Western Maryland is a great place for outdoor adventures. You can climb Maryland's highest mountain, swim in numerous lakes, hike the Appalachian Trail, brave white-water rapids or enjoy all kinds of winter sports from skiing to ice fishing. The three counties of Western Maryland, where fall foliage arrives first and winter usually stays the longest, were Maryland's last frontier.
One of the most important events in Western Maryland in the early 1800s was the opening of the National Road, the first highway built with federal funds. Later, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal carried people and goods to and from the western states.
This part of the state is in the Appalachian Mountain region, where apples, peaches, maple syrup, honey and lumber are abundant.
1. Garrett County
Garrett County, the westernmost county in the state, was the last part of Maryland to be settled. The first settlers arrived in 1764, and were mostly English, German and Irish settlers from Pennsylvania. In 1872, the county was founded and named for B&O Railroad president John Work Garrett because of the importance of the railroad in county history.
This frontier region is where you'll find Backbone Mountain, the highest mountain in the state, which is 3,360 feet tall. Near the town of McHenry is Deep Creek Lake, the state's largest manmade lake, and Wisp, a popular ski resort. All over the county, there are state parks and forests with beautiful foliage, waterfalls and lakes for travelers to explore.
Nature isn't the only thing you'll find in Garrett County. Oakland, the county seat, was once a resort area and a retreat for many famous Americans, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and William Jennings Bryant. Also in Oakland are the old B&O Railroad Station and the Garrett County Historical Museum.
2. Allegany County
The name Allegany comes from the Native American word oolikhanna meaning "beautiful streams." Pioneers in covered wagons followed an ancient Native American trail through the Cumberland Narrows, a 1,000-foot-high gap that forms the main pass through the Allegheny Mountains to the west. English settlers came in the mid-18th century and began mining and establishing towns and farms.
The city of Cumberland was established in 1785 and became the county seat when the county was chartered in 1789. George Washington spent part of his early career at Fort Cumberland and at a log cabin he used as his headquarters during the French and Indian War. The headquarters is now located at Riverside Park in Cumberland
Allegany County was an important center of transportation for travelers heading west. People traveled by canal, train, horse and buggy. The National Road, the first federally funded highway, began in Cumberland. You can see how people traveled by visiting the C&O Canal National Historical Park and Paw Paw Tunnel and the C&O Canal Boat Replica. The Transportation and Industrial Museum has many pictures of the canal, railroad and industries in Allegany County. Take a ride aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to Frostburg. Once there visit the Thrasher Carriage Museum and learn the history of the town at the Frostburg Museum.
Other important places to visit are Mt. Savage Museum, where Irish laborers were brought to operate the iron furnaces; Michael Cresap Museum, named after a Revolutionary War hero and the oldest historic home in the county; and LaVale Toll Gate House, the state's only remaining toll house on the National Road.
3. Washington County
Washington County was named for General George Washington when it was founded in 1776 by English, French, Swiss and Scottish settlers. Washington County is the home of Fort Frederick, the only British colonial fort still standing. This county also has great appeal for Civil War buffs. The markers and fields at Antietam National Battlefield recall September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single-day battle of the war.
Hagerstown is the county seat and the largest city in Washington County. It is named after Jonathan Hager, a German settler who founded the town. The Hager House and Museum, where he once lived, was built over two springs to ensure that he would always have water. You can enjoy the arts in Hagerstown at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and at the Maryland Theatre, a restored 1915 vaudeville house.
The C&O Canal and the railroad also played a big part in Washington County history. There are two C&O Canal museums and the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, which has great model railroad layouts. Near Hancock, Sideling Hill is a 350-million-year-old wall of rock formed 100 million years before the dinosaurs. Stop at the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center to see a geological exhibit of the area while you're there.
The Capital Region's history spans three centuries of Maryland and American life, from the earliest colonists to the pioneers in space flight. Here you'll find peaceful farmland as well as bustling cities and suburbs. In 1791, Maryland donated land from Montgomery and Prince George's counties to be used for the nation's new capital city, Washington, D.C. Once an important farming area, the Capital Region is known today for its many high-tech industries and research centers in the fields of telecommunications, electronics, computers, health and medicine.
1. Frederick County
Several famous people in Maryland history came from Frederick County, including Thomas Johnson, the state's first elected governor, and John Hanson, America's first president under the Articles of Confederation. Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star-Spangled Banner," was born in Frederick and shared a law practice with his brother-in-law, Roger Brooke Taney. Taney later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. You can see where he spent his early years at the Roger Brooke Taney Home and Francis Scott Key Museum in the city of Frederick, the county seat.
The first settlers were Pennsylvania Germans who came to Frederick in 1730 and named the county and county seat in 1748 for Frederick Calvert, the sixth and last Lord Baltimore. The oldest building in the county is a German farm house in Frederick now called the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum.
Frederick County, located in both the Appalachian Mountain and Piedmont Plateau regions, has more farms than any other county in Maryland. Several vineyards and covered bridges dot the countryside. Lilypons Water Gardens in Buckeystown is the largest water garden in the United States and the little town of New Market is "The Antiques Capital of Maryland." Emmitsburg is the home of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint.
Frederick also has a wealth of Civil War history. The Barbara Fritchie House and Museum is a replica of the house where 96-year-old Barbara Fritchie reportedly confronted General Stonewall Jackson when Confederate forces marched into Frederick in early September 1862. The event was immortalized by poet John Greenleaf Whittier. "O' Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country's flag,' she said." According to Whittier's account, Jackson was impressed and spared the flag and the town of Frederick. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine has exhibits on medical techniques used during the war. Just outside of town, Monocacy National Battlefield was the site of a battle which played a pivotal role in defending our nation's capital in 1864.
2. Montgomery County
Montgomery County was founded in 1776 by English, Scottish and Irish settlers, and was named for General Richard Montgomery, a Revolutionary War hero. Rockville has been the county seat since 1777 and today is the fourth largest city in Maryland. Historical attractions in Rockville include the Beall-Dawson House and Stonestreet Medical Museum, which show what life was like there in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the B&O Railroad Station, a Victorian commercial structure.
Because it is so close to Washington, D.C.,there are many government agencies in Montgomery County. Among them are the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Institutes of Health and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In Bethesda is the 150-year-old National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world.
In Montgomery County, you can walk through an Audubon Naturalist Society sanctuary or view the Great Falls of the Potomac River in the C&O Canal National Historic Park. Ride the canal on a mule-drawn barge or cross the Potomac River at White's Ferry on the General Jubal A. Early, the only ferry remaining on the river.
Glen Echo is famous for its antique carousel and also as the home of Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross in 1881. The National Capital Trolley Museum in Wheaton shows electric railway demonstrations and offers streetcar rides.
3. Prince George's County
Prince George's County is a place to learn about farming and Maryland agriculture and to explore the history of space travel, especially at the visitor center at Goddard Space Flight Center, the hub of NASA's tracking operations. You can also visit the Accokeek Foundation's colonial tobacco plantation and the National Colonial Farm Museum. The Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel conducts important research on endangered species and also has fishing, hunting, bird watching and educational programs. Other places to enjoy the outdoors include Oxon Hill Children's Farm, Watkins Regional Park, Prince George's Equestrian Center and the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary in Upper Marlboro, a good place to see wild geese. Maryland's largest amusement park, Six Flags America, offers many thrills with exciting rollercoasters and water rides.
Prince George's County was founded in 1696 and named for Prince George of Denmark, husband of England's Princess Anne. The county seat is Upper Marlboro, which was named for the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, an ancestor of Winston Churchill. Darnall's Chance in Upper Marlboro is believed to be the birthplace of Daniel Carroll, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, and his brother, John Carroll, the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in America.
Another famous - or infamous - person lived in Prince George's County, too. The Surratt House Museum in Clinton is the former home of Mary Surratt. Charged with conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln, she was the first woman hanged by the federal government.
Central Maryland will amaze you with all there is to see and do. The attractions vary from the state's historic capital, Annapolis, to its largest city, Baltimore, from waterfront villages and mill towns to the gently rolling hills of horse country and the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. This area is part of two geographic regions, the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Piedmont Plateau, so the variety of industries in this area ranges from mining marble, granite and other stones to harvesting fish and seafood. This is where some of the most important events in state and national history took place and where people are still making history. In Central Maryland, you'll find government at work and Marylanders making important contributions in the areas of art, culture, education, medicine and business.
