These days, Benedict, population 261, is a quieter place. The steamboats that once plied the river are long gone, the oyster houses have closed, and the slot machines that attracted weekenders and day-trippers have disappeared. But generations of families that have called Benedict home have remained. They are members of the fire department or St. Francis de Sales church, which has served the community for more than 100 years.
For those residents, Benedict represents a lifestyle worth passing along to their children and grandchildren. “Everybody here is family,” said David Hutchins, 42, a fire department member who lives with his wife, Kimberly, and their two sons in a house originally constructed by a neighbor. “And I don’t mean as an extended family. Everybody here is family. “
Those local families like the Welches, Chappelears and others have been joined by newcomers like Megan and Chris Hilton, both 26, two-year residents who decided Benedict was an ideal midpoint between Chris’s job at the Census Bureau in Suitland, Megan’s workplace in Prince Frederick, and their parents, who live in Waldorf and in St. Mary’s County. And while subdivisions with larger homes have sprouted nearby, Benedict in many ways has remained much as it has for decades. “Benedict has been able to preserve itself,” said Franklin Robinson Jr., 52, whose family owns and operates Serenity Farm along the Patuxent. “Development has passed it by one way or another.”
Not many houses come up for sale in Benedict, said Linda Wise, an agent with Century 21 Comstock Earnest. The town features diverse properties, “where higher-caliber homes are next to smaller, less-expensive homes,” she said. Often, people who grew up there will try to move back or locate nearby, Wise said. Benedict is 40 minutes from the Beltway and an hour from Washington.
Benedict’s waterfront has always been its selling point, and its watermen harvested oysters in the Patuxent for years. Nestled on a peninsula where Calvert, Charles and Prince George’s counties meet, the town enjoyed a boom when slot machines were legal for about 20 years.
Thomas “Dusty” Welch, 92, a lifelong Benedict resident, is one of 14 children whose family made a living on the river. As a youngster, Welch worked at his family’s business, Welch’s Place, which served sandwiches, rented boats and sponsored fishing trips. “Friday and Saturday night, we’d fish all night long,” Welch said. His wife, Margaret, remembered how parked cars lined the narrow streets on weekends, as visitors came to enjoy the water and the gambling. Later, Welch worked at the ferry on the river, the only crossing before a bridge was built in the 1950s.