Early History of Sykesville

April 19, 1962

Part 1

William Macleod.–Sykesville High School

Credit for the first eight paragraphs in this paper should be given to the Carroll County Historical Society for the information was taken directly from one of its publications.

Carroll County, comprising parts of Baltimore and Frederick counties, was created January 19, 1837, by act of the General Assembly of Maryland. The county was named in honor of one of its original landholders, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

This county is the twentieth  in formation and the tenth in area in the state. Westminster is the county seat. Other principal towns are Hapstead, Manchester, Mount Airy, New Windsor, Sykesville, Taneytown and Union Bridge. There are other small towns in the environs.

Since Carroll County is primarily agricultural, the chief sources of income are from dairying, grain, poultry, and trucking. One of the unusual plants that grow advantageously in parts of the county is wormseed. The seed from this plant when distilled produces an oil used in making paint. The Carroll County wormseed oil has the highest quality rating in the world.

The principal industries are the manufacture of cement, Congolium, Black and Decker electrical tools, clothing, shoes, rubber, as well as the milling and canning of food products. The Western Maryland and Baltimore and ohio Railroads have been major carriers for the county.

The land was settled largely by people of British and German extraction. The former group brought with them the Roman Catholic, the the Episcopalian, the Methodist, the Quaker, and the Presbyterian denominations; the latter brought the Lutheran, the German Reformed and the Church of the Brethren.

Among the celebrities born on Carroll County soil, Francis Scott Key probably ranks first. In 1809, Jacob Thomas of Carroll County invented the harvester and reaping machine. Later his cousin Obed Hussey McCormick and others developed practical machines that revolutionized farming. Betsy Patterson of the Springfield Manor achieved rather tragic fame when she married Jerome Bonaparte in 1809, for Napoleon, presumpting the powers of the Pope, soon annulled the marriage.

Among other interesting figures are the distinguished General Mordecai Gist of the American Revolution; William Rineheart the sculptor; Frederick Dielman the etcher; Frank Brown, former Governor of Maryland; William L. Seabrook the writer.

To Carroll County goes the honor of establishing the first complete county-wide Rural Free Delivery service in the United States. On the first day, December 20, 1899, 2700 pieces of mail were distributed in addition to a pig and two chickens.

All this and much more went into the formation and final recognition of Sykesville in Carroll County.

Sykesville is located on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, twenty-two miles from Baltimore and seventeen from Westminster. It is on the west branch of the Patapsco River. The water here was utilized for milling and other purposes. The businesses include: lumber, coal, lime, fertilizers, and general merchandise.

Sykesville was a resort for numerous Baltimore families. They would board at the neighborhood farm houses during the summer.

The town itself was named after James Sykes, son of John Sykes, famous Baltimore merchant. In 1825 he came to this region and purchased one thousand acres in different tracts, including the site of this town at which time only consisted of a saw and a grist mill.

He built a five-story hotel to meet the requirements of the railroad and for a summer resort. It was the finest hotel in Maryland outside of Baltimore at that date.

In 1837 John Grimes (the hotel manager) noted that there were only four or five houses in the town John Garret maintained the hotel.

John Sykes enlarged the stone mill and converted it to the Howard Cotton factory in 1845. He also constructed homes for its operators. The prosperity continued until 1837 when a financial crisis caused a suspension of work. This endeavor, however, employed approximately two hundred people from the vicinity and neighboring areas. This mill has not been in operation since, except for short intervals: L. A. Purnnet, for a year; James A. Gary, a brief period for manufactured goods. Gary reopened the establishment during the Civil War for his manufactured goods.

The town’s namesake died in the spring of 1891 at Sykesville. The oldest house standing in the town at this time was a log hut occupied by George Collins. This was the first house built on the site of the town; however, it was carried away by the flood of July 24, 1868.

This catastrophe caused immense damage; sweeping away main buildings, including the hotel kept by John Grimes and the store of Zimmerman & Shultz. One remarkable thing about the latter is that the iron safe of this firm containing money, records, etc., has never been located.

The first physician to settle here was Dr. Array Owings in 1846; M. J. Zimmerman was postmaster and the railroad and express agent Dr. C. C. Moorehead proved to be an adequate physician for the neighboring farms.

