Only one house stood on the land that would soon be Baltimore, when Maryland's colonial General Assembly passed the enabling act for the erection of a town on the north side of the Patapsco River. By 1773, when the annexation of eighty acres of Fells Point marked the pinnacle of a series of territorial additions, Baltimore had been transformed into a flourishing port city with a cosmopolitan population and a wide range of urban amenities. Despite the periodic flooding of the Jones Falls and the malarial marshes which had to be drained, many natural advantages boosted the growth of Baltimore Town. The safe and deep harbor facilitated shipping. Rapid streams from the northern and western hills provided abundant water power for milling. The fertile soil rendered the back country wealthy in agricultural produce. Fine forests which surrounded the town furnished timber for building material and fuel. Stone of good quality and mines rich with iron ore lay within easy hauling distance. The moderate climate spared the settlers the rigors of the harsh northern winters and the pestilences of the southern heat. Into this setting came several generations of pioneers who made a city out of the wilderness.
Captain John Smith recorded the first known description of the site of Baltimore Town in his journal of explorations of the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. Sailing up the bay from the mouth of the Patuxent River, he noted: " Thirtie leagues Northward is a river not inhabited, yet navigable; for the red clay resembling bole Armoniack we called it Bolus. At the end of the Bay where it is 6 or 7 myles in breadth, it divides it selfe into 4 branches, the best commeth Northwest from among the mountaines." His map shows the spot. The clumps of red clay along the river banks reminded Smith of the medicinal Armenian Bole used in Europe. By the time George Alsop drew his map in 1666, common parlance had restored the Indian name Patapsco to the river that flowed into the Chesapeake Bay. Most of the Indian place names along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay came from the Algonquin dialect spoken by the Piscataway Indians who lived south of the site of Baltimore. It is agreed that Chesapeake meant "great shellfish bay." The meaning of Patapsco is uncertain, but the heaviest evidence points to a reference to the water's "penetrating a ledge of rock" as it flowed. Another opinion gives "back water," or "tide-water covered with froth" as the translation for Patapsco.
The place that became Baltimore had no permanent Indian settlements in the seventeenth century. The area did lie within the hunting grounds of the Susquehannocks whose villages were located further north, along the Susquehanna River, the "smooth-flowing stream." Game was abundant throughout Maryland and bears were especially plentiful on the site of Baltimore. The Susquehannocks ate their meat and used the hides, often whole, for clothing. They were tall and strong and presented an awesome picture attired in a bear skin with the neck hole cut below the animal's face. Susquehannock warriors were feared by the Piscataways and also the Eastern Shore Nanticokes on whom they made war, generally victoriously. Colonial settlers and the Susquehannocks experienced only minor conflicts until the Senecas began to push southward into Susquehannock territory. Squeezed between the attackers and the white settlers, the Susquehannocks sometimes fell upon the colonists.
Before the end of the 17th century, however, smallpox and tuberculosis, diseases new to America, had weakened the Susquehannocks so greatly that the few survivors, who moved to the area around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, became tributaries of the Senecas.
By 1700, only a few hundred Indians lived in any part of Maryland. Baltimore County was established in 1659. At that time it stood on the frontier of Maryland, the proprietary colony of the Calvert family, granted by King Charles I to George Calvert, the first Lord of Baltimore, in 1632. Maryland's first settlers, who landed in the Ark and the Dove in 1634, had built their town, St. Mary's City, in southern Maryland at the junction of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
At a time when many colonies and nations promulgated one official religion to which all citizens were supposed to adhere, Maryland had a Roman Catholic proprietor and passed the Toleration Act of 1649, which specifically allowed the practice of all Christian religions. Catholics, Protestants and Quakers all began to move to Baltimore County frontier area which included all of today's Harford and Carroll Counties and parts of Anne Arundel, Howard and Frederick Counties.
The General Assembly appointed county commissioners and people began to take out patents on the land. A few pioneering settlers came to the vicinity of the Patapsco River. In February, 1661, Charles Gorsuch, a Quaker, patented fifty acres at Whetstone Point, where Fort McHenry now stands. He agreed to pay the proprietor, Cecilius Calvert, son of Charles, 61 pounds per year for the use of the land. In June of the same year, David Jones hired Peter Carroll to survey 380 acres along the stream later named the Jones Falls in his honor. He built a house and is said to have been Baltimore's first settler. In 1663 Alexander Mountenay took up two hundred acres along Harford Run, where Central Avenue now lies, which he called " Mountenay's Neck." Later this same land was surveyed for William Fell. In 1668 Thomas Cole patented 550 acres that stretched from Harford Run on the east to what became Howard Street on the west and Madison Street on the north. "Cole's Harbor" became "Todd's Range," when purchased by James Todd, and finally was sold to Charles and Daniel Carroll of Annapolis, who bought that land and more, totalling 1000 acres, in 1696. Also in 1668, "Timber Neck, " lying between the current Howard, Paca and Eutaw Streets, was patented by John Howard. In 1706 Whetstone Point was made a port of entry by act of the legislature. Although a few ships loaded cargo there, it never grew into a town. In 1711, Charles Carroll sold 31 acres to Jonathan Hanson, who erected a mill, probably the first along the Jones Falls.
Life was very primitive in the country surrounding the future town of Baltimore. The best transportation was by water. A few narrow roads traversed the woods. A law of 1704 required that enough trees be cut down to widen the main roads to twenty feet and that roads be marked. The marking system consisted of cutting slashes in tree trunks: one vertical slash on trees beside a road leading to a church and three horizontal lines, two close together and one a bit higher, on roads leading to a county courthouse.
