Toms Creek Hundred: The Wild
Frederick County, 1748
Monocacy and Braddock trails were the two major roadways in
the mid 1700's. The Monocacy trail led from Philadelphia and
crossed into Maryland near Taneytown. The trail then led to the
village of Monocacy that is known today as Creagerstown. Monocacy
village is considered the first known settlement in Frederick
County, which consisted of a few log cabins, a crossroads with a
blacksmith shop. It is believed that the Monocacy path followed
parallel to Route 15 and parts of Old Frederick Road. Then, from
there it traveled to Frederick and connected with Braddock Road
and ran through South Mountain. Immigrants that were traveling
from Pennsylvania to Virginia used the Monocacy Trail. Many of
these immigrants that traveled the Monocacy Trail settled in the
area that is known today as Frederick County. The northern
most settlement was known as the Tom's Creek Hundred. It
encompassed a wide area, stretching from Thurmont to the
Pennsylvania border, and from the Monocacy to the Catoctin
Prior to European
settlement, the area was inhabited by members of the Ottawas and
Mohicans, which were part of the Algonquin Family. Other groups
of Indians known as the Susquehannocks, Tuscaroras, and the Hurons
were mainly from the Carolinas, but as people moved south these
tribes moved north toward Pennsylvania. The Tuscaroras settled in
the area north of Frederick that is today called Tuscarora. The
Monocacy River or "Monnokkesy", as it was pronounced then, was named
by the Tuscarora Indians. These were the Indians that roamed the
area outside of Emmitsburg. One reason the Indians settled near
the base of the mountain is because they believed the water that
flowed through the mountains had magical healing powers. The only
traditional appearances that are left by the Indians today are the
names of the land, rivers and mountains such as Catoctin,
Monocacy, and Tuscarora.
Protecting the Settlements
The wild frontier of the Colonies of
Western Maryland and Pennsylvania could be a dangerous place to
Between 1754 and 1755,
fortifications in Western Frederick County (present day Washington
County) Maryland were built in rapid succession by settlers to
protect themselves from the Indians.
Thomas Cresap's Fort was
built in 1742, located along the Potomac River near Oldtown.
Also known as Fort at Cresap's. This stockade fort was
originally used as a trading post in 1755. It was also used as a
supply base for several expeditions, and it was attacked several
times. Fort Cresap in Williamsport, Maryland was built in the
1750’s. Consisting of a stone house with a spring cellar,
built by Daniel Cresap, son of Thomas. It was attacked in 1756.
Allen Killough's Fort was built in 1754 near Indian
Springs and was also a stockade settler's home. It is located four miles
south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Thomas Mills' Fort was built in 1754 near Millstone, one mile
from the Potomac River. In 1756 the Maryland Militia took over
this settlers' fort.
Fort Nicholas is located in Cresaptown, Maryland and was built
in 1755. Not much has been recorded about this fort. However,
it was used as a settlers' stockade with four blockhouses. A
year after completion it was attacked in 1756 by Indians.
Anderson's Fort was built along North Branch in 1755.
All that is known about this fort was that it was used as a settlers'
Tonoloway Fort is located at Hancock, Maryland
just south of the route 40
toll road. The
colonial militia stocked the blockhouse that was built for protection
of settlers from Indian Raids. It was also known as Stoddert's
Fort. It was attacked several times and abandoned
after the completion of Fort Frederick.
Isaac Baker's Fort was built in 1755 near Fairview.
Originally used as a settlers' fort on Baker's Ridge, 11 miles
northeast of Fort Frederick, it was soon taken over by the Maryland
colonial militia after 1756.
Evan Shelby's Fort was built near Clear Spring 1755. This was a log house that was a stockade in 1755 and
down in 1763. It was located three miles south of the
Mason-Dixon line, on Mount Peiler, about five miles west of
Lancelot Jacques' Fort is located near Big Pool
also built in the mid 1700’s. This fort was built as a log
house just east of Fort Frederick, four miles west of Prather's
Fort. Thomas Prather's Fort was built in 1756 near Big Spring.
Considered as a settler's home, it was used as a military depot.
All of the
settlements of present day Washington and Frederick County
repeatedly came under attack by Indian war parties. Monocacy
(believed to be located a short distance from the present day
Creagerstown) was burned until only the old log Church and a few
nearby buildings were left standing. The war was eventually won
through the efforts of the colonial army with little actual help
from the British regulars.
By early 1756, the
Pennsylvania General Assembly finally decided to take action and
defend the settlers. Pennsylvania voted to build a chain of forts
along the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Delaware River to the
Mason-Dixon Line. These forts were to serve and protect
communities from Indian attacks.
William McCord and his brothers
built Ft. McCord in 1756 as part of this line of Pennsylvania’s
frontier forts. It is well known and memorialized in Pennsylvania
where 26 people lost their lives or were captured on April 1, 1756
in an attack by the Indians backed by the French.
On May 28, 1754, a group of colonial
militiamen encountered 30 French troops preparing breakfast near
the Ohio River in present day Pennsylvania. When 22-year-old Lt.
Col. George Washington ordered his men to open fire on the French,
thus beginning the French and Indian War.
Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia
had ordered Washington to build a chain of forts along the Ohio
River before the French could establish forts of their own. After
learning that the French already were settling the river valley,
Washington took it upon himself to drive them out. After the May
28th skirmish that killed 10 Frenchmen, including the group's
leader, Coulon de Jumonville, Washington learned that he had
attacked a diplomatic party. The French army, led by Jumonville's
brother, intended to retaliate.
Washington moved his troops and
supervised the hasty construction of wooden ramparts in the Great
Meadows naming it Fort Necessity. Defending the fort would be
difficult. It was built in a creek bottom with no tactical
advantage for defense. To make matters worse, forested hills
surrounded the fort on three sides and the defensive perimeter was
cut too close which allowed attackers to approach the fort. The fort
also did not have enough supplies to withstand a siege. When the
French arrived on July 3rd, the colonists found themselves
outnumbered and Washington's force suffered 100 casualties in one
day of fighting. Washington was forced to surrender the following
The French drew up a treaty that
Washington thought was generous. Washington and his men were
allowed to keep one cannon and march with flags flying. With
Washington's signature on the treaty this meant that he had
admitted to assassinating a French diplomat. The British were
outraged with Washington's mistake allowing the France to justify
a war in North America by arguing Washington’s actions had
demonstrated Britain's hostile intent. Ridiculed in Europe as an
inept colonial and demoted to captain, Washington then resigned
from the militia.
In the early part of
1754 the Indians suddenly disappeared from Western Frederick
County. The emissaries of France had been among them and had
enlisted their aid in their scheme to take possession of the full
Mississippi Valley. England was laying claim to virtually all of
North America. However, the French had a well-established colony
at New Orleans, and they were steadily extending their influence
northward through the Mississippi Valley. When the English
government made a grant of certain privileges beyond the Allegheny
Mountains to the Virginia Ohio Company, the French increased their
efforts to establish a chain of forts from Canada to their
Mississippi settlements. The object was to confine the English
colonies to the Atlantic slope. The French had a long-standing
treaty with the Iriquois Indians, and the Iriquois were greatly
feared by every other Indian tribe in the whole area, including
Western Maryland. Thus the French and the Iriquois were able to
intimidate the greater part of the Indian tribes of the area to
make war upon the English colonies.
The French and
During the French
and Indian War (Seven Years War) many settlers in Western Maryland
were killed. Several forts were built to help provide protection.
Fort Necessity was built at Great Meadows in Pennsylvania, and
Fort Cumberland, in Maryland,
was built around what is now the present day
Cumberland. Many Western Maryland settlers were frightened by all
the killings, and fled their homes and farms, seeking safer areas.
Most went to Frederick, Annapolis or Baltimore. Finally, after
England won the war most of the settlers who had left their homes
in Western Maryland never returned.
fortifications were built for the protection of Frederick County.
By 1758 forts located near the Emmitsburg settlement were Abram's
Delight in Winchester, VA, George Washington's Office in
Winchester, VA, Fort Edwards in Capon Bridge, VA, Fort
Frederick at Big Pool, MD, the Jonathan Hager House in
Hagerstown, MD and Fort Loudon, PA.
These forts were built to protect the English
Crown and her properties from the French and Indians who might try
to claim the land.
