Local historian signs copies of "Historic Washington County"

Dennis E. Frye's latest book was commissioned by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce as a history of local business

December 17, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |
  • Author and historian Dennis E. Frye, left, signs copies of his book Historic Washington County: The story of Hagerstown & Washington County, for Dennis Graham, right, and Elaine Carpenter, rear, Friday afternoon at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Nationally recognized Historian Dennis E. Frye's latest book is not a picture book, a fact book or a biography.  

It conveniently leaves out dates and is not a tome about history.

Instead, the book tells the stories of people in Washington County who contributed to the county's history, growth and change.

"It's a book about the foundation, my personal foundation as a son of this county, established several hundred years ago," Frye said.

Or as the opening chapter of his book reads: "This is a book about legacy."

Titled "Historic Washington County: The story of Hagerstown & Washington County," the book was commissioned by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce as a history of local business. Frye credited chamber Director Brien Poffenberger for the book's idea.

"Historic Washington County" has been available for purchase for two weeks, and Frye greeted readers Friday at the Visitor Welcome Center in downtown Hagerstown for a book signing.

For three hours, a steady stream of people came to have Frye personalize their copy of the book.

"I bought this as a gift for my daughter," said Thelma Myers of Hagerstown.

Myers said her daughter Cheryl Mills enjoys local history.

"This book is for me," said David Miller of Washington County. "I like the idea that the people in these books have descendants in the area."

Some who waited for Frye's signature carried multiple books.

"I have them for my co-workers, I was sent on the mission," said Dennis Smith of Hagerstown, an employee of the Washington County Board of Education, who carried three copies.

After being warmly greeted by the author, Greg Snook said he came to support Frye, who is a good friend.  Little did Snook know, Frye had mentioned him and his business, Valley Pet Cemetery, in the introduction to the book.

"It's an honor," Snook said, flipping to find the page. "I had no idea."

Frye took time on Friday to talk to each of the readers who came to the signing, many of whom spent their entire lives in Washington County.

To one man, Frye said that writing this book was "a dream come true."

He said it was his way of giving back, of using his education and the skills he developed assisting his father, John Frye, curator of the Western Maryland Room at the Washington County Free Library, for the community.

Having penned numerous history books, Frye said that "Historic Washington County" takes a unique and different approach to written history.   

"History to me is not dates," he said. "History to me is stories about people."

Stories about people like M.P. Möller, Robert and George Crawford and Tom Pangborn, all of whom are in the book, he said.

While the book tells of people in Washington County's past, Frye said he hopes it inspires people today.

"The book is designed to encourage people to think of their county and its history as special, unique and something they should be proud to share," he said.

Frye is also chief historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

The book is currently on sale at the Visitor Welcome Center and the chamber.

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