Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cecil County Burial Permits 1906 - 1912

Two of our volunteers, Evelyn Wekke and Billie Todd, have been busy over the past year or two creating spreadsheets which abstract essential genealogical data from some of the death and burial records in the Society's holdings. Last month they finished another digitization initiative, creating an online file of Cecil County Burial Permits from 1906 to 1912.

We're posting the new spreadsheet here on the blog and it and it will shortly migrate over to to our death and burial records section of the website where their other work resides. As we prepare to move this sheet over to its permanent home on the World Wide Web, we want to make sure our virtual patrons are aware of its existence so they may start using it right away. We have the actual sheets so you may email for us full photocopies.

Be sure to check out their new work and to also examine the death and burial records section. We'll put more of the content they've created online as they get projects done since this is so valuable for researchers. Thanks you Billie and Evelyn for creating these products, which are so helpful to genealogists and researchers.

Cecil County Burial Permits 1906 - 1912

Monday, October 20, 2008

Elkton Eclipse Fall to Rivals from Brooklyn in Final in 19th Century Base Ball


Elkton, MD— The Brooklyn Atlantics downed the Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elkton in the 19th Century Base Ball Eastern Championship on Saturday, October 18 at Elk Landing, Maryland as the 1864 townspeople of Elkton looked on. After Elkton took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, things started to unravel for the Maryland State Champs. After going up 4-2 in the 4th inning, the Eclipse let the Atlantics back in to the match by giving up 2 unearned runs. The Eclipse ran out of gas by the 6th inning, and the final score was Brooklyn 17 and Elkton 6. It was the 13th straight loss to the Atlantics in a span of three years.

In the semi-final, the Maryland champs defeated the legendary New York Mutuals 14-13 after coming back with 8 runs in the 7th frame to take the lead from the New Yorkers to go up 13-11. After adding one talley in the 8th inning, the Eclipse held on for dear life giving up 2 in the ninth before holding on to reach the finals.

In the other semi final, the Atlantics who were the champions from New York downed the New Jersey State Champion, Flemington Neshanock 28-10 to advance to the championship. In the 3rd place match, the Neshanock stunned the Mutuals 11-10.

Just about the entire 1864 population of Elkton was in attendance as the ladies in town were there catching up on the gossip of the day in their best attire. There were even women their protesting that they should have the right to vote. Of course the few gentlemen who were still left in town and not in the War, told them to go back to the kitchen. In addition to the townsfolk, about 80 on lookers were in attendance to see the fortunes of all four clubs.

The Eclipse finished with their best record ever at 17 wins and 12 loses. This included the regular season Maryland Championship as well as the Maryland State Championship Tournament. The Eclipse will start their 2009 season in early April next year. New clubs in the region include the Diamond State BBC of Delaware, the Havre de Grace Dauntless, the Williamsburg (VA) Pastimes, and the Gettysburg Sentinels. They will be in the mix next year along with the Potomac BBC of Washington, the Talbot Fair Plays and the Chesapeake Nine of Baltimore. Anyone who is interested in playing 19th century base ball with the Eclipse or any of the other clubs in the region, please contact the Eclipse at or The Eclipse is also looking for volunteers to help with the program as well as sponsors. See our website at for more details.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Blog Site Examines School Integration in Cecil, Kent & Queen Anne's counties

The Society is pleased to welcome the latest blogger to join the Cecil County crowd. Check out the road-to-compromise at This one focuses on studying an aspect of our 20th century history by comparing how school integration developed in Cecil, Kent, and Queen Annes counties. Check it out. We’re always glad when a new local blog sprouts up and we hope to see many more.

Bringing History Online, One Newspaper at a Time

The nature of historical research with newspaper is changing as more of these important sources are digitized. We've clipped this announcement from Google about an initaitve that the web search engine is working on since it will be of interest to our readers.


