Monday, September 5, 2011

Cecil County Historical Society Blog Moves to New Address

About a year ago, the Society moved to a new address on the Internet and that is www.cecilhistory.org.  For about a year, we've maintained both sites but a month ago we pulled the plug on the old site, one we'd occupied since 1996.   As part of the transition, we've moved the blog to its new home at

www.cecilhistory.org/blog.

Be sure to follow the latest news from the Society at that address.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Society Closed for 2011 Labor Day Holiday

The Society is closed Saturday, Sept. 3 and Monday, Sept. 5 for the Labor Day holiday

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tome Student Helps Society Make Expanded Yearbook Collection Available to Patrons

For years the Society has worked to build a large collection of yearbooks as these volumes, which call up memories from decades ago, make valuable research resources for individuals working on a family or local history project. Cover-to-cover there are portraits of each student, plenty of anecdotes, brief essays, highlighting specific memories, advertising, photos of activities, and school antics while many contain hand written notes to teachers and friends.

Since a large run of these titles has been assembled at the society and they span a considerable part of the 20th century, they are yet another valuable resource researchers can turn to. We are fortunate to have such a large records group, which now consists of 308 Cecil County volumes. Tome School issued the oldest title we hold in 1906, while many of the public high schools started publishing the annuals in the 1940s.

Nate Schwartz volunteered this summer to reorganize the collection, update our inventory, and create a finding aid. The Tome School sophomore has carefully repositioned the volumes, updated the holdings records, and is now beginning to enter the titles in PastPerfect, software for managing museum collections. The Society appreciates Nate’s work and researchers will find it valuable as they are now easily able to determine the current status of our holdings. Click here to see the finding aid, Nate created and determine if we have something that will help you with your investigation.

The core of the collection came about when retired Cecil County educator, A. Rebecca Smith, having taught in the school system from 1935 to 1976, donated 33-years of Elkton High yearbooks to the society, in order to assure they would have a permanent home. After that another volunteer, Kyle Dixon, worked to expand the A. Rebecca Smith Collection and obtain volumes from all the schools in the county, with a goal of creating a complete runs of the titles. It’s a project we’re still working on and Nate has moved it to the next level, as we continue to seek volumes to fill the gaps. Thanks Nate.

Research Library Closed Monday, Aug. 29, as Area Recovers from Passage of Hurricane Irene

The Society's library and museum are closed Monday as the area recovers from the passage of Hurricane Irene.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Society Closed This Saturday as Hurricane Irene Approaches the Area

With Hurricane Irene working its way toward the lower Delmarva Peninsula, severe weather warnings are up for Cecil County.  As a result the Historical Society will not be open this Saturday.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Team Digitizes Centuries Old Funeral Home Records, From One of the Two Undertaking Establishments in Cherry Hill

Two Historical Society of Cecil County volunteers, Billie Todd and Evelyn Wekke, are pouring over aging business ledgers from the Grant Funeral Home of Cherry Hill. Scanning the old, yellowing pages they meticulously extract information on deaths from the undertaker’s account books, cataloging information about the people whom W. J. Grant buried, including names, family ties and key biographical data.

Evelyn reads the fading handwriting penned in these volumes by the mortician from the late 1880s until the 1920s, as the Society’s resident genealogist, Billie, inputs the data into a spreadsheet. Once they finish this task, one that requires painstaking care, and attention to detail, they will digitize the images of these century old pages that document the services Grant provided for the burials and their work will be made available on the Society’s website. This efficient team has done other demonstration projects of this nature, linking web based data with the high quality images. Their effort makes valuable family history research materials accessible to patrons of the Historical Society.

Cherry Hill had two funeral homes. William J Grant operated one business, which his son, Joseph R., moved the North East in 1922. Alfred T. Abernathy, the other undertaker, died in 1934. His wife continued the business, according to newspaper accounts.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Heat Wave of 1969, Captured by Jim Cheeseman

The scorching summer heat has made outdoor activities nearly unbearable for a few days now, and people are coping with the tropical conditions in a variety of ways. Late Saturday afternoon, families’ crowded tables at Betterton Beach, enjoying outdoor picnics while hopefully catching a cooling breeze from the Chesapeake Bay. Elsewhere people outside quickly scattered for whatever shade they could find and restaurants were crowded.