1. Anne Arundel County
Anne Arundel County was incorporated in 1650 and is named after Lady Anne of Arundell, wife of Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore. Annapolis is the capital of the state and the county seat of Anne Arundel County. It was first settled in 1649 by Puritans from Virginia seeking religious freedom. The city was named for England's Princess Anne when it became Maryland's state capital in 1695. At that time, Annapolis was a center of colonial commerce and a busy port and its dock was surrounded by warehouses, shops and taverns. Even today, it has more 18th-century buildings and houses than any other city in the United States.
A diorama in the Historic Annapolis Foundation museum shop helps you see what the dock was like in colonial days. Many important events occurred at the City Dock, including the burning of the Peggy Stewart, a cargo ship loaded with tea that was taxed by the British, and the arrival of an African slave named Kunta Kinte. He was an ancestor of Alex Haley, who wrote a book called Roots, which traced his family's history back to Kunta Kinte. A plaque at the City Dock memorializes Kunta Kinte's arrival.
Many African Americans have played important roles in Annapolis and Maryland history. Their story is told in programs and exhibits at the Banneker-Douglass Museum and nearby is a statue honoring Alex Haley.
In the City Council Chamber at City Hall, Annapolis' early history comes to life in three large murals. They show the settlement of Providence in 1649, the laying out of the capital in 1695, and the proclamation of the Annapolis City Charter in 1708. Nearby, three of the four homes of the Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence are open to the public: William Paca House and Garden, Chase-Lloyd House and Charles Carroll House.
King William's School was founded in 1696 and was one of the first public schools in America. Today it is called St. John's College. On the grounds of the school, you will find the 400-year-old Liberty Tree, which is the legendary meeting place of the Sons of Liberty before the American Revolution.
Since 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy has been an important part of life in Annapolis. The school's 4,000 midshipmen live in Bancroft Hall, one of the largest dormitories in the world. One of the most interesting places to see at the Naval Academy is John Paul Jones' crypt, located under the chapel. Jones was a naval hero who is considered the founder of the modern navy. Ship models and naval exhibits in the Academy's museum also help tell the story of the Navy, from its earliest days to the present.
In southern Anne Arundel County, archaeologists are working to uncover the rest of the colonial port of London Town. The London Town House is the only surviving structure of the lost town, and is now a museum.
The northern part of the county has three attractions related to defense and high technology. The National Cryptologic Museum and the Ft. Meade Museum display decoding devices and weapons used during the two world wars. The Historical Electronics Museum in Linthicum features items representing the evolution of electronics.
Maryland's State House and Government
As more and more people settled in other parts of Maryland, they wanted the state capital to be more centralized. So in 1695, Maryland's General Assembly and Governor Francis Nicholson moved the capital from St. Mary's City to Annapolis.
Thousands of visitors from all over the world pass through the State House in Annapolis. It is probably the best-known building in the state. The construction of the State House began in 1772, and it has been in use by Maryland's legislature ever since its completion in 1779 - longer than any other state capital.
The State House was designed and built by Joseph Clark of Annapolis. He finished the wooden dome in 1797, but because nails were scarce following the Revolutionary War, he didn't use a single one in its construction. The lightning rod on the dome was designed according to Benjamin Franklin's theories.
The State House was the nation's first peacetime capitol when the Continental Congress met in Annapolis from November 1783 to August 1784. You can still see the Old Senate Chamber where George Washington resigned as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War.
As our state grew, its government and State House grew. The General Assembly, made up of a 141-member House of Delegates and a 47-member Senate, meets in two large chambers in a new section of the State House. You can watch Maryland's government in action from visitor galleries in both the House and Senate Chambers. The Governor has offices in the State House and has a residence nearby in the Government House on State Circle.
2. Baltimore City
The original town of Baltimore was founded in 1729, but it wasn't incorporated until 1796. Baltimore was named to honor the title of Maryland's founding family, the six Lords Baltimore. It was a tiny village of 200 homes in 1768 when it became the Baltimore County seat. The city grew and became an important shipbuilding center, where merchants prospered and the city's port flourished. The city was separated from Baltimore County and given status equal to that of the counties in 1851. Baltimore was the third largest city in the nation by 1860 and today is the 13th largest. It is one of only two independent cities in the United States. With a world port, government offices, significant medical and educational institutions, and major tourist attractions, Baltimore is one of the most important cities on the East Coast.
