Tiny Woodwardville cherishes past


Squeezed between the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the banks of the Little Patuxent River, the little community of Woodwardville lies with all its idiosyncrasies.

Two roads, one of them of gravel, connect the 20 houses or so that comprise the neighborhood. The gravel road is called Fifth Avenue, but there's no First, Second, Third or Fourth.

The solitude is disrupted every few minutes by Amtrak trains roaring by. Off in the distance, the sound of gunfire echoes from Fort Meade.

Residents are used to those sorts of disruptions. But lately, the peace has been disturbed in another way, as the community battles a proposed landfill on 220 acres to the south.

Woodwardville has been fighting the proposal for four years, arguing that traffic the landfill would generate would harm the community.

The county Office of Planning and Zoning and an administrative hearing officer have agreed, ruling that the landfill should not be built. The developer, Halle Cos. of Silver Spring, builders of the Seven Oaks community nearby, has taken its case to the Board of Appeals, which has been hearing arguments for the past several months.

Residents are proud of their little enclave, small and isolated though it may be.

"We don't have the finest houses around, but they're homes," said Buz Meyer, president of the Patuxent Civic Association, which includes residents of Woodwardville.

About 60 residents live in the community. Viola Botts and her sister, Pearl, have lived there the longest, arriving with their parents and siblings in 1930.

As children growing up in the community, the road had no name and folks there called the community Patuxent. Although not much larger in those days, Woodwardville boasted two grocery stores, a church and a railroad station.

Miss Botts recalled how neighborhood children gathered at her family's house to play softball, football and croquet in the yard. A few hundred yards down the dirt road, they would roller skate on the cement floor of a demolished cannery.

At least several times a year, the rivers would rise and flood Patuxent Road, isolating the little community. "My father used to say it was like living on an island," Miss Botts said.

Today, a new Patuxent Road sits above the floodwaters on the north side of the community, although the river still rises and cuts off the road to the south.

Woodwardville lies in an area called the Forks of Patuxent, between the Patuxent and Little Patuxent rivers. Written histories claim the area was first settled in 1684. In 1872, the railroad first roared through the area. The postal service bestowed the name Woodwardville three years later, when it opened a post office in Abram Woodward's store.

The post office closed in 1927, and sometime around then, the community was renamed Patuxent, after the name of the now-departed railroad station. Today, highway signs have gone back to referring to the community as Woodwardville.

RTC Much of the area's history revolves around Trinity Methodist Church, built in 1882. When she was growing up, Miss Botts said, "everything revolved around the church."

Woodwardville's major business was Riden's Store, a general store and later a lumberyard that employed many in the community.

Raymond Crawford's father, Franklin, worked for Riden's for 40 years. "Years ago this was a jumping little place," said Mr. Crawford, who lives today in Waugh's Chapel.

Although much has changed, Woodwardville retains the quiet charm it always did, says James "J.C." Fleming, who settled in the community in 1968.

Community residents still gather each year for a cleanup day and cookout. There are hayrides and turkey shoots and Christmas caroling. Although many of today's residents do not attend Trinity Church, they plan to join in its 110th anniversary celebration.

"We're all friends," Mr. Meyer said. "Mainly we talk to one another, and that is something most people don't do anymore."

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