The Hill Project Presents: “A Stroll Down Memory Lane”

I hope those in the Easton area can attend this event on March 31 (click on the poster for a larger view):

I’m really looking forward to learning more about this area from the residents and to participate in the walking tour. I’ll post a follow-up blog post when the event is over!

Learn more about The Hill here and/or visit the Historic Easton web site.

History of Mulberry Point

Recently, I was hired to do a property history for a new property owner’s birthday present. The 18th-century home and land I researched were purchased last year for conversion into a vacation rental. Below is the land’s history and some photos of the property (click on the images for larger versions).

Waterside view of Mulberry Point. The two-story porch was added during a recent renovation.

The property today known as Mulberry Point can be traced back to the mid 1660s. It has seen many owners and names over the years. Residents and owners participated in the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. Some residents were slave owners. Several residents died on the property and at least one was buried there.

View from down the dock on Broad Creek, originally known as Second Creek, near Bozman, Md., in Talbot County.

The ownership history of the waterfront property, located on Broad Creek near Bozman, Md., is quite complicated — pieces of the property were split up and reunited over the years, in different configurations.

The main home was built in 1752 and has undergone extensive renovations. The windows and the front door, with its transom, lead me to call this a Georgian-style home.

A view of the front of Mulberry Point. Tax records show the house was built in 1752.

One of the outbuildings may be even older. Check out the details on the doors of this shed below.

That's a neat old gas pump too!

The Harrison family held the land for the longest period of time. Margaret (Harrison) Benson and her husband George* sold the land to a different family in 1865 for the sum of $4,325. It has changed hands many times since.

Margaret Benson was the daughter of James Inloes Harrison. The Bensons took over the land from Harrison’s sister, Mrs. Ann Caulk, widow of William Caulk.

The Bensons were slave owners, as evidenced by an exchange of slaves between the Harrisons and the Bensons in the distribution of the estate of James Inloes Harrison. Ann Caulk’s will, which distributed slaves to her heirs, was disputed by heirs of her brother, James. In the resulting ruling, Margaret Benson was awarded the following slaves: Thomas who was 28 years old and valued at $800; a 10-year-old slave named Harriet, valued at $400; a 24-year-old woman named Molly, valued at $250; an infant also named Molly (6 months old), valued at $50; as well as another 10-year-old girl named Frances, valued at $350.

Since the Bensons sold the property in 1865, one can imagine that when they had to give up their slaves after the Civil War, they might not have been able to maintain the property anymore, forcing them to sell. It’s just a theory, but it fits the timeframe.

James Inloes Harrison died at Mulberry Point 30 October 1855 (he is buried in Bozman Cemetery). Arthur Harrison, the son of James Inloes Harrison, was buried at Mulberry Point and his tombstone was eventually found in the water on the north side of the house by the children of more recent owners.

Ann Caulk and James Inloes Harrison were the children of Thomas Harrison and Elizabeth Inloes. Ann Caulk died in 1854 and is buried at Mulberry Point. Her husband William was a major in the War of 1812 and was known as a prosperous farmer. William served under General Perry Benson in the 26th Talbot Regiment. William resided at a plantation by the name of Lostock near Mulberry Point. Ann Caulk presumably moved to Mulberry Point after the death of her husband.

Ann Caulk was left Mulberry Point by Samuel Harrison, her uncle. Samuel Harrison obtained the land from William Harrison in 1825 for $1,940.50, but it does not appear that he lived there. At that time, the pieces of land were called Harrison’s Security and Freeman’s Rest & Vacancy Added, totaling about 167 acres, as well as part of a tract called Harrison’s Partnership.

The Harrisons obtained these lands from Robert Haddaway in the late 1790s. Broad Creek at that time was known as Second Creek. It appears that tracts by the name of Haddaway’s Discovery and Hap Hazard were located to the south of what is now Mulberry Point.

Detail of circa-1900 map of Talbot County.

The lands were passed down to Haddaway by his parents, William Webb Haddaway and Frances (Harrison) Haddaway, who obtained them through the will of her father, John Harrison.

Robert Haddaway was a house carpenter according to land records (he also is listed as a farmer in a mortgage to Thomas Harrison). The main residence at Mulberry Point was built in 1752, according to tax records. The owners at that time were Robert Haddaway’s parents — might he have helped to build the structure?

