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The below tribute to our Choptank River was published in 1931 by Folger McKinzey (1866-1950), who grew up on the Eastern Shore in Elkton, Md. and became something of an adolescent prodigy. He became editor of the weekly Shore Gazette newspaper in Ocean Grove, N.J. at age 17 and then, at 20, returned to Elkton as assistant editor of the Cecil Whig. While there, he brought Walt Whitman to town for a lecture.

After a stint at a paper in Frederick, Md., McKinzey spent fortysome years at the Baltimore Sun as a reporter, columnist, and “staff poet”—really, they had such a title in the newsroom back then. Widely known as the “Bentztown Bard,” McKinzey published two books of poetry, with countless other bits of his verse appearing in the newspaper over the years.

This poem was published on Aug. 1, 1931 in the Sun. (PS: When he refers to the “Benoni light,” he is talking about the old Choptank River Lighthouse that once stood in the Choptank where it meets the Tred Avon River. A replica of that beacon stands today on the waterfront in Cambridge, Md.)

“The Choptank Is a River”

The Choptank is a river
That is in my dreams today;
Benoni light is glowing
And there’s moonshine on the Bay:

To Cambridge and to Denton
And to Dover Bridge she steams
The steamer of the Choptank
On her way to land of dreams!

The Choptank is a river
That I’m dreaming of once more,
With its beauty and its grandeur
And its romance and its lore:

A broad and noble river,
Then a narrow, winding tide
With the marshes of the muskrats
Twenty miles on either side!

The Choptank is a river
That I think of more and more
With its deeps and with its shallows
And the old homes on its shore:

The Choptank in its beauty
Shining on through day and night
And its wide mouth saying welcome
With the old Benoni’s light!

–posted by Jim Duffy for Secrets of the Eastern Shore/Whimbrel Creations LLC in February 2024. Thank you for spending some time on this site. Here’s hoping the time you spend here helps you come to cherish the Delmarva Peninsula a little bit more.

NOTE: The photo up top here shows the Choptank River at Cambridge in the 1930s.

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