Tales from a Small Creek on the Eastern Shore

Tales from a Small Creek on the Eastern Shore

The State of Maryland in the eastern United States is almost completely severed in two parts by the large body of water called Chesapeake Bay.

The bay is about two hundred miles from north to south and generally less than ten miles wide; it severs the state geographically, economically and culturally.  The western counties of Maryland include the cities of Baltimore and Annapolis and the suburbs of Washington DC, most of the industry, commerce and population are on the western side.  Across the Chesapeake Bay to the east lies a different world.  The teardrop shaped Delmarva Peninsula formed between the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays is home to the whole state of Delaware and parts of two others, the eastern shore counties of Maryland and the northernmost county of Virginia.

The Eastern Shore of Maryland is the backward part of the State, in the immortal words of one of the more colourful Governors of recent years, William Donald Schaefer “The shit-house side of Maryland” and we are perversely proud of it.  The railways never reached the Eastern Shore and the roads have barely made it.  The only means of transport was by water and the region looks to the water for all things.  The heavily indented coastline of the bay has about 12,000 miles of waterfront in its 200-mile length and on almost any journey the shortest distance between two points is still by water.

The rivers feeding the Chesapeake are generally modest and have a peculiar mixture of names.  Many are from the languages of the original inhabitants, the Potomac, the Susquehanna, the Rappahannock, the Choptank, the Nanticoke; others have a very familiar ring, the Severn, the Wye, the Avon.  No surprises then that some of original European settlers of the area were boys from Bristol and Devon who unlike the puritans of the north were fleeing nothing, but seeking much.  The Eastern shore towns are no different, a strange mixture of old and new, Oxford and Cambridge sharing access to the Choptank River with Salisbury but also Crisfield, Bivalve and Onancock.

The original settlements at Jamestown (yes, James I was the King) at the very southern mouth of the bay were promoted as purely commercial ventures.  Thomas Hariot the polymath (more about him later) and a man called John Smith (much more about him) were early organisers of the venture.  Following several abortive attempts at establishing a presence, most notably those organized by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585 and 1589, the first permanent settlers came ashore in 1607 (thirteen years before those sluggards crept ashore from the Mayflower in what is now Massachusetts).  Three ships, the Godspeed, the Discovery and the Susan Constant carried 104 men from London, replicas of them can be found at Jamestown

Under the command of Admiral Christopher Newport; their purpose was to exploit the riches they expected to find and to discover a passage to the Indies – a northwest passage for the purposes of competing with the Spanish trade in the Pacific.  None of these things came about; the riches were well hidden, mostly in the form of tobacco, a noxious pungent plant semi-cultivated by the natives and good only for burning, and the pelts of furry animals that had done little harm prior to their exploitation.  The Northwest Passage also proved elusive, despite the heroic efforts of early explorers to make their westerlies via the various western tributaries of the bay.

This then is the context in which we can place our creek, it’s a modest little piece of water about two miles long and barely a quarter mile in width, but size notwithstanding it’s history is longer than the settlement of Jamestown, the little point in this picture, –Teal Point has a sandbar on which flint arrowheads and spear points can always be found

Tales of the Creek and its dwellers will follow.

Author: Low Wattage

Expat Welshman, educated (somewhat) in UK, left before it became fashionable to do so. Now a U.S. Citizen, and recent widower, playing with retirement and house remodeling, living in Delaware and rural Maryland (weekends).

12 thoughts on “Tales from a Small Creek on the Eastern Shore”

  1. Very interesting LW.

    We have much the same here with the confusion of names, Aboriginal and reminders of home. It fascinates me the way people from one area in the UK seemed to settle in one place on the other side of the world!

    Just a hint! If you re-edit this you can use oen of the icons above the edit box to cut the blog at a suitable place.

  2. It did indeed.

    I also learned that by clicking on your map, I’m taken automatically to the source which is larger and obviously clearer.

    This is obviously ‘Pocahontas territory’ I’ll wait for the future updates with interest.

  3. Well that didn’t take long LW: very interesting part of the world.
    Boadicea: I suppose that this is quite normal, once the intrepid explorers find a suitable spot they write home and others follow. Sometimes the settlements did not prosper, and they were forced to move further afield. Shades of “waggon train”!

  4. Boadicea: Thanks for the advice, I am sure I will get to know how to do everything more easily with time, I just battered this out as a trial run so to speak.

    Soutie: Yes, I was trying to get the map to show in finer detail on the original but was unable to do so, maybe there is a size limit for certain images on the blog, the other images I used seemed to be much more detailed.

    Hello Ara, I have used this blog before , but thought it was a quick way to get going here. There must be dozens of Avon, Severn and Wye rivers scattered about the globe by those far sailing west countrymen.

  5. It wasn’t just ‘writing home’ and the odd one or two families following.

    Parishes paid for their poor to go overseas, sometimes large numbers of people from one area just upped and went – I know of one such where about 600+ people left Cornwall for Canada on chartered ships.

    And then there agents in the UK trying to get people with specific skills to emigrate. So many people emigrated to South Australia from Cornwall that the Museum of Emigration in Adelaide lists Cornwall as a separate country.

  6. I’ve been envious of folk who live in the part of the world you describe, ever since 1972. Sheona and I had moved to the States immediately after getting married in 1970, and after a two year stint had visited my brother in Georgia, then flew to New York for the transatlantic crossing back home – that’s when the magnificent “France” was still in service. Somewhere I’ve still got the series of piccys I took from the aircraft as we passed over that peninsula with all its myriad creeks and inlets. It would be a magical childhood indeed to have had a house close to the water, with a boat for lazy days’ fishing! That’s my idea of heaven – but for the logistics of keeping in touch with family and friends.

    Somebody once asked an old boy what he thought about being of an advanced age. His reply? “It’s great! No peer pressures!” That peninsula would probably be the most crowded place on Earth – but for peer pressures!

  7. It’s OK if you insert it in the HTML view when editing, though.
    Providing you know enough not to insert it within the scope of another tag. 🙂

  8. Hello Colin, I’ve been living on the bay for about twenty years now, mostly on weekends during my working life, but with a plan to retire here permanently. The whole region has an air of the magical about it. Mostly rural, little road traffic, some fine old estates and homes (the northern bay area was mostly tobacco growing country in the early days) and of course the water, with still a thriving fishery, crabs, oysters, clams, rockfish (Striped Bass). A fine place to live.

  9. I envy you greatly, Low Wattage, even if you can only get away there for the odd weekend or two.

    Sheona and I lived out near the end of the Philadelphia Main Line for the first two years of our marriage- and revelled in the old world charm of the “colonial” life-style.

    Not ours I hasten to add, being housed in a vast apartment complex – but one we briefly sampled – getting occasional invites to the thatched cul-de-sac homes of medical consultants at the hospital – where I worked – or to that of the landed gent in charge of the Library Company of Philadelphia where Sheona worked , with its priceless holding of 15th century incanabula .

    There’s so much old money in the States that we rarely glimpse on British TV. They have re-created for themselves a supposedly “vanished world” life-style out there – tucked away in the outer suburban woodlands. Google Earth reveals all – well almost…

    Your part of the world envelopes one in a kind of comfort blanket that I’ve never experienced anywhere else – and wouldn’t know how to articulate.

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