History of Western Maryland, Vol. 1: From the early settlers to the Civil War

History of Western Maryland, Vol. 1: From the early settlers to the Civil War – J. Thomas Scharf

The preparation of “History of Western Maryland”, one of the most voluminous works on the history of that part of the United States, imposed a vast responsibility and an immense amount of labor. In the compilation of this history no authority of importance has been overlooked. The author has carefully examined every source of information open to him, and has availed himself of every fact that could throw new light upon, or impart additional interest to, the subject under consideration. Besides consulting the most reliable records and authorities, over fifteen thousand communications were addressed to persons supposed to be in possession of facts or information calculated to add value to the work. Recourse has not only been had to the valuable libraries of Baltimore, Annapolis, Frederick, and Hagerstown, but the author and his agents have visited personally the entire territory embraced in the six counties of Western Maryland, spending much time in each district, examining ancient newspapers, musty manuscripts, family, church, and society records, conversing with the aged inhabitants, and collecting from them orally many interesting facts never before published, and which otherwise, in all probability, would soon have been lost altogether. In addition to the material partly used in the preparation of his ” Chronicles” and ” History of Baltimore City and County” and ” History of Maryland,” the author has consulted an immense number of pamphlets, consisting of county and town documents, reports of societies, associations, corporations, and historical discourses, and, in short, everything of a fugitive character that might in any way illustrate the history of Western Maryland. Sketches of the rise, progress, and present condition of the various religious denominations, professions, political parties, and charitable and benevolent institutions, societies, and orders form a conspicuous feature of the work. Manufacturing, commercial, and agricultural interests have also a prominent place. An account of the county school system is also given, and a history of the various institutions of learning of which Western Maryland has every reason to be proud. Many of the facts recorded, both statistical and historical, may seem trivial or tediously minute to the general reader, and yet such facts have a local interest and sometimes a real importance. Considerable space has also been given to biographies of leading and representative men, living and dead, who have borne an active part in the various enterprises of life, and who have become closely identified with the history of Frederick, Washington, Montgomery, Allegany, Carroll, and Garrett Counties. The achievements of the living must not be forgotten, nor must the memories of those who have passed away be allowed to perish. It is the imperative duty of the historian to chronicle their public and private efforts to advance the great interests of society. Their deeds are to be recorded for the benefit of those who follow them; they, in fact, form part of the history of their communities, and their successful lives add to the glory of the Commonwealth. A distinguishing feature of the work is its statistics of the various districts into which the six counties of Western Maryland are divided. In them the reader is brought into close relation with every part of Western Maryland. This is volume one out of six, covering the time from the first settlers to the Civil War.

History of Western Maryland, Vol. 1: From the early settlers to the Civil War

History of Western Maryland, Vol. 1: From the early settlers to the Civil War.

Format: eBook.

History of Western Maryland, Vol. 1: From the early settlers to the Civil War.

ISBN: 9783849658649.


Excerpt from the text:


The section of country embraced in the following descriptive outline is a long strip, running from east to west, widened on the ends, and extending from the western boundary of Baltimore County to the extreme limits of Maryland next to West Virginia. It consists of six large counties, among the most fertile, varied, and populous in the State. These are Frederick, Montgomery, Washington, Allegany, Carroll, and Garrett Counties. This region is bounded on the north by Mason and Dixon’s line, which separates it from Pennsylvania, and on the south by the Potomac River, whose bending channel breaks the outline into a series of long and short curves, and cuts it off from West Virginia and Virginia. It might be regarded as of the form of a low bridge or arch, the keystone of which would be placed at Hancock (where the county is narrowed to a breadth of only one and a quarter miles); the wider end would rest on the District of Columbia, and the narrower end would stand on the source of the north branch of the Potomac River. The length of this strip is about one hundred and forty miles, and the width is about fifty miles, from north to south, across the east, and nearly thirty-six miles, in the same direction, across the west end.

It embraces almost every variety of surface within the State, the lowlands at tide-water and the ocean shores only being excepted. For convenience, the region may be divided into four great sections, marked by well-distinguished features of the surface, and coinciding sufficiently with the groups of rocks upon which it rests.