Since the Toms Creek
Hundred Settlement, which included the 21727 zip code area, was
not significant enough in size, no forts were built either by the
General Assembly of Pennsylvania or Maryland. Instead residents
of Tom's Creek were expected to seek shelter at Fort Loudon
or the Jonathan Hager House in Elizabeth Town (present day
Hagerstown), about a day's ride on horseback away. This left the
settlement of the Tom's Creek defenseless against Indian raids and
was no stranger to Frederick County during the French and Indian
War. In 1755, one year after his defeat at Fort Necessity and the
start of the French and Indian War, the British were resolved to
eliminate the French from North America. British officer Major
General Edward Braddock was selected to lead the campaign. Colonel
Washington accompanied Braddock as his aide.
wanted to split his army into two columns allowing him to have a
column on each side of the Potomac River for a portion of their
journey to Fort Duquesne. Colonel Thomas Dunbar commanded column
one consisting of his 48th Regiment, and was given
instructions to proceed to Frederick, then cross South Mountain at
a location that is present day Braddock's Heights. They were then
to pass through Boonsboro and cross the Antietam Creek at the
Devil's Backbone then re-crossing the Potomac River joining forces
with Sir Peter Halkett's 4th Regiment near Winchester,
Virginia. With a combined force, they proceeded to Wills Creek,
then onto Pennsylvania to Fort Necessity preparing to move to Fort
Duquesne. As they made their way through the thick forest, they
were instructed to cut a road for future use. This would be the
first major roadway leading west which called the National Pike.
Near Fort Duquesne, General Braddock became frustrated with the
slow pace and decided to detach about 1,500 men and advance
onward, leaving his supplies and support to the rear.
On July 9, 1755,
General Braddock and his men were about seven miles from the fort
when disaster struck. Without warning the French and their Indian
allies attacked from three sides, causing mass confusion for
Braddock and his men. Retreating to the rear, Braddock's men were
also confronted by gunfire from their own men who were advancing from the
rear. During the fight, General Braddock was mortally wounded;
along with 63 of his officers and 914 others were either killed or
On their retreat on
July 13th, the British camped about one mile west of the former Fort
Necessity when Braddock succumbed to his injuries. The General was
buried under the road to obliterate any traces of the grave's
whereabouts, fearing that a marked grave would only permit the
Indians to uncover and desecrate the remains. The British Army
then continued its retreat on to eastern Pennsylvania. General
Braddock had been schooled in the art of Warfare in England; his
tactics were no match for the French and their Indian allies in
the wild frontier.
Braddock's defeat near Fort Necessity in the western area is known as Westernvania, or Pennsylvania. Indian raids were common in the
smaller communities, which led the people to flee for their lives,
until a company of troops was raised to protect the villages until
the war with France had ended.
was Braddock's defeat when forts became more apparent. Following
his defeat, the Indians were very active in support of their
French allies. The frontier of Maryland, Virginia and
Pennsylvania were basically at the mercy of the savage Indians.
Massive stockades such as Fort Frederick proved to be invaluable
in helping to defend and turn the tide against the murder and
Fort Frederick is located in an excellent strategic location at
the highest point of the area. Fort Frederick is settled
on the highest elevation so no army would have an advantage of
attack, as the cannon emplacements would see the enemies every
move. One of its major functions was to maintain communications
between Fort Cumberland and Fort Conococheague, as well as provide
a safe place for civilians and soldiers against the raiding
Indians. Work on Fort Frederick took up the better part of two
years. Mounting expenses finally compelled the Maryland Assembly
to cut off funds in 1758, although the fort does seem to have been
substantially complete by that time.
With completion of Fort Frederick
there were only a few accounts of any Indian attacks that occurred
near the Emmitsburg settlement. In 1763, during the last year of
the French and Indian War, one of the famous attacks occurred seven
miles west of the Tom's Creek Hundred settlement in present day
The raid started on the west side of
Waynesboro and claimed the lives of Enoch Brown, a schoolmaster, and
ten of his eleven students. Later that same year two Indians
attacked the Renfrew sisters, Jane and Sarah, while they were
washing clothes in the Antietam Creek. As local accounts state,
some of the settlers were able to track the Indians held
responsible and returned the scalps of
the two sisters and also the scalps of the Indian attackers in
time for the funeral. (This paragraph was researched from the
Waynesboro Historical Society and the Renfrew Farm Museum.)
The English capture of French Fort
Duquesne (now Pittsburgh) late that same year relieved the
pressure on the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia frontiers.
The war continued further north and on the high seas until 1760
when the English finally took the last major French strongholds in
Canada. In 1763 the Treaty of Paris formally ended the struggle
with England taking possession of most of France's empire,
including Canada. This left the frontiers of Western Maryland safer to live in.
other articles by John Miller