9/08/2008 09:33:00 AM For more than 200 years, matters of local and national significance have been conveyed in newsprint -- from revolutions and politics to fashion to local weather or high school football scores. Around the globe, we estimate that there are billions of news pages containing every story ever written. And it's our goal to help readers find all of them, from the smallest local weekly paper up to the largest national daily.The problem is that most of these newspapers are not available online. We want to change that.Today, we're launching an initiative to make more old newspapers accessible and searchable online by partnering with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives. Let's say you want to learn more about the landing on the Moon. Try a search for [Americans walk on moon] on Google News Archive Search, and you'll be able to find and read an original article from a 1969 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.Not only will you be able to search these newspapers, you'll also be able to browse through them exactly as they were printed -- photographs, headlines, articles, advertisements and all.This effort expands on the contributions of others who've already begun digitizing historical newspapers. In 2006, we started working with publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post to index existing digital archives and make them searchable via the Google News Archive. Now, this effort will enable us to help you find an even greater range of material from newspapers large and small, in conjunction with partners such as ProQuest and Heritage, who've joined in this initiative. One of our partners, the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, is actually the oldest newspaper in North America—history buffs, take note: it has been publishing continuously for more than 244 years.You’ll be able to explore this historical treasure trove by searching the Google News Archive or by using the timeline feature after searching Google News. Not every search will trigger this new content, but you can start by trying queries like [Nixon space shuttle] or [Titanic located]. Stories we've scanned under this initiative will appear alongside already-digitized material from publications like the New York Times as well as from archive aggregators, and are marked "Google News Archive." Over time, as we scan more articles and our index grows, we'll also start blending these archives into our main search results so that when you search, you'll be searching the full text of these newspapers as well.This effort is just the beginning. As we work with more and more publishers, we'll move closer towards our goal of making those billions of pages of newsprint from around the world searchable, discoverable, and accessible online.Posted by Punit Soni, Product Manager

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cemetery Walk - Sat., Oct. 18

As the Halloween season gets underway, hear about things that go bump in the night and listen to tales of the unknown as The Historical Society of Cecil County brings the popular cemetery walk to Elkton on Saturday, October 18. While shadows lengthen on the Big Elk Creek and a cool fall darkness descends over an ancient churchyard, stories of legends, ghosts, and history will intrigue you. Join in on this fun tour, which combines tales of the paranormal and history. Storyteller Ed Okonowicz tells the tall tales, stories of hauntings and unexplained happenings at the top of the Chesapeake. Historian Mike Dixon weaves in fascinating historical facts about the area.

Held for the first time in several years in Elkton, the Society has arranged for one tour of the cemetery on Saturday, Oct. 18. The walk steps off from the Society’s headquarters at 135 E. Main Street at 5 p.m. The cost is $8 or $5 for children under 15 years of age. For additional details or reservations phone 410.398.1790 or e-mail history@cchistory.

On a space available basis, walk-ups are welcome on the day of the tour, but to assure your spot reservations are encouraged. You will want to hear about haunts, graves, spirits, and history at the top of the Chesapeake, a place where the past is present so don’t miss it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wilmington & Salisbury Papers Note Award Winning MD History Day Projects by Cecil County High School Students

The Wilmington News Journal and Salisbury Daily Times carried a piece on Society Volunteer Kyle Dixon's award winning Maryland History Day Project. For the project Kyle developed a prize-winning web site, which involved a study of desegregation on the three upper Shore counties. At the state contest he award awarded the African-American history prize by the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture. Also, Tyler Haines and Andrew Nguyen from Rising Sun High School were honored with a senior prize for their cryptology study, "The Molotov-Rippentrop Pact."

---- Wilmington News Journal - Oct. 2, 2008

Modern View of Maryland history
Cecil student develops prize-winning Web site
By PAULA F. KELLY • Special to The News Journal • October 2, 2008

ELKTON, Md. -- Maryland History Day challenges students to ask questions about and to research significant historical events. While complacency could have directed Kyle Dixon to learn about desegregation from print for his entry, he sought primary sources that lived it.

Dixon's efforts were rewarded. His Web site submission, "School Integration: The Long Difficult Road to Compromise," about desegregation in Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne's counties, received first place at the county level and also garnered an honor on April 26 at the state contest, where more than 400 students competed.

