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January 16, 2024

A piece of 19th-century student art is the first item in a new preservation program

Article Author: Abigail Koontz (This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail January 14, 2024) In the early 1860s, Linda Wert, a student at the Hagerstown Female Seminary, packed up her painting supplies and headed off to paint the Hager Mill, only an eight-minute walk from campus. Wert’s painting, which she later titled “The Old Hager Mill,” now resides in the Washington County Historical Society collection. It represents a young woman’s story, and the history of an institution in Washington County that provided young women with vital education in the 19th century. This month, the painting becomes the first item selected for a new restoration program that invites donors to help preserve the important artifacts in the society’s collection. Malinda “Linda” E. E. Wert (also spelled Wirt) was born on Aug. 2, 1841, in Millersburg, Pa., to Simon and Sarah (Mark) Wert. The Wert family deeply valued education; of the five Wert children, three daughters and one son pursued higher education. The 1860 census recorded Linda Wert’s occupation as “Attending Female Seminary,” indicating she had already begun her education at the seminary, nearly 96 miles from Millersburg. The Hagerstown Female Seminary was a young institution when Linda Wert arrived. Built in […]
January 4, 2024

Washington County Historical Society has safeguarded local history for more than a century

Article Author: Abigail Koontz (This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail December 10, 2023) “Washington County should have a historical society,” Harvey S. Bomberger declared on July 28, 1911. Bomberger, 51, was a merchant from Boonsboro. He stood in the reading room of the Washington County Free Library at 21 Summit Ave., addressing 21 individuals interested in forming an official organization. William R. Hamilton, who became the first secretary of the Washington County Historical Society, sat in, recording minutes in a black and red leather leldger. The record book Hamilton held now resides at the Washington County Historical Society. It contains the earliest meeting minutes of the society, taken from 1911 to 1917. These minutes represent the passion and perseverance of a small group that dreamed of preserving Washington County’s history. On Aug. 31, 1911, the WCHS was officially incorporated by the state of Maryland, gaining rights to purchase and own property, receive donations, adopt a constitution and govern finances and membership. The 29 charter members signed the certificate of incorporation, including three women — notably Mary Lemist Titcomb, head librarian of the Free Library and creator of one of the first Bookmobiles in the United States. In 1912, Bomberger was […]
December 27, 2023

WCHS closed to the public from January 1 through February 29, 2024

The WCHS would like to share with you that the Miller House will be closed to the public from January 1 through February 29, 2024, with a reopening date planned for March 1, 2024. We will operate on a Monday to Friday schedule during this time. Our special events and programming, including Culture & Cocktails, will continue as planned. This closure will primarily affect our museum tour hours and office availability. During this time, our staff and volunteers will be doing behind-the-scenes work in the Miller House, archives, and collections. The kinship Family Heritage Research Center will remain open for genealogy research on select Wednesdays (to be announced) and by appointment only. Our scheduled events and social media will continue as planned. We are excited for projects that will take place during this time! If you have any questions or need to contact our offices during this closure, do not hesitate to call at (301) 797-8782, or email us for more information at
November 16, 2023

Blast from the past: Fragment of Revolution-era cannon discovered near iron furnace site

Article Author: Heidi Schlag (This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail October 30, 2023) A cannon fragment dating from the Revolutionary War was recently discovered hiding in plain sight not far from where it was originally forged nearly 250 years ago. It was found by Andy Stout, a trained archeologist who began his new position as the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society several months ago. Discovered on a junk pile off Mt. Aetna Road in Hagerstown, the cannon was a cast-off that was never completed by the Mt. Aetna Furnace that operated in the area from the 1760s to 1830s. “This cannon never saw any battle. It didn’t survive the forging process, which is why it was discarded as scrap,” Stout explained. “There must have been a flaw in the cannon when it was forged, and it wasn’t finished, or it didn’t come out of the forging process appropriately,” he said. “We have about three-quarters of it. The end of it — the muzzle — is missing.” Owned in the 1760s by Barnabus Hughes and his sons, Samuel and Daniel, Mt. Aetna Furnace was one of four furnaces built by that family in Washington County, and Franklin […]