Courts were convened in every county. In 1715 the legislature authorized the Baltimore County court to hold sessions four times a year, on the first Tuesday of March, June, August and November. Court business must have been slight.
Little hard money circulated, either English or provincial silver. In trade with local Indians, some colonists used peake and roanoke, wampum made from shells. Most trade was conducted by barter or by using tobacco as currency.
In Baltimore County, most farmers rolled hogsheads of tobacco to either Joppa or Elkridge Landing for shipment and these towns grew, but slowly. Annapolis was the one city of wealth and status on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
As more people settled along the Patapsco, the need for a town there became apparent. Thus in 1729, a group of leading citizens petitioned the legislature for the establishment of a town. The original plan called for the purchase of the land along the middle branch of the Patapsco belonging to John Moale, a merchant from Devonshire. Moale objected, because he believed that valuable iron ore was located there. Daniel and Charles Carroll then consented to the use of a portion of "Cole's Harbor" on the northwest branch of the river. The sole known resident was John Fleming, a tenant of the Carrolls', whose house stood near what is now the southeast corner of Charles and Lombard Streets.
According to the enabling legislation, sixty acres of land were to be divided into one-acre lots, to be bought in fee simple. The Carrolls would receive 40 shillings an acre in currency or tobacco at the rate of one penny per pound. The buyer of each lot would have to build a house of 400 square feet within 18 months or forfeit his land.
Commissioners were appointed to supervise the design of the town and the sale of lots. The act stated that these town commissioners were to hold their office for life and gave the group the power to fill vacancies as they occurred. The appointed commissioners were "gentlemen of consequence, " including county justices of the peace and delegates to the General Assembly. Their names were specified in the act: Thomas Tolley, William Hamilton, William Buckner, Dr. George Walker, Richard Gist, Dr. George Buchanan, and William Hammond. The fathers of Gist and Hammond had apparently settled in Baltimore County in the late 1600s. Dr. Buchanan and Dr. Walker both practiced medicine.
County surveyor Philip Jones laid out the town. Three streets were built: Calvert Street; Forest Street, now Charles; and Long Street, which became Market, then Baltimore Street. Nine narrow alleys ran between the three streets. Lots were divided and numbered. On January 14, 1730, Charles Carroll, who, as owner of the property had first choice, selected Lot 49 at the corner of Calvert Street and the harbor basin. Philip Jones, with second choice, picked Lot 37, on the basin at the foot of Charles Street. Sixteen other men took up lots that first day, many along the waterfront. The process continued over the next few years with some of the claimants forfeiting their land because of failure to build within eighteen months. Ten years later, some of the forfeited lots were still in the hands of the commissioners. Baltimore was not an instant boom town. Its growth resulted rather from the ingenuity of its citizens and half a century of hard work.
Steiger's Meadows and Harrison's Marsh had separated Baltimore Town and the earlier settlement on the other side of thefalls. In 1726, Richard Gist made a survey of the area for Edward Fell and reported three dwelling houses, several tobacco houses, an orchard, and a mill, Jonathan Hanson's, which stood by the Falls at the present Holliday Street. Edward Fell built a store. He found the area so favorable that he convinced his brother William, a carpenter, to leave Lancashire and join him. William arrived in 1730, and purchased "Copus Harbor," a 100-acre piece of land on Long Island Point. Here William built a house and a shipyard in the vicinity of Lancaster Street, establishing the industry that would bring prosperity and fame to the area later called Fells Point.
Settlers began to build on the land between Hanson's mill and Edward Fell's store, and in 1732 they petitioned the General Assembly to establish a town called Jones's Town. This was done in August and lifetime self-perpetuating commissioners were once again appointed to lay out the lots, which were to be sold subject to a ground rent. Like the first commissioners of Baltimore, these men were well established citizens and landowners. Major Thomas Sheridan had taken up land in the county in 1721. Captain Robert North, one of the original lot owners in Baltimore Town, commanded the ship Content in which he carried freight as early as 1723. Thomas Todd was the son and heir of Captain Thomas Todd who had purchased land in North Point in 1664. John Cockey (whose brother Thomas settled in the Limestone Valley on York Road and gave his name to Cockeysville) purchased land near the Patapsco in 1728. John Boring was a merchant whose father had bought land on Patapsco Neck in 1679.
The commissioners had Philip Jones lay out 10 acres into 20 lots along four streets. Three streets ran parallel with the Jones Falls, one alongside the water and the marsh. The only cross street, now Gay Street, was named Bridge Street after the citizens of the two towns built a bridge across the stream and marsh which divided them. A major civic undertaking for two eighteenth century villages, this bridge could bear the weight of carts and wagons as well as horses and men on foot. More than any other single factor, the bridge made the two towns one. A stipulation of the act of consolidation was that the bridge be public and be maintained by the county.
The merger of Baltimore Town and Jones's Town (also known as Old Town) officially took place on September 28, 1745 by an act that proclaimed " the same Towns, now called Baltimore and Jones's Town be incorporated into one entire town, and for the future be called and known by the name of Baltimore Town and by no other name."
Even before the merger, the small number of people who dwelt along both sides of the Jones Falls began to build the institutions and join in the physical development that would make Baltimore a leading American city in just a few decades.
