A through Z: Little Known Facts of Washington County's Towns and Tourist Destinations
A through Z
Little Known Facts of Washington County's Towns and Tourist Destinations
Every state has a few small towns. Most of those towns have been forgotten with residents moving to larger towns where post offices and train stations were instituted. In these larger towns, small-towners found that trading and purchasing was more convenient. With tons of research and determination, I have compiled a list of the smaller, sometimes overlooked, towns in Washington County, Maryland.
Antietam is a small village, named after the Antietam Creek, that sits 3 miles south of Sharpsburg at the point where Antietam Creek enters the Potomac. It was originally built around a large iron works, for there were ore deposits nearby. J. Chapline, the founder of Sharpsburg, started the furnace in 1765; very little remains of the complex except for a kiln, dated 1845, on the south side of Harper's Ferry Road. In its heyday nine water wheels operated the machinery; there was a forge with a twenty-one ton hammer, a rolling mill, and an important nail factory. A large number of cannon used in the Revolutionary War was cast here, and most of the machinery for Rumsey's steamboat, first tested across the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, West Virginia was made here. The C&O Canal crosses the Antietam by a beautiful three-arched aqueduct at this point.
Annapolis Rock is an overlook, elevation 1762-ft. on the crest of South Mountain, north of route 70. This rock is accessible by the Appalachian Trail.
Beaver Creek is a village and stream near Wagners Cross Roads. Witmer's Store became Beaver Creek post office in 1836. The village of Beaver Creek takes its name from the stream it is on. It was an early 19th century milling center. The village school here is preserved as a small museum demonstrating the old type of rural school' it also includes a farm tool collection and millinery store, open Sunday afternoons June to October 1. Just north of route I 70 is the Beaver Creek Fish Hatchery, belonging to the State Department of Game and Inland Fish, which opened in 1916 and rebuilt in 1948.
Belinda Springs, 14 miles south of Hagerstown, was an early 1800s resort owned by Jacob Gardenhour. Jacob named it after his wife; the amenities included cottages, bathhouses, ten pin alleys, billiards and more. No tract remains of it on the map, and very little at the site.
Big Spring, 12 miles west of Hagerstown, is a small village in Washington County. The spring still exists on private land in the village and so does the tiny railroad station. Commercial water bottling is done at Green Spring.
Black Rock rests on the crest of South Mountain, north of route I 70. This rock is approachable by the Appalachian Trail. There was once a hotel here. Black Rock was a popular spot for Fourth of July gatherings, picnics, and orations.
Breathedsville, named after John W. Breathed, curator of St. James College, is 7 miles west of Hagerstown neat Lappans. North of this small village is the Maryland Institute for Men and east of it is Devil's Backbone County Park, at the junction of Antietam Creek and Beaver Creek where the streams seem to be flowing in opposite directions.
Camp Louise is a camp that was established in 1922 for Jewish girls. It is situated 13 miles northeast of Hagerstown on South Mountain.
Cavetown is 7 miles east of Hagerstown at the foot of South Mountain near Smithsburg. There was a 500-ft. cave, adorned with stalactites and massive columns and a large lake at the end, here many years ago, known as Bishop's Cave and Bushey's Cavern near route 66, north of the town near the large limestone quarry. It is said that it was big enough for 1000 people. However, quarrying operations removed much of it in the nineteen teens and the rest eventually collapsed; only a small portion remains. This cave was the first to be discovered in Maryland, origination date thought to be 1748. For several years in the 1820s the cave was illuminated and open to the public as a beer garden at July 4th celebrations.
Chewsville, 5 miles east of Hagerstown near Cavetown, is said to have acquired its name after Samuel Chew, Jr. during the 1700s. Chews Farm and Chews Manor were granted to Samuel Chew, Jr. in 1763 and later became a small post office in 1839.
Dargan is 18 miles south of Hagerstown near Harper's Ferry. On Harper's Ferry Road is the farm where John Brown and his raiders gathered on the night before the raid at Harper's Ferry in 1859. During that time Dargan was known as the Kennedy Farm, but is marked on the map today as John Brown's Farm. A marker indicates the spot, however, the farm is now private land.
