Hagerstown is a city in northwestern Maryland, and ranks as Maryland’s sixth largest city, but if the urban area were to likewise incorporate, it would be Maryland’s second-most populous city.
The Hager House and Museum in Hagerstown City Park was once home to the city’s founder, Jonathan Hager.
Burnside’s Bridge, a site of heavy combat in the Battle of Antietam, which occurred just south of Hagerstown.
Hagerstown Public Square circa 1900.In 1739, Jonathan Hager, a German immigrant from Pennsylvania and a volunteer Captain of Scouts, purchased 200 acres of land in the Great Appalachian Valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains in Maryland and called it Hager’s Fancy. In 1762, Hager officially founded the town of Elizabethtown which he named after his wife, Elizabeth Kershner. Fourteen years later, Jonathan Hager became known as the “Father of Washington County” after his efforts helped Hagerstown become the county seat of newly created Washington County which Hager also helped create from neighboring Frederick County, Maryland. The City Council changed the community’s name to Hagerstown in 1813 because the name had gained popular usage, and in the following year, the Maryland State Legislature officially endorsed the changing of the town’s name.
Civil War: Hagerstown’s strategic location at the border between the North and the South made the city a primary staging area and supply center for four major campaigns during the Civil War.
In 1861, General Robert Patterson’s troops used Hagerstown as a base to attack Virginia Rebels in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
In the Maryland Campaign of 1862, General James Longstreet’s command occupied the town while en route to the Battle of South Mountain and Antietam.
In 1863, the city was the site of several military incursions and engagements as General Lee’s army invaded and retreated at the Gettysburg Campaign.
In 1864, Hagerstown was invaded by the Confederate Army under General Jubal Early. On Wednesday, 6 July , Early sent 1,500 cavalry, commanded by Brigadier-General John McCausland, into Hagerstown to levy a ransom for $200,000 and a large amount of clothing, in retribution for Federal destruction of farms, feed and cattle in the Shenandoah Valley. McCausland misread the amount, and instead only collected $20,000. This is in contrast to neighboring Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, which McCausland razed on 30 July when the borough failed to supply the requested ransom of $500,000 in U.S. currency, or $100,000 in gold.
Throughout the Civil War, private physicians and citizens of Hagerstown took care of men from both the North and South in a number of locations including the Franklin Hotel, Washington House, Lyceum, Hagerstown Male Academy, Key-Mar College, and a number of private residences.
The spread of smallpox from returning soldiers to their families and friends was a substantial problem during the war. The Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church volunteered the use of its church as a smallpox hospital when an epidemic spread throughout the town.
Following the war in 1872, Maryland and Virginia cooperated to re-inter Southern Confederate dead from their impromptu graves to cemeteries in Hagerstown, Frederick and Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Roughly 60% however, remained unidentified. In 1877, 15 years after the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, approximately 2,800 Confederate dead from that battle were re-interred in Washington Confederate Cemetery and in Rosehill Cemetery in Hagerstown.
Hagerstown’s nickname of the “Hub City” came from the large number of railroads (and roads) that served the city. Hagerstown was the center of the Western Maryland Railway and an important city on the Pennsylvania, Norfolk and Western, Baltimore and Ohio, and Hagerstown and Frederick Railroads. Currently, the city is a vital location on CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the Winchester and Western Railroads.
Hagerstown was formerly served by the Hagerstown & Frederick Railway, an interurban trolley system, from 1896 to 1947.
One of the most recognizable symbols of Hagerstown is the weathervane known as “Little Heiskell.” Named after the German tinsmith Benjamin Heiskell who crafted it in 1769 in the form of a Hessian soldier, it stood atop the Market House first and City Hall second for a combined 166 years. It was moved from the Market House to City Hall in 1824.
During the American Civil War era, the weathervane gained its characteristic bullet hole from a Confederate sharpshooter, who won a bet after shooting it a from a full city block away.
Finally in 1935, the original was retired to the Museum of the Washington County Historical Society, later to be moved to its present display in the Jonathan Hager House. An exact replica has replaced it atop City Hall.
The weathervane has also been depicted in the city’s annual Mummers Day Parade by Mr. Charles Harry Rittenhouse, Sr. sporting all of the necessary accoutrements of a German Mercenary Soldier.
Little Heiskell is now also the mascot of North Hagerstown High School.
From 1931 to 1984, Fairchild Aircraft was based in Hagerstown, Maryland and was by far the area’s most prominent employer. The importance of the company to the city and the country as a whole earned Hagerstown its former nickname “Home of the Flying Boxcar.”
Fairchild moved to Hagerstown in 1931 after Sherman Fairchild purchased a majority stock interest in Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company of Hagerstown in 1929. Among ar Hagerstown Regional Airport in the airport’s former terminal.
Hagerstown is also the birthplace of Salisbury, Maryland-based Piedmont Airlines which started out as Henson Aviation. It was founded by Richard A. Henson in 1931. Today, Hagerstown Regional Airport-Richard A. Henson Field is named as such in honor of the airlines’ founder.
Today, only small to medium-sized aviation companies remain in the area. Three notable names include Northrop Grumman California Microwaves, which manufactures airline equipment in its Hagerstown facility, Fugro EarthData, which maintains its aviation division in Hagerstown, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, a defense electronics engineering and manufacturing contractor.