As no part of the Tide-water Belt strictly occurs within this territory, the first to be noticed is the Midland Belt. It begins about five miles back of the inner limits of the tides in the rivers, such as the Potomac and Patuxent, and extends westward to an oblique line running from the mouth of the Monocacy River to the sources of Piney Creek, in Carroll County.

The second is the Blue Ridge Belt, which runs from the basin of the Monocacy and the head-waters of Piney Creek to the west side of the summit of the Blue Ridge, or South Mountain range.

The third is the Great Valley, extending from the western side of the summit of South Mountain to the corresponding part of the summit of North Mountain. It is occupied chiefly by the extension of the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania, which is widely known as the Hagerstown Valley, and which, southwest of the Potomac River, becomes the great Valley of Virginia.

The fourth is the extensive Appalachian Belt. This is pre-eminently the mountain region, and extends from the summit of North Mountain to the western boundary of the State.

Each of these divisions includes smaller belts and tracts of country, which may be recognized by a difference in the quality or color of the soil, and by the kinds of native rocks which rest near the surface.

Midland Belt. — This embraces the greater part of the two most eastward counties, Montgomery and Carroll. The lowest lands occurring within its limits belong to the southern extremity of Montgomery County, where the primitive rocks dip beneath the soil to stretch off under the deep basin of the Chesapeake Bay. These are tracts of clay, gravel, and sand, the former resting directly upon the eroded surfaces of granite, gneiss, and hornblende, and the latter spread over the surface of the low hills of clay and rock by floods and by the retreating tides of a former ocean. Several of these areas reach back into the country for a distance of nearly seven miles, while the more gravelly portions are confined to a belt varying in width from two to five miles. The clay area extends through the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County into this region, chiefly along the ancient valleys of the streams, spreading more broadly from thence, and covering parts of the adjacent hills. On the northwest of the former the surface rises gradually by a series of rounded plateaus, until it culminates about twenty miles back in the folds and crest of Parr’s Ridge. An altitude of about nine hundred feet is now attained, and the backbone of this range is seen to stretch away from near the Potomac River on the southwest in a wavy line, through the eastern part of Carroll County in a north-northeast direction, then with a backward bend as Westminster is reached, and across the boundary into Pennsylvania. It forms a high fold in the talcose slates, which, decomposing, serve to furnish a fairly light and kind soil, capable of being made very productive of all the cereals and fruits of temperate climates. A fine agricultural tract is also seen to spread away on both sides, presenting large farms of real fertility, and attesting the thrift of the inhabitants, whose ample barns and well-kept houses greet the eye on every hand. The soils belonging to this system of rocks extend as far as to the base of the Sugar-Loaf Mountain on the west, interrupted in the west corner by the red sandstone soils, and on the east extend as far as to the boundary of the archaean lands on Rock Creek. They also send off two tongues of the same kind of soil, the one reaching to near the northern . angle of the District of Columbia, and the other running parallel with the Patuxent River as far as to the source of Paint Branch. The ridge forms the dividing line between the creeks and rivers which flow towards the east and south and those which course southwest and west. In most parts the scenery offers a pleasing variety, but the wildest and most romantic spots are to be met with in the thinly-settled section on the headwaters of the various tributaries of the Patuxent River. There the hills are abrupt, high, and broken, flanked along the sides by lower and more rounded knobs, which have lost their former angular summits by reason of the softer and less resisting materials of which they are composed. Deep, sudden ravines, set with angular and piled-up rocks, are seen at frequent intervals, and through these the limpid waters of the rivulets and branches leap with never-ceasing activity over moss-covered bowlders, amid the tangled branches of flowering bushes and creeping vines. On these ridgy hills, too, the principal forests still remain. Second-growth trees of various kinds — oaks, hickory, walnut, beech, maples, sour-gum, dogwood, tulip-poplars, elm, hazel, a few pines, and numerous chestnut-trees — still serve to cover the wilder places and store: the moisture to feed springs and rivulets.

