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 Statement by Commissioner Ted Brennan calling for the Town to cease using 1757 as its founding date

I have gone over all of the documents that have been presented to this board regarding the founding of our town. I want to make everyone understand that the decision before us is not to establish a date of our founding. No institution of man can, history has done it for us. We can only decide what to put on our monuments, our flags and our seal. What date should we put on the sign we have been asked to restore? What is the date we should put on our seal? As we all know, the date on the both says 1757. The town seal, a symbol of government, should read 1825 as that is the date that our town government was established. To be sure, the 1757 so called founding date has considerable controversy surrounding it. The documents I have read show this to be the year that Samuel Emmit purchased 2, 250 acres of property in this area. No original document announces his intention to establish a town or to sell lots or anything related to those two things. Whether or not Mr. Emmit planned to lay out lots 28 years after purchasing the land is now lost to history. If we are trying to find the truth about our history, we must base our judgments on what we know, and not on what we do not. President Reagan's motto was trust, but verify. For a long time we trusted the 1757 date, but it is through this verification process that we have arrived where we are.

Despite the excellent arguments I have heard over the last few months, I must say that the original documents, the deeds, the application for historic designation, and others speak much more loudly than do the secondary and tertiary sources, such as those cited by the proponents of the current date. Books written after the fact are never as reliable as the original documents. It shouldn't matter who provides these documents, if they are authentic, then they cannot be disputed. It is their intrinsic value that should count. I have seen only secondary reports, and opinions related to the 1757 date, and not the hard documentation that supports the later date.

I will not argue with anyone about when this area was settled. It was settled hundreds if not thousands of years ago by what we now call native Americans. To be sure, the land was settled by colonists somewhere in the late 1720s or early 1730s, depending on who you ask. Having a few settlers build close to one another does not make a town, neither does buying a piece of undeveloped property. Founding or establishing a town is a deliberate act that is confirmed by a King, colonial governor, county, or state. The records show that it was William Emmit who established Emmitsburg when he purchased the land from his father to build a town. No record I have seen shows that a town was already here. There are no maps that I have seen that show a town being here before 1785. I ask that muster roles of the Revolution be studied to see if any soldier listed Emmitsburg as their home when they enlisted. Without original documentation it is very difficult to defend with any academic integrity, the 1757 date.

This brings another point. The town government of Emmitsburg was established as a result of incorporation in 1825. Our seal should reflect that. What role does this date play in our history? That is a question to which I would welcome an answer. The Discovery Channel has a program call UNSOLVED HISTORY. Historians take accounts of key moments in history and subjects them to modern forensic examination. I brought up USS MAINE in the previous meeting. Textbooks to this day indicate that it was a Spanish mine that sunk that gallant ship. But, as the Rickover Commission in the 1970s proved and the UNSOLVED HISTORY teams confirmed, it was a coal bunker fire which detonated a powder bunker, sending MAINE and nearly all hands, to the bottom of Havana harbor. We went to war with Spain over an accident!

What we do here tonight will hopefully not end the quest for our real history. I hope it fuels the fire of curiosity. But, I am asked to vote on spending money on a sign that may not portray an actual historic event. My integrity will not permit me to vote in favor of such endeavor. It is my hope that the Town Council will allow one more month of study to allow the several history departments which have been contacted to weigh in on this matter.

If the 1757 date cannot be supported by historic fact, I cannot support replacing the sign with that date upon it. While this may remain a controversy, that date is only supported by a land purchase date and not a town founding date. Until it can be proven otherwise, the 1785 date is the only one that is supported by original documents. However, the 1733, 1757 and 1825 dates should remain as significant dates in our history. I regret that this issue has polarized our town, this council and all who love our history. It is my hope that we can move past this issue and get to the more important work we still have before us.

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