Dowden's Ordinary

 

This site, originally part of Hammer Hill, was patented to Michael A. Dowden in 1752 to open an inn. It was an important stopping place along the road from Georgetown to Frederick and served as the headquarters of General Edward Braddock’s troops from April 15-17, 1755 on their way to Ft. Duquesne.  

 

Info from The History of Clarksburg, King's Valley, Purdum, Browningsville and Lewisdale Maryland by Dona L. Cuttler.

History of Dowden’s Ordinary for Town Flag Raising at Dowden’s Ordinary Park

By Jean Hulse-Hayman

 

If you were standing in this spot two hundred seventy years ago, you would see a Native American trail running by to the north and south where Route 355 is now. Looking north up the trail, you would see a log trading post and just beyond that another trail crossing from east to west.  You might see early settlers on horseback traveling along the trail heading north to Frederick or south to Georgetown.   Because of the activity around here, in 1752, Michael A. Dowden, who owned the land where we are gathered, decided to apply for a land patent to establish an ordinary on this site. If you turn and look over to where the large boulder sits, you will see the exact place where the ordinary was situated.  What is an ordinary?  It is like an inn.  Dowden’s Ordinary provided a place for travelers to spend the night and to get a hot meal. It had 17 rooms with a fireplace on each end of the building and a separate kitchen for cooking called a “closeby”.   Because Dowden’s Ordinary was a stopping point for travelers going from Georgetown to Frederick, our inn housed many travelers.  In April 1755, during the French and Indian War, General Braddock stayed at the inn with his troops on their way to the battle at Fort Duquesne (du-cain).  It is said that Andrew Jackson dined here on the way to his inauguration.  Ben Franklin wanted to stay here but he heard the inn was full so he stayed with a wealthy, local merchant.  Dowden’s Ordinary also functioned as a social meeting place for locals.   Stagecoaches stopped at the ordinary twice a week bringing mail and news from other localities.  Clarksburg area residents met here to discuss important political issues like their dislike of The Stamp Act imposed on them by the British.  The Sons of Liberty, a group who advocated for independence from England, also met here starting in 1770.  Sometime after 1770, Dowden’s Ordinary was sold to Basil Roberts who renamed it Roberts Tavern. One can imagine the many important secret meetings that must have taken place at the tavern in the years that led up to the Revolutionary War.  After the war John G. Clark, our town founder, built his log home across from the trading post. Then in the early 1800’s Basil Roberts sold his tavern to Frederick Scholl.  Scholl is the one who obtained cuttings and grew the famous Catawba grapes which he fermented to make wine which he sold in the tavern now called Scholl’s Tavern.  By 1850 Clarksburg was the third largest town in Montgomery County.  Clarksburg had four general stores, two hotels, an academy of learning, a black smith, a doctor’s office, tanneries, fertilizer businesses and two town bands.  When the B & O Railroad bypassed Clarksburg, our town began to decline.  Scholl’s Tavern was sold to Leonard Shaw who converted it to apartments which he rented to local farmers and laborers.   After years of serving our community, the old tavern was torn down in 1924.  Today this beautiful park stands as a testament to the important role that Dowden’s Ordinary played in our nation’s history, as well as the history of Clarksburg.

Sources:

The Dowden's Ordinary Archaeological Site, MN-CPPC of Montgomery County MD

M:13-53 Dowden's Ordinary Site Maryland Historical Trust

M: 13-10 Clarksburg Historic District Maryland Historical Trust

© 2019 by Clarksburg Historical Society, Inc.

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