The history of Westminster and Carroll County is much more than buildings, signs and spaces and empty, memorized, meaningless dates without a human context.

Carroll County has been fortunate to have many native sons and daughters who made a great difference and contribution to our community.

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This year, more than 100 folks gathered at the New Windsor fire hall for the Historical Society of Carroll County's annual meeting.

In addition to conducting the business of the society, the attendees also enjoyed a presentation by "Step Back in Time," a theatrical troupe of McDaniel College students that performed four skits which featured prominent Carroll countians and their roles on or about July 5, 1863 in Westminster during the Civil War.

The skits depicted events torn from diaries and personal recollections written by the various citizens the day after the Battle of Gettysburg, when thousands of soldiers, prisoners, and wounded and dying combatants invaded the fragile peace and tranquillity of Westminster.

During the performance, Dr. Joshua Hering was played by Adam Sponsky, with Christopher Spahn as a soldier, Brandi Weyers as a nurse, Nia Gipson as Aunt Mary Key, Tate Myers as James Reese, Robert Arroyo as Abraham Huber, Lauren Pedersen as Mollie Huber, Mable Buchanan as Mary Shellman and Mandy Quarantillo as Fannie Shellman.

The irony was not lost that much of the theatrical performance of the evening took place at the Union Meeting House in the Westminster Cemetery, and the City Hotel at the corner of Main and Court Streets, which both served as hospitals during the summer of 1863.

Incredibly, both buildings have been lost to history and are now gone. The Meeting House was demolished in 1892 and the hotel in 1940.

It was to save another historic building in town that prompted the first of a series of meetings of the Historical Society on March 17, 1939. It was that year that the society was founded.

The immediate reason the 60 community leaders attended that first meeting was to save the Shellman House at 206 E. Main St. According to local historian Jay Graybeal, "The property was being sold to settle the estate of Mary B. Shellman and was threatened with demolition for the construction of a gas station."

Over the years, the Historical Society has grown to a heritage campus of three prominent historic structures on East Main Street in Westminster:

• the Kimmey House, which was built around 1800

• the Sherman-Fisher-Shellman House built in1807

• and Cockey's Tavern, which dates to approximately1820.

With a new year a little over a month away, stop and think of the many great Carroll countians who have gone before us, and remember that history is often the sanitized and romanticized version of difficult events, in which ordinary folks stepped up to do extraordinary things.

Carroll County has changed a great deal over the last several decades. With these changes comes an increasing importance to remember the qualities that are at the core of our county; where we come from, why we are here, and where we are going.

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The purpose of studying history is not to go back to yesteryear, but to bring the past to the present.

Our legacy is how we live our lives, with an eye to the future while being aware of what is being left behind.

This holiday season, let's also keep in our hearts those less fortunate during this season of giving — and those who open their doors to them.

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