Part 2

Messrs. Zimmerman and Shultz came from Frederick in 1868 and built an enormous trade. They were, of course, very successful until the flood of 1868. Soon after they built another store house across the street opposite their old place of business. John McDonald & Company erected a store in 1888. They proved to have an extensive trade also.

Samuel R. Duvall operated a large store handling agricultural implements, hardware, etc. Messrs. Zimmerman and Shultz purchased the mill property and factory owned by John Sykes.

When Mr. Sykes came in 1825, three houses stood, in 1832 over four hundred were standing. The Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1878 on a high hill overlooking the town. It contained stained windows and a well-toned bell. I believe this is the forerunner of the church perched on a hill in the town today.

It was built under the direction of Rev. C. W. Baldwin. Previous to the erection of the church in 1878 the congregation held its services in a large frame building opposite the cotton factory.

The Protestant Episcopal Church was constructed in 1850. It was later combined with the Eldersburg Church to form the Holy Trinity Parish.

Hood’s Mill Road on the B & O Railroad line in Sykesville was named after the Hood family as James Hood erected mills with John Grimes in 1845.

The land in this area is fair; the crops are generally good. The land was 3/5 cleared eighty years ago and sold at thirty dollars an acre. It produced fifteen to thirty-five bushels of wheat, twenty to forty of oats, and one hundred bushels of potatoes per acre. Corn weighed in at eight barrels a day and two tons of hay each season.

The town had a public school and the Springfield Academy; these inspired higher educational standards in the county at this time.

The most attractive place near Sykesville was the domain of Postmaster Frank Brown (1886) called Springfield. This was his summer residence. The name “Springfield” was given because of the vast number of springs on the property. It was believed to be the largest and best single estate owned and managed as one farm in Maryland. It is identified with many important events in the social and political life of distinguished Maryland people for three quarters of a century.

Springfield was laid out by William Patterson, the great Baltimore merchant. It was in Springfield that Elizabeth, or Betsy, Patterson first heard of the arrival of Prince Jerome, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, in America.

William Patterson was one of the original directors of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. When it was being constructed and needed money, he gave it, but made a requirement that it was to be laid and diverted from the original route to include Sykesville. At his death he left this property to his son, George.

George Patterson lived to a ripe old age and late in life married Miss Prudence Ann Brown. They left only one child, Florence, who married James Carroll. She inherited the farm in 1870 from her father and died in 1878. This lady was the aunt of Frank Brown. (This is misleading. They had a son who died at the age of five, and if you read our story on George Patterson, you will see that Prudence Patterson outlived her daughter.)

During Mrs. Carroll’s life Springfield was one of the most attractive places in Maryland for society people of Baltimore and the entire state. She lived there in opulence, and her parties and receptions were among the most magnificent given in America at this time. Both iron and copper were found on Springfield (during Frank Brown’s ownership) may be obtained from the fact that the fences on it, which were valued at fifty cents a panel of ten feet for the twelve miles around the estate, represent $31,680; the other fences on the inside of the estate which separate the fields are worth, by the same calculations, about $95,010.

Today the estate is used as a mental institution for the state.

Town’s First Citizens

Barnes, John — Carpenter.

Berry, John M. — Hotel.

Buckingham, Miss C. — Milliner.

Day, Owen — Pumpmaker.

Duvall, Samual R. — Blacksmith.

Duvall & Jones — Stoves and tinware.

Grimes, John — Hotel.

Harris, Josh — Harnessmaker.

Kearney, J. K. — Justice of the Peace.

McDonald, Sons & Company — General merchandise.

Mellor, E. M. — General merchandise.

Miller, John — Huckster.

Moorehess, Charles C. — Physician.

Ridgely, W. L. — Butcher.

Selby, Lewis — Miller.

Thompson, Hon — Butcher.

Wilron, R. F. — Wheelwright.

Zimmerman, J. M. — Railroad agent.

Zimmerman & Shults — General Merchandise.

Dr. J. Clement Clark, former superintendent of the Springfield State Hospital, commented:

“No institution is of greater interest not only to the people of Carroll County, but to the world, than the institution that fully conforms to the humanitarian spirit of the twentieth century in treating mental illness with as great skill and care as other institutions devote to the cure of physical ills. The method of treating without locks, bars, or physical restraint, the afflicted inmates of this institution have met with not only the approval of all who hope and have heard of the methods here employed, but results in the care of patients have been obtained that stand as the best testimonial to the efforts of the ones engaged in this work.”

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