A. Rebecca Smith to be Honored With Ernest A. Howard Award Nov. 14

A Rebecca Smith from the Elkton High Yearbook in 1975.

A Rebecca Smith from the Elkton High Yearbook in 1976.

The Historical Society of Cecil County’s annual meeting on Friday, Nov. 14, will recognize retired Cecil County Educator, A. Rebecca Smith by presenting her with the Ernest A. Howard Award.  Named after a man who was instrumental in building the strong Society that serves the county, this prestigious award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation of the county’s heritage.

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 teacher retired in 1979.

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 about 320 volumes, 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 that they wished they had such a valuable holding for one rarely sees such a large body of these works in special collections libraries.

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.

She also created the Cecil County writers’ collection.  This special group holding is composed of books, including novels and other creative works, which were written by local authors. When she retired from the Society in the late-1990s, the tireless supporter and volunteer had improved the organization in many concrete ways.

The Society notes that it frequently hears that the organization is in the top tier of heritage groups in Maryland. During 16-years as a trustee and a much longer period as a member, the dedicated volunteer greatly contributed to the services Cecil’s heritage keepers bring to the public.  The Society is pleased to present this honor and recognize Miss Smith for a lifetime of community service.

Past recipients are:  Lucia Demond, Dr. Davy McCall, George Reynolds, Ed Belote, and Earl Simmers.

Ernest Howard, was born in Childs, MD. in 1885.  This benefactor of the organization was deeply involved in the successful revival of the nonprofit in the 1950s.  He worked tirelessly to preserve local heritage and was active in the restoration of several churches and others buildings.  A large donation he made to the county to help fund a headquarters for the County’s public library directly resulted in the establishment of a  home for the Society at 135 E. Main St. in Elkton, which is where Cecil County’s local history and genealogy library is now located.  This local historian passed away in 1973.

This year’s annual meeting, which includes an engaging program on sports history, takes place on Nov. 14 starting at 6 p.m. at 135 E. Main St. in Elkton. Join us for the history, the award presentation and a wine-and-cheese reception prior to Krimmel’s presentation. Admission is $10 for members and $15 for non-members payable at the door.

Miss Smith and other faculty members in the Elkton High School Yearbook for 1958

Miss Smith and other faculty members in the Elkton High School Yearbook for 1958

Annual Raffle Helps Promote Cecil’s Heritage

By Gary Holmes

Attention Members & Friends of the Historical Society of Cecil County:

We are bringing back our annual raffle. You can win a valuable gift basket filled with goodies representing “THE BEST OF CECIL COUNTY”. Items &/or gift cards have been donated from Chesapeake Inn, Baker’s Restaurant, The Grainery Restaurant, Beans Leaves Etc., Milburn Orchards, The Gift Shop of the Historical Society of Cecil County, American Home & Hardware, Minihane’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, & others coming in.

Drawing will be at our annual wine & cheese open house/ annual meeting celebration to be held on November 14th. Tickets are $1 a piece for 6 for $5. If you are a member, you should have received or will be receiving soon 18 tickets in the mail. Please sell to friends & return the tickets or buy them all yourself.

If you are not a member you can obtain tickets by calling 410-398-1790 or 443-206-1937 or email at: questions@cecilhistory,org If you own a local business & would like to donate to the handmade gift basket, please contact us as well.

The items in the gift basket would also make great Christmas gifts. Hurry & return your tickets soon. They will also be available for sale at the Cecil County Library’s Annual Genealogy Day on Saturday, November 8th. at the main branch on Elkton Road that day only. More info to come.

You need not be present to win. If you want tickets stop by the Historical Society when they are open or catch up with me at the Court House one day or I can meet you somewhere in Elkton. Make checks payable to the Historical Society of Cecil County.

Thank you for your generous support. Hope you win!!! Gary Holmes, Fundraiser Coordinator/Board Member.

Society Announces Plans for 2014 Annual Meeting: Root, Root, for the Home Team!

Date:         Friday, November 14, 2014 at 6 p.m.

Location:  135 E. Main Street Elkton, MD.  21921

Event:      Annual Meeting with Wine & Cheese Reception.

Speaker:  If sports mirror society, what do our sports obsessions mean?  put on your team colors and join us for an evening full of stories that can stir vivid memories and deep emotions — as only sports can do.  Dean Krimmel will tell us about Maryland’s rich sporting heritage from fox hunting and horse racing to jousting, lacrosse, and little league baseball.

