Monday, November 06, 2017

Early Baltimore History

The revolutionary spirit of social change is always found in Baltimore. It is an independent city which is the most populous city in the great state of Maryland. Many of my relatives live in Baltimore, so this is very personal with me. Recently, back in 2016, I visited Baltimore. I have seen its streets, its buildings, and its gorgeous architecture. So, I decided to research Baltimore in a more intimate, powerful level. I love to research and I love to learn. For centuries, Baltimore has existed as a city. Now, it’s an independent city and it’s the largest independent city in America in terms of population. It has over 610,000 people. The Constitution of Maryland established Baltimore. Its metropolitan area has near 2.8 million human beings. Southwest of Baltimore is Washington, D.C. Northeast of Baltimore is Philadelphia. Southeast of Baltimore is the Eastern Shore region (found in both Maryland and Virginia). Baltimore is also found on the Piedmont region geographically, which means that it has many hills. From 1729 to the present, Baltimore has tons of historical and cultural significance. It is a city home to a lot of civil rights events and its past included its powerful industrial base. It is a city where thousands of people work at Johns Hopkins Hospital (which was created in 1889). Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Hamilton, Frederick Douglass, Billie Holiday, actor and filmmaker John Waters, Babe Ruth, and others have lived in Baltimore before. Also, this great city is home to more public statues and monuments per capita than any other city in the United States of America. This is the perfect occasion for the long history and culture of Baltimore to be shown to the world.

In the beginning, Native Americans were the original inhabitants of Baltimore. Native Americans lived in the Baltimore since at least the 10th millennium B.C. This was when Paleo-Native Americans first settled in the region. One Paleo-Native American site and several Archaic period and Woodland period archaeological sites have been identified in Baltimore. There have been four found from the late Woodland period too. By the time of the Late Woodland period, there was an archaeological culture called “Potomac Creek complex.” It resided in an area from Baltimore to the Rappahannock River in Virginia (this is the river where Fredericksburg, Virginia is found), primarily along the Potomac River downstream from the Fall Line. East of the Fall line is where the Coastal Plain region is found geographically.  During the early 1600’s, the immediate Baltimore vicinity was populated by Native Americans. The Baltimore County area northward was used by the Susquehannocks. They used the area as hunting grounds. The Susquehannocks lived in the lower Susquehanna River valley. They controlled all of the upper tributaries of the Chesapeake and refrained from much contact with the Powhatan in the Potomac region. The Powhatan were a powerful Native American tribe who also lived in Virginia. The Piscataway tribe of the Algonquians (who are found in Eastern Virginia too) were pressured by the Susquehannokcs to live well south of the Baltimore area. They lived mostly on the north bank of the Potomac River in what is now Charles and southern Prince George’s south of the Fall line. John Smith has his 1608 map that shown many settlements and it showed the Baltimore area. There were settlements of Native Americans on the Patuxent River. In 1608, John Smith traveled 210 miles from Jamestown to the uppermost Chesapeake Bay. He led the first European expedition to the Patapsco River, which is found in Baltimore. Patapsco was a word used by the Algonquin language natives who fished shellfish and hunted. The name "Patapsco" is derived from pota-psk-ut, which translates to "backwater" or "tide covered with froth" in Algonquian dialect. A quarter century after John Smith's voyage, English colonists began to settle in Maryland. The English were initially frightened by the Piscataway in southern Maryland because of their body paint and war regalia, even though they were a peaceful tribe. The chief of the Piscataway tribe was quick to grant the English permission to settle within Piscataway territory and cordial relations were established between the English and the Piscataway.

