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Clear spring gave town its name

September 22, 2005|by HEATHER C. SMATHERS

Visitors to Clear Spring will find a quiet community of 400 inhabitants, the personification of small-town America, but at the beginning of the 19th century, the new town was bustling with excitement.

David Wiles, president of the Clear Spring District Historical Society and a seventh-generation Clear Spring resident, said in 2004 that the first settler to the area, Evan Shelby Sr., arrived in 1739. Shelby purchased 1,200 acres of land on which he ran a trading business and operated a farm.

More than 50 years passed before a town was established, but little by little the population began to grow.

In 1752, Nathaniel Nesbitt bought land from Shelby and cleared his own farm. Nesbitt built a log home on his land that remained in his family for generations, Wiles said.

The Shelby family did not establish such roots.

After an Indian uprising in 1763, during which Evan Shelby Jr. lost inventory from his father's trading business and his home burned to the ground, he and his family moved to Tennessee, Wiles said.

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Martin Myers settled in the Clear Spring area in 1790. In 1820, Bank Road - the portion of the National Road from Conococheague Creek to Cumberland, Md. - was constructed through Myers' property.

"He seized the opportunity to become a land developer and a businessman," Wiles said. In 1821, Myers parceled his land into 72 lots and named his new town Myersville.

One of the first people to buy a lot was a free black man, which was unusual in a town with many slaves, Wiles said.

Wiles said Myers set up his own business of making and selling crocks in the most valuable spot in town - next to the clear spring.

Aside from Myers, other businesses benefited from the proximity of the spring. Covered wagons, horses and stagecoaches passed through Myersville on Bank Road, and the appeal of clear water enticed many to stop in town.

The Brewer Hotel advertised itself as the "Hotel at the Clear Spring," Wiles said. By 1825, there were no references to Myersville and the town became known as Clear Spring, according to historical documents.

Clear Spring became an incorporated town in 1838.

One important part of Clear Spring's early history is the stagecoach, Wiles said.

"It was the Internet of the day. All of the major lines stopped in town, bringing news from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore," he said.

The pride of the Clear Spring Historical Society is Plumb Grove Mansion, built in 1831 by Jonathan Nesbitt Jr., grandson of Nathaniel Nesbitt.

During the Civil War, the Nesbitts were able to hear the Battle of Antietam at Plumb Grove. The Historical Society acquired the property in 1981 and restored it to its 19th-century appearance, Wiles said.

Clear Spring is three blocks long, with many of the original buildings still in use.

"We try not to forget the past," Wiles said. "We're trying to recapture it."

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