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History of Garrett County, MD

Garrett County Maryland was formed from the western triangular section of Allegany County in 1872.  It was the last of Maryland's counties to be created.  The County was named after the president of the B&O Railroad at the time, John Work Garrett.  John Garrett died at Deer Park, Garrett County in 1884.  The railroad was responsible for Garrett County's economic growth during the later half of the 19th century which is why it was named for him.

Prior to becoming Garrett County, in the mid-1700s, much of the land was surveyed by a young George Washington for Lord Fairfax of Virginia. In 1755, during the French and Indian War, Washington guided General Braddock using Indian trails from Fort Cumberland over the rugged mountains to Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) where he was defeated by the French. The old National Pike was built over this same trail in the northern part of Garrett County between 1811 and 1819. Some of the old stage coach inns can still be found in the Grantsville area from this by-gone era.  Today's US 40 also follows much of the same path of the old National Pike.  Washington used another Indian Trail in the south of the County when he surveyed the area for Lord Fairfax of Virginia.  This road later became the present-day US 50.  

Before 1763, few settlers came to the area that would become Garrett County.  In 1765,  John Friend and his brothers came and settled at the mouth of the Youghiogheny River which later would become Friendsville.  Many Amish came south from Somerset Pennsylvania and settled much of the rich farming areas during this early period as well.  Many other Germans and Swiss of various faiths also found Garrett County to their liking at this time.  Many of these early families' names can still be found among the populace such as Friend, Glotfelty, Broadwater, Wilt, Savage, Browning, Bittinger, Brenneman, Buckel, Beachy, Hershberger and others.

With the advent of the National Pike in the early 1800's, many people passed through the northern parts of the county to points westward.  Some found it to their liking and stayed.  The town of Grantsville came about due to the influx of traffic along this road.  

In the 1850s, the railroad would greatly open up the area that would become Garrett County.  During the railroad period which lasted until the early part of this century, the Irish, Scotch, and Welsh came to mine the coal and cut the timber.  This brought great population growth in the county along the railroad.  The towns of Oakland, Bloomington and Swanton would spring up during this time as commercial, mining, and timber centers, dependant on the railroad for receiving and shipping of products to market.  The railroads also were resposible for building large summer resorts in the beautiful mountain areas in Garrett County.  The rich and the famous were often found in Garrett County during this time period recreating.  President Cleveland and his wife spent their honeymoon in 1886 at the Dear Park Resort in Garrett County.

In the early 1900's, the railroad started to decline as cheaper and more efficient modes of transportation came into being.  Tourism declined for a time as well.  Coal mining and timber production continued but at a much slower pace.

Today, tourism has made a dramatic rebound in the county with logging and farming making up the greatest part of the economic base.  Due to a cold climate and lack of any large city, Garrett County has remained a rural area and sparsley populated. The population was only 28,000 residents at the last census in 1990. The State of Maryland is the largest land owner in the County, maintaining several large state parks. Old Order Amish still live in the north and south ends of the county. Most people in the county are related to each otherin some way, which makes genealogical research a great delight.

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