DISASTERS: Rockets over Chestertown

The heritage of easy, unhurried living runs deep in Chestertown, Md. (pop. 3,200). Chestertown's citizens take pride in the stately colonial homes on Water Street overlooking the glassy waters of the Chester River, and in tiny (enrollment: 391) Washington College, which has awarded honorary degrees to Presidents from George Washington to Dwight Eisenhower.

In recent memory, the biggest change for Chestertown came in 1941, when Ford Dealer Philip G. Wilmer started the Kent Manufacturing Co., to make the gadgetry of war—flares, fuses for detonators and military fireworks. "The Defense Plant," as folks called it, brought the town prosperity, but they worried...

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