The larger part of the interview with Vic Miller in 1967 was an emphasis on widening the audience and membership and so we repeat and enlarge his plea today.
History matters in Washington County. Washington County Historical Society offers history buffs and anyone interested in preservation an open door to the past and, thus, the future. Expert training is not required. You can come aboard and learn how to keep the proud traditions and history of the county alive and accessible. All that is needed is energy and interest. We invite you to share the load.
Because Maryland was one of the original 13 colonies and this piece of American geography that became Washington County on Sept. 6, 1776, was the frontier in the early settlement process, we are inextricably entwined in national and even world events of the history of this so-called great democratic experiment.
Fur trappers and traders might have been here as early as the late 1600s. Major settlements were in evidence as soon as the 1730s through the arrival of industrious people drawn by the fertile valley and abundant water supply. Then by the 1750s the land was scarred with attempts by envious French and their Indian allies making incursions to wrest these lands over to the French or back to the native warriors. Fort Frederick might have been lost to us if historians had not intervened.
History matters here. Early manufacturing evidence is found in the ruins and still standing stone mills along the powerful waterways of the Beaver, Antietam, Conococheague, Licking and Tonoloway creeks and some of their tributaries. Stone structures from the 1730s to the mid-1800s proved the proficiency of the ancestors in the use of natural materials. These ranged from the mills and houses to bridges and fences.
Those mills converted the crops and timber into saleable products for consumption nearby and far down river to the east. There were even various grades of marble from which to make the millstones.
Early craftsmen produced some of the most beautiful tall case and shelf clocks, true to their German and Swiss heritage. The potters, silversmiths and blacksmiths created fine and practical items for households, agriculture and industry, but didn't forget that artistry fit into their trades.
We raised militia companies for the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812. We honored our namesake George Washington in January 1800, the month after his death, with a community funeral.
And, of course, the American Civil War marched through the streets of nearly every town and village inflicting scars of family strife over the right and wrong of it and leaving many to starve in the aftermath. The childhood deaths in the Sharpsburg district during the winter of 1862 to 1863, while only a small sampling, thus anecdotal, gives pause to the claim of no civilian deaths as a part of the Battle of Antietam.
Every major defense of this land drew citizens to service. The citizens of Washington County have never shirked their duty, including the massive and quick turn-around of every potential war materials production site here at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
No other organization in the county has a longer record of dedication to the preservation of our history than the Washington County Historical Society. This organization is in the midst of a major friend-raising campaign … looking for new members. Dues are truly affordable and membership benefits have grown. Tours and events are free or discounted to members. Residents of Washington County who have any interest in history will find something within the collections, archives, programs and events where they can participate. WCHS provides both senior citizens and students with a center for activities.
WCHS also salutes the cherished partners in the county who have taken up the cause over the years to preserve and maintain 37 museums and historic sites for future generations to experience and study and to enhance our tourism destination standard. We often have visitors who spend a week with us from every state, including many from the West Coast, as they research their family roots.
How can members help? Your dues are the first level of support, but beyond that there are opportunities to work with programs for children and adults, care and preservation of the Miller House, Beaver Creek School and the collections in each -— a physical presence once a week or once a month, depending on preference. Working with our partners such the Hager House, Discovery Station and the Rural Heritage Museum, where permanent loans from our collections are kept, to make sure that those collections are maintained and accessible, would require a semi-annual review, at minimum, to helping to staff docents on a regular basis, in the extreme.
There is on-going cataloging and documentation of artifacts and archival materials. Committees for annual events plan and execute those events. Each will soon have its own committee, drawn from the membership. And, annually WCHS recruits from its membership for Board members, who serve as the committee chairs. The Board has a rotation requirement and so needs new blood each July.
The annual meeting, annual report and newsletter provide more opportunities for members to contribute their talents. And, those with historic research and information to impart fit nicely into the lecture series and a speakers bureau.
Linda Irvin-Craig is executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. For more information, call 301-797-8782 or go to www.washcomdhistoricalsociety.org.
Want to be a member?
The Washington County Historical Society is seeking members. Annual dues are $15 for student or seniors; $20 to $34 for individual; $35 to $99 for family; $100 to $499 for friend and $500 and more for patron. Send checks to Washington County Historical Society, 135 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, MD 21740. Make checks payable to the Washington County Historical Society. Include your name, address, city, state, zip code, phone number and email address.