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BLACK GOLD IN PARSONSBURG! The Delmarva Oil Craze of the Early 1900s

If someone ever makes an Eastern Shore version of "The Beverly Hillbillies," the family at the center of things would have to hail from Parsonsburg, Md. That sleepy town of 350ish souls--it's just east of Salisbury, on the way to Ocean City--was the epicenter of the Great Delmarva Oil Craze. Consider, for starters, the advertisement that the Wicomico Oil & Gas Co. took out in…
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A Delmarva Town’s Unlikely Love Affair with a Chinese Laundryman, Early 1900s

Judging by their last names, the men who climbed into a "large touring car" and left Cambridge, Md. on a Wednesday in late May of 1910 hailed from the upper crust of Dorchester County society. There is a Mount Rushmore aspect to the collection of surnames--Brannock, Hopkins, Hearn, and Willey. All those families loom large in local lore and civic leadership across the centuries. We…
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“The Exile’s Song:” A Poetic Ode By a Homesick Eastern Shoreman

Aside from having a beard for the ages, Littleton Purnell Bowen was a lawyer, historian, preacher, and poet. Born in Worcester County, Md. in 1833, he did his early schooling at the Berlin (Md.) Academy, graduating in 1851. He later earned a law degree, but abandoned that career to become a Presbyterian minister. Early on, Bowen served as a pastor in Lewes, Del. and Pocomoke…
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Somerset Journey: The Steak Knife Was Invented in Crisfield, and That Story Begins on Marumsco Creek

The story behind the creation of the steak knife in your kitchen drawer involves a bit of manufacturing ingenuity, but there is more to it. Think romantic sleigh rides, a devastating fire, steadfast religious faith, and then—a Christmas gift from a friend that changes everything. This Somerset County, Md. tale begins with a farm boy who hated farm work. He much preferred puttering around in…
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WAY BACK MACHINE: The Great Poplar Island Bootleg Booze Factory of 1929

On a Sunday afternoon in May 1929, Talbot County (Md.) Sheriff Thomas L. Faulkner and a team of local officers and federal agents sailed from Lowe’s Wharf, just up the mainland from Tilghman Island, heading past storied old Poplar Island and into the open Chesapeake Bay. But then the boat spun around and headed back for the island from the north. Poplar Island was a…
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The stately looking steamboat … cautiously, almost stealthily edged her way into the locks” of the C&D Canal.

In 1881, the Wilmington (Del.) Morning News published one writer’s eloquent account of his steamboat journey from the old city of New Castle through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and on across the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore. Here are some highlights: Steamboats ran on the bays and rivers of Delmarva for a century and a half, from 1813 until 1962. This account of one brief…
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Inspiring Journey: “Black Harry” Hosier’s Climb from Slavery and Illiteracy to America’s “Greatest Orator”

We are all born with gifts. We all strive in our own way to nurture and share those gifts. Harry Hosier faced longer odds than any of us in this regard. He was born into slavery. He was illiterate. But he managed nonetheless to carve a path through life that saw him seize every opportunity to put his God-given gifts—a prodigious memory and a flair…
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About That 1945 Day When Baseball Hall of Famer Branch Rickey Went Fishing on the Choptank River

Fred “Fritz” Lucas was a baseball man through and through. The New Jersey native toiled for teams in nine different minor-league cities during the 1920s and 1930s. He had a proverbial cup of coffee with the big-league Philadelphia Phillies in 1935, getting 34 at-bats as a pinch hitter and reserve outfielder. He returned to the minors the next year, but his time on the playing…