Saturday, June 30, 2007

Last Whipping Post Sentence in Cecil County

Each week the reference staff answers a number of queries on a range of subjects, and this week the volunteers had to do a little extra digging to find the answer when a patron wanted to know when was the last time a whipping post sentence was handed down in Cecil County. In December 1940 the Cecil County Circuit Court ordered a 42-year old prisoner to serve 60 days in the jail and the sheriff was to give him ten lashes on the bare back at the whipping post as the sentence on a wife beating charge. A local newspaper, the Cecil Democrat, remarked that this was the first time in 46-years that a person was sentenced to the whipping post. The task of carrying out this assignment fell to Sheriff David Randolph. At one time this method was used as punishment for forgery, theft, Sabbath breaking, blasphemy and other crimes and before it was dropped in the 20th century it applied only to wife beaters. Neighboring Delaware kept its whipping post law on the books until 1972, though the last criminal in Delaware was whipped in 1952 for beating a woman.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Researcher Alert - Additional Naturalization Records & More Added to Collection

We're constantly adding new research materials to our holdings and this past week we've added a few items, which will be of great assistance to researchers. We now have a large run of naturalization records from about 1889 into roughly the 1920s. We also acquired the register of intended voters for 1925 and records from the Bohemia River Bridge.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Elkton Wedding Chapel Receives Marker

Wednesday a group gathered in downtown Elkton to unveil the county's newest roadside marker from the Maryland Historic Trust. Joining the owners of the Little Wedding Chapel, Bobby Ann and Frank Smith, were Dianne Broomell, who coordinated the project for Delegate Michael Smigiel's , Delegate Smigiel, Senator Pikin, and others. Diane read the following remarks at the unveiling:

"Today's event is the culmination of two years, one month, and one day of effort to preserve an era for which Elkton should be remembered. Applying for an historical marker with the Maryland Historical Trust can be a long, cumbersome process but it is well worth the effort.

After contacting Nancy Kurtz, the National Register Coordinator, she was surprised Elkton didn't already have a marker signifying this event and she encouraged us to send in the application.

The most involved process was the research in order to provide documentation showing how the Elkton Wedding Chapel Era impacted Cecil County from the 1920s to the 1950s. Just as tedious was drafting the proposed text for the marker because you are attempting to write a whole chapter in 55 words or less. At least three drafts were attempted which subtly resemble the final draft.

Since the Historic Little Wedding Chapel is the last one from this period, it's only appropriate that this would be the location for the marker. In fact, Bobby Ann and Frank have done a wonderful job in keeping this period alive and their chapel has been featured in National Geographic and the Baltimore Sun, usually on Valentine's Day.

Today is is very reward to see the final product and to know that this important time in Elkton's history will not be forgotten."

Remarks by Diane Broomell

Please enjoy our videocast of this event

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Naturalization Records, Optometry Register & More Added to Collection

It’s always exciting when we add primary source research materials to the collection, especially when the documents involve records that haven't been accessed in a century or more. With some degree of regularity that sort of exciting thing happens, and just last week we had an opportunity to receive a group of new research materials materials when we were taken to a seldom visited storage room deep in the basement of the old courthouse, a room that overflowed with leather-bound volumes of old records.

As the official county archives we were asked to check out some of these unexpected treasures, to see if they belong in the research archives. Well they do for they are full of nuggets of information for genealogists and local history researchers. As these records aged and were seldom used by the public, they were placed in long term storage and were largely forgotten.

In the material that we have acquired thus far are three volumes of naturalization records from about 1905 – 1921, a debt docket the middle of the 19th century, and the Optomestrists Registration book. We have these just in time for the summer vacation season, a time when many genealogists hit the road in search of elusive ancestors. These might just contain some clues for the traveling or local genealogist. Continue to monitor the blogosphere as we continue sifting through these materials.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Society Remembers Anne Copley

Anne Copley, who passed away on May 9, was remembered at a Memorial Service earlier today at Jenner’s Pond in West Grove PA, when friends and family gathered to honor her life. She was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1921, graduated from Tucson High School in Arizona, and Ohio State University in 1943. Anne volunteered at the Society for nearly 30 years, and served on the board for most of that time.

A tireless contributor, she worked in the library nearly every Monday helping family historians, old house researchers, and students discover the county’s legacy. She always put the organization first and supported new ways for doing things as we began reacting to changes taking places in special collections libraries, as far back as the mid-80s. During her decades with us, she helped usher in a wide-array of innovations, ranging from employing our first museum professional nearly two decades ago to adapting to computers and all that meant for the organization. Anne had a vision for improving the Society and she helped implement advancements as she worked on and supported many of the changes we’re benefiting from today.

I still recall in the early ‘90s as we began experimenting with offering lively, engaging programs focused on broader audiences, how she put together our first public workshop, one on researching the history of your old house. On that pleasant autumn Saturday morning, as we nervously waited to see if anyone would show up, the room suddenly filled with new students. Once everyone settled into a comfortable seat, Anne, Miss Taylor and a few others went right to work offering a fantastic seminar on mining data on the county’s past. As I write this now, I still recall that pleasant day so many years ago.

We are a much better Society because of her involvement and because of her strong belief in moving forward. When I talked to her daughter, Phyllis Machledt, soon after she passed away, she mentioned that the historical society was always very important to her mother and a few days before she passed away, she was talking about important matters concerning the future of the organization. Over the past three decades as we launched many steps to improve the institution, Anne was always someone I turned to for advice when we were assessing new initiatives for the Society. If we moved forward, she was there to help support the change and to work on the enhancement.

Anne, a major leader and contributor to the organization for three decades, will be missed, but her leadership, wise-advice, and her many hours of work will serve as a continuing example to those whom she touched and to a new generation of leadership that is beginning to guide the Society through the 21st century.

Friday, June 1, 2007

New Historic Marker Arrives in Time for Summer Tourist Season

Early Friday morning, a State Highway Administration crew was seen putting up a new sign on Main Street in Elkton, in front of the little Wedding Chapel. A closer look showed that they were erecting a familiar looking cast iron sign, one of the State’s historic roadside markers. We’re pleased that there’s an abundance of these signs around the county, but this one is particularly interesting since it tells of Elkton’s famous marriage history. Its arrival is timely since the summer tourist season is getting underway here at the top of the Chesapeake and we hope to see many visitors taking a moment to gain insight into this important aspect of our past. Joining Bobby Ann and Frank Smith, the owners of the Little Wedding Chapel or Delegate Michael Smigiel (far right) who worked to get the sign erect and his chief of staff, Cailey Locklair.

While you're on the net, surf on over to our media section and see our videocast on this new marker: