Geography, Indigenous People, Maryland History, Towsontown

Of Interest, Perhaps, to the Natives, Inhabitants, & Scholars of Terræ Mariæ.

About a month ago, I came across the following article hiding on the second page of the July 7th 1866 edition of The Baltimore County Union—the local weekly newspaper that was printed every Saturday morning in Towsontown, out of the office of the Longnecker Bros. (John Barr “J.B.” & Henry Clay “H.C.” Longnecker), from 1865 to 1909.

Neither before, nor after running across this excerpt, have I discovered anything as concise and informative, relating to the history, geography, and nomenclature of the State of Maryland. What makes this article such a gem is the fact that it pays equal attention to not only the settlers, but the region’s indigenous peoples as well—the inhabitants of the pre-European-contact Chesapeake region—thus giving voice to a demographic that is all-too-often marginalized, or silenced entirely.

That many of these names are still in use makes this a worthwhile read. However, while this article is inclusive of indigenous culture, it would be a mistake to think that all marginalized communities are equally represented. The population data from the 1860 U.S. Census can hardly be accurate, considering that it most likely only accounts for the state’s free and white population. So it is important to remember that there are enslaved African Americans who are missing from these numbers. In addition to the missing people, there are also a couple of missing counties—because two of them were created after 1866 (the year that this article was published): 1) Wicomico County, created from parts of Somerset & Worcester Counties in 1867, named after the Wicomico River (the derivation of which is included below); and 2) Garrett County, created from part of Allegany County in 1872, named after the president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, John Work Garrett.

So, without further ado, the article:

☞ We have been shown a “Geography of the State of Maryland,” designed to accompany “Cornell’s Grammar School Geography.”—It was got up, we believe, at the suggestion, of Rev. L. Van Bokkelen, of our county, the able State Superintendent of Public Instruction.—From it we extract the following valuable information concerning the origin of the names of the counties of our State, with the date of their formation, population in 1860, &c. Our readers will do well to cut it out and preserve it:

ST. MARY’S, the earliest ; called in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary ; formed in 1634 ;—character of the surface, undulating ; Geological formations, tertiary and post tertiary ; area, 300 square miles ; population, 15,213.

ANNE ARUNDEL, after the Lady Anne Arundel, wife of Cæcilius 2d Lord Baltimore ; formed in 1650 ; character of surface, hilly ; Geological formation, metamorphic, jurassic, cretaceous, tertiary ; area, 360 square miles ; population, 23,900.

KENT, after the English county of that name, by settlers from said county ; formed in 1650 ; character of the surface, gently rolling ; Geological formations, cretaceous and tertiary ;—area, 240 square miles ; population, 13,267.

CALVERT, after the family name of the Proprietary ; formed in 1654 ; character of surface, undulating ; Geological formations, tertiary ; area, 250 square miles ; population, 10,447.

CHARLES, after Charles Lord Baltimore ; formed in 1658 ; character of surface, rolling ; Geological formations, tertiary ; area, 450 square miles ; population, 16,517.

BALTIMORE, from the Proprietary’s Irish barony (Celtic bailte-mor, i. e., the large town ;)—formed in 1659 ; character of surface, hilly ; Geological formations, metamorphic and jurassic ; area, 600 square miles ; population, Baltimore city, 212,418 ; Baltimore county, 54,135.

TALBOT, after Lord Talbot, uncle of Lady Baltimore ; formed in 1660 ; character of surface, level ; Geological formations, tertiary ; area, 280 square miles ; population, 14,795.

DORCHESTER, after Earl Dorset, a family friend of the Calverts ; formed in 1666 ; character of surface, level ; in part marshy ; Geological formations, tertiary and post tertiary ; area, 600 square miles ; population, 20,461.

SOMERSET, after Edward Somerset, husband of Maria Calvert, daughter of Lord Baltimore ; formed in 1666; character of surface, level ;—Geological formations, tertiary and post tertiary ; area, 500 square miles ; population, 24,992.

CECIL, after the forename of the 2d Lord Baltimore ; formed in 1673 ; character of surface, hilly and undulating ; Geological formations, metamorphic, jurassic, and cretaceous, area, 350 square miles ; population, 22,862.

PRINCE GEORGE’S, from Prince George of Denmark ; formed in 1695 ; character of surface, moderately hilly ; Geological formations, jurassic, cretaceous, and tertiary ; area, 400 square miles ; population, 23,327.

QUEEN ANNE’S, after the reigning Sovereign of Great Britain ; formed in 1706 ; character of surface, gently rolling ; Geological formations, tertiary ; area, 400 square miles ; population, 15,961.

WORCESTER, in commemoration of the Stuart proclivities of the Palatine’s family ; formed in 1742 ; character of surface, level ; Geological formations, post tertiary ; area, 560 square miles ; population, 20,661.

FREDERICK, after Frederick, Prince of Wales ; formed in 1748 ; character of surface, undulating, and in part mountainous ; Geological formations, metamorphic, silurian, and triassic ; area, 580 square miles ; population, 46,591.

MONTGOMERY, after General Montgomery, who was killed at Quebec ; formed in 1766 ; character of surface, moderately hilly ; Geological formations, metamorphic and jurassic ; area, 425 square miles ; population, 18,322.