Elk Ridge is the northernmost end of the Blue Ridge, a mountain chain separated from the main area of the Appalachians by the Great Valley. The name describes a ridge, once abundant with elks, that begins at the Potomac River, running northwest for about nine miles. The southern end of Elk Ridge is called Maryland Heights--a nice view of Harper's Ferry. The northern end is near Rohrersville. Elk Ridge is said to be an important area for botanical study.
Fairview is 8 short miles northeast of Hagerstown, close to the Pennsylvania border. Fairview Mill is on a small stream to the southeast. Kreight and Fiery families settled the area. The last in line, John Fiery drowned in Conococheague Creek in 1868.
The first ascent of the Ridge and Valley Province known as Fairview Mountain is 12 miles west of Hagerstown. Below the summit of Fairview Mountain there used to be an inn called Mountain Inn where travelers rested before continuing up the final ascent.
At the Washington County Four Locks, Nos. 47-50, 12 miles southeast of Hagerstown is where the C&O Canal took a half-mile short cut across a 4-mile bend of the Potomac River.
Fox Gap is a wind gap on South Mountain, which played a part in the Battle of South Mountain during the Civil War. Fox Gap is 13 miles southeast of Hagerstown. On the hill sits a monument enclosed by an iron railing, which was built in remembrance of General Reno who was killed there.
Gapland is a small village 17 miles southeast of Hagerstown at the foot of South Mountain. This village was the address of George Alfred Townsend, poet, novelist, and Civil War correspondent. He built his house on top of South Mountain at Crampton Gap. Because he wrote under the name Gath, his home on the mountain became Gathland.
Green Spring Furnace is a small village near Big Spring. It was the site of an early iron furnace built around 1750 by Launcelot Jacques and abandoned by him because of the shortage of ore in the area. The first post-revolutionary governor of Maryland, Thomas Johnson, reopened the furnace out of an interest in the more famous Catoctin Furnace. J. B. Haines & Co. operated the furnace from 1866 until around 1874. At that time, it manufactured about 1800 tons of pig iron annually, which was shipped across the Potomac at McCoy's Ferry, one-mile south. The furnace no longer works, but the Green Spring, which it was named, still flows and furnishes bottled water as it has done since the 1850s. Hagerstown is the main seller of this water.
Highfield is where the two branches of the Western Maryland Railroad meet again after crossing South Mountain. The "old main line" horseshoes over South Mountain, while the newer line has passes through Pennsylvania, taking in Gettysburg and Hanover, before returning. There is little traffic on either branch now; the old line stops at Westminster because of the floods of 1972.
High Rock is a point on South Mountain near Pen Mar, 11 miles northeast of Hagerstown. There, visitors can enjoy a fine view of the Great Valley. High Rock has always been a popular overlook since the golden Pen Mar days. Wagonloads of tourists would make the trip here. Today, it sees just as much traffic; roads are crowded with vehicles on summer weekends and a hang-gliding club has discovered that High Rock makes for a wonderful jumping-off spot.
Indian Springs is a crossroads village named in 1819 when the turnpike road came through and the post office was established. Indian Springs is 15 miles west of Hagerstown. Included in the area is a 40-acre Blair Valley Lake great for fishing.
Leitersburg is a small village near Smithsburg. It was a post office in 1826 and in one of "Gath's" novels, it states that Leitersburg was once famous kidnappers' settlement. This small town was on the 1300-acre tract, granted to George Poe in 1754. In 1762, Poe sold 362 acres to Jacob Leiter. Andrew Leiter, his grandson, inherited this land in 1811 and laid out Leitersburg in 1815.
McCoy's Ferry is where the first action of the Civil War in Maryland took place (May 1861), when a few Confederates tried to seize the ferryboat.
Maryland Heights is a summit of Elk Ridge overlooking Harper's Ferry and the Potomac River. There is an historic fort here, built during the Civil War to protect the B&O Railroad and the C&O Canal. This area is approachable only by foot along the steep blazed trail, which begins near Sandy Hook. From 1862 to the end of the war, about 6,000 men were stationed at Maryland Heights at various times.
Near Hagerstown, 4 miles to be exact, rests Maugansville. The town was named after the Maugans family who settled here in the 1800s. Today most of the town is recent vintage.
Miller's Sawmill, 15 miles south of Hagerstown, was named for a sawmill operated by Mr. Miller. During the last half of the 18th century, a limestone cement factory operated for 40 years here. The huge stone furnace can still be seen from the road, but is on private land.
