That's right. Roughly, a municipality is to a state as a state is to the USA. This is overly simplistic, but it works for the moment. A municipality can pass laws, collect taxes, maintain publicly-funded police and fire departments, and perform other such governmental functions.

And Baltimore County has none of them. Towson is the county seat, but it's not an incorporated town -- it has no elected officials and no local government. County police provide law enforcement, and the fire department is a volunteer unit. Public lands and roads are maintained by the county government. The same goes for all the towns in the county.

Growing up in Lutherville, I did find it a bit odd that the only police cars I ever saw were Baltimore County cops and Maryland state troopers. I didn't know at the time that there was a reason for it.

During the mid-1600's, the area around the head of Chesapeake Bay came to be known as "Baltimore County". It was very sparsely populated; a tobacco entry port on Spesutie Island was the largest settlement. Nevertheless, the area grew enough so that the Maryland General Assembly created an official Baltimore County in 1659, with a sheriff at Baltimore Town on the east side of the Bush River. Constantly beset by Susquehannock raids, settlement was so sparse that the General Assembly exempted the county from having a pillory and other trappings of countyhood.

In 1674, the area east of the Susquehanna River was carved off to form Cecil County. Definite boundaries were set for the county at the same time.

In 1712, the county seat was moved to the new tobacco port of Joppa on the Gunpowder River, and Baltimore Town began to wither.

Meanwhile, some landowners down on the Patapsco River decided it would be a wonderful idea to have a tobacco port of their own, on a basin at the head of the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River. Charles and Daniel Carroll founded this new Baltimore Town in 1729.

The silting-up of the Gunpowder River, as well as a smallpox epidemic, destroyed Joppa's viability, and the seat was moved to the rapidly-growing Baltimore Town in 1768. From this point, Baltimore County grew into the agricultural hinterland for Baltimore.

In 1774, the area east of Little Gunpowder Falls was carved off into the new Harford County. In 1837, the western part of Baltimore County was combined with the eastern part of Frederick County to form Carroll County.

Rapid urban expansion caused the city to extend its borders several times. At one such expansion, in 1851, the city and county were permanently separated, and the county seat was moved to Towson. The final expansion in 1917 brought Baltimore County to its current borders.

The fixing of the border was no impediment to continued urbanization, and the city eventually spilled beyond its borders into Baltimore County. Especially after World War II, these new suburbs turned the county into one dominated by urban sprawl. Most of the Baltimore Beltway is in Baltimore County, connecting the suburbs which developed along the old radial roads from Baltimore.

The most famous Baltimore County executive was Spiro T. Agnew, whose administration lasted from 1962 to 1966, when he was elected Governor, and eventually became Vice-President. Agnew was a mainstay of corrupt Maryland politics, shaking down developers for kickbacks.

Today, Baltimore County is one of the largest jurisdictions in the state. However, the people who moved into the county to get away from it all brought it all with them: drugs, crime, broken families, and problems with schools all affect the older suburbs. Because of this, people are fleeing further out, to the new planned communities of White Marsh and Owings Mills as well as Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, and York County, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the exodus from Baltimore continues, filling in behind them.

You want places inside Baltimore County, you got 'em! Although Baltimore, an independent city, is not in Baltimore County, FIPS PUB 55-32 lists 480 different names for places in this Maryland county of about 610 square miles3 and 754,292 people4. Among these are:

1Virtual Harford County: The history of Harford County


3about 1000 square kilometers

42000 census at

5An incorporated town in Carroll County of which about 1 acre overlaps into Baltimore County. So Baltimore County does have a "municipality" after all!

Also: Baltimore County Historical Society: Historical Highlights of Baltimore County History

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