The Society is closed Monday, May 27, 2013, for Memorial Day.
As the end of the school year nears, the Society Librarian, Carol Donache, reports that we are again hearing from CecilCounty students who have been assigned history research projects. It’s always exciting to see these young scholars enhance their academic skills and prepare for college by exploring Cecil’s past. The annual piece of fieldwork these advanced placement high school students undertake requires extensive, independent research of historical subjects using primary sources.
Carol reminds AP history teachers that the library is open on Monday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be open Saturday, June 1, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, she is willing to open the library during special hours for class groups if teachers think that will facilitate the fieldwork of these young scholars.
Email the Society to let Carol know about your interest and she will be in touch with you to finalize arrangements.
Since sold out crowds packed the opening performances of War of 1812 walking tours in Charlestown last August, the show returned for a second run this past Sunday.
The past week marked the passage of 200 years since the enemy occupied the water and shoreline of the Upper Chesapeake. And to recall those frightening days in Cecil County, the “footsteps in history” walking tours took place in Charlestown on Sunday evening May 5th. On the dramatic one-hour strolls into the past, the audience met people who lived, labored, and defended Cecil County during the War of 1812.
Since we had five rivers, our communities were exposed to the marauding British Navy and Marines and spots where combat took place were generally plundered and put to the match. Seldom told tales emerged out of these alarming times as the Heritage Troupe performed scenes, presenting old-timers who were around centuries ago. While the group ambled along attractive colonial era streets on the beautiful spring evening, they heard thrilling firsthand accounts about struggles and triumphs, the brave defense of our homes, war heroes, and accounts of everyday people, days when we were on the frontline of the war.
The show was a crowd pleaser. As people slowly departed following each stroll, patrons walked up to the performers to let them know how much they had enjoyed the living history performance. One men remarked that he attended War of 1812 bicentennial events in Canada, around the nation, and the Chesapeake and he found these performances most engaging and informative. “The excitement of your interpreters in delivering their parts was so compelling,” he mentioned to event organizers.
This special bicentennial event, “Footsteps from the Past” walking tour, opened last year to a sold out crowd. The proceeds benefit the Historical Society and Colonial Charlestown. Generous support of these local nonprofit heritage groups was provided by the Wellwood Club, the President and Commissioners of Charlestown, Cecil County Tourism, and the Heritage Troupe.
The Society thanks everyone for their support as our volunteers bring 21st century public history programming to Cecil County. These programs would not have been possible without the eager support of our partners.
In the fall of 1862, The Rev. Joseph T. Brown volunteered to serve as chaplain of the 6th Maryland Volunteers. On his arrival in camp near Williamsport, Maryland, Brown wrote to his family in Cherry Hill, Cecil County, “I took from my pocket yesterday the apple that Rebecca Carter gave me and as soon as I saw it the Sabbath School came to my mind and then what do you think came next, the tear in my eye and then this morning when I was unpacking my trunk I found the jelly treat little Lue Gilmor gave me and then I turned child again but I must stop I can scarcely see the line. Love to you all.”’
That’s just one example of the human side of the war that pitted brother against brother and father against son, the American Civil War. One hundred and fifty years ago, Rev. Brown not only wrote many letters home, but kept 2 war time diaries, including one he wrote while a prisoner of war at the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Now, for the first time, the diaries are available on-line, thanks to the efforts of the University of Delaware’s College of Arts and SciencesInterdisciplinaryHumanitiesResearchCenter and the History Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta.
Earlier this year, the original diaries were electronically scanned and placed on line. The students are in the process of transcribing these hand written diaries, so everyone may read them. Dr. Kasey Grier, director of the Museum Studies Program and the HistoryMediaCenter at the University of Delaware, says the transcription will be done by students in a process called “Crowd Sourcing.”
“Crowd Sourcing,” according to Dr. Grier, “is when students in remote locations, review the hand written text and try their hand at transcribing it. They then submit their contributions which are reviewed and put up on line. Eventually, all of the 2 hand written diaries will be available for anyone to access and read.”
Dr. Grier says the “Crowd Sourcing” idea is being taken a step further on Monday evening by turning the project into a party. “On Monday, April 8th from 4 -8 pm we will be holding a transcription party in the History Conference Room, room 236 of John Munroe Hall in Newark. This is designed as an ‘open house’ to allow History undergraduates and grad students to stop in and have hands on time with the transcription software, ‘FromThePage,’ and to try their hand at transcribing the diary. As we initially opened the project to the History Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta,” Dr. Grier says, “we are now opening the project to the entire History Department. We will be working collaboratively on the white board, as well as have ‘transcription stations’ set up in the room.”
