"Along this section of the valley, where once the vibrant hum of a thriving industry could be heard... now the silence of the tomb prevails. The gods of progress direct its movements in mysterious ways." - L.S. LeRendu, W.J. Dickey & Sons employee.
When European settlers discovered the Patapsco Valley, they found a source of untamed beauty rich in resources. Susquehannock and Pscataway Indians hunted and fished the valley full of elk, black bear, bison, gray wolves and deer. The white settlers also saw the valley's fertile and iron rich soil, fast-flowing streams, and deep shipping channels that led to Chesapeake Bay and beyond.
Here emerged Maryland's industrial revolution. Beginning in the lat 1700s, the valley erupted into activity with iron, paper, grist (flour) and textile mills. Entrepreneurs dammed the river and diverted its flow to water wheels that turned machinery - grinding wheat into flour and transforming cotton fibers into cloth.
The landscape changed; companies carved out factories and villages along the hollows and steep hillsides.
In the struggle for progress, entrepreneurs learned that unbridled use of natural resources came with consequences.
As trees were cut from the hillside, soil eroded into the river, clogging shipping channels and millraces. Chemicals and sewage tainted drinking water and poisoned wildlife.
Floods and fires persistently threatened the valley's factories. Soon, new technology freed their dependence on waterpower, allowing many to relocate upland.
People learned that progress meant conserving and restoring natural resources. This realization led to the establishment of the Patapsco Forest Reserve (now Patapsco Valley State Park), Maryland's first state park, in 1907. Today, the park manages its resources to benefit people, wildlife and the environment as the call of progress summons onward.
Text with main photo: Scene of the Patapsco Valley looking upriver from Ilchester in 1859. Photo courtesy of Howard County Historical Society
Title with main photo: Panoramic View of the Scenery on the Patapsco River for 7 miles - above and below. Ellicotts Mills, MD. River for 7 miles above and below. A reproduction of an original E. Sachse print, circa 1859, owned by the Howard County Historical Soceity, Inc. Reproduction by Geo. E. Van den Brink, 1978, by authority of the Howard County Historical Society, Incorporated.