CAROLINE, after Caroline Harford, a niece of the Proprietary ; formed in 1773 ; character of surface, level ; Geological formations, tertiary ; area, 270 miles ; population, 11,129.

HARFORD, after Henry Harford, a nephew of the Palatine, and Governor of the Province ;—formed in 1773 ; character of surface, in the north, hilly ; in the south-east, level ; Geological formations, metamorphic and jurassic ; area, 400 square miles ; population, 23,415.

WASHINGTON, after General Washington ;—formed in 1776; character of surface, mountainous except in the Great Valley ; Geological formations, silurian and devonian ; area, 525 square miles ; population, 31,417.

ALLEGANY, after the great Indian tribe of the Alligewi ; formed in 1789 ; character of surface, mountainous and glade lands ; Geological formations, carboniferous, devonean, and silurian ; area, 1,100 square miles ; population, 28,347.

CARROLL, after Carroll of C., the signer of the Declaration of Independence ; formed in 1836 ; character of surface, hilly ; Geological formations, metamorphic and triassic ; area, 425 square miles ; population, 24,533.

HOWARD, after Colonel John Eager Howard, the elder ; formed in 1850 ; character of surface, hilly ; Geological formations, metamorphic ; area, 240 square miles ; population, 13,388.


Al-le-ga-ny—Corrupted from Al-le-ge-wi, i.e. the old settlers.
An-ne-mess-ex—The creek where are logs for building.
An-ti-e-tam—The swift current.
A-qua-keek or A-ka-keek—The thicket ; or the place for pic-nics.
A-qui-a—Passing between two headlands.
Cat-oc-tin—The place of many deer.
Chap-o-wan-sie—The red beech.
Chap-tic-o—Deep water.
Ches-a-peake—The great salt reservoir or bay.
Chic-a-hom-i-ny—Turkey lick, resort of turkeys.
Chic-a-mim-om-i-co—Where turkeys are plenty.
Chick-a-max-en—Turkey stone, where turkeys brood.
Ching-o-teague—Where pike is caught ; or, poor land.
Chop-tank—Where there is a bend, or turn-off.
Co-an, or Cow-an—The creek of pines.
Con-o-co-cheague—Very long.
Co-nol-o-wa—Having deep holes.
Co-ra-pe-chen—A fine running stream.
Cur-ri-o-man—Having much extent.
Gun-sen—Where we were called at or spoken to.
Lo-na-co-ning—The great right-hand opening or stream.
Ma-cho-dic—Big water.
Mag-o-thy—Little meadows.
Man-o-kin—The place of scalping, or the fort.
Mat-ta-po-ny—Where we had no bread.
Mat-ta-wo-man—Where we found nothing.
Mo-nic, Mo-ny—The place of assembling.
Mon-oc-a-cy—Having many large bends.
Nan-je-moy—The haunt of raccoons.
Nan-ti-coke—The first or head tribe.
Nas-e-ong-o, Nas-sa-wing-o—Where we killed deer ; or, black water.
Ne-ap-sco—Near foam or breakers.
Oc-co-quan—The boiling pots, i.e. the cooking ground.
Pam-un-key—The place of sweating-ovens or vapor-baths.
Tasp-o-tans-a, Pas-qua-hans-a—Where we go for boating.
Pat-ap-sco—Having white-capped waves.
Pat-ux-ent—Winding among loose stones.
Pec-at-on—Open water.
Pic-a-wax-en—Where our moccasins were torn.
Pis-cat-a-wa—Having dark-colored or shaded banks.
Po-co-moke—Having shell-fish.
Port To-bacc-o—Corrupted from Po-ta-phac-o, the crook between two hills.
Po-to-mac—Among black-walnuts ; or, the river highway.
Quant-i-co—The dancing-place.
Que-pong-o—The burnt pines.
Sin-e-pux-ent—Having many oyster-beds.
Sus-que-han-na—The stream with rapids.
Tuck-a-ho—Where deer are shy.
Wic-om-i-co—Where houses are built.
Wit-ip-kin—The place of buried skulls and bones.
Yoh-a-ga-ny, (first syllable pronounced yock,)—Running the contrary way ; all other streams joining the Chesapeake, while this goes into the Ohio.

Three other river names, Linganore, Octarara, and Tuscarora, are probably Iroquois terms, and were unintelligible to the Lenni-Lenape or Delawares.

As to the veracity of all of the facts recited above, well, I cannot personally vouch for them. But they were deemed good enough for promulgation to the youth of Maryland in 1866, and they certainly provide a fascinating insight into what people thought was important at the time. I suppose that we can thank the Rev. Dr. Libertus Van Bokkelen (1815-1889) for compiling this information, as he was then Maryland’s superintendent of public instruction. Van Bokkelen (as the keenly observant readers of this page may have already guessed) was not a native of Maryland, but rather a native of New York City—the grandson of an eighteenth-century Dutch immigrant, a Protestant-Episcopal clergyman, and an all-around interesting character in his own right (who may well merit a future article on The Monumental City). He seems to have been a rather inquisitive fellow, and ’tis possible that he compiled this information as much for himself, as he did for the children in Maryland’s public school system. Whatever the case, he evidently thought that this information was worth knowing.

And you know what?

He was right.

A lot of this information is still worth knowing.


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