Indigenous Peoples

Native American Oil Painting

For thousands of years, native peoples traversed the land that would become Frederick County. Historic-era tribes, such as the Susquehannock, the Piscataway, and the Tuscarora used the Upper Potomac and Monocacy River and their surrounding valleys to hunt wild game, establish small encampments and villages, and establish trade routes.

Image: North Eastern Native American warrior before battle, early 1700s.
Courtesy Artist Robert Griffing, and Publisher, Paramount Press Inc.

Spear points

Native American Spear Points

The Woodland Era spanned 1000-1,600. Settlements were established near rivers allowing for fishing and water transport. Villages formed as a means of protection. Far-reaching trade networks were established.

The bow and arrow was introduced in around 800 AD. The size of spear-points were made relative to the size of the animals that were hunted for food and clothing. These small arrow and spear-points document the craftsmanship of those who depended on the accuracy of their weapons.

Pottery Shards

Native American Pottery Shards

Clay has been used for domestic ware, ritual tokens and decorative items since 28,000 BC . Generally found along rivers and streams, or where water once flowed, the right soil is composed of minerals, plant and animal life. Frederick County was a haven for this material and easily obtained.

Water softened the clay allowing shapes to be made. Simple decoration using a stick enhanced the beauty of the finished piece. Heating it in a pit with fire (firing) made the objects durable, not as durable as metal but certainly useful, necessary, and beautiful in every day life.

First Settlers of Frederick Town

Daniel Dulany
Courtesy Collection of the Maryland State Archives
Daniel Dulany the Elder (d. 1753)
Justus Engelhardt Kühn (d. 1717)
Oil on canvas, 19th century
MSA SC 4680-10-0057

Locally, the earliest known European settlement was about 20 miles north of Frederick. English land speculators and colonial officials wanted to take further control of the area to make it profitable for themselves and the British crown.

One such developer, Daniel Dulany, an Irish lawyer and entrepreneur, had a land patent of 7,000 acres known as “Tasker’s Chance.” Dulany knew he could not successfully settle his new community on Maryland’s rough and untamed western frontier with English immigrants only. Pennsylvania had been successful in developing its unsettled interior lands with the help of German immigrants, known for being skilled, industrious, and brave. For several years, Dulany sent inducements to German and Swiss immigrants living in Pennsylvania as well as in Europe to settle on his Tasker’s Chance parcel. Meanwhile, English and Scots-Irish began migrating to the area, arriving from established towns and counties of the Maryland colony.

In 1745, Dulany developed the grid for Frederick-Town, which would become the county seat. The grid called for hundreds of lots for homes and farm parcels, surrounding Carroll Creek, which would serve as the town’s water source.

Immigrant Trunk, c. 1750

Inscription in Immigrant Trunk

Phillip Jacob Grundler and his family moved to America from Germany in 1754 using trunks like this one to pack their belongings. Sixty percent of Frederick County settlers came from other parts of the American colonies or from England. Approximately forty percent came from Germany, including the Grundlers.

Click image to see inscription detail

Detail of Plat of Frederick-Town

Plat of
Frederick-Town, Maryland

Click image to see detail


Frederick-Town was founded in 1745.
In 1782, Samuel Duval created this plat, showing the early layout of the town.

Colonial Life

Evangelical Lutheran Church

In the New World, faith and frugality were guiding principles. Numerous churches were established in early Fredericktowne, which served for religious purposes, as well as centers for education and social life.

The distinct cultures of these early settlers were illustrated by the diverse architectural designs, styles of dress, cooking traditions and festivities. Many of these original congregations still exist in downtown Frederick today.

John Thomas Schley
John Thomas Schley (1712-1790)

John Thomas Schley (1712-1790) of Moerzheim, Germany immigrated to Frederick in approximately 1745, and was among its earliest settlers. Schley (who is said to have built the first house in Frederick) was highly involved in the development of the town. Schley was a schoolmaster, tavern owner, organist and composer. He was also very active in the Reformed Church (now Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ) which had a large German congregation. He was a founding member of Frederick’s first fire company. Schley became a naturalized citizen in 1760.

John Thomas Schley’s Songbooks

John Thomas Schley’s Songbooks from Marshall L. Etchison Collection
John Thomas Schley’s Songbooks
from Marshall L. Etchison Collection

John Schley, a schoolmaster, musician, and organist, brought his songbooks from Germany and continued to update them. His notes reflect his worldly education and include his own musical compositions, popular music of the day, and a quotation from Shakespeare.

