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Founder ended up broke

September 22, 2005|by HEATHER C. SMATHERS

The only memorial to the man who founded Smithsburg is in the name.

Christopher Smith was born around 1750 in the area where he eventually developed a town. Poor record keeping at the time makes it impossible to determine Smith's exact birthday, Charles Slick, president of the Smithsburg Historical Society, said in 2004.

Smith purchased land known as Shadrach's Lot from Samuel B. McClanahan of Chester County, Pa., in 1813. Immediately upon purchasing the land, he began to divide the lots and lay out a town, Slick said.

Smith then sold the lots at a profit, according to documents from the Smithsburg Historical Society. Seeking additional treasure, Smith reinvested his money in a distillery. When he was forced to close his distillery in 1820, he lost his fortune, documents show.

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Smith's wife and children moved out West to pursue the "beckoning promise of wealth in the making," documents show.

A disillusioned Smith stayed in the town he founded, Slick said, He died in the poorhouse of Washington County in 1831. He is buried at the Lutheran Church in Smithsburg in an unmarked grave, Slick said.

The town was incorporated in 1846.

Improvised hospitals were set up to care for the wounded from both armies after the Civil War battles of South Mountain and Antietam in September 1862. Less than a year later, on July 5, 1863, Smithsburg had its own small skirmish, records say.

The Confederate forces of Gen. James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart, situated on Nicodemus Hill, and the Union forces of Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, on Gardenhours Hill, exchanged fire, according to historical documents.

Around 1880. Mitchell Stover, who owned a nursery near Greencastle, Pa., had a surplus of peach trees. Stover convinced John A. Nicodemus to plant the trees on his mountain property as an experiment, records show.

To their surprise, the planting was a success, and the fruit industry in Smithsburg had begun.

By 1888, Smithsburg peaches were popular with produce buyers in Baltimore and Philadelphia, documents show.

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