The area composing the present Howard County was separated from Anne Arundel
County in 1698 and made part of Baltimore County.1 Then in 1727, this action was reversed
and the same area, or approximately the same area—the bounds were not clear—was returned
to Anne Arundel County.2 In time, the ready water power offered by the Falls of the Patapsco
attracted mills to the area, especially those of the Ellicott brothers who came from Pennsyl-
vania immediately before the Revolution.3 The mills changed the area from tobacco to small-
grain country, they encouraged the building of roads, and ultimately they brought the Balti-
more and Ohio Railroad.
These developments stimulated an increase in population and, consequently, the demand
for a county town more convenient than Annapolis. As a first step in local governmental
divorce, this section of Anne Arundel County was set apart and called Howard District after
the Revolutionary soldier and statesman, John Eager Howard. In effect this act of the
General Assembly of 1838 created a new county with normal county government seated at
Ellicott's Mills, except that it had no right to representation in the General Assembly.4
Ellicott's Mills became Ellicott City by virtue of Chapter 48 of the Acts of 1867. The pure
formality of recognizing the accomplished fact of a new county was left to the Constitutional
Convention of 1850.5
The stone building which served as the first meeting place of the county government of
Howard County still stands. It is located on what was then known as County Street. It runs
from Fels Avenue and is parallel to Main Street in Ellicott City.6 A site was chosen for a
proper courthouse October 6, 1840, and the land purchased on January 22, 1841, from Mrs.
Deborah Disney, who ran a tavern close by.7
Courthouse at Ellicott City
Funds had been provided for the purchase of the lot and the building of a courthouse,
clerk's office, register's office, jail, and poorhouse by an act of the General Assembly two years
earlier.8 But the total amount to be levied was limited to $20,000 which was expended before
the buildings were completed. As was customary in such cases, the General Assembly was
asked to provide for the deficiency and this was done in 1843 in the amount of $8,000.9 Con-
struction of the courthouse began early in 1841, shortly after purchase of the site, and was
completed in 1843, when the county offices were moved to the new building.10 Samuel Harris
was the architect and Charles Timanus, the builder.11 No significant changes were made in
the outward appearance of the courthouse until a new two-story addition was built with
1 Chapter 13, Acts of 1698.
2 Chapter 1, Acts of 1726.
3 Martha E. Tyson, "A Brief Account of the Settlement of
Ellicott's Mills," Fund Publication, No. 4, Baltimore, Md. Hist.
4 Chapter 22.
5 Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution of 1851.
6 Ellicott City Times, Century Edition, March 17, 1941, Sec-
tion J — page 5.
7 Howard County Deeds, Vol. No. 1, p. 257, microfilm, Hall
8 Ch. 98, Acts of 1839. Actually, the jail was not built until
1849 and thpn ont. nf a separate anthori7.at.inn (Ch. 555, Apts of
9 Ch. 332.
10 These dates are provided in the Ellicott City Times, Cen-
tury Edition, Section A — page 3.
11 Inventory of the County and Town Archives of Maryland
No. 13, Howard County, p. 29. This information was found by
the editor of this work in the Ellicott City Times, December 8,
1938. This issue was not available to the writer. The name of
the builder is given as Samuel R. Powell by the editor. Timanus
is named as builder on the cornerstone.