The Origin Of High School Names In MoCo

Have you ever wondered what any of the local high schools are named after? Some are fairly obvious and well known, but others aren’t. We decided to take a look at the 26 MCPS high schools and the origin of their names.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School

​Named after two of the areas the school serves, the name Bethesda was taken from Jerusalem’s Pool of Bethesda. In Aramaic, Bethesda means “House of Mercy.” In Hebrew, it means “House of Kindness.”

Chevy Chase was named after the Chevy Chase Land Company, a real estate development company that was founded in 1890. At that time, they purchased land stretching from DuPont Circle to Jones Bridge Road. The name Chevy Chase is derived from the Medieval English Ballad of Chevy Chase.

Montgomery Blair High School

Montgomery Blair was a politician and lawyer from Maryland. He represented Dred Scott in the 1852 Supreme Court case that decided 7-2 against Scott, finding that neither he nor any other person of African ancestry could claim citizenship in the United States. This decision was later nullified in 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

​Blair also served at Postmaster-General in the Lincoln Administration cabinet from 1861-1864 (during the Civil War).

James Hubert Blake High School

The school was originally going to be named after The Muppet Show creator and University of Maryland graduate, Jim Henson. When his estate declined the honor, the school was named after James Hubert Blake.

Blake was a Baltimore ragtime musician of the early and mid-20th century. On his 92nd Birthday, Blake said “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

Winston Churchill High School

After spending 3 years known as “Potomac High School,” (a few have commented that it was known as “North Potomac High School”) the school name changed in 1967 to honor Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II.

Winston Churchill also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his lifetime body of work.


Clarksburg High School

The high school is named after the area it is located in. Clarksburg is named for Trader John Clarke and was established at the intersection of the main road between Georgetown, Frederick, and an old Seneca trail.

Damascus High School

The high school was named for the area it is in. Damascus was originally named “The Pleasant Plains of Damascus” after Damascus, Syria.

Damascus was incorporated for a 34 year period in the late 20th/early 21st century, but the townspeople requested incorporation be withdrawn so that Old Quaker Rd. could be paved into a state highway.

The Thomas Edison High School of Technology

A vocational/technical high school in Wheaton, Edison is different than other MCPS high schools in that students typically spend half their day there and the other half at their home school.

The school is named after Thomas Alva Edison. Edison has been described as “America’s greatest inventor.” He is the inventor of the motion picture camera, the incandescent light bulb, and many more items that have been groundbreaking and useful throughout time.

Albert Einstein High School

The school is named after German-born theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein. He is best known for his mass-energy equivalency formula E = mc2, which is considered the “world’s most famous equation” by many.

Einstein has four academies as part of the Downcounty Consortium, the largest one being The Visual and Performing Arts Academy.

Gaithersburg High School

Gaithersburg High School was founded in 1904 as “Gaithersburg School” and offered grades K-12.

The school/city is named after Benjamin Gaither. Gaither built his home near what is present day Summit Hall in 1802 when Gaithersburg was known as Log Town. The name was changed to Gaithersburg in the 1850s.

Walter Johnson High School

The school is named after the late Washington Senators pitcher, Walter Johnson. Johnson lived nearby in a Bethesda home that still stands a few miles from the school on Old Georgetown Road.

Walter Johnson retired to Germantown in 1933, where he owned a farm in the location where the Gunners Lake community is in present day. He was elected as a Montgomery County commissioner in 1938.

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John F. Kennedy High School

The original plan was to name the school “East Wheaton High School,” but due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the school was re-named after him.

John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States. Kennedy was a member of the democratic party and represented the state of Massachusetts in the House of Representatives and State Senate prior to his presidency. Commonly referred to as “JFK,” he was assassinated on November 22nd, 1963.

Colonel Zadok A. Magruder High School

The school is named for Colonel Zadok A. Magruder. Magruder was a Revolutionary War patriot and farmer. He moved to Montgomery County as a young man and later on he inherited 600 acres of land in the Norbeck area before building a home in Redland in 1750.

Magruder helped establish Montgomery County’s government in 1776.

Richard Montgomery High School

Richard Montgomery is the oldest high school in MoCo. It was established in 1892 and was then known as Rockville High School. Rockville Colored High School opened in 1927 so the school was re-named after Richard Montgomery in 1935 to distinguish between the two.