As usual, the dark-gray and silvery minerals composing the rocks of this region are attacked by the atmosphere, frost, and heat; they crack into slaty joints, change to a rusty color, and then disintegrate into a pale-yellowish micaceous and aluminous soil. Moisture, supplied by the morning and evening vapors, creeps into these, in common with many other kinds of cleaving, cracking rocks, carries carbonic acid and other! solvents into the interstices between the grains, and sets up chemical activities which rapidly reduce them to powder.

Commencing in Montgomery, on the southeast, the country rises by series of water-worn plateaus, or hills, with shallow, narrow depressions intervening, giving the effect of interrupted table-lands. The roads intersect ledges and masses of granite, gneisses, horn-blende schists, and, at the lowest levels, the black hornblende rocks. As in Baltimore and Howard, so here, this latter seems to be the bed-rock which underlies, holds, or gives rise to all the later ones of the formation. It crops out in the beds of the streams, such as Rock Creek, Paint Branch, and the tributaries of the Potomac south of the Great Falls, and is also indicated in places adjacent to the Patuxent. It underlies the mica schists where in most places their lower exposures are visible, and it forms bowlders on the sides of the hills and partly in the drift of the lower and central parts of this county. Crossing the rolling slope which descends immediately west of Parr’s Ridge, the valley of the Monocacy River is reached, and the talcose slates become more aluminous. Here and there chains of high domes stretch from the northeast towards the southwest, and the higher swellings are seen to be composed of the tougher beds of the rock, while the lower undulations appear more shattered, broken next the surface into small fragments, and exhibit marked evidences of decay. Near the mouth of the river erosion and frequent washings have opened out a wide basin, which is now covered by the alluvium of this stream. It has thus brought some of the best fertilizing ingredients of the distant rocks within the reach of the agriculturist, who has thus been enabled to profit by the opportunity to secure most abundant crops of Indian corn, clover, hay, etc. On the northwestern side of this county a broad belt of red sandstone hills runs down to the bed of the Potomac River. They begin a little east of Seneca Creek, and extend to within a few rods of the mouth of the Monocacy River. These rise in their more central parts in majestic piles, like huge ranges of masonry, swelling to a height of more than one hundred and fifty feet above the basin of the Potomac. Colossal chimney-rocks stand up like tall sentinels on the dark-brown walls of precipitous sandstone, and craggy peaks jut out at various angles over the vast piles of overthrown blocks, which join to attest the power of the forces that have snapped them apart and pitched their shattered fragments upon the buttresses below. This is a section full of delightful scenery, and beset with a multitude of surprises for the attentive eye. It abounds in objects of the weird and grotesque, and is quite unlike any other part of the great triassic framework to which it belongs. The great river itself spreads away in a silvery sheet through solitudes broken only at distant intervals by the lonely bird or the more fearless hunter or fisherman.

Montgomery County has an area of five hundred and eight square miles; it is the most southern of the counties included in the present notice, and possesses in an eminent degree those peculiarities of surface, soil, and climate which contribute to the health and prosperity of the inhabitants. It is about twenty-eight miles long from northwest to southeast, by about twenty-three miles wide on its northern boundary, and seventeen miles across its southern extremity. No mountain ranges actually exist within its limits, but, instead, the system of high hills known as Parr’s Ridge crosses it diagonally a few miles from its northern border. The hills and plateaus already described occupy the chief parts of its surface, and serve to separate the numerous rivulets, branches, and creeks which so abundantly water almost all sections of its territory. Although large tracts of uncleared lands appear on the uplands and undulations next these water-courses, yet large farms have been cleared in most parts of the county, and others of even greater size form the larger part of the area in the more northern and central divisions. The upper part of the great plateau around Sandy Springs, which was originally but little better than a sandy waste, has been almost turned into a garden by the energy and intelligence of the inhabitants. An almost endless variety of soils appears as the different parts of the country are examined, and in nearly all the natural quality is well adapted to the purposes of agriculture. The northern and western portions are especially the home of the grasses and cereals; the warm hillsides promote the growth of the grape and fruit-trees; the small fruits succeed well on the more loamy and sandy depressions of the midlands and more southern sections, and in the bottoms the native bushes, flowering shrubs and plants form a varied and comprehensive collection.

In the expanded portions of the old beds of the creeks the decaying leaves and other vegetable matter, drifted down from the higher levels, joined to the washings brought down by freshets and overflows, has placed vast beds of humus and rich soil within easy reach of the florist and horticulturist. The more rocky streams are decorated by the kalmia, or common laurel, which grows in thickets between the gray rocks, in the loose, rich soil. In the spring the golden blossoms of the leatherwood, the sassafras, the clear lilac of the Houstonia, and the delicate pink of the Chiytonia add a cheerful brightness to the tender verdure of the open woods, while the advancing summer is made rich by the fragrant flowers of the magnolia and azaleas, the showy sepals of the dogwood, the clustering bloom of the snowy viburnum, the odor of the wild grape, and the splendor pf the native lily. The waters, too, are studded with the huge, fragrant rosettes of the pondlilies, and teem with the numerous varieties of pickerel plants, water plantains, arrow-heads, and a host of others too numerous to mention. Alders group themselves on the damp spots of the basins, the swamp-maples spread their broad limbs over the pools, and the greenbrier binds the crown of the bushes in a maze of perpetual green.

Between the mouth of the Monocacy River and Seneca Creek the brown sandstone hills were formerly covered with a luxuriant growth of the sugar-maple. An abundant supply of sugar was obtained from the trees, and this industry was one of great importance to the inhabitants. But now these forests are replaced by other kinds of trees, forming a later growth of uncommon variety. Chestnut, red, black, and other oaks, ash, hickory, elm, walnut, and, most of all, false locust grow in thick woods, set with a dense undergrowth of bushes, creepers, and grape-vines. At intervals, where the hills are eroded to near the water-level, wide lowlands stretch back into the country, the margins of which are occupied by large specimens of the sycamore, sour -gum, and occasionally the tulip-poplar. The vistas across these broad plains are broken here and there by low spurs of hills, which stand out like islands. These are usually wooded, fade out imperceptibly into the lowlands, and form a rich relief of dark color to the paler and yellower greens of the grasses and cereals of the wide-spreading fields. Usually the remote background, two or more miles away, is formed by higher hills of similar dark green, rendered more soft and blue by the distance, while in the interval are large farms of high culture, with excellent houses, immense barns, and numerous haystacks. Herds of cattle, groups of horses, and flocks of sheep have their appropriate places on the open undulations and in the meadows, giving a pleasant air of animation to the scene, and adding to the enjoyments of rural life. Milk is abundant, and the water is soft, pure, and plentiful. Little rills pursue their way in unbroken steadiness through these meadows, or burst with impetuosity from the rocky hillsides to plunge into the creeks beyond.

Much of the successful farming of this county has been due to the free use of lime. The soils being naturally sour, require the addition of this substance or plaster of Paris. Some of the farmers along the high-roads leading into the Frederick Valley, or near the line of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, transport the limestone to their farms, where they burn it in kilns, and then offer the surplus for sale to their neighbors. The stone is brought either from the western section of the red sandstone or from the valley of the Monocacy, in Frederick, and is partly of the variety known as calico-rock, or Potomac breccia.

The region around Brookville and the valley of Hawling’s River have likewise been enriched by the intelligent use of lime. Although naturally thin, and being composed in part of the magnesian minerals derived from serpentine and talcose slates, they have been transformed into some of the richest and most productive lands in the county. The region west of this gradually changes into the ophiolite, or serpentine formation. It consists of a series of rounded hills, running from the ridge on which Damascus, Cracklintown, etc., are situated, and continued in sloping spurs towards the basin of the Patuxent River. This belt of country, which widens as it enters the county, proceeds southwestward, and maintains a breadth of about three miles, until it fades out before reaching the Potomac River. A wide strip of pine woods stretches along the greater part of its length, occupying a chain of low hills, on which the soil is the poorest and thinnest in the county.



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