Emmitsburg is a lovely Frederick County Town
Emmitsburg is a lovely Frederick County town located just south of the famed Mason-Dixon line, which separates the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania and served as the dividing line between Union and Confederate states during the Civil War. The town is best known as the home of Mount St. Mary's University, which is the site of the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, honoring Catholic religious tradition. The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton honors the first United States native to be canonized as a saint in the Catholic tradition and is one of the nation's top Catholic pilgrimage sites. Nearby across the Pennsylvania border, the Civil War attractions of Gettysburg are located within easy driving distance.
Emmitsburg was named for its founder, William Emmit, in 1785. However, a settlement (named first "Silver Fancy" and later "Poplar Fields") preceded the town, particularly since British authorities restricted colonists' expansion during and after the French and Indian War.
In 1757 Lutherans led by pastor George Bager built a church, which they shared with a German Reformed congregation until 1798. After the American Revolutionary War, Catholic missionary Rev. Jean Dubois established a mission church, then a seminary, at Emmitsburg. Later Elizabeth Ann Seton established a convent, with a school and hospital. Soon, the number of Methodists in Emmitsburg led to the formation of a circuit around town, rather than share a minister with Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The Union fortified Emmitsburg to stop the Confederate invasion of the Union territory in June 1863 during the American Civil War. Half the town was burned to the ground in a mysterious fire on the night of June 23. Folklore has it that "The Great Fire", as it was known, was started by a Union sympathizer to prevent advancing Confederates from taking supplies from the town. However fate spared the town a battle between the opposing forces, which instead took place 12 miles north of it in Pennsylvania near the town of Gettysburg. The town was briefly held by the retreating Confederates on July 4.