Clarksburg Historical Society
Keeping History Alive
History of CLarksburg - 2015
By Jean Hulse-Hayman
What we now know as Clarksburg began in the 1730s at the crossroads of two Indian trails called the Sinequa Trails. William Clark, originally from Scotland, who lived in Lancaster, PA came to this area with his son John Clark to hunt and trade with the local Indian tribes. Hunting and trading must have been good because in time William established a trading post at the crossroads. Likely because of the activity at the trading post and movement along one of the Indian trails that came to be called The Great Road (Rt. 355), Michael A. Dowden applied for a 40-acre land patent in 1752 called Hammer Hill. In 1754, a license was granted by Frederick County to open Dowden’s Ordinary, a 17-room inn. Note: Montgomery County was not formed until 1776. At this point in time, Clarksburg had no name. It was called the place where Dowden’s Ordinary is located. At this same time, John G. Clark, our town founder, was born. His grandfather William and his Dad, John, left their trading post for a while to fight in the French & Indian War which started in 1754 and lasted until 1763. In 1755, the British General Braddock stayed at Dowden’s Ordinary with his troops on his way to Fort Duquesne (du ‘kein). The French had established this fort in what is now downtown Pittsburgh. The fort location at the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers was an important site for the British. A 20-something George Washington was an aide to General Braddock. He had gotten sick before General Braddock arrived at Dowden’s Ordinary and so did not stay in Clarksburg. He did meet up with General Braddock and his
troops for the fight to take the fort. General Braddock was fatally injured in the battle along with many English soldiers and colonial settlers. George Washington was his only aide to survive the battle.
Another famous person who almost stayed at Dowden’s Ordinary was Benjamin Franklin. In a letter to his daughter, he refers to Dowden’s Ordinary as being full so he ended up depending on the hospitality of a local farmer. Dowden’s Ordinary was a major coach stop between Georgetown and Frederick. It was an important meeting place for local citizens who opposed British laws like the Stamp Act. The Sons of Liberty, who opposed British rule, are thought to have met there. It is said that Andrew Jackson dined there. In 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence and it is likely that many residents in the Clarksburg area joined the fight. Both William and John Clark (which John is unclear) are listed on the roster of all the men of the First Maryland Regiment who fought at the Battle of Brooklyn. Toward the end of the war in 1781, John G. Clark, our town founder, built his home in Clarksburg. At the site his grandfather’s trading post, he established a general store. In 1790, he surveyed the town and laid out lots. He was a founding member of the Methodist Society which formed in 1788 and the Methodist Episcopal Church which began as a log chapel in 1794. In 1798, he was appointed the first town Justice of the Peace. In 1799, he served as county commissioner, and in 1800 he was the first town postmaster. John G. Clark was “Mr. Clarksburg" and that is why our town bears his name. In 1804, Clarksburg boasted 30 structures. By 1879, Clarksburg was the third largest town in Montgomery County with 250 residents. The places where John Clark and his relatives lived, worked, and worshiped can still be seen in the Clarksburg historic district.
1963 Aerial Photograph of Clarksburg
Excerpts from History of Western Maryland (1882)
HISTORY OF WESTERN MARYLAND
Vol 1; 1882
J. THOMAS CHARF, A.M.,
Clarksburg specific pages selected by Burge Burkett, Clarksburg Historical Society, Inc
Page 719: (Clarkesburg is spelled like this on the document)
CLARKESBURG DISTRICT, No. 2, is bounded on the north by Frederick County, east by Howard County, south by Cracklin District, southwest by Gaithersburg District, and west by Darnestown and Medley Districts. Into Great Seneca Creek, in its southwest, empty Magruder's and Wild-Cat Branches, while the Patuxent River separates it from Howard County. In its southwestern section flow Ten-Mile Creek, Cabin Branch, and Little Seneca Creek. In the north, Bennett's Creek flows into Frederick County, as does Little Bennett's Creek, and into the latter empty Wild-Cat and Soper's Branches. As originally laid out it was bounded as follows: Beginning near Benjamin Gaither's blacksmith shop, and running with the road leading to Clopper's mill, the late Samuel Simmons', and the late Richard Hoggins', to the road leading from the mouth of
Monocacy to Green's bridge on the east side of Joshua Perry's plantation, there with the road by John Willson's to the mouth of his lane, then with a north line to the line of Frederick County, then with said line to Parr's spring, then down Patuxent to Mershberger's old mill, then down Seneca to the beginning near Benjamin Gaither's blacksmith-shop. In the formation of Gaithersburg District, in 1880, a small part of the territory of Clarkesburg was taken, hus reducing the above limits slightly. The first settlers in the district were Ellsworth Beane, Samuel Saffell, Thomas Whitten, John Crampton, and Henry Griffith, who were soon followed by the Howards, Laytons, Neels, Claggetts, Warrings, Hyatts, Prices, Warfields, Tablers, Watkinses, Purdums, Windsors, Waterses, Kemps, Bealls, Darbys, Kings, Linthicums, Williamses, Lewises, and others.'
