Early History

Luxmanor’s earliest history was shaped by its location on an elevated ridge of the eastern woodlands.  About 10,000 BCE, the first humans arrived in the land that would become Maryland.  About 1,000 BCE, the Native Americans began to use pottery, and about 800 CE they introduced domesticated plants and the bow-and-arrow came into use.  About 1200, permanent Native-American villages began to be established.  [MSA]

European explorers first looked toward the Maryland shore around 1500, though they were still a long way from venturing into the interior.  In 1498, John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) (c.1450-1499), a Venetian navigator and explorer, sailed along the Eastern Shore off present-day Worcester County.  In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazano (1485-1528), a Florentine explorer, led an expedition that passed the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and explored the lower Eastern Shore.  In 1572, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the Spanish governor of Florida, explored the Chesapeake Bay.  [MSA]

Old Indian Trail, Conesus Lake, NY (1918) (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum)

Archaeological evidence indicates that Paleo, Archaic, and Woodland Native Americans lived in the general area of North Bethesda and along the banks of the Potomac River.   These Native Americans used trails for hunting and fishing or as routes for seasonal migrations.  The trails tended to run along elevated ridges, so as to avoid being washed away as a result of rain.  [W]  Two important trails were the Monocacy Path, from the Susquehanna River Valley to the Anacostia River, and the Sinequa or Seneca Trail to the mouth of Rock Creek.  [PR]  The Sinequa Trail followed the ridge line between the Potomac River and Rock Creek.  [W]  Today, this ridge includes Luxmanor’s main street, Old Georgetown Road, and Rockville Pike. 


Old Georgetown Road Ridge Line

In this view from the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Tuckerman Lane, looking east on Tuckerman, the buildings in the distance are visible, showing how Old Georgetown Road lies atop a ridge line that runs between Rock Creek to the east and the Potomac River to the west.

Colonial Era

Beginning in the 17th century, European settlers began making their homes along Rock Creek and the Seneca Trail. [W] The area that we currently know as Montgomery County, as well as the land north and west, was part of Prince George's County until 1748. At that time, Frederick County was formed, containing the area currently in Washington, Frederick and Montgomery counties. [PR]

By the 1700s, the Native Americans had largely been driven away by encroaching settlers [A], and the old Indian trails evolved into roads. In 1704, the Maryland Assembly decreed a standard width of 20 feet for all main roads and further ordered that roads be kept clear and fit for travel. Notwithstanding government regulation, however, these roads were little better than trails — rutted, often muddy, and providing travel that was slow and difficult. Notches on roadside trees signaled destinations such as chapels, courthouses, and other roads. [PR]

Crossroads were natural places to build inns and other small buildings. In the 1750s, Lawrence Owen operated a tavern or “ordinary” near the intersection of the Great Road and the Monocacy-Bladensburg Road (today parts of Darnestown Road, Route 28, Veirs Mill Road and University Boulevard). These roads connected George Town to Frederick Town, both newly settled.

Owen’s Ordinary was likely somewhere in the center of modern-day Rockville in the vicinity of Courthouse Square. It was probably a typical building of the time, one and one-half stories high and built of logs covered by wooden boards. (The term “ordinary” was, at the time, a description of a fixed price tavern meal, and by extension also referred to the tavern itself.) [PR]

Taverns were closely regulated. The Maryland Assembly specified the kinds of food, drink, and accommodations that were to be offered and at what prices. A 1780 Act, for example, stated that an ordinary in a county seat must have “six good featherbeds, with sufficient covering for the same, and stabling for ten horses at least.” A person had to post a bond as security for honest dealing and maintaining good conduct before receiving a license to operate. Ordinaries also served as gathering places for political meetings, elections, gaming and entertainment (except on Sundays when such pastimes were forbidden). Because of their importance, their names tended to became synonymous with the settlements that surrounded them, so Rockville was known as “Owen’s Ordinary.” [PR]

What we know today as Rockville Pike, together with Wisconsin Avenue (leading south to Georgetown and the Potomac River) and Route 355 (leading north to Frederick) was then known as the Great Road or the Rock Creek Main Road.

The Great Road cut through miles of dense forest and natural meadows. Here and there a traveler would pass fields of tobacco, the main crop, or of wheat or corn. Fertile soil, plentiful game, and many streams and springs made this frontier land desirable. It was a transportation artery for planters in the area whose livelihood depended on exporting tobacco to Scotland. Hogsheads full of cured tobacco were rolled down the road to the ports of Georgetown and Bladensburg. [PR] [A]

Dowden’s Ordinary, Clarksburg, Maryland (Library of Congress)

Colonial taverns were generally 15 to 20 miles apart, a convenient distance. For example, on the Great Road, a traveler leaving Georgetown could stop at Owen’s Ordinary before heading north to Dowden’s Ordinary in Clarksburg. By the 1790s, more inns opened on the Great Road as population grew and passenger and mail coaches began making regular trips. [PR]

