Newsletter of
The Maryland State Archives
by Pat Melville

As usual for the colonial period, information about roads in Baltimore County appears as short entries in the court minutes, as recorded through 1756 in (Proceedings) in series C400. The books contain the administrative and judicial minutes and the recorded criminal and civil proceedings of the county court.
Normally the clerks placed the minutes at the beginning of the record for each court term, followed by proceedings of the cases being heard. Beginning in 1755, the clerks recorded the minutes separately in (Minutes) in series C386. Both series were sampled for the availability of notations about roads. Records for 1726-1727, 1748-1749, 1752-1753, and 1764 are not extant. 

Also consulted was Henry C. Peden, Jr., Baltimore County Overseers of Roads, 1693-1793 (Westminster: Family Line Publications, 1992). The author transcribed from the minutes the names of overseers appointed by the court along with associated descriptions of the roads. 

The first entry concerning roads involved the appointment of Thomas Hooker as an overseer in place of George Norman in November 1693. At the same session, Edward Boothby was presented for failure to work on the roads. 

Initially, the appointment of overseers was based on a hundred or part of a hundred, such as the upper or lower portion. Gradually, the geographical descriptions became more specific. In November 

 1709, the justices appointed Henry Butler, a carpenter, as overseer for the area from Gwins Falls to Jones Falls and the back roads between the falls. By 1728, when the first full list of roads was recorded, the court assigned a specific group of roads to each official. The number of overseers and, by extension, groups of roads grew from fifteen in 1728 to fifty-eight in 1754 and then to seventy nine in 1763. 

These road lists appear regularly throughout the court minutes and thus provide a fairly comprehensive list of public roads over time. Descriptive examples include: 

  •      From the end of Edward Hall'splantationto the Red Lyon Bridge where the old church stood, then over the long bridge to St. George's Church, and then to Rev. Stephen Wilkinson's at the glebe 
  •      Long Calm of Gunpowder Falls toEdward Riston's plantation at Garrisons Ridge 
  •      From Jones Quarter to the Iron Worksand the Indian Road out of that road to Gwins Falls, from Jones Road to Gists Mill, from the Lower Wading Place of the Main Falls of Patapsco to the Second Wading Place of Gwins Falls, from the Fording Place of Davis Run to Moales Point, from the Iron Works to     William Hammond's, from the Lower Fording Place of Gwins Falls to Moales Point, and the Ragland Roads to Moales Point. 

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ROADS (continued from Page 1)

The overseer system of road maintenance sometimes failed to function properly. Overseers might neglect their duties, or taxpayers might forget to provide labor. In 1745, David Thomas complained about the lack of an overseer for almost two years for the roads from Ignatius Wheeler's to Thomas Bond, Sr.'s and from William Grafton's to the quarter of Thomas Bond, Jr. to Jacob Bull's mill. Thomas nominated William Grafton, Sr., Daniel Preston, and Benjamin Colegate. The court selected Preston and added two more roads to his jurisdiction - from Thomas' quarter along the north side of Deer Creek to William Grafton's and from the head of the race ground between Rigdon's and Robert Clark's old place to Isaac Butterworth's. 

Other petitions pertained to the establishment of new roads, alteration of routes, and obstructions. In 1717, Thomas Hughs requested a road to his house from Patapsco Ferry Landing through the plantation of Nicholas Fitsimonds, and the court agreed. In August 1717 the justices again ordered that this road be cleared, but not until the last day of November. The reason for the postponement of work was not given. The inhabitants of My Ladys Manor in 1742 asked for and received a road through the manor to connect with the main road to Joppa. 

Through a grant from Lord Baltimore, Thomas Cresap operated a ferry over the Susquehanna River between Conjaulagh and Blew Rock. In 1733 he petitioned for a road from his house to Peter Hance's. The justices granted the request, and made Cresap the overseer to clear it along the "connestage" road with alterations as needed. 