European settlement continued. The County of Baltimore was created around 1659 according to the records of the General Assembly of Maryland. This event was the earliest divisions of the Maryland Colony into counties. There was a warrant that was issued to be served by the “Sheriff of Baltimore County.” The area made up of the modern city of Baltimore and its metropolitan area was settled by David Jones in 1661. His claim was found in the areas today known as Harbor East on the east bank of the Jones Falls River. This river flows south into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. During the next year, the shipwright Charles Gorsuch settled Whetstone Point. That was in the present location of Fort McHenry. In 1665, the west side of the Jones Falls on the Inner Harbor was settled when 550 acres of land, thereafter named Cole’s Harbor, was granted to Thomas Cole. It was later sold to David Jones in 1679. Old Saint Paul’s Parish of Baltimore County was one of the “Original Theirty” parishes designated for the Colony. It included the county of Baltimore and future Baltimore Town was part of the “established” or “state” Church of England. That church was also called the Anglican Church. It was the first church built in the metro area. It was erected in 1692 on the Patapsco Neck peninsula in southeastern Baltimore County. It is along Colgate Creek which flowed into Patapsco River (or the present site of today’s Dundalk Marine Terminal of the Port of Baltimore). Jones’s stepson James Todd resurveyed Cole’s Harbor in 1696. The tract was renamed Todd’s Range, which was then sold off in progressively smaller parcels, thereby forming the land that would become the Town of Baltimore thirty years later. There was another “Baltimore” on the Bush River as early as 1674. The first county seat of Baltimore County is called “Old Baltimore.” It was located on the Bush River on land that in 1773 became part of Harford County. In 1674, the General Assembly passed "An Act for erecting a Court-house and Prison in each County within this Province." The site of the court house and jail for Baltimore County was evidently "Old Baltimore" near the Bush River.

In 1683, the General Assembly passed "An Act for Advancement of Trade" to "establish towns, ports, and places of trade, within the province." One of the towns established by the act in Baltimore County was "on Bush River, on Town Land, near the Court-House." The court house on the Bush River referenced in the 1683 Act was in all likelihood the one created by the 1674 Act. "Old Baltimore" was in existence as early as 1674, but we don't know with certainty what if anything happened on the site prior to that year. The exact location of Old Baltimore was lost for years. Some believe that it’s found on the site of modern day Aberdeen Proving Ground or APG (which is an U.S. Army testing facility). Back during the 1990’s, the APG’s Cultural resource Management Program wanted to find Old Baltimore. The firm of R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates was contracted for the project. After Goodwin first performed historical and archival work, they coordinated their work with existing landscape features to locate the site of Old Baltimore. APG's Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel went in with Goodwin to defuse any unexploded ordnance. Working in 1997 and 1998, the field team uncovered building foundations, trash pits, faunal remains, and 17,000 artifacts, largely from the 17th century. The Bush River proved to be an unfortunate location because the port became silted and impassable to ships, forcing the port facilities to relocate. By the time Baltimore on the Patapsco River was established in 1729, Old Baltimore Town had faded away.

