Benedict, MD – From all appearances the riverside village of Benedict is a modest town where not much happens. Former town resident and local author George Howard Post knows better. Benedict has had anything but mundane history.
Post, who taught social studies in St. Mary’s County for several years, has lived some of the town’s history from growing up there in addition to hearing stories shared by his elders. In 2007, he began doing copious research, which has resulted in a book entitled, “Benedict on the Patuxent: From Beginnings to its Tercentenary.”
On Sunday, Aug. 31, Post led a large group of visitors—many in the area to attend the commemoration of the War of 1812 in Southern Maryland—on a walking tour of Benedict.
The town was a significant location during the early 19th century conflict. Post stated at one time over 4,000 British soldiers, led by General Robert Ross, occupied the town. The Brits arrived in August of 1814 and subsequently marched to Washington, DC, where they burned the Capitol.
During the Civil War, Benedict was the site of the Union Army’s Camp Stanton. A regiment of freed slaves was organized there. Post explained that some the houses in Benedict served as Union Army hospitals.
Going back to the late 1600s, Benedict had been a port location, with tobacco being a prime export product. “At one time it was the biggest town in Charles County,” said Post.
After the Civil War commercial and tourist activity started to pick up. Post said during the late 19th century Benedict had a race track. Folks from the city came to Benedict during the summer to escape the oppressive heat. For many years stores that provided a variety of goods were in operation along the town’s waterfront.
By 1912, when the automobile became a more prominent mode of transportation, “hundreds of cars came here every weekend. People here did a very good business,” said Post.
The following decade, after passage of the Volstead Act, Benedict “was a big bootleg town,” with several stills in operation, Post explained.
One of the biggest changes, one that impacted the entire Southern Maryland region, was the construction and opening of the Benedict Bridge, linking Charles and Calvert counties. That occurred in the early 1950s. Prior to that, motorists wishing to cross the Patuxent had to rely on ferryboat service.
Today, Benedict has a handful of businesses and less than 300 residents. One of the more prominent modern structures is the Benedict Fire House, which is being expanded. Post told the tour group that Benedict has had several devastating fires, including one in 1909. Later, a fire company was established. “They haven’t burned the town down since we got the fire company,” Post declared.
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