Celebrating History Day – Gotta Know Where You’ve Been, To Figure Out Where You’re Going…


It may have been dreary day outside, but there were smiles all around the Frederick Visitor’s Center as

LFC Class of 2017 greeted each other for our first monthly outing. We gathered in the theater to hear John Fieseler,

Executive Director of Tourism, take us on an inspiring “Spin Through Frederick County History”. Images

of our town flooded, with streets buckled and buildings crumbling, followed by the changes through

time was both startling and inspirational. The beautiful Carroll Creek Linear Park, Baker Park, the Square

Corner of Market and Patrick Streets as we know them because of “transformational leadership”. Only

one hour into the day and it was clear that this would be the theme…how individuals like Senator Ron

Young then Mayor of Frederick (1964-1989), led in the transformation of Frederick. I was fortunate

enough to be sitting beside his youngest son, Alex Young during this presentation. I learned from Alex

that his Dad grew up in Frederick and “immersed himself in its history”…he knew where he came from

and the pitfalls that needed to be fixed.

Seated in our comfortable bus, we were treated to an almost continuous narrative by John Fieseler who

seemed to know everything about Frederick. He not only pointed out the sights, he shared anecdotes

and historical facts that made the familiar come alive. Our first stop was to the Thurmont Town Hall,

where we met Mayor John Kinnard, so proud of his small town living on the “edge of history” (Camp

David, in case you didn’t know). The theme continued, because John, an unlikely stone carver turned

politician, was another example of passion and commitment coming together to make a difference.

On to the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, honoring the life and work of a

simple woman dedicated to helping others. In spite of her own personal tragedies, Mother Seton, the

first U.S. citizen canonized by the Catholic Church, established the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph, the

first social safety net, which spread across the country during the westward expansion. This was a

unique opportunity to see how quiet leaders, working in their own way, can make a remarkable


Back on the road again to the beautiful Thurmont Public Library for a rainy day box lunch and an

informative discussion from Rick Slade, Superintendent of Catoctin Mountain National Park. Rick

shared his passion for conservation and preservation of the natural environment. In his introduction,

Rick Weldon pointed out that there is often a “clash of public policy and preservation of natural

resources” and that “grace and dexterity,” like that showed by Rick Slade, when defending the

Monocacy Battlefield threatened by the Incinerator Project, can work wonders. Thanks to Shaun

Butcher, National Scenic Byway Director for introducing us to the “Journey Through Hallowed Ground”

an 180-mile long route encompassing 4 states and 15 counties described by the late historian C. Vann

Woodward as a historically rich landscape that “has soaked up more of the blood, sweat and tears of

American history than any other part of the country.”

Our next stop was the Monocacy National Battlefield where Ranger Tracy Evans took us back in time, as

she told us about the “Battle that Saved Washington” through the eyes of the people who lived on the

local farms. We even had the unique opportunity to go inside the Best Farmhouse. I had a chance to

catch up with others to find out what folks thought about History Day. Eric Johnson (Audio Video

Group) put into words what everyone was saying, “Amazed at how much I don’t know,” but it was Mary

McCormack who summed it up perfectly, “30 years in Frederick…you just don’t know what you don’t


Our last stop was the extraordinary National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Executive Director, David

Price, shared the museums story and how he got involved first as a re-enactor. This is a must visit site in

downtown. In closing, we were reminded of just how important history plays a part in the present (“…

because in order to “see forward” and plan for the future, you gotta know where you’ve been.) Rick

Weldon, LFC (1998)


-Hermine Bernstein

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