A senior at Bohemia Manor High School, Dixon received the senior prize from the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. The Maryland Humanities Council sponsors the event.
Tyler Haines and Andrew Nguyen from Rising Sun High School also were honored with a senior prize for their cryptology study, "The Molotov-Rippentrop Pact."
Entry options included a paper, exhibit, one-act play or Web site on any topic with the theme of Conflict and Compromise. Dixon chose the Internet -- a new approach in the contest this year -- and it's at
Kyle focused on having as many primary sources as possible," said Michael Means, Dixon's history teacher. "He got much more depth and went out into the field. The site he put together is gorgeous. Ninety percent of the public would not know a high school student did it."
Desegregation always held Dixon's interest, but it was the death of John Andrews, a vice principal at Queen Anne's County High School in Centreville, Md., that inspired the history buff to explore the issue further.
Dixon, also a theatre enthusiast, frequently visited the Queen Anne's school to enjoy its plays. He always noticed Andrews, dressed in coat and tie, for whom everyone held an obvious respect.
After Andrews was killed on Aug. 23, 2007, in a car accident, Dixon learned that the 71-year-old man had come to Queen Anne's County when desegregation was being implemented.
Months later, Means mandated that his Advanced Placement U.S. History class participate in Maryland History Day. Dixon immediately thought about Andrews. "I never knew him," he said, "but he was still part of that inspiration for the project."
The three upper Eastern Shore counties chose different routes to integration, Dixon discovered.
In 1966, Susan Boone was a senior at the newly built Queen Anne's County High School, where she now is the media specialist and was a colleague of Andrews.
"Kyle pried me with well-structured questions," Boone said.
The yearlong preparation for the new high school, she said, was a comprehensive and well-organized and involved representatives from each of the four county high schools, including the all-black Kennard. Everyone involved decided upon details such as school color and mascot. The opening year went smoothly, Boone said.
As a fifth-grader at Galena Elementary, Ellen Cook's first day at school was frightening. She and six other youngsters traveled from Millington to the small town as part of the Freedom of Choice plan to introduce integration, but only because the county was in danger of losing its federal funding for not complying with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling.
In Cecil County, a lawsuit filed by the NAACP on behalf of a black naval family in Port Deposit prompted desegregation in the mid-1950s. By 1964, all the black schools were closed in the county, and integration was complete.
Like other schools nationwide, Delaware schools were to become desegregated following the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. The Board of Education. But few did. In 1958, the Supreme Court said it would no longer review desegregation cases; Delaware schools began a system of voluntary registration for blacks beginning in the first grade. Still, racial equality was not achieved as most blacks lived in Wilmington and in the New Castle area. In the 1976 U.S. District Court decision of Evans v. Buchanan, New Castle County was to become one school district. Students would be bused to the Wilmington and New Castle areas and vice versa for several years during their education to achieve a racially balanced education.
Dixon's interest in the past comes as no surprise; he is a chip right off the old history block. His father, Mike Dixon, has been a history enthusiast since the age of 14 when he joined the Historical Society of Cecil County. He has served as society president, historian and board member. Kyle credits his father for fostering his pursuit through family trips to spots such as Gettysburg, Fort Delaware and Williamsburg. Mike Dixon countered that his son showed interest at age 5. Like his father, Kyle volunteers at the historical society, where he started a local high school yearbook collection that includes one from George Washington Carver, the all-black school that closed in 1964.
In the future, Kyle plans to teach high school history. Meanwhile, chronicling the past suits him fine. "It's an important era of U.S. history that needs to be documented."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Diggins to Speak at Oct. 20 Dinner Meeting

The October Dinner Meeting of the Historical Society of Cecil County will be held on Monday, October 20, 2008 at 6:00 P.M. at the North East River Yacht Club. From Rt. 40 take Rt. 272 South. Continue through North East, travel 1 mile then bear right onto Hances Point Rd., travel half a mile and turn right onto Bayside Drive.

Our guest speaker will be Milt Diggins who is a retired county school teacher and formerly the Editor of the Historical Society’s Journal. He recently published Images of America Series: Cecil County. His talk will focus on Chapter 2, “Passing Through”. There will be copies of his book for sale at the dinner meeting.

The cost of the dinner is $27.00 per person for members and $29.00 per person for non-members. You may select between Crab Cake or Chicken Marsala. Your meal will include salad, green beans almandine, red potatoes, coffee or tea and apple crisp.

Please complete the bottom portion of this letter and mail it, with your check, to Paula Newton, HSCC, 135 E. Main St., Elkton, MD 21921. Please make your check payable to the Historical Society of Cecil County. The deadline for reservations is October 10, 2008. This is a catered dinner making it impossible for us to take late reservations or walk-ins. If you have any questions, please call the Historical Society at 410-398-1790.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

U of Scranton History Major Volunteers at the Society

This summer, Erik Lesniak a history major at the University of Scranton, is volunteering with the Society. The 2007 Tome School graduate is also taking a minor in creative writing and is interested in applying new media methods to the study of the past. At the Society, Eric is doing restoration work on a model of a 19th century Cecil County house that is in our collection and is also examining the possibility of writing an article for our journal. It is always exciting to see young scholars emerge, particulary when they apply their interests to the study of local history. We are pleased that Eric is spending part of his summer with us and taking on a couple of worthwhile projects.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Over 29,000 Cemetery Records Online

As we blogged Sunday evening, we were able to add a large database of Cecil County tombstone inscriptions thanks to outstanding work done by Gary Burns. Today Gary gave us additional data, and the database now contains over 29,000 inscriptions from several dozen cemeteries throughout the county.