The first institutional building project began with the vestry of St. Paul's Parish, who purchased Lot 19, the most elevated point of land in Baltimore Town, following an act of the Assembly passed in June, 1730, moving the seat of the parish to the new town from its former location eight miles east. After the return of Protestant monarchs to the British throne with the crowning of William and Mary, the Church of England had become established in Maryland in 1692. This meant that it was supported by tax money. Furthermore, at this time, the vestries were elected by all the voters in each parish. It is worth noting that the only other elected officials in the colony were the delegates to the lower house of the General Assembly.
The building project, directed by the rector, the Rev. William Tibbs, and his successor, the Rev. Joseph Hooper, continued until 1739, when the new church finally stood complete at Charles and Saratoga Streets. It was constructed with the first bricks manufactured in Baltimore - 100,000 of them - made by Charles Wells for 90 pounds. The early church must have been less than resplendant as William Tibbs complained in one of his reports that St. Paul's owned neither "Surplice, pulpit Cloth, Cushion, nor Plate for the Communion Service but Pewter." Time and money improved the situation. The growth of the parish also resulted in the opening of a school at St. Paul's under the supervision of the rector.
After St. Paul's was built, residents began to use brick to construct houses as well. Edward Fottrell, who came from Ireland and bought the land belonging to Jonathan Hanson and George Walker in 1741, built the first brick house in town. It had freestone corners and was the first to reach two stories without a hip-roof. The house stood at the location of the northwest corner of Calvert and Fayette Streets. Before Fottrell's arrival, all the houses and commercial structures were built of wood. This was the case in almost all colonial towns and resulted in one of the greatest common dangers: fire.
A number of fledgling towns were wiped out by fires that swept from building to building and could not be stopped. The wooden structures burned rapidly and fire equipment was almost non-existent. Baltimore's first attempt at dealing with this problem came in a 1747 regulation, promulgated by the commissioners, which stated that housekeepers would be subject to a 10 shilling fine if they did not "keep a ladder high enough to extend to the top of the roof of such house, or if their chimnies blazed out at top. " If a fire did break out, all the townspeople grabbed a bucket and rushed to the burning structure. At night, two men led the way; one carrying a torch, the other blowing a fog horn. This system of fire protection left much to be desired. Baltimore pioneered an improvement when a group of volunteer firemen who had organized themselves into the Mechanical Company in 1763 six years later discovered a hand fire engine on board a Dutch ship that was anchored in the harbor. They bought the machine for 99 pounds (or $264) and named it the "Dutchman." The city could boast that it had a fire engine ten years before Boston and thirty years before Paris.
The other major problem faced by all colonial towns was filth. Early streets were unpaved, dusty on dry days and muddy on wet ones. Horses drew vehicles through the streets. Most animals roamed at will through the towns. Often hogs served as the only garbage collectors. Baltimore's first attempt to clean up the streets took the form of a law included in the act for the merger of Baltimore Town and Jones's Town. Section 11 required that, "None shall keep or raise any swine, geese, or sheep within the said town, unless they be inclosed within some lot or pen." A further sanitary regulation of 1751 revealed another problem:
whereas several persons permit stinking fish, dead creatures or carron to lie on their Lotts or in the Streets near their Doors which are very offensive Nusances and contrary to act of Assembly the Commissioners therefore Order the Clerk to put up advertisements to inform such Persons that they are to remove them .
The animals apparently continued to roam in and out of town. In 1746 the commissioners hired Captain Robert North to build a fence around the area that was formerly Jones Town. Then in 1748 the townsfolk generally took up a subscription to build a post and rail fence around all of Baltimore Town and to keep it in repair. Although many people said later that the fence was to keep out Indians, the subscription paper specifically referred to the prohibition on raising hogs or geese in town. Robert North, William Hammond, Thomas Chase, Richard Chase, Darby Lux, William Rogers and William Lyon all contributed 10 pounds while others joined them with smaller amounts. By 1750, the fence was complete. Two gates, one at the west end of Market Street and one at the upper part of Bridge Street, permitted vehicular entry. A smaller portal, at the top of Charles Street, near St. Paul's Church, opened for foot passengers. Protection against intruders, whether human or animal, apparently was of less concern to people than the cold winters. Within several years most of the fence had disappeared for use as kindling in local fireplaces. The town commissioners tried to prosecute the offenders but found that they had no legal authority to do so and therefore in November 1752 ordered the rest of the wood sold before it, too, disappeared.
As the population grew, Baltimore Town could support a growing variety of industries and businesses. The success of Hanson's mill led to the establishment of other mills and soon bakeries. The manufacturing of bricks continued. In 1743, Captain Darby Lux opened the first tannery in town, on Exeter Street, and produced leather goods like harnesses, saddles, and buckets. In 1746 Dr. William Lyon and Mr. Brian Philpot joined as partners in the town's first drug store, located at Market and Calvert Streets.
In the late 1740s, Germans began to immigrate from Pennsylvania. The influx led to the opening of establishments for the spinning of wool and flax and the weaving of linens and wool, as well as the manufacture of leather goods. In 1748, two German brothers who moved to Baltimore Town from York, Leonard and Daniel Barnetz, erected the Town's first brewery, located at the southwest corner of Baltimore and Hanover Streets.
