James Sykes, Frank Brown and Sykesville
Apr. 29, 2004




James Sykes

According to the book Sykesville Past & Present, in the early 1800s, the area known as Sykesville consisted of a few buildings-several mills and a few homes adjacent to or near the river. At that time the sparsely settled area was part of Baltimore County. When Carroll County was created in 1837, Sykesville became part of the Freedom District.

Sykesville, ever wonder where that name came from? It dates back to the 19th century family of the Sykes. James Sykes was born into a prominent merchant family and came to the area from Baltimore in the late 1820s. He was attracted by the area's economic prospects. Sykesville was located on the new Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad line that connected Baltimore with points west.

Sykes purchased 1,000 acres from his close friend George Patterson. George's father, William Patterson was a wealthy Baltimore shipbuilder who owned an 3,000-acre estates, which is now know as the Springfield Estates. After his father's death George sold some of his father's land to Sykes.

James Sykes, dug right in, literally. Six years after the purchase of the land he had already constructed a five-story stone hotel which included 47 rooms, 2 general merchandise stores, a few saw mills, a couple churches and a post office. By 1831, Sykes had rebuilt an old, decaying gristmill located on the river's south side in what is now Howard County.

By 1845, the gristmill had become the Howard County Cotton Factory. The building burned in 1905.

Sykes had made sure that his town of Sykesville was well known, becoming a hot spot for Baltimore vacationers who were trying to get away from the summer heat. It was a "booming commercial center" with tourist resorts that families would escape to all season round.

Sykes died in 1881, at age 90. After all his hard work, and devotion Sykes could see the difference that he had made in the town known as Sykesville.

Sykesville's History

According to the town of Sykesville's web site, the town, which was incorporated in 1904, with Edwin M. Mellor Sr. as the first mayor,.has a fascinating history. Some historical interest points include the marriage of Betsy Patterson to Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon. The couple traveled back to France, where they planned to live. Upon arrival they expected to be welcomed by Napoleon and the rest of his family, unfortunately, Napoleon refused the marriage of the two, and would not let Elizabeth set foot on France's soil. He was determined that Jerome marry into royalty, and sent Betsy back home. Denied by Napoleon, she was never able to see her husband again, leaving her to raise their son alone in the states.

Other historical facts about the town revolve around the Civil War, as the town was completely divided and some young men from Sykesville fought for the south and some fought for the north. The town was also split during the prohibition and was divided into "wet" and "dry" factions. Sykesville was among the first places in the state to repeal Prohibition in 1933. The depression of 1929 hit the town hard and many family's farms had to be sold.

The Sykesville Herald published its first issue on September 18, 1913. It consisted of eight pages, with six columns per page. The paper was set by hand, and at first did not contain many pictures. Located on the second floor of the arcade building on Main Street, David W. Dean developed the paper and took on the role of the manager for the publication. His father­in-law, Albert M. Hall, worked as the editor, and William Samuel Church was the shop foremen. Church eventually toook over and ran the newspaper. After 70 years publication of the Herald was discontinued on December 28, 1983.

Sykesville survived a flood that almost destroyed the entire town in 1868 and then in 1937, the main business block was destroyed by fire. Today, a completely rejuvenated Sykesville stands proud, enjoying a renaissance while preserving their rich and historic past.

Frank Brown

Frank Brown, of Sykesville, was the first Carroll County resident to be elected Governor of Maryland; he has also remained the only one to date.

He was born in 1846 near Sykesville.

Brown purchased the Springfield estates formally owned by his cousin, Florence Carroll (daughter of George Patterson and Ann Brown). George Patterson had originally received the land from his father, William Patterson, who was the primary owner of the 3000 acres of the Springfield estates. After the death of his father William, George sold 1000 acres to James Sykes, saving the rest of the land to give to his children. Unfortunately, George and Ann's son did not live past age five, leaving the rest of the estates to their daughter Florence. After marrying James Carroll, she inherited Springfield in 1870.

With each owner came a different purpose for the estates. According to a history of Sykesville, while William Patterson owned the land it was used for farming, George also contributed to his father's farm when he imported Devon cattle. However while Florence owned the land, it was known for being, "one of the most attractive places in Maryland for leading society people. Her parties and receptions were among the most magnificent given in America. Distinguished men from Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis were entertained and feted there."

In 1896, while Frank Brown owned the land, the Springfield State Hospital was established. According to a history of Sykesville, ' Frank Brown combined Springfield with his own estate, "Brown's Inheritance." In 1875, he was elected to the House of Delegates in Annapolis. In 1882, the Baltimore Sun favored Frank Brown for Congress, but he was giving his whole attention to his farm and the improvement of roads in the Sykesville area. "Mr. Brown superintended his harvest in person, taking his dinner in the field, riding the reaper smoking his cigar under the shade of his broadbrim."

In 1883 he offered for sale 900 acres of his Springfield Estate. James Kelly of Manchester, ex-county surveyor, laid the land off into nine tracts. This was the same tract that Kelly surveyed for George Patterson in 1852. Throughout the years Brown kept the contractors hard at work, building 20 homes in Sykesville.

Brown served as governor of Maryland ifrom 1892 to 1896. He died Feb. 3, 1920, in Baltimore, and was buried in Greemount Cemetery there.