Greenbury Willson, on Aug. 1, 1811, had a mill in operation on the farm of Edward Magruder, on Wild- Cat Creek.
Clarkesburg, after which the district was called, is beautifully located on the Washington and Frederick road, thirty miles from Washington, fifteen from Frederick, and four and a half from Boyd's Station. The town occupies a portion of a tract of three hundred and eighty-five acres, surveyed on the 10th of February, 1761, for Henry Griffith, lying on both sides of Little Seneca Creek, and known originally as
the " Cow-Pasture" survey. The first house was erected in 1780 by John Clark, whose daughter married William Wilson, the father of Leonidas Wilson, the present owner, who for a long time was a successful merchant of the place. It is now occupied by Lewis & Williams. Mr. Clark kept the first store. The first dwelling-house was that now occupied by Leonard Dent Shaw, in the upper part of the town, and was built in 1777. In the garden of Mr. SchoU, at the east end of the town, the celebrated Catawba grape, which has since gained such a worldwide reputation, was probably first cultivated in America. The property is now owned by Hon. George W. Hilton, and is annually visited by numbers of pomologists and curiosity-seekers. Dr. Horace Wilson was among the earliest physicians. Before the era of railroads the town was on the direct road from the West to the national capital, and the stage-lines and many private conveyances on their way to and from those points passed through the place. At one time it contained three taverns,—one kept by Mrs. Schell, where L. D. Shaw lives, one by Mr. Pritchard (now the Thompson House), and the third by Mr. Griffith, where Hon. G. W. Hilton now resides. Among the first blacksmiths was Benjamin Browning. John G. Clark, the founder of the town, came from the North. The oldest native inhabitant of the place is Leonidas Wilson, who was born in 1812. He is the son of William, grandson of John, and great-grandson of Jonathan Wilson, who came up from Prince George's County before or during the French and Indian war. William H. Buxton is postmaster, and Drs. T. K. Galloway, R. H. Thompson, and William A. Waters physicians.
Methodist Episcopal Church.—The present neat brick edifice was built in 1853, and is on or near the site of the old log structure it succeeded. The first rude church building was erected between 1782 and 1784, and in it Bishop Asbury several times preached. Rev. Randolph R. Murphy, a native of Clarkesburg, is the present pastor, and is a son of one of the old pillars of the church. In the cemetery adjoining the church are the following interments:
Charles H. Murphy, died Aug. 14, 1879, aged 82; and his wife, Julia, April 23, 1853, aged 49.
Maria Louise, wife of Obed Hurley, died April 16, 1S61, aged 42; and Jane, wife of same, died Nov. 5, 1853, aged 59.
Freeborn G. Miles, born April 1, 1812, died Jan. 31, 1845.
Nancy W. Thompson, born Nov. 20, 1794, died May 20, 1866.
Synthia R. Thompson, died Feb. 20, 1870, aged 64.
Ann Elizabeth, wife of Philemon M. Smith, and daughter of Dr. Horace Wilson, died Jan. 29, 1875, aged 52.
Leah, wife of Dr. Horace Wilson, died June 22, 1842, aged 50.
Maria, wife of Rev. James G. Henning, born April 25, 1813, died Dec. 23, 1S42.
John W. Beall, died Sept. 5, 1866, aged 63.
Howard Young, died Oct. 3, 1877, aged 66.
Nancy A., wife of Hezekiah Barber, died April 23, 1873, aged 68.
Martha Judy, died April 12, 1867, aged 75.
William Levi Hurley, died July 10, 1874, aged 76.
Prof. J. Mortimer Hurley, died April 8, 1879, aged 50.
The Clark Private Burying-Ground contains the remains of John Clark, born August, 1752, died February, 1805; and Ann, his wife, died March 27, 1810, aged 61.
Gustavus Wilson, born Feb. 11, 1811, died 1812.
John Clark Wilson, born Aug. 25, 1802, died Dec. 6, 1803.
William Harris, nephew and adopted son of Rev. Buckley Carl, pastor of Presbyterian Church in Rahway, N. J., died May 5, 1817, aged 24.
The reader may wish to read further. There is much interesting information in this book. In the book, you can find out how Clarksburg voted in the 1860 election.