Germantown Then & Now: What was There Before Milestone?

Learn about the Germantown family that worked the land more than a century before Milestone took shape.

Germantown associates the name Milestone with a shopping Center and housing development, but the family that owned the land for more than 100 years before the company bought it has not even a street named for it. Walmart, Target, Home Depot and other stores now occupy the site of the large farm of William H. Benson. The Benson family’s ties to this area go back to the Revolutionary Days, before there was a Germantown or even a Rt. 118. The only roads at that time were Frederick-Georgetown Road (Rt. 355) and the Road to Monocacy (Clopper Road, Rt. 117).

In 1777, William Benson purchased the land where the Clopper Mill ruins are today. There he built a mill on Seneca Creek. This mill came to be operated by Zachariah McCubbin who later tried to purchase the mill, but lost it in the courts. William Benson died in 1790 and the property passed to his heirs, William Benson Jr., Ninian Benson and Sarah Simpson, who sold it to Francis Cassatt Clopper in 1810. Later the Road passing by the mill was named for Clopper and his mill.

The grandson of this William Benson, William H. Benson (1812-1903) purchased the farm where the Milestone Center is today. His brother, Johnson Benson, had a farm down the road in Middlebrook. In 1842 William married a neighbor, Jane Trail (1816-1888), and they built a large house where they would raise eight children. According to Census records, these were: Harriet (1843), James W. (1845), John E. (1847), Mary E. (1852), William H. Jr. (1855), Acsha E. (1856), Richard J. (1858) and Roberta (1862). All of the children except Acsha E. would marry.

Jane and William were active members of the newly formed Neelsville Presbyterian Church and they are both buried in the Church Cemetery. Next to their stone is one that reads “In Memory of Emma V., daughter of W.H. and Jane Benson, b. May 9, 1856, d. June 11, 1881.” This was probably the Acsha E. listed in the census records. She would have been 25 years old when she died.

After William H. Benson, Jr. married Cornelia, his father built a house for them on the farm since his son would be taking over the farm operations. This was a common occurrence on farms were a son and his family could live and work on the farm while the parents could also continue to live in the original farmhouse. The William H. Benson, Sr. house was approximately where the Sandy Spring Bank is today. The William H. Benson, Jr. house was where the filling station is now, across from Neelsville Presbyterian Church. The Boland Farm Road at this filling station was the original Germantown Road. The Bolands had purchased part of the Benson Farm in the early 20th century.

As members of the Benson family grew up and moved out of the area the farm was sold by 1950. Germantown was changing from a farming community to a suburban community as automobiles took over. The “National Pike,” Rt. 240 was built in 1953. This would later be designated I-270. In 1958 the Atomic Energy Commission moved to its new location in Germantown. New houses were built to accommodate the growing population, but the explosion of the population did not begin until the new sewer line was completed in 1974.

So where does Milestone come in?

After the Master Plan for Germantown was done by the county in 1967, developers and land speculators began buying up property in the proposed “Corridor City.” Milestone Properties, a national corporation with offices in several states, started to buy properties in Germantown in 1961. That is the year that they purchased Londonderry, the Henderson/Hoskinson farmhouse that sat where Applebee’s is today. Most of the land for this farm was across Rt. 355 from the house. This house was moved by John and Amie St. Angelo in 1990 to a location off Ridge Road. Milestone, then sold the properties in the late 1980s and early 1990s to local developers which would complete construction of the shopping center in 1997.

 

 

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