Someone once counted 200 distinct neighborhoods in Baltimore - among them the maritime community of Fells Point, Little Italy and fashionable Mount Vernon Place. The popular neighborhood of Federal Hill was named for a huge celebration the residents held in honor of the ratification of the federal Constitution. The cannon on the hill overlooking the Inner Harbor is a reminder of the Civil War, when federal troops seized the railroads and occupied Baltimore and Annapolis to keep Maryland in the Union and to prevent Washington, D.C., from being surrounded by Confederate states.
Since it was redeveloped by James Rouse in the late 1970s, millions of people have come to see Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where they can ride the elevator 27 stories to the Top of the World Observation Level and Museum in the World Trade Center, explore the inside of the World War II submarine Torsk and visit sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and thousands of other aquatic animals at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Across the harbor, the Maryland Science Center has hands-on exhibits on science. Visitors to the Inner Harbor also can see the Pride of Baltimore II when she is in town. This fast-sailing 160-foot topsail schooner is a replica of the famous Baltimore Clippers, who earned their reputation by capturing hundreds of British merchant ships during the War of 1812. Nearby, the kid-powered museum, Port Discovery, is where three floors of interactive fun await kids of all ages.
Baltimore also has been a center of art, music, literature and culture for many years. It is home to the oldest music school in the United States, the Peabody Conservatory of Music, as well as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Opera. Our country's oldest museum building, the Peale Museum, was built in Baltimore by painter Rembrandt Peale in 1814. At the Walters Art Gallery, you'll see rooms that remind you of an ancient castle with suits of armor for men and horses, an eight-story tapestry, Egyptian mummies, and much more. Paintings by Picasso and Cezanne are among the many works of art at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The museum also has a modern art collection, as well as art from Africa, Oceania and Asia. The American Visionary Art Museum has exhibits of paintings and objects created by "visionary" or "untrained" artists.
Among Baltimore's literary landmarks is a house lived in by Edgar Allan Poe, who died in Baltimore in 1849. He is buried in Westminster Cemetery, where a monument to him was erected with money collected by Baltimore teachers and schoolchildren in 1875. Overlooking Union Square is the 19th-century home of newspaperman H.L. Mencken, once described as the "scourge of windbags, frauds, wowsers, mountebanks, hypocrites, bigots. . . the U.S. Congress, Prohibition and every president from Theodore Roosevelt to Harry S. Truman."
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the home of the Baltimore Orioles. Nearby is the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Baseball Center, where baseball great George Herman "Babe" Ruth was born. Next door is M&T Bank Stadium, home to the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. The Baltimore Ravens draw fans to exciting football games in the city and the Pimlico Race Course hosts the Preakness, the second jewel in thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.
Another popular attraction is Fort McHenry National Shrine and Monument. This star-shaped fort was bombed by the British on September 13, 1814. Francis Scott Key, a young American attorney, was imprisoned aboard a British ship when the bombing ended 24 hours later. He could see the American flag flying above the fort and knew the United States had won. While on the ship, Key wrote a poem that later became "The Star-Spangled Banner," our national anthem. The original manuscript of the poem is on display at the Maryland Historical Society Museum, which is an important resource for the study of Maryland history.
3. Baltimore County
The sixth county to be established is the third largest county in Maryland today. Baltimore County is horse country. There are 149 thoroughbred horse farms located throughout its rolling countryside and every April you can watch the Maryland Hunt Cup, the oldest and most difficult hunt race in the country.
Following the separation of Baltimore City and county, Towson became the new county seat in 1854. Baltimore County and Maryland history are traced through exhibits in the county Historical Society Museum in Cockeysville, the Catonsville Historical Society's Townsend House and the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson. The 18th-century Hampton Mansion is surrounded by a 63-acre national park. You can see vintage fire engines and learn about the 1904 Great Fire of Baltimore at the Fire Museum of Maryland in Lutherville. This terrible fire led to the standardization of fire equipment in the United States.
At the 17,000-acre Gunpowder Falls State Park or at Soldier's Delight Environmental Area, you can explore wooded trails, meadows, streams, ponds, a marble quarry and iron ore pits.
4. Carroll County
Carroll County was founded in 1837 and named for Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Wheat was the crop that brought the German settlers to the county, while farming and natural beauty still draw people there today.
