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1600s: Native Americans
Pottery and projectile points have been found during archaeological excavations on the current Elk Landing grounds, showing that Native Americans hunted, foraged, and fished in the area.
Early Exploration and Settlement
In 1608, Captain John Smith explored the Elk River and named this area Head of Elk. Swedes and Finns settled in this area and sometime between 1687 and 1693 a post to trade with Native Americans was built by Jon Hanson Steelman.
Hollingsworth Family at Elk Landing
In 1735, Zebulon Hollingsworth, Sr. acquired the land from Steelman. In 1783, his son, Zebulon Hollingsworth, Jr. constructed a two-story stone structure along the Little Elk Creek. The two-story brick Federal style house was built around 1800 and damaged by fire in 1850. After the fire, a third floor was added and the house was remodeled in the Greek Revival style.
The Revolutionary War
In 1776, Maryland troops passed through Head of Elk on route to New York. During the war, Head of Elk became an important commissary depot for the Continental Army under the direction of Colonel Henry Hollingsworth (brother of Zebulon Hollingsworth, Jr.). The British moved 15,000 -18,000 troops through the area in August 1777 on their way to capture the capital in Philadelphia. George Washington ordered General Lafayette and his troops at Head of Elk in April 1781 to move south. One month later, the French and American armies under the Comte de Rochambeau and General Washington departed from Head of Elk on their way to Georgetown.
Commerce and Trade
By 1807, many of the products from the fifty-three grist and merchant mills in Cecil County were transported from Elk Landing to Philadelphia and Baltimore. Products departing from Elk Landing included flour, lumber, grain, nails, iron, and pork. Boats coming from the cities to Elk Landing carried coal, coffee, molasses, rock salt, brandy, whiskey, candles, furniture, and clothes.
War of 1812
In April of 1813, Fort Hollingsworth was built. After attacking Frenchtown on April 29, 1813, British forces moved toward Elk Landing. Elkton was successfully defended at Fort Defiance and Fort Hollingsworth by the local Cecil County Militia.
As the 19th century progressed, passenger traffic increased and Elk Landing was a principal link in the Baltimore-Philadelphia stage and wagon route. Steamboats and sailing vessels also traveled between Baltimore and Elk Landing. In the mid-1800s, new overland routes and the railroad competed with the traffic to and from Elk Landing. In 1887, Henry W. Deibert opened a boat yard where 200-foot schooner barges were launched sideways into the Little Elk Creek.
20th Century to Today
In the early 1900s, Elkton Dairy was operated on the grounds by the Bryson family. In 1999, the town of Elkton acquired 42 acres from the descendants of the Hollingsworth family. One year later the town of Elkton and Historic Elk Landing Foundation, Inc. signed a 99-year lease for the restoration, management, and operation of the site.
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