Most manufactured goods still were imported from England. The most common export was tobacco. Regular shipments of tobacco from Baltimore began in 1742. Farmers from throughout the area rolled their hogsheads of tobacco along the "rolling roads" to the harbor. By the year 1747 seven ships called at the port of Baltimore. In 1748, fifteen arrived, all bound for London. In 1750, residents built a tobacco inspection warehouse on the west side of Charles Street and began the construction of a public wharf. Individuals had been encouraged to build structures along the harbor by a section of the 1745 merger act which provided that "all Improvements of what kind soever, Either Wharves, Houses, or other Buildings, that have, or shall be made out of the Water, or where it usually flows, as an Encouragement to such improvers be forever deemed the Right, Title, and Inheritance of such Improver or Improvers, their Heirs and Assigns for ever. " Most early builders of wharves benefitted from this provision and added water territory to their holdings free of cost while at the same time increasing the town's capacity for trade.
Before beginning a chronicle of the phenomenal economic growth of the young town, it is worth pausing to look at Baltimore in 1752. A drawing and several documents from that year provide a good picture of the small town just before a major spurt of growth transformed Baltimore into a major city.
A boyhood drawing by John Moale, son of the man who declined to sell his land for the erection of the town, depicts each structure in the original Baltimore Town. The drawing does not include most of the former Jones Town or nearby settlements like Fells Point. In his sketch, John Moale showed twenty-five houses, four made of brick. St. Paul's, the only church, stands high on the hill. Two taverns, Payne's and Kaminsky's, hosted by William Rogers, lie closer to the harbor. The traditional gathering places for all colonial communities were the churches and taverns. It is fair to assume that Baltimore Town's two taverns and one church served that function here. Taverns especially provided a meeting place for people of high and low class, all religions, permanent residents and travellers bearing news. Of all the structures in Moale's picture, Kaminsky's Tavern stood the longest. The sketch also shows the Barnetz brothers' brewery, the tobacco inspection house, a barber shop and an insurance office.
Craftsmen generally ran their businesses from their houses. An early listing of the heads of household indicates the variety of services already available only 23 years after the founding of the town. This record of 1752 is considered one of the earliest census accounts put together in any American town. It tantalizes as much as it contributes but is, in any case, worth including. Thirty names appear, some with descriptions:
Capt. Lucas, Wm. Rogers, Nich. Rogers, Dr. Wm. Lyon, Thomas Harrison, Alex. Lawson, Bryan Philpot, Nick Ruxton GaM, James Cary (innkeeper), Parson Chase, Mr. Paine, Chris Carnan, Dame Hughes (the only midwife among English folk), Chs. Constable, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Goldsmith, Mr. Jno. Moore, Mr. Sheppard (tailor), Bill Adams (barber), Geo. Strebeck (only wagoner, drove a single team), Jake Keeports (carpenter), Conrad Smith, Captain Dunlop, Jack Crosby (carpenter), Bob Lance (cooper), Philip Littig (whose wife was accoucheuse among the German population ), John Wood, Hilt Stanwitch (laborer), Nancy Low, Mr. Gwinn.
People whose names do not appear in this census would include wives and children of the men listed, black slaves, and servants and convict workers who came from Ireland, Scotland and England. Although in the 1600s some Africans came with indentures or contracts to work a limited number of years, by the 1750s most were slaves for life unless they were legally manumitted. Convict workers, often prisoners because of their political opposition to the English government or refugees from debtors' prison, had limited terms after which they became free. Many servants, under a 1638 law, worked for four years and then received 50 acres of land and a year's provision of corn. Slaves and servants frequently ran away. The advertisements for runaways printed in the Annapolis Maryland Gazette, the nearest newspaper, show that many such workers were not content with their lot and left to seek their fortunes elsewhere. No count of servants and slaves exists for Baltimore Town, but one such listing for the entire county in 1752 is presented by J. Thomas Scharf in his Chronicles of Baltimore. He enumerated: free whites, 11,345; white servants and convicts, 1,501; black and mulatto slaves, 4,143; free blacks and mulattos, 204. The population in town thus included a wide range of people, many born in America and many immigrants of varied nationalities. The town's wealthier leaders shared English, Scottish and Irish backgrounds. Servants and convict workers came from those same countries. Slaves were of African ancestry. An increasing number of craftsmen and manufacturers were Germans, many of them recent immigrants from Pennsylvania.
By 1752 Baltimore Town was lucky enough to have a school, not as common an occurrence in towns south of Philadelphia as it was further north, especially in New England. Scharf wrote that the school was located at South and Water Streets and was kept by Mr. James Gardner. Either the demand for education was greater than Mr. Gardner could meet or something caused the need for a new teacher. In February and March 1752, the Maryland Gazette ran a notice: "Wanted Person of a good sober Character, who understands Teaching English, Writing, and Arithmetic, and will undertake a School. Such a Person well recommended, will meet with very good Encouragement from the Inhabitants of Baltimore Town." Any school in Baltimore during this period would have been limited to white children whose parents were able to pay tuition sufficient to support the teacher and maintain the building.
In 1752, Baltimore seemed little different from many small colonial towns with a church, a school, several taverns, and craft shops increasing as rapidly as the population could support them. The difference is that Baltimore grew into a city while hundreds of others remained small towns or faded into oblivion. The colonial towns that did succeed, like Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Baltimore, shared several characteristics. Their wealth was based on trade. All were situated on good natural harbors. All drew on productive hinterlands to which good access was established early. And all enjoyed the leadership of a group of merchants and other citizens who recognized the potential and knew how to make it work, for their own profit as well as that of the town as a whole. This mercantile leadership in Baltimore represented both descendants of early settlers and new immigrants. Some began with money, some with just a skill and an idea. The town and the surrounding countryside depended on each other for their growth. The hinterland produced the raw products which were either transformed into some saleable item or taken into town for shipment to another colony or to England. The countryside also provided a market for manufactured goods imported by the town's merchants and goods and services sold by its craftsmen and business people.