During the 1750s, however, the Rockville area was Maryland’s northwestern frontier. The residents were descendants of settlers from England and Scotland. Most property was owned by speculators who had purchased land patents from Lord Baltimore and then lured tenants or purchased slaves who did the actual farming of tobacco and other crops. Some tenants, including those who had been indentured servants, were able to eventually buy their own land. Farms were generally small, and the typical planter’s house was a one or two-room cabin with a sharply pitched roof extended to cover a narrow front porch. Homes were made of logs and sometimes covered by planks. Tobacco was not only the main cash crop but it often served in place of cash. Although the official currency was English shillings and pounds, tax assessments were in pounds of tobacco. [PR]

In April 1755, British General Edward Braddock and his army marched up the Great Road, on their way to the first major battle of the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763). Along the way, Braddock’s troops camped at Owen’s Ordinary. [PR]

Charles Hungerford operated a tavern from 1774 to 1777 at the northwest corner of what is now Rockville’s Washington and Jefferson Streets. This was an excellent location because it was on a bend where the Great Road turned north toward Frederick. It was comparable in size and appearance to Owen’s Ordinary, and soon people began referring to the settlement as “Hungerford Tavern.” [PR]

Hungerford’s Tavern, from a circa 1910 postcard (Hungerford Civic Association)

In 1774, some citizens met at Hungerford Tavern to protest British attempts to tax the colonies. Tempers ran high as the townspeople spoke up in support of their Boston comrades who had recently held the Boston Tea Party. On June 11, 1774, the assembled colonists passed what became known as the Hungerford Resolves, Rockville’s contribution to the events that led to the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. [PR]

Early in the Revolution, on September 6, 1776, the Maryland Constitutional Convention passed a bill dividing Frederick County into smaller governmental units. The northern section became Washington County, while the southern part was named for General Richard Montgomery who died leading the American attack on Quebec on December 31, 1775. [PR]

“Out of Robb’s Window - Montgomery Courthouse” by Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1811) (Hungerford Civic Association)

Soon after, the crossroads settlement at Hungerford Tavern was designated the seat of the new local government. In May 1777, the first court sessions opened in the tavern. The Court met there until March 1779, when it moved into a home converted for court sessions. [PR]

By this time, Hungerford’s Tavern had passed in ownership to Leonard Davis. Davis decided to sell and advertised the business as “26 by 20 feet, two rooms, and a very convenient bar-room, on the lower floor ... a kitchen adjoining the dwelling-house (and) three good well-furnished rooms on the lower floor, with an exceeding good fireplace, very convenient for the reception of travelers .…” Joseph Wilson bought and ran the tavern with his wife Sarah, who was Lawrence Owen’s widow, until his death in 1791. By that time the settlement that we now know as Rockville was called Montgomery Court House. [PR]

To get a sense of tavern life, consider the following description from the autobiography of Reverend Josiah Henson, who describes what may have been found in and around Hungerford’s Tavern in the early 1800s:

My master’s habits were such as were common enough among the dissipated planters of the neighbourhood; and one of their frequent practices was to assemble on Saturday or Sunday, which were their holidays, and gamble, run horses, or fight game-cocks, discuss politics, and drink whisky and brandy-and-water all day long. Perfectly aware that they would not be able to find their own way home at night, each one ordered his body-servant to come after him and help him home. I was chosen for this confidential duty by my master; and many were the times I have held him on his horse, when he could not hold himself in the saddle, and walked by his side in darkness and mud from the tavern to his house. Quarrels and brawls of the most violent description were frequent consequences of these meetings; and whenever they became especially dangerous, and glasses were thrown, dirks drawn, and pistols fired, it was the duty of the slaves to rush in, and each one drag his master from the fight, and carry him home. [H]

Hungerford Tavern (Montgomery Planning)

Hungerford Tavern (Montgomery Planning)

The Hungerford Resolves

Resolved, unanimously, That it is the opinion of this meeting that the Town of Boston is now suffering in the Common Cause of America.

Resolved, unanimously, That every legal and constitutional measure ought to be used by all America for procuring a repeal of the Act of Parliament for blocking up the Harbour of Boston.

Resolved, unanimously, That it is the opinion of this meeting that the most effectual means for the securing of American Freedom will be to break off all Commerce with Great Britain and the West Indies until the said act be repealed and the right of taxation given upon permanent principles.

Resolved, unanimously, That Mr. Henry Griffith, Dr. Thomas Sprigg Wootton, Nathan Magruder, Even Thomas, Richard Brooke, Richard Thomas, Zadok Magruder, Dr. William Baker, Thomas Cramphin Jr., and Allen Bowie be a committee to attend the general committee at Annapolis, and that any six of them shall have the power to receive and communicate intelligence to and from their neighboring committees.

Resolved, unanimously, That a copy of these our sentiments be immediately transmitted to Annapolis and inserted in the Maryland Gazette.

At Hungerford's Tavern, 11th June, 1774

Signed per Order, Archibald Orme, Clerk