History of Jessup

Jessup, The Name

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”. 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. 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 postmaster was George W. Hoover) in 1863; in 1869 with a new postmaster (Edward W. Duvall) the village was named Jessups Cut, but in 1871 the new postmaster 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.

Written History

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 the story of our community.

Original Grant

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.

Railways & Telegraph Lines

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.

By August 24, 1835, the first trains traveled from Baltimore to Washington. 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.

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.

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.

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 have played the largest historical roles, but additional roads and highways have also shaped the community.

Significant Moments

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:

  1. The first trains to enter Washington, DC.
  2. Preparation for the sending of the first telegram in the world.
  3. Lincoln’s Funeral Train on the way to New York.
  4. The Freedom Train.
  5. Horse-drawn fire engines transported in freight cars from Washington to Baltimore to fight the great Baltimore Fire in 1904.
  6. Many troop trains during the American Civil War and World Wars I and II.
  7. Various types of locomotives – wood burning, coal burning and diesel motors (first used in 1935).
History of Jessup
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