Baltimore's earliest trade, like that of much of Maryland, depended on tobacco. The real boom came because of the realization that another product, for which demand was even greater, could be shipped through Baltimore. That product was wheat, which was grown by farmers in Western Maryland and Pennsylvania. A Scotch-Irish Presbyterian who immigrated from Londonderry in 1745, Dr. John Stevenson, first recognized the potential. He and Captain Benjamin North joined forces and in 1758 shipped 1000 bushels of wheat to New York. Their small schooner, Sharp Packet, also carried one hogshead of tobacco, 15 barrels of flour, 16 barrels of bread, and one barrel of beeswax. A week after its return from the first voyage, the Sharp Packet sailed for Newport, Rhode Island with 900 bushels of wheat. William Lux, John Ridgely and others quickly joined in the profitable new export trade and Baltimore boomed. Soon ships sailed for the West Indies and Great Britain carrying wheat and locally milled flour and baked ship's bread. Mills sprung up rapidly, along both Jones's Falls and Gwynn's Falls, to meet the rising demand. Jonathan Hanson's original mill site, sold to Edward Fell, passed into the hands of William Moore and thence to Joseph Ellicott in partnership with John and Hugh Burgess. Joseph Ellicott returned to Pennsylvania but moved to the area again in 1772 and along with his brothers, John and Andrew, established the very successful Ellicott's Mills on the Patapsco River upstream from Baltimore.
The real secret to the success of the milling and shipping of grain and its products lay in the opening of roads between Baltimore and western Maryland and central and eastern Pennsylvania. The early roads made it easier and faster for the farmers to sell their grain through the port of Baltimore than through Philadelphia which was reached by a longer and more strenuous journey. From its earliest days, Baltimore was in communication with Annapolis and Philadelphia by the Great Eastern Road and the northern route of the post road used for inter-colonial mail. In 1745, citizens of Baltimore and York, Pennsylvania completed a wagon road connecting their two cities. In that same decade, roads were built from Baltimore to Reisterstown and on up to Gettysburg and Hanover, Pennsylvania. Later in the century a road was built going eastward, through Bel Air and Rising Sun in Maryland and Oxford, Pennsylvania. More and more farmers, many of them Germans, settled in the areas opened up by the new road system and shipped their products through Baltimore. Countryside and city prospered together.
Letters from contemporary residents and visitors written to friends and relatives attest to the success. After Governor Horatio Sharp visited Baltimore in February 1754 amid a great celebration of parades, a dance and fireworks, he reported to Lord Baltimore that the town "has the Appearance of the most increasing Town in the Province." William Otley wrote from Baltimore in 1761 to John Cook in Northumberland encouraging him to emigrate: " . . . this place is excellently situated for Trade . . . and the Country about well adapted for Farming and Grasing, the Land in General Producing good Wheat and without Manure . . . and the demand for Wheat is Large, a good Quantity of Oats and Barley might be sold. Green peas might be Introduced for feeding Hogs Instead of Indian Corn which is the Bane of the Land. . . " Edward Cook, joining the effort to convince his brother to move to Baltimore, wrote that there were: "All sorts of Mechanicks . . . Masons, Brickmakers, Brick layers, Carpenters, Wheelwrights, Shoemakers, Barbers, Gardners, Sad lers, Watchmakers, Butchers . . . ," and that "Building is going fast on and [the town] cannot get workmen." He added that "Horses tare] dear, servants very scarce." Edward Cook noted some interesting figures : that seven years' service of a convict sold for 12-15 pounds and Negro slaves sold for 40-60 pounds, sometimes more. Compare to this a few consumer prices he recorded: wheat for 3 pence a bushel, beef and mutton for 2 to 3 pence a pound, and hay for 50 pence a ton.
William Eddis, the Royal Collector of the Port of Annapolis, wrote to friends in London ten years later in 1771:
This place, which is named Baltimore, in compliment to the Proprietary's family, is situated on the northern branch of the river Patapsco . . . Within these few years some scattered cottages were only to be found on this spot, occupied by obscure storekeepers, merely for the supply of the adjacent plantations. But the peculiar advantages it possesses, with respect to the trade of the frontier counties of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, so strongly impressed the mind of Mr. John Stevenson, an Irish gentleman who had settled in the vicinity in a medical capacity, that he first conceived the important project of rendering this port the grand emporium of Maryland commerce. . . Persons of a commercial and enterprising spirit emigrated from all quarters to this new and promising scene of industry. Wharfs were constructed; elegant and convenient habitations were rapidly erected; marshes were drained; spacious fields were occupied for the purposes of general utility; and within forty years from its first commencement, Baltimore became not only the most wealthy and populous town in the Province, but inferior to few on this Continent.