Check it out at the URL below since we're sure it will help you will local research.

We hope to add more digital collections in the future.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Researcher's Alert: Over 16,000 Tombstone Inscriptions Placed Online

One of our most experienced family history researchers and a past president of the Genealogical Society of Cecil County, Gary Burns, has worked several years transcribing tombstones at practically every known cemetery in Cecil County. From Bald Friar to Warwick, and every other place in between, he and helpers, have visited quite old country graveyards, as well as those in towns, to record data found on the memorials. Once they collected the information, they entered it into an Excel Spreadsheet.

Gary has given us a copy of this insightful work and we have created a web page for the product, since it will be extremely helpful for researchers. As it stands now, it contains over 16,000 entries for Cecil County Tombstones. It is still a work in progress and we will add additional data as Gary makes it available. (Right now it is only through the letter P.)

The Society appreciates the opportunity to make this valuable product available to online visitors to the Society's web site. We thank Gary and all those who contributed to this work. We will update this as he gets more work done

Click here to visit the appropriate section of the web site.

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Title Images of America Now Available at the Society

The new title, Images of America - Cecil County, has arrived and copies may now be purchased at the Society bookstore. Stop by and get your copy of Milt's excellent work soon or order it online. The links below will take you to the advertisement for the title and our online order form.

Advertisement for title

Online Order Form

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Advance Copy of Images of America - Cecil County Has Arrived

We’ve had the opportunity to see a copy of the new title, Images of America – Cecil County, by the editor of our journal Milt Diggins. People who have glanced at this advance copy have offered many favorable comments about this volume, which is filled with images of people, places, and events. We expect it to arrive in our gift shop in the next week or so and we’ll put a notice up on the blog when it arrives. If you are seeking an enjoyable window to Cecil’s past, this is a title you will want to purchase.

Members buying the book from the Society receive a discount. This outstanding works adds greatly to the body of leisure and research literature about our county and we congratulate Milt on this fine accomplishment.

We will have a book signing at the Society on Saturday, July 12 from 1 to 3 p.m., but the book will be available in our gift shop as soon as the copies arrive. Click here to go the Society's advertisement for the book.

You may purchase the book online or by visiting the Society. To go to the online order form click here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Online Membership Payment System Now Available

The Society now takes online payments for membership through Paypal. If you are not enrolled in that online processing system, you may still use your credit card on the secure site.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Drumming legend Bernard “Pretty” Purdie Brings It Home

No one needed to call for a drum roll at Edge Entertainment on Bridge Street in Elkton Saturday evening for the R & B luminary, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. A host of talented percussionist from Cecil County Schools, as well as others, took care of that as they laid down some solid grooves of their own and warmed up the crowd for the 65-year-old. By the time the legendary hometown musician who has played with practically all the heavy hitters, including Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown, took the stage, this group of fine young musicians had everyone grooving to the rhythm.

When he took center stage, he flashed his trade mark grin as he started charming the crowd. After a few remarks he began pounding out the Purdie Shuffle, his signature technique. It was great to see the delight on the face of the highly respected musician who has played in giant concerts and performed in recording sessions for the major labels, as he performed for an appreciative hometown audience on the "welcome home tour."

In a part of the program called Bernard “Up Close and Personal,” he talked about his formative years in Elkton. He had musical talent at an early age and Mr. Leonard Haywood, his music teacher at George Washington Carver School, took an interest in helping him. Over time, Mr. Haywood, who played in the Clyde Bessick’s Orchestra, started taking the teen with him on gigs. Sometimes when the teacher needed a nap, Bernard joined the orchestra for the second-half of the show. In 1960, he moved to New York and his career really took off after that. As a delightful evening came to a close, "the worlds most recorded drummer" was surrounded by people seeking autographs, a chance for some conversation, and a handshake.

Over the past couple of years Ed Dennis, a writer, has been in touch with the Society as he researched and wrote a book about the performer. That book will be out soon and about one-third of it has to do with his life in Elkton, Bernard said. The Society is excited about this forthcoming biography and we eagerly look forward to its release.