Founded in 1761 and six miles southeast of Hagerstown, sits the small village of Mount Aetna. A recently discovered furnace (behind the fire station) is thought to have been illuminated on the hilltop, giving the village its fanciful name. In the Mount Aetna vicinity is a privately owned limestone cavern, which opened to the public for a short time in 1932.
Orchard Mills is a small suburb with roughly 2,000 residents 3 miles north of Hagerstown. East of there was Long Meadows, where Colonel Thomas Cresap resided and built a fortified home before settling in Oldtown.
Pecktonville, near Parkhead, Licking Creek, originally named Licking Creek Mills, was established by Reverend Jeremiah Mason. After the flood of 1889, Martin L. Peck, the Reverend Mason's grandson-by-marriage, moved the mill to higher ground and changed the name to Rosedale Mills. In 1893, in honor of Martin L. Peck, the official post office name became Pecktonville.
Pen Mar is located on South Mountain at the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. Pen Mar was once a popular resort created by the Western Maryland Railroad in 1878. The name is a combination of Pennsylvania and Maryland due to the pictorial view. By the early 1900s there were about 100 buildings--hotels and numerous cottages, restaurants, a theater, and dance hall. The Pen Mar Resort declined in the 1920s, permanently closing in 1942 when most of the buildings were removed. In 1980 architectural plans were afoot to revive interest in this community. Washington County acquired the scenic overlook site and opened it as a park.
Raven Rock is on the summit of South Mountain, 11 miles northeast of Hagerstown. At one point in time, it was a tourist resort. In 1841 a monument to President Harding was started, but it was never completed.
Ringgold, near Leitersburg, was originally named Ridgeville, settled in 1825 by John Creager. When the post office was established in 1850, the name became Ringgold for the Major Samuel Ringgold of the Mexican War who died in battle in 1846. Major Ringgold was the inventor of the McClellan saddle, which was later used by the army during World War I. In this small village is the only church in Maryland of the River brethren, or Brethren in Christ, built in 1871.
Rohrersville was named for David Rohr who had a small sawmill nearby named Rohrer's Mill. This small town is 15 miles south of Hagerstown near Locust Grove. David's father, Frederick Rohr, emigrated from France, and is said to have taken the first wheat over the mountains to Pittsburg in 1767. It is also said that Frederick Rohr discovered springs of salt water, boiled out the salt and sold it to Indians.
St. James is a station on the Norfolk and Western Railroad, 5 miles southwest of Hagerstown. This town is the home to St. James School, founded in 1850 on the old estate of Fountain Rock, as a Diocesan School of the Episcopal Church in Maryland. Many have said that it was a center of debate during the Civil War, with students and faculty steadfast to different sides. St. James School is now a prep school, and the spring from which the estate received its name is still on the grounds back of the building.
Smoketown, 8 miles southeast of Hagerstown, was probably named for the blue haze that sometimes lingers in the valleys of South Mountain. The place was the home of a female abolitionist and fortune-teller in George A. Townsend's novel "Katy of Catoctin". However, there is nothing but the name today.
Synder's Landing was a landing and loading point on the C&O Canal for goods to and from Sharpsburg. This site was originally named Chapline's Landing after the founder of Sharpsburg. Later it became Sharpsburg Landing then to Synder's Landing around 1900. During the 1930s there was a small resort here with public dances and parties. The summer homes along the canal banks date from the turn of the century.
Tilghmanton was named for Colonel Frisby Tilghmanton who came to this area before 1800 from the Eastern Shore. It is recorded that he laid out the town in lots for poor people, although there is nothing in the small village show proof to this. The village is noticed for jousting tournaments.
Weverton, 22 miles south of Hagerstown, where South Mountain meets the Potomac was named for Caspar Wever, an early engineer connected with the B&O Railroad. Wever built the first bridge at Harper's Ferry, laid out Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. and was secretary of the U.S. Senate for quite some time. Wever purchased the water rights here and had great plans for an industrial complex. A dam and mills were built, but floods later destroyed them. Nothing remains today.
Woodmont is a 6,000-acre estate close to the Potomac River and home of the Woodmont Gun Club. Although it is 80 miles from the White House, the gun club has attracted six presidents. Woodmont and the nearby Western Maryland Railroad are mainly left to geology students, examining the formation of Tonoloway Ridge.
Zittlestown is a small area near Boonsboro that was named after the many Zittles who lived there.