(1/29)A group of intellectuals known as the Friends of Dr. King held an afternoon storytelling seminar to commemorate Emmitsburg's history as part of the Freedom Trail on Jan. 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The trail commemorated in Emmitsburg was the one that carried escaped or freed slaves above the Mason-Dixon Line.
The event took place in a large meeting room in the Provincial House where the Daughters of Charity, Emmitsburg Province makes its home. It featured as speakers the Rev. Jon Greenstone, of Emmitsburg's Elias Lutheran Church; Sister Eleanor Casey, Harold Craig, Bill O'Toole
and Cathy Bodin.
Casey told the story of "Mr. Briscoe," a free African-American man who managed the Daughters of Charity's farms in the late 19th century. Briscoe is buried in Emmitsburg, Casey said.
Briscoe was someone "who led the way to recognition of the gifts we all have to bring," Casey said. No Briscoes remain in the area, she added, though Mr. Briscoe's son managed the farms after his father's death.
Craig spoke about Roger B. Taney, the nation's first Catholic Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who lived in Frederick.
Though Taney freed his own slaves and served on the highest court for nearly three decades, he is most remembered for the majority opinion he wrote in the Dred Scott case denying citizenship to African Americans.
Taney "has been vilified ever since" the 1857 decision that "ruined his reputation," Craig said.
Greenstone told the story of how Emmitsburg residents beat back a pair of renegade slave bounty hunters to save a local African-American barber on the downtown square.
The barber's name, Greenstone said, was Ned Crummel. Crummel was working in "The Barry Room" in downtown Emmitsburg one day in 1844 when a slave bounty hunter captured and bound him in broad daylight during working hours. Emmitsburg residents, led by Dr. Andrew
Annan, cut Crummel loose.
"We have a snapshot of the heroism of the Emmitsburg townspeople," Greenstone said.
Bodin told the small gathering that trails connected with the Underground Railroad passed through the Catoctin Mountains. African Americans taking the paths were urged to travel by night and stay out of sight.
"It was a trail that was filled by suffering," Bodin said. The Underground Railroad's local sponsor was W.C. Pennington, a South Mountain Quaker.
Greenstone also told the story of Jacob "the Tanner" Troxell and how he had his slave, a woman named Kitty, sentenced to death in Frederick for burning down his house and barn. The relationship between owner and slave, according to Greenstone, who relied on information from a Troxell family member, was a strained one. Kitty
was hanged on May 20, 1820.
"We have to allow these stories to disturb us and inspire us," Greenstone said.