At the show we ran into Rob Churnside, a local folk singer, who has written some great pieces about local personalities. He mentioned that he’s just written a song about Elkton’s famous musician and he showed us the lyrics. We’ll look forward to hearing that tune sometime in the near future.

It was a pleasure to see Bernard Pretty Purdie at this show and we thank Bobby D and Rhythmland Drum Center on Main Street in Elkton for making this coming home show possible.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Saying So Long to the Mayor of Main Street

Wednesday evening, as gusty spring winds swept Elkton, I attended Tony Trotta’s viewing at Hicks Funeral Home. Born four years before young men from Cecil County marched off to fight in World War I, the popular 95-year-old passed away Monday. Later that night as I drove past his place on Main Street, the shop was dark except for two light bulbs softly illuminating a mirror, the chair in the big window where he sat waving at passersby was empty, the red and white barber pole wasn't revolving, and the closed sign informed everyone that the barber would not be in again. As I gazed out my car window on this unseasonably cool late May evening a few sprinkles feel on the quiet street that had bustled with activity for much of Tony’s life, and my mind wondered over nearly a century’s worth of town history.

Tony started cutting hair at this location during the dark days of the Great Depression, when he first came to work for his future father-in-law, Anthony Williams. In time, the 23-year old married the owner’s daughter, Jessie, and took over the business. It was the place to get your hair cut in the county seat and the Elkton shop owner had a regular clientele of judges, lawyers, courthouse regulars, businessmen and everyday people. As the decades passed quickly by in this old-fashioned shop, his customers grew old with him and retirees beginning spending hours hanging out, swapping stories, and playing the banjo. Often strangers walking down the street back in the 1970s and '80s were startled as they looked into the window of the shop to see two or three people playing guitars or plucking a banjo.

At age 90 he was still working six days a week, but as he grew older he gradually cut back, while the retirees started slowly disappearing as many of them passed away. But you would still see him sitting in his window waving to passers-by while people stopped in for a quick chat. Even in his ninth decade you would see him around town, out for a stroll with his dog, enjoying a meal at a restaurant, or sitting on one of the park benches. The last time we talked, probably a month or so ago, his mind was as sharp as ever, never forgetting a name or elements of events from a long time ago.

I always enjoyed my chance meetings with the 95-year-old and his daughter, Patty, for those visits were filled with decades of local history. His stories were about Elkton’s heyday, the marriage racket, World War II, big fires on Main Street, lively small town personalities, a bustling downtown, and much more. In fact anytime someone wanted information on Elkton’s 20th century history, we’d send them down to see Tony. Afer all he was born when Howard Taft was in the White House. If they were early enough (he opened at 5:00 a.m.), they would find him in his window. They always came back pleased with the keen insights, as well as the hospitality he provided. Through that very same window since 1935, in a quaint shop that didn't change, Tony watched Main Street change and history march along, as young men went off to war, couples came here for quick marriages, and the era of shopping centers and Internet retailing fueled the decline of main streets across the nation.

They laid Tony to rest today and as I pass by those three empty old-time chairs and the shop with the sign saying closed, I know the barber will never be in again at 118 E. Main Street. Although I’ll miss the chance to pop in for a few minutes to talk with him or to simply wave as I rush by, my knowledge of the 20th century is much greater for having had the privilege to hear so many of Tony's wonderful recollections.

The Mayor of Main Street has passed away. His friendly greetings, conversation and keen memories provided us with connections to the town's past. He will be missed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Make Online Contributions and Purchases at Society

No longer do you need a stamp and an envelope to forward money to the Society for we are now offering patrons the option of making payments online. This is done safely and securely through PayPal and even if you don't have an account with that company, you may use a credit card. We've started off with a donate button on the homepage, but over the next several weeks we'll add additional buttons for membership, photo-services, and our store.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

County Once Again Proposes Entire Elimination of Budget for Society

The Historical Society of Cecil County was disappointed to hear that the Board of County Commissioners has recommended complete elimination of the Society’s small funding line item of $5,000 in the proposed budget. While this is a minuscule allocation for the county, it is an important one for our organization, a group that provides economical services to the commissioners.

Our volunteers work hard for that small amount. In fact, the value of the services we provide to government is far greater than the amount the county provides for support. Since last year when the commissioners first proposed eliminating our funding, we have maintained a tabulation of the work we do at the request of local government. Our records show that we have provided over $16,000 in direct work for governmental bodies.

A few examples illustrate this value proposition and demonstrate how we save the county money.

