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Here in Charles County, we have history going back as far as the early seventeenth century. Captain John Smith explored the Potomac River way back in 1608 and stopped at what is now Port Tobacco (which was officially established in 1634, making it one of the oldest towns on the east coast). Charles County was established in 1658 and named after the third Baron Baltimore, Charles Calvert. Benedict was established in 1683 and became one of the first ports on the Patuxent River (and later during the War of 1812 the British landed there on their way to burn the White House and Capitol). The town of La Plata was incorporated in 1888 by Colonel Samuel Chapman and named after the La Plata River. Waldorf was originally called Beantown and began as a rural crossroads until the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad built a train station there in 1872. 

Want to learn more about the history of Charles County? Check out the links below to explore more historic landmarks and sites!

Here are a few historic sites and landmarks with photos: 

Port Tobacco Courthouse (A reconstruction of the third courthouse since the exact location of the first one built in 1729 is unknown and the third one built in 1892 burned down).

St. Ignatius Catholic Church (established in 1662 and the Nation’s oldest continually active parish).

Christ Episcopal Church (established in 1683 with the current building constructed in 1884 in Port Tobacco and then disassembled and moved by oxen and wagon to its current La Plata location in 1904).

Thomas Stone’s House at the Thomas Stone National Historic Site (called Habre de Venture and built around 1773).

La Plata Train Station (the only surviving passenger station on the Pope’s Creek line of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad).

Mt. Carmel Monastery (site of the first Carmelite Monastery in the U.S. and contains the restored buildings of the first convent of religious women established in the 13 colonies).

General Smallwood’s home at Smallwood State Park (built around 1760).

Here are a few notable dates in our county’s early history:

  • 1715, April 3. John Hanson (1715-1783), first President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation (1781-1782), born near Port Tobacco.
  • 1723. Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer (1723-1790), signer of the U.S. Constitution, born near Port Tobacco.
  • 1732. William Smallwood (1732-1792), Governor of Maryland, born at “Smallwood’s Retreat” near Marbury.
  • 1743. Thomas Stone (1743-1787), signer of the Declaration of Independence, born at “Poynton Manor.”
  • 1789, June 15. Josiah Henson, author, abolitionist, and minister, born in Charles County.
  • 1849. Josiah Henson (1789-1883), former Charles County slave, published his Life.
  • 1865, April 14. John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC and escaped with accomplice David E. Herold through Prince George’s and Charles counties en route to Virginia.
  • 1909, April 6. Matthew Hensen(1866-1955), of Charles County, reached the North Pole with Commander Robert E. Peary.

 And if you would like to find out more about our rich history, check out the Southern Maryland Studies Center Web site!