The town certainly did thrive, and not just because of the wheat trade. Baltimore also became a center of a growing iron industry. The area's first successful smelting enterprise, the Principio Company based in Cecil County, was founded in 1715 by a group of British iron-masters, merchants, and investors. The firm eventually bought 30,000 acres of land to supply wood for its furnaces and needed the labor of over 100 slaves. In 1731, a group of influential Marylanders, among them Daniel Dulany, the elder, Benjamin Tasker, Sr., Dr. Charles Carroll, Charles Carroll, Esq., and Daniel Carroll, established the Baltimore Ironworks Company. Ironworks expanded and the products exported through the ports of Baltimore and Fells Point proliferated.
Fells Point was laid off as a town in 1763, and divided into streets with English names like Thames and Shakespeare and alleys called Strawberry, Apple, Happy and Petticoat. Fells Point proved a formidable rival and major shipbuilding center. Following William Fell's example and determined to benefit from the combined advantages of the natural harbor and the nearby supplies of wood and iron, other men flocked to open more shipyards and to build wharves and warehouses. Benjamin Griffith, a shipwright from Cecil County, purchased a waterfront lot as did Captain Charles Ridgely. Samuel Purviance, who came from Ireland by way of Philadelphia, erected a distillery in Baltimore and bought a waterfront lot in Fells Point. The shipbuilding industry and Fells Point prospered together and eventually made a major contribution to Baltimore's growth.
A group of new immigrants helped foster the shipbuilding industry. Many ship carpenters and mariners were among the Acadians who arrived in Baltimore in 1756. These French-speaking refugees from Nova Scotia left their homes in the Canadian maritime province when the British wrested control from the French. They were forcibly dispersed throughout the colonies. Longfellow wrote their tale in his narrative poem Evangeline.
The Acadians, having been forced to leave most of their possessions behind, arrived in Baltimore almost destitute. A public subscription was taken up to provide aid. Some of the refugees were sheltered in private homes and a large number stayed at the two-story brick house abandoned by Edward Fottrell when he returned to Ireland. Eventually many of the Acadians settled along South Charles Street near Lombard in an area that Baltimoreans began to call French Town. Many built primitive cabins of mud and mortar, which they gradually replaced with frame houses.
Another group of refugees that swelled Baltimore's population in the mid-1750s came from Western Maryland following the defeat of British General Edward Braddock in the French and Indian War. Indian allies of the French pushed past Fort Cumberland and Fort Frederick to within 50 miles of the city, driving many fleeing settlers before them. Some Baltimoreans panicked fearing that they too would be subject to attack and boarded ships in the harbor, but the attack never materialized. Instead, Baltimore gained settlers who left the west or were prevented from moving westward and it grew accordingly as a market. The war effort occasioned a rather peculiar tax that remained in effect from 1756 to 1762. All bachelors 25 years of age and over had to pay, 5 shillings a year if they had property worth 100-300 pounds, 20 shillings if worth over 300.
The growth in population spurred the increase of institutions and services that required the support of the greater number of residents. Churches, particularly, proliferated as various groups grew large enough to form a congregation and undertake a building project. In view of the large number of German immigrants, it is not surprising that they built the second church in town.
The first German Reformed congregation was founded around 1750. In 1756 they invited the Rev. John Christian Faber to become their pastor and began the building of a church just north of St. Paul's on Charles Street. The local Lutherans worshipped with them; then they built their own church in 1758 on Fish Street (now Saratoga Street). This congregation, the only Lutheran one until 1824, later built the church on Gay Street, the original Zion Lutheran Church, where services in German are still held. The church opened a school in 1769 where courses were taught in the German language.
When the Acadians arrived in Baltimore in 1756, the nearest Catholic priest resided 15 miles away at the Carrolls' Daughoregan Manor. They converted a room of Edward Fottrell's house into a chapel and the Rev. John Ashton came once a month to celebrate Mass for a congregation of 20 to 40 French and a few Irish Catholics. Around 1770, Baltimore Catholics determined to build a thurch on a lot at Charles and Saratoga donated by Charles Carroll. St. Peter's was not completed until 1783 because of financial difficulties and the intervention of the Revolutionary War.
In 1763, a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, including Drs. John and Henry Stevenson, Robert Purviance, John Brown, Benjamin Griffith and William Spear, leased two lots at the corner of Fayette and Gay Streets and erected a small log meeting house. Several years later they p urchased a lot at Fayette and North and built a larger structure.
Ministers of the fervently emotional evangelical Great Awakening conducted revival meetings in Baltimore. George Whitefield preached here in 1740. New denominations like Methodists and Baptists grew out of this movement away from Calvinist coldness and from the formality and corruption of the Church of England. Methodist leader Francis Asbury preached in Fells Point in 1772 and in the following year a group which included Richard Moale, Jesse Hollingsworth and George Wells built the first Methodist meeting house in Strawberry Alley in Fells Point. The Baptists also erected their first meeting house in 1773. It stood at Front and Fayette Streets. Quakers had lived in the area of Baltimore since its beginnings, but until 1781 their log meeting house stood outside the town limits on Harford Road.
Not only churches but large homes and a variety of public structures began to proliferate from the 1750s on, transforming Baltimore from a town to the city it had become on the eve of the Revolutionary War. In 1753, Baltimoreans, including John Stevenson, Richard Chase, John Moale, William and Nicholas Rogers, John Ridgely, Nicholas Ruxton Gay, William Lux and Brian Philpot, managed a lottery to raise money to build a public wharf. In 1754, great effort went into rebuilding after the Jones Falls flooded and washed away the bridge and most of the mills. The same year saw the erection of several famous mansions, among them Mount Clare by Charles Carroll the Barrister (a cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton) and Parnassus by Dr. Henry Stevenson (brother of John) along York Road. According to legend, this house was called "Stevenson's Folly" by townspeople jealous of its elegance.
