History and Facts of Maryland Counties
Today’s Maryland counties did not always exist in the present form. They went through many different changes in the space of a few short years.
Province of Maryland Counties
The Province of Maryland was established on June 22, 1632. The first settlement and capital was St. Mary’s City, in Saint Mary’s County.
The State of Maryland entered the union as the 7th state on April 28, 1788 with a total of 17 counties.
Maryland Counties Today
Outside of Baltimore (which is an independent city) the county is the default unit of local government. Under Maryland law, counties exercise powers reserved in most other states at the municipal or state levels, so there is little incentive for a community to incorporate.
The City of Baltimore generally possesses the same powers and responsibilities as the counties within the state. It is an entity nearly surrounded by but separate from the County of Baltimore, which has its county seat in Towson.
Though an independent city rather than a county, the City of Baltimore is considered the equal of a county for most purposes and is a county-equivalent.
Fun Facts about Maryland Counties
Many of the counties in Maryland were named for relatives of the Barons Baltimore who were the proprietors of the Maryland colony from its founding in 1634 through 1771.
Counties by Year
- Saint Mary’s County was the first county on August 22, 1666.
- Garrett County was the last county created on November 4, 1872.
County Size Facts
- Worcester County (695 sq mi) is the largest county in Maryland.
- Howard County (254 sq mi) is the smallest county in Maryland.
County Population Facts
- Kent County (20,191) is the least populated county in Maryland.
- Montgomery County (1,004,709) is the most populated county in Maryland.
Maryland City Facts
Maryland’s 10 largest cities (2010) are:
- Baltimore (620,961) is an Independent City
- Frederick (620,961) is in Frederick County
- Rockville (61,209) is in Montgomery County
- Gaithersburg (59,933) is in Montgomery County
- Bowie (54,727) is in Prince George’s County
- Hagerstown (39,662) is in Washington County
- Annapolis (38,394) is in Anne Arundel County
- College Park (30,413) is in Prince George’s County
- Salisbury (30,343) is in Wicomico County
- Laurel (25,115) is in Prince George’s County
Boundary Changes of Maryland Counties from 1637 to 1997
This Interactive Map of Maryland Counties show the historical boundaries, names, organization, and attachments of every county, extinct county and unsuccessful county proposal from the creation of Maryland in 1637-1997.
List of Maryland Counties
|County||Created||Created From||County Seat||Named For||Notes|
|Anne Arundel County||25 Dec 1789||Washington County||Cumberland||Lenape Indian word oolikhanna, which means "beautiful stream"|
|Allegany County||09 Apr 1650||St. Mary's County||Annapolis||In honor of Anne Arundell, which was the maiden name of the wife of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore. Between 1654-58. It was known as Providence County by Puritan settlers|
|Baltimore County||13 May 1851||Founded in 1729. Detached in 1851 from Baltimore County||Baltimore City||In honor of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, first proprietor of the Maryland colony|
|Baltimore City County||30 Jun 1659||Unorganized Territory||Towson||In honor of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, first proprietor of the Maryland colony|
|Calvert County||30 Jul 1650||Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and St. Mary’s Counties||Prince Frederick||Calvert family; prior to 1658, it was called Patuxent County, after the Patuxent Indians, a branch of the Algonquians||Formed as Patuxent County from unorganized territory. Renamed Calvert County in 1658|
|Cecil County||15 Jun 1773||Dorchester and Queen Anne’s Counties||Elkton||In honor of Lady Caroline Eden, daughter of Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore|
|Charles County||19 Jan 1837||Baltimore and Frederick Counties||La Plata||In honor of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a representative to the Continental Congress and signatory of the Declaration of Independence|
|Caroline County||06 Jun 1674||Baltimore and Kent Counties||Denton||the Anglicized form of the first name of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore|
|Carroll County||13 Apr 1658||Unorganized Territory||Westminster||In honor of Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore, second proprietor of the Maryland colony|
|Dorchester County||27 May 1668||Unorganized Territory||Cambridge||Dorchester in Dorset, England; the Earl of Dorset was a friend of the Calvert family|
|Frederick County||10 Jun 1748||Baltimore and Prince George’s Counties||Frederick||In honor of Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore, final proprietor of the Maryland colony|
|Garrett County||04 Nov 1872||Allegany County||Oakland||In honor of John Work Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.|
|Harford County||17 Dec 1773||Baltimore County||Bel Air||In honor of Henry Harford, illegitimate son of Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore|
|Howard County||13 May 1851||Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties||Ellicott City||In honor of John Eager Howard, an American Revolutionary War officer and governor of Maryland.||The Howard District was created from Anne Arundel County in 1838, and in 1851 was recognized as Howard County|
|Kent County||30 Dec 1637||Unorganized Territory||Chestertown||English county of Kent|
|Montgomery County||06 Sep 1776||Frederick County||Rockville||In honor of Major General Richard Montgomery, killed in the Battle of Quebec during the American Revolutionary War|
|Prince George's County||03 Oct 1695||Calvert and Charles Counties||Upper Marlboro||In honor of Prince George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne of Great Britain|
|Queen Anne's County||09 Apr 1706||Kent and Talbot Counties||Centreville||In honor of Anne, Queen of Great Britain|
|St. Mary County||22 Aug 1666||Unorganized Territory||Princess Anne||In honor of Mary, Lady Somerset, sister-in-law of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore|
|Somerset County||24 Jan 1637||Unorganized Territory||Leonardtown||Virgin Mary, first county named in a colony intended to be a haven for Catholics||Was named Potomac County between 1654 and 1658.|
|Talbot County||19 Feb 1661||Kent County||Easton||In honor of Mary, Lady Somerset, sister-in-law of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore.|
|Washington County||06 Sep 1776||Frederick County||Hagerstown||In honor of George Washington, first President of the United States (1789-1797)|
|Wicomico County||17 Aug 1867||Somerset and Worcester Counties||Salisbury||Wicomico River; in Lenape, wicko mekee indicated "a place where houses are built," possibly in reference to a settlement|
|Worcester County||22 Oct 1742||Somerset County||Snow Hill||In honor of Mary Arundell, the wife of Sir John Somerset, son of the 1st Marquess of Worcester, and sister of Anne Arundell, the wife of Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore|
|Durham County (Extinct)||22 Oct 1669||part of Somerset County and nonorganized territory||The English County Durham|
|Old Charles County (Extinct)||03 Oct 1650||part of Saint Mary’s County||King Charles I of England|
|Old Worcester County (Extinct)||26 Nov 1669||part of Durham County and nonorganized territory||Mary Arundell, the wife of Sir John Somerset, son of the 1st Marquess of Worcester.|
|Patuxent County (Extinct)||03 Oct 1650||Colonial lands including the part of old Charles County.||The Patuxent River is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay|
List of Old Former / Extinct Maryland Counties
There are some Maryland counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county. These are important for genealogy research purposes.
The below Maryland counties no longer exist:
Charles County (Old), Province of Maryland
Charles County was dissolved on July 3, 1654. Referred to as Old Charles County. Part of the area was incorporated into Calvert County.
Durham County, Province of Maryland
Durham County was a new county created on the previously neglected oceanside of the Maryland Colony on October 22, 1669 from part of Somerset County and nonorganized territory.
It was Abolished on June 19, 1672 and incorporated in Worcester County.
Durham County, Maryland was in what is now southern half of Kent County, Delaware, and northern half of Sussex County, Delaware (claimed for a short while by New Netherland, and then by Maryland, and Pennsylvania).
47 new land grants for Maryland were granted in Durham County as late as 1682, although Durham County should have been incorporated into old Worcester County, Maryland in 1670.
In 1738 Maryland recognized the claim of Pennsylvania to the lower three counties on the Delaware River (now the State of Delaware) including what was once all of Durham County, or later part of old Worcester County, Maryland.
Patuxent County, Province of Maryland
Potomac County, Province of Maryland
Providence County, Province of Maryland
Worcester County (Old), Province of Maryland
Worcester County was created on June 19, 1672 from part of Durham County and he previously neglected ocean side of Maryland, after a November 26, 1669 surveyor report of Dutch encroachment at Cape Henlopen (New Netherland).
The county was named in honor of Mary Arundell, the wife of Sir John Somerset, son of the 1st Marquess of Worcester,
and sister of Anne Arundell, wife of Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore.
Old Worcester County, Maryland extended along the entire Atlantic coast between Virginia (southern most branch of Rehobeth Bay) and Pennsylvania. This included all of the present day State of Delaware.
In 1674, at the end of an Anglo-Dutch war, the Duke of York assumed authority over the Delaware part of New Netherland which overlapped Lord Baltimore’s sparsely settled Maryland claim.
In 1682 the Duke of York paid an old debt by giving his claim of Delaware’s lands to William Penn. Penn immediately declared an act of union between the Delaware counties and Pennsylvania.
On November 13, 1685 King James II approved the decision of the Committee for Trade and Plantations (November 7, 1685) settling the rival claims of Maryland and Pennsylvania to Pennsylvania‘s Lower Counties, now Delaware.
The committee concluded that the west side of Delaware Bay was outside the grant to Lord Baltimore. Where the boundary line should run was not settled until 1760, the decree resulted in the end of old Worcester County. Full provisions and acceptance of this decree were delayed until 1738.