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Harney: Sense of ‘community’ still alive

Richard D. L. Fulton

(12/14) Harney’s 1st Annual Christmas Tree Lighting on the Square, held December 16, was one of a number of events this year that served to bring together residents of the rural community.

Harney, nestled around the intersection of Route 134 and Conover Road in Carroll County, is one of the former bustling, country crossroad communities that dot the rural Maryland landscape.

Once the home to a number of industries, including a cigar factory, the community today is but a shell of what it once was. Even its post office was closed in the early 20th Century.

Today, the community, comprised of about 160 families, counting those from adjacent farms, consists of nicely-kept Victorian homes and former businesses that now serve as residences.

A rusty vintage gas pump stands like a "back in the day" sentinel of memories of better times in front of an old gas station/general store. The weathered and dilapidated ruins of the cigar factory still boast remnants of its once former architectural glory, despite the fact that there is little left standing but its precarious façade.

To the casual passerby, the town might seem a thing of the past, dead to the world, but deep within, a pulse still beats, and there are people in the community endeavoring to bring back their once thriving community from the perceptual brink.

The 1st Annual Christmas Tree Lighting on the Square represented just such an effort.

Marti Hobson served as the coordinator of the event, which began with the premise, "Let’s just do something neat" to bring the community together. "I just decided I wanted to do something to show the Christmas spirit."

Along with a tree donated by Breighner Tree Farm and the use of intersection land made available by adjacent partners Josh Dell and Susan Beck, the project did evolve into a community effort, and more than 60 people attended the event on December 16, some traveling from as far away as Sharpesburg.

Community members made cookies and treats and supplied the hot chocolate. Children joined-in at the event and custom-designed their own ornaments to be hung individually on the tree. Santa Claus arrived by horse-drawn carriage, while the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Choir sang Christmas carols.

The 1st Annual Christmas Tree Lighting on the Square joins a number of events that serve to draw the community together.

Monocacy Valley Memorial Post 6918-07 holds its moving Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies that can see the attendance of up to 200 or more, including veterans of most of the wars from World War II to present, along with an entourage of Patriot Guard, Eagle Riders, and the Legion Riders.

The Harney Volunteer Fire Company also has its established events that provide an opportunity for the community (and outsiders) to come together, including their July carnival and a vintage Gas Engine Show, among other fundraisers (harneyfire11.org).

Hobson’s mother, Virginia Fair, said, "We are trying to start new traditions," revealing that Harney still has a pulse, and the community aims to keep it beating for generations to come.

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