[Historical Society Note: Research conducted in
support of a new book on the history of the Emmitsburg area does not
support the italicized sentences in Mr. Wireman's history
of Emmitsburg's founding ... for the correct history, please read:
Setting the record straight, the real history of Emmitsburg's
Maryland, tucked away at the north end of Frederick
County near the Pennsylvania border, was for many years
the terminus of the Emmitsburg Railroad which connected
with the Western Maryland Railway at Rocky Ridge, a
distance of seven miles. Although there is little or no
traces of this railroad today, it still lives in the
memory of some of the older citizens of the community.
The railroad will be the subject of a series in this
column starting next week.
*History tells us the
village that we now call Emmitsburg was first known as Poplar
Fields and in 1786 the name was changed to
Emmitsburg in honor of William Emmit, who was one of the
largest land holders in the area. The very first white
settler in Emmitsburg was William Elder, a Catholic, who
came from St. Mary’s County in 1734 and made his home
at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.* [see note above]
Elder carried with him
his religion, and when he was building his home,
reserved the largest apartment in it for a chapel. Elder’s
family, accompanied by a number of friends, all members
of the Catholic Church, soon followed him. His home,
which he named "Pleasant Level" soon became a
favorite gathering place for Catholics. From time to
time Elder’s home was visited by priests who came from
St. Mary’s County and elsewhere to minister to the
small but devout and growing congregation.
William Elder was a
native of Lancastershire in England and emigrated to St.
Mary’s County in 1730. Records indicate that Elder was
married twice. His first wife, whom he married in
England, was Ann Wheeler, who was the mother of four
sons and one daughter. Ann died in 1739. William Elder
married his second wife, Jacoba Clementina Livers, who
was the mother of four sons and two daughters. Thomas
Elder, one of Jacoba’s sons, married Elizabeth
Spalding and settled in the area know today as Harbaugh’s
Valley. Thomas and his family lived in the valley for 28
years and then left to settle in Kentucky.
settlement of Elder in Emmitsburg, came a number of
Scotch Irish, German and Irish families among whom were
the Emmits, the Williams, Baughers, Shields, Grovers,
Troxells, Hayes, Weltys, Weavers, Danners and the
*Emmitsburg’s original population consisted of seven families, namely, those of Richard Jennings, a merchant; Adam Hoffman, a hatter; John Rogers, a tavern keeper;
Michael Smith, a blacksmith; Frederick Baird, a carpenter; James and Joseph Hughes, merchants and architects. These sturdy and eminently practical people first called their
little settlement or village "Silver Fancy." It might be well to point out here that "Silver Fancy" was a village settlement in itself and was not part of the settlement of
Elder’s "Popular Fields." *[see note above]
Records indicate that
the very first house built in "Silver Fancy"
was a one story frame dwelling, built by Richard
Jennings, who a short time later built the very first
brick house. It was in 1786 when James and Joseph Hughes
constructed the houses on the northwest corner of the
Square. Still later they built the "Eagle
Tavern." [see note above]
At an early date,
Christian Flautt built and operated a tannery, which in
1798 was sold to
Motter. Motter came from the York
County, Pennsylvania, area. The Motter's raised a very
large family and occupied a high place in the community.
It wasn’t until 1825 that the community
of Emmitsburg was incorporated by the General Assembly
of Maryland and the charter was greatly enlarged and
amended by the Act of March 10, 1854.
The most serious
calamity in the early history of Emmitsburg was the big
fire in 1863. This fire broke out in Beam &
Gutheries’ livery stable on the night of June 16
around 11 p.m. The fire quickly destroyed the stable and
spread to the homes of Dr. Eichelberger and David
Adelsberger and then continued down the side of the
street almost to the Square. The flames then crossed the
street, burning a number of buildings including Wiles’
City Hotel, which was a large, four-story building. When
the fire was extinguished some 20 buildings had been
destroyed. These were speedily rebuilt but in a more
substantial manner than the originals.
Emmitsburg has a rich
and colorful history and the thoughts expressed in this
column merely touch the surface.
Have your own memories of
the Emmitsburg Railroad?
If so, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org