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Founders' Day celebration offers history lessons HOWARD COUNTY DIVERSIONS


Here's a Goliath and David story: the Memorial Day weekend at the beach vs. a history lesson.

That is the match drawn by organizers of the Founders' Day Weekend, starting tomorrow in Ellicott City's Historic District.

The event, a creation of Ed Williams, director of the B&O; Railroad Station Museum, commemorates the founding of Ellicott Mills -- today's Ellicott City -- more than two centuries ago, which he pegs to 1772.

The core of this weekend activity is historical recreations by the South River Sutlers of Annapolis. They will camp in front of the Ellicott City station and perform activities contemporary in America from 1772 to 1793.

The group will weave cloth, spin flax, work iron and make candles, soap and cheese. Period musicians and a clown are also scheduled to participate. Great Panes of Main Street will demonstrate glass leading and cutting to show how it was done in early American years.

Mr. Williams, 46, also co-owner with Frank DiPietro of Mumbles and Squeaks Toy Gallery, said he hopes this "education through entertainment" will foster an appreciation of life in the town when it was still part of Anne Arundel County and generate a capital gain, drawing on the town's cache of history.

"This is kind of a small beginning, and I'd like to see it grow. I'd like to make it a town event with period clothes, and everybody would know about the history of their building," he said.

Mr. Williams cites Ellicott City's uniqueness -- and marketing potential -- as an important city during the Revolution and Civil wars. Its stops along the B&O;'s Old Main Line as early as 1830 and the National Pike, Main Street, made it a 19th century gateway to the west, and helped usher in the Industrial Revolution.

"I see the [train] museum as the historic hub of Ellicott City. The mills are gone, and we have the station," he said. "The boutiques come and go, but the station will be here forever."

Ellicott Mills was founded by Andrew, John and Joseph Ellicott, the sons of a Pennsylvania Quaker. Andrew and John established their mill in present-day Ellicott City, with Joseph, starting a mill two miles upstream. With a flour mill still operating on the Baltimore County side of the Patapsco River, the town retains a link to the trade of its beginning.

If Memorial Day conjures up images of beaches, backups and barbecues, why schedule the inaugural celebration this weekend?

Mr. Williams answers with Founders' Day as an affirmation of the frugal '90s.

"It's a tight economy. I don't think a lot of people can run off to the beach," Mr. Williams said. "Second, the beach thing has gotten to be a really high school thing."

He said the three-day celebration makes it flexible so it may fit in holiday schedules.

"We weren't looking for tens of thousands of people," said Mr. DiPietro. "We think there will be plenty of people in town."

Founders' Day Weekend will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, rain or shine, at Main Street and Maryland Avenue, where the South River Sutlers will set up camp. Other re-enactors are welcome to visit. The event is sponsored by Mumbles and Squeaks Toy Gallery and Historic Ellicott City. Information: 461-1945.

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