Hancock before European Settlement
Hancock was on the route of major Native American trails long before the National Road(Rt40) or the C&O canal were even contemplated. Just ask all the hunters of arrowheads and Indian tools who search the area. And of course, the Indian names live on today…..Potomac, Allegheny,Tonoloway, Tuscarora…to name a few.
An Outpost of the Frontier
In 1755, Lt. Thomas Stoddert was ordered to build a stockade fort for protection from Indian raids. The site of the fort was on the Potomac River in what is now Hancock. It was abandoned when the stone fortress “Fort Frederick” was completed twelve miles to the east. Be sure to visit Fort Frederick during your Hancock visit.
Civil War History
On Jan. 5, 1862 Hancock was laid siege to by Major “Stonewall” Jackson. Heavy cannon fire was exchanged between the attacking Confederates and the Union troops defending the town. For 14 months during the war. St. Thomas Church (on High Street) was used as a Union hospital, and remains a town landmark.
In 1886, E.P. Cohill began planting orchards on — the hills surrounding Hancock. As thousands of acres were cultivated, Hancock became a “fruit basket for the nation” and flourished well into the 1970’s.
In 1905 the Western Maryland Railroad entered town joining the Baltimore & Ohio which was already on the West Virginia side. The railroad was an integral part of Hancock until it closed in 1976.
Prior to Camp David, Hancock was home to “The Hunting Club of the Presidents”—Woodmont Hunting Club. Situated on a high hill along the Potomac west of town it is now the property of the Maryland State Dept. of Natural Resources and is open to the public once a year.