“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Elkridge in Howard County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Elkridge Landing

Founding and Early Commerce, 1733-1800

Elkridge Landing Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), May 27, 2020
1. Elkridge Landing Marker
Origins of Elkridge
The first mention of the Elkridge Hundred can be found in the 1702 Baltimore County Tax List. In 1733, the Maryland Assembly passed an act authorizing the establishment of a town, called "Jansen-Town," located "at and about the Landing, called Elk-Ridge Landing, near the Head of Patapsco River," in what was then Anne Arundel County. The act empowered a group of appointed commissioners to purchase thirty acres of land to be surveyed and laid out into forty lots for public sale. No charter was granted at this time. A second petition to officially charter a town on the site failed in 1762. Despite these setbacks, the small settlement of Elkridge Landing grew and flourished during the eighteenth century.

Early Trade and Commerce at Elkridge Landing
Elkridge was the furthest navigable point inland on the Patapsco River, and Elkridge Landing, as it was known in the Eighteenth Century, became a busy port for vessels bound for the Chesapeake and beyond. During the first half of the eighteenth century, tobacco formed the backbone of the colonial economy in the Maryland
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piedmont, and large hogsheads of harvested tobacco were transported down "rolling roads" to the landing at Elkridge. A hogshead was a large wooden barrel capable of holding up to a thousand pounds of tobacco. The tobacco market continued to expand at the Landing, and in the 1750's a central tobacco inspecting house was established.

The cultivation of tobacco rapidly depletes the soil, and was overtaken by wheat and other grains by the late eighteenth century. Grain cultivation at Elkridge spawned other local industries such as millers, bakers, distillers, and shipping agents. The house at 5481 Levering Avenue once formed part of the Hockley Grist Mill complex, and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving dwellings in Howard County.

The Iron Industry at Elkridge
Elkridge Landing's geographical location also lent itself to the growing iron industry. The hills around Elkridge were rich in iron ore and the wood needed to process it. In 1719, the Maryland Assembly passed the Maryland Ironworks Act, which permitted the construction of iron furnaces and forges. By 1775, one quarter of all iron manufacturing sites in colonial America were located in Maryland and Virginia. Processing iron ore produced a material called "pig iron." This pig iron could be further refined by being pounded into iron bars by water-driven hammers. Both pig and
Elkridge Landing Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), May 27, 2020
2. Elkridge Landing Marker
bar iron were produced at Elkridge, and shipped overseas for consumption by the British empire.

In 1755, Alexander Lawson, Edward Dorsey, and Caleb Dorsey, Jr. established the Elkridge Furnace, located approximately half a mile down from the Landing. Slave labor provided both the man power and skill needed to run the furnace.

During the second half of the eighteenth century, facilities for the production of finished goods began to appear around Elkridge. These rolling and slitting mills manufactured nails, nail rods, and sheet metal from bar iron. In addition, the Elkridge Furnace produced cannons and cannon balls during the American Revolution.

Decline of Elkridge
Industrial and commercial activity at Elkridge slowed in the years following the Revolution. The Elkridge Furnace, once an integral part of the local economy, seems to have been in decline by the late eighteenth century. The 1794 Griffith map makes no mention of the Elkridge Furnace, and it was not assessed for the 1798 Federal District Tax. In 1806, a traveler commented ton the "large banks of iron ore between Baltimore City and Elkridge landing" and noted that although "several furnaces and forges have been erected," they were no longer in operation due to the "scarcity of wood."

The silting of the Patapsco River resulted in the decline of shipping
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activity at Elkridge Landing during the late eighteenth century. Aware of the emerging problem, the Maryland Assembly, in 1753, passed a law prohibiting the dumping of sand or dirt into the river. Prior to this time, ships would often use sand as ballast, and this sand would frequently be discharged at the landing prior to loading new cargo. In addition, strip mining for iron ore along the banks of the river led to massive soil erosion into the river, and the increasing number of upstream dams, needed to provide water power to the mills, decreased the strength of the water flow at the Landing. Together, these factors caused the river's channel to fill with silt, and by the early 1800's the shipping industry at Elkridge was dead.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansAgricultureColonial EraSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1702.
Location. 39° 12.879′ N, 76° 42.372′ W. Marker is in Elkridge, Maryland, in Howard County. Marker is at the intersection of Furnace Avenue and Riverwatch Avenue, on the right when traveling north on Furnace Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5655 Furnace Ave, Elkridge MD 21075, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Elkridge Landing (here, next to this marker); Herman F. Prehn (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Elkridge Furnace Inn (about 700 feet away); Elk Ridge Landing (approx. ¼ mile away); a different marker also named Elk Ridge Landing (approx. 0.4 miles away); A Rural Vacation Spot (approx. 0.6 miles away); Masterpiece of the Early B&O Railroad (approx. 0.6 miles away); During the Civil War (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Elkridge.
Additional keywords. slavery, slave labor
Credits. This page was last revised on May 27, 2020. It was originally submitted on May 27, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 388 times since then and 137 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on May 27, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Dec. 2, 2023