The land area outlined in this directory, as the responsibility of The Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association, was granted from Lord Baltimore’s Land Office from 1694 to 1702. The names of the grants were Hector’s Hopyard, Young Man’s Adventure, Samuel’s Hope, Bosley’s Adventure, Martinton, Beale’s Discovery, Gott’s Hope, and Hooker’s Prosperity and ranged in size from 100 to 500 acres.
In most cases, these lands seem to have been granted to second or third generation settlers whose families had initially settled earlier on the tidal rivers and Chesapeake Bay. These interior parcels called “quarters” were owned land, but not occupied by the owner and reserved either for children or investment.
Following remnants of an ancient Indian trail, Joppa Road was the initial access into the Roland Run Valley. The road led to the port of entry at Joppa on the Bush River. York Road, referred to in the early 1700s as the Britain Ridge Road, meandered through the County serving early plantations, farms and mills, working its way up into Pennsylvania as settlement grew. It was straightened into a turnpike in 1799. What is now Bellona Avenue was laid out as an entrance to the Bowen plantation (Samuel’s Hope) in 1737 from the Britain Ridge Rolling Road. Two Bowen homes stood on opposite ends of the 500-acre rectangular parcel for several hundred years. The one on the current GBMC campus was demolished in 2005 and the other still stands on Bellona Avenue across from St. John’s AME Church. Settlement began shortly after the grants were given. The population of the area grew as families and farms expanded, granting portions of their land to new generations, a process that continued into the 20th century.
Slavery was a part of life here in the 1700s despite pressure for emancipation from local Quakers and Methodists. It is possible to give a population for this portion of Back River-Upper Hundred, as it was known then, from the records of the first Federal Census of 1790: 34 free white males over 16, 35 free white males under 16, 61 free females and 106 slaves, for a total population of 236. Several mills were also established in the late 1700s to refine local grains prior to shipping to Baltimore and were located on Jones Falls, Roland Run and Bowen’s Run (Towson Branch).
Colonel Nicholas Ruxton Moore, our community’s namesake, purchased the Bosley farm in 1794 (now the Circle and Darnall Road areas). He was a Revolutionary War patriot and U.S. Congressman. His spring and ice house still stands near Roland Run and Circle Road,
The Bellona Gunpowder Mills on the west side of Jones Falls where it now enters Lake Roland were established by an act of the legislature in 1800. The mills produced the powder used at Fort McHenry during the battle in 1814. Despite frequent explosions resulting in many deaths, described in graphic detail in the local papers, the operation managed to stay in business until 1850 when land acquisition began for the construction of Lake Roland. The 1832 entry of the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad into the valley, though initially unwelcomed, facilitated the easy transport of people and farm products to the City. No monetary awards were given to aggrieved farmers as the Inquisition Jury found the convenience of the railroad actually added property value.
The opening of Lake Roland, the railroad and the area’s unique topography and proximity to a growing and wealthy Baltimore City made Ruxton land values soar, causing the shift from agricultural to suburban use. In 1854 James McDaniel began what we may refer to as the first subdivision when he developed lots from Carr’s Pleasure (Samuel’s Hope) and put in a road to service them, now Rolandvue Avenue.
In 1887 the Bosley’s Adventure property was divided into parcels by the Fisher brothers (William and Charles), forming the Circle Road area. In 1894 a large parcel of the Rider Farm, known as Young Man’s Adventure, was sold for the development of Ruxton Heights. The railroad station was built and Ruxton became one of the first commuter communities in the United States. The neighborhood has been on the go ever since.
Riderwood takes its name from the Edward Rider family who purchased a 150-acre farm and mill centered at Joppa Road and what is now Thornton Road in 1824. The railroad further enhanced the family’s commercial opportunity. A railroad station, rail spur, locomotive watering tank, general store and post office soon made the Rider family prosperous. The second railroad station, built in 1905 from plans by Frank Furness, the highly regarded Gilded Age architect, still stands and has been converted into a private residence. The Greater Ruxton Area Foundation intervened preventing the station’s demolition for a development in 2002.
See Middling Planters of Ruxton Maryland, by J. M. Coale, published by Maryland Historical Society, 1996.