To get a closer look at farm and community life, visit the Carroll County Farm Museum, the Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill, and the Uniontown Historic District. The museums of the Historical Society of Carroll County in the county seat, Westminster, include historic houses, a 19th-century garden and a research library.
Railroad history is found at the Western Maryland Railway Historical Society Museum in Union Bridge. The Western Maryland Railroad was used by Lincoln on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address.
Nature beckons people to Cascade Lake, a six-acre spring-fed lake, and to Piney Run Park, an 800-acre park with a 300-acre lake.
5. Harford County
The diverse landscape in Harford County offers a variety of attractions. The northern part of Harford County resides in the Piedmont Plateau and the southern half is in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, so the elevation ranges from 750 feet above sea level to 40 feet above sea level.
Harford County was founded in 1773, and was named for Henry Harford, the last proprietor of Maryland and the son of Frederick Calvert, sixth Lord Baltimore. The county's oldest town, Havre de Grace, is located at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and has a long maritime history. It was founded in 1658, but achieved prominence during the War of 1812 when Lt. John O'Neill led the town militia against a British attack. In recognition for his bravery, he became the first lighthouse keeper when Concord Point Lighthouse was built in 1827. It is still one of the nation's oldest continuously working lighthouses.
The Susquehanna Canal was an important part of life in Havre de Grace in the 1840s. Step back to that period of time by visiting the Susquehanna Museum, housed in an old lock house. Decoys of wildfowl have been used for centuries by hunters. Now a respected form of art, decoys are displayed at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum.
The county seat in Harford County is Bel Air, where two important historic homes are found. Tudor Hall was built in 1852 and was the home of a famous American actor named Junius Brutus Booth. The mansion at the Liriodendron Foundation was built in 1898 and still retains many of its original features. The name liriodendron is the botanical name for the tulip poplar tree, many of which are found on the 100-acre grounds. Another impressive garden is found in Monkton. Ladew Topiary Gardens were designed by the late Harvey Ladew and is now open for all to see. His property includes 15 garden rooms, a manor house, and dozens of topiary figures, which are shrubs trimmed into different ornamental shapes.
At the Aberdeen Proving Ground is the U. S. Army Ordnance Museum, where you'll see army weapons, combat vehicles, and Anzio Annie, a huge German railway gun from World War II. The proving ground is also the home of a large number of bald eagles.
6. Howard County
Howard County combines the best of the old with the new and is a railroad lover's heaven. The county was founded in 1839 and named for Maryland's fifth governor, John Eager Howard. The county's rich history is evident in Ellicott City, a historic mill town founded in 1722. It took its name from the owners of grist and flour mills, John and Andrew Ellicott. The Historical Society is in a pre-1790 building that may be Ellicott City's oldest. Also in Ellicott City are the Firehouse Museum and the County Courthouse atop Mt. Misery.
Learn about the men and women who built the railroad at the B&O Railroad Station Museum, once the terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This station became famous in 1830, when a B&O locomotive, the famous Tom Thumb, raced a horse-drawn carriage from Ellicott City to Baltimore. The horse won, but the railroad had come to stay.
The town of Elkridge quickly made adjustments for these new trains by building the Thomas Viaduct in 1835. It was the first multiple-arch curved railroad bridge in the world and was part of the main railroad between Washington and Baltimore. The Bollman Truss Railroad Bridge in Savage is the only semi-suspension truss bridge remaining in the world. Also in Savage is the renovated Savage Mill, a former textile mill that now offers space for artisans and antiques dealers to sell their wares.
The Welcome Center in Columbia will bring you right back to the 20th century. It tells the story of how this successful planned community was created in the mid-1960s by developer James Rouse. While you're there, visit the Maryland Museum of African Art and the Howard County Center of African-American Culture.
In Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, landmarks help us learn about earlier - even prehistoric - times. These three counties are located in the Atlantic Coastal Plain and are easy places to reach by water. Many of the people who live here still farm tobacco, corn, wheat and soybeans, and harvest fish and shellfish from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac and Patuxent rivers. There also are many historic sites and environmental treasures such as woods, fields, ponds, swamps and beaches that are preserved for us to enjoy.
