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Milepost: 169.0

A Little Town with a Big History

By Ranger Rita

Oldtown is a hidden treasure along the C&O Canal. The area hasn't changed dramatically since the canal stopped operating here in 1924 and it's easy to imagine the locktender stepping out the door at Lockhouse 70 to lock a boat through.

By the time the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal arrived in Oldtown, Maryland, the small town had already seen its share of history. Early Native American settlements in the area date back thousands of years and five of their trails passed through the area. The town's name, originally Shawnee Oldtown, is a reference to that tradition. Opessa Street is named for Shawnee leader King Opessa. Thomas Cresap, frontiersman and friend to George Washington, came to Oldtown from Washington County, Maryland in the early 1740s. Cresap established a fort near the Potomac River. One of the oldest structures in Allegany County, Maryland today is the 1764 Michael Cresap house. Michael was a son of Thomas Cresap. The low water crossing of the Potomac River at Oldtown was used during the French and Indian War and later during the Civil War. Several Civil War incidents at Oldtown affected the C&O Canal and the nearby B&O Railroad. Four C&O Canal lockhouses and a store operated at various times by the Carder and Wilson families were next to the canal.

A community effort re-watered over four miles of the canal at Oldtown in the 1940s and 1950s. The watered canal at Oldtown is often called Battie Mixon pond in honor of Maryland Department of Natural Resources Officer "Battie" Mixon who led the re-watering effort. Anyone who likes to fish will find the watered canal at Oldtown a wonderful location to spend a few hours in a relaxing, tranquil setting. Oldtown is worth discovering!
Points of Interest
  • Located at the center of Oldtown, adjacent to the Green Spring Road, Lockhouse 70 burned and was re-built in 1906. During the summer months, the Lockhouse is open Saturday and Sunday afternoons for ... Read More

  • The 1787 gravesite of Thomas Cresap overlooks the Lock 70 level of the canal on land later owned by the Ginevan family. In 1878 the family built an impressive brick Victorian home, which still stand... Read More

  • A unique feature in the Oldtown area is the toll bridge connecting Oldtown to Green Spring, West Virginia. The wooden, low-water bridge has withstood numerous Potomac River floods. The bridge is a r... Read More

  • Built in 1764, the home of Thomas Cresap's son Michael stands on the main street through Oldtown's Opessa Street. Open by appointment, the stone structure is one of the oldest standing homes in Alle... Read More

  • Just upstream from Lockhouse 70 stands Lockhouse 71.

  • The South Branch of the Potomac River meets the North Branch just below Lockhouse 68. Close to this site, Dam #7 was proposed to be built. To save money, the canal company never built Dam 7. The P... Read More

  • This single arch stone bridge crosses Town Creek and marks the end of the re-watered section of the canal near Oldtown.


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