Crisscrossed By Transportation Routes, Home To America's Earliest Industries, And Meeting Place For National Leaders, Maryland's Appalachian Region Has Been Pivotal In The Growth Of The Country
Throughout its history, the nation has struggled with issues like independence, slavery and states' rights. Maryland—situated between north and south and once the edge of the frontier—became a critical crossroads and meeting ground for diverse ideas that would shape the country's character. From the courageous ordinary citizens who supported freedom on the Underground Railroad, to the extraordinary leaders who have converged here for historic presidential summits at Camp David, the region has witnessed American history at its most decisive. Discover these compelling stories with your byway map and free travel guides from the South Mountain Welcome Center.
The Road that Built the Nation
This mountain range was once on the edge of wilderness, crossed only by American Indian trade routes. In the 18th century, General Edward Braddock and a young George Washington journeyed here to secure the frontier at Fort Frederick and beyond. As the nation pushed its boundaries westward, the Appalachian Mountains proved to be a formidable obstacle. Washington envisioned a
highway to open the west to trade and settlement, and in 1806 the National Road was authorized by Congress. The road soon became a lifeline for a young America, connecting the frontier to eastern cities like Cumberland and Baltimore and serving as gateway to the Atlantic and ports beyond.
Although the wagon trains are long gone, the Historic National Road continues to serve travelers as a byway, paralleling Interstate 70 and 68. A Historic National Road Map Guide, available in the welcome center, helps visitors journey through time.
During the War of 1812—America's second war for independence against Britain—the bustling port city of Baltimore was a strategic target. When the British attacked in 1814, a young attorney named Francis Scott Key was there to witness the bombardment of Fort McHenry, which protected the city's harbor. The Fort, and the American flag flying above it, withstood the attack and inspired Key to pen a poem called "Defence of Fort McHenry," which became the lyrics of the National Anthem in 1931, forever identifying America as the "land of the free, and the home of the brave." Visit a memorial to Key at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick and more sites on the Star-Spangled Banner Trail that track the tumultuous events of the summer of 1814.
Network to Freedom
the Civil War ended slavery, Maryland was at the border with freedom in the North. Although Maryland was a slave-holding state, many courageous residents defied the institution by secretly assisting enslaved African Americans in their journey north. It is believed that some used the Underground Railroad, a network of sympathetic people and safe houses, to find their way along South Mountain's forested ridge, crossing the Mason and Dixon Line just 15 miles north of here. A Network to Freedom Map Guide helps visitors trace the heroic flight from slavery.
The nearby Kennedy Farmhouse also played a role in the fight against slavery. Abolitionist John Brown used it as his headquarters while planning his 1859 raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal that he hoped would arm slaves in their fight for freedom. The raid failed, but foretold the violence of the Civil War, which began sixteen months later.