Hagerstown is a city in northwestern Maryland, United States. It is the county seat of Washington County, and, by many definitions, the largest city in a region known as Western Maryland. The population of Hagerstown city proper at the 2010 census was 39,662, and the population of the Hagerstown-Martinsburg Metropolitan Area (extending into West Virginia) was 269,140. Hagerstown ranks as Maryland's sixth largest city.
Hagerstown has a distinct topography, formed by stone ridges running from northeast to southwest through the center of town. Geography accordingly bounds its neighborhoods. These ridges consist of upper Stonehenge limestone. Many of the older buildings were built from this stone, which is easily quarried and dressed onsite. It whitens in weathering and the edgewise conglomerate and wavy laminae become distinctly visible, giving a handsome and uniquely “Cumberland Valley” appearance. Several of Hagerstown’s churches are constructed of Stonehenge limestone and its value and beauty as building rock many be seen particularly in St. John’s Episcopal Church on West Antietam Street and the Presbyterian Church at the corner of Washington and Prospect Streets. Brick and concrete eventually displaced this native stone in the construction process.
Hagerstown anchors the Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area, which lies just northwest of the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV Combined Statistical Area in the heart of the Great Appalachian Valley. The population of the metropolitan area in 2010 was 269,140. Greater Hagerstown is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the state of Maryland and among the fastest growing in the United States.
Despite its semi-rural Western Maryland setting, Hagerstown is a center of transit and commerce. Interstates 81 and 70, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the Winchester and Western railroads, and Hagerstown Regional Airport form an extensive transportation network for the city. Hagerstown is also the chief commercial and industrial hub for a greater Tri-State Area that includes much of Western Maryland as well as significant portions of South Central Pennsylvania and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Hagerstown has often been referred to as, and is nicknamed, the Hub City.
In 1739, Jonathan Hager, a German immigrant from Pennsylvania and a volunteer Captain of Scouts, purchased of land in the Great Appalachian Valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains in Maryland and called it Hager’s Fancy. In 1762, Hager officially founded the town of Elizabethtown which he named after his wife, Elizabeth Kershner. Fourteen years later, Jonathan Hager became known as the "Father of Washington County" after his efforts helped Hagerstown become the county seat of newly created Washington County which Hager also helped create from neighboring Frederick County, Maryland. The City Council changed the community's name to Hagerstown in 1813 because the name had gained popular usage, and in the following year, the Maryland State Legislature officially endorsed the changing of the town’s name.
Hagerstown's strategic location at the border between the North and the South made the city a primary staging area and supply center for four major campaigns during the Civil War. In 1861, General Robert Patterson's troops used Hagerstown as a base to attack Virginia troops in the Shenandoah Valley. In the Maryland Campaign of 1862, General James Longstreet's command occupied the town while en route to the Battle of South Mountain and Antietam. In 1863, the city was the site of several military incursions and engagements as Gen. Robert E. Lee's army invaded and retreated in the Gettysburg Campaign. In 1864, Hagerstown was invaded by the Confederate Army under Lt. Gen. Jubal Early. On Wednesday, July 6, Early sent 1,500 cavalry, commanded by Brig. Gen. John McCausland, into Hagerstown to levy a ransom for $200,000 and a large amount of clothing, in retribution for Federal destruction of farms, feed and cattle in the Shenandoah Valley. McCausland misread the amount, instead collecting $20,000. This is in contrast to neighboring Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, which McCausland razed on July 30 when the borough failed to supply the requested ransom of $500,000 in U.S. currency, or $100,000 in gold.
Throughout the Civil War, private physicians and citizens of Hagerstown gave assistance or aid to men from both the North and South in a number of locations, including the Franklin Hotel, Washington House, Lyceum, Hagerstown Male Academy, Key-Mar College, and a number of private residences.
The spread of smallpox by returning soldiers to families and friends was a substantial problem during the war. The Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church volunteered the use of its church as a smallpox hospital when an epidemic spread throughout the town.
Following the war, in 1872 Maryland and Virginia cooperated to re-inter Confederate dead from their impromptu graves to cemeteries in Hagerstown, Frederick and Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Roughly 60% however, remained unidentified. In 1877, 15 years after the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, approximately 2,800 Confederate dead from that battle and also from the battles on South Mountain were re-interred in Washington Confederate Cemetery, within Rosehill Cemetery in Hagerstown.
Hagerstown's nickname of the "Hub City" came from the large number of railroads (and roads) that served the city. Hagerstown was the center of the Western Maryland Railway and an important city on the Pennsylvania, Norfolk and Western, Baltimore and Ohio, and Hagerstown and Frederick Railroads. Currently, the city is a vital location on CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the Winchester and Western Railroads.
One of the most recognizable symbols of Hagerstown is the weathervane known as "Little Heiskell." Named after the German tinsmith Benjamin Heiskell who crafted it in 1769 in the form of a Hessian soldier, it stood atop the Market House first and City Hall second for a combined 166 years. It was moved from the Market House to City Hall in 1824.
Finally in 1935, the original was retired to the Museum of the Washington County Historical Society, later to be moved to its present display in the Jonathan Hager House. An exact replica has replaced it atop City Hall.
Little Heiskell was at one time the mascot of North Hagerstown High School.
From 1931 to 1984, Fairchild Aircraft was based in Hagerstown and was by far the area's most prominent employer. The importance of the company to the city and the country as a whole earned Hagerstown its former nickname "Home of the Flying Boxcar."
Fairchild moved to Hagerstown from Farmingdale, New York, in 1931 after Sherman Fairchild purchased a majority stock interest in Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company of Hagerstown in 1929. Among Fairchild's products during World War II were PT-19/PT-23/PT-26 (Cornell) and AT-21 trainers, C-82 "Packet" cargo planes and missiles. At its height in World War II, Fairchild employed directly and indirectly up to 80% of Hagerstown's workforce or roughly 10,000 people.
In the postwar era, Fairchild continued to produce aircraft in Hagerstown such as C-123 Provider, Fairchild F-27 and Fairchild Hiller FH-227, FH-1100, C-26 Metroliner, UC-26 Metroliner, Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the Fairchild T-46 jet trainer. All production ceased in Hagerstown in 1984 and the company moved elsewhere. Presently, the company is based in San Antonio, Texas and after a series of mergers and acquisitions, is known as M7 Aerospace.
The Hagerstown Aviation Museum shows many of these original aircraft. Among the ones on display are: 1939 F24/UC-61C, 1945 C-82A, 1943 PT-19A, and the 1953 C-119. The museum is located near Hagerstown Regional Airport in the airport's former terminal.
Hagerstown is also the birthplace of Salisbury, Maryland-based Piedmont Airlines which started out as Henson Aviation. It was founded by Richard A. Henson in 1931. Today, Hagerstown Regional Airport-Richard A. Henson Field is named as such in honor of the airlines' founder.
Today, only small to medium-sized aviation companies remain in the area. Two notable names include Fugro EarthData, which maintains its aviation division in Hagerstown, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, a defense electronics engineering and manufacturing contractor.