When Cecil County was hit by a tropical wave of heat and humidity over 40 years ago, Cecil Whig photographer Jim Cheeseman was out taking pictures for the weekly newspaper.  He caught this one  of a young-man attempting to escape the heat of 1969 by resting briefly in a self-serve ice-box at a business in the county seat. Elkton had a National Weather Service Observation Station from 1927 to 1976, by-the-way. H. Wirt Bouchell, the local weatherman, recorded the highs and lows every day for nearly 50 years and the highest reading he recorded in Elkton was 106-degrees on July 10, 1936.

We have thousands of Jim's photos so be sure to check those out when you visit the Society, as week by week he captured the happenings in Cecil County for the paper.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Society Closes on Tuesday Evenings for Summer

During June, July and August, the Society will not be open on Tuesday evening.  All other hours remain the same.  Click here for operatng schedule. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First Emergency Responder to Arrive on Scene of 1963 Plane Crash Recalls Tragic Night

Lt. Don Hash (Retired) of the Maryland State Police, the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene of the plane crash east of Elkton on December 8, 1963, recently talked to the Historical Society about his recollections of that dark, stormy night in a Maryland cornfield where 81-people perished

On a stormy December Sunday evening in 1963, Maryland State Trooper Don Hash, a 23 or 24 year-old rookie one year out of the academy, was cruising northbound on Route 213 near Brantwood Golf Course. As an unusual late fall thunderstorm rolled across Cecil County, heavy rain pelted the patrol car when a powerful bolt of lightning in the shape of a wishbone suddenly came out of low hanging clouds, illuminating the area. One or two seconds after that a large airplane enshrouded in an orange glow flew out of the cloud. The doomed craft continued in flight for 10 to 15 seconds before a wing fell off and the plane nosed straight down into the ground. Trooper Hash radioed to alert the barrack as he raced toward the crash site, somewhere east of Elkton near the state line.

Don, who would retire from the Maryland State Police as a Lieutenant, talked to us on June 9, 2011, about his experience that troubling, unforgettable dark night in a Maryland cornfield. He was the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene. “I could see flames on Delancy Road,” he recalled as he neared the crash site. “It wasn’t a large fire. It was several smaller fires. A fuselage with about 8 or 10 window frames was about the only large recognizable piece I could see when I pulled up. It was just a debris field. It didn’t resemble an airplane. The engines were buried in the ground 10 to 15-feet from the force of the impact.”

By this time everyone was mobilizing. The state police called for troopers from other barracks to help the three troopers covering the county that evening. In a few minutes the fire company arrived and during the next hour officers from throughout the state started arriving on the scene to help. Trooper Hash stayed on the crash scene throughout that long stormy night until he was relieved the next morning.

 

Click here to hear part of the interview with Lt. Hash (retired).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Society Welcomes Two Family History Groups to Cecil County in June 2011


Photo Coutesy of Mount Harmon:  The heritage Troupe performs at Mount Harmon
Early this morning in downtown Elkton, a bunch of characters were hanging out in the vicinity of the Historical Society. The buzz around the Main Street crowd was unusual for a Saturday, and when passersby took a closer look at this gaggle curiosity was peaked even more. The eccentrics were dressed as if they stepped out of aother era. Some men in tricorn hats were styled just right for the 18th century. A finely and properly dressed lady and gentlemen were out of the 2nd-half of the 19th century and children were scampering around in colonial garb.

This early morning crowd was actually the Cecil County Heritage Troupe, a volunteer group sponsored by county tourism, closer investigation revealed. The company formed in the 1990s to entertain and inform audiences in a different way by taking them back in time to centuries old happenings right here in northeastern Maryland. During lively skits, they tell the county’s story theatrically as skits about the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and much more unfold for attentive audiences.

They were at the Historical Society to welcome about 50 visitors to the county, the Teague family History Group. The Teague association traveled from around the country to visit here as part of an annual family get together. And they were in for a treat as they chatted with Zebulon Hollingsworth, Judge Sample, Kitty Knight, other important people, and children who lived through these troubling times.

