SIGN: Hall's Cross Roads
Did you know Aberdeen was once famous for canned tomatoes? This marker is located on MD Rte 132 at East Bel Air Ave.
This stop on our tour brings us to the origins of the City of Aberdeen.
Old Post Road was the main thoroughfare through the county and to points beyond when it was first created in 1666. It extended from Alexandria, VA, to Philadelphia and would later be known as Route 7, after much straightening and improvement.
Old Post Road happened to pass through an area known as Hall’s Cross Roads, which was named for a local family with a large farm there. Stage coaches traveling between the North and the South frequently stopped there at the inn, which was near the present-day Grove Presbyterian Church. By 1670, East Aberdeen was a regular mail drop.
At that time, Old Baltimore was the county seat. It was located on the east side of the Bush River and was a convenient shipping port. Bush River Neck Road connected the port by land with points east and ended at Spesutia Ferry, near Swan Creek.
Because of the location, this was an area where commerce grew. A map of the area in 1799 shows the area beginning to flourish. According to C. Milton Wright’s book, Our Harford Heritage, there was an inn, a store, a blacksmith shop and several dwellings at that time.
However, it was the coming of the railroad which really put Aberdeen on the map. In fact, it was given its name by the first stationmaster, Mr. Winston. He hailed from Aberdeen, Scotland, and lived in a house which was on the railroad right-of-way and it became the first railroad station in town.
The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad arrived on the scene in 1835 and the town hasn’t been the same since. Given that this was an agricultural community, the ability to ship goods to market, most notably milk, in a convenient and timely manner allowed the economy to expand.
In an interesting footnote, the PWB RR was involved in the first bloodshed of the Civil War. In 1861, Union soldiers were attacked by an angry mob of Southern sympathizers in Baltimore when the soldiers transferred from a PWB train to a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad train. Twelve people were killed. It was called the Pratt Street Riots.
In 1870, there were 300 residents of Aberdeen. With the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1880, the population swelled to 700. The town had become a major hub of shipping.
The canning industry in the area, which began about the time of the Civil War, greatly benefited from the proximity of the railroad. “Whether fact or fiction,” Wright wrote, legend has it that canning in the county has its origins in a house across the street from Baker Cemetery on Route 22 when George T. Baker began canning local fruit in his kitchen. By 1867, he had built the first canning house.
For the next 50 years, canning tomatoes and corn would be a major component of the county’s economy. The railroad made getting the product to market a simple matter.
In 1892*, an Act of the General Assembly of Maryland incorporated Aberdeen, and combined Hall’s Cross Roads, Aberdeen and Mechanicsville into one town. Public water was introduced in 1900 and by 1921 the town could boast of a sewage system.
The town became a city in 1992, and as such had a mayor and city council. The designation of All America City was bestowed upon the municipality in 1997 in recognition of efforts to help the less advantaged citizens.
Aberdeen may have begun as little more than a crossroads in horse and buggy days, but then it blossomed in the heyday of the railroads. The community has certainly experienced change and taken it in stride to become the charming place we know today which embraces its history while being forward-looking.
This sign was erected by the Bicentennial Committee of Aberdeen and the Maryland Historical Society.
*Note: The date on the marker is incorrect (1893) and should read 1892.