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The homes of such influential figures as Thomas Ringgold and Thomas Smyth still stand today. These men and their colleagues would become significant players in the American Revolution. Chestertown became a Colonial center of cultural activity as well as trade. Purse and cup horse races were staged in fall and spring. Horse racing was a popular Colonial sport, drawing large crowds from surrounding towns with some people traveling from as far away as Philadelphia to enjoy the festivities.
Dress balls were held in which both ladies and gentleman appeared in the latest elegant fashions. A portrait of the Colonial society can be found in the letters of Molly and Henrietta Tilghman of Chestertown, written in the s. All property owners were now taxed quantities of tobacco for the support of the Anglican Church and its clergy. On the eve of the Revolution, the required oath of allegiance by Anglican clergy to the British Crown caused obvious difficulties for the church. William Smith, the founder of Washington College and rector at Chester Parish now Emmanuel Church played a leading role in a series of conventions of Maryland clergy held in Chestertown, Baltimore and Annapolis in the s, from which the Protestant Episcopal Church emerged.
At the same time, Methodism was on the rise on the Eastern Shore.
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The Quakers had been called to free their slaves as early as Later, Methodists would turn their back on the abolitionist movement as entrenched bigotry began to cause their membership to decline. Meanwhile, African American Methodists established their own churches.
Bedingfield Hands House, Godlington Manor, c. White House Farm, Marrowbone, c. Buck-Bacchus Store, c. Huntingfield or Ellendale , White Swan Tavern, c. Violet Farm, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Wallis-Wickes House, c. The Cadwalader Epilogue — Benjamin Kohl. These acts were repealed, only to be replaced by more fees and restrictions on trade imposed under the Townshend Acts and Tea Act. Soon after, the First Maryland Convention established Committees of Correspondence and Observation in each county to organize militia units and assure compliance with non-importation and non-exportation agreements.
By July 4th, the Maryland Council of Safety became the ruling body in Maryland, and moderate leaders had persuaded others to support independence. At the end of the Revolution, Americans had won their independence, but not without sacrifice and struggle which continued into the post-war years.
On May 13, , six months after the Boston tea party, a number of prominent Kent County men gathered at a local tavern to respond to the Tea Act. In their view, the tea tax was calculated to enslave the Americans, and they pledged that any citizen found importing or purchasing dutiable tea would be stigmatized as an enemy of the liberties of America.
Further measures are in contemplation, in consequence of a late and very alarming act of parliament. She had arrived from London on May 7.
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Their mission was to share information with similar committees throughout the colonies, and work toward the repeal of the despised parliamentary acts. No documentation has been uncovered to definitively support this, although it is possible that there was a ceremonial dumping of the tea. The Delmarva Peninsula supplied as much as one-fifth of the wheat and flour and one-half of the corn received in Philadelphia in Wheat shipments from the Chester River district equaled those of the entire western shore above Annapolis, and Chestertown alone exported two and one-half times more wheat than what was produced on the rest of the Eastern Shore.
The Continental Army made heavy demands on Maryland farmers for ships, boats and wagons to transport men and supplies. Each county additionally was responsible for organizing and outfitting militia companies to protect against invasion and to support the Continental Army. The Council of Safety feared that an attack would take place before they were fully prepared and that communication via the Chesapeake Bay between the Eastern and Western Shores might be cut off.
As a member of the Committee of Observation, Thomas Smyth spent considerable time contracting with local suppliers for the militia. Fortunately, Chestertown had numerous skilled craftsmen eager to assist the war effort and profit as well. Food, salt, tent fabric, even arms and ammunition were in short supply and when available, these items were costly.
There was little cash available for purchases and most citizens were skeptical of state paper money. Supplies sent out by ship also risked being seized by British vessels plying the Bay and Atlantic coast. For this reason, merchants and militia commissaries alike hailed the formation of the Maryland State Navy, which went into service by the end of Although Kent County was never the site of conflict during the American Revolution, it produced more than its share of Revolutionary heroes.
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Washington, in recognition of their gallant performance, included the remaining Maryland men in his rear guard where they covered the evacuation of the American force. Smyth financially supported the cause of Revolution at the expense of his own financial stability. When he finally did, he ran her aground, and she and her crew were captured by the British. Nevertheless, Nicholson went on to pilot the barge carrying Washington to the inauguration.
