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The Formation


In 1755 during the French and Indian War, George Washington used Indian trails to guide General Braddock through the area, which was to be known later as Garrett County, Maryland. Garrett County was created in 1872, the last of all Maryland Counties created. Moreover, unless the constitutional provision requiring an area of at least 400 square miles for each new county is amended, there will be no new counties formed in the future. "Laurel" was considered as a name for the county, but local sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of Garrett, in honor of John W. Garrett, who was at that time president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The method followed in the creation of Garrett County is unique in Maryland history. A permissive clause for the creation of a county in the area now included in the bounds of Garrett County was inserted in the constitution of 1851 (Art. 8, Sec 2). Nothing was done about the matter, however, until 1872 after two subsequent constitutions, 1864 and 1867, had provided that any new county must have an area of at least 400 square miles and a population of at least 10,000. Serious litigation for another Western Shore county began after the creation of Wicomico County on the Eastern Shore by the constitutional convention of 1867. By 1871 it was conceded that all constitutional requirements had been met, and the Assembly created Garrett County by act of April 1, 1872 (Acts 1872, ch 212), The bounds were fixed by the act:

"That all that part of Allegany County lying south and west of a line beginning at the summit of the Big Backbone, or Savage Mountain, where the mountain is crossed by Mason and Dixon's line, and running thence by a straight line to the middle of Savage River, where it empties into the Potomac River; thence by a straight line to the nearest point or boundary of the State of West Virginia; then with the said boundary to the Fairfax stone, shall be a new county, to be called the County of Garrett; provided the provisions of this act as to taking the census of the people and the area of said new county, and the sense of the people therein, shall be complied with in accordance with the constitution of this state."

These boundaries consist of three straight lines on the west, north, and east and the Potomac River on the south. The southern boundary of the county lies on the right bank of the north branch of the Potomac, whose waters are accordingly within the limits of Garrett County. The northern boundary, fixed by that part of the Mason and Dixon line which had no permanent markers, was not known exactly until the resurvey of that line undertaken by the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania some time later. The eastern boundary was long in dispute because of the difficulty of surveying the line required by the act. The western line, which also marks the common boundary of Maryland and West Virginia, could not be drawn exactly until the boundary dispute between these two states were fixed, Garrett County was found to have an area of 662 square miles, making it the second largest county in the state.


Resources:

  1. Garrett County Historical Society Museums
  2. Garrett County and The Underground Railroad
  3. Garrett County Maryland County Information - History from 1908.
  4. Garrett County, Maryland: History
  5. The Kendall Lumber Co. of Garrett County, Md
  6. National Register of Historic Places
  7. Allegany and Garrett County Families
  8. The Historical Marker Database
  9. National Register of Historic Places listings in Garrett County, Maryland
  10. History/Genealogy at the Ruth Enlow Library of Garrett County
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