Walt Warnick's Western Maryland Family History Pages
This Web site is dedicated to discovering, preserving, and disseminating information about the families of my pioneer ancestors of westernmost Maryland.
Some of the first records of families in western Maryland were made in 1787. The Maryland State legislature had determined to divide much of the lands west of Fort Cumberland into 50-acre parcels and award them to United States veterans of the Revolutionary War. The survey party, which was led by Francis Deakins, found about 50 families already settled on lots they marked out in what is now Garrett County. Just northwest of what is now the town of Westernport on Big Savage Mountain lived the families of Joseph Warnick, George Fazenbaker, Daniel Reckner and a few others. Fazenbaker and Reckner had recently served on opposite sides in the Revolutionary War, George Fazenbaker having been a Hessian soldier in the service of England and Daniel Reckner having served in the Pennsylvania military.
The remainder of the land that was surveyed, in what is now Allegany County, was more populated, having almost 300 families. A number of Dawson families lived along the Potomac River between Cumberland and what is now the town of Westernport. The neighborhood in which they lived is still known as Dawson. A Dawson family historian has linked these families with prominent Dawsons in central and eastern Maryland.
Prior to Deakins' survey, many of the early settlers did not own title to the land on which they lived. They were squatters in the wilderness. The primitive conditions in which they lived are foreign to us today. Inevitably, their circumstances profoundly shaped their lives and personalities in ways we cannot fully grasp.
During the next decades, more families migrated to western Maryland. Michael Wilt from northern Virginia was living in present-day Garrett County by 1799. Ultimately, he resided in the Savage River Valley where his brother Peter Wilt came to live for some years around 1820. Peter was the ancestor of many Wilts in western Maryland today. Peter and Michael Wilt were related to the Broadwater family who also settled in the Savage River Valley in the early 1800s.
Meanwhile, settlers south of present-day Oakland included Revolutionary War veteran Dudley Lee and his second wife, the widow Margaret (Fetters) White. Dudley came west from Taneytown in present-day Carroll County, Maryland. While Dudley had been awarded some of the western Maryland bounty land, he did not settle on the parcel he was awarded. Family tradition records that Dudley was encouraged to come to western Maryland by a soldier or officer with whom he served in the War. Indeed, military records show that Dudley served under John Lynn, a prominent citizen of what is now Garrett County.
South of present-day Elk Garden, Mineral County, WV, the William Harvey, Jr., family arrived from Montgomery County, Maryland, sometime between 1794 and 1802. Eventually, their descendants would raise families in southern Garrett County.
By 1809, Henry Durst purchased land on the Mason-Dixon line east of present-day Grantsville in northern Garrett County.
By 1814, Henry Bittinger and his family had come from Pennsylvania and settled on Ridgley Hill, between Grantsville and the present-day town in central Garrett County that bears his surname. In this same general area, John Burkholder and Jacob Hoover also settled.
The primary livelihood of all these families was farming. By the 1840s, however, the development of rail and canal transportation created market value for western Maryland coal. Mines along Georges Creek prospered, and immigrants flocked to the region. James Major, accompanied by his wife Mary Sinclair and their young family, came from Ireland via Philadelphia in the 1850s to work the mines around Moscow in Allegany County. They are my most recent immigrant ancestors.
Comments about these western Maryland families are welcome. Click on the hyperlinks for information about the Warnick family, the Fazenbaker family, Peter Wilt, the Broadwater family, the Harvey family, the Durst family, and the Bittinger family. This site was revised November 26, 1999.
For information about Garrett County history, visit the Garrett County, MD, Genealogical Web Site.
Walt Warnick, Laytonsville, MD