Emmitsburg Not 200 Years Old Claims Philadelphia Correspondent
Having family ties to your great town, I'm an occasional visitor to your website. And by the way, it's wonderful. You all do a
fantastic job of portraying every aspect of the area's history and culture.
I read with interest your account of the true town history, and had to
chuckle. I recalled my great uncle, Fred Welty, who must've been a lone voice in the wilderness back in 1957 because your message is the same opinion he
espoused 50 years ago during the "first bicentennial." I dug through some old ephemera and amazingly found a newspaper clipping detailing his views on the
town's founding. It was a letter to the editor of the Frederick News, published August 2, 1957. A scanned copy is attached. (Historical
Society note: We've scanned the attached mentioned by the author and attached it below)
I was almost 7 years old when the mistaken celebration occurred. I don't recall much about Uncle Fred, other than the fact he was a
cantankerous old recluse who remained in Philadelphia unless it suited his purpose to come to Emmitsburg to harrass his sister, Valerie W. Overmann at 506 W.
Main St. I don't know that he raised any public outcry prior to the celebration. But this clipping attests to the fact that he thought the attribution of age
was grossly misstated.
As a kid, I thought the 1957 bicentennial was a neat celebration. So my focus was on the festivities - not on anything Uncle Fred
might have been saying from afar. Mom brought me and my siblings up from Richmond during the events, and I recall 2 things specifically about that time: one
is that all the men in town were expected/cajoled/urged/ordered to grow beards. I suppose this was to augment an aura of 200 years of age in the environs. And
the second, perhaps most important thing is that during the parade, a float passed my grandmother's house and someone on it was tossing small plastic replicas
of Coke bottles to the crowd. After a brief skirmish with an over-enthusiastic adult, I managed to wrest a few for my own pockets. I occasionally wonder what
the value of those would be in today's market for Coke memorabilia. Unfortunately, the last time I saw them was in the late 1960's, about the time I came up
to Mt. St. Mary's for my first year of college, and my brother took over my bedroom and dresser at home in Richmond. Easy come, easy go.
Too bad the years of confusion and misinformation prevented recognition of the true founding date. It would have been nice to think I
and others might have been able to celebrate the same town's bicentennial twice, 28 years apart.
Printed in the August 2nd, 1957 Fredrick Post
Letter To 'The Editor:
Emmitsburg Not 200 Years Old Claims Philadelphia Correspondent
To The Editor Of The News, Sir:
Now that the last echoes of celebrating Emmitsburg have died away and the fiesta is beyond spoiling, a correspondent in
Frederick County suggests it may be safe to raise an issue of "historical accuracy, ethics and propriety."
The reference is to a sudden addition — no explanation, apology, research or revelation—of roughly 30 years to the town's
established age to make a bicentenary.
Of course nothing in all Frederick County was founded In 1757 or thereabouts except possibly Fort Frederick and a couple
small block-houses. For that was the period when Frederick County camel nearer demoralization than ever in its history, when, following Braddock's Defeat
(1755) its entire Northern border lay exposed to Indian raids, the prolonged terror waves sweeping as far Fast as the Susquehanna. There were seven long war
years with as many or more recurrent panics in the county, sparked by such events as the McKeasy murders, the raids on Harbaugh's Valley, the attack on
Bard's Mill (1758, near the present Fairfield), the atrocities in Buchanan Valley, capture of Mary Jemison. Repeatedly Fredericktown was a huge refugee camp
with the upper "Hundreds" (present townships) practically denuded.
"Scarce a family remains to the Westward of Monocacy," wrote, Governor Sharpe to Lord Baltimore in September, 1756. —
Archives of Maryland, VI, 483.
"The Maryland settlements are all abandoned," reported Col. George Washington to his own Governor Fairfax about this same
time. "Five hundred wagons passed Monocacy to avoid the enemy within three days. The whole settlement of Conococheague had fled and there remained only two
families between that point and Fredericktown." — Scharf, WEST MD. I 97.
As late as 1763 refugees were streaming into Fredericktown, the' terrors of this time exceeding what followed on the defeat
of Braddock. — Ibid., 99.
So for the sake of posterity and' the county's sanity it should be recorded that Emmitsburg in its passion for old age and
wishful thinking forgot, ignored, abolished the French and Indian war abolished also unwittingly the Revolution, since the latter war is in-explicable
without the issues raised by the former.
Emmitsburg was established in 1785 by the arbitrary act of man, William, not Samuel, Emmit, to get rid of land he could not
sell other-wise. That is as nearly complete document, absolute history as one can get in this world. Silver Fancy, Poplar Fields, Carrolsburg were not even
ghost villages, no morel influenced the foundation than did several ancient cemeteries, Tom's Creek, Poplar Ridge, Indian Look-out. Trying to date back the
town to the contracted for, obligatory land patent forced on Samuel Emmit in 1757 is much like identifying one's birthday with grandpa's shotgun wedding. A
crossroads mudhole in the deep woods, that was Emmitsburg before 1785.
The personal tragedies of the Emmit family will eventually be brought to light. But it may not be until after, in a flare
of world publicity, that noble woman, Elizabeth Seton, is re-positioned with quasi-infallibility in the Emmitsburg scenario, which is a hundred years of
myth and fairy-tale. Christianity is after all an historical religion and a process of trimming and disassociation will eventually be forced on the churches
so largely responsible for the present monument confusion, perennially blessing it, including the Heiman Bible. It is deservedly their job and will not be
happy or easy. But the reward may be as fine a picture of special providence as America can supply.
Meanwhile the regional tragedy of Emmitsburg is gross neglect of its landmarks and continuous chronic mythopoeia.
Stone crumbles, trees topple, plows uproot.
Only the myths survive — and the Devil's Advocate.
July 31, 1957