This week’s stop finds us again on what used to be called Old Post Road.
When this road was created in 1666, it was a major thoroughfare. But it was hardly a direct route as it meandered quite a bit because it was created from a patched together bunch of trails.
A second Post Road was created in 1687 and had a more north/south orientation.
As mentioned in a previous article telling the story of the , the Old Post Road stretched from Alexandria, VA, to Philadelphia and would later come to be known as Rte. 7.
Given that the road was a major thoroughfare of the time, it’s no surprise that when the Church of England decided to make sure it had a firm presence in America that a church would’ve been constructed on Old Post Road.
In 1688, King William of Orange sent Royal Governor Lionel Copley to Maryland to establish a diocese in Baltimore County, which then included what is now known as Harford County.
In 1671, the first St. George’s Protestant Episcopal Church was constructed at Gravelly.
Gravelly, which was considered for the county seat in 1782, was near Michaelsville, a few miles south of Perryman and is now a part of Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Though there is no formal record of the first church and nothing remains of it, it is believed to have been a wooden building. There is, however, a St. George’s Protestant Episcopal Church record of a baptism in Bush River Neck in 1681 confirming its existence.
In 1704, an Act of Assembly decreed that roads leading to courthouses or churches should have two notches in trees along the way and that the way to a ferry should have three notches. (That must’ve been better than giving directions by saying to turn left at the second big rock.)
It wouldn’t be until 1787 that Old Post Road would resemble the modern Rte. 7.
Even with the improvements, it was described as being, “frightful,” by a M. Brissot de Marville who traveled the road in 1790, and also mentioned there being, “corduroy,” roads in lowlands, which were logs with dirt on top.
“The American Register of 1797 reports, ‘Roads exhibit for the greater part an aspect of savage desolation,’” according to an account in Our Harford Heritage, by C. Milton Wright.
As the population in the county grew, a second church was built on the site of the present St. George’s Church in 1718. It was larger than the first, but was also made of wood.
In 1754, the Assembly of Maryland “was petitioned for 75,000 pounds of tobacco for the purpose of rebuilding the church,” according to Wright’s history.
The third building was completed in 1758, and included imported flagstone from England. It was a brick building that cost $3500. A vestry house was built in 1766 and was later used as a schoolhouse. This version of the church stood until 1832 without needing any major repairs.
The fourth, and final, church was built in 1851. It also cost about $3500. The result was an Italian Romanesque structure, according to the Maryland Historical Trust. (I’ll tell you more about this fascinating church in another report.)
It’s often referred to as Spesutia Church, referring to the original owner of the land, Col. Nathaniel Utie. (And, I’ll tell you that interesting story yet another week as well.)
As was often the case, where the roads were and what was built on them was a function of the movement and growth of the population.
The very first versions of roads were paths made by Indians that led from the waterways to nearby settlements.
Inland exploration and settlement created the need for a formal system of roads to points in the interior of the county, as well as between cities.
And, it was along these first roads that civilization and the towns as we came to know them were established.
This sign was erected by the Governor William Paca Chapter DAR of Harford County, Maryland in 1933.