Historical Society of Cecil County Operations Manager, Mike Dixon, says the society welcomes this collaboration with the University of Delaware and hopes to strengthen it because it broadens the society’s horizons and reach. “The University’s focus is in the area of the digital humanities, which allows us to take largely unused and un-accessed collections and get the material out to a broader audience for study. It is also a preservation method in that it reduces the handling and makes interpretation much easier.”
The University’s Brown diary project web site will be linked to the historical society’s Civil War web page for anyone with an interest and a computer to read and even try their hand at transcribing the documents.
The Society’s Civil War Exhibit “Choose Ye This day,” opened to a packed house as 80 people turned out this Saturday afternoon. While showcasing artifacts, letters, photographs and other manuscripts connected with the conflict, it also included living history performances. The Civil War Chaplain, the Rev. Joseph Brown, talked about his capture by the rebels, time at Libby Prison, and returning home to Cherry Hill. The interpretation was presented by the Rev. Hubert Jicha. The Heritage Troupe added to the production by performing selected skits. We will have a full article on the successful exhibit opening mounted by our curator, Lisa Dolor, next week.
As the region celebrates the 200th anniversary of the British attack on the Upper Chesapeake during the War of 1812 some old-timers that have been around for centuries are going to roam around Charlestown, once again. While they meander streets and gather in small clusters in the beautiful river town, these centuries’ old residents will share stories about what it was like to face the all too real threat of pillaging, burning and looting by the English right here in Cecil County.This special bicentennial event, “Footsteps from the Past” walking tour, opened last year to a sold out crowd. So be sure to get your tickets early for this popular activity that will find history enthusiasts ambling through the streets of Charlestown, along attractive pathways of the well-preserved historic district on the shore of the North East River.
The audience will pause at selected spots to hear first-hand, dramatic stories about the time the second war with Britain came to Elkton, Frenchtown, Fredericktown, Principio and Charlestown. In between stops, the broader historical narrative about troubling times on the Chesapeake and in the county will be shared. Once dusk descends on the charming community, lanterns are going to help chase away the lengthening shadows as the group heads back to its starting point, the Wellwood Club.
This year’s event in Colonial Charlestown steps off at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. on May 5, 2013. But after last year’s event that attracted 125 people, event organizers have scaled things back a little in order to provide better viewing and listening during performances. Each walk is limited to 50 strollers and the cost is $10 in advance through the Wellwood Club or $12 at the door. The proceeds benefit the Historical Society and Colonial Charlestown. Generous support of these local nonprofit heritage groups is provided by the Wellwood Club, the President and Commissioners of Charlestown, Cecil County Tourism, and the Heritage Troupe.
As the Society prepares to open the Civil War exhibit and rollout a virtual resource library for research related to the conflict, we are sharing some of our earlier publications about these times. This article is reprinted from the May 1987 Newsletter
By George Kaehn, Jr.
The Reverend Joseph T. Brown was born in Cecil County, between Elkton and Glasgow, Delaware, on January 4th, 1810. At the age of fourteen he was placed with John Kennedy of Newark, Delaware, a shoemaker, with whom he served for seven years to learn that trade. In 1832, he opened a shop in Cherry Hill, Maryland, and began in business for himself.
He was married April 9, 1835, to Miss Millicent J. Simpers, daughter of William and Sarah (Elliott) Simpers. Six children were born of this marriage. Mr. Brown was converted while a young man, and united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he was a faithful minister for the remainder of his life. At the quarterly conference held at Cherry Hill on November 22, 1834, he was licensed to exhort, and at Newark, Delaware, on January 17, 1846, he was licensed as a local preacher. On January 13, 1849, he was recommended to the Annual Conference for Deacon’s Orders, and two years later he was ordained an Elder. Mr. Brown as a pious man and a studious and conscientious preacher. While engaged in shoemaking he frequently occupied the pulpit of the church of which he was a member, as well as elsewhere, and was frequently called upon to preach at funerals.
In October, 1862, he was commissioned Chaplain of the 6th Maryland Volunteer Infantry, of which Colonel George R. Howard was commanding ofﬁcer. On June 15, 1863, Chaplain Brown was captured at Winchester, Virginia, and taken to Libby Prison in Richmond, where he was conﬁned for nearly four months. During his imprisonment at Libby the Confederate authorities ordered the execution of two Union officers in reprisal for the execution of a Confederate spy by the Federal Army, and Chaplain Brown was designated to draw the lots (mentioned in his prison diary), as a result of which Captain Sawyer of the 1st New Jersey, and Captain Flynn, of the 51st Indiana, were selected to be hanged. The execution, however, was never carried out.
