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From Mechanicstown to Thurmont

Anne Cissel

Like most early villages established on the frontiers of Maryland in the mid-18th century, the site of the modern Thurmont reflected the physical and geographic advantages of the area. The powerful Hunting Creek which runs through it would power its mills: the mountain lands were rich in timber for building and bark needed for its infant tanneries. The plentiful iron ores provided the impetus for the success of the Catoctin Furnace, whose output was shipped from the wagon roads intersecting near the village.

The traditional date of the founding of Mechanicstown is given as 1751 in history books, however more comprehensive, modern research has shown that pioneering German settlers were already on parts of the land in the mid 1740's. At least three of the land grants underlying Thurmont predate the creation of Frederick County from Prince George's County. The land around "Weller's Church" sits on 50 acres of a tract called "Beauty" patented by John Weller in 1744, while in 1738 another Jacob Weller "The Moravian" began to survey lands that would extend along today's Moser Road, from the intersection we now call Jimtown Crossroads.

Most of downtown Thurmont is located on the Lorenz Krieger (Lawrence Creager) farm on 866 acres named "Stoney Corner "surveyed and resurveyed between 1744-1764. It was not until 1803/4 that his eldest son John Creager would lay out 50 building lots on his half of the inherited land. By that time, the settlement had prospered with its own iron forges, grist and saw mills and a tanner The presence of barrel-makers, wheelwrights, blacksmiths and other craftsmen prompted the name Mechanicstown for the newly surveyed community.

The coming of the railroad in 1871 assured Mechanicstown's place as a commercial hub. Along with the old tanneries and mills, newer industries such as cigar-making, pottery, coffin works and lumber businesses shipped their goods from freight depot. The produce of its bountiful farms and orchards fed the cities. In return, some of the city dwellers escaped the heat and smells of summer to enjoy the clean air and mountain scenery of our town. The numerous daily trains brought sportsmen and hikers, but also summer boarders whose families returned year after year.

By 1894 Mechanicstown's progressive merchants, bankers and town leaders determined that the old name was antiquated and smacked of a by-gone image. The town voted (all men, of course) to change the name to 'Blue Mountain City" --- but this choice was vetoed by the Post Office Department, so the second choice "Thurmont" was adopted. Thurmont's slogan "Gateway to the Mountains" reminds us that the same scenic beauty and complimentary atmosphere that attracted people to young Mechanicstown is still evident in modern Thurmont.

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