Hyattstown, Maryland was founded in 1798 by Jesse Hyatt, a Frederick County farmer. The western part of Hyattstown is in Frederick County while the eastern part of Hyattstown is in Montgomery County. By 1804 the town had six houses; by 1811 there were 12. Two of Jesse's brothers, Eli and Asa, also built houses in the town. Asa and his son-in-law Warner Welsh were leading merchants. The town came to bear their name when a post office was established in 1813. The town was incorporated by the Maryland legislature in 1809. The first important structure in Hyattstown was not a trading post or a public house but a mill erected in 1783 along Little Bennett Creek, about ¼ mile up the creek from where the town actually stands.
The Great Road, today’s MD 355, was Hyattstown’s link to the outside world and its window on history. It carried notables to and from Washington and provided a route for hauling grain or driving farm herds to market, stimulating the town’s economy. But the road was “great” in name only. The road was deeply rutted and dusty in dry weather, but turned into a muddy morass after a heavy rain. Often it was nearly impassable, and its dismal condition was disparaged and deplored by the local press and public. Finally, in 1925 the road was paved.
The Great Road has witnessed many notable people and events in American history. General Edward Braddock’s troops rode this path in April 1775 to Braddock’s disastrous defeat and death by the French and Indians near present-day Pittsburgh. George Washington traveled it in 1791. It carried fresh troops and supplies from the West during the Revolution, and served Federal forces sent by President Washington to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania in 1794. Meriwether Lewis, traveled The Great Road in the summer 1803, on his way to meet William Clark and begin their Expedition, exploring the western lands that President Thomas Jefferson had acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.
The contending armies of the Civil War knew the area well. J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry occupied Hyattstown, skirmishing with Union forces there in September 1861, prior to Antietam. Stuart passed through again the following month pursued by Union troops, while returning from a raid in Pennsylvania. In 1863, the Union Sixth Corps halted briefly at Hyattstown on its way to Gettysburg. And in July of the next year Jubal Early’s forces, fresh from victory at the Monocacy, swept through on their way to attack Washington.
Inscription on historical marker at Hyattstown: The roadside village of Hyattstown became the front line when Confederate cavalry stationed to the north in Urbana clashed with Union cavalry reconnoitering from Clarksburg to the south. On the evening of September 8, 1862, Maj. Alonzo W. Adams and his 1st New York Cavalry topped the crest south of town, spotted Confederates, charged down the hill and into the town, and captured two Southern troopers. A little later his men skirmished with the 1st North Carolina Cavalry north of town, briefly breaking up J.E.B. Stuart’s ball in Urbana when the partygoers rushed here to help their comrades. Another skirmish occurred at the same place the next morning and continued off and on all day. By September 11, Col. Thomas T. Munford’s command had replaced the North Carolinians and the 1st U.S. Cavalry had joined the New Yorkers. The Confedertes withdrew northwest with the rest of the army after a heavy exchange of artillery fire that damaged houses in Hyattstown. The Union VI Corps soon occupied the village.
The town reached a population of 150 in the 1870s and by 1880 the town's Hyatt House Hotel and Tabler Tavern were serving the needs of travelers making their way along the road. Town citizens included 2 blacksmiths, 3 carpenter/undertakers, a carriage maker, shoemaker, doctor, miller, tailor, harness maker, and 2 general stores. The town also hosted 3 churches, and a tannery in addition to the grist mill. When the B&O rail line was built further to the west, the town's economy shifted to serving the needs of the growing local farm community. But Hyattstown did not suffer greatly, for Washington and Georgetown continued to be magnets that attracted constant streams of travelers through the village.
The last “army” to pass through the town was Coxey’s Army, a motley group of out-of-work men being led by Populist Jacob Coxey to Washington to petition for economic reform. On April 26, 1894, local citizens provided meals and lodging for some of these ragtag visitors, while the rest camped along Little Bennett Creek, and later turned out for an evening of speeches and festivities.
In March 1986, Hyattstown was designated a historic district by county elected officials. It has one of the largest groupings of relatively unaltered 19th century buildings in Montgomery County.
Profiles to be added to this project can include anyone who was born, lived, worked, or died in Hyattstown through the 1800s.
- The History of Hyattstown by Dona Cuttler, Michael Dwyer, Heritage Books, Inc. 1998
Note: Hyattstown, Maryland is not to be confused with Hyattsville, Maryland founded in 1845 by Christopher Clark Hyatt.