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Williamsport marks 225th birthday

April 09, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Curt Gaul, West District Ranger for the C&O Canal, and Charles Brown, right, hold up a sign about Williamsport which will be placed along the towpath at the Cushwa Basin. The sign was unveiled during a ceremony Monday night at town hall to celebrate the town's 225th birthday.
Photo By Dave McMillion

WILLIAMSPORT — The town of Williamsport celebrated its 225th anniversary Monday night, complete with a rendition of “God Bless America” by singer Jack Myers, food, a Boy Scout color guard and an unveiling of a new sign promoting the town that will be placed along the C&O Canal.

Williamsport was founded in 1787 by Brigadier Gen. Otho Holland Williams, a Revolutionary War hero. It was once known as William’s Port, and Mayor James G. McCleaf II talked during a ceremony in town hall about how smoke rose from a few scattered cabins when the town was a western frontier trading post more than 275 years ago.

Over the years, the town’s history grew through developments like the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, which stretched past the town and added a number of structures around the town that are now considered unique because of their historical nature, park officials said.

The town has Civil War history, like when Gen. Abner Doubleday commanded Union forces in Williamsport and mounted cannons on the hill at Riverview Cemetery. And people Monday also recalled other tough times, like when 14 Williamsport High School students were killed in Rockville, Md., in 1935 when a train hit their bus at a crossing.

It was standing-room-only in the council chambers as Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt announced a new sign that will be placed in the area of the Cushwa Basin to promote Williamsport.

Williamsport and other towns along the canal have been looking for ways to direct visitors from the C&O Canal into the towns, which will hopefully see enhanced business.

The sign shows an old black-and-white photograph showing two canal boats near the Cushwa Basin while the shipping canal was still in business. Another current photograph of downtown Williamsport is also on the sign.

Brandt said the sign will be one of the ways of “sharing the stories of this wonderful town.”

Various dignitaries were at the ceremony, including Washington County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham.

“Everyone in Western Maryland knows about Williamsport. You’re doing a great job,” Callaham said.

Charles South, who McCleaf said has been on the town’s planning and zoning commission “forever,” was recognized with a plaque.

Town Council member Joan Knode said Williamsport was founded in April 1787 but the exact date is not known.

The town council decided to forgo town business Monday night and instead hold the celebration.

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