As an unincorporated area, Colesville's boundaries are not officially defined. Also, many residents consider the town to be one of the many neighborhoods of Silver Spring, Maryland. Colesville is recognized by the United States Postal Service as an acceptable city name in two northeastern Montgomery County ZIP codes, with Silver Spring being the preferred city name.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the place has a total area of 9.2 square miles (24 km2), all of it land.
Colesville's generally accepted boundaries extend between the Northwest and Paint Branches of the Anacostia River. Its northern and southern boundaries are not as well-defined, but are usually assumed to run from Springbrook High School in the south to Cloverly in the north.
The first land was purchased in Colesville from the Lords Baltimore in 1714, when Archibald Edmonston patented "Easy Purchase", a 900-acre (3.6 km2) tract that extended from Meadowood south to near present-day Route 29. In 1715, "Easy Purchase" was bought by James Beall, Sr., who that year also patented "Drumeldry", a 225-acre (0.91 km2) tract from the Northwest Branch across Notley Road to Shannon Drive. In 1718, his nephew William Beall patented "Wolf's Den", a 317-acre (1.28 km2) tract that straddled today's Bonifant Road and ran from Notley Road to Pebblestone Drive, and then southwest across the Northwest Branch.
However, none of these early landowners actually resided in Colesville. Robert Lazenby, thought to be the son of Henry Lazenby, High Sheriff of Anne Arundel County, purchased 217 acres (0.88 km2) of the southern part of "Wolfs Den" from William Beall in 1723, and became the first president farmer in Colesville.
In 1747, James Odell, grandson of James Beall Sr., was deeded 300 acres (1.2 km2) of a tract known as "Beal Christie" from his parents, and took to farming it. It was located east of today's New Hampshire Avenue near where it crosses Randolph Road.
In the 1790s, Peter Kemp built a saw and grist mill on Paint Branch where it is crossed by today's Randolph Road. The mill was rebuilt twice, and what is seen today in Valley Mill Park is the 1879 mill built by Franklin Pilling, which ceased to operate by 1930.
The earliest recorded use of the "Colesville" name was on January 25, 1806, when the General Assembly of Maryland changed the place of holding elections of the Fourth Election District of Montgomery County to "Edward Berry's, commonly called Coale's-Ville". It is unknown where this name came from, but it may have come from the maiden name of Elizabeth (Coale) Snowden, wife of Richard Snowden who was the owner of "Snowden's Manor" in nearby Sandy Spring and began living there in 1728. By 1824 the name was generally known as "Coalsville", and was sometimes referred to as such even as late as 1906.
The oldest standing house in Colesville is "Milimar" at 410 Randolph Road, which is in the National Register of Historic Places and was built around 1790. It is also known as "The Old Lazanby Home", but was probably built by Samuel and Mary Peach, who purchased the 164.5-acre (0.666 km2) tract it is on known as "Peaches Lot" from Evan Thomas shortly after he freed his slaves.
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