In 1769, Baltimoreans had cause to be thankful, when Dr. Henry Stevenson turned "Parnassus" into a smallpox hospital and began innoculating local citizens. Smallpox was one of the scourges of colonial settlements, capable of wiping out large numbers of people in one epidemic. Those who could, often fled rather than trust their fate to the as yet unproven vaccinations. In 1757, a smallpox epidemic in Annapolis had driven the members of the legislature to Baltimore to hold their sessions. In 1771, Dr. Stevenson advertised in The Maryland Gazette that: "he continued Innoculations the Year round after the most improved American Manner: his Patients are not at all confined to the House, nor disagreeably restrained in their Diet. Those who incline to put themselves under his Care, are requested not to alter their Way of living before they come to be innoculated, as a long Course of successful Practise has shown it hurtful instead of beneficial. Negroes are insured at five percent on their value." He noted further that twenty-two people who had been innoculated had recently been exposed to smallpox without contracting the disease.
Another edifice which served the city well was its first market, erected in 1763 with 3000 pounds raised by a lottery. An effort, in 1751, to raise funds by subscription had failed, so it was not until twelve years later that a majority of town commissioners, including William Lyon, Nicholas Gay, John Moale, and Archibald Buchanan, leased the land at the northwest corner of Baltimore and Gay Streets from Thomas Harrison and oversaw the construction of the two-story market house. Many colonial markets were built with a large hall on the second floor to be used for public meetings, dances, travelling shows and other entertainments. Baltimore followed this pattern. An ordinance of 1773 set the market days as Wednesday and Saturday from early morning till twelve noon.
One event that signaled the success of the town was the removal of the county seat from Joppa to Baltimore in 1768. When the move was announced, the townsfolk collected 900 pounds to pay for building the new courthouse. Court was held in the room over the market house until the new two-story brick building with a tall lookout and spire was erected high on Calvert Street, where the Battle Monument now stands. A whipping post, pillory and stocks stood in front of the courthouse and a jail was built a bit further out from town. The citizens of Joppa resented their town's loss in status and resisted Alexander Lawson's removal of the records with some violence. Despite that, Baltimore Town became the county seat.
The growth in population and status not withstanding, formal amusements remained scant until after the Revolution. Horse races were always popular and easy to arrange since they required neither a building nor special equipment. At least as early as 1745 fairs were held in Baltimore at which the main events were races. Once the market house had been constructed, indoor events could be planned. One William Johnson advertised in July, 1764 ; "For the Entertainment of the Curious, Will be Exhibited at the Market House in Baltimore Town, a Course of Experiments in that instructive and entertaining Branch of Natural Philosophy, called Electricity. To be accompanied with Lectures on the Nature and Property of the Electric Fire. " This sort of spectacular lecture and also travelling exhibitions of oddities and freaks of nature provided a common form of entertainment during the colonial period.
The first known regular theatrical performance was produced by the British touring company of Lewis Hallam in a large warehouse at the corner of Baltimore and Frederick Streets.
Baltimore received the theatricals with such enthusiasm that the company constructed a small theater at the corner of King George's (now Lombard) Street and Albemarle. The repertory companies that toured the colonies produced standard British theatrical fare, plays by Shakespeare, Addison, Farquhar, Sheridan and others. Maryland never had the prohibitions against dramatic productions that the Puritan and Quaker colonies further north did and thus both Annapolis, quite early, and Baltimore later became centers of theatrical performance.
Colonial towns did not escape consumer fads and marketing ventures. Scharf in his Chronicles made the following notation for 1772: "In this year the first efforts were made in Baltimore to introduce the use of umbrellas as a defence from the sun and rain. They were then scouted as ridiculous effeminacy. On the other hand, the physicians recommended them to keep off vertigos, epilepsies, sore-eyes, fevers, etc. Finally, as the doctors were their chief patrons, they were generally adopted. They were of oiled linen, very coarse and clumsy, with rattan sticks, and were imported from India by way of England.
In 1773 Baltimore grew both territorially and economically with the annexation of 80 acres of Fells Point. The unification of the two towns helped end their rivalry and joined their resources to the eventual profit of both. By the outbreak of the Revolution, Baltimore had become one of the colonies' foremost cities. Before beginning to trace the conflict which finally led to the War for Independence, it is worth pausing to look at Baltimore in 1773. The year was marked by "firsts" that signaled the continuing growth of the town.
In November 1773, the Assembly established the first Alms House and an adjoining Work House for Baltimore Town and County. Refugees from the frontier areas, widows and children, men without jobs and disabled persons had grown in number to the point where they were a burden on the town. The Alms House and Work House provided refuge for both white and black people who had nowhere else to go. The hope was always that temporary relief would allow the recipients of the public support to become self-sustaining soon again. The buildings were constructed on land bought from William Lux for 350 pounds (property values were going up), located on the square bounded by Howard, Eutaw, Biddle and Garden Streets.
The Assembly appointed a group of leading citizens as trustees: Charles Ridgely, William Lux, John Moale, William Smith, and Samuel Purviance of Baltimore Town, and Andrew Buchanan and Harry Dorsey Gough of the County. It is interesting to note the overlapping directorates that existed even before the Revolution.
A major first for Baltimore in 1773 was the establishment of the town's own newspaper, the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser.
