In spite of today’s hectic pace of cars zipping up and down our hilly narrow roads, there is an echo of yesterday. On some approaches into the village, you might notice how like a little bit of Switzerland or Bavaria the scenery is as you view rolling-meadows and old Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance. Reality comes in when cars come tearing down the road, but that is to be expected.
It has been done before, this history of Ijamsville, by local historians and in newspaper articles by Don Cline and M.L. Spaur, and there may be others. Since those histories and articles were written, our area has been greatly changed, and its residents are unfamiliar with our past history.
One of Ijamsville’s prominent citizens, Judge Charles E. Moylan wrote, Ijamsville, The Story of a Country Village of Frederick County.
To the judge’s writings, I owe a debt of gratitude. He provided a wealth of information, as did a relative of my mother, Dr. George Riggs. Dr. Riggs wrote several letters to me in 1953, outlining the history of the early families of which he was one.
Nothing remains the same, but by looking back we can see how far we have come and how different our environment is today. Today’s newcomers are in charge of Ijamsville’s future direction.
Who were the early settlers? Other than Native Americans of several tribes, the early settlers mentioned by Dr. Riggs were: the Plummer Ijams family, the Duvalls, the Burgees, the Mussetters, the Montgomerys, and the Riggs family.
Some of these people played important rolls in local and in national affairs. Several fought with distinction in the War of 1812 and in the Civil War. A few served as judges of Maryland courts, lawyers, doctors, farmers and skilled artisans of various crafts. Ijamsville was a thriving town.
In chronological order are a few notes of the past years in the village’s history:
1785 — There is a record of families from nearby counties coming to this area to farm. It was in 1785 that Plummer Ijams built his brick house on what is now the Mussetter Road or a tract name “Paradise.”
1800 — The Duvall brothers — John, William and Thomas — discovered slate on their property.
1812 — The slate quarry opened as a growing business and slate miners from Wales were hired to work the quarry.
1830 — The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was built below the town on land granted by Plummer Ijams in exchange for which the B&O agreed to establish a depot and name it Ijams Mill.
1832 — The U.S. Postal Service established a post office here and named it Ijamsville. Plummer Ijams was the first postmaster. Note: The B&O system consisted of four horse drawn cars and the trip from Baltimore to Frederick took eight hours and the cost was $1.80. This was computed at 3 cents per mile.
1850s — The “town” now had thriving businesses, the leading one being the slate quarry. Many of the early houses had a slate roof. It has been written that the town became rather “rowdy” on Saturday nights. In the 1850s, land in Ijamsville was selling for $30 to $50 an acre.
1854 — The Ijamsville Methodist Church was built.
1876 — A public school was built in the village, and it still stands, as does the Methodist Church.
1896 — Dr. George Riggs founded the Riggs Sanatorium. At that date it was the third oldest institution in Maryland for mental diseases. The sanitarium has changed hands twice to medical men and twice to restaurateurs. It stands today as a restaurant.
1937 — The quarries closed; so did the B&O depot. Ijamsville settled down to dairy farming, a general store, post office, a schoolhouse and a church. The late “Bing Myers” ran the store and the post office. There was a baseball club and a pony club.
In retrospect, the old timers will tell of cutting ice on the river and storing it in the icehouse all nicely covered with clean straw. The women prided themselves on the amount of “canned good” they put on the shelf to see them through until the next garden season.
Slate, among other uses, was ground up to make a purple paint and also used for fertilizer and in the manufacturing of vitrified brick. Unlike the immigrant miners from England who came to work in the copper mines around Libertytown and Woodsboro, the slate mining was a specialty of the Welsh and added another nationality of the population of Frederick County.
The echo goes on, but mention must be made of how the Ijamsville road’s adjoining road, the Mussetter Road, got its name. It was named for Christopher Mussetter’s family who lived in the same house from 1700 until the present. Christopher Mussetter was a veteran of the war of 1812. Hobson Mussetter, of a later generation, told how his father and other farmers on the road “picked” the road themselves as there were no county funds available. The farmers got together and made the road “for free.”
Editor’s Note: Clare K. Hill has been a resident of Ijamsville for almost 60 years. She taught art in Frederick County schools and has authored three children’s books: “Widgie the Fighter Pilots Gremlin,” “Little Running Deer of the Monocacy,” and “Granddad’s Circus and Other Stories.”