Who is Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton? She was the first person born in what would become the United States of America to become a canonized saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Born on August 28, 1774 in New York City, she spent her life nursing the sick. She became a Catholic and began a school for young girls. She later moved to the town of Emmitsburg, Maryland where she committed herself to ministry and established a school for girls. She died in Emmitsburg on January 4, 1821 at the age of 46. Her short life has been outdone by her long legacy. Her remains in a crypt at the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg. Today, you can visit this shrine and get a great glimpse of the life of this great woman.
Now some of you are saying, “Wow. This is one incredible woman who gave so much of her life to help the sick and unfortunate. She is truly one that needs to be honored. However, there is one very big problem. It is mentioned that she died in 1821. This means that she had never seen a train. Plus, there is no railroad line in Emmitsburg or at the shrine. Therefore, you will not see me paying any homage to this place.”
You have a point there. Since she passed away in 1821, she was not alive in 1828 when the first train ran in Baltimore in 1828. As for the shrine, it has a little railroad history.
When you visit the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, you will see the Basilica. The basement has a small museum detailing the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton. You can enter the Basilica itself and see the pews and stained-glass windows. There are statues and paintings. You can see the pulpit where the priest delivers the sermon. There is also the crypt where her remains are entombed. When you go outside and see the school extending to the left from the basilica. (The school is not open to the public.) You can walk over to the Stone House where Elizabeth Ann Seton lived. Next to the Stone House is the garden. It has a statue of her with two girls. As you exit the garden, you will see three bells. Two of the bells are school bells. The one bell is from the ‘Dinky’.
Now you are saying, “Wow. It is the bell from the ‘Dinky’. What in the world is the ‘Dinky’?”
The ‘Dinky’ was a steam locomotive on the Emmitsburg Railroad. It was a short line railroad that ran from Emmitsburg to a junction with the Western Maryland Railway in the town of Rocky Ridge. (That line is now owned by the Maryland Midland Railroad.) The Emmitsburg Railroad brought students to and from the school as well as freight to and from the town of Emmitsburg. Although many of the town residents opposed the railroad, it was well welcomed by the school enabling students from the surrounding towns to attend the school. The railroad began service in November of 1875, but service ceased in May of 1940. Today, very little of the old track bed remains. The Dinky was scrapped, but the bell was saved, and it is on display in the garden at the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is a place that celebrates the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton. A visit to this shrine takes you deeper into her life and her accomplishments. Be advised that although this is a Catholic site, you do not have to be a religious person to appreciate this place. They welcome all visitors. It is free to visit, but they gladly accept donations. There is a cost for guided tours. It is open daily. The museum, gift shop and basilica on Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and on Sunday from 12:00pm to 6:00pm. The grounds, including the garden where the Dinky Bell is located, are open from sunrise to sunset. Parking is available on site, and most of the grounds are handicap accessible. (The Stone House and Cemetery may not be accessible.) It is located at 339 South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg, Maryland and is easily accessible from U.S. Route 15 and Maryland Route 140. You can get more information about the shrine and about events and tours at https://setonshrine.org.
So, if you are driving around northern Maryland, and you see signs for the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine, do not think of it as a place that just memorializes a great woman but also memorializes a locomotive that was part of the Emmitsburg Railroad.