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The Early Days of Smithsburg
The Early Days of Smithsburg
Farming and orchards are abundant in the town of Smithsburg. It is believed that a settlement existed in the area as early as 1787, however, according to records, small-town living in this rural community dates back to 1813. Originally known as "part of Shadrack's lot", Smithsburg's founder, Christopher Smith, bought this piece of land.
Incorporated in 1846, the town grew with traditional rural character--a commercial core anchoring a compact residential community with churches. By the middle of the century, Smithsburg was thriving with taverns, blacksmiths, tailors, wagon shops, and dozens of houses.
Farmers moved into the area because of the rich, fertile soil. The town's agricultural role has lessened, however, farming and orchards are still an important function in the area.
By 1873, the Western Maryland Railroad connected the Washington County area to Baltimore. It also connected to Smithsburg, contributing to rapid changes in the character of the town. Later, when the Cumberland Valley Line connected to the Norfolk and Western in nearby Hagerstown, vast additional markets opened from New England to the Gulf Coast.
The railroad not only brought prosperity to Smithsburg and its surrounding areas, it also produced similar opportunities for the developing areas in the west, providing cheap Midwestern grain into the eastern markets--creating potential trouble for little towns such as Smithsburg. Thank goodness for peaches. When it was found that these delicious beauties grow well on the South Mountain slopes... catastrophe setbacks were avoided. The profitable growth that had started with the arrival of the railroad, continued, and in the 1930s, Smithsburg became the banking and trade center for the fruit growers of the region.
Unlike some of its surrounding small towns, Smithsburg played a minor role in the Civil War. Residents of this small town cared for the wounded Confederate soldiers after the battle of South Mountain and the Battle of Antietam.
After World War II, business in the town center declined as the population found a new mobility and competition from Hagerstown-based commercial centers increased. Businesses moved to the regional shopping centers, leaving downtown buildings vacant or under-utilized.
At the end of the 20th century, new and improved roadway access across South Mountain to the employment centers in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area fueled interest in the development of residential properties in Smithsburg. Just about everyone is now looking to get away from living in the city. Even though this has significantly increased the town's size and population, the "old town" of Smithsburg retained much of its original architectural quality.
The town welcomes its history and celebrates by putting on "Smithsburg Pride Days" every year. Whether you live in Smithsburg or not, the friendly townspeople welcome one and all to its celebration featuring family activities, unique crafts, delicious foods and live entertainment as well as taking part in a 5-K run, parade, civil war reenactment, and children's games.
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