Who is Benjamin Banneker? He is not someone you hear about in history classes. He was a special kind of man. Born on November 9, 1731, he became an accomplished mathematician, an astronomer who spent some of his evenings looking up at the stars, and a publisher of six almanacs. Although he was never a slave, he did have to deal with rejection like many African Americans dealt with in his day which made him an abolitionist. This did not stop the man’s brilliance. He was a surveyor who worked with Charles L’Enfant. Who is Charles L’Enfant? He is the man who laid out what became the District of Columbia. Benjamin Banneker assisted with L’Enfant to lay out the southwestern border of the District. (This border is now completely in Virginia and is the border between Arlington and Fairfax County.) Benjamin Banneker has been credited by some historians as an inventor, but he was never an inventor but a man with an incredible mind. He died in 1806. The Benjamin Banneker Historic Park and Museum in Catonsville, Maryland commemorates and celebrates the life of a man who some say could be one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the United States of America.
Some of you are saying, “This has got to be one amazing man. It is sad that he was not talked about in schools. We must be thankful for the people who have preserved his memory. There is a very big problem. As mentioned, he died in 1806. The railroad began in 1828. This means that he had nothing to do with the railroad. Therefore, I will have nothing to do with the Benjamin Banneker Historic Park and Museum.”
You have a point. Benjamin Banneker did die before the railroad began. Therefore, Benjamin Banneker had nothing to do with the railroad. Why should you visit the Benjamin Banneker Historic Park and Museum?
The Benjamin Banneker Historic Park and Museum consists of, of course, the museum that tells the story of Benjamin Banneker and his brilliance. It also consists of the Trueth / Bannaky House, a home that was built on the property after Banneker’s death. You have the Colonial Farmstead that consists of a cabin of which Benjamin Banneker would have lived in and a small garden. Then you have the hiking trails.
Some of you are saying, “This is very nice, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the railroad.”
As mentioned, there are hiking trails in the park. You have the Yellow Trail, the White Trail, the Green Trail, The Red Trail, the Blue Trail, and the Trolley 9 Trail.
Some of you are saying, “What? What in the world is the Trolley 9 Trail?”
This is the reason why you should visit the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. The Trolley 9 Trail is a rail trail that runs through the park that begins in nearby Ellicott City and ends in a neighborhood. Why is it called the Trolley 9 Trail? The answer is deep.
Benjamin Banneker’s home was in proximity with Ellicott City, originally called Ellicott Mills. The name comes from being a town of mills with the Patapsco River passing on the northeast side of the town. Mills, of course, needs workers. Although the railroad came to Ellicott Mills, how was his workers going to get to work?
In March of 1861, the Baltimore, Catonsville, and Ellicott Mills Railway Company was born. It was able to transport workers from their homes in Catonsville and the town of Oella to the mills and back home. What began with horse-drawn trolleys was later electrified.
Today, you can walk along the Trolley 9 Trail and think about how the workers rode to in from their jobs. You can stop in at the Benjamin Banneker Historic Park. Although the Trolley 9 Trail is paved and it is for wheelchairs, the access from Ellicott City is not nor are the trails in the park wheelchair friendly. The trail has a slight incline from Ellicott City. While at the Ellicott City end, you can see the remnants of the bridge that crossed the Patapsco River. (The bridge was burned by a discarded cigarette and was never rebuilt.)
Benjamin Banneker had no connection to the railroad, but what was once his land does. You will learn about a brilliant man, and you can take in the scenery along the Trolley 9 Trail.
The Benjamin Banneker Historic Park and Museum is owned and operated by Baltimore County Parks. It is located at 300 Oella Avenue in Catonsville, Maryland just off Maryland Route 144 and just east of Ellicott City. The museum hours are 10:00am to 4:00pm Tuesday to Saturday. The park is open from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free, and parking is on site. The Trolley 9 Trail open sunrise to sunset. You can get more information and directions to the museum and park at https://friendsofbenjaminbanneker.com/.
Get to know Benjamin Banneker. Get to know a great minded man. Meet a man who helped lay out a section of what is now Washington D.C. Visit the site of his farm where at one time ‘a train ran through it’.