The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Maryland: The Silly State

Posted on | February 21, 2011 | 9 Comments

I live near Hagerstown, in the hills of western Maryland, about 15 miles north of West Virginia and about 10 miles south of the Pennsylvania state line. West of Hagerstown, near Hancock, is the skinniest part of Maryland’s panhandle. And a bit farther west of there, on I-68 . . .

GRANTSVILLE — Bryant Bunch, who came from Prince George’s County to attend college here at the far end of the Maryland panhandle, first saw the sign on Interstate 68 while traveling with a carload of friends a few years back.
He remembers their reaction: Does that say what we think it says?
Maxine Broadwater, born and raised on a farm outside Grantsville, and the town’s librarian for three decades, recalls the first time she ever gave the name a second thought. It was the early 1990s, and people passing through had stopped at her library to ask about it.
Her thought: Why would that bother anybody?
Those disparate reactions to “Negro Mountain,” the name that 18th-century settlers gave to the Garrett County landmark, have found their echo in Annapolis, where a Senate panel will begin debate this week on whether it should be changed.
Several Baltimore lawmakers are pushing to retire “Negro Mountain” as an outdated relic of a less sensitive time. Legislators from Western Maryland, who say the name honors an early African-American hero, want it left alone. A Senate hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
The debate highlights a divide between rural and urban lawmakers that frequently rears up in the 188-member General Assembly.
“How about they take care of Baltimore’s crime and drugs, and leave the mountains to us,” said Del. Kevin Kelly, an Allegany County Democrat. He says to rename the mountain would be to rewrite history.
Historians believe Negro Mountain, which crosses the border into Pennsylvania, was named in the 1750s in honor of a black frontiersman who died in the French and Indian War while defending white settlers in a fight with Native Americans.

Of all the things that the Maryland state Senate could be doing, they’re holding a hearing about the name of a mountain in Garrett County, in order to pacify a bunch of busybodies from Baltimore.

Maybe I should move to New Hampshire and start a protest.

UPDATE: Two weeks ago, Inside Charm City noted: “A federal naming committee upheld the name Negro Mountain more than 15 years ago, concluding that it was not applied in a derogatory sense.”

State Sen. Lisa Gladden, the Democrat who wants to rename Negro Mountain, also wants to rename Polish Mountain in Allegany County. At least she’s consistently silly.


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