History of West Anne Arundel County
Extracted from the Odenton Small Area Plan & Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation
Western Anne Arundel County is an area rich in history, beginning with the arrival of European settlers in the mid 1600’s. By the early 1700’s, plantations began to spring up along the tributaries of the Patuxent, Severn and South rivers. The area quickly became home to tobacco, corn, and grain farmers, as well as cotton mills, lumber mills and several iron furnace operations.
The area grew again with the construction of the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad. The line connected Annapolis with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s Washington, D.C. branch line, intersecting at Annapolis Junction. When the Civil War broke out and rail traffic through Baltimore was disrupted, supplies, mail, and soldiers were rerouted through Annapolis and West County down to Washington, D.C. on the A&E.
The town of Odenton was formed in 1868 with the construction of the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad, which also connected Baltimore with Washington, D.C. The town was named for Oden Bowie, President of the B&P Railroad and former governor of Maryland. The original Odenton train station is still in use today as a MARC commuter rail stop.
In addition to being a railroad town, Odenton was home to wheat, corn, and tobacco farmers, as well as a tomato cannery. In 1914, the United States Naval Academy constructed a dairy farm between Odenton and Gambrills. The farm is now known as the Maryland Sunrise Farm.
When World War I broke out, West County became headquarters to Fort George G. Meade, an army training camp. Then in the 1950’s, the area continued to grow with the establishment of the National Security Agency and the opening of the Friendship International Airport (now known as the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport).
West County is now a major business, residential, and industrial center – and the fastest growing area in the county. The proximity to Fort George G. Meade and the National Security Agency, as well as its convenience to Baltimore, Washington, and Annapolis, makes this part of the county an attractive place for employers and employees alike.
What was once a farming community and transportation hub is now an emerging defense and intelligence center with companies specializing in informatics, communications, high-speed computing, aerospace, and instrumentation.
Photos Courtesy of the Odenton Heritage Society