1. Calvert County
Calvert County has attractions that existed long before the county was founded in 1654. It was called Patuxent County until 1658, when the name was changed to that of Maryland's founding family. You can dig further into the past on the beach at Calvert Cliffs, where prehistoric sharks' teeth and other fossils are found along the shoreline. Examples of the prehistoric creatures whose fossils have been found at the cliffs are at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons. There are also exhibits on important industries in Calvert County, such as boat building and oyster packing. The museum's 1883 cottage-style lighthouse, where the lighthouse keepers once lived, shows another kind of lifestyle on the water. Follow the trails through Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary, where more than 100 acres of bald cypress trees are found. This is one of the northernmost areas of these trees in North America. In St. Leonard is Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, an environmental preserve where more than 70 archaeological sites trace Maryland's history back 9,000 years. Flag Pond Nature Park near Lusby has 327 acres of woods, ponds, swamps, freshwater marshes and Chesapeake Bay beaches. For a sharp contrast to the fossils found at Calvert Cliffs, visit their neighbor, the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.
2. Charles County
Charles County is a treasure chest of Maryland's early history. The life of Native Americans - especially the Piscataways - before European contact is documented at the Maryland Indian Cultural Center in Waldorf. The Afro-American Heritage Society in LaPlata has artifacts that depict the life and history of African Americans in Charles County.
Founded in 1658, Charles County was named for Charles Calvert, third Lord Baltimore. In Port Tobacco, one of the oldest communities on the East Coast, you can visit the home of Thomas Stone, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the restored Port Tobacco Courthouse, the orignal county seat, that also houses exhibits on tobacco and local archaeology.
The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Home Museum in Waldorf recalls the life of the doctor who, in 1865, treated the leg of John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln's assassin.
Besides fishing in the many rivers in the county, you can hike at Smallwood State Park, one of four state parks in Charles County, or visit Smallwood's Retreat, the restored plantation home of William Smallwood, a Revolutionary War general and fourth governor of Maryland.
3. St. Mary's County
There are many reminders of Maryland's past in St. Mary's County. You can learn about the achievements of the English settlers who came to Maryland by taking a short boat trip to the St. Clement's Island-Potomac River Museum. Leonard Calvert and about 140 other settlers sailed aboard the Ark and the Dove and arrived at St. Clement's Island on March 25, 1634. There they held the first Catholic mass in the United States.
St. Mary's City was the state capital until 1695, and was Maryland's first permanent settlement. To experience what life was like for Maryland's early citizens, visit Historic St. Mary's City, an 800-acre living history museum with interpreters in authentic 17th-century dress. There you'll find replicas of the first state house; an "ordinary" or "inn;" a tobacco plantation; and the Maryland Dove, a replica of one of the two ships that brought Maryland's first colonists.
Both the county and St. Mary's City, the county seat, were named after Mary, mother of Jesus. In 1710, the county seat was moved to Leonardtown, a more central location. The St. Mary's County Historical Society and Old Jail Museum in Leonardtown are located in a building that was used as a jail from 1868 until 1942.
Another important site where the mouth of the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay is Point Lookout State Park. Almost two centuries after the first colonists arrived, this point of land was turned into a Federal prison camp that held Confederate prisoners from 1863 until the Civil War ended in 1865. Surrounded by wooded campsites and sandy beaches, the park's museum and the remains of Fort Lincoln tell about a tragic period of our nation's history.
Eastern Shore Maryland
The Eastern Shore is in the Atlantic Coastal Plain region, between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and is part of the Delmarva Peninsula. It is mostly flat farmland where wheat, corn, tomatoes and other crops grow, and where poultry and cattle are raised. Discover this region's many historic and natural landmarks by bicycling or driving on the quiet country roads, or explore the rivers, creeks, inlets and bays by boat. The fresh fish, crabs and oysters found here give both residents and visitors something to look forward to all year.
1. Kent County
Maryland's second oldest county was founded in 1642 by settlers who named it for the county they left in England. Living and working on the water are very important here. The Rock Hall Museum shows Native American artifacts and nautical relics, and the Waterman's Museum, also in Rock Hall, has exhibits on oystering, crabbing and fishing.
Many historic homes line the waterfront of Chestertown, which is the county seat and located on its namesake, the Chester River. It is the home of Washington College, the only college to which George Washington gave permission for the use of his name. Following the Boston Tea Party in 1773, the angry citizens of Chestertown threw a shipload of tea from the British brigantine, Geddes, into the river. Each May, the town's residents gather and hold a weekend festival to re-enact the Chestertown Tea Party.