The seven chaplains who were associated with Mr. Brown in Libby set a regular time to meet and pray for their release. Their prayers were answered, for on October 6th an order was given for the exchange of the seven Federal Chaplains for seven Southern ones, and at three o’clock the next day they were passed out the prison doors. Mr. Brown’s family had not been informed of his release, and upon his arrival in Washington he sent a telegram to James S. Crawford, of Elkton, reading, “I will be on the evening train.” When the train arrived in Elkton, his son, Joseph G. Brown, was at the depot waiting to take him home.
On arriving at Cherry Hill about ten o’clock on Saturday night, October 10th, he found, the entire village illuminated and a great number of people congregated in and about his house. The next day, being Sunday, he went to church and preached, and at the conclusion of the service sang a hymn which he had learned from Chaplain McCabe while in Libby Prison.
He returned to his regiment, where he remained until February 15,1864, when he was mustered out of service. He then returned to his home in Cherry Hill, but his health was greatly impaired by the hardships he had endured in prison, and on the battleﬁeld, and he died on May 8th, 1865, in his 56th year. He was buried in Cherry Hill Cemetery, and a marble shaft was erected over his grave by the citizens of the community to attest the respect in which he was held.
Reverend Brown kept a daily diary during his prison stay, and also shortly before his capture. Some of his diary reads as follows:
Saturday, June 11th. In the morning left Berryville in a hurry. Rebels at us. Attacked at Opequan, beat them back. Arrived at Winchester at 10 of night. One meal today.
Sunday, June 12th. Skirmishing beginning at 8 and lasted all day until evening. Terrible ﬁghting until 1/z past 8 at night. Slept at farm house.
Monday, June 15th. Taken prisoner in the morning. Marched to a fort, picked up a testament and green blanket. Nearly 200 prisoners at the fort. Nothing to eat all day, but bread once. The Rebels out-ﬂanked our retreat and captured a large number.
Tuesday, June 16th. No rations but a cup of coffee. Called out at 10, marched down to Winchester and quartered at the Court House.
Wednesday,; June 17th. 1/ 2 loaf of bread today for our rations. Chaplain Ambler of the 67th Pa. prayed this morning with the officers. Chaplain Ambler and I were ordered to report to the Provost Marshall. Quartered at the Laylar Hotel. Hospital Chaplain McRale of the 122 Ohio and Harry of 110 Ohio and Eberhard of 87th Pa. and Mercer, 67th Pa. quartered together. Our officers left at 1/2 past 4 for Richmond, 106 in all. 380 of our Wounded had two meals today. Bread, tea, and two potatoes for dinner.
Thursday, June 18th. 6 dead men carried in wagons to be buried. Had sour bread and tea for breakfast. Went down to the bakery. Not a loaf of bread. Paid 25¢ for a little tea.
Friday, June 19th. Confederates bring in 300 prisoners today. They were in the court yard. Can get no reliable news of what IS going on in the Army. Two dead were carried out today.
Saturday, June 20th. Three men are carried out. About 10 o’clock called out to go to Richmond. About ll we took up the line of march. The surgeons and chaplains in the front. 400 prisoners were marched to 1- town.
Sunday, June 21. Very unwell. Took cup of coffee and paid 75¢ for bed and breakfast. Left at 6 o’clock in the morning. Marched 1 hour. The commanding officer loaned me a horse. Passed through Newton and Strasburgh. Camped at Tones Brook. Had bread and meat for dinner. Laid on the ﬂoor with my green blanket.
Tuesday, June 23. Rode to New Market on horseback. Called in by a lady who gave me two cups of tea, bread and butter. Gave me some bread and butter to take with me, and rode within three miles of Harrisonburg. The column encamped in the woods. Four of us Chaplains stopped in a private family cave. Widow woman, strong Rebel laid on floor, had no supper, treated very coolly by the family. The lady and one of the Chaplains got into an argument over the war. I interfered and told them it was lost labors. I interfered again between Chaplains and the man of the house. I asked for milk but she said she had none. I saw milk cows in the yard, but said nothing.
