Hancock: Living in Small Town America
Living in Small Town America
The first settlers in the area came south from Pennsylvania in 1732. Joseph Hancock arrived in 1749. He ferried travelers, traders, and transferred trade across the Potomac.
Known as the "Tonoloway Settlement", Hancock is a quaint locale that brings the ideal of Small Town America to life.
As the National Pike extended westward (1818), and settlement multiplied, the town flourished as stagecoach inns, hotels, taverns, and blacksmith shops spread down Main Street. Tavern and stagecoach stops were located at the Potomac River ferry that had been established close to the traditional Indian ford.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the town's businesses included a druggist, a saddler, taverns, and six other merchants. The population was 266 in 1820. What's fascinating about Hancock is that a few structures from this early period still exist there, generally along Main Street.
In 1850, workers completed the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal along the Potomac River Basin from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland--a total of 184.5 miles. Hancock boasted two business districts, one on Main Street (or Baltimore Street) and the other on Water Street. Docks extended from the warehouses, allowing to themselves to take trade directly to or from the canal boats. Several locks were located on the section of the canal that was in or near Hancock, giving a boost to the town's economy. The practicality of the canal was severely weakened by an 1889 flood and with growing competition from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This flood closed the canal for a year.
However, Hancock's location at a natural river fording point was priceless. The ferry provided a convenient connection to the railroad, supplying the town with goods and travelers until 1892 when the first bridge was built there.
The Western Maryland Railroad completed its line through Hancock in 1905, bringing direct benefits to the town and a more rapid growth in the economy. Older buildings were torn down and replaced.
As the 20th century progressed, the C&O Canal ceased to operate, the railroads scaled back operations, and government regulations brought about the demise of Hancock's valuable apple growing and packing industry. New industry was sought with mixed success, and the development of tourism was recognized as a priority.
The town of Hancock is rich in history, situated at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland on the Potomac River at the narrowest point in the state.
"The folks are friendly, the businesses are mostly owner and family operated, and the great outdoors are literally in our backyard. Our town is a crossroads for several major highways. We are centrally located and easily accessible to Interstates 70 & 68 and U.S. Routes 522 & 40. We're pleased to be part of the distinction that U.S. Route 40 has been given as the "All-American Road.""
Hancock is full of things to do. Visitors enjoy camping, horseback riding, and boating, as well as hunting and fishing. Bicyclists, skaters, walkers, joggers, and nature lovers utilize the C&O Canal towpath and the Western Maryland Rail Trail, both run parallel to Hancock's Main Street.