William Webb Haddaway served in the Revolutionary War in the 38th Maryland Battalion, eventually achieving the rank of colonel. He was a slave owner, as the 1776 Maryland Colonial Census lists several blacks in his household.

John Harrison’s will of 17 July 1744 gave his lands to Frances Harrison (William Webb Haddaway’s wife). John appears to have been willed the land by his grandfather, Robert Harrison, in 1718.

Robert Harrison inherited lands called Prouses Point and Haphazard from his wife, Alice Oliver, when her mother, Mary Oliver, died. The portion containing Hap Hazard appears to have been given to John Harrison’s brother James and is to the south of what is now Mulberry Point. Prouses Point appears to have evolved into what is known today as Mulberry Point.

Mary Oliver had been married to James Oliver, who obtained Prouses Point from George Prouse in 1668. Prouse had the land surveyed in 1664 at 100 acres. It appears he was an immigrant to Maryland and the original owner of the land patent for the property.

*It’s possible that Margaret Benson’s husband George Benson was the great-grandson of Perry Benson, an officer in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. George Benson’s father was Robert F. Benson (born in 1807). Perry Benson’s son James had a son by the name of Robert, also born in 1807. It is possible he was the father of George Benson.

This aerial photo was taken in 1981:

(Image courtesy of the Historical Society of Talbot County)/HSTC Catalog No. 1981.019.019509

Sources:

Ancestry.com. “Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s.” Record for George Prouse. (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8 February 2012).

Ancestry.com. “Maryland Colonial Census, 1776.” Record for William Webb Haddaway. (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8 February 2012).

Covington, Antoinette H. Harrisons of Talbot County. Tilghman, Md.: 1971.

Leonard, R. Bernice. Talbot County Maryland Land Records 1740-1745. St. Michaels, Md.: 1987.

Maryland, Talbot County. Distributions 1858-81, Liber NR 5, 33, distribution of the estate of James I. Harrison 25 Oct 1858. Circuit Court of Talbot County, Easton. Maryland State Archives microfilm, CR 90,289.

Seymour, Helen. Caulk Family of Talbot County, Maryland. St. Michaels, Md.: 2002.

Seymour, Helen. Thomas Harrison Descendants. St. Michaels, Md.: 2003.

Stewart, Carole. Caulk Family Genealogy, 2007.

Talbot County, Maryland, Deed Records, Circuit Court of Talbot County, Easton. Digital images. MDLandRec.net. http://MDLandRec.Net

Talbot County Free Library. “Map of Talbot County, Maryland.” Maryland Room — The Starin Collection – Talbot County. (http://www.tcfl.org : accessed 12 January 2012).

Album Rescue Project: Album 1, Photos 100-105

This next set of photos confirms a connection to Maryland and features one of the best photos so far in the album.

Here we have the four gentlemen, still posing with their car:

Photo 100

And here’s a photo from another mystery location:

Photo 101

Next is one of the best photos so far. Yes, the guy on the left is blurry. It’s everything else that’s so excellent:

Photo 102

There are so many details in this photo! The Chevrolet ad in the upper left, the Coca-Cola ad down at the bottom, the wooden barrels. The African-American woman and the boy in waders and a big floppy hat greeting each other. The name of the business and the location information on the sign.

West Friendship is in Howard County, Maryland. I found Herbert H. Cross in the 1920 census, where he is listed as merchant. My guess is that these photos were taken as the guys in the previous photos drove to or from D.C. from Pennsylvania.

Here’s a photo of the album’s star posing on a bridge (note the variation in the code: 2B-1919):

Photo 103

And a photo of a baby, supposedly taken in 1919:

Photo 104

And here are the gentleman posing again in West Friendship in front of the car:

Photo 105

The Ruins of St. John’s

The ruins of St. Johns along the Miles River. Photo taken from Unionville Road.

Drivers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland who take the Unionville Road bridge over the Miles River are treated to a view of Gothic church ruins. These are what is left of St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church, which was finished in 1839. The money for the church was donated by Miles River Neck landowners who wanted a parish closer than the one in nearby St. Michaels, Md. It was one of the first Gothic Revival churches on the Eastern Shore.

The walls are made of granite. The church was deemed structurally unsound in 1900 and it continues to crumble. A photo of the ruins in “Where Land and Water Intertwine” (1984) shows a turret at the front of the church, but is has since fallen away.

