Frederick Md History
In 1745 “Frederick Town” was founded upon a tract of land on the banks of Carroll Creek,laid out by Daniel Dulany,a land speculator,and settled by a German immigrant party led Johann Thomas Schley. Schley and his wife Maria built the first house of the new town and within three years the settlement had become the county seat of Frederick County, an important part of Frederick Md history. It is uncertain which Frederick the town was named for, but the likeliest candidates are Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore and one of the proprietors of Maryland, Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales,and Frederick “The Great” of Prussia. Most sources agree it was named for Frederick Calvert.
Schley’s first task as leader of the settlement party was the foundation of a German Reformed Church (today the church is known as Evangelical Reformed Church, UCC), which also housed a public school, in keeping with the German Reformed tradition of sponsoring universal public education. Many of the Pennsylvania Dutch settled in Frederick as they migrated westward in the late 18th century. Frederick was a stop along the German migration route that led down through the Shenandoah Valley all the way to the western Piedmont in North Carolina.
The city served as a major crossroads from colonial times. British General Braddock marched west through Frederick on the way to the fateful ambush near Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War. To control this crossroads during the American Revolution, the British garrisoned a Hessian regiment in the town during the war (the Hession Barracks are located on Clarke Ave.) Afterward, with no way to return to their homeland, the men of the Hessian regiment stayed on and married into the families of the town, strengthening its German identity. Later, when President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the building of the National Road from Baltimore to St. Louis, the “National Pike” ran through Frederick along Patrick Street.
From these beginnings, Frederick grew to an important market town, but by the first third of the 19th century, the town had also become one of the leading mining counties of the United States, producing gold, copper, limestone, marble, iron and other minerals. As early as the American Revolution, Catoctin Furnace near Thurmont had been a significant site for iron production. In 1831 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) completed its Frederick Branch line from Baltimore to Frederick. Frederick was the site of a Civil War speech given by President Abraham Lincoln, which took place at what was then a train depot at the current intersection of South and Market Streets. A plaque commemorates the speech.
When the first wave of Irish refugees from the potato famine settled in the city in 1846, one of the leading members of the Schley family married into the Wilson family from Ireland. Consequently, many of the Schleys converted to Catholicism, and residents of Frederick began to speak English for the first time in the town’s history — up until then, the language had been German. Frederick was known during the nineteenth century for its religious pluralism, with one of its main thoroughfares, Church Street, hosting half a dozen major churches. The main Catholic church, St. John’s, was built in 1800, then rebuilt in 1837 one block north of Church Street on East Second Street, where it still stands. Together, these churches dominated the town, set against the backdrop of the first ridge of the Appalachians, Catoctin Mountain.
Civil War Era
The abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized this view of Frederick in his poem to Barbara Fritchie: “The clustered spires of Frederick stand — greenwalled in the hills of Maryland.”
The home of Barbara Fritchie, who according to legend waved the Stars and Stripes in defiance of Confederate commander Stonewall Jackson and his troops as they marched through downtown Frederick in 1862, stands as another key historical site. Though the legend has been generally discredited, it was widely believed during the Civil War and was the subject of an 1864 poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, a poem that remained popular for decades. Barbara Fritchie, a significant figure in Frederick Md history in her own right, is buried in Frederick’s Mt. Olivet cemetery next to Governor Thomas Johnson and Francis Scott Key.
Frederick’s status as a major crossroads put the town at the center of the Maryland campaigns of the Civil War, during which both Union and Confederate troops marched through the city. General Stonewall Jackson led his light infantry division through Frederick on his way to the battles of Crampton’s, Fox’s and Turner’s Gaps and Antietam in September 1862, leading to an incident with Pennsylvania Dutch resident Barbara Fritchie commemorated in the poem of the same name by John Greenleaf Whittier. Major General Jesse L. Reno’s IX Corps followed Jackson’s men through the city a few days later on the way to the Battle of South Mountain, where Reno was killed.
The family, important in Frederick Md history, also possessed a deep streak of military nationalism, probably from its German heritage. Thus, during the Civil War, Major Henry Schley, brother of Colonel Edward Schley, at the age of 72 fought for the Union as the aide de camp to General Lew Wallace, one of Grant’s key adjutants at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, along with Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Don Carlos Buell. General Wallace also fought Confederate General Jubal Early outside of Frederick at the Battle of Monocacy in 1864.
In 1921, the first high school for African-Americans was founded at 170 West All Saints Street. Later it moved to 250 Madison Street, where it eventually became South Frederick Elementary. The building still stands and presently houses the Lincoln Elementary School.
Several historic Civil War landmarks are located in and around Frederick. At the Prospect Hall mansion on what is now Butterfly Lane, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1863, a messenger from President Abraham Lincoln arrived to inform General George Meade that he would be replacing General Joseph Hooker after the latter’s disaster at Chancellorsville the previous May. The Army of the Potomac, which camped at Prospect Hall for weeks prior to Gettysburg, went on from there to fight several major battles. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is located downtown.
Due west along Alternate US 40, and west of Burkittsville, lie the sites of the three episodes in the Battle of South Mountain: the battles of Crampton’s (September 14, 1862), Fox’s, and Turner’s gaps, where Confederate troops under Jackson and Walker unsuccessfully attempted to halt the Federal army’s advance into the Cumberland Valley. The war correspondents’ memorial can be found at Gathland State Park at Crampton’s Gap, just west of Burkittsville. The memorial to the slain Union General Jesse Reno lies on the south side of Alternate US 40, west of Middletown, just below the summit of Fox’s Gap.
21 miles southwest of Frederick lies historic Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Here stood a key Federal arsenal. In 1859, Kansas abolitionist John Brown seized these works, only to be surrounded and captured by a Federal force under Robert E. Lee. Early on September 17, 1862, Confederate General A. P. Hill raided the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry to re-equip his own division. When a rider arrived at 1 pm that afternoon informing Hill of Lee’s desperate situation at Sharpsburg, Hill ordered his 6000 men to form ranks and march at double-time to Lee’s aid at Antietam (Sharpsburg). Hill drove his division to cover the 17 miles between Harper’s Ferry and the battlefield in just three hours, losing 2/3 of his battle strength due to heat exhaustion and sunstroke along the way, but arriving “in the nick of time” to turn back Burnside’s men, who were just forcing the bridge across Antietam Creek. Collectors still find Civil War artifacts in the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry, especially on Maryland Heights above the town on the Maryland side of the Potomac.
Historic Frederick Links
“The Clustered Spires of Frederick stand,
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland”from “The Ballad of Barbara Fritchie”
by poet John Greenleaf Whittier
Journey Through Hallowed Ground
The Historical Society of Frederick
National Museum of Civil War Medicine