History of Port Deposit

Captain John Smith was the first recorded European visitor to the area, visiting in 1608 and 1609. The area existed under other names prior to that date including The Upper Ferry and Creswell’s Landing.  Trading ships sailed up the Susquehanna from the Chesapeake Bay to meet and exchange goods with rafts and arks from Philadelphia. These vessels were the only type that could navigate the rapids and other hazards north of the town.  This trading point made the area a “port of deposit” and Governor Levin Winder signed a bill in 1812 officially changing the name to its present Town of Port Deposit.

Built on large stores of granite, many quarries once prospered in the town and Port Deposit granite can be found in many of the houses, churches, and sidewalks of the Town.  Due to its distinctive coloring, Port Deposit granite was much sought after and can be found in buildings in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore, St. Augustine, Florida, and Atlantic City among others.

The town’s most famous resident was Jacob Tome who arrived in the town penniless in 1833 and went on to become the county’s first millionaire and greatest philanthropist.  In 1889, he founded the Tome School for Boys, part of the Jacob Tome Institute and in the spirit of giving back, provided a free education to any child of the town who was willing to undergo the school’s strict regimen.  The school continues to exist today and counts many famous people as alumni including members of the Mellon and Carnegie families.  The only remaining intact building of the institute is Adams Hall, which now functions as Town Hall.

In 1942, Congress appropriated the campus of the Tome School for use as the Bainbridge Naval Training Center and the Naval Academy Preparatory School.  After 34 years and 500,000 recruits, the Center closed March 31, 1976 and is slated to become a business and residential area. 

The entire town was placed on the National Historic Register in 1978 and prides itself on maintaining its historic character while moving into the future.

About Jacob Tome

Jacob Tome was born August 13, 1810 in Hanover, York County, Pennsylvania. Tome found success by investing into first a lumber company and railroad dealings in Port Deposit. He also established banks in Port Deposit, Elkton, and Hagerstown as well as Virginia. Tome proved to be a remarkable businessman, becoming Cecil County's first millionaire. He would prove to be an ardent philanthropist as well, supporting education in particular. 

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