Near Chestertown, visit area wildlife in the 3,000-acre Remington Farms refuge or take a boat ride and visit each of the 31 marinas in the county.
2. Queen Anne's County
Although Queen Anne's County was founded in 1706, Kent Island was established as a trading post in 1631. As more people settled there, the county was formed and named for the reigning Queen of England. The county seat is Centreville and the county courthouse there is the oldest 18th-century courthouse still in use in Maryland. A statue of Queen Anne stands in front of the courthouse.
Today, Kent Island is the gateway to the Eastern Shore for travelers driving east from Annapolis on the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge - or Chesapeake Bay Bridge, as it is better known. In the town of Stevensville, on Kent Island, is the 1902 Queen Anne's Railroad Station. Across from the island, in Grasonville, the Wildfowl Trust of North America/Horsehead Wetlands Center will give you glimpses of deer, red fox, river otter, geese and many species of ducks. Boating, fishing and hunting also are popular activities in Queen Anne's County.
The boundary between Queen Anne's and Talbot counties runs through Wye Mills, where the mill ground flour for George Washington's army.
3. Talbot County
You'll find yourself immersed in Bay history and lore at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. Its collection includes exhibits on boat building, Chesapeake Bay craft, steamships and decoy carving, plus the Hooper Strait Lighthouse, a restored skipjack, a bugeye and other Bay craft. St. Michaels has been called "the town that fooled the British" because the townspeople hung lanterns in the trees during the War of 1812 and the British cannons overshot the houses. Southwest of St. Michaels is Tilghman Island, home port for many of the Chesapeake Bay's remaining skipjacks.
Talbot County was created in 1662 and named for Grace Talbot, the sister of Cecil Calvert. In Easton, the county seat, is the Third Haven Meeting House, probably the oldest church building in the country.
Another historic town is Oxford, once a major port and shipbuilding town. You can get to Oxford by taking the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, the longest cable-free ferry in the U.S. There you'll find a replica of the first Customs House in the U.S. and the Robert Morris Inn, home of Robert Morris, Sr., a successful colonial merchant and father of Philadelphian Robert Morris, often called the "financier of the Revolution."
4. Caroline County
Caroline County is the only Eastern Shore county not bordered by water. It was founded in 1773 by English and Quaker settlers from Virginia, and was named for Lady Caroline Eden, wife of Robert Eden and sister of Frederick Calvert, sixth Lord Baltimore and the last colonial governor of Maryland.
In Denton, the county seat, the Annie Taylor House Museum of Rural Life tells about life on a farm. The historic Quaker Neck Meeting House in Denton is where Abolitionists, or people who were against slavery, held their meetings during the Civil War.
The Mason-Dixon Crownstone is an elaborately carved English limestone post, which bears the coats of arms of Lord Baltimore and William Penn. The crownstone is named after surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who settled the boundary dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1767. This part of the boundary line in Marydel was established in 1773 as the Maryland-Delaware border.
Preston is typical of many small farm communities on the shore. The oldest grist mill in the United States is found on Hunting Creek near Preston. North of the town is the grave of Charles Dickens-not the writer-but an unlucky Caroline countian killed in a duel with future president Andrew Jackson in 1806.
5. Dorchester County
Like most places on the Eastern Shore, water and history complement each other in Dorchester County. English settlers came to the area in the early 17th century and named the county for Sir Edward Sackville, the Earl of Dorset and friend of the Calvert family.
The 1684 port town of Cambridge, the county seat, has many historic homes, buildings and museums with agricultural, maritime, industrial and Native American displays. The Brannock Maritime Museum houses exhibits on Maryland's "Oyster Navy" and Chesapeake Bay history. Outside of Cambridge, the Dorchester Heritage Museum has exhibits on aviation, archaeology and local history, and the Richardson Museum focuses on the Bay's long heritage of wooden boat building. Also near Cambridge is the only existing post windmill in Maryland. The Spocott Windmill still grinds flour on special occasions. Next to the windmill are the Tenant House, the 1868 Schoolhouse and the General Store, which complete the picture of life in another era.
Harriet Tubman was an enslaved woman who was born in Dorchester County in 1820. She later escaped to the North and became a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to freedom. Today you can see a marker at her birthplace and visit The Underground Railroad: Harriet Tubman Museum and Gift Shop.
