Mount Savage as an Industrial Town

Access to coastal markets opened for western Maryland coal companies when state funds were appropriated for two transportation projects, the Chesapeake and Potomac canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  Prospects of both canal and rail linkage with the east stimulated corporate development of the Pittsburgh coal seam.  As mining intensified, so did the forging of iron, and this is when the location attributes of Mt. Savage became important.

Five hundred men worked in the mill and Mt. Savage’s population reached 2000 when America’s first heavy rails were rolled from the mill in 1844.  The mill turned out 25 to 30 tons of iron rails a day for the B&O railroad, which was continuing its route toward Wheeling from Cumberland.  There was much optimism with regards to Mt. Savage’s future.  In 1844, the settlement was being promoted as one of America’s great manufacturing sites.

The manuscript census for 1880 reveals a tightly nucleated industrial workforce consisting of master craftsmen, skilled workers, and ordinary laborers.  It was a self-contained community with a well-defined social hierarchy where the elite, the managerial group, were domiciled in the spacious houses overlooking the grit and grime of the valley below.

A skilled worker, in 1880, earned $2.00 for a day’s work of 12 hours in the winter and 10 hours in the summer.  He had to work six days a week with Sunday s and Christmas day off.  An ordinary laborer earned $1.25 for a single day’s work.

Occupational Profile of Mt. Savage, Md. In 1880

Railroading Metallurgy and machinists
Conductors  7
 Locomotive firemen 9
Clerical and supervisors 8
Locomotive engineers  9
Brakemen  13
Others 10
Foundry workers 9
Machinists  29
Boilermakers 9
Blacksmiths 17
Brickyard and coal mining Agriculture
Brickyard workers  41
Foremen and engineers 3
Coal miners 20
Brickmolders 8
Farmers 22
Farm laborers 21
Artisans Town persons
Carpenters 19
Shoemakers 6
Butchers and brewers 3
Miller 1
Masons (brick and stone) 4
Dressmakers 5
Tailors 2
Others 4
Merchants 2
Officeclerks 4
Wholesale and hospitality 4
Health providers 2
Teachers 6
Grocers 3
Storeclerks 9
Teamsters 7
Clergy 3
Law enforcement 2
Others 10
Domestic servants Miscellaneous
Maids 21
Governesses 1
Laundresses 2
Gardeners 4
Cooks 3
Ordinary laborers 69
Apprentices and helpers 17
Source of data: 1880 manuscript census for Allegany County, Md., roll 494,
National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.