Publisher William Goddard brought out the first issue on Friday, August 20. The paper appeared weekly thereafter and provided Baltimore with a source of news and communication far preferable in terms of local matters to the copies of the Maryland Gazette previously imported from Annapolis. Goddard had printed the Pennsylvania Chronicle in Philadelphia from 1767 to 1773, when he was forced to cease publication because of his pro-Tory leanings. In Baltimore Goddard opened up shop on Market Street, set up his presses, and began producing his journal. The papers carried world and local news, features including kitchen helps and poetry, and a lot of advertising. Goddard travelled frequently and when he did, Mary Katherine Goddard, his sister, edited and published the newspaper. She later became the Postmistress of Baltimore, a job she held for 15 years.
Perusal of the early issues of the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser gives a good indication of what life was like just before the conflict with Britain. In the two decades since 1752, life had obviously became easier in terms of the availability of goods and services attainable locally. Benjamin Levy, for example, advertised that his store carried imported wines, spices, corks for bottles, tea, coffee, chocolate, buckets, pails, fine pickled salmon, Irish beef, rose blankets, English cloth, rugs, felt hats, silk, cloth umbrellas, and sundry other articles. Another shopkeeper, John Flanagan, advertised port wine from London, Lisbon wine, Malaga wine, West India and New England rum, tea, coffee, chocolate, allspice, ginger, raisins, sugar, indigo, cotton, soap, etc. Although weavers made cloth locally, Baltimore merchants continued to import cloth. In September 1773, Clark's Warehouse featured a newly arrived shipment of Yorkshire broaddoths which brought from 3 to 15 shillings a yard. Hugh Young was selling Irish linens for 10 pence to 3 shillings a yard.
Frequently the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser published lists of prices current in Baltimore. These included food products like wheat at 6 shillings 6 pence a bushel, corn at 2 shillings 9 pence a dozen, superfine flour at 20 shillings, West Indian rum at 3 shillings 6 pence a gallon, salt at 2 shillings a bushel, pork at 85 shillings a barrel, 100 feet of pine board for 7 shillings 6 pence, and cotton at 18 pence per pound.
Skilled craftsmen sold both services and products to the townspeople. Watchmaker Jacob Mohler maintained a shop on South Street. Christopher Hughes and Company, Goldsmiths and Jewelers, sold tea pots, flatware, buckles, rings, chains and combs in a shop at Market and Gay Streets. Francis Sanderson, a coppersmith, sold his own goods as well as
kettles, pots and pans imported from England. Although all these goods were available,
they were fairly expensive, compared to the wages of a working man. At this time, a day laborer during the harvest earned 1 to 2 shillings a day. A regular farmhand earned 8 to 10 pounds a year. A teacher earned 15 to 30 pounds a year. (Twelve shillings equals one pound). Clearly only the elite could afford more than the necessities.
Many problems still plagued the young city. The streets remained unpaved and rather dirty. Fire continued as a major hazard although the Mechanical Company and its "Dutchman" offered more effective relief than had been available previously. The approximately ten doctors and Henry Stevenson's innoculating hospital couldn't remove the threat of fevers and epidemics which periodically swept through all cities, leaving many dead in their wake.
Crime troubled city residents even then. A September 1773 issue of Goddard's paper included this account of the robbery of a prominent Baltimore physician and druggist:
On Saturday night last, the house of Dr. John Boyd, of the Town, was broke open, and sundry goods taken away. The Thief or Thieves appear to have forced their Way through a Window, by first boring a Shutter with a Gimlet, and then introducing a small saw, with which an Hole was made large enough for the Admission of a Finger, by which the Key that secured the Window, was pushed out, and entrance obtained.
The list of stolen goods included clothing, surgical instruments and a pair of pistols. These apparently were sold around town as the article summarized : "Many of the Goods have not yet been recovered, but the Persons with whom they are lodged will, no Doubt, think it prudent, after this Notification, to return them to their Owner, without further inquiry, as they now know them to be stolen goods. "Not only would the holder of the goods know them to be stolen, but so would most of their neighbors who had read the article.
In 1773, Baltimore combined the characteristics of a colonial city and a small town. With a population of just under 6000, it was small enough that most people could still know each other. Certainly all the leading citizens and merchants and their families knew each other and probably most of the other residents as well. Although much smaller than the older cities like Philadelphia with 40,000 people and New York with 25,000, Baltimore offered a wide variety of goods and services to its inhabitants and was receiving widespread attention for its remarkable growth rate.
The town's population was quite cosmopolitan, including an increasing number of children and grandchildren of Baltimoreans, natives and immigrants with backgrounds in England, Scotland, Ireland, the west coast of Africa, Germany, and France. People spoke English or German, and a few spoke both. A wide variety of religious groups including Anglicans, Quakers, German Lutherans, followers of the German Reformed tradition, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists, were represented. In 1773, Baltimore's first permanent Jewishish residents settled. Benjamin Levy, the shopkeeper, and his wife Rachel and their son, Robert Morris Levy, who had been named for their good friend and future financeer of the Revolution, came from Philadelphia.
The war soon to come, with all its factionalization, would serve to lessen divisiveness based on religion and ethnicity. Baltimore would go into the Revolution with a cosmopolitan population typical of America's leading cities and a thriving economy based primarily on the success of the port. When the trauma of war ended, the city was ready to continue the pattern begun during its first forty-four years.
© Suzanne Ellery Greene 2/9/1997
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