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The Town of Barnesville, nestled at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain on land surveyed for Jeremiah Hays in 1749, is the last rural outpost in the predominantly urban Montgomery County. It was named in honor of William Barnes, who built the first house in the town. In the book History of Western Maryland (1882), Barnesville is described as situated in the middle of a rich, tobacco-growing region.
At the top of a ridge with views of Sugarloaf Mountain to the north and the Catoctin Mountain and Blue Ridge ranges to the west, Barnesville enjoys a connection with the rhythms of the natural world while being within commuting distance of the nation's capital. The town's motto, "A Caring Community", is a testament to the sense of place enjoyed by the town's residents and their neighbors in the Agricultural Reserve of Western Montgomery County. It is the hometown of renowned New York writer, editor, and photographer, Jonathan R. Stein.
The early part of the 19th century saw Barnesville grow as a community. The local farmers' primary crop was tobacco.
During the Civil War, Union forces marched through the town in search of Robert E. Lee’s army. Town residents took shelter in their cellars. Sugarloaf Mountain was an observation point, and during a battle for its summit on September 9, 1862, the town changed hands five times. The Union army finally emerged as the winner of that battle. The first female Confederate spy, Rose Greenhaugh O’Neill, was baptized in Barnesville by her uncle who was the pastor at St. Mary’s Church. Eventually, she was captured by Union forces and imprisoned.
In May of 1888, Barnesville was incorporated by the Governor under the name “The Commissioners of Barnesville”, which has all the powers and privileges of a body politic and could sue and be sued, plead, and be impeded, and have a common seal." Dr. R. Vinton Wood, William T. Hilton, Richard T. Pyles, Nathan E. Miles, and Charles S. Nichols were elected as the first Commissioners of the town. Among the first acts of the newly incorporated town was an assessment of taxable property (at $0.10 per each $100), establishing remuneration of the Town Clerk at $10.00 per year, and drafting by-laws and ordinances.
Barnesville lies within a residential/agricultural zone and has its own zoning laws. Surrounded by rural density-transfer zones of rolling hills and green pastures, it has found zoning to be one of the most precious tools of government. Barnesville is served by the MARC commuter rail system. The station building was originally a gas metering station in Rockville; it was moved to Barnesville in 1977. Barnesville is approximately 73 miles from Baltimore, 17 miles from Rockville, and 35 miles from Washington, D.C. In the early days, supplies were shipped by barge up the Monocacy River or were carried by horse and buggy from Baltimore.
Today, the town is a third of a mile in area, with two churches, a Post Office, 79 residences and a population of 200 (per the 2000 Census), funeral home, artists, and accountants. It has maintained the charm of the rural commerce from which it evolved—a store, blacksmith shop, tannery, physician, tavern, school, hotels, and a magistrate who owned a 250-acre farm. That farm still remained in the same family after more than 200 years.
Barnesville is small in size, but its rural character, rich history, and friendly residents—some descended from the families who founded the town—make it truly “a caring community,” as the town’s slogan announces.