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Town History

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Deed Chains and House Histories


Sharpsburgh or Sharpsburg was founded by Joseph Chapline (1707-1769), soldier and statesman in the colony of Maryland. He centered the town around a spring that was beside a branch of the colonial Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to modern Augusta, Georgia.

He named the town for his friend and Governor of Maryland, Horatio Sharpe. The founding date is said to have been July 9th, 1763, but documentation of this has not been seen for a long time. However, Capt. Chapline did start to sell lots in the town on January 20th, 1764, and each of his deeds required payment of a small quit rent or ground rent on the 9th of July annually. This makes Sharpsburg the oldest formally-established town in modern Washington County, Maryland.

A year or so earlier, work was started on an iron works at the mouth of the Antietam Creek, about 2½ miles south of town. For decades this was the largest business in the area, with as many as 250 employees and 50 slaves. Sharpsburg’s Dr. Augustin Biggs started a health plan with the employees in 1838.

In the early 1830’s the construction crews of the C&O Canal reached Sharpsburg, and it assumed the identity of a Canal town, with many boatmen and captains keeping their homes here in the off season. Canal commerce supported many businesses here until the Canal closed down in 1924.

The Battle and its aftermath in 1862 ravaged the area. Crops, livestock and supplies were wiped out, though almost all of the houses remained standing, though scarred, burned and looted. Two weakened churches were later demolished. The armies returned in 1863 and 1864, with much less fighting, but with great appetites, and the harvests were lost again. Many residents moved away, but they were largely replaced.

In 1867 the Union dead were consolidated in a new National Cemetery on the hill above the town, and from the first Memorial Day in 1868, the town has held ceremonies and, we say, the oldest continuously-held Memorial Day Parade in the country. The Antietam National Battlefield was established in 1890.

During the 20th Century, more homes were built, but families got smaller, and the town was missed by major highways, so Sharpsburg has been much the same size for more than 150 years.