Damascus Emergency Preparedness
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Damascus History

 
 
  In 1630, John Winthrop, speaking to the Pilgrims, said, "We must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us."

Even as those early settlers realized that they were setting an example, so we in Damascus should realize that we have an opportunity to set an example. We have traditionally had a strong sense of community, which has been envied by our neighboring towns.

From the early 1800's to the present, Damascus has been a commercial center for the rural communities which surround it. Its significance is based upon its historic role as a crossroads community providing goods and services to travelers and residents of the area.

Located at the highest point in the county and at the intersection of two important early roads, the Old Quaker Road (Route 27) and the Damascus - Laytonsville Road (Route 108). The town of Damascus was founded in 1816 by Edward Hughes, who laid out the town and was appointed its first postmaster by the fourth president of the United States, James Madison.

The town is first mentioned on April 30, 1816 when Edward Hughes received approval from Congress for a postal route through the new town. A plat of the town is dated October 1816.

The post office was established November 28, 1816.

On October 12, 1816 in the Frederick Town Herald, Edward Hughes advertised some of his lots for sale. He stated "There is at this place an extensive opening for mechanics of all the different kinds, and it bids fair to improve very fast;... There is at present two blacksmith shops, a saddler's shop and a store in the place --- a tailor, a wheel wright, and a shoemaker are much wanted, and would meet with great encouragement."

The "town of Damascus" in 1816 contained only 14 lots of various shapes and sizes, averaging 1/2 acre, which were located on the south side of what is now called Main Street.

The Druid Theater, the present post office, and the United Methodist Educational Building are some of the structures which stand today on land which was part of the original town.

Founder Hughes named the new town after the early land tract called "Pleasant Plains of Damascus." The 14 lots lay in the southwestern corner of this tract.

"Pleasant Plains of Damascus" was an original land tract containing 1,101 acres which was patented (deeded) to Matthew Pigman on April 13, 1774. This large tract, irregular in shape, extends from the center of the present town eastward to the Mullinix Mill Road area.

Many of the early settlers in the Damascus area were descendants of prominent families who had settled earlier in Anne Arundel County and in other parts of Montgomery County. Descendants of these early settlers, with such names as Burdette, Morley, Miles and Griffith, can still be found in the Damascus area.

Through the years the town of Damascus has expanded in all directions onto a number of other original tracts.

In spite of Hughes' enthusiasm, the town grew slowly, due, no doubt, to the fact that it was never linked to the railroad. By 1890, however, Damascus had grown sufficiently for the townspeople to seek incorporation. Damascus was incorporated for 24 years, until 1914, when the corporation was dissolved to allow for the construction of the first paved road within the town limits by the State Roads Commission. Now Route 27 (Ridge Road), it was the main road from Washington to Frederick from 1914 to 1926.

Several important early roads passed through Damascus, connecting it with larger communities in the state and with the District of Columbia. The Old Quaker Road (Route 27, Ridge Road, south of Damascus) was an important thoroughfare in Maryland even before the Revolutionary War. It served as one of the "principal market roads" of the province and as a main route from Fredricktown to Annapolis. Maryland Route 108 was an early route from Laural to New Market, roughly following the Pautauxant River Valley.

In March of 1884, with the increase in the county's population, Damascus became the center for a new election district, election district number 12.

The last two decades have seen much of the farmland around Damascus converted to housing, as federal agencies and private corporations opened offices in Montgomery County and drew newcomers to the area. The countryside around Damascus still remains predominantly rural, however, and Damascus (which now has a population of approximately 8,000) still remains a commercial center for the rural communities of Clagettsville, Browningsville, Cedar Grove, Woodfield, King's Valley, Purdum and Lewisdale.

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The WebMaster