Harford History

April 23, 2006

NEW COUNTY SEAT

On April 27, 1782, Aquila Scott of James conveyed by deed 2 5/8 acres in what is now Bel Air for a courthouse and prison. The price was 22 pounds, 6 shillings and 3 pence - a bargain.

Bel Air, then known as Scott's Old Fields, had just won the 1782 election to become the new county seat. Havre de Grace objected to the result and called for a new election. That was held in 1787, and Bel Air won again.

Without the election returns, one can only speculate that the ballot was part of a popular attempt to move the seat of government away from the tidewater and out of the hands of the wealthy. Scott's Old Fields was also a more central location for the growing county.

Perhaps the county fathers were attracted by Scott's offer of cheap land for the county buildings. Scott's planned town covered 23 5/8 acres, divided into half-acre lots. Lots faced a main street that ran north and south, with three cross streets running approximately east-west. In 1783, four buildings stood on Main Street.

No wonder Havre de Grace objected!

[Our Harford Heritage by C. Milton Wright; Bel Air: an Architectural and Cultural History by Marilynn M. Larew; research by Harford County Public Library]

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