Sharpsburg celebrates birthday

July 10, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

Sharpsburg celebrated its 240th birthday Wednesday without the man who was largely responsible for the party.

Page T. Otto died Tuesday due to complications from surgery, said Sharpsburg Founder's Day organizer Jennifer Silbert.

It was Otto's wish that the small town of 691 people commemorate July 9 as Founder's Day, the day when Joseph Chapline dedicated the town in honor of Maryland Gov. Horatio Sharpe.

Two years ago, Otto organized the first Founder's Day celebration in many years, Silbert said.

"He resurrected the event after a long hiatus. It was his interest," she said.

Sharpsburg is most famous for its connection to the Civil War as the site of the September 1862 Battle of Antietam.

But Otto was passionate that the town's Colonial history not be lost.

A few dozen townspeople and elected officials gathered in Mountain View Cemetery to lay a wreath on Chapline's grave Wednesday.

Then they gathered at Sharpsburg Town Hall to share stories about the town's history, honor Otto's memory and eat birthday cake.


During the French and Indian War, Joseph Chapline captained a militia to defend what was then the open frontier of Maryland, said Steve Robertson, park historian at Fort Frederick State Park.

"It's people like that who made America become America," Robertson said.

Chapline served at Fort Frederick, which was built by Sharpe.

Descendants of Joseph Chapline came from Wheeling, W.Va., College Park, Md., Frederick, Md., and Washington, D.C., to join the party.

Chapline's fourth great-grandson, David Reed, 76, of Washington, D.C., donated two salt spoons from the Chapline family to the Sharpsburg Historical Society.

"I'm thrilled to death that they remembered to invite me. I grew up in the shadow of Joseph Chapline," Reed said.

Alice Bruhn, a descendent of Joseph Chapline's brother, Moses, said her husband, Jerry Bruhn, learned of the connection while doing genealogical research.

Although the Wheeling, W.Va., couple had driven through the town, Wednesday they got an opportunity to learn more about the town's history and its people.

A display in Town Hall invited residents to find their house on one of the town's first maps and look up who first rented the land from Chapline.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, Del. Christopher B. Shank and a representative from U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's office presented resolutions intended for Page Otto and his wife, Betty Otto.

Munson, R-Washington, said Page Otto "contributed mightily to the life of this community."

"I always knew him to be a very feisty man, but a man who got things done," said Shank, R-Washington.

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