Soon after being welcomed to the Society by librarian Carol Donache the visitors to our historic region were treated to an excellent stage show about the history of the county by these fine performers. It was great to see Zebulon Hollingsworth return to the stage for he keeps things rolling along with some history, plenty of humor, and the best interplay with an audience you’re ever going to see. But there was Judge Sample, too. The old man, present when the enemy attacked Cecil County, recalled those troubling days when the cry the British are coming, the British are coming frightened citizens. Kitty Knight told her story about confronting the British, and there was a dramatic skit as local citizens and children worried and argued about the upcoming Revolution War.

For an hour or so this morning some of the most interesting people from our past, individuals with stories of dramatic times were hanging around downtown welcoming visitors to this place with so many historical connections. The Troupe does an excellent job and has great performers, taking our visitors on a fun filled and enjoyable trip to the past.

A week earlier another Descendants of Valentine Hollingsworth were at the Society for their annual reunion, so it’s been a busy time in Elkton for visitors making our county a destination because of our past and the institutions that are working as our heritage-keepers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Old Building Caught Up In Discussion About Demoliton by Elkton Officials Yields Up Some Interesting Archeaological Features From Earlier Era

You never know what kind of buried treasures might turn upwhen someone starts digging around older parts of Elkton. Many parking areas, streets, and buildings lots have yielded relics that were tossed aside and buried long ago. It’s been that way for centuries as people are  often astonished after unearthing Revolutionary War and War of 1812 artifacts. Beyond projectiles of war, the soil yields up relics of everyday living including old building foundations, architectural elements, bottles, coins, ceramics, buttons, and arrow-heads. One bona-fide archaeological dig produced Spanish coins, stoneware from prehistoric peoples, and human bones from an aboriginal burial ground.

These archaeological discoveries put the spotlight on a dimly illuminated part of Cecil County’s history as our written record here is strong so we know lots about that extended period. But in earlier times, as the manuscripts grow  weaker, we have to depend on archeology to help puzzle out the past. So whenever a contractor starts digging deep into the earth in some of the oldest parts of the county seat, one has to wonder what’s being unearthed. Some of  those discarded materials would help us solve historical mysteries since our  soil is crammed with lots of artifacts that have been buried for centuries.

The exposure of some fascinating architectural elements of a building being demolished this past week at 124 and 124 ½ E. Main Street is what brought this subject up. The frame commercial, vernacular structure that stood on the property circa 1880, replaced a much earlier building. Once it was torn
down, some below Main Street elements became visible from Howard Street. On the west side of the frontage lot was an attractive arched brick structure, which probably supported something heavy such as a multistory fireplace, from an earlier period (see photo). On the east side was another
opening under Main Street.

A few weeks ago, unidentified town officials decided to rush through the governmental bureaucracy a request to tear down the late 19th century vernacular structure, bypassing the town’s procedural requirements. As it turned out in this instance, just as it has in other cases, the decision to ignore municipal regulations simply made it far more complicated than necessary. Officials
had to stop the contractor’s work so everyone could back up and go through the regulatory steps enumerated by Elkton ordinances. When they stepped back to address the requirements, the historic district board approved the demolition in a split vote, only requiring that an “attractive fence” be installed on Main Street as it was unclear what the future held for the parcel.

Main Street area in 1858

This is a property that is connected with some of the municipality’s earliest development so one never knows what types of surprising artifacts are waiting to be found and how they will yield insight to the past. Whenever an archaeological study is done around Elkton, the investigators frequently find historical secrets in the ground. The key is there is a lot of stuff we don’t know about that’s buried under Elkton soil. Hopefully officials, in their rush to restore the downtown, will think about archeology as a minimum, though we also suggest they require some minimal examination of properties being considered for demolition. Presentation of data concerning a site will help everyone make an informed decision and document the basics on the parcel's history, as a minimum.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chautauqua 2011: A House Divided, the American Civil War Coming to North East July 8 – 10

As a border state, Maryland played a critical role in the Civil War, and beginning in 2011, the Maryland Humanities Council (MHC), regional historic sites, museums and other cultural organizations throughout the state will be observing the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

As part of this remembrance, MHC’s 2011 Chautauqua living history series will feature three key figures of the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and Jefferson Davis.
Maryland was truly a state divided, with slaves and free blacks living in the same community, families split politically and emotionally between the North and South and political and military leaders in both camps. The Sesquicentennial gives us an opportunity to reflect on this pivotal period in our state and nation’s history and to consider what unites us and what divides us today.