As Captain of the 1st Maryland Regiment, he not only saw action in the Campaign of New York and New Jersey, but also became the master of several private vessels that marauded British ships. Young gentlemen could learn navigation, Greek, Latin, arithmetic and mercantile skills at the Kent County Free School, established by law in Charles Peale, the father of artist Charles Willson Peale, was an instructor there during this early period.
The Reverend William Smith, D. In the spring of , he persuaded the State Assembly to charter a seminary of universal learning on the Eastern Shore, and George Washington to sit on its Board.
by Albert Baxter
Washington College became the 10th college in America, and the first to be founded in the newly independent and unified states. Customs House, s. Widehall, Hynson-Ringgold House, s. McHard House, c. Geddes-Piper House, s. Trumpington, c. River House, Washington College, Smith-Ringgold House, c. Radcliffe Cross, c. Simon Wickes House, c. Drayton Manor, John Reid House, c.
Springfield Farm, Chesterville Store, c. Locust Hill Farm, c. Hopkins House, c. Hichingham, c. In order to access this article you will have to contact Washington College, or the C. Starr Center. Schooner Sultana and Colonial History Website of the Schooner Sultana, a reconstructed vessel on which educational programs about colonial history and local ecology are conducted.
Baltimore was now the hub for shipping wheat and other products abroad. The transition from sail to steam enormously enhanced the ability of the Eastern Shore farmers and merchants to send their produce West. In , Chesapeake became the first steamboat to cross from Baltimore to Rock Hall.
By , it was also offering service to Chestertown. Nevertheless, Kent County and the Eastern Shore were in a period of political transition.
Wealthy landowners no longer dominated local politics on the Upper Shore, and a rising class of small farmers, merchants, artisans and laborers sought their own place in government. These tensions came to a head during the War of , but continued through the years leading up to the Civil War. Baltimore emerged as one of the top commercial cities in the United States in the late s thanks to the productive agricultural lands throughout Maryland. But by , the economic tensions with Great Britain that fueled the American Revolution flared again.
Great Britain refused to recognize America as a neutral party in the European war, which led the States to declare an economic boycott that was especially devastating to wealthy farmers. This landed gentry, along with merchants and bankers, dominated the Federalist Party, which opposed the embargo and the war declared in In Kent County, the more egalitarian Republican Party made up of small farmers, merchants, artisans and laborers had risen in popularity after the war, but citizens dreaded the risks of a new war. The threat along the Chesapeake Bay was very real.
By , a British blockade had nearly closed the Bay and ships constantly threatened farms and towns. In May , the British were positioned at the mouth of the Sassafras River and sent a detachment of about men to burn Georgetown and Fredericktown. Kitty Knight kept protesting as the men proceeded to the next house, until finally they left. The heroic Kitty put the fires out and saved the structures that would later be known by her name. The burning of the Capitol in Washington in August sent a wave of anxiety along both shores. Seven miles west of Chestertown, the 21st Maryland Militia under Colonel Phillip Reed was encamped near Fairlee when news reached them that a British frigate and two smaller vessels were headed toward them.
British captain, Sir Peter Parker, had been ordered to prevent the militias from crossing the Bay to defend Baltimore. On August 28th, Parker landed men near the mouth of Fairlee Creek and burned every building on the farm of John Waltham, the wheat in his granary and the stacks in his field. Instead Colonel Reed learned of the surprise attack and was waiting when they arrived.
The two sides met in a field belonging to Isaac Caulk. Over forty British were killed or wounded, with Parker among the dead. Although international trade declined in Kent, thriving mercantile establishments rose in Chestertown to serve the surrounding area. Thomas Eliason, Abel Reese, B. Perkins, Thomas Hynson and William Albert Vickers were among those who advertised clothing, dry goods, groceries, hardware and farming implements in the midth century.
Ladies such as Mary Perkins and Eliza Smith ran millinery shops.
Levi Rogers operated an ice cream saloon, serving oysters and terrapins in season. James Jones earned a reputation for high quality roasts at his grocery and butcher shop. Maria Bracker owned a restaurant offering customers sponge cakes, ice cream and lemonade. Levi Rodgers House, built Rose Hill, c.