Hagerstown and Washington County, Our
History is very much alive in Washington County, where
we celebrate the past, thrive in the present and plan for a bright
One month after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July
4, 1776, Maryland held its First State Convention at the State House
On September 6, 1776, the State Convention passed a resolution that
made the land west of South Mountain a new county named Washington County,
for the Commander-In-Chief of the American Army. At that time, Washington
County included all the land that is now Washington, Allegany and Garrett
colonists continued moving to America, Maryland grew. The
road from Baltimore to Frederick was heavily traveled and soon it extended
over South Mountain at Turner’s Gap, and down
into Boonsboro. This stretch of highway was later known as
the National Road.
The National Road, extending from Baltimore to Cumberland in
Maryland, was the busiest road in America for years. It brought a great deal
of business to Washington County, as travelers stopped along their journey.
In early nineteenth century America, trade became vital between people on the
East Coast and the western farmlands. Goods were being carried from the Chesapeake
Bay to the people across the Appalachian Mountains into the Ohio Valley. The
idea for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal grew out of this popular route. The canal
was started in 1828 at Georgetown and was finished 25 years later, extending
83 miles through Washington County and continuing further west to Cumberland.
The railroad actually reached Cumberland before the canal. The Western
Maryland Railroad was built from Baltimore to Cumberland, following the
Potomac River on the Maryland side. The B & O Railroad built a branch
rail line to Hagerstown. Other railroads came into Hagerstown from the
north and south the Penn Central and the Norfolk and Western.
In 1861 the Civil War broke out, dividing North and South. Maryland remained
a border state during the conflict, with citizens in support
of both sides. Troops occupied Washington County for four of the five
years of the war. The bloodiest single day in American history took place
in Sharpsburg on September 17, 1862.
Washington County sent men and women off to war during World War I. The
final year of the war, 1918, the United States government opened the Clearspring
Proving Ground in Washington County. Soldiers at the camp tested weapons
before they were sent overseas to be used by soldiers in battle. It was
one of only eleven United States proving grounds that operated during World
War I. The camp was abandoned in November 1918.
From 1933 to 1939, a trail was cut on the crests of several of the Appalachian
Mountains. Today, the Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states, from
the state of Maine to the state of Georgia. Thirty-seven miles of the Appalachian
Trail passes through Washington and Frederick County, Maryland.
In 1938 the National Park Service (NPS) acquired the C & O Canal property.
The towpath, which follows the Potomac River, was made into a 184-mile
Various camping sites have been provided along the trail and ramps have
been placed to allow boaters access to the river.
Washington County played a vital role in World War II because of the Fairchild-Hiller
Corporation airplane factory in Hagerstown. Fairchild-Hiller made three
models of fighter planes used to train pilots for combat, and a small passenger
plane used to carry Army staffers.
Camp Ritchie, a Maryland National Guard base in the northeastern
corner of the county, was also used during World War II. It was taken over
by the United States War Department and was expanded for use as a military
intelligence training center.
Washington County continues to make its mark in history today.
The county was recently listed as one of Money Magazine’s Top Ten
Best Places To Live.