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More than a battlefield

Sharpsburg Heritage Day reminds visitors town history rich with agriculture and commerce

Sharpsburg Heritage Day reminds visitors town history rich with agriculture and commerce

September 17, 2006|by TARA REILLY

SHARPSBURG - Sharpsburg's history contains more than just the Battle of Antietam.

The Sharpsburg Historical Society was trying to send that message Saturday at Sharpsburg Heritage Day.

While the bloodiest single-day Civil War battle is very much a part of the small town south of Hagerstown, Sharpsburg's history predates the battle by about 100 years.

Saturday's event was held in conjunction with the anniversary weekend of the Sept. 17, 1862, Battle of Antietam.

Established in 1763, the town has colonial history, was known as an agricultural center, grew into a busy commercial district and is said to have been the home of more C&O Canal boat captains than any other town in Washington County, said Edie Wallace, president of the historical society.

Many of its stone houses were built between 1790 and 1830.

"We're more than just that one-day battle," Wallace said. "We're trying to highlight all of that."

Wallace said the town had four hotels and plenty of shops. It was a place with tanneries, butchers, tailors and lawyers, and accommodated farmers selling shoes, cloth, coffee, sugar, saddles, harnesses, horseshoes and wagons, according to information from the historical society.

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"It was a really hopping town," Wallace said.

Spectators had the opportunity to learn about the town's history and charm Saturday through lectures, music, displays and self-guided tours.

Members of the Gross family of Williamsport said they were having a good time checking out what the town has to offer.

"I think it's nice," said Angel Gross, 28.

She was with her husband Kevin, 31, and children, Madeline, 3, and Ella, 10 months.

She said the family came out for the food and activities.

One of the buildings on the tour list was Tolson's Chapel, which was built by freed African-Americans who had been slaves until Maryland abolished slavery in 1864.

The chapel also served as a schoolhouse for local African-American children through 1899.

The Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) is trying to preserve the building.

Frank Parsons, volunteer docent for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, praised the event.

"I think it's a neat thing to do," Parsons said, while dressed as a civilian physician during the Civil War. "Sharpsburg has so much history to it."

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