Increasing competition for available land and economic opportunities in southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore facilitated movement of English settlers towards the western reaches of Maryland. Many of these settlers brought enslaved laborers with them into the Monocacy region. Pennsylvania Germans from Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania also migrated into Frederick County.
Two separate agricultural systems had developed in the Monocacy region by the mid-18th century, stemming from the predominance of English and German settlement. German settlers generally farmed smaller tracts of land, cultivating corn, wheat and other subsistence crops. British settlers, on the other hand, initially sought to reproduce the tobacco and slave economy of the tidewater area. Climate differences and market fluctuations, however, eventually precipated greater reliance on commercial grain cultivation in the Monocacy region.
At the close of the 18th century, Frederick was a bustling agricultural community but also exhibited significant industrial development. By 1790, Frederick County was the largest wheat producer in the United States, and crops such as flax, corn, orchard fruit, rye, oats, potatoes, and hay were also cultivated.
In addition to agricultural productivity, milling and other industries flourished in Frederick County during the 18th century. In fact, by 1791 there were a total of 80 mills of various types operating in Frederick County, including various saw, grist, paper, and flour mills, along with over 400 stills. Several iron manufacture industries also became operational at this time, as did glass production.
The growth of manufacture and industry facilitated construction of roads and ferries, which in turn led to the establishment of taverns and other service industries. As early as 1748, a ferry and tavern were in operation on the present-day Thomas Farm, at a site known as the Middle Ford.