Thursday, June 25. We stopped at the Virginia Hotel. Paid $5.00 for supper and lodging. Took cars for Richmond. A great crowd followed us to the Libby Prison. Our money was all taken from us, and receipt given. Very much crowded. Laid on the ﬂoor all night. No supper. Borrowed an overcoat from Doctor Patton to cover me during the night.
Friday, June 26. It is very unpleasant place to me. The smell of the water closet, the smoke of so many pipes is disagreeable.
Monday, June 29. The citizens were armed yesterday and marched about the city. Rations very scarce this morning. Divided my bread with Bro. Brady. Bread and coffee for breakfast.
Wednesday, July 1. We had hoped that we would be sent off this morning by a truce, but as yet the future is all in the dark. We have no privileges; not allowed to put our heads through the windows. A hundred prisoners went off today. When our turn will come, cannot say.
Thursday, July 2. One doctor left this morning with the exchange prisoners. Prayers conducted this morning by Bro. Hanes. The papers have published him this morning for having sent a slave girl from Winchester. He will be handed over to the authorities. Our prospects are very dark with regards to future. Still we are in good spirits.
Monday, July 6. The chaplains were all called down below, and then three chaplains, Rev. Mr. McCabe, 122 Ohio; Rev. Mr. Brady, 116 Ohio; and myself of the 6th Md. were selected to draw the lots. The painful duty fell on me, and I drew in the midst of awful solemnity, Capt. Sawyer of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry and Capt. Flinn of the 51 Indiana. These gentlemen are to be executed in lieu of two officers that were executed in Kentucky.
Thursday, July 9. News of the fall of Vicksburg. News good from Army in Pa. and Md.
Sunday, July 12. Am very sick this morning. Up all night. Bro. Ambler and I request to be sent to hospital. Between 50 and 60 sick and wounded in our room.
Monday, July 13. Took a little whiskey to strengthen me.
Tuesday, July 14. Pain in my breast not so bad. Very quiet in the room but a great noise over us. 200 prisoners in the room above us left for their homes.
Wednesday, July 15. Was taken prisoner four weeks today. Never had the trials like the last four weeks. I long to be released.
Sunday, July 19. I long to be free. 180 officers arrived yesterday from Gettysburg. .
Saturday, July 25. A man jumped out of the wagon crazy.
Monday, July 27. The man whose leg was taken off Saturday. Also a man with typhoid fever. One died downstairs.
Saturday, August 15. Taken prisoner 2 months today. Am improving in health.
Thursday, August 20. Good news. Papers say ﬂag of truce on the way to city. A number of the sick left on the boat.
Friday, August 28. Wake up at 3 o’clock by the city bells giving the alarm the Federal Army 18 miles from here. Great excitement. No paper given us this morning. Our release soon doubtful. 600 prisoners sent away today.
NOTE: The diary of Joseph T Brown is in the possession of the Historical Society.
It’s never been easier to keep up with local history and genealogy news as the Historical Society of Cecil County leverages the power of social media outlets to instantly share the latest happenings, research tips, photographs, and stories about the past. Cecil’s legacy keepers have embraced a full cluster of these valuable, ever-growing web 2.0 products to connect with the local heritage audience. And it’s so much more than yet another mass media outlet, as it is also a place for digital conservations with Society volunteers and our readers as we connect, interact, and network while sharing dialogue about earlier times.
The volunteer heritage group, which has seen a dramatic increase in the use of these resources, has many ways for you to connect with us. One of the best is by subscribing to the Society’s history blog. On the right side of the weblog you will find a subscribe widget. Enter your email address and hit submit. After that you will receive periodic updates, whenever we post something. You may always automatically unsubscribe at any time.
If you’re interested in quicker heritage updates join the 750 people who like us and converse with us on Facebook. Also don’t forget our Tweeter, Pinterest and YouTube pages. In the digital age, these web 2.0 product makes it easier than ever for heritage organizations to communicate broadly and distribute content far beyond the walls of the institution.
In the months and years ahead our goal is to deliver even more information through web 2.0 products as our social media editor, Kyle Dixon, works Cecil’s history beat. In addition we have some great plans for digitization and podcasts. But be sure to follow us through these web resources as our volunteers turn to today’s technology to deliver the past.
The Society has been at the forefront of adopting new media technologies for sharing information since the mid-1990s. It was a spring day in 1996, back when the Internet was new and a less critical part of everyday life, that we created a presence for Cecil’s past on the net. Beginning with that first generation site eighteen years ago, virtual visitors have been able to read articles from our newsletter, find information about the Society, and send e-mail queries on genealogy and local history. Over time, our virtual home, which is open around-the-clock, has grown as we’ve added more digital content. Five years ago we started blogging, four years ago we joined Facebook, and 24 in 2011 the Society started tweeting. In this age of information abundance it is our ways to reach broader audiences directly with news from the Society.
