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Choptank River 1930s for Poem The Choptank Is a River FEATURED PHOTO
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A POETIC INTERLUDE: “The Choptank Is a River/That Is in My Dreams Today”

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…
Chesapeake Oyster Wars Depraved Workforce FEATURED PHOTO
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“Depraved,” “Unscrupulous,” “Vile”–Our Oystermen, 1887

Those headline words all come from a federal government report about the state of the oystering on the Chesapeake Bay in 1887. This was, as many regular readers here will know, the height of the “Oyster Wars” in our region. Just in case you need it: Here is a 200-word refresher of an introduction to those wild times. Fear and greed fueled the Chesapeake Oyster…
Hog Killing Tradition in Caroline County on Eastern Shore of Maryland
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Women’s Work: Memories of an Old-Time Hog Killing in Federalsburg, Md.

Ellenor Merriken was still brand new to Federalsburg, Md. when her husband's mother (aka "Grandma") called and told her to come on over and pitch in--it was hog-killing time. That longstanding Christmastime tradition on the Delmarva Peninsula worked something like an Amish barn-raising--neighbors would gather to pitch in and help while also enjoying a day of fellowship. This was new to Ellenor. She had found…
Mirror of the Almighty Tangier Island Camp Meeting Featured Image
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Way Back Machine: ‘A Mirror of the Almighty’ on Tangier Island, 1828

The modern-day tourism trade on Smith and Tangier islands dates to the 1960s, when tour boats first started shuttling curious daytrippers out into the middle of the bay. But visitors have actually been flocking to these islands for centuries. In 1821, one observer reported seeing more than 400 boats anchored around Tangier. He estimated the crowd attending that year’s Methodist camp meeting at more than…
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This Rug Tells a Bedtime Story: When Pittsville Was “the Strawberry Capital of the World”

"The Strawberry Capital of the World:" That's the title of the artwork above by a famous "rug hooker," Mary Sheppard Burton. The setting is our own Pittsville, Md., one of the towns just off of Route 50 between Salisbury and Ocean City. (The artwork is below here as well, in a bigger size at the end of the story.) Burton was born in Salisbury in…
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The Best Trip You’ll Never Get to Take: Cobb’s Island Hotel in the 1860s

This is an excerpt from my book, You Wouldn't Believe: 44 Strange and Wondrous Delmarva Tales. You can find more info on that and my other books at this link. Outdoorsman Alexander Hunter wrote an essay describing his visit to the Cobb Island (Va.) Hotel shortly after it opened on the barrier island of that name off of Virginia's Eastern Shore. The essay was published…
Country Stores in 1918
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Life & Times in Old-Fashioned Country Stores, 1918 (with lots of photos!)

I was looking up something else in the February 23, 1918 edition of the Denton (Md.) Journal when I got distracted by the wonderful little essay below. It’s about the many roles that general stores and their shopkeepers filled in the communities of Delmarva around that time. There was no headline on the piece. Nor was there a byline. Old newspapers can be weird like…
Jubilee End of Slavery Featured Image
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Celebrating the End of Slavery in a Black Church, 1864: ‘You belong to nobody but de Lord now.”

The way slaves in Maryland gained their freedom was a little bit different. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 applied only in Confederate states, not in the three Union states where slavery remained legal, even while the Civil War raged. It was up to Marylanders to end slavery on their own. In October 1864--22 months after Lincoln's proclamation--the state's voters approved a…
Harriet Tubman Funeral Featured Image
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“Now I’m Almost Home!” The Death and Funeral of Harriet Tubman, 1913

When her time came, Harriet Tubman was ready. Among the last recorded words of wisdom that we received from the Eastern-Shore-born heroine of the Underground Railroad comes to us by way of suffragette and civil rights activist Mary Burnett Talbert, who made a pilgrimage to upstate New York upon hearing that Harriet's health was failing. It was February of 1913. Harriet had been living in…