Maryland’s colonial General Assembly created and authorized the Port of Baltimore in 1706. It is found at the Head of the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River in what is known as “the Basin” or today’s Inner Harbor. It expanded east later and southeast down river to the settlement (now known as Fells Point) to the east. That is found near the mouth of Jones Falls and further in the nineteenth century, it is known as Canton. Baltimore is named after Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore (1605-1675) of the Irish House of Lords. He was the founding proprietor of the Province of Maryland. Cecilius Calvert was the oldest son of Sir George Calvert (1579-1632), who became the First Lord Baltimore of County Longford, Ireland in 1625. Previously, he was a loyal agent of King Charles I of England (1600–1649) as his Secretary of State until declaring himself a follower of Roman Catholicism. Regardless, the King still gave his heir Cecil the 1632 grant for the Maryland colony, named after Charles's wife, Queen Henrietta Marie. The colony was a follow-up to his earlier settlement in Newfoundland, known as "Acadia" or "Avalon", (future Canada), which he found too cold and difficult for habitation. At the Basin to the southeast along the southern peninsula, which ended at Whetstone Point or today’s South Baltimore, Federal Hill, and Locust Point, there were the funding of new wharves (and slips came about form individual wealthy ship owners plus brokers. Funding came from public authorities via the town commissioners by means of lotteries). In the Maryland region, there was tobacco trade and shipping of other raw materials overseas to England, for receiving manufactured goods from England and for trade with other ports being formed up and down the Chesapeake Bay (and in other burgeoning colonies along the Atlantic coast). In 1729, the Maryland General Assembly established the Town of Baltimore. Baltimore has grown. German immigrants began to settle along the Chesapeake Bay by 1723 and they lived in the Baltimore area. The General Assembly enlarged Baltimore Town in 1745 and it incorporated David Jones’ original settlement known as Jones Town. Baltimore sent representatives to the Assembly. Over the next two decades, it acquired nine parcels of land. It annexed neighboring villages including Fells Point to become an important community on the head of the Patapsco River. As Baltimore grew, more German Lutheran immigrants formed Zion Church in 1755. Later, a German Reformed congregation was organized as the first among Protestants to be represented. This caused more “Pennsylvania Dutch” settlers to come into the region. Early German settlers also formed the German Society of Maryland in 1783 in order for them to foster the German language and German culture in Baltimore. Slavery was in Baltimore and throughout early America too. Throughout the 1700’s, Baltimore drained and filled in marshes. These places include Thomas Harrison’s Marsh along the Jones Falls west bank. Canals were built in Baltimore around the falls and through the center of town. Bridges existed across the Falls. Baltimore annexed neighboring Jones’s Town to the northeast in 1745 and expanded southeastward towards the neighboring, bustling, shipbuilding port at Fells Point. Baltimore back then was the largest city in the Middle Atlantic colonies between Philadelphia and Charleston, South Carolina. The population grew rapidly. Powerful financial interests in the growing town increased its power. The courthouse for all Baltimore County was moved from Old Joppa over its citizens enraged protests. Baltimoreans paid some 300 pounds sterling the next year to erect a fine brick courthouse with a bell tower and steeple on a Courthouse Square (at future Calvert Street, between East Lexington and Fayette Streets) along with the "whipping post", stocks (for confining heads and arms), podium for making public announcements and news, and a nearby jail  (on the northern hills overlooking the harbor basin and with its back sitting over a rugged cliff and bluffs to the northeast with "Steiger's Meadow." The jail bordered the twisting loop of the Jones Falls which bended southwestward before running north again).

During the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress temporarily fled from Philadelphia and held sessions in Baltimore between December 1776 and February 1777. When the Continental Congress authorized the privateering of British vessels, eager Baltimore merchants accepted the challenge. As the Revolutionary War progressed, the shipbuilding industry expanded and boomed. There was no major military action near Baltimore, except for the passing nearby and a feint towards the town by the British Royal Navy fleet as they headed north up the Chesapeake Bay to land an army at Head of Elk. This was located in the northeast corner to march on the American capital Philadelphia. There were battles at Brandywine and Germantown. The American Revolution ironically grew the domestic market for wheat and iron ore. In Baltimore, flour milling increased along with the Jones and Gwynns Falls. Iron ore transport greatly boosted the local economy. The British naval blockade hurt Baltimore’s shipping, but also freed merchants and traders from British debts. This along with the capture of British merchant vessels furthered Baltimore’s economic growth. By 1800, Baltimore had become one of the major cities of the new American country. The economic foundation in Baltimore from 1763 to 1776 along with the Revolutionary War caused Baltimore to see more economic expansion. Baltimore’s merchants and entrepreneurs produced an expanding commercial community with family businesses and partnerships. These businesses involved shipping, the flour milling, the grain business, the indentured servant situation, the evil slave trade, etc.  International trade focused on four areas: Britain, Southern Europe, the West Indies, and the North American coastal towns. Credit was the essence of the system and a virtual chain of indebtedness meant that bills remained long unpaid and little cash was used among overseas correspondents, merchant wholesalers, and retail customers. Bills of exchange were used extensively, often circulating as currency. Frequent crises of credit, and the wars with France kept prices and markets in constant flux, but men such as William Lux and the Christie brothers produced a maturing economy and a thriving metropolis by the 1770’s. Philadelphia had a more powerful economy than Baltimore back then. The population of Baltimore reached 14,000 in 1790, but the decade was a rough one for the city. The Bank of England's suspension of specie payments caused the network of Atlantic credit to unravel, leading to a mild recession. The Quasi-War with France in 1798-1800 caused major disruptions to Baltimore's trade in the Caribbean. Finally, a yellow fever epidemic diverted ships from the port, while much of the urban population fled into the countryside. The downturn widened to include every social class and area of economic activity. In response the business community diversified away from an economy based heavily on foreign trade.

By Timothy

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