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Town recognizes 1785 as founding date

(12/6) After close to a decade of intermittent and, not infrequently, heated debate, the Emmitsburg Board of Commissions unanimously voted December 6 to recognize 1785 as the founding date of the town.

The debate regarding when the Town of Emmitsburg was originally established reached a peak around eight years ago, and ultimately resulted, in 2006, with the commissioners circumventing further "hostilities" by simply recognizing the town’s date of incorporation, 1825.

The latest effort to ascribe official status to the town’s founding date was spearheaded by newly-elected Mayor Donald Briggs in an effort to spur the town’s economy by making the town more historically attractive to heritage tourism.

Drawing upon research complied by the Emmitsburg Historical Society on the subject (available online on the Historical Society section of, Town Planner Susan Cipperly presented the council with evidence that would justify adopting 1785 as the town’s founding date.

"Emmitsburg’s identity is tied to its history. A lot of buildings date back to the late 1700s." Clippery said. She stated that recognizing the town’s founding date is important to businesses, real estate sales, and tourism. "We are competing and cooperating with other historic towns (to take advantage of historic attributes) It would be nice to have a date reflected in our materials (government and tourism documents and publications)."

According to Michael Hillman, president of the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society, there are older documents indicating settlement was occurring in what is now the Emmitsburg area as early as 1733.

However, he said, the first mention of a town, or the name Emmitsburg, appeared is an August 18, 1785, recorded deed in which Samuel Emmit transferred 35 acres to his son, William, "wherein the lots of a new town called Emmitsburg are laid out." Prior to 1785 what we know today as Emmitsburg was a forest."

The town council also voted to remove the date of incorporation from the town seal and replace it with the founding designation "Established in 1785." The town welcome signs will also be changed to include the founding year.

The official recognition of the founding date represented a major victory for the Emmitsburg Historical Society, which had stood by its exhaustive research on the history of Emmitsburg’s founding for close to a decade.

Hillman said, following the meeting, "I am happy that the issue has been finally put to rest. I never had any doubt that in the end facts would win out over folklore."

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