Darnestown Road is one of the oldest roads in Montgomery County. Once an old trail, the route dates back to 1600 when it was used by the Seneca Indians. Native Americans Established villages, planted maize, and fished along the Potomac Palisades.
The land that eventually became Darnestown began to be settled in the mid-18th century by Scottish and Irish frontiersmen, many of whom became farmers. One of the first settlers Ninean Beall, acquired a tract of land called "Barren Hill," located between Darnestown and Germantown, in 1749. Beall, a tavern keeper, started a long lineage in the community.
One of Beall's granddaughters, Elizabeth Gassaway, married William Darne in 1798. Elizabeth inherited the land originally named Mt. Pleasant. When the first post office was established ca. 1815-20, the town took Darne's name, as he was the largest land owner. Consequently, Darne was a slaveholder, owning 18 bondspeople who worked the fields. His wife Elizabeth, inherited the property upon his death in 1845. During his lifetime, William Darne served as a State Representative, Levy Court Judge, and later as director of the C&O Canal. The town was called "Darnes" or "Darnes Town" and eventually became known as Darnestown.
Canals & Trains
Darnestown's period of greatest prosperity mirrored the rise and fall of the Chesapeake& Ohio (C&O) Canal. This canal was an important part of the transportation of commercial goods from the mountains to tidewater, greatly reducing the time it took to get these goods from one place to another. Construction of the 184 mile canal began in 1828 and reached Cumberland, Maryland in 1850. Though railroads had already begun to surpass canal travel by this time, transportation of goods continued to be by canal in Darnestown. Farmers from surrounding areas brought their grain to the mills of Darnestown, where it was milled and transported via canal to Georgetown.
When the railroad came to Germantown and Gaithersburg by the early 1900s, the need for the canal decreased until it stopped operating in 1924. Commerce was drawn elsewhere and Darnestown's place as a crossroads center faded away with the end of the C&O canal.