Frederick County developed, as many other parts of the country, as pioneers from other areas moved out to find a better place, one with more room and richer land. Settlers in what was then a back country area were attracted by the Fifth Lord Baltimore's offer to sell large parcels of land in the area for a very small price. This bargain attracted English settlers, primarily from Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as Scots Irish and German farmers. All were attracted by the rich soil and excellent water resources the area offered.
The area quickly became a crossroads for activity in colonial America. In 1745, the city of Fredericktown (today's Frederick) became the focal point of this crossroads. It was Maryland's second largest city, just behind Annapolis, with about 200 houses and many churches.
The German families that moved to the Monacacy River Valley, primarily from Pennsylvania, brought the farming traditions of their homeland with them. They chose a diversified agriculture, growing grains, starting and maintaining orchards, and using their fruits to make liquor. Through their industry, Fredericktown emerged as a center for marketing for the region. The German families maintained their language and many of their other traditions: an abiding attachment to their church and a strong work ethic. Schifferstadt, the Brunner family home along Carroll Creek, still stands today as testament to their strong contributions to the early fabric of Frederick County.
Other communities, such as Thurmont, began to grow at this time. There, local industry was spurred by the discovery of the secret of making friction matches by Jacob Weller, a member of the town's founding family.
Geography was also instrumental in the development of Frederick County. It was the center of many transportation routes, running both east-west and north-south. When the federal government decided that they needed a "highway" to the west in the early 1800's, it funded the National Pike, running right through Frederick County. Fredericktown became a major stopping-off point on the Pike, and business in the community really grew.
The advent of the B&O (Baltimore and Ohio) Railroad was a keystone in the development of
nineteenth century Frederick County. New towns, such as Brunswick, sprang up around its
tracks. Most of the 3,000 people living in the area worked for the railroad.
Frederick County had been a center of resistance during the French and Indian War. Troops defending the English colonies against the French were barracked in Fredericktown. This resistance continued as the colonies moved toward Revolution. The people of the county were one of the first to protest the onerous Stamp Act, putting a copy of the Act in a coffin and burying it with much ceremony. As a crossroads of the colonies, the county also became a staging area for troops headed north and south during the war. During the Revolution, Frederick County served as the breadbasket for the Revolution, supplying the army with countless stores.
During the Revolution, many prisoners of war were brought to Fredericktown, housed in
what became known as the Hessian Barracks. The barracks were named after the Hessian
mercenaries imprisoned there. These German troops were very welcomed in this predominantly
German town, and they often worked on nearby farms, sometimes marrying local women and
staying on in the area.
Every period in history touched Frederick County in a unique way. During the war of 1812,
Fredericktown was designated as an alternate capital if Washington was ever threatened. A
number of cabinet officers did escape to Frederick, along with the treasury and other important
papers, when the British invaded Washington, D.C.
Of all the roads that crossed Frederick County in the nineteenth century, perhaps the most important was the invisible Underground Railroad the route of safe homes through which slaves escaped to freedom. The Quaker meeting house in Monrovia was one of the main "stops" along the route.
The Civil War ended slavery in this country, but the former slaves still faced almost
insurmountable problems. Not allowed to read or write, many of them had no place else to go
other than the farms and plantations where they used to work.
Like other areas around the country, Frederick County's ascent from the Depression was
accelerated by a number of government-sponsored projects espoused by the Roosevelt
administration, such as the WPA.
Although the government projects helped, World War II marked the true end of the
Depression in Frederick County. A large contingent of people from the county enlisted,
including a number of African-Americans, who saw enlistment as a way to accomplish economic
freedom. Many people served in other ways, working in wartime industries such as Bethlehem
Steel in Baltimore. Others supported the Red Cross and the American Woman's Voluntary
Service, a USO-type organization. Farmers in the area were again helped by German prisoners
of war held in the area, as had their ancestors during the American Revolution.
During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, new forms of transportation allowed many other towns throughout the county to grow and prosper. Established in 1767, Middletown ("middle" way between Frederick and Boonsboro) was really opened up by the Frederick and Middletown Railroad and its trolleys, which began operation in 1896. Its beginnings, however, were marred by the derailment of one of the first passenger trolleys to travel this line. Despite this, the line soon became a staple of life in communities such as Middletown, Myersville, Thurmont, Beavercreek, Jefferson, and eventually Hagerstown, as more sections were added to the service. The trolley opened up many delightful areas in the county, including Braddock Heights, which became a resort area for people seeking to escape the summer heat in Frederick. There was an amusement park there, as well as a dance pavilion and summer theater.
The final trolley run came in 1954, as the automobile had firmly replaced the trolley system
as a personal transportation choice. Henry Ford's invention also deeply affected towns such as
Burkittsville and New Market. On timeless paths that the first residents of the county Native
Americans had used, these two towns fell victim to the new highway systems such as Interstate
70 that bypassed them, built to accommodate automobile traffic in the area. However, these
same highways made it possible for people to live in the county and commute to jobs in
Washington and Baltimore, spurring the housing industry in the county.
This street was the center of the African American community in Frederick, with a number of
shops that catered to this group in the era of segregation. This street became a focal point, with
impromptu celebrations a rule on summer weekends as African American people from all over
the county came here to conduct business. The character of the street changed with the advent of
the civil rights movement. Now people of all ethnic backgrounds enjoy living here.
Like all areas of the state, Frederick County looks forward, trying to reconcile the past with the future, as the same things that attracted pioneers to settle in the area rich farmland, rolling hills, and a community with a heart bring ever more people to the county.
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