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