The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is an important resting and feeding area for wild geese, osprey, swans, owls, muskrats, rare Delmarva fox squirrels and bald eagles. South Dorchester County has been called the "Cape Cod of the South" for its quaint watermen's villages and ferry bridge.
6. Wicomico County
Wicomico County was created in 1867, but was settled as early as the 1660s. The name comes from the Native American words meaning "place where houses are built." The English and Scottish settlers came because of the abundant land available for farming.
The county seat, Salisbury, is the largest city on the Eastern Shore. Take a walk in the park along the Wicomico River or cruise aboard the Maryland Lady and imagine yourself back in the days of the steamboats, or follow county history through exhibits at the Wicomico Heritage Center or at nearby Pemberton Hall. The art of decoy and bird carving is celebrated at the famous Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art. Salisbury's excellent zoo has animals and birds indigenous to North and South America.
Near Mardela Springs is a marker with the Penn coat of arms on one side and the Calvert arms on the other, indicating the southern end of the Mason-Dixon Line.
7. Somerset County
Harvesting seafood is a way of life in Somerset County. This rural county was founded in 1666 and was named for Lady Mary Somerset, sister of Cecilius Calvert's wife, Lady Anne Arundell. Most of the settlers came from Virginia to escape religious persecution.
The town of Crisfield is known as "The Crab Capital of the World" because so many of the residents' lives are centered around these tasty crustaceans. A visit to the Governor Tawes Historical Museum in Crisfield will take you through the town's history, its seafood industry and life of the area. Take a cruise boat or ferry to Smith Island, a unique community where things have changed very slowly since the island was first settled.
In the historic district of Princess Anne, the county seat, the county historical society is headquartered in the Teackle Mansion, an imposing replica of a Scottish manor house. From horse-drawn farm implements to musical instruments, you'll see thousands of items from turn-of-the-century rural life at the Burgess Americana Museum. The Fairmount Academy in Upper Fairmount is another reminder of days gone by. This two-story gothic revival structure is the last 19th-century schoolhouse standing in the country.
8. Worcester County
The only ocean-front county in Maryland, Worcester County was founded in 1742 and was named for the Earl of Worcester. The county seat, Snow Hill, was named after the Snow Hill section of London by Colonel William Stevens. The Julia A. Purnell Museum in Snow Hill has exhibits depicting the Victorian period of the Southern Eastern Shore, and the nearby Pocomoke River State Park has nature trails, indoor exhibits and areas for bird watching.
Another town with Victorian charm is Berlin. Its name is a combination of "Burleigh," after Burleigh Plantation and "inn". You can learn more about the town's history and its prominent citizens at the Calvin B. Taylor Museum. Or visit the Atlantic Hotel, which is more than 100 years old.
Ocean City is a year-round resort that is most popular in the summer. It has 10 miles of white sandy beaches, a famous boardwalk, and many shops and eateries. At the southern end of the boardwalk is the Ocean City Life Saving Station, which shows the history of the town.
Wild ponies roam the beaches and dunes of Assateague Island National Seashore, a 37-mile long barrier island south of Ocean City. One legend says the ponies are descendants of horses that survived the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon. Another says they were brought to the New World by early settlers. Maryland's only ocean park, Assateague State Park, has campsites, bike trails and rental boats so everyone can enjoy the shore.
9. Cecil County
Cecil County, which wraps around the upper end of the Bay, is known for its horse farms, historic churches and taverns, as well as many miles of waterways.
The county was founded in 1674 and was named for Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore and founder of Maryland. This was an important stop for colonial travelers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who stopped at Rodgers Tavern in Perryville on their way to and from Philadelphia. Later, the town of Chesapeake City got its share of travelers as they passed through the C&D Canal, which connected the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River. In Chesapeake City, you'll find the C&D Canal Museum in an old pump house and a huge water wheel used to maintain the water level in the nearby canal locks. This canal, which is one of the most important canals in the country, became federal property in 1919.
The Fair Hill Nature and Environmental Center offers outdoor educational programs for all ages. More than 750,000 American shad pass through the fish lift at the Conowingo Hydroelectric Plant each year. It is one of the nation's largest hydroelectric generating stations and has a visitors center. Popular local pastimes such as hunting, fishing, boating and decoy carving are celebrated at the Upper Bay Museum in North East.