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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 36: The Master of Philips Delight

On February 1, 1955, Frederick County's last one-room school closed its doors and became a part of recorded history.

Hidden high in the Catoctin Mountains, Philip's Delight School will always be remembered, for, if nothing else, its efficient master, William McGill.

By modern standards, Philip's Delight School would not have amounted to much, but to the children who attended its seven grades, it was considered one of the finest in the country. The parents of these children were jealously proud of it, in spite of its dull, weather-beaten appearance. For twenty-three years Mr. McGill taught at Philip's Delight and enjoyed every minute of it.

In 1955, Mr. McGill was transferred to a two-room school at Catoctin Furnace and the parents of the children of Philip's De-light voiced a strong protest when they learned of the school's closing. The imminent departure of Mr. McGill was apparently the main reason for the parents' agitation. The effectiveness of his teaching, won for him the respect of pupil and parent alike. His 40 years in the teaching profession well qualified him for the title to which he was often referred "Master of Philip's Delight."

Mr. McGill, the son of an Episcopal minister, was born at Catoctin Furnace and has spent most of his life in the Catoctin hills. As a boy he attended St. Paul's School in Baltimore and completed his high school years at Thurmont. Although he never attended college, he studied during the summers at Johns Hopkins University and Western Maryland College.

It was a familiar sight for the citizens of Thurmont to see Mr. McGill on his way to the little mountain school. He traveled the six-mile stretch mostly on a bicycle. In bad weather he either walked or went by automobile. At one time he used a county-owned station wagon, and before arriving at Philip's Delight, would pick up a number of teen-agers (his former pupils without exception) and bring them down the mountain to the Thurmont High School, re-turning later in the afternoon to drive them home again.

The one-room school, such as Philip's Delight and teachers like McGill, played a major role in our educational system and their contributions to community life should in no way be taken lightly.

Mr. McGill was a strong believer in the fundamentals. He stressed locations; he believed in giving his undivided attention to each pupil, and he taught the fundamentals of religion. His philosophy of making the process of getting an education a great deal of fun, is perhaps one of the major reasons for his success.

Although the little one-room school is now a part of the rich past, its alumni swell with pride as they relate many wonderful stories of their school days and of their teacher, William McGill, the "Master of Philip's Delight."

Chapter Index | Chapter 37: Radio Station WTHU

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