Studying the history of Westminster during the celebration this year of our community's 250th (sestercentennial) provides a great opportunity for insight into Carroll County's personality.
In 1731, Dr. Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the county's namesake, lobbied Gov. Samuel Ogle that tax relief, road-building and agricultural business stimulation would encourage the settling of the area now known as Carroll and Frederick counties.
Even now, 250 years later, low taxes, an emphasis on good roads and maintaining and preserving the business of agriculture remain important in Carroll County.
Much of Carroll County was perceived to be dangerous until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. The next year, William Winchester founded the town of Westminster.
One of the strongest reasons for communities to come together is for public health, safety and welfare. Providing good hospitality, food and shelter, and proving to travelers and settlers that Westminster and Carroll County were safe was particularly important after the French and Indian War. This too remains a strong dynamic in our Carroll County and Westminster psyche.
During an address by Joseph D. Brooks on the county birthday, Jan. 19, 1923, the mayor of Westminster from 1892 to 1895 observed that the, "town owes its growth to three things, all of which happened in spite of its residents. The building of the Baltimore pike [1804,] the central location in the county, which made it the county seat [1837,] and the construction of the Western Maryland Railroad [June 15, 1861.]"
Westminster was not always a mercantile powerhouse. "In strictly turnpike days it was a wagon hamlet filled with barrooms and all that accompanied them," said Mayor Brooks. "Westminster, the meeting place of the Germans and English, remained dormant. Their ideas of living were different and there was no real work to build a town of any consequence."
Indeed, unspoken in the history of Westminster is the tension of being in sort of a demilitarized zone, between the Germans of northern Carroll County, the English of the southern part of the county and the Scotch-Irish in the western portion.
This tension, which persists to this day, has periodically had a paralyzing effect on our community for long periods of time.
Westminster's history will be the topic of the Historical Society of Carroll County's box lunch talk at noon on July 8 at Grace Lutheran Church, 21 Carroll Street in Westminster. A presentation of old photographs illustrating Westminster's history will be discussed by this writer.
Folks planning to attend the society's monthly Historical Society lectures are encouraged to bring a lunch. The Historical Society provides beverages and dessert. Admission is $5 for society members and $10 for non-members. For information, contact the Historical Society at 410-848-6494 or Info@HSCCmd.org or go to http://www.hsccmd.org.