Why Is It Named Montgomery County?

Rockville, Maryland

Rockville, Maryland – the county seat of Montgomery County

Montgomery County Seal

Montgomery County Seal

Some GoDCers (probably quite a few) live just across the District line in Montgomery County. But, how many of you know the etymology of the county? We should probably do one of these for every county in the area, just like we did a while ago for Arlington.

So, why is it named Montgomery County?

The county, currently listed as the 10th richest in the country, was formed shortly after the Declaration of Independence in 1776, with lands taken from Charles, Frederick and Prince George’s Counties. The county seat was placed in Rockville and the county was named for Major General Richard Montgomery, who was killed in action the previous December.

Richard Montgomery was born on December 2nd, 1738 less than 10 miles north of Dublin, Ireland. The Montgomery family was both a military family as well as political, with a father, a brother and two cousins all having served as officers in the British Army, as well as members of parliament.

Richard was well off during his childhood and received an excellent education, having matriculated at Trinity College in Dublin, but he did not finish. He chose, instead, to join the British Army in 1756.

Richard Montgomery

Richard Montgomery

For 16 years, he served in His Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Foot, fighting in numerous conflicts, including the French and Indian War. After 1772, he returned to Britain due to poor health, but quickly was back in the North American Colonies. He married his wife Janet Livingston and settled down on a farm 13 miles north of New York City.

His marriage into the Livingston family, a prominent and patriotic family in the American Colonies, he began shifting his allegiance away from the King.

Upon George Washington‘s appointment as Commander-in-Chief on June 15th, 1775, Montgomery was named Brigadier General under Major General Philip Schuyler. The Continental Congress and General Washington devised a plan to invade Canada with a force led by Montgomery from the southwest and a force from Maine led by pre-traitorous Benedict Arnold.

The forces met in the siege of Quebec City. On December 31st, 1775, the Battle of Quebec took place and was a decisive victory for the British. Over 400 Americans were captured and about 50 men were killed. Richard Montgomery was one of those men.

Washington and Schuyler were both devastated at the loss of Montgomery and convinced that a successful invasion of Canada was now impossible.

The Death of General Montgomery painted in 1786 (Yale University Art Gallery)

The Death of General Montgomery painted in 1786 (Yale University Art Gallery)

Thirteen states have counties named after Richard Montgomery, including Maryland. Oh, and the state that all Lynyrd Skynyrd fans love, Alabama, has a capitol city named for him, Montgomery, Alabama.

And that’s how you can connect Montgomery County to Alabama next time you’re at trivia night.

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