4801. Point of Rocks

Did you drive through the town of Point of Rocks to get here today? If you blinked, you might of missed what is left of a highly contested piece of real estate. In 1832 when the canal and the railroad finally settled their dispute over the sliver of land both coveted between Catoctin Mountain and the Potomac River, Point of Rocks was not a town but the name of the craggy rock formation at the top of the mountain that “pointed” toward the river. Look closely through the trees and you can still see the point.

Point of Rocks, the town, would come into being three years later in 1835 when the tiny hamlet of Trummelstown situated about a mile up the ridge, was relocated adjacent to the railroad and the canal at the eastern foot of Catoctin Mountain. Point of Rocks had a town hall, several churches, some warehouses and a few stores which were frequented by the canal trade.

The Civil War rocked the area during the 1860s and Point of Rocks was considered a strategic location by both the Union and the Confederacy. The Union army used St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the town as a hospital, while the Confederates, led by Mosby’s Rangers, among others raided the area numerous times to disrupt rail traffic. While the railroad was usually the focus of the raids, the canal sustained some damage during this time with the bridge at Lock 28 being a casualty.

The period immediately after the Civil War saw vast improvements in and around Point of Rocks. The B & O Railroad finally completed the tunnel next to the canal and built their iconic railroad station on the other end of town. The railroad station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, still stands today and is used for offices and storage by CSX Railroad which merged with the B & O in the 1970s. It's worth a quick detour across the canal to see this architectural gem from another era.

With the beautiful new railroad station and trains passing through from both Baltimore and Washington, the area saw an influx of travelers and visitors in part thanks to the superb bass fishing in the Potomac. President Grover Cleveland, an avid fisherman, was among those who regularly came to enjoy the fishing.

Canal boats, wagons and steam engines have given way to tractor trailers, cars and diesel locomotives but Point of Rocks remains a sleepy little town nestled next to the railroad tracks and the remains of the canal.