Overhead view of St. Johns, courtesy of Google Maps

These ruins are not to be confused with Dundee Chapel, a circa 1720 church built further inland in Tunis Mills near what is now the intersection of Unionville Road and Todd’s Corner.

Information for this post came from “Where Land and Water Intertwine, An Archictectural History of Talbot County, Maryland” by Christopher Weeks (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), pages 105-106.

Help Preserve an Historic African American Neighborhood: The Hill in Easton, Md.

I’m posting the below on behalf of Historic Easton. If you could help spread the word by sharing the link to this blog post, we are in need of stories about The Hill neighborhood and also donations to support an archaeological dig this summer to help us better understand and preserve the area.

Donations can be sent to Historic Easton, PO Box 1071, Easton, MD 21601. We are a 501 (c) (3) corporation, so gifts are tax deductible. Stories about the area can be sent to HistoricEaston@gmail.com and will be used to help illustrate life in the neighborhood over the years.

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Morgan State University in partnership with Historic Easton, Inc. is embarking on a project to raise the awareness, appreciation and understanding of a currently undocumented and underrecognized aspect of the history of the African American experience in Maryland and in the Country as they seek to not only include the architectural and cultural significance of “The Hill,” located in the heart of the Town of Easton, Maryland, and within the boundaries of the Easton National Register Historic District, but to Re-Honor “The Hill”; through restoration, rebirth, renewal and regeneration.

We believe “The Hill” is the oldest African American neighborhood in the country, predating what is thought of as the oldest documented African American neighborhood: “Treme” located in New Orleans, LA.

“The Hill” was first settled prior to 1790 as a neighborhood comprising free blacks and slaves. It is documented that the first African American church congregation began on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and on “The Hill” officially in 1818 (Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 110 South Hanson Street, Easton, Maryland). Free blacks and slaves were already living there well before 1818 and arguably thriving and well-settled as “The Hill” was chosen by the African Methodist Episcopal Baltimore Conference of 1816 to found the first African American Church organization on the Eastern Shore of Maryland starting at “The Hill.”

Whereas, “Treme” is currently  documented as the oldest African American neighborhood in the country (1810 land purchased by the City of New Orleans and subdivided in 1816 to sell lots to blacks) and is nationally recognized as the birth of Jazz; the Morgan State research effort will document that “The Hill” is older, as it was settled by 1790; and it is also underrecognized as the birth of African American Methodism on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Hurricane Irene: The Finale (Day 5)

Read about Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4

Sunday, August 28

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. because my bedroom door was rattling. Now I could hear a really strong wind, which had shifted so it was coming from the south (correction, west; I’m notoriously directionally challenged) and hitting the window behind my bed. I could tell it wasn’t raining as much. I’d apparently slept straight through the worst part of Irene.

I got up to see what was going on in the rest of the house. A very damp smell hit me when I opened the bedroom door and walked into the dining room (where the basement door is). There was still water in the basement, but the leaks appeared to be slowing. The attic leaks looked to have stopped completely. The wind was rattling the exterior cover of my bathroom vent quite loudly. Thankfully the power was still on.

This led to a comedy of errors though because I had turned on the overhead light in my living room so that I could see. It’s operated from a remote control and though I was able to turn it on, the remote then stopped working. I tried using a remote for a similar fixture in the dining room. That turned on the dining room light, but then it also stopped working. Now I had two blazingly bright lights on in my house at 4:30 a.m. and I just wanted to go back to sleep. I plucked a third remote from the wall in the guest room and removed its battery, swapping it out for those in the other two remotes in turn, which then allowed me to turn off those lights.

Then I flopped back into bed.

Just little branches fell on our street.

I awoke again at 7:15. Very strong winds were once again causing my bedroom door to rattle. The screens in the windows were rattling too. I chanced a peek outside and saw lots of small branches were down in the street.

I got up and once again surveyed the various parts of the house. I took the big floor fan I’d purchased out of its box and set it up to start drying out the basement. I also set up the canisters of DampRid. Then I took the tower fan out of my bedroom and set it up downstairs as well, for good measure.

Once it stopped raining and I saw folks venturing outdoors, I went out and picked up the largest limbs from my front yard. I took a quick walk around our block — the old oaks had dropped tons of small branches.

Tree broken in half on Dover Street.

