by GEOFF FOX
The two Civil War Trail signs at the bottom of Church Street got a fresh coat of brown paint and updates to the information last Thursday as part of an update trek by the CWT team.
Economic and Workforce Development Program Manager Amy Gillespie said the Historical Society had been working with her on the sign about St. Thomas Episcopal Church so it could be redone correctly.
One of the Historical Society members found the churches were not correct in the Harper’s Bazaar drawings, “so we sent that out to get that fixed.”
Mentions of General Richard Sutherland were also removed, as he was not involved with the Civil War. Sutherland served in WWI and as General Douglas MacArthur’s Chief of Staff in the South West Pacific Area during WWII.
On Thursday, three members of the Civil War Trails came to Hancock to replace the sign about St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Gettysburg Trail signage with fresh signs and the new paint for the stands.
Hancock was stop number three on day two of a three day run for the Civil War Trails team. Earlier in the day they had installed new signs in Keyser, WV, and some work on signs in Oakland. After Hancock, they were heading to Hagerstown and Antietam.
Executive Director Drew Gruber said it is a hallmark of Civil War Trails program is the panels on the signs are constantly updated with new content when people come to see them.
The ones in Hancock, he said, were just getting the fresh paint and new content. The new signs are also recyclable, Gruber said.
Every five to seven years, CWT tries to do preventive maintenance, but often times, Gruber said, as new information comes to light, they also update the content.
“There’s always something new to see,” he said.
CWT is driven by grassroots with a historian on staff to vet the information coming in. A Hancock historian, for example, did the information on the new St. Thomas sign.
“Our whole goal is to take your local stories, your information that’s literally coming out of attics, and then to put it into a package and sell it to the world,” Gruber said.
The whole goal for CWT is economic development, he added.
Gruber said history is ongoing and constantly evolving.
“As people find new things, they’ll reach out to us and tell us these things,” Gruber said.
They also tell CWT when they are doing their maintenance runs, which is the case for the Hancock signs.
Gruber said he reached out to Gillespie about four weeks ago asking if there was anything new to share with CWT, to which she told them there were some new things to add.
“We’re constantly finding new things,” Gruber said.
The sign process for Hancock, from the time they contacted Gillespie until they were in Hancock replacing the signs, Gruber said it took about four or five weeks as they were just updating what was already in place.
For comparison, in Keyser earlier in the day, CWT installed a completely new sign which took about six months from start to finish.
Along with the two signs on Church Street, new signage was added along Main Street as well.
Gruber noted since 2015, there has been a rise in interest in Civil War history and it tends to take people by surprise.
The average audience for those coming to see the signs is between 25 and 35 with millennials working history in to trips.
Municipalities like to work Civil War Trails in to their promotional materials for their towns, Gruber said. When people come to Hancock, they’re going to come eat, hike along the canal or rail trail, and come for the history.
“We’re glad to be part of that,” he said.
Hancock has one other Civil War Trails sign in town located in Breathed Park on Main Street.
The sign, which was not part of this maintenance run, contains history on Confederate Artillerist and Hancock resident James Breathed.