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Cooksville history | Christmas Trees

Cooksville history

Cooksville sign

We enjoy local history and couldn’t resist sharing something about Cooksville’s past.

Cooksville is located at the intersection of what was known as the National Pike and the Washington Road. (Now Rt. 144 and Rt. 97.) It became a stopping point for travelers, even famous ones such as the Marquis de Lafayette (who stayed at Roberts’ Inn in 1824) and purportedly George Washington, who stayed at the Red House Tavern built in the early 1700s. (Another place that George Washington slept! He must have been the most road-weary man of the 18th century.)

According to “Landmarks of Howard County, Maryland” by Celia M. Holland (1975), Cooksville is named after Thomas Cook, who was born here in the 1700s and operated the Red House Tavern.

By the early 1900s, Cooksville was actually a crossroads village with a small grocery store, gasoline station and post office. Some of these businesses (or at least the buildings) were still present into the 1970s but have since disappeared. For instance, Chicks was a well-known local watering hole. A traffic light was installed in the late 1980s; prior to that, vehicles on Rt. 144 had a stop sign and it could be dangerous trying to cross an increasingly busy Rt. 97.

Cooksville’s quiet crossroads was touched by war when a Civil War cavalry skirmish took place here on June 29, 1863, between Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and Union troops in the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. Certainly, the farms in the area would have been raided by hungry Confederates and a long-time resident once shared with us how his grandfather hid his horses in the woods to save them from passing troops.

Historically, Cooksville has had a strong African-American community and had its own segregated high school that closed when Howard County ended the practice in 1965. It was a very rural and economically a rather modest or even poor area far into the 20th century. It seems hard to believe today, but as late as the 1960s longtime local residents remember that Rt. 97 was not paved just north of where I-70 now crosses it.

Interstate 70 opened in the 1970s and the area began to grow as a bedroom community. During the 1990s, the population of Cooksville’s 21723 zip code area grew by more than 1,000 percent.

Greenway Farms is located on land that was originally granted to Joseph Hobbs in 1760 by Lord Calvert. We get a kick out of the fact that this land grant is known as “Poverty Discovered” in old property records.

Our farmhouse was built sometime in the 1860s in the center-gable gothic revival style. There is some evidence that the house was most likely built by an upper middle class Baltimore family who used the small farm as a summertime retreat, probably taking the B&O Railroad train to the Sykesville station and traveling the rest of the way by horse and buggy.

There was no “home center” is those days, which may explain why the floor joists in this farmhouse are actually logs and the roof sheathing is made from apple crates!

Over the next 140 years, this small farm and house have been occupied by various families, including the Earle family in the early 20th century. The fields were used to grow corn and timothy hay, and are now planted in Christmas trees.

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