Berwyn Heights, Maryland - A Tree City, USA
 

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Town of Berwyn Heights

 Town Office:  5700 Berwyn Road; Telephone: 301-474-5000

 

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History of Berwyn Heights

Incorporated in 1896, the Town of Berwyn Heights is the sixth oldest municipality in Prince George's County, Maryland. Our nearly 3,000 residents live in 1,050 single family homes on 0.65 square miles nestled between the cities of Greenbelt and College Park. With Washington, DC, less than 10 miles away, we truly are the small town in the big city.

The land on which Berwyn Heights is located was home to native Indians as far back as 8,000 years ago. In 1608, Algonquian-speaking groups, which were part of a chiefdom called the Conoys, inhabited the river and creek areas of the Potomac River. The Conoys of the Indian Creek area were the Nacotchtanks (Anacostanks.) Dennis Webb, a Berwyn Heights resident, identified one of the largest American Indian sites on the East Coast, on Indian Creek. The state government holds thousands of artifacts from the site. Artifacts from these people continue to be found in yards and gardens throughout Berwyn Heights.

The first English colonists had extensive contacts with the Conoys beginning in 1634. Many precautions were taken to ensure peace in the intervening years through 1696 when Prince George's County was established. A troop of rangers was maintained to cover the frontier plantations from the Anacostia to the Pennsylvania line. In 1700, the Conoys were removed to Pennsylvania, but, incidents involving Indians continued between 1699 and 1738. By 1700 the Algonquian culture, which had survived here for over a thousand years, vanished.

During the eighteenth century, the area of our present town was known as the New Scotland Hundred. Tobacco was the chief money crop of the Maryland colonies, where slaves and indentured servants performed much of the intensive manual labor. Black history is interwoven with colonial and American Indian history. Men from this area fought in the American Revolution. The gravesites of two Revolutionary soldiers from the Walker family are located at the end of Walker Drive in a DAR authenticated cemetery. At one time, the Walker family owned all or a portion of Berwyn Heights.

The Town officially came into being on April 2, 1896, by an act of the Maryland General Assembly passed on that date. Don Skarda in his History of a Small Town tells us that the charter specified the corporate limits of the Town to include all the same land contained in Edward Graves' subdivision of the tract of land heretofore known as Charlton Heights. The Charter called for the election of three commissioners to serve for one year without pay to administer the affairs of the Town. They were authorized to appoint a Town Clerk to keep appropriate records and a Bailiff to preserve peace and order in the Town. The Commissioners were authorized to levy taxes on all real and personal property. The charter specified that an election of Commissioners were to be held on the first Monday in May in the year 1896. However, the official establishment of the Town did not become a functioning reality until 28 years later.

A new Charter was drafted and adopted on March 21, 1924 as a result of the efforts of the Berwyn Heights Association, which had been active in improving the roads and the general welfare of the community since 1915. The new Charter called for the election of 5 Commissioners elected for 2-year terms and gave women the right to vote and hold office. Today, Berwyn Heights continues to operate under the 1924 Charter and is one of a few remaining towns with a commissioner form of government in which commissioners, now called council members, have both legislative and executive powers.

Please visit the website of the Berwyn Heights Historical Committee (BHHC) for more information on the Town's history.

 

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