I came back to my house and grabbed my phone and set off for a longer walk. It was still quite gusty. I took several pics of large limbs down along the way. A large tree in front of the Inn at 202 Dover had broken in half.

A large limb down on South Harrison

Large limb down on Goldsborough.

When I got back to the house, I decided to use Febreeze in the living room and dining room to try and combat the damp smell. I emptied the cooler that had been storing ice, which was now mostly melted.

Downstairs, I opened a small window to let still more air into the basement. It caused the basement door to rattle whenever a strong gust blew through.

I began emptying the large plastic drawers filled with water that were in the tub. Then I folded the tarp in the living room and started moving my scrapbooks and documents back into the office, which fortunately did not leak.

Blue sky!

At 1:30 p.m., I spotted the first hint of blue sky since Friday. Shortly thereafter, the sun was out. I pulled my car out of the garage and then I went out back to get my composter out of the shed and wrestled it back into its frame. I re-hung the flag out front.

After a trip to the gym, I was pleased to discover that the house no longer smelled like a swamp when I walked through the door. I’m contemplating returning the un-opened sub-pump and hose. Surely if the basement didn’t flood after nearly 9 inches of rain in less than 24 hours, I’m not going to need it, right?

Later in the afternoon, all the neighbors were in their yards raking up the branches and leaves that had fallen. I opened all my doors and windows to let as much fresh air as I could into the house. I made another sweep of the sidewalk to get still more sticks out of the way. Everyone was saying how lucky we were that it wasn’t worse, even though we’d all prepared for it.

I took another walk into town and noticed quite a bit of the damage that I’d seen before was already cleared away. Talbot County Schools are closed tomorrow, but everything should be back to normal after that (at least in our part of town). Good riddance, Irene!

Hurricane Irene Arrives (Day 4)

Read about the prep: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3

Saturday, August 27

Woke up worrying about my water heater. It’s in the flood-prone basement too and while it’s raised up on cinderblocks, still susceptible to water if my basement really floods. It’s gas too, which kind of scares me, for all its normal convenience. On the advice of a friend, I called Easton Utilities and they assured me that it probably had an automatic shutoff mechanism should the pilot light extinguish. That made me feel better — I didn’t want to have to preemptively shut off anything if I could help it.

Since it was just overcast and not actually raining yet, I ventured down to the open-air market. I wasn’t sure if it would be open and there were less than half the normal vendors (and those that were there weren’t set up as elaborately as they normally would be). I picked up some fresh veggies to have on-hand, a sugar waffle for breakfast and some smoked salmon salad for a sandwich for lunch.

Soon after getting home, the rain started, lightly at first. I hurried to put my car in the garage and then I showered so I could try and fill the tub with water for later, in case I needed it. I also filled my largest pots on the stove with filtered drinking water.

The only problem was that the tub kept draining. It doesn’t have a stopper — you pull up a lever that is supposed to close the drain. I tried setting a saucer over the drain, then a mug, then a bowl, then a towel covered by a bowl, then a canning lid covered by a towel weighted down by a bowl. It just kept draining.

Creative water storage, crowd-sourced on Facebook.

I crowd-sourced my problem on Facebook and received a number of suggestions including using cellophane and a potato. Finally, a friend suggested that I just fill the tub with other items filled with water. That set off a brainwave for me. I remembered these two storage units I bought at Walmart ages ago — they each have 3 huge plastic drawers. I emptied two of the drawers in the unit in my bathroom closet and filled them with water while I fetched the three drawers from the other unit, which was sitting empty in the attic. I was able to stack the filled drawers in the tub and felt much better knowing I had a stash of water for washing and for flushing the toilet, should it come to that.

After checking on the chest freezer, I noticed that one of the bags of water I had put in the day before hadn’t frozen completely, so I cranked up the cold on that unit and on the fridge upstairs (that was actually a recommendation from one of the emergency management organizations I’d been following lately anyhow). I also cranked up the a/c and turned on all the ceiling fans on high. If the house lost power, I wanted it as cold as possible.

At around 1:30 p.m., the radio station in Annapolis that I was listening to (WRNR) was knocked off the air because the City Dock area lost power. I switched over to WCEI here in Easton, which was providing regular updates from around the area. I checked outside and noticed at least an inch of standing water on the sidewalk out front. There wasn’t any water in the basement yet, but the wind and rain really started to pick up then. There were several rivulets in the basement just a couple of hours later (and a trickle running down my chimney in the attic). By that point, we’d had over 3 inches of rain in Easton.