Cost:  $10 for members or $15 for non-members.

See post for additional details.

annual meeting


A recent post here reported, in glowing terms, the activities of Colonel Henry Hollingsworth of Elkton, most notably his efforts during the Revolutionary War. The blog described how Colonel Hollingsworth was a citizen, soldier, and entrepreneur. How he was the deputy quartermaster general for the Continental Army during our struggle for independence and how, after the war, he participated in the early industrialization of America by being a part of a local woolen mill. That mill made wool cloth in direct competition with British wool manufacturers. Finally, we noted how Col Hollingsworth offered a piece of that cloth to General Washington who accepted it with great accolades, both for the cloth and for the manufacturing efforts.

Hollingsworth Desk with Brian and Lisa
However, and there always seems to be a “however” when we talk about early American history, there is another aspect to Col Hollingsworth life that is not easily discussed because it is unpleasant to say the least. Henry Hollingsworth owned slaves.
The 1800 United States Census shows that there were approximately 2000 enslaved individuals living in Cecil County. That same census shows Hollingsworth owned 13 slaves between the ages of 10 and 70 years. His brother, Zebulon Hollingsworth Jr., owned 14. It is dangerous to say there is no documentary evidence around how the slaves owned by Henry Hollingsworth and his wife, Jane felt about their enslavement, because new documentation is always coming to the forefront; but it can be said that not all of their slaves wanted to maintain their status because several escaped to freedom.
Back in 2001, an intern from Goucher College named Michael Thomas Peddicord researched, wrote, and submitted a report titled The Hollingsworths of Cecil County for the Historic Elk Landing Foundation. In that report, Peddicord documented a pair of escapes.
Advertisements were “placed in The Pennsylvania Gazette… asking for the return of indentured servants. Colonel Henry Hollingsworth advertised on June 13, 1765 and August 7, 1766 for two separate individuals.”Slave Records 1853 to 1864
Unlike George Washington, Col. Hollingsworth did not free any of his slaves upon his death. Instead, according to the Peddicord report, he willed them to his wife and children.
“After his death, Colonel Henry Hollingsworth: (quoting Hollingsworth’s last will and testament) ‘bequeath[ed] unto [his] dear daughter Mary Hollingsworth her choice of [his] negro girls Rachel (age 14) or Phillis’ (age 12) and the remainder of his slaves were divided amongst his children….”
Peddicord’s research showed that Henry Hollingsworth’s wife, Jane, freed one of her inherited slaves. “On the 1st of July, 1813 Jane Hollingsworth, wife of Colonel Henry Hollingsworth, manumitted her servant named Joseph Clarkson. At the time, Clarkson was under 45 year of age and ‘of a healthy constitution, and sound in mind and body’; other details about the man were undisclosed by the indenture.” There is no other official record of Jane Hollingsworth freeing any of her other slaves.


The Colonel’s brother, Zebulon, on February 8th, 1806, manumitted his 13 year old slave Jane, “or Jenny,” and indentured her to an apprenticeship until she was 28 years old. He then signed the indenture over to his daughter, Margaret, who was the wife of William Cooch, living near Newark in New Castle County, Delaware.

We will not editorialize around the slave holding practices of Henry Hollingsworth or any of the Hollingsworths. That is not our purpose. However, we will say that slavery is not an issue to be ignored. It was a part of American life from 1619 to 1865, not an insignificant period of time, and it is a subject that still tortures the American conscience. It is for that reason that it is worth noting and discussing slavery and its aftermath in Cecil County. In fact, the Historical Society of Cecil County is planning a project around the 50th anniversary of the end of segregation in Cecil County’s public schools next fall. More on that later.

Citizen, Soldier, Entrepreneur

Headquarters, Philadelphia County, 6th, October, 1777

From General George Washington


You will oblige me much if you will immediately upon the rect of this, set about making the most minute enquiry into the number and situation of the enemy at Wilmington. The force of the enemy, where their artillery is placed, any lines of redoubts, where their pickets are and of what number they consist. I beg you will inform me by letter or if you can spare the time, I shall be glad to see you personally.”

