An Afternoon in Rhodesdale

Recently my father and I hiked deep into the woods near Rhodesdale, Maryland, in search of the site of my grandmother’s childhood home. Her family rented it in the 1930s, then moved to nearby Hurlock. She recalls visiting the deteriorating house several times during the following decades; at the time of her last visit, probably in the late 1960s, the house had collapsed. During the last couple of years, she had expressed interest in trying to find the site, so I used topographic maps to identify the most likely location, which happens to be on heavily wooded state land. A neighboring landowner was kind enough to share her extensive knowledge of the history of the neighborhood, and led us to what’s left of an old public road; the same road that my grandmother’s older siblings once walked down every day to meet the school bus.

We found the site exactly where I expected to, and although it seems that the house itself was removed long ago, clusters of daffodils and fragments of cinder blocks in partial clearings mark its location.

 

The old public road.

 

Dad investigates clusters of daffodils.

 

A peculiar tree in the largest clearing.

 

An unusual depression.

 

Daffodils in the background of a second clearing.

 

Pieces of cinder blocks in the second clearing; possibly from the house or a shed.

 

– Chris Slavens

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A Work in Progress

About a year and a half ago I became interested in an unusual local burial custom mentioned in a handful of books: The construction of a wooden, shingled roof over a grave. The roofs were already old and in poor condition when they were first photographed in the 1930s, and today, none are known to have survived. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours looking for roofed graves in Sussex, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties — in records and in the field — and although I’ve yet to find a surviving roof, I’ve been rewarded with additional photos and information about the peculiar structures.

Initially I planned to summarize my research in a paper and submit it to an academic journal, but recently I decided to convert the work in progress into a short book, instead. This approach has allowed me to write with a bit more style, and include opinions and hunches which wouldn’t belong in a research paper. I plan to complete The Roofed Graves of Delmarva in the next couple of months, and self-publish a run of about one hundred copies.

The following illustration is a rough draft of a map showing the locations of six cemeteries known to have featured roofed graves. The book will also feature more detailed maps of each site.

– Chris Slavens

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The Beers Atlas and Aerial Imagery

The Pomeroy & Beers Atlas of 1868 is a valuable resource for Delaware researchers, featuring the locations of most houses and their owners’ names, in addition to other important structures like churches, schools, and stores. I’ve often compared the atlas to early topographic maps and aerial photography while researching a particular individual or property, glancing from one to another, but with the help of fairly simple software, images from different sources can be layered and merged, creating a sort of hybrid map.

In the following examples, I’ve overlaid a portion of the Beers Atlas (specifically, a portion of the map of Broad Creek Hundred) over early aerial imagery. In each case, there is a significant gap between the year the map was produced and the year the aerial photograph was taken, but the resulting images are striking nonetheless.

The image above depicts the neighborhood between Lowe’s Crossroads and Little Hill. The photograph is from 1954. Points of interest include the absence of King’s Crossing Road in 1868, and the presence of a road connecting what is now Lowe’s Crossing Road and Carey’s Camp Road. That road still survives as a private dirt lane. “Mrs. N. Timmons” is assumed to be Nancy Timmons, who was—according to census records—100 years old in 1870, but only 60 years old in 1850.

The image above depicts the neighborhood once known as Terrapin Hill, or, more recently, Whaley’s Crossroads. The photograph was taken in 1937. Perhaps the most striking difference is the absence of today’s Route 24 in 1868. Even in 1937, the road was fairly new. Persons of interest include Henry Pepper, Elijah Hudson, William J. West, and Henry Clay Matthews. Henry is probably the southernmost “H. Matthews,” living on the north side of today’s Samuel Hill Road, near the center of the image.

I plan to create more hybrid images of neighborhoods in this part of Sussex County, such as the Old Forge community located east of Laurel, Trap Pond (which will be tricky, since it’s in both Little Creek Hundred and Broad Creek Hundred, and therefore appears at the edge of two maps), Cypress Swamp, and parts of Gumboro.

– Chris Slavens

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Filed under Delaware, Delaware history, Delmarva Geography, Maps, Sussex County

Delaware Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1893

Because of the growing tendency to regard the day set apart for prayer and thanksgiving, as a day for indulgence in riotous living and worldly sports, contrary to the spirit in which the custom originated, many good people are beginning to consider the propriety of its discontinuance unless its observance should come to be characterized, as in times gone by, with the sentiment of true devotion. Every day should be a day in which praise and thanksgiving should ascend from every human heart to God, the author and giver of all good. But in accordance with the proclamation of the President of the United States,

I, Robert J. Reynolds, Governor of the State of Delaware, do hereby set apart THURSDAY, NOVEMBER THIRTIETH, INSTANT, as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God for his many good and perfect gifts bestowed upon us during the past year; and do most earnestly recommend that, on that day, the people of this State lay aside all secular occupations, and in such manner as their consciences may dictate, offer to God their reverent thanksgiving for all his mercies and pray for a continuance of Divine favor.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the great seal of the State to be hereunto affixed, at Dover, this seventh day of November, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-three, and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and eighteenth.

