Old Aberdeen Proving Ground map tells stories

Last week we talked about early Aberdeen Proving Ground and the acquisition of land to establish the facility in 1917. The early map hangs on the wall of the Aberdeen Room.

So, we continue on with this map that covers 11 feet of wall space in the APG exhibit area. The map covers area from Poole's Island of 280 acres, on the left, with the names of Charles Homer and C.C. Wills ad F. T. Homer. Then there is Carrolls Island of 1,212 acres.


Extending to the right, there is a large area of 8,000 acres that we associate with Edgewood. On the far right is Spesutie Narrows and Island.

In the middle is the historic community of Michaelsville. It was undoubtedly named after the family who owned many acres, and some members of the family still reside in and around Aberdeen today. Some of the other names that appear on the map are, or will be, gone in the area.

This is the part of the map that is nostalgic for us, and gives a lot of background for one of the latest donations to the Aberdeen Room. Just above the Michaelsville Farm is noted "Garrettson's Chapel," C. H. Cochran Trustee. In George Archer's writing for the Historical Society of Harford County Quarterly Bulletin nearly a century ago, he has an account of this chapel that was deeded by the Rev. Freeborn Garrettson to the "people call Methodists" on the east side of the Great Road that leads from Bush River Neck to Swan Creek, near Red Lion Bridge," in 1790.

As recorded by Freeborn Garrettson in his journals written from 1774 until just before his death in 1827, his "parents were third generation English settlers, among the first to settle in the Province of Maryland staking their claim on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Susquehanna River." The settlement came to be know by the family name, and until 1828 some of the descendants lived there owed land, a farm, a store and smithy and slaves.

Why the name does not continue, but for the Garrettson's Chapel, is a part of Harford County and Methodist history. Freeborn, with Church of England ancestry, was a member of St. George's in Perryman and received by his early education at the old Vestry House.

Although he was the fifth son of John and Sara Garrettson, he inherited all of the family land and property at his father's death. In 1774, he was converted to Methodism by Robert Strawbridge. In his journal, he wrote "After wards I stood in the midst of the household at family prayer and declared the slaves belonging to Freeborn Garrettson to be freed."

No longer interested in such earthly possessions as land, he gave it to his workers as he went on his way to being the famous Methodist circuit rider, "The Paul Revere of Methodism," traveling the eastern seaboard up to Nova Scotia.

Many books have been written about this early Harford County Methodist, but the only mention of the name on the acquisition map is that of the chapel. Our father was baptized in the chapel in 1889. The family no longer went by horse and carriage to Michaelsville from Aberdeen to attend church after the 1893 church was built at the corner of West Bel Air Avenue and Parke Street corner.

The family name was honored by the Smithsonian in 2012 during the ceremonies of the "Journey Stories" that was their national project that year. After their research of land records and histories, they recognized the contribution of freedom and parcels of land to live on given by Freeborn Garrettson.

The latest contribution to the Aberdeen Room is a copy of the certificate issued to me in 2012, in the name of Garrettson, by the Smithsonian.