Serving as the county’s heritage keepers is something we’ve been doing for over 80 years now, especially as we care for the largest collection of county research materials available in any repository. Now we’re adding additional 21st century methods to make materials available to a wider audience far beyond the walls of the institution.
As the nation observes the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the Historical Society of Cecil County has mounted an informative local exhibit that examines that terrible conflict through the lens of local history. This attractive, temporary arrangement by curator Lisa Dolor opens on Saturday, April 6th at 2:00 p.m. at the Cecil County History and Genealogy Library, 135 E. Main Street, Elkton.
Taking a war in your backyard approach, it contemplates how rapidly unfolding national events tore the nation apart and deeply affected our home-front, as young men marched off to fight in distant places. Locally it created broken families as loved ones fought and died, political decisions disrupted friendships, and everyone sacrificed in so many untold ways. All of these subjects and more are examined in the exhibit and in a series of supporting programs offered in the months ahead.
Formally titled “Choose Ye this Day” the displays includes maps, photographs, diaries, letters, newspapers and local relics and artifacts that allow visitors to consider the local perspective while enhancing their personal understanding of this landmark period. Presenting multiple local perspectives, Dolor noted that the displays have been divided into four parts, telling the Cecil story about the military, political matters, home life, and religion. “We want visitors to have a better understanding of the role Cecil County played during the war,” the designer noted as the interpretations and displayed artifacts bring the conflict home.
The war in your backyard approach will enable those interested in the sesquicentennial to connect local narratives to the broader perspective of the nation’s story. At the event opening, there will be a living history performance as the old Civil War vet and Methodist Minister, the Rev. Joseph Brown of Cherry Hill travels back through time to greet visitors. Played by the Rev. Hubert Jicha of the North East United Methodist Church, who has worked with the soldiers diaries, he will share stories about service in the Union Army and time in Libby Prison. The Society is also using digital technology as it has partnered with the University of Delaware to create a virtual copy of those diaries that will also be exhibited.
The Society is pleased to share the experiences of Cecil Countians during to Civil War as it draws on original, rare materials from the period, which allows visitors to reflect on the local experiences.
The Society was pleased to present a lecture examining the historical trends, developments, and patterns related to economic development in the county since its founding in the 17th century for the Cecil Leadership Institute. A partnership of the College, Chamber of Commerce, and the Office of Economic Development, the institute seeks to create future leaders by providing participants with the opportunity to gain insights, skills and knowledge that strengthen leadership abilities.
So two weeks ago we sat down with 16 future leaders from the Class of 2013 and talked about county heritage from the perspective of business development. What is it in these modern times that have influenced our present physical, natural, economic, and political environment? To answer at least some parts of that complicated question, one that involves complex interactions of many variables, we suggested the intermingling of a number of dynamics and historical stages.
It always starts with location as geography is a primary shaper of human events. It determines where people live, how growth occurs, what the transportation and manufacturing patterns are, and so much more. From that perspective, Cecil’s century’s long journey through time always has had us located on the highways of the past. The routes evolved, however, as water gave way to railroads and the locomotive eventually yielded to highways.
In a few generations, the industrial and transportation revolutions dramatically changed the nature of things. Old streams and creeks provided production power in the pre-electrification era and turnpikes, canals, and railroads, soon traversed the county. As electrification occurred, the application of technologies using power greatly increased the manufacturing base.
The 20th century was the age of the automobile. After World War I popular destination spots sprouted up on our rivers. And in that era before air conditioning people jumped in the automobile to get out of the city as the cooling waters of Cecil beckoned. The story of the automobile continued as a central theme with the opening of Route 40 and I-95.
There were other public policy variables to be considered. Sometimes it was national emergencies such as World War II, which affected the economic development as some 12,000 manufacturing workers were absorbed in Elkton, a town of about 3,000. In the post war era, government public policy was a subject for consideration as zoning ordinances were implemented and comprehensive plans adopted.
There was much more, of course, to this complex subject, but it was a fascinating discussion as a group learned about some of the elements that have shaped Cecil’s political and economic development over time. And we were pleased to share with Cecil’s future leaders some of the variables affecting economic development as well as some of the resources we have to help the business community.