Abraham Lincoln will be portrayed by Chautauqua veteran Jim Getty. Lincoln, our 16th president, led our country through its greatest internal crisis and is remembered as the savior of the American union and “The Great Emancipator.”

Harriet Tubman, brought to life by Chautauqua and Speakers Bureau presenter Gwendolyn Briley-Strand, was born a slave in Dorchester County, Maryland. Known as “The Moses of Her People,” she led scores of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad and served as a union spy during the Civil War.

Jefferson Davis will be portrayed by another returning Chautauqua favorite, Doug Mishler. A fervent defender of Southern whites’ “right” to own slaves and an advocate of slavery’s expansion, Davis broke from the Union after deciding that Lincoln’s election might lead to its being further restricted or even abolished. Davis believed that peaceful secession was legal under the U.S. Constitution. He served as president of the Confederacy throughout the war.

Our 17th summer Chautauqua will take place July 5–13 in six regions throughout the state: Baltimore County, Cecil County, Charles County, Garrett County, Montgomery County and Talbot County.
Join us for these free events and engage in spirited conversation with celebrated figures from the past.

2011 Chautauqua schedule by date
Click here for more information

2011 Chautauqua Sponsors
Chautauqua would not be possible without the generous sponsorship of the organizations and individuals listed below, nor donors to our annual fund. Thank you to them and to you for your continued support!
Chautauqua in North East is sponsored by Cecil County Arts Council, Cecil County Tourism, and Delmarva Power

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Window on Cecil County's Past

By James R. Koterski



Clay deposits played a major role in the economy of by-gone Cecil County. Some were mined and shipped out-of-state while others provided the key raw material to potters and firebrick makers. Wheel-thrown redware and stoneware were fired in kilns at Rising Sun, Brick Meeting House, NorthEast and Rock Springs. Meanwhile some Delaware and Pennsylvania potters relied on the county’s clays to turn their pots. The names of some potters like William Carter and Eli Haines were virtually unknown until this book traced the role this craft played in their lives. An exquisite harvest jug fashioned by Carter in 1847 survives today. Other names – Remmey, Grier, Hare, Magee, Brown and Schofield – are much more recognizable to today’s collectors and historians, yet in many cases, connections to Cecil County were unknown or incomplete.


Commercial firebrick operations were attracted by the abundance of kaolin-based clays. Some were short-lived while others carried on for decades. Most companies like Cecil, North East, Wakefield, Green Hill and United molded and fired these refractory bricks around the town of North East.

Potters and Firebrick Makers of Cecil County, Maryland, and Nearby is illustrated with over 100 images, nearly half in color. Spanning 140 pages and 8.5” X 11” in size, this book was built from numerous newspaper accounts, land records, family histories and pottery collections. It provides a valuable window to the past and deserves the widespread interest from fans of local history and pottery enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Available From History in Print, P.O. Box 185, Mendenhall, PA 19357, (610) 388-6836; fairhill3@aol.com $30.00

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Library Holiday Calendar Announced for 2011

Lbary Holiday Closings 2011



January 3 Society reopens

January 17 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Society closed

February 21 Presidents’ Day, Society closed

May 30 Memorial Day, Society closed

July 2 Independence Day weekend, Society closed

July 4 Independence Day, Society closed

Sept. 3 Labor Day weekend, Society closed

Sept. 5 Labor Day, Society closed

Oct. 10 Columbus Day (observed), Society closed

Nov. 24 Thanksgiving Day, Society closed

Nov. 26 Thanksgiving weekend, Society closed

Dec. 20-Jan. 1 Christmas-New Year’s, Society closed

Jan. 2 Society reopens


Watch the news section of our web site for press releases on specific activities and updates on the Society schedule.

Snow Closing Policy: Whenever Cecil County schools and/or Cecil College are closed, anticipate that the Society is closed.