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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 5: Community Schools

Education has always been a social process by means of which a community, society, or nation has sought to transmit to the emergent generation, those traditional aspects of its culture which it considered fundamental and vital for its own stability and survival.

Mechanicstown, from the very beginning, took a deep interest in education and to this very day the community takes its schools and educational problems seriously.

The "Old Academy" Building

The first school in the community was held in a house on West Main Street. The first school building was constructed in 1796, on a lot on Water Street near the site of the State Theatre. Some years later a second school building was erected on Church Street and stood on the site now occupied by the home of Richard D. Culler. Still years later, a beautiful stone school house was built on what is now Altamont Avenue. Before any churches were built in the community, these school buildings were often used for religious services.

In 1848 the "Old Academy" was erected on East Main Street and was located on the site of the present Western Auto Store. It was in this building, now owned by the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F. lodge), that the first high school in Mechanicstown was organized in 1892.

Pupils attending school located in the old Claire Frock Building located on E. Main Street

It is rather difficult indeed for our younger generation to realize that on the present site of Trout's Super Thrift, there once stood the famous Mechanicstown Male and Female Seminary. This was established in 1874 by the Middle Conference of the Lutheran Synod of Maryland. Like most of the early buildings, it was constructed of stone, obtained from the nearby mountains.

After the seminary closed this same building served as quarters for several private schools.

In 1880, the first four-room elementary school was erected on East Main Street, now owned by the Claire Frock Company. The building was designed to take care of all pupils of the Mechanics-town district, and the teachers were men of outstanding ability. These included John Landers, Ephraim L. Boblitz, and Frederick White. A year later, Mr. Boblitz resigned his teaching position and accepted an appointment as Frederick County School Examiner.

As previously mentioned, the first high school was begun in 1892 in the old Academy building. The first principal of the high school was William M. Martin. At this early date, it was customary for a high school student to take a three-year course. The first high school commencement was held in the old Town Hall in 1894, with one graduate. The following year sixteen pupils graduated and H. D. Beachley became principal. In 1896, the high school was moved into a newly constructed building on East Main Street, located on the site now occupied by Riffle's Garage. Around 1910, the high school and elementary schools merged and to take care of the in-crease in pupils, an annex was added to the existing building. With-in a few years after the merger, enrollment soon outgrew the facilities and, hastened by a destructive wind storm in 1914 which dam-aged the building considerably, a new consolidated school was erected on the present site in 1916. Since then there have been several additions added to the original structure including an auditorium, cafeteria and a manuel arts shops.

In 1955, due to the still increasing enrollment it became necessary to build a new elementary school. Located at the far eastern end of the community, this school opened in September, 1955 and has already outgrown its facilities.

After considerable discussion, which at times turned into heated arguments, plans were approved for a new and modern high school, to be built at the North end of the community on Route 81. This is now under construction and is to be a joint school for both Emmitsburg and Thurmont. After many years and strong demands by the local citizens, Thurmont has finally been successful in obtaining this much needed school which she so justly deserves, in order to keep pace with the very latest methods of teaching our younger generation. Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on July 28, 1967 and the first shovelful of earth was turned over by Ross V. Smith, a local citizen who is a member of the Frederick County Board of Education. Construction was begun immediately thereafter. The school is expected to be completed by September 1968.

Catoctin High Scholl

With the facilities available in our community today, we can feel justly proud of the fact that they have contributed much to our society, for an educated citizen knows and discharges his civic duties, respects the law, acts upon an unswerving loyalty to democratic ideals, respects honest differences of opinion, conserves the nation's resources, and acts to correct unsatisfactory conditions. When it comes to education, Thurmont is alert and ready to fight for what she believes to be the best for her youths.

Chapter Index | Chapter 6: Early Industries

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