  • When the commissioners needed photographs to decorate their new office building, they turned to us. Our volunteers attended meetings, met with county officials to plan the work, scanned and printed the images, and delivered them to the new facility. Most likely we were the only volunteers attending the meetings.
  • When the commissioners decided they wanted to change the county seal, they turned to us for a research report providing insight on this aspect of their legislated and cultural history. Our volunteers provided an in-depth, professional report at no cost to county government.
  • While the commissioners prepared to move their offices out of downtown Elkton, they turned to us for information on the history of their facilities. Our volunteers were pleased to spend many hours researching this request and preparing a professional report for all stakeholders.
  • When the Board of Education needed insight on integration in Cecil, we responded to the request.
  • When the Board of Education needed information on the George Washington Carver School for the rededication of that facility, we researched the subject.
  • When the county released an interactive emergency preparedness DVD, they turned to us to aid in the production of a 10-minute segment examining the history of major emergencies and the development of disaster management in Cecil. We were pleased to aid this important project by preparing a script and making our photographs and research resources available.
  • As the archives for county government records, we carefully preserve tax records, road books, minutes, poor house documents, marriage certificates, and much more from the colonial period until early in the 20th century. (We received that appointment after we rescued neglected colonial-era county road books that were dumped in the basement of an old 1950s fallout shelter building and were in danger of being lost or damaged.)

    These are but a few examples of our value proposition for Cecil County Government for we frequently provide services to county departments, providing them with insights that would cost much more if the government hired consultants or had staff use our resources to accomplish the tasks. Too, we help developers, realtors, homeowners, businesses and non-profits with research related to their interactions with local government. Our volunteers, working at no cost to the government or anyone else, constantly seek to make a positive contribution to Cecil, its image, and its history.

    This comes at a time when we are working to strengthen the 76-year-old institution. As a result of our renewed commitment we have been busy transforming the organization from a well-resourced research library and museum into an institution offering a broader array of history related programming. To deliver and expand these services, we raised over $45,000 from sources other than the county budget. Our membership of nearly 1,000 is growing, making us the largest membership organization in Cecil and we are the only county-wide heritage group.

    We hope the Board of Commissioners appreciate our role as Cecil’s heritage keepers but in particular we trust the Board values the savings that occur as a result of the professional work done by our volunteers at the request of local government. The Society asks the county to recommit to the nominal allocation, which was has been fixed at the same level for over 10-years, when it was cut in half. In a budget that exceeds $271-million, isn’t our effort worth the allocation?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

History of County Seal Researched for Board of Commissioners

Recently the county asked that we prepare a history of the county seal so we got busy examining commissioners minutes, searching newspapers, and checking state legislation. Click here to see the full report. As the archives for the county, our volunteers are pleased to support local government with these research services.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

National Air Mail Stamp Released at Elkton in 1938

While preparing for the first day release Friday, we recalled that Elkton had at least one other commemorative first-day ceremony here. In celebration of National Air Mail Week in 1938, Postmaster J. Mercer Terrell arranged for an airmail plane piloted by Dr. A. L. Trussell to make the first stop to pick-up mail from the local station. The plane landed at Elk Landing to collect a sack of mail containing a special cancellation just for the county seat. The cachet showed an old stage coach carrying mail over the old post road, and an airplane, "the fastest method of fast mail service."

Society Participates in First Day Sale Ceremony

The U.S. Post Office held a first-day ceremony on May 2 in front of Elkton's old town hall in honor of a new stamped envelope showing an Elk. Local officials, stamp collectors, and citizens were on hand to purchase hand-canceled envelopes, which showed that it was postmarked on its first day in circulation at the official ceremony. On a first-day sale only one station in the nation is authorized to hold the event. Chris Lazaroff, an Elkton resident and president of the First-Day Cover Collector's Association, came up with the idea for the event and the dedicating officer was Postmaster Andrew Denney. The Society was invited to make remarks about how Elkton got its name. We see that this local collectible is already on Ebay.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two Cecil County Entries Win Prizes at MD History Day Contest

Across Maryland this spring some 12,000 senior and junior high school students participated in the Maryland History Day Project by completing an original research project. Over 400 of these teens were selected at county level competitions for the annual statewide contest at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Two Cecil County entries won prizes at the state contest on April 26.

  • From Rising Sun High School, "the Molotov-Rippentrop Pact," submitted by Tyler Haines and Andrew Nguyen, won the senior prize for the study of cryptology.

