Before the American Revolution, Port Tobacco served as the Charles County seat and reigned as one of Maryland's busiest cargo and passenger ports, second only to St. Mary's City. It was also a hub of social and political activity. But by the Civil War, the harbor had silted up, limiting trade to small boats and reducing Port Tobacco's prominence. (The town really faded into the background after the county seat moved to La Plata in 1892). If it weren't for a few roadside signs along Route 6, visitors might bypass several interesting historical sites altogether, including the Thomas Stone House and the re-created Port Tobacco Courthouse.
Thomas Stone was one of four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence. In 1770, the respected lawyer purchased about 440 acres on the edge of Port Tobacco. He called the plantation Haberdeventure and planned to construct a small brick house for himself, his wife and their two young daughters. But his father soon died, and several siblings came to live with them, spurring the addition of east and west wings. Stone didn't spend as much time in his five-part Colonial house as he might have liked. By 1774, he was part of the Charles County Committee of Correspondence, responsible for communicating with the other colonies. Within a year, he was chosen as a member of the Second Continental Congress and faced the prospect of war. He initially spoke against independence but changed his mind and supported it with his signature. He lived less than a dozen more years, but his home stayed in the family until the Depression. Fire nearly destroyed it in 1977, and the National Park Service purchased it a few years later, restoring it and opening it to the public in 1997.
Other Port Tobacco sites are a short drive away, including the Port Tobacco Courthouse, which is a re-creation of the third Charles County courthouse (originally built between 1819 and 1821). The federal-style brick building had burned in 1892 in a suspicious fire that sparked the relocation of the county seat. The building was reconstructed in 1972, and costumed docents share more than three centuries of Port Tobacco's history.
Open daily 10 to 4. Free.