Robert J. Reynolds

 

Governor Robert J. Reynolds

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The McCready-Hurley Ledger: Confederate Price List, 1865

The following list of prices appears in the McCready-Hurley Ledger after the official Confederate records, and immediately after a list of notable dates in history (including the dates of many Civil War battles, but also older events like Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, the birth of William Penn, and the Battle of Trafalgar). The latest year listed is 1863, although the preceding official records begin in 1864.

It’s unclear when this list was compiled, or why. Meshack McCready’s journal entries dated 1867 begin two pages later. The evacuation mentioned is assumed to be the evacuation of Richmond in April 1865. The placement of some of the periods/decimals is unclear in a couple of places, appearing under the numbers rather than between them. I confess that I don’t know much about Confederate currency, and am unsure about how to read a couple of these prices, but I’ve transcribed them as written, adding only the colon between each item and the corresponding price.

Note the distinction between sweet potatoes and “Irsh” (Irish) potatoes.

Confederate list of Prices in 1865 just before the evacuation

broad cloth per yard     :     $2..50..00

Silk per yard     :      1..00.00

Home Spun wolen Cloth per yard     :      50..00

Cotton Cloth per yard     :     25..00

Boots per pair     :     800..00

Shoes per pair     :     400..00

Felt hats A peis     :     300..00

Socks and home knit gloves per pair     :     25..00

Groceries , Sugar     :     25..00

Coffee     :     50..00

Flower per barrel     :     1..4..00..00

Corn meal per bushel     :     1..25..00

Corn per Barrel     :     5..25..00

Cabages per head     :     1500

Bacon per pound     :     25..00

Beef per pound     :     20..00

Fresh Shad A peice     :     75..00

Herings per Dozen     :     25..00

Sturgeon per pound     :     10..00

Sweet potatoes per quart     :     10..00

Irsh potatoes per quart     :     5..00

Aples per barrel green     :     2..50..00

Aples Dried per bushel     :     1..50..00

Peaches Dried per bushel     :     2..75..00

Peaches green 12 per Dos     :     12..00

Turnips per bushel     :     80..00

Shirts p A peace     :     200..00

While these numbers might not mean much to us today (particularly since they’re in Confederate dollars rather than U.S. dollars), presumably they indicate runaway inflation, and would have been astonishing to the Virginians of the time.

– Chris Slavens

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Filed under Confederacy, McCready-Hurley Ledger, Virginia, War Between the States

The McCready-Hurley Ledger: “A Pleasant Romance,” story fragment

The following short story fragment appears in the McCready-Hurley Ledger amidst pages of penmanship practice and hymn lyrics. It’s unclear whether the writer was copying an existing story, or writing an original draft. I’ve searched Google for several specific phrases to see if the material was published, with no luck. Some of the periods might represent commas.

A Pleasant Romance

On the evening of the 27 of January 1869. We all assembled at our new home Chery Hill Va. We. I say we for there was 9 of us the old servants not indentured. Oh what a mery time we had we left our old home in Md on the 22nd and was on the Boat near a week and when we did get on land again we were Delighted. But what pleased us most was when we arrived at the Hill, there stood the Great Old House in all its Granduer the Lofty Elms spreading forth [thear?] Magnificen Branches in silen

Sadly, the story ends mid-word, but even so, these few sentences are fascinating. Today there is a Cherry Hill Road in Northumberland County, Virginia, fairly close to places mentioned in Meshack McCready’s journal entries such as Burgess Store and Heathsville. This fact, plus the reference to “Md” (Maryland), plus the trip on the boat, plus the fact that both Meshack McCready and the Hurley family were from Dorchester County, Maryland, strongly suggests that this fragment was intended to be a firsthand account of somebody’s trip across the Chesapeake Bay to Cherry Hill, or perhaps a fictional story based on it. The reference to “old servants not indentured” is especially interesting.

An article in the Rappahannock Record dated October 21, 1948, mentions a historic home called Cherry Hill which was believed to have been built nearly three centuries earlier by Roger Jones.

Despite some spelling errors, the writer obviously had talent; his or her image of the grand old house and its lofty elms is striking. Hopefully, further study of the ledger and the family who owned it will shed more light on this tantalizing piece of writing and its relationship to their story.

– Chris Slavens

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The McCready-Hurley Ledger: Meshack McCready’s Weather Journal

Previously I shared a number of journal entries written by Meshack McCready between 1867 and 1872; they focused primarily on his walk with God, and the happenings at his local church in Northumberland County, Virginia. The McCready-Hurley Ledger also contains a weather journal covering several months in 1867. (Since the entries begin after a page of spiritual journal entries dated December 1867, initially I assumed that he had made the same mistake we’ve all made one day or another, and wrote the old year on the first day of the new one. However, since the days of the week are also noted, it’s easy to confirm that the series of entries is dated correctly.) McCready was 39 at the time.