  • Society volunteer, Kyle Dixon, an 11th grade student at Bohemia Manor, won the senior prize in African American studies. His project, "School Integration: The Long Difficult Road to Compromise," examined desegregation in Cecil, Kent, and Queen Anne's County.

The Society congratulates these young scholars. This national initiative is sponsored here by the Maryland Humanities Council.

In this photo Society Volunteer Kyle Dixon is receiving his prize from UMBC President Hrabowski.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Colora Civic Association Remembers the Past & Continues Advocacy

The Colora Civic Association hosted another one of its "Remember When" programs on April 21. At these meetings everyone is invited to share their remembrances of Colora and listen to stories from the community's past. This one was on the Railroad and the Society participated by showing slides of the Octoraro line. Over 50-people turned out, and we are told that the response to the first session on Downtown Colora was even larger. The members, drawing on first hand experiences or stories handed down from an earlier generation, shared insights, adding to the rich knowledge of this area.

We were impressed with the excellent turnout, as well as the enthusiasm the interested guests and officers of the association brought to the subject. We commend the members for the proactive work they are doing to look after the community's past and care for its rural legacy. In a time of tremendous change at the top of the Chesapeake, it is good to know that there are citizen-stakeholders working to preserve our legacy and environment and to assure that sound decisions are made as changes occur.

Click on the link above to get more information on the Association and to check the schedule for future programs. Thanks to Hazel, Dianna and all the officers and members for inviting us to attend an enjoyable evening where we learned so much and for the work they're dong as advocates for the Colora area.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Long Time Volunteer, Rebecca Smith, Recognized as Trailblazer

We were pleased to learn this week that a longtime supporter of the Society and former trustee, Rebecca Smith was selected to receive the 2008 Trailblazer Award. Sponsored by the Cecil Whig, the award is given to a woman who has blazed a trail in serving the community.

The Society was pleased to join others in nominating her for this recognition. Miss Smith touched the lives of two generations of Cecil’s young people as a teacher and guidance counselor during a career spanning five decades. In the midst of the Great Depression she completed her bachelor’s degree at Western Maryland College and started teaching history at Perryville High in 1935. After World War II, the practice of school counseling emerged and Miss Smith became one of the first practitioners here. The devoted educator sought out new professional development opportunities and broadened her knowledge as she helped guide teenagers. After serving the county for 41-years the popular and respected educator retired in 1979.

Glance at the handwritten notes scribbled in yearbooks during these years and you will see the admiration so many young people had for a caring professional that dedicated a great portion of her life to teaching them important lessons and helping them with the challenges of maturing. The Elkton High Class of 1976, which dedicated its yearbook to Miss Smith, illustrates this point: “As we worked our way through high school there was always one person to whom we turned in times of joy and sadness. The patience and devotion she gave each of us is deeply felt as we remember those times when her gentle nudge and her words of encouragement were all we needed. . . . With these things in mind, the class of 1976 voted unanimously to dedicate the 1976 Antler to their guidance counselor, Miss Rebeca Smith.” After that she served as the Chief Judge of the Orphans Court, finally retiring a few days before turning 88-years-old.

Beginning in the early 1980s, the lifelong Cecilton resident volunteered as a trustee at the Historical Society. During that time, she worked tirelessly to advance the organization and to assure that the County’s heritage was preserved. While helping better the organization in many ways, she was directly responsible for developing two valuable resources. The A. Rebecca Smith Yearbook Collection began when she donated her cherished volumes with so many fond memories of her students to the Society. The initial gift of 33-editions inspired others to donate so there are now nearly 300-books, which reveal the high school years of generations of teenagers and invoke priceless memories. Researchers putting together their family history or studying Cecil’s past treasure this valuable source containing once in a lifetime memories. Many other county societies have remarked to us that they wished they had such a valuable holding for one rarely sees such a large body of these works in special collections libraries.

She also created the Cecil County writers’ collection. This special holding is composed of books that were written by local authors and she always sought out additions to those titles. When she retired from the Society in the late-1990s, the tireless supporter and volunteer had improved the organization in many concrete ways.

