Jessup Historical District (Large PDF file) 72 pages of Jessup’s Historical District with Pictures
History of Jessup
Much of the history of Jessup MD was written by G. Marie Biggs, a descendant of one of the original residents. Ms. Biggs was a teacher at the Jessup Elementary School for 34 years and wrote “The Story of Jessup” in 1952 and a later edition in 1977. Our thanks to Ms. Biggs for providing a the story of our community.
The area of Jessup MD originally belonged as part of a land grant by King Charles I of England to George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore in 1632 which constituted the limits of the State of Maryland. Sections of this land grant were given to individuals as an award for coming to settle the new country. Larger grants were given to those individuals that brought others with them.
The land was given a patent and usually a name was given to each holding. “Trusty Friend”, patented in 1753 to Charles Carroll contained 3,050 acres. The original certificate was in the name of Joseph Walker. Most of the land in Anne Arundel County on the southwest side of Route 175 was included in this tract. The latest tract known was called “Thomas and Elizabeth” and patented in 1853 to William Worthington. Part of this patent is acreage on Brockbridge Road from Payne A.M.E. Church to the Maryland Institution for Women. Most, if not all, of the land in Jessup, Anne Arundel County, on the northeast side of Route 175 was entitled “Champion Forest”.
Definite boundaries of early land grants are virtually impossible to locate today. The land grants are a part of history having been replaced by many divisions of various types, many privately owned and others are civic divisions.
Although the introduction of the railroad through Jessup wasn’t started until 1833, Jessup was never what could be called a railroad town. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad placed railroad tracks through the middle of the village. There was a two-mile stretch, and Jonathan Jessup, one of the contractors, who had worked on the Main Stem of the rail line, was employed to level this two-mile stretch. The excavation became known as Jessop’s Cut. This cut required the displacement of over 270,000 cubic yards of earth, quite an extraordinary accomplishment considering the equipment available at that time.
The name of “Jessup” is spelled with an “o” and with a “u” in railroad records until 1854. After this time, the “u” in the name was consistently used, suggesting the error in spelling was noted and corrected. In fact, the town name of “Jessup” was only changed from “Jessups” in 1963.
By August 24, 1835, the first trains traveled from Baltimore to Washington.
The citizens of Jessup have gathered through the years to watch and discuss a number of firsts or significant events during the growth of the fledgling nation:
- The first trains to enter Washington, DC.
- Preparation for the sending of the first telegram in the world.
- Lincoln’s Funeral Train on the way to New York.
- The Freedom Train.
- Horse-drawn fire engines transported in freight cars from Washington to Baltimore to fight the great Baltimore Fire in 1904.
- Many troop trains during the American Civil War and World Wars I and II.
- Various types of locomotives – wood burning, coal burning and diesel motors (first used in 1935).
Jessup MD was one of three main stations between Baltimore and Washington. Nearly all trains stopped at Relay, Jessup, and Laurel. The station in Jessup was closed because of the decline in customers in 1963 and the station was demolished in 1966.
Much has been said about the name “Jessup” and how the village got the name. Many have questioned for years how the post office was called “Jessups” and the railroad station “Jessup”. There is no good reason for the different spellings although Jessup became the official name in 1963.
The name of the post office has been changed six times since 1855. Before that, places were called by the name given to land patents or names of land owners.
From 1855 the name of the village changed from Pierceland to Hooversville (the appointed post master was George W. Hoover) in 1863; in 1869 with a new post master (Edward W. Duvall) the village was named Jessups Cut, but in 1871 the new post master changed the name back to Hooversville. Six years later, in 1877 the name was changed to Jessups. The name changes may be attributed to the politics of the time and the mail was generally sent to the local general stores who were run by local merchants. For 111 years the Jessup Post Office was kept in the corner of a neighborhood store. This made it easier for those doing the marketing to pick up their mail. As the area grew, a post office was built, but not until 1966 under the supervision of Postmaster Robert Sellner.
