Port O’ Bladensburg
Forty-six years after the founding of Prince George’s County, a group of leading citizens saw the need for a port to cater to the tobacco growers of the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River. The site chosen to render this service to the area was Bladensburg on the Anacostia River. The mouth of the Anacostia was one mile wide and twenty to forty feet deep, thus making Bladensburg the best protected port in the region and was referred to as, “one of the safest and most commodious harbors in America, being sufficiently deep for the largest ships for about four miles above its mouth.” Thus, the Town of Bladensburg was established in 1742.
At the time of the American Revolution, Annapolis was the political capital of the Maryland province, Upper Marlbrough [sic], with this fine legitimate theater, race track and polite society was the social and cultural center, and Bladensburg was said to be the second largest, and fastest growing seaport and commercial center on the whole eastern seaboard. As a bustling seaport, the Port O’ Bladensburg handled in its deep harbor a larger ocean tonnage than any other port in the colonies with the sole exception of Yorktown, Virginia. Great English and Scotch factors maintained their own local representatives: shipyards and “roper walks” clustered dockside. Every type of goods that were shipped into America at the time came through this port: tobacco products, ships, slaves, indentured servants, rope, and all shipping goods, tea, medicines, rum, molasses, sugar, coffee, wine, soap, salt, assortments of European and West Indian goods, woolens, saddlery, cutlery, linen, cottons, and the list goes on and on.
As late as 1830, oceangoing vessels were able to navigate the Anacostia River all the way to Bladensburg, but rapid accumulation of sediment from agricultural runoff began to clog the harbor. For many years a gallant effort was made to keep the port dredged, however, by 1840 the port had to be closed. As the Anacostia River silted in, the great days of Bladensburg shipping ended.