Revolutionary War

Hessian Soldier Oil Painting
Portrait of a Hessian Soldier

The American Revolution was the cause of a new and unexpected wave of Europeans to settle in Fredericktowne. Hessians, German mercenary soldiers from the Hesse region hired by the British to fight in the war, were captured in various battles and imprisoned in the Frederick Barracks in the south area of town. After finding friendly residents who shared their native German language, many Hessian soldiers made Frederick their home at war’s end rather than return to Europe.

Frederick Barracks

Frederick Hession Barracks
Frederick Hession Barracks

The Frederick Barracks became known as the Hessian Barracks when the complex of buildings began to be used to imprison mercenary soldiers from Germany, 1780-1781. Thousands of Hessian soldiers who fought and lost in the battles of Yorktown, Saratoga, and Trenton were detained here. One of the Frederick Barrack remains, which has been preserved, remains on the grounds of the Maryland School for the Deaf. The outside of the building is open to the public.

Conrad Engelbrecht (1758-1819)

Gravestone Conrad Engelbrecht

A tailor from Eichig, near present-day Bayreuth, Germany, Conrad Engelbrehtt was one of the many Hessian soldiers hired by the British to suppress the Revolutionary War. Like others, Conrad Engelbrecht later established himself in Frederick. He was the father of Jacob Engelbrecht (1797-1878), a tailor, former town mayor, and musician, whose diaries written from 1818-1878 chronicle life in Frederick.

Jacob Engelbrecht

Jacob Engelbrecht
Jacob Engelbrecht (1797-1878)

Conrad’s son, Jacob Engelbrecht (1797-1878, pictured left) not only kept a diary, but he recorded history in his 20 tattered volumes, including details from marriages and deaths and from politics to his garden.  He was a man of many occupations and hobbies that added to his entries. His meticulous entries for numbers were showcased as he counted the caravans of wagons passing his front door during the Civil War. He wrote in his father’s tongue which was a combination of archaic German, anglicized German, and misspelled German.  Englebrecht’s sixty years of journaling provides the window of his life for us to enter.

Craftspeople Support Frederick

Frederick Klein - Baker

Fredericktowne became a thriving community that attracted many tradespeople,

including weavers, tailors, silversmiths, shoemakers, tanners, blacksmiths, potters, and wheelwrights. As the town grew, these talented craftspeople helped establish Fredericktowne as a notable crossroads where makers of glass, furniture, clocks, jewelry, and hats could be found. Such locally made items contributed to the residents’ quality of life. One in seven citizens were tradesmen. The rest were farmers.

E. Frederick Klein (left) was born in Wurtemberg, Germany, in 1790. After serving as a baker in the army in Switzerland, he sailed to America and for two years worked as a baker in Pennsylvania. For 19 years he operated a bakery in Baltimore. Due to ill health, he moved to Frederick County in 1840.

Amelung Sugar Bowl

John Frederick John Frederick Amelung Sugar Bowl Donated by Grace Neidig
John Frederick Amelung Sugar Bowl
Donated by Grace Neidig

In 1754, John Frederick Amelung (1741-1798) emigrated from Breman, Germany, to form his New Bremen Glass Manufactory in modern-day Urbana. From 1785-1790, the company employed hundreds of German immigrants to manufacture window panes, mirrors, optical glasses, sugar bowls, decanters, wine glasses, tumblers, and ornate presentation pieces for the new nation. Surviving Amelung glass artifacts are rare and highly collectable.

Matthias Zimmer’s Teakettle

Matthias Zimmer Teakettle Donated by Matthew Bie
Matthias Zimmer’s Teakettle
Donated by Matthew Bie

It took many Frederick County citizens to produce this copper tea kettle ultimately made by German immigrant Matthias Zimmer (1749-1786) between 1770 and 1786. ZImmer’s apprentice, the copper miners, carpenters, and blacksmiths would have all been involved in the making of one teapot like this one. All supplies would have come from local forests, and mines.

Capt. Joseph Van Swearingen’s Pocket Watch

>Capt. Joseph Van Swearingen’s Pocket Watch Donated by Mary A. Sappington
Capt. Joseph Van Swearingen’s Pocket Watch
Donated by Mary A. Sappington

Captain Joseph Van Swearingen (1799-1837), a U.S. soldier from Middletown, owned this pocket watch, which was made in England between 1784 and 1815. It was repaired or sold by John Fessler (1759-1820), a Frederick silversmith and clocksmith who resided here from 1785 to 1820. Fessler emigrated from Switzerland and is known for his tall case (“grandfather”) clocks. He also produced silver dinnerware and repaired timepieces such as this one.

