History of Carroll County, Maryland

by Col. John K. Longwell
prepared and read for Westminster’s
Centennial Celebration, July 1, 1876

This is a gala day in the United States. Millions of Freemen have assembled to commemorate the One Hundredth Anniversary of the American Independence, and no epoch in the world’s history ever justified a people in a more joyous exultation than that which we celebrate today.  Congress and the President having recommended that in addition to the manifestation of a nation’s joy on this memorable occasion, a Historical Sketch of the towns and counties be prepared and read, and this duty having been assigned to me, I conclude that I would scarcely be doing justice to the design of the recommendation if the early history of the region now embraced within the bounds of this comparatively young county is not given.   Accordingly I have prepared a rather hasty and somewhat imperfect sketch of the period anterior to the organization of Carroll county, from such dates could be obtained, which proved to be very meager as well as from reliable tradition in addition to what has come within my own knowledge and from official sources.  Some where between 1730 and1740, at least forty years before  the Revolution, settlements began to be made in this part of the Province of Maryland. The country was nearly all covered with timber and of course the labor of clearing it up to make homes for the settlers and their families was very great, so much so that we, in this day, can scarcely form a conception of the severe trials they had to undergo.

In the beginning the progress of population and improvement was very slow, the comforts of life were unknown, even the commonest necessities of life were difficult to be had. Mills were very rare and stores still more so. And then they had the elements to contend against with very indifferent shelter in log cabins hastily erected.As far as I have been able to learn they dwelt in comparative security from the inroads of the Indians Who had retired across the South Mountain into the Cumberland Valley. On this subject I will make the following extract from a letter from Dr. Jacob Shower, who had been asked for such information as had in his possession:“There is one fact I would mention of the early history of this vicinity,which is probably known by only a few persons, and which is worthy of perpetuating. A remnant of Indians numbering about sixty or seventy, reside within less than  a mile of Manchester, partly on land I hold, up to the year 1750 or 1731, probably the last Aborgines who resided in Baltimore county. After man efforts to as certain to what tribe they belonged, I could only arrive at the supposition that they were the “Susquehannocks.”“At the period, without any commotion or apparent preparation for the event, they all, except two, disappeared during the night. The two exceptions were the chief and his wife, both being very old and infirm. They survived the departure of their friends only a few days. This information I received when very young from the old settlers, but mainly from my grand mother whose father resided only a small distance from their grounds. She was in almost daily intercourse with them, and spent with them the greater part of the day preceding their departure.” “On account of similarity of names, the theory often presented itself to my mind – may not this little tribe have found its way into Florida, and the celebrated Florida chief called Miconopy, who years after gave the United States so much trouble, be a descendant of this old chief.” Speculators in land, at a very early period, obtained grants of large tracts, which were divided and sold to persons emigrating thither. The patents were recorded principally at Annapolis.

About the same period 1760 to 1740 or a little earlier, settlements began to be made in York county, then embracing what is now Adams county, by persons who left Lancaster, Berks, and Chester Counties, Pa. The western section of York county, including the region around Gettysburg was called “The Marsh Creek Settlement” made up almost exclusively of Scotch Irish, many of whom came over into Emmittsburg and Taneytown Districts, where some of their descendants are now living. The western section of the present York county and the section around Hanover, was settled nearly entirely by Germans, and many of them came over into this county and settled principally in Manchester and Myers’ districts, where numbers of their descendants now live. Some few Friends of Quakers came over from Chester county, Pa., and settled on Little Pipe Creek, where their descendants are now to be found, living on the fat of the land. The early emigrants to the southern portion of our county were from the older counties on the Western Shore. St. Mary’s, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel.  The long dispute which existed about the line between the Provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania, gave the settlers on our Northern Borders a great deal of trouble. The Proprietary of Maryland claimed a strip of 6 or 8 miles wide over the present line and John Digges obtained a Maryland grant of 6800 acres about Hanover. Charles Carroll obtained a large Maryland Grant about Fairfield or Millerstown, and the tract now goes by the name of the Carroll Tract. Hanover, then called McAllisterstown or Kallisterstown, and being within the disputed territory, became a sort of refuge for disorderly characters and from that circumstance was called “Rogue’s Harbor.” On the final adjustment of the difficulty between the two great Proprietaries, by the running and marking of the line by Mason and Dixon, Penn became the acknowledged owner, and the settlers became more numerous, the county began to be cleaned up and the population began to multiply.

New Windsor, on the Western Maryland Railroad, is also a thriving town, with a Bank, College,  three Churches, Warehouse, Stores, and a population of about 400.The other villages of the county are Hampstead, Finksburg,
Middleburg, Bruceville, Harney, Frizzelsburg, Warfieldsburg, Snydersbrg, Myersville, Sykesville,  Marriottsville, Franklinville, Winfield, Eldersburg, and Freedom.  During the administration of John Adams near the close of the last century, an excise duty was laid on stills. This created whatwas then called the “ ,” by those opposed to the tax. The insurrection became so formidable, particularly in Western Pennsylvania, that
President Adams appointed Gen.Washington as commander of the forces raised to suppress it.  The excitement extended to this region—the Whiskey Boys in a band marched into Westminster and set up a Liberty pole. The
people of the town became alarmed and sent out to Col. Gist, who then commanded a regiment.  The col. Who was known to be a brave man, mounted his horse,rode into town, drew his sword, ordered the pole to be cut down, and placing his foot on it, it was cut to pieces, when the Boys left.  For this information I am indebted to his son, col. Joshua C. Gist, now in his 84th year.

In concluding this rather lengthly but imperfect sketch, allow me to say that our young county has exhibited a very material growth in prosperity. Her population has nearly doubled since 1837.The valuation of property then made showed as assessment of $4,749,000 and now it is $17,289,432.  A larger area of land has been brought under cultivation, the product of our Farms, have largely increased by the application of lime and other fertilizers, and the means of transportation to market greatly improved. The phlail has given way to the horse and steam thresher; the reap hook, cradle and scythe to the mower and reaper; the slow hand rake to the rapid moving spring horse-rake to the rapid moving spring horse-rake; the mud roads to railroads; and the lumbering weekly and tri-weekly mail-coach to the rapid transit of the railroad car, and not withstanding  there is a great depression in business in many sections of our country, our county has no reason to complain,as almost every interest is protected and rewarded.  If the progress of the next century equals the one now expiring in material improvement, conjecture will be lost in wonder and astonishment at its contemplation.

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