The Telegraph Line
Samuel Finley Breese Morse, a distinguished American portrait painter, invented the first practical telegraph system in 1832 and wrote the dash-dot code to use on it.
Congress appropriated $30,000 for Morse’s project in 1843 and work started in Baltimore at the Pratt Street docks. Initially the telegraph line was laid in lead pipe consisting of a copper wire insulated by a cotton thread-like wire. The underground pipes couldn’t be laid because of the rocky ground near Relay. They adopted an overhead system that could carry four wires. The terminus of the telegraph was the dry dust of the basement of the Capitol in Washington. On May 24, 1844, Morse sent the famous message “What hath God wrought” from the chamber of the Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol to Pratt Street Station in Baltimore. Though the message was not heard on Jessup it went over wires the villagers had watched being strung on poles. For many years Jessup was one of the few stations between Baltimore and Washington that had a telegraph office.
In a similar fashion to the B&O Railroad, roads and highways played a significant role in the development of the Village of Jessup. U.S. Route 1 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway played the largest historical roles, but additional roads and highways have also shaped the community.
Roads and Highways
U.S. Route 1
Historically U.S. Route 1 has been in constant use for almost 300 years. It was hardly more than a trail possibly started by the Indians. Originally it was narrow, dusty or muddy, full of ruts, stumps, hills, curves and detours. In 1704, a mandate required all roads to be 20 feet wide, and this road was widened and increased to a 60-foot right of way by 1820 from Baltimore to Georgetown.
U.S. Route 1 was the main north-south route for stagecoach transportation, with a main stop in Waterloo, now part of Jessup and the intersection of what is now Route 175.
Ownership of Route 1 was changed from the County, to the State, and then the Nation, probably a factor of the expense of keeping this major artery under repair. By 1925, it became part of U.S. Route 1 (Maine to Florida), and three years later was widened to four lanes. By 1934, there was an average of 39 billboards to the mile and a few years later an average of 18,000 cars and trucks passing Jessup daily. This volume created a nightmare for the village because of the build up along the roadsides. It’s been said that it was the heaviest traveled and deadliest stretch of road in the world.
The Baltimore – Washington Parkway
The Baltimore-Washington Parkway was the answer to the problems encountered on U.S. Route 1. In 1951, residents began to see construction activity, but the Parkway was not completed until 1955. In order to make this extensive highway possible, land had to be purchased from Jessup residents.
The 19 miles from Washington to Jessup was built by the Federal government while the section from Jessup to Baltimore was built by the State of Maryland. Originally, the Federal portion was built for cars only because the concrete was only 8 inches thick. The State portion was made of 10 inch thick concrete and would carry cars and trucks. To this day, all trucks must exit the Parkway at Jessup on Route 175 if they are heading south. At the time the BW Parkway was called the “million-dollar-a-mile road” because of the cost. The cloverleaf built to accommodate the Parkway changed the entire appearance of Jessup and continues to cause many traffic-related and other problems to this day.
Two very old structures had to be demolished to make way for the project. One was St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and the other the home of the Clarke family. This home was one of the oldest in the community and both structures were built sometime between 1860 and 1878.
Old Annapolis Road
Old Annapolis Road is probably the most significant thoroughfare affecting Jessup. It is now called State Route 175, originally running from Ellicott City, crossing Route 1 at Waterloo, continuing through the heart of Jessup, crossing the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, through the edge of Fort George G. Meade and terminating in Annapolis.
It’s accepted fact that originally the road was an Indian trail and that George Washington took this road when going to Annapolis as it branched off Route 1 that ran north to south between Washington and Baltimore.
In 1910, Anne Arundel County had slag from the Muirkirk Furnace brought to Jessup via rail car to serve as a base for the road. The road bed slag extended from the railroad about 3 and a half miles east. The State took over the road in 1929 and made it a concrete road. This attracted vehicular traffic, especially with the conversion of Camp Meade, a Civil War and World War I installation to Fort Meade.
