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Friday, April 3, 2015

Howard County Historical Society Museum

   I recently went with members of The Village in Howard on a tour of the Howard County Historical Society Museum in Ellicott City.  The museum is housed in the old First Presbyterian Church at 8328 Court Avenue.  I never knew much about the history of Howard County or Ellicott City.  I knew that back in the 1800's Howard County was a district of Ann Arundel County.

   The above original land grant map of Howard County shows the land granted by Lord Baltimore (who was granted the land from the King of England) to people in our County.  In the middle of the map you can see the large area granted to the Carroll family.   The descendants of the Carroll family still live on the last piece of this land between Homewood Drive and Route 144.

   The most valuable item in the Society's collection is a first printing of the journal of Andrew Ellicott one of the founding family of Ellicott City.   The Ellicotts were Quakers from Pennsylvania who came to Maryland to encourage farmers to switch from growing tobacco to wheat which was needed for the Ellicott's flour mill.  The most important family to switch was the Carrolls which greatly increased the participation of the other families in the County.  One of the selling points of growing wheat was that it didn't wear out the soil of nutrients the way tobacco did.  Early tobacco growers in our Country were always moving west as the soil of their farms wore out.  This is one reason for the early migration west from the coastal areas.

    One of the most interesting items in the Society's collection is a family tree of the Ellicott family by clips of hair from each member of the family.

    Pictured above is the surveying tool that most likely Benjamin Banneker used when he helped lay out Washington D. C.  Banneker was a friend of the Ellicotts.

   Any history of Howard County has to include a section on slavery before the Civil War and the segregation that existed in the County until the 1960's.  Howard County and Maryland had many Southern supporters during the Civil War. The display above shows the County's involvement in the Underground Railroad that passed through Howard County along what is now Route 1 toward Baltimore and out Route 144 toward Pittsburg.  Freetown Road is named for one route that went through Simpsonville which had a number of free African Americans.  The Quakers in our area were also involved in the Railroad in Howard County.

   Above are some ankle shackles used on slaves.

Some of the prominent black families in Howard County are the Carters, Moore and Dorsey families.  Many descendants of these families still live in Howard County.  The anchor for black families in our area has always been the First Baptist Church of Guilford.

    During Prohibition Howard County had a reputation for being the location for bootleggers.  The rivers, streams and woods in the eastern part of Howard County were ideal for bootleggers.  The only way that alcohol was legal in Prohibition was if it was prescribed by a doctor.  It seems that it wasn't too hard to get a prescription from most Howard County doctors so the alcohol trade in Howard County drew people from other parts of Maryland.  One bottle of whiskey in the display had been prescribed by Dr. Brumbaugh of Elkridge in the 1930's.  I once had a chance to meet this doctor before he died in the 1970's.  He had delivered most of the babies born in Elkridge for over 50 years.
    The Museum is a fascinating look at our County's history and well worth a visit. 


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