Maryland is about 250 miles long and about 100 miles wide at its greatest extremities. However at one point it narrows to less than two miles where it forms its western panhandle. This is due to one natural geographic feature and one artificial line determined by men.
The Maryland-West Virginia border along this stretch hugs the Potomac River as it courses along rugged Appalachian valleys. The Maryland-Pennsylvania demarcation is the Mason-Dixon Line, surveyed between 1763 and 1767 to settle a colonial era land dispute. The two nearly squeeze Maryland in half at Hancock.
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Hancock has been a transportation hub since the early days of European settlement. Settlers reached here as early as the 1730’s when it was the farthest fringe of western civilization.
The National Pike came through Hancock around 1818 and joined with the National Road at Cumberland, serving as a vital link for pioneers, settlers and traders traveling to Ohio and to points further west. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal later came through Hancock, followed by railroads hugging the Potomac banks. Today several major highways converge on Hancock including Interstate 68 and Interstate 70 with access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
While it may just be a narrow plot of land it has a rich history and quite a bit of significance, even today.