We frequently hear that our organization is in the very top tier of societies in Maryland. During 16-years as a trustee and a much longer period as a member, the dedicated volunteer greatly contributed to the services and facilities we, as Cecil’s heritage keepers, bring to the public. We were pleased to nominate her for this honor and pleased that she is being recognized for a lifetime of community service.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Continuing to Acquire Outstanding Primary Research Materials

We recenty acquired a couple of ledgers books for our collection from the middle of the 19th century, which should provide researchers with new primary research documents. One is an 1866 inventory of all the businesses in the county with weights and measures and the other is an 1841 inventory of mills by Adam Whann.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Diggins Booksigning - July 12

We are pleased to announce that the Society will host a booksigning for a new Cecil County history title on July 12 from 1 to 3 p.m. Milt Diggins, the editor of the Society’s Journal is the author of this title, which is part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing. Milt spent much of 2007 examining thousands of Cecil County photos and he selected over 200 of these for his volume. Many of these images have been unseen for decades, some are from glass-plate negatives from the 19th century, and, since he also worked with private collections, some of picture have never been published. We eagerly look forward to hosting the first booksigning for Milt's Images of America – Cecil County. Watch our blog and keep an eye on our calendar for updates. We’re sure you will enjoy this title.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Society Volunteer Wins First Place at History Competition

Yesterday one of our volunteers, Kyle Dixon, received a first place award for an entry in the Maryland History Day Project. This competition required extensive, independent research of historical subjects related to a national theme of conflict and compromise. An 11th grade AP history student in Mr. Mean’s class at Bohemia Manor High School, Kyle completed a comparative study of desegregation of schools in Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. It’s always exciting to see young scholars enhance academic skills and prepare for college by exploring some aspect of Cecil’s past. We congratulate Kyle and the other 12 winners from Cecil County in this year’s competition. They will all go on to be judged at the state-level academic competition in April. (Kyle is introducing one of our performers in the winter living history series in this photo.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Remembering the Past at Mr. Caldwell's School

The Cecil County Board of Education celebrated the legacy of one its former schools on February 10th when it rededicated the central office on Booth Street as the George Washington Carver Education Leadership Center. This facility, the county-wide high school for African-Americans in the era of segregated education, graduated its last class in June 1964.

The blast of strong winds and snow showers rattling the building on this special Sunday wasn’t able to put a freeze on the excitement at the ceremony. An overflow crowd of several hundred former students, friends, educators, and others eagerly looked on as Dr. Carl Roberts discussed the reason for rededicating the building while others recalled its history. This large turnout on this wintry Maryland Sunday and the conversations that filled the hallways afterwards as old friends rekindled memories and recalled past experiences spoke to the strong bonds that remains for George Washington Carver alumni and family.

A community’s history is important and it is essential that we preserve reminders of the past so we have context for understanding current events. Dr. Roberts, the Historical Society of Cecil County thanks you for helping assure that we recall this part of our heritage and for helping to make sure we keep in mind a time when the challenges at Principal Caldwell’s school were different.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The House was Packed for Tillie Pierce Performance

An outstanding performance by University of Delaware history major Abby Harting playing Matilda “Tillie” Pierce wrapped up our winter living history series. Fifteen-year-old Tillie witnessed the battle of Gettysburg and she wrote about those dramatic days later in her life. The house was full as Abby, in character, vividly told guests about the civilian side of this pivotal Civil War battle. The emotions felt by a young lady witnessing dreadful scenes that July in Gettysburg caught the audience up in the show. Once she finished the performance, the crowd peppered her with lots of questions. If you missed this show, you missed a superb portrayal. In addition to portraying Tillie, the Middletown Delaware resident has done reenacting and interpretations related to the War of 1812 at Fort McHenry. Abby sometimes plays the young Civil War era lady at the Tillie Pierce House Bed and Breakfast in Gettysburg. If you missed this engaging performance, perhaps you can catch her there over the summer. Look for more information on next year’s winter living history series later this year.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photos from the Thurgood Marshall Presentation

We're still hearing lots of positive comments from Dr. Henderson's Thurgood Marshall living history performance and we thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the photos from that performance.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thurgood Marshall Visited Historical Society

Friday evening guests at our January living history program were treated to an outstanding performance called "Thurgood is Coming!" Thurgood Marshall, the Civil Rights Advocate and Supreme Court Justice, was portrayed by Dr. Lenneal J. Henderson. This program brought to us by the Maryland Humanities Council was fantastic and if you weren't there you missed an enjoyable, informative evening. It really seemed as if Justice Marshall had come to visit us in Cecil County as Dr. Henderson dramatically portrayed the Maryland lawyer. Once the formal presentation was over, he took questions from the audience and afterwards greeted everyone there individually. We have one more program remaining in the winter history series as a young girl, Tillie Pierce tells us about the Battle of Gettysburg. Check out our calendar for more details.