19th Century Immigrants

Caption: The President's visit to the Army of the Potomac -- Arrival at the station at Frederick  Sketched by Mr. Hamilton
The President’s visit to the Army of the Potomac — Arrival at the station at Frederick Sketched by Mr. Hamilton

The B&O Railroad completed its Frederick Branch to Harper’s Ferry, Cumberland, and the Ohio River in 1831. Irish immigrants, escaping Ireland’s Hunger Famine of 1845-1853, worked for the B&O and other railroads. Many such laborers established themselves here, producing subsequent generations of railroad employees.


Telegraph Mainline Sounder

Telegraph Mainline Sounder, Frederick Passenger Station, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad |  Donated by B. Richard Harrington
Telegraph Mainline Sounder, Frederick Passenger Station, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

Prior to the invention of telephones, the telegraph provided efficient communication between railroad stations. Developed in 1850, the sounder used electromagnets to translate electrical current and allowed operators to “hear” Morse Code as a series of short and long tones, called “pips”.. This one came from the Frederick Passenger Station of the B&O Railroad.

20th Century Immigrants

Man with Beard Arrives at Ellis Island
New arrival to Ellis Island
Courtesy the New York Public Library digital collections

Between 1880 and 1920, more than 20 million immigrants arrived in the U.S. seeking freedom and prosperity. The majority of immigrants were from Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe, including four million Italians and two million Jews. Frederick County’s population is continually evolving and each day a new chapter of its history is being written. 

Ship’s Passenger Manifest

Dr. George Joseph (G.J.) Snowball, considered to be Frederick’s first black dentist, was born September 29, 1878 in Jamaica. He arrived in the United States on the S.S. Admiral Dewey. The ship’s passenger manifest (shown here), dated September 11, 1912, lists him as 33 years of age at that time. He established a local dental office several blocks from the Heritage Frederick museum and practiced for 57 years.

Passenger Manifest for SS Admiral Dewey from Jamaica 1912
Passenger Manifest for SS Admiral Dewey from Jamaica 1912

Black Frederick

South Bentz Street School

The South Bentz Street School was the first black elementary school in Frederick. Three educators taught grades one through six. Teachers taught two grades at a time. The school operated from the 1880s until 1939, when its students relocated to Lincoln Elementary.

A Concise History of Black Frederick

Text contributed by AARCH (African American Resources – Cultural and Heritage) Society of Frederick, MD

Upon the establishment of Frederick County by European settlers in the 18th century, African descended people were both free and enslaved. Many fugitive Blacks formed Maroon communities with local Native Americans before the arrival of the English. African Americans labored in agriculture, industry, were skilled artisans, and engaged in business. Blacks advanced Frederick County during the colonial era and into the Revolutionary War  both on and off the battlefield.

After the war for independence, the population of free Blacks in the Frederick region grew. This inspired greater abolitionist efforts as well as severe laws passed to restrict the freedoms of all African Americans. Despite this, free Blacks established crucial organizations for social, cultural, religious, educational and economic upliftment including the Underground Railroad during the 19th century.

With the Civil War, the status of African Americans changed drastically as over 3,000 Blacks from Frederick fought for freedom in the conflict. The Reconstruction Era in Frederick witnessed an explosion of  churches, cemeteries, schools, political associations, and the establishment of Black towns throughout the county.

As Reconstruction ended, the “Jim Crow” era heralded in segregation and the violent treatment of African Americans in Frederick County. This was met by the Frederick Black community with the creation of important institutions to address the needs of African American citizens in medicine, education, religion, culture, economics, politics, and social concerns while simultaneously fighting in both World Wars.

As the Civil Rights Era progressed, Black Frederick residents were exceptionally active in national and local efforts to end segregation and attain equal rights for all. The collective struggle of Black Fredericktonians to ensure justice and equality in Frederick and beyond has continued to the present.

Emancipation Association Pin

Emancipation Association Ribbon
Emancipation Association Pin Donated by Donated by William O. Lee, Jr.


The Emancipation Association was established in 1890 to commemorate the release of an initial Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln on September 22nd. The celebration of Juneteenth started on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended (41 days following the Appomattox surrender) and enslaved people were free. Different states were emancipated at different times. Maryland was emancipated on November 1, 1864. This pin is from 1910. Today, Frederick citizens use Juneteenth to celebrate Emancipation. From 1891 through the 1930s, Frederick’s celebration was held at the Fairgrounds in August.