About Oldtown, Maryland

Oldtown is an unincorporated community in Allegany County, Maryland along the North Branch Potomac River founded in 18th century colonial times. The settlement was initially called "Shawanese Old Town" because it was the site of a Shawnee Amerindian village abandoned about a decade earlier. In later years the explanatory prefix was dropped from the name and the place because known simply as "Oldtown. Oldtown was begun (on a soon to be busy road) with the building of a trading post along an old Native American trail, the Nemacolin Trail, as traders, especially fur traders (and trappers) pushed over the Cumberland Narrows Mountain pass into the Monongahela River valley and found the trail could make a safe descent along a reasonable grade down to the river in the area of a river ford overlooked by the bluffs and mounds of the Redstone Old Fort area, now Brownsville in Fayette County in Western Pennsylvania.The trading post was established in 1741 by Thomas Cresap, who'd figured prominently in the Conejohela War, (also called Cresap's War). Shortly after the war, he moved west to the sparsely settled frontier from the more populated regions of York County, Pennsylvania and the Conejohela Flats. Cressap may have been acting, in moving to the frontier, as an agent of Lord Baltimore. The move positioned him to play a role in opening the as yet unchartered Ohio Country. Cresap opened a road westward under the auspices of the Ohio Company once a charter was granted for Ohio.Cresap's son Michael Cresap was born at Oldtown, the first white male born in Allegany County, Maryland.A post office was established there on May 26, 1870. Oldtown is connected by a one-lane low water toll bridge to Green Spring in Hampshire County, West Virginia.The "Chesapeake & Ohio Canal" reached Cumberland, MD from Georgetown (Washington, DC) in 1850 by way of Oldtown at Milepost 166.5. The "Baltimore & Ohio Railroad", located just across the Potomac from Oldtown had reached Cumberland eight years earlier. The canal finally closed operations as a carrier in 1924 due to flood damage. The B&O Railroad, now CSX, continues to be a major carrier; and it is used daily by Amtrak's "Capitol Limited" between Washington, DC and Chicago.The "Western Maryland Railway" expanded west, from Big Pool, MD to Cumberland, MD as a Class-I Railroad in 1906 with the mainline being constructed through Oldtown complete with a train station located at the lower end of town. Passenger service ended on the Western Maryland Railway between Cumberland and Hagerstown, MD on May 30, 1953. Afterwards it was not uncommon for B&O Passenger trains to be rerouted over the WM through Oldtown. The last scheduled mainline trains through Oldtown occurred on May 12, 1975 for freight, and May 21, 1975 for a Chessie System Passenger Special. The line was officially abandoned as part of the "Chessie System" consolidation and all WM trains began running on the nearby B&O. A Chessie System work train pulled up the rails through Oldtown in June 1976.In 1924 a six classroom/auditorium brick school was erected along Main Street with the first class graduating from there in 1925. In 1939 an identical new high school section was added to the south end of the present school which increased the classroom total to fourteen. It included a new cafeteria, office and faculty room. During the 1954-55 school year yet another high school section was added along with a new vocational agricultural shop, a furnace room and a brand new combination gym/auditorium which could seat 900 people. During the summer of 1977 the 1925 and 1939 sections were torn down and a new present day first floor section was constructed on the east side of where the old sections stood. Finally in 2000 the 76th and final class graduated from Oldtown High School and the school closed. Today it is privately owned and a restaurant is now located in the former school cafeteria.The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The Michael Cresap House was listed in 1972 and the Shawnee Old Fields Village Site in 1975.

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