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Emmitsburg From Then to Now

A little History

Emmitsburg was named for its founder, William Emmit in 1785. However, settlement preceded the town, particularly since British authorities restricted colonists' expansion during and after the French and Indian War.

The Tom's Creek Methodist Church was founded in 1757 for the benefit of settlers in the area (including William Emmit's father Samuel Emmit) as well as travelers. In the same year, Lutherans led by pastor George Bager built a church, which they shared with a German Reformed congregation until 1798 (and for a briefer time with a Presbyterian congregation). After the American Revolutionary War, Catholic missionary Rev. Jean Dubois established a mission church, and then seminary at Emmitsburg. Later Elizabeth Ann Seton established a convent, with a school and hospital. Soon, the number of Methodists in Emmitsburg led to the formation of a circuit around town, rather than share a minister with Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Union fortified Emmitsburg to stop the Confederate invasion of the Union territory in June 1863 during the American Civil War. Half the town was burned to the ground in a mysterious fire on the night of June 23. Folklore has it that 'The Great Fire', as it was known, was started by a Union sympathizer to prevent advancing Confederates from taking supplies from the town. However fate spared the town a battle between the opposing forces, which instead took place 12 miles north of it in Pennsylvania near the town of Gettysburg. The town was briefly held by the retreating Confederates on July 4.

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