Richard Montgomery was an Irish-born soldier who first served in the British army. Montgomery later took on the patriot cause and fought for America during the Revolutionary War. Montgomery County is named after him.

Northwest High School

Northwest High School was Germantown’s second high school and was established in 1998 to alleviate some of the crowding at Seneca Valley High School.

The school is named for its geographic location. It is located in the northwest part of the county and serves students from Germantown as well as a small portion of students from Gaithersburg and Darnestown.

Northwood High School

Northwood High School was established in 1956 and was closed in 1985 in a contested decision that aimed to alleviate the concentration of minority students enrolled at Blair High School. The school reopened in 2004.

The school was named after the area it was in (then known as Northwood). While I wasn’t able to find information on the origin of the Northwood name, the school’s mascot during their first 29 years of existence was the Indians. A 2001 vote by the Board of Education banned ethnic and race-based team mascots at county schools, so alumni from the first graduating class in 1958 and the first class of the new Northwood chose the Gladiators as the new mascot.

Paint Branch High School

The school was founded in 1969 . Their fight song, ‘Hail to the Panthers,’ is sung to the tune of ‘Hail to the Redskins.’

The school was named after Paint Branch Creek, a 14 mile long stream that flows through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.There’s even a College Park based band known as Paint Branch Creek.

Poolesville High School

The core of the building, which still stands, was built in 1911 when the school was established. From 1911 until 2002, the school mascot was the Indians until the school’s students voted to change the mascot to the Falcons, following an initial vote to keep the mascot that was overruled.

The school and town are named after John and Joseph Poole. The brothers owned 160 acres of land in the area that was later named after them. The town was actually legally known as /The Commissioners of Poolesville’ until 2010 when residents voted to change the name to ‘The Town of Poolesville.’

Quince Orchard High School

A relatively new school, established in 1988, the school won a 4A Maryland State Football Championship in 1991 just 3 years after opening (they won a second time 16 years later, in 2007).

The school was named after a quince orchard that existed across from the school’s current location. A quince is a yellow fruit that looks similar to a pear.

Rockville High School

Not to be confused with the original Rockville High School, which was later re-named Richard Montgomery, this school was named after the city it’s in.

Before settling on the Rockville name, the area was called Owen’s Ordinary (there’s currently a Pike & Rose restaurant with the same name), Hungerford’s Tavern, and Daley’s Tavern. Rockville was later chosen because the region was crossed by Rock Creek. At the time, Rockville Pike was known as “Rock Creek Main Road.”

Seneca Valley High School

The school currently sits on the land that was once a farm owned by late Washington Senator’s pitcher, Walter Johnson. The school is due to be demolished with a new building coming in 2020 that would be the largest in Montgomery County.

The name comes from the Native American tribes of the Great Seneca Nation, who once lived in the area. Many early homeowners in surrounding areas found arrowheads in the ground.

Sherwood High School

Established in 1906, it is the third oldest high school in Montgomery County (after Richard Montgomery and Gaithersburg).

The school is named after the farm that was once on the land the school was built on. The farm was named “Sherwood Farm” due to the many trees on the property, which reminded settlers of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest.

Springbrook High School

Springbrook is part of the Northeast Consortium, along with Blake and Paint Branch High Schools.

The school is named after the upper Northwest Branch spring-fed tributary that runs along side of the school’s property.

Watkins Mill High School

Even though the school is surrounded by Montgomery Village, the address has remained Gaithersburg.

Watkins Mill is named for one of the grist mills where corn was ground up. The Watkins family once lived in the area and owned/operated one of the mills.

Wheaton High School

The area of Wheaton was previously known as Leesborough until 1826.

Wheaton is named after the Union General, Frank Wheaton. Fun fact: The inventor of the first home television set, C. Francis Jenkins, lived in Wheaton, at Windham Ln and Georgia Ave.

Walt Whitman High School

Whitman was established in 1962. 30 years later, the building was demolished and a new building was constructed. It opened in 1993.

The school is named after American poet and journalist, Walt Whitman. Whitman is perhaps best known for his poetry collection, specifically Leaves of Grass.

Thomas S. Wootton High School

​Wootton was once named the 17th best high school in the United States by Newsweek.

The school is named for Thomas Sprigg Wootton. He founded the county by introducing a bill that split Frederick County into three— Frederick, Montgomery, and Washington counties in 1776.


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