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Most of Saint Michael’s borders were established by land grants that date back to the mid-1600s. In the late 1670s, the Christ Episcopal Church of Saint Michael the Archangel parish was founded between the Miles River and Board Creek. During the next century, the town went through significant changes as people cleared the forests and used the wood to build ships, and tilled the land for tobacco. Population increased slightly as ship builders and repairers were drawn to the area, but the tobacco market fell off as a result of the American Revolution, since the agricultural priority became growing wheat to feed the troops.
Soon after James Braddock bought 20 acres of land, which was subdivided and transformed Saint Michaels into a planned community with approximately 60 separate lots. The focal point of the plan was today’s St. Mary’s Square. In the early 1800s, the village was incorporated as a town, and divided into three squares: Harrison’s (north end), Thompson’s (southwest), and the original Braddock’s (southeast).
After the war of 1812, Saint Michaels suffered a brief depression as a shipbuilding community, but rose as a seafood processing and packing center, thanks to the abundant oysters and blue crabs. When the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal opened in 1829, products were able to be shipped as far as Wilmington, Philadelphia, and even farther north.
The town prospered even more when the railroad came through in the 1870s. You will note that most of the charming stores and homes along the main street (Talbot St) were built in the 1880s and 90s, after the railroad. The train ran out to the town of Claiborne where it met the ferry boat from Baltimore.
St. Michaels has continued to be an important ship-building community. Today the shipyards build pleasure boats. The town also continues its tradition of hospitality. The ferry from Baltimore and the train are long gone, but boat owners from across the bay sail over to spend a weekend, and non-sailors drive over the bridge.