman got in touch with the portrait owners.

“They were thrilled,” Hillman said. “They thought no one cared and that’s why they hadn’t received a response.”

The owner said they were still interested in giving the portrait to the historical society, but Hillman told them he felt it would be best to give it to the town of Emmitsburg since he knew the government would always exist, whereas the society may one day dissolve and the painting could fall into someone else’s hands.

The owner, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed and Hillman approached the city council with the news at the Feb. 18 meeting.

Emmitsburg’s city council was thrilled with the news and agreed to draft a resolution to be signed at the Mar. 3 meeting. The town has agreed to abide by a few conditions at the owners’ request, that the town would be the owners of the portrait and never sell the portrait and if the time comes when the town no longer desires to own the portrait it would be given to the Maryland State archives.

The portrait also comes with a letter written in 1855 by Emmit to his sister and a 1908 letter that his niece wrote, explaining his connections to Emmitsburg.

Emmit was born in 1800 and resided in Emmitsburg until moving to North Carolina, where he married the governor’s daughter, Henrietta, and became a major in the military. He did not have any children.

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