A Review of Beltsville History – Part 1 of 4
By Ted Ladd – www.jwdc.com/ladd
(originally published in The Beltsville News – March 2016)
Beltsville’s beginnings can be traced to 1649 when Cecil Calvert, the 2nd Baron of Baltimore, also known as Lord Baltimore, granted to planter Richard Snowden 80,000 acres of land that encompassed the area now known as Beltsville.
That area is equal to 125 square miles. (Cecil Calvert, married to Anne Arundel, was proprietor of the Maryland Colony from 1632 to 1675. His younger brother Leonard was appointed first governor of the Maryland Colony.) Snowden divided the land into large plantations. One of them, of note, was named Turkey Flight Plantation, owned by the Beall family, who had arrived from Scotland.
The main crop on Turkey Flight Plantation was tobacco. The plantation was inherited by Rezin Beall, born on the plantation in 1723. He served as a lieutenant in the French and Indian War and was commissioned a captain in the Maryland Regulars in January 1776.
Some seven months later, July 16th, it was reported that British troops were about to land in St. Mary’s County at Plum Point. Beall arrived there with just 100 men, who concealed themselves along the shore. They observed many British ships offshore, some of them loading longboats with troops.
Beall gave the order not to fire until the boats were within 25 yards of shore. When that happened, Beall’s men fired two volleys, and the boats turned around with “great confusion.” All the sailors returned to their ships, and British big guns then started shelling the shore. Beall received a serious wound in the hip area. For leading this successful military action, Beall was promoted to brigadier general. This also earned him the nickname “The Little Man of Iron.”
General Beall served until December 1, 1776. He then returned to Turkey Flight Plantation, where he died on October 14, 1809, at 86. He was buried in the family plot on plantation grounds. Today, Spicknall’s Farm is located on the site of Turkey Flight Plantation.
On November 22, 1969, General Beall’s remains were moved from the family plot, then on Spicknall’s Farm, to St. John’s Cemetery in Beltsville. The gravestone at St. John’s is the original one from Turkey Flight Plantation.
After Rezin Beall’s death, the plantation eventually became the property of Evan and Verlinda Beall Shaw and became known as the Shaw Plantation. Shaw and wife Verlinda lived for 40 years in a home known as the Orme-Shaw House, aka Culver house, located at 11601 Caverly Avenue in Beltsville.
Trueman Belt owned Locust Grove Plantation, located generally on Route 1 across from St. John’s Episcopal Church. In 1835, Belt provided B&O Railroad a right of way through the plantation to allow construction of a rail line from Baltimore to Washington. The railroad established a station at this location and named it Belt Station. From that action, we have become known as Beltsville.
Photo Credit: The Beltsville News Printed Edition March 2016