The long version of my Westminster Advocate column for July 6th, 2004
by Kevin Dayhoff, Westminster Mayor (1,262 words)
Some time ago, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, approximately 90 campers dashed down College Hill and headed east on Main Street.
Several friends joined them, over at Westminster Mayor Michael Baughman’s shop, as they galloped through Westminster, across the railroad tracks, charging to the other end of town - only soon to be seen, retreating back through town shortly later.
In the ensuing melee that followed, the Carroll County State’s Attorney, C. W. Webster, was among several local prominent citizens that were captured and released the next day.
This experience on June 29th, 1863 perhaps marked the first foray into Westminster from our good neighbors on The Hill, McDaniel College.
Of course, over time the event has been called “The Battle of Westminster” or otherwise known as: “Corbit’s Charge”. With some help from my friend and historian, Tom LeGore, perhaps I need to tell the rest of the story.
It’s a good story about a partnership that has been enormously beneficial to everyone in Westminster and McDaniel College for over 137 years. A relationship that got off to an exciting start and continues to be exciting many years later.
Around 12 noon, on June 28th, 1863, The First Delaware Calvary arrived in Westminster where they were immediately directed to the highest elevation in and around Westminster - a hill just outside the western end of Westminster, known then as “The Commons”.
The Commons was a 12 acre patch of land which had a commanding view of Westminster’s Main Street, and all the roads which led to New Windsor, Taneytown, Uniontown and Gettysburg.
The 1860s were an exciting time for Westminster, then a small rural farming community of approximately 1,900 residents and about 40 businesses.
The 1860s saw the Western Maryland Railroad come to town June 15th, 1961 when the railway line from Owings Mills was completed to Westminster.
According to “Carroll County Maryland – A History 1837-1976” by Nancy Warner; F. R. Buell, who later founded McDaniel College (then known as Western Maryland College) in 1866, opened the “Westminster Male and Female School” in April 1860.
The first library in the County, the Westminster Library, was incorporated in September 1863 and was open to the public every Friday afternoon at the Odd Fellow’s Hall and several circuses visited town at Fairground Hill – “charging the “huge” sum of 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children…”.
In the 1860s, The Commons or “Old Common” as it is referred to in “The Formative Years” written in 1982 by Samuel Biggs Schofield and Marjorie Cowls Crain; commanded – as it does today, a logistical presence over the local community. It looms on the horizon from most any vantage point in Westminster.
According to “The Formative Years” which referred to James W. Reese’s history of the college: it was the west end playground of Westminster. Political meetings were held on The Hill, as were the Annual Independence Day Ceremonies.
It is also where the great questions of the day such as preservation of the union, free trade, protective tariffs and internal infrastructure improvements in the community, were discussed by local citizens eager to learn more about their responsibilities as the local community and the nation grew.
It is only fitting that Western Maryland College was founded on The Commons in 1866 by Fayette Buell. On May 1st, 1866 Fayette Buell received a deed for eight acres of The Commons” from Edward and Margaret Lynch and William and Matilda Miller for $4,580.00. Over 137 years later, the College on the Hill still commands a inspiring presence, teaching and debating the great questions of the day.
According to a short history posted on McDaniel College’s web site in October 2002: as with many new ventures, financing was slow to materialize, but Fayette Buell did receive generous financial support from several of Westminster’s community leaders including: Isaac Baile; the Reverend James T. Ward, of the Methodist Protestant Church, who would become the College’s first president; and John Smith, president of the thriving Western Maryland Railroad and a resident of nearby Wakefield Valley, who became the first president of the College’s Board of Trustees.
The College was named after the Western Maryland Railroad, perhaps at the suggestion of one of its benefactors, John Smith. This was the first of many collaborations between Westminster’s community leadership and the College on the Hill.
Westminster Mayor Michael Baughman later became a member of the Western Maryland College Board of Trustees.
“The Formative Years” reports that the first foundation stone of “Old Main”, the first building on campus, was laid on August 27, 1866. Upon its completion, “Old Main” joined other prominent buildings in town such as the Odd Fellow’s Hall, built in 1854 in the middle of town at 140 East Main Street and the Carroll County Courthouse, built in 1838, which formed the bookend to the college at the other end of town.
On June 29th, 1863, approximately 100 soldiers of the First Delaware Calvary were camped at the Commons on the Hill. 90 of those soldiers engaged General J. E. B. Stuart’s Confederate Calvary totaling over 6,000 men, in Corbit’s Charge, and changed the course of history.
Today, compared to the 17,000 citizens of the city of Westminster, McDaniel College’s 400 employees and 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students continue to change the course of history with about the same odds.
Now, in 2004, students, employees and faculty are usually the ones galloping down the Hill and the charging is done with a credit card. The employment exchange works in both up and down the Hill, as the college is an excellent employer, with close to 400 employees and a payroll of over $24 million per year.
In a presentation by Dr. Ethan Seidel on March 7, 2002, concerning the economic impact of McDaniel College on Carroll County, he estimated that students at McDaniel College spend over $4 million a year on and off campus. Dr. Seidel further elaborated that it is estimated that McDaniel attracts over 100,000 visitors per year to Westminster, many who come to attend the Raven’s summer camp during August.
These visitors are estimated to pump over $1 million into the local economy. In the last decade, McDaniel College has spent approximately $5 million a year in capital improvements.
In addition to McDaniel College’s contribution to the economic vitality of the City of Westminster, the College provides a pool of students for employment and as interns for many businesses and governments.
The students, faculty and staff venture off the hill regularly, providing expertise to businesses, non-profit organizations and to government boards and commissions. Their volunteer time has added greatly to the quality of life for the residents of Westminster and Carroll County.
Many members of the community regularly retreat up to the College on The Hill, for educational and cultural activities, such as Common Ground on the Hill, Theater on the Hill, and an on-going program of concerts, speakers and of course, college classes.
This cultural contribution adds greatly to the soul and quality of life we know as the City of Westminster.
So, by now I hope you understand how important the charging and retreating is to the City of Westminster,
So by now I hope you understand how much we approve of today’s charging and retreating by campers on The Hill, - however; please bear in mind we still don’t approve of any “catch and release” of the Carroll County State’s Attorney.
© Kevin Dayhoff, Westminster Mayor