A conjecture of the weather for the year 1867

Tuesday January 1th There is snow on the ground to the depth of six inches and is cloudy all day with mist of rain and snow all day with freezing and sleet

Wensday 2th It has snowed to day and is still cloudy with the wind N W

Thursday 3 Clear and worm this morning but cloudy and cold this evening

Friday 4th It is clear and worm over head today and the snow is melting very fast

Saturday 5th Clear and worm wind S. Snow melting

Sunday 6 Clear and worm wind S. W.

Monday 7 Cloudy and cool wind N. W.

Tuesday 8 It is cloudy to day N. W. snow to night

Wensday 9th It is clear and worm and the wind S. snow melting

Thursday 10th It is cloudy all day. North wind.

Friday 11 Clear to day

Saturday 12 Clear and warm this morning

Sunday 13 Snow this morning but clear this evening

Monday 14 Snow all day to day wind N. W.

Tuesday 15 Snow this morning but clear this evening

Wensday 16 Clear and cold here to day Wind S.

Thursday 17 Clear and very cold to day Wind W.

Friday 18 It is clear and cold here to day wind N. W.

Saturday 19 Clear and cold

Sunday 20 It is snowing very fast all day to to day and rain and blewing to night

Monday 21 Cloudy with plenty of snow to day

Tuesday 22 Clear and cold to day wind N. W.

Wensday 23 Clear and cold to day wind N. W.

Thursday 24 It is clear and moderate this morning it has been worm to day clear and cold hear to night wind N. W.

Friday 25 Cloudy and worm the snow is melting to day

Saturday 26 Cloudy and worm to day here but clear and cold to night wind N. W.

Sunday 27 Clear and moderate this morning

Monday 28 Clear and cold here to day wind N. W.

Tuesday 29 Clear and cold and freezing all day N W

Wensday 30th Clear and cold and wind N. W. in the morning and N. E. in the evening

Thursday 31th Cloudy with some snow this morning but clear and worm this evening Wind S.

February 1 1867 Friday It is smokey and very worm and it is thawing very much to day here

Saturday 2th Cloudy with rain and very worm and smokey with a general thaw wind S.

Sunday 3th Cloudy and worm wind S. and S. W. and W. and North West

Monday 4th It is cloudy and worm to day the ice in the river broke yesterday being 37 days that it has been frozen over this winter

Tuesday 5th Clear and worm to day Wind W. N. W. N. I have been spliting rails for the last two days itis the first towards farming we have don this year

Wensday 6th Clear and worm to day wind N. W.

Friday 8th It has rained all day wind N. E. the sun has not been seen here to day

Saturday 9th It has rained all day and late this evening it rained very fast wind S. S. W. and W.

Sunday 10th Clear and cold to day and freezing very hard and the wind blowing a gale from North. N. W.

Monday 11th Clear and cold to day. Wind N. W

Tuesday 12 Clear and worm wind S and S. E.

Wensday 13th Clear and worm this morning cloudy and worm this evening Wind E. S. E.

Thursday 14 Clear and very worm to day but cloudy to night Wind. S. E.

Friday 15th It has rained all day to day wind blowing from North East N. E.

Saturday 16th It is cloudy and smokey with some rain Wind North East but west to night

Sunday 17 Clear windy and worm Wind N. W.

Monday 18th Cloudy and worm Wind S East

Tuesday 19th Clear and worm this morning wind South. Cloudy and worm this evening wind S. E.

Wensday 20th It snowed some last night but has rained this morning wind east and it is cloudy and windy this evening and and to night wind N. E.

Thursday 21th Cloudy and rainy all day to day wind N. E. this morning and West this evening and blowing hard and raining to night

Friday 22th Cloudy and windy this morning clear and windy this evening Wind N. W.

Saturday 23 Cloudy and cold this morning Wind E Clear and pleasant this evening Wind E

Sunday 24th Cloudy and looks very much like rain this morning wind South East it has rained this evening wind N. W.

Monday 25 Cloudy and rainy to day Wind S. E.

Tuesday 26th Clear and worm to day Wind N. W.

Wensday 27th Clear and worm Wind N

Thursday 28th Cloudy and windy and cool Wind S. E

Friday March 1th It is rained all day to day there has been a big fall of water with the wind South east

Saturday 2th It has rained all day with the wind all a round the compass

Sunday 3th It is cloudy and cool this morning wind N. W. it rained this evening wind S. E.

Monday 4 It has rained all day Wind N. E.

Tuesday 5 It has rained and snowed all day to day with the wind N East

Wensday 6 It has snowed all day with Wind N. E.

Thursday 7 It rained this morning Wind N. E. It is variable this evening Wind N. W.

Friday 8 It was clear and worm this morning