For several years, county residents on the north side of Deer Creek tried to obtain a road from the late Col. Rigbie's to the Susquehannah Ford, commonly

called the Bald Frier Landing. The court had approved the road, but the route remained uncleared. In August 1756, the inhabitants filed a new petition, stressing additional urgency, especially with a ferry being kept across from the landing where a store has been built. The road was needed for taking crops to market and for travel to Lancaster. The petitioners suggested a different route - from the Chapel adjoining John Dunn's land and continuing to near the house of John West and then down the river. The justices designated three persons to lay out the road and file a report, and approved their plan in November. 

Citizens could clear their own roads, sometimes with permission in advance or approval after the fact. Samuel Howell had cleared a road through his plantation from the main road leading to Susquehannah Lower Ferry and wanted the court to accept it as being more convenient and dryer than the existing low and swampy road. Dr. Charles Carroll had promised to clear, at his own expense, a new road from his mill race on Gwinns Falls to the main road leading from Baltimore Town to the falls at a small run near Charles Ridgeley's. The court appointed two men to view the road upon its completion and accept it as a public road if meeting specifications. 

When roads interfered with farm operations, the land owners usually petitioned for realignment of the routes. George Ogg, in 1710, requested a route change before a road was cleared because it was marked to go through his corn and wheat fields without his input. The justices had ordered Henry Butler to realign the Garrison Road to Patapsco. The court agreed to reconsider the route and appointed three men to consult with the inhabitants of the area. 

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Through disuse or neglect roads became overgrown and obstacles to travel. With enough demand the court would order such roads reopened. In June 1755 Richard Johns was appointed overseer to open the old Quaker Road from William Perkin's ferry to the road leading from Durbin's old plantation to the Susquehanna lower ferry. Isaac Wood was assigned the part from where it intersected the road from Durbin's old plantation to the Susquehanna lower ferry along Thomas Horner's land to the main road at John Critchet's. 

Petitions, court orders, lists of roads, and appointments of overseers taken together provide a firm basis for an analysis of surface transportation in colonial Baltimore County which then included the present counties of Carroll and Harford. 

by Pat Melville 

Encountered during the review of the minutes 
of the Baltimore County Court for entries about roads were court orders for the division of hundreds, the administrative units within the county, predecessors of election districts. The entries are being offered as examples of unexpected treasures to be found in the records of routine business of government. The boundaries of most hundreds in Maryland seldom were described in state or county records. In November 1755 the Baltimore County justices divided Soldiers Delight Hundred into three hundreds, now part of Carroll County: 

  •      Lower Soldiers Delight Hundred.  The division line to run along the Indian Road, which comes across from Back River Upper 
Hundred near Dutton Lane, Sr., to the residence of James Dawkins on the main falls of Patapsco, then down the falls to Patapsco Upper Hundred. 
  •      Delaware Hundred. The north division line to begin where the old Indian Road crossed the main falls of Patapsco at the residence of James Dawkins and to follow the Indian Road to the Frederick County line. 
  •      Pipe Creek Hundred. To include all of the county (not included in Middle River or Back River Upper Hundreds) north of the old Indian Road.
At the same court session Middle River Upper Hundred was divided into two parts by a line from the mouth of Black Run to the upper fork of Gunpowder Falls at Nehemiah Hick's land. The area northwest of that line was named North Hundred. 

In November 1761, the court split Baltimore Town Hundred into two parts, with Jones Falls as the division line. The area west of the line was called Baltimore Town West Hundred, and to the east Baltimore Town East Hundred. 

An examination of the minutes not sampled for road information could reveal additional descriptions of the boundaries of hundreds. 


    (Civil Docket, Index) 1971-1987 
    [MSA T3505] 
    (Criminal Docket, Index) 1971-1980 
    [MSA T3506] 
    (Special Proceedings Docket, Index) 
    1984-1991 [MSA T3518] 

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    (Civil Docket, Index) 1971-1987
    [MSA T3517] 
    (Criminal Docket, Index) 1971-1987 
    [MSA T3503] 
    (Special Proceedings Docket, Index) 
    1988-1991 [MSA T3504] 

    (Civil Docket, Index) 1987-2000
    [MSA T3444]