Aug 24th 1777 Letter to Geo WashingtonThat’s the condensed version of a letter sent by Commander and Chief of the Continental Army, General Washington, camped at Philadelphia. He is making inquiry with Cecil County’s own Colonel Henry Hollingsworth, the army’s Deputy Quartermaster General, about the status of British forces in Delaware. The duo would exchange about a half dozen letters over the course of the next year while the British occupied Philadelphia, then our new nation’s capital. One of them, dated February, 1778 expressed the desperate situation the army faced during its winter encampment at Valley Forge.

“Sir, I am under the painful necessity of informing you that the situation of the army is most critical…. The troops have not had supplies of (meat) for four days and many of them have been much longer without. I must entreat you Sir to give all the assistance in your power, to promote this very important and interesting work.”

Washington and Hollingsworth would correspond again in 1781 as The General moved his forces south from New York to Yorktown, Virginia where those forces, together with those of the French, would defeat the British, thus ending our Revolutionary War, signaling the independence from Great Britain of our “free and independent states.”

Coat of ArmsHollingsworth’s Revolutionary War service started before the shooting began with his appointment to the Maryland Committee of Safety, a quasi interim government for Maryland between the fall of the Royal government and the establishment of the new United States. According to the Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, edited by John W. Jordan, once the war began, Colonel Hollingsworth was “commissioned January 3, 1776 as Lieutenant Colonel of the Elk battalion of Cecil County militia….” As deputy Quartermaster General, Hollingsworth was best at “organizing, equipping and forwarding much needed recruits, looking after the forwarding and furnishing supplies for the troops in the field….”

While he didn’t, Col. Hollingsworth could have been quite the name dropper as he had correspondence with a number of Revolutionary War characters including: Patrick Henry, Generals Lafayette, Nathaniel Green, Horatio Gates, and of course, General Washington himself.

Toward the end of the war, in 1780, Hollingsworth was accused of forgery and was investigated by the Maryland Assembly. In July, Hollingsworth was cleared of all charges.

After the war, Hollingsworth maintained correspondence with President and then private citizen, Washington. In March of 1798, less than 2 years before the General’s death, Hollingsworth sent a sample of wool manufactured at his Cecil County mill to Washington saying he thought such manufacturing would “further establish our independence by if possible as I could not think we ware Independent and while we are beholding to Britain or any other country for half we eat, drink, and ware….” Washington liked the wool cloth.

“The cloth is of an exceeding good texture, and well dyed; and I am persuaded will ware well…. The United States will be independent in name only, until essential arts and manufacturies (sic) are so established in them….”

HouseHollingsworth lived in what is now called Partridge Hall in Elkton where his descendants also lived well into the 20th century.

Documents and letters to and from Henry Hollingsworth reside at the Historical Society of Cecil County in the Gilpin Papers which are available for research. A finding aid for the papers can be accessed through this link http://cecilhistory.org/aids/gilpin.html

Today, as we celebrate and observe the birth of our Constitution, we also remember the birthday of our own Col. Henry Hollingsworth, who was born on this date in 1737.

“Imperishable Glory!”

Both letters This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British Naval forces during the War of 1812. Cecil County’s own Judge Thomas Jefferson Sample, who was a boy of 12 at the time, later expressed his thoughts on the battle as he experienced it living in far away Cecil County. He conveyed that account through an editorial, sent to the Cecil Whig in July of 1880. Attached is the portion of the editorial as it pertains to Fort. McHenry.

One of the persons Judge Sample (pictured here as portrayed by Mike Collins in April of 2013 at Historic Elk Landing) mentions in his editorial is one CoMike Collins as Samplel. Richard (Dick) Heath who, like Judge Sample, was a native of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Col. Heath gained notoriety 2 years prior to the bombardment during the media riots, also in Baltimore, in July of 1812. According to the October, 2011 Military Heritage magazine article “Intelligence” by Blaine Taylor, Heath was then a Major. Taylor writes that Heath’s 5th Maryland Volunteers were called to Baltimore to help quell rioting crowds who were trying to attack the editors of a Federalist newspaper along with their defenders. The newspaper was critical of the War of 1812. The Federalists were taken to a Baltimore jail for their safety. However, the crowds eventually broke into the jail; beat the hapless Federalists, some nearly to death. A local physician finally shamed the crowd into letting their victims go. Among the beaten was Revolutionary War hero, “Light Horse” Harry Lee of Virginia; the father of future Confederate General, Robert E. Lee.