5502. River Town, Canal Town, Railroad Town

What does heritage mean to you? One definition is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society. Brunswick MD is a town full of heritage.

Had you been standing in this spot in 1780, you would have been able to see the town of Berlin or Eeltown, as the locals called it, across the fields and down near the river.

Yes, Brunswick was originally located on the other side of the railroad tracks on the banks of the canal.

“Course the canal wasn’t there yet. It came to town in 1834, the same year the railroad did; the canal on the south side, the railroad on the north side. And it was around this time that poor Berlin was having an identity crisis. Since the Post Office already had a town named Berlin in Maryland, they changed the town’s name to Barry.

Together the canal and the railroad turned Brunswick into a boom town and gradually buildings made their way from the banks of the canal up to where you are standing today. You can thank the railroad for moving the entire town here, away from the canal. In the 1890s, they bought up all the remaining properties near the canal and moved them lock, stock and barrel to where we are now. Around the same time, they had the Post Office change the name yet again, this time to Brunswick to honor the German heritage of many of the railroad workers.

Now, imagine, if you can, the life of Brunswick native John Sigafoose. Born on the banks of the canal, he grew up working as a mule driver on the canal. During the Civil War, he sold pies to Union soldiers. After the war, he operated the ferry across the Potomac and when the bridge was rebuilt, he became the town policeman. His life ended just as it began—on the canal. John was the last locktender of Lock 30. Quite a career, wouldn’t you say?

Brunswick has been a river town, a canal town and a railroad town. Today, Brunswick still embraces its heritage while serving as a railroad commuter hub for the region.