Dayhoff: Chamber of Commerce is part of long history of civic groups in Carroll County

Dayhoff: Chamber of Commerce is part of long history of civic groups in Carroll County
On Wednesday, March 28, 2018, the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce produced the annual outstanding teacher awards at the Carroll Arts Center. (Courtesy of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.)

The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce can trace its roots back to the first meeting of the Westminster Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, July 23, 1924. The Westminster Chamber of Commerce became the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 1, 1973. According to a history of the chamber written by Diana Scott, the chamber did, at one time, maintain an office in Westminster City Hall.

In an article in the Democratic Advocate on July 25, 1924, T. W. Mather, Jr., Charles W. Klee, and C. Edgar Nusbaum called a meeting of “75 citizens” at the Westminster Fire Hall on Wednesday afternoon, July 23, 1924 “to consider and hear the views of the business men as to the advisability of forming a Chamber of Commerce for this city… .”


During that meeting the following officers were elected: President, C. Edgar Nusbaum; Vice President, Miller Richardson; Executive Committee, Joseph Mathias, Carroll Albaugh, D. S. Gehr, W. H. Davis, William N. Keefer, Joseph E. Hunter and T. W. Mather, Jr.

“Today, the Carroll County Chamber has about 600 members,” said Mike McMullin, who has been the chamber president since September 2010.

“We are no longer just a ‘business organization,’” explained McMullin. “We are a civic organization. People would be surprised to know that many of the well-known community events here in Carroll are produced by the Chamber of Commerce. Events like the Outstanding Teacher Awards, the Drug and Violence [Awareness] Expo, the annual Public Safety Awards and the Carroll Biz Challenge to name a few.”

There is a long history and tradition of business and community oriented civic groups in Carroll County. However, more research is needed as to what was the first “business association” in Carroll County. The Chamber was formed 26 years after another business organization in Westminster called the “Retailers' Association of Westminster, Maryland” formed on April 6, 1898.

An article in the April 9, 1898 issue of the Westminster Democratic Advocate newspaper mentions that after the first meeting of the Retailers’ Association, a second meeting was to take place the following Monday, April 11, 1898. Of note is the fact that members of the “Merchants and Manufacturers Association” were invited. Apparently this association pre-dated the Retailers’ Association.

A quick review of the Jan. 1, 1887 directory, “Westminster, Its Location, and Advantages as a Place of Residence or for Business,” has no mention of any merchants association.

According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Jay Graybeal, “The second Westminster Train station was a nearly new building in the spring of 1898 when local business men perceived the railroad as an indirect threat to their livelihoods. The April 9, 1898 issue of the Westminster Democratic Advocate newspaper described the formation of a new association aimed at protecting their interests…

“[A] meeting of the merchants and other business men was held in the Babylon Building …. The meeting voted to form an association to be known as the "Retailers Association of Westminster, Maryland," with the objects and purposes as expressed in the first resolution, and elected permanent officers as follows: Fred. D. Miller, President; Wm. F. Derr, Vice-President; Elmer C. Orndorff, Secretary and A. C. Strasburger, Treasurer.

“Geo. W. Albaugh and Joseph W. Smith were selected, the former for the East End and the latter for the West End, to wait upon the business men of the city and get all to sign the roll of membership.

“What action the combined organizations will take will be a matter for the determination of the representatives of the various associations when they meet. The feeling among the merchants here is that a protest should be made to the officers of the Western Maryland Railroad Company.”

There is a cherished tradition of civic activism, advocacy, and protest in Carroll County. In 1898, local business owners assembled together to protest what they considered to be the unfair business practices of the railroad. This brings to mind, as an aside; recently several readers have asked about the history of protests in Carroll County — and the various protests that have assembled locally in Westminster, nationally and internationally.

All this writer has to say about protesting — for or against anything; whether I agree with the focus of the protest or not — is that such protests are a cherished American right, for which men and women have honorably served in the military. It is a basic American right for which many folks in Carroll County have made the ultimate sacrifice. The act of protesting is called citizenship.

For more information about the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, the website maybe found here: