Early History

From rural outpost to railroad town

Founding of
Gaithersburg: 1750s

In the 1730s, present-day Gaithersburg was on the cusp of the frontier. Within 20 years, several wealthy families had moved in and claimed most of the land. An ancient Seneca trail running through the heart of the new settlement was named Frederick Avenue, the town of Frederick being founded in 1745 and Georgetown in 1751.

African American Faith Community

When freed slaves moved from nearby Redland and Goshen, they purchased land in the Gaithersburg area and established the community of Emory Grove. In the 1860s a Black Methodist camp was founded. Church services, Sunday School and prayer meetings were held in the home of  freedman and Civil War veteran, John Dorsey.1

Emory Grove Methodist Church built its first structure in 1874 at the corner of Washington Grove and Emory Grove Roads where it still stands today. It became the hub of the African American community. Emory Grove Camp Meeting was established nearby in 1877 and drew large crowds for its annual August gatherings until the 1960s.

1950 advertisement for Emory Grove Camp Meeting

Walking from the Washington Grove train station to Emory Grove Camp Meeting

1Source: emorygrovechurch.org/mission

Railroad Boom: 1873

The single most important event in the history of Gaithersburg was the coming of the B&O railroad in 1873. The railroad ushered in a time of prosperity by enabling farmers to quickly ship their produce to larger markets and granting merchants access to a wider array of goods to sell.

NexT: Recent History