You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.
That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.
That’s older than America for those playing at home.
So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Maryland? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?
Because even if your Maryland city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.
And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.
These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Old Line State according to their ‘date of foundation’:
- Baltimore (Photos)
- Thurmont (Photos)
- Ellicott City
- Gaithersburg (Photos)
- Chesapeake Beach (Photos)
- Maryland City
- Fort Washington
For being 222 years old, Baltimore doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Maryland? That would be Columbia — a brand spanking 51 years old.
How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Maryland… Or Is It Settled?
Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.
So what did we do instead?
Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!
For the majority of cities in Maryland, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):
And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.
If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.
All in all, we were able to collect data on 121 out of 191 in Maryland with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 63.4% completion rate.
We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Baltimore turning out to be the matriarch of Maryland at the ripe old age of 222.
Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.
The city has 66 National Register Historic Districts and 33 local historic districts. Over 65,000 properties are designated historic buildings in the National Register of Historic Places listings in Baltimore, more than any other U.S. city.
The historical records of the government of Baltimore are located at the Baltimore City Archives.
Originally incorporated as the Town of Mechanicstown in 1751, the name of the town was changed to Thurmont by an act of Maryland General Assembly on January 18, 1894. The name Thurmont is derived from thur, the German word for entrance to a mountain, and mons, the Latin word for mountain. At the time of the name change, the town had 1,000 residents, a fire department, a bank, and two hotels.
Europeans were the second group to settle the area now known as Catonsville. It is generally believed by historians that native tribes, known as the Piscataway, established villages here before the European colonists arrived. This tribe occupied the land between the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay and up the Patapsco River. Catonsville was located along the Piscataway Trail. The colonists and the tribes got along until the mid-17th century, when the English government ended the practices of Catholic missionaries in the area. It is believed that the tribes were driven from their villages and some were hunted by slave catchers. As happened in many areas of early colonial America, diseases unknown to the tribes were spread by the colonists. Eventually, the tribes moved north under the protection of the Iroquois.
4. Ellicott City
The town is prone to flooding from the Patapsco River and its tributary the Tiber River. These floods have had a major impact on the history of the town, often destroying important businesses and killing many. Ellicott City has had major devastating floods in 1817, 1837, 1868, 1901, 1917, 1923, 1938, 1942, 1952, 1956, 1972 (Hurricane Agnes), 1975 (Hurricane Eloise), 1989, 2011, and 2016. The 1868 flood washed away 14 houses, killing 39 to 43 (accounts vary) in and around Ellicott City. It wiped out the Granite Manufacturing Cotton Mill, Charles A. Gambrill’s Patapsco Mill, John Lee Carroll’s mill buildings, and dozens of homes. One mill was rebuilt by Charles Gambill, which remained in operation until a fire in 1916.:36
A 1923 flood topped bridges, in 1952 an 8-foot (2.4 m) wall of water swept the shops of Ellicott City, and a 1956 flood inflicted heavy damage at the Bartigis Brothers plant. On June 21, 1972, the Patapsco River valley flooded 14.5 feet (4.4 m) from the remnants of Hurricane Agnes, taking out a concrete bridge, destroying the Jonathan Ellicott home, and the 1910 Victor Blode water filtration plant, and flooding Main Street to the Odd Fellows hall.:26 The Old Main Line of the B&O Railroad also sustained serious damage.
Gaithersburg was settled in 1765 as a small agricultural settlement known as Log Town near the present day Summit Hall on Ralph Crabb’s 1725 land grant ‘Deer Park’. The northern portion of the land grant was purchased by Henry Brookes, and he built his brick home ‘Montpelier’ there, starting first with a log cabin in 1780/3. This 1,000 acre tract became part of the landmark IBM Headquarters complex built on the then-new I-270 Interstate ‘Industrial’, now ‘Technology’, Corridor in the late 1960s to the 1970s. Benjamin Gaither married Henry’s daughter Margaret, and Benjamin and Margaret inherited a portion of Henry’s land prior to Henry’s death in 1807. Gaither built his home on the land in 1802. By the 1850s the area had ceased to be called Log Town and was known to inhabitants as Gaithersburg.
6. Chesapeake Beach
Chesapeake Beach was established as a resort community at the end of the Chesapeake Beach Railway, a short line railroad from Washington, DC. It was the site of many slot machines in the early twentieth century (despite efforts to prohibit them) as part of the ‘Little Nevada’ area of southern Maryland. Between steamer ships from Baltimore and trains from Washington, the weekend population of Chesapeake Beach reached into the 10,000s during the 1920s, until economic depression, and a bad hotel fire, brought an end to the railroad. The construction of the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the 1950s enabled many of the visitors who used to spend their summers in Chesapeake Beach to now spend their time in Ocean City, Maryland instead. A museum at the old railroad station still exists today in Chesapeake Beach with many historic photos and an old passenger car from the railroad. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In the new millennium a boardwalk and pier, and a new condominium development have risen in Chesapeake Beach. There is also a recreational water park with water slides, a newly opened resort spa hotel, and a seafood restaurant right on the bay. The Herrington Harbour (Rose Haven) marina resort, which was voted by Marina Dock Age magazine as the best marina in the United States, is a few miles north.
8. Maryland City
Maryland City was developed by the Maryland City Corp, owned by developer Harvey Kayne. The 1200 acres of eastern Laurel Maryland were purchased in 1960 for $3 million from a developer planning ‘Meade City’. The concept was to build low-cost houses with ground-rent rather than ownership.
9. Fort Washington
The community is named for Fort Washington, which upon its completion in 1809 was the only defensive fort protecting Washington, D.C. The fort is a stone structure and offered a good field of range for cannon fire at enemy advances on the Potomac River. During the War of 1812, the fort was quickly abandoned during a British advance. In 1844, a cannon exploded on the USS Princeton as it was passing Fort Washington. During World War II, the US Army’s Adjutant General’s School was located at the fort, and had billeting for 362 officers and 2,526 enlisted persons.
Clarksburg is named for trader John Clarke, and was established at the intersection of the main road between Georgetown and Frederick and an old Seneca trail. One of its earliest white inhabitants was a man named Michael Ashford Dowden, who in 1752 received a patent for 40 acres (160,000 m2) from the colonial government called ‘Hammer Hill’, and two years later permission to build an inn. The inn itself is a footnote in history, hosting the army of General Edward Braddock during the French and Indian War, serving as a meeting place for local Sons of Liberty in the years before the American Revolution, and possibly serving dinner to President Andrew Jackson on his way to his inauguration. Jamie, grandson of the trader, built a general store in the area around 1770, and over the next thirty years enough people moved to the area that Clark was appointed postmaster for the community. By 1875, Clarksburg was a major town in the northern part of the county, but the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad undermined its economy.
Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Maryland
So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Maryland. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Maryland.
And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Old Line State.
And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Maryland:
- Columbia (Founded in 1967)
- New Carrollton (Founded in 1967)
- Cheverly (Founded in 1967)
Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Maryland
|Havre De Grace||25||114|
|Chesapeake Ranch Estates||61||113|
|Cape St. Claire||68||113|