Hurricanes make me hungry.

I kept a close eye on the Internet for weather and local updates. I heated up some of the Amish pork bbq for dinner and had it with coleslaw and corn on the cob (bought at the market that morning). And beer. I was strategically working my way through the beer in the fridge, in case power was lost. Then I could tap the wine stash.

The weather continued to get nastier and nastier. The puddles got bigger down in the basement, but there wasn’t a deluge, as I had feared. The chimney started leaking on three sides in the attic and also was leaking at its base down in the basement. I knew it needed a new cap, but the flashing would need to be looked at too.

Thankfully, I still had power. The lines on my street are buried. The last time our power went out, lightning struck something in the area and we were in the dark for several hours. I was bracing myself for a similar situation, which didn’t transpire.

At around 10:30 p.m. I was pretty exhausted and started to get ready for bed. I didn’t think I’d be getting much sleep — all reports indicated the worst was yet to come. I unplugged everything and stowed the computers and chargers under the tarp in the living room. I took my cell phone into the bedroom with me and also pulled in my extra jugs of water and food bag.

I’d read that you’re supposed to close all of your interior doors at the height of a storm. I suppose that’s so if a room sustains damage, the wind and water will hopefully stay contained in that room.

After closing the door to my room, I couldn’t hear much of what was going on outside, thankfully. The overhead fan also was helping to drown out the noise of the wind and rain. I had debated sleeping in a different room because there is a window at the head of my bed, but the really bad stuff was coming from a different direction. I figured I’d be okay.

I woke up once before midnight — I can’t remember what woke me up, but I went back to sleep shortly thereafter.

(to be continued)

Prep for Hurricane Irene, Day 2

Read Post 1 here.

Thursday, August 25

Rainy/fiery sunset on Thursday, Aug. 25.

The warnings became more dire and Ocean City (about an hour away from me) was ordered evacuated by 5 p.m. Friday night. On my way home from work, traffic heading west on Route 50 was heavy, but it also was slow eastbound, which I chalked up to folks driving to the coast to check on properties before the storm. I saw extra MTA buses heading to Ocean City to aid in the evacuation. I also saw idiots headed in the same direction with bikes and kayaks strapped to their cars.

I still had more provisions that I needed (mostly of the non-food variety) so I headed to Target. There, I bought:

Nuts (I meant to buy these the night before, but forgot)
C batteries for my radio
A solar/wind-up flashlight
A battery-operated LED tap light
Trail mix (there’s a particular variety sold at Target that I really like)
Baking soda (in case the items in my fridge and freezers spoil; might be needed to combat odor later)
Duct tape (FEMA recommended it; wasn’t sure what I would need it for, but sounded like a good idea)

Target was out of 1- or 2-gallon jugs of water and I hated the idea of buying so many small bottles. I went back to Railway Market, where I’d done my food shopping the night before, and bought 3 1-gallon jugs. They say each person needs 1 gallon per day and they recommend a 3-day supply.

When I got home, I noticed my neighbors pulling in items from their backyard and started doing the same in mine. I pulled my empty garbage cans into the garage, leaving room to pull in my car later. I also took down a flag and pole hanging from my front porch and stowed these in my shed.

Then I had my composter to deal with. I thought it would be a simple matter of dragging it into the shed too, but the handle I use to spin the bin made it just too wide to fit through the door. It was starting to rain at this point (not hurricane-related yet). I ran inside to grab a wrench and pliers and started to disconnect the bin from the frame. Luckily, the bin wasn’t anywhere near full, so I was able to lift it into the shed and then the frame fit in easily after that. I did acquire a massive bug bite in the process.

Left to do:

Protect my important documents (personal records, house-related papers, scrapbooks, etc.)
Laundry, and then unplug the appliances (they’re only a couple inches off the ground in my leaky basement)
Start stocking ice in my little Playmate cooler
Backup at least my laptop
Move my office PC out of my office (a converted porch that I’m not entirely convinced won’t leak)
Mail bills before I became homebound
Pull the car into the garage
Fill the tub with water and also a bucket (could be used to pour into the toilet to make it flush, if needed)

(to be continued)