Burkittsville, is a town, rich in history and surrounded by beauty. Main street itself is a beautiful testament to a simpler way of life and a time honored past.
The town is bordered by farmland and other small communities. This rural environment has set the tone for strong values which continue to be shared here.
Burkittsville is true to its town motto, "Neighbor Helping Neighbor". Its a statement which reflects an atmosphere that reaches beyond the town's limits. The lifestyle here is a chosen one which continues to honor family. friends, and neighbors as well as the faiths and traditions handed down through generations.
Some local events enjoyed here are craft tours, Main Street parades, church picnics, and family reunions.
In the 1700's The crossroads of what would become Main Street in Burkittsville were actual Indian trails. What is now Md. Route 17 was the Conochogeau Trail which lead from the Cumberland Valley to Seneca along the Potomac River. Gapland Rd. of today was the Monocacy Trail which ran from Pa. to Pleasant Valley, Shepherdstown and to the Shenandoah Valley. Early pioneers in the area were widely scattered and dealt with many hardships which included the French and Indian War.
In the early 1800's Burkittsville was on a stagecoach route with a depot in town. The settlers met occasionally to worship with the help of circuit rider preachers.
1824 The town was founded as Harley's Post Office. Major Joshua Harley was given land for his honorable service in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary war. The town would later become known as Burkittsville in honor of Henry Burkett who lived in the town and in 1829 surveyed the land and created the plat of Burkittsville as we know it. click image to see a larger view of this house
Burkittsville's location was a crossroad between Middletown, Brunswick (which was then known as Berlin), Jefferson, and Boonsboro making it the main route between these other significant towns. it's position as a crossroad allowed for industry to flourish and grow here. There was a very successful tannery, a local yet world famous distillery just outside of town, a post office, general store, blacksmith and harness shops, and even doctors maintained their practices in the prosperous town. The citizens of Burkittsville were always faithful to their religion. In 1829 the German Reform Church was built which still stands today and is owned by The South Mt. Heritage Society. In 1830 a Lutheran congregation was formed and they also worshipped in the German Reform Church. The Lutherans built St. Paul's in 1859 just next door to the German Reform Church. St. Paul's Lutheran Church still stands today and serves as a place of worship to an active congregation. click to see a larger view of the church
1862 The Civil War comes to Burkittsville with all it's horror and grief as the precursor to The Battle of Antietam would begin to unfold here on September 14th. The Union Army was to aid the town of Harper's Ferry which had come under siege by the Confederate forces. General McClellan made plans to cross South Mountain to reach Harper's Ferry. The west edge of Burkittsville leads to Crampton's Gap, a pass through South Mountain. the Union Army would attempt to break through Confederates that were defending South Mountain at Crampton's Gap, Turner's Gap, and Fox Gap. The Confederate troops were eventually outflanked and the Union broke through South Mountain. The Confederates managed to hold off the Union Army's arrival to Harper's Ferry long enough to make its mission a failure, and this delay allowed General Lee to head his troops towards Antietam, setting the scene for what would later become known as "The Bloodiest Day."
1866 brought the opening of a womens seminary to the town of Burkittsville. It was founded by Reverend W.C. Wire, pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church. The school would teach the social graces and classical instruction. The introduction of this type of education shows the progressiveness of the town and surrounding area at the time. seminary2.png (38536 bytes)
1879 Making use of the pure mountain spring water, John Ahalt converted an old flour mill into the Ahalt Distillery, whose leading brand “The Antietam,” was sold all over the United States. At the height of production, the distillery produced 20 barrels a day.
1884 Civil War Correspondent George Townsend, who covered Lee’s surrender at Appomattox for the New York Herald under the pen name “Gath,” purchased land atop South Mountain to erect a stone memorial arch, honoring war correspondents, artist and photographers. The monument bears the names of more than 100 war correspondents. Townsend died in 1914. After his death, the Historical Society of Frederick County and the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce purchased the land. In 1948 the Maryland General Assembly created Gathland State Park as a memorial to both “Gath” and Civil War correspondents.