A Bit of Darnestown History

The Darnestown area, which was located at the intersection of Darnestown and Seneca Roads, was settled in the 1750s. Darnestown Road (or Route 28) was an old Indian trail and is recognized as one of the oldest roads in Montgomery County, Maryland. William Darne of Virginia, married Elizabeth Gassaway, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. They settled at the intersection of Darnestown and Seneca Roads and established an Inn and a tavern. The Darne family owned a large amount of land, was wealthy and very respected. In 1812, the area was named Darnestown in their honor. By the 1820’s, the town began to blossom and hosted a wheelwright, the Grist Mill, a blacksmith, a physician, a post office and a variety of other businesses. The stagecoach passed through the area from Georgetown to the river.

In 1855, the Darnestown Presbyterian Church, which is located at the corner of Turkey Foot and Darnestown Roads, was founded by the generous donation of three acres of land by John Dufief. The church was constructed of stone which was hauled from the local quarry by the men of the congregation. The completed church was dedicated on May 22, 1858. The church was renovated in 1897 and then again in 1953. The stained glass windows are memorials to the Tschiffely, Gassaway and Nourse families-some of the original members of the church.

In 1861, the Federal leadership realized that Darnestown was the natural place from which Washington, D.C. could be defended. There were 18,000 Union troops placed in Darnestown because of its ideal location. During the 1870s through 1900, Darnestown was a thriving business hub due to its trade linked to the canal. Darnestown became an important place for commerce in the area. Seneca Road led to a sandstone mill and the C&O canal at Seneca Village. From Darnestown one could travel either by stagecoach along Darnestown Road or board a packet boat on the canal at Seneca.

After the Civil war, Darnestown experienced an economic downturn due to the increased popularity of the railroad, which bypassed the area. The mill business decreased and some farmers tried their hand at tobacco farming. This proved to be unprofitable for most and many people left the area. It wasn’t until World War II that Darnestown began to grow and prosper again. This was mainly due to the government hiring more employees and the push for an improved road system. Approximately 5,000 citizens live in the Darnestown area today.