Heritage Is Rich In History

May 05, 1991

Even Carroll County's name has important historical origins, in keeping with the county's many contributions to our nation's history.

In addition to being the birthplace of the author of the national anthem, Carroll County was the location of the first Methodist congregation in the new world and the staging ground for the most important encounter of the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg.

Named in honor of Charles Carroll, an American Revolutionary leader and Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence, Carroll County was authorized on March 25, 1836 through Acts of the Maryland General Assembly of 1835. However, this act was not confirmed until Jan. 19, 1837, which is considered the county's birth date.

The county is located in north-central Maryland and bordered by Baltimore and Frederick counties, from which Carroll County was formed. Three majorethnic groups -- English, German and Scotch-Irish -- settled this region and created a rich cultural mix. The traditions of these early immigrants can be seen in the architecture along quiet country roads. The English influence came from Tidewater and can be seen in the central and southern areas of the county. German and Scotch-Irish traditions predominate in northern and western sections.

Commerce sprung up along early roads serving the widely spread farming communities.

These commercial ventures evolved into small towns. Two of the first were Taneytown (around 1754) and Westminster (1764).

Carroll countians have influenced the industrial, cultural and religious growth of America.

Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer and author of "The Star Spangled Banner," was born at Terra Rubra near Taneytown.

In 1809, Jacob R. Thomas of Union Bridge invented the harvester and reaping machine. This machine was perfected by a cousin, Obed Hussey,and marketed with Silas McCormick.

William Henry Rinehart, another county native, sculpted the figure of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney that stands in front of the State House in Annapolis. He also designed the doors of the U.S. Capitol.

Much of the region's early population came as a direct result of the religious toleration extendedto settlers of Maryland. As early as 1735, a Quaker meeting was established in Union Bridge, and Brethren, Lutheran, Reformed and Methodist congregations were formed before 1770.

Carroll merits a specialplace in the history of American Methodism because Robert Strawbridge, thought to be the first Methodist preacher in America, held meetings near Sams Creek in the early 1760s.

In 1899, the U.S. Post Office Department selected Carroll County as the site of the first complete countywide rural free postal delivery system in the nation.

Since early settlement, Carroll has claimed a balanced and diversified economic base involving agriculture, commerce and industry. Today, thecounty is the most aggressive in the nation in preserving agricultural and open land.

Carroll County's early industrial tradition focused in its towns and villages where craftspeople and small businessesgathered.

An excellent example is Union Mills, where the water-operated mill served as the main power source for the grist mill, tannery, blacksmith's shop, cooperage, saw mill and cannery.

Included in this family-owned industrial park were a general store, post officeand school.

This commercial center provided jobs for area residents and was instrumental in the establishment of the village of Union Mills.

Today, Carroll County honors and preserves its traditions while participating on the forward edge of a technological age.

Thecounty encompasses 452.45 square miles and extends about 27 miles inlength and width at its greatest dimensions. Elevations range from 300 feet above sea level in the southeast to 1,080 feet near Manchester.

Carroll is divided diagonally by Parr's Ridge, sloping gradually from an elevation of nearly 1,100 feet in the northeast near Dug Hill to about 750 feet near Mount Airy in the southwest. Route 27, the major northeast-southwest corridor, roughly parallels this ridge, which divides the county into two major drainage basins.

Streams to the north and west drain into the Monocacy River and eventually the Potomac River; streams to the south and east flow into the Patapsco or Gunpowder rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

With a 1991 population of130,291 (with an estimated 43,100 households), Carroll stands 10th in size in the state.

The eight municipalities are Hampstead (2,763), Manchester (2,689), Mount Airy (3,993, of which 2,420 are in Carroll County and the rest are in Frederick County), New Windsor (842), Sykesville (2,433), Taneytown (3,526), Union Bridge (966) and Westminster (13,250).

Minerals of commercial value include Wakefield marble and Silver Run limestone.

Rainfall averages 40-46 inches per year; snowfall 22-36 inches. Summer temperatures average 72-74 degrees; winters 32-36 degrees. The area is freeze-free 194 days a year.

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