Brock Bridge Road
One mile east of the railroad, turning from Route 175 in a southerly direction, is an old road with a new name. Brock Bridge Road, formerly known as Annapolis Junction Road, was non-existent on Martenet’s map of 1860. However, land deeds show that Enoch Pratt and his wife Maria Louisa Pratt deeded a parcel of land to John W. Biggs in exchange for a road and 5 dollars.
Dr. Asa Linthicum, a relative of the Linthicum family of Maryland, had a private road leading from his iron ore mines to the main road (Route 175) and the new portion was to extend toward Annapolis Junction. There was also an undetermined transaction between Dr. Linthicum and Enoch Pratt. This was the beginning of Brock Bridge Road.
The road not only afforded an exit for the Linthicum and Hobbs iron ore mines, and timber from the Hayes and Dashiell saw mills, but it was a direct route to the railroad at Annapolis Junction. The Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Railroad was the only public transportation to Annapolis. After being called Annapolis Junction Road for over a century, it was renamed Brock Bridge Road in 1961 and given a new blacktop surface in 1965. It took the name because a portion of road from Annapolis Junction to Laurel and beyond Maryland City had been known as Brock Bridge Road for years.
Dorsey Run Road
Another road that runs from Jessup to Howard County is Dorsey Run Road. Before it was named such in 1955, it was known locally as Tomato Road, because farmers from Howard County hauled tomatoes to one of three canneries which were located in Jessup.
Montevideo Road starts at Race Road and meanders through Montevideo, crosses Forest Avenue and comes to an end at Washington Boulevard (Route 1).
Forest Avenue extends from Montevideo Road to Dorsey Road (Route 176) just southeast of the railroad. In the mid-1930s the road was cut through a forest – hence the name – with the intention of transporting Montevideo children to Dorsey School. Forest Avenue was extended in 1964 to Route 175 with the help of Henry Wigley, the County Commissioner of Anne Arundel County, and the extension was named Wigley Avenue in 1966.
Race Road is one of the older roads in Jessup. It is shown on early maps. It was moved during the construction of the Baltimore Washington Parkway because of the cloverleaf and placed opposite Sellner Road. Older residents tell the story that this used to be “Mill Race Road” and was used by farmers hauling grain to the mill. The true location of the mill is undetermined but believed to be on the east side of Dorsey Road on Deep Run.
Ridge Road is shown on maps from 1860 and 1878 and extended from Route 175 to “Elkridge Landing.” Elkridge Landing was a thriving port on the Patapsco River and this was probably a very heavily traveled road.
There are other shorter roads that were constructed to accommodate the growing number of people that built homes in Jessup.
Sections of Jessup
In the mid-1800s, Jessup extended over a larger area than today. For instance, old land records show part of what is now Fort Meade as Jessups Cut, and children from that area attended school in Jessup. The oldest part of Jessup is along Route 175, as it was the only road, really an Indian trail through the forest. Early settlers built near the road and early land holdings were in part divided by the road.
Although we prefer to think of Jessup as a rural community, it is divided into several sections or, what is now more commonly referred to as subdivisions.
There is the old area of Jessup which runs along Route 175, considered the historic and central area of Jessup where the early settlers built homes.
Montevideo is the section farthest north and thought to be the second oldest section of Jessup.
Wyman’s Grove, an African-American camp meeting ground, was located in the southeast corner of the intersection of Montevideo Road and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad during the 1860s. By 1875, the land was in possession of the Sisters of Notre Dame where they operated a summer home for 80 to 100 girls. At least part of the property became a Protestant orphanage for children up to the age of fifteen. The property consolidated with the German Orphanage in the 1930s and the land was slowly sold off in parcels. During the 1950s, the property on the south side of Montevideo Road was developed into what is now known as Montevideo Court.
Champion Forest is a comparatively new section of Jessup. It’s located between Route 175 and Montevideo and named after the land grant on which it is situated.
Georgetown is a small section situated on the west side of Brock Bridge Road about a half mile from Route 175. The section got its name from the fact that the head of the house of four of the first families was named George. Originally, there were seven houses built by Dr. Asa Linthicum on his property to house African-American families who would dig iron ore in his nearby mines. This is the location of the Payne African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Sharewood Acres, another section of Jessup, is located in Howard County. It extends from Route 175 to Dorsey Run Road. There are about forty houses in Sharewood Acres.
The Provinces was the latest part of Jessup to be developed. It is roughly a triangle shaped section bounded by Ridge Road, Severn Road, and Disney Road and construction of homes began in 1971. Mail, however, is served by the Severn post office, but the children attend Jessup Elementary School.
Aladdin Village, one of two large mobile home parks, is located on Route 1 opposite the Waterloo State Police Barrack. It was started in 1952.
Holiday Mobile Estates
Holiday Mobile Homes Estates is another mobile home park located on Clark Road.
Historical Impacts – Truth or Speculation
If we thoroughly investigate the significant events in Jessup’s history, one might conclude that certain events or activities were critical in shaping the community of Jessup.
First, of course, was the original land grants.
Second, was the introduction of the railroad and “Jessup’s Cut” in parallel with the establishment of roads leading between Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis and the importance of Route 175 to transportation and commerce in the area.
Third, the American Civil War had a dramatic impact of the character and future of Jessup. With the establishment of the Jessup Army Camp (1860-1865). The railroad was used to transit men from the north. At the time, men who enlisted in the Union Army were paid a sum of money. Before they reached their destinations, some enlisted men tried to desert and return to some point north and enlist again for the bounty. There was an encampment near the railroad and Route 175 to try to prevent these men’s return north. While it is pure speculation, there is the possibility that the Union Army established detention centers near the railroad for Union deserters and possibly for Confederate prisoners enroute to more northern prison camps. This may have been the rationale for the building of the Maryland House of Corrections some years later in 1878 and additional correctional facilities in subsequent years. Jessup is now the location of five correctional facilities. War again played a role with the establishment of Camp Meade, now Fort George G. Meade. Again, transportation lines facilitated the movement to training areas and major departure points for soldiers being prepared for World War I.
Fourth, coincidental with the establishment of the House of Corrections, cheap prisoner labor was available for assisting farmers who owned large tracts of farm land. Also, in the early 1900s, a number of prison shops made products for commercial use, with the profits going to the State. The lower price of the prison-produced goods than could be matched by local manufacturers resulted in the end of prison products being sold on the open market. The products could only be used by the State and more land was purchased for prison farming. The House of Corrections and the need for more policing resulted in the building of the State Police Barrack at Waterloo.
Fifth, the division of Howard County from Anne Arundel County in 1851 situated the Community of Jessup into two counties. Review of the movement of the Post Offices prior to 1851 suggests that political differences and influential families contributed to the establishment of Howard County as a separate entity. What has occurred as a result is that a buffer area along the county lines has been developed as commercial/business activities in Howard County. One might attribute this activity as related to the transportation corridors such as Route 1 and U.S. Route 95. Others believe that the industrial/commercial zone can be attributed to the building of Columbia and the desire of Howard County government to put these types of activities far away from Columbia and close to Anne Arundel County and only slightly impacted by transportation routes.
Transportation and its’ infrastructure continues to shape Jessup. Routes 1 and 95 served north-south traffic but, effectively, Route 175 was the only area east-west artery. The demands of commerce and commuters required additional means of transportation. The traffic through the middle of Jessup was terrible. Finally, Route 32 was built, mainly through Annapolis Junction. This “super highway” was supposed to alleviate traffic congestion on Route 175. It only partially succeeded. Then, Route 100 was built north of Jessup. Still only a minimal impact of Route 175. However, the two new highways have attracted a significant amount of commercial development, further exacerbating traffic and congestion in the Jessup area. Howard County expanded the number of lanes on Route 175 to six lanes until Route 1. Anne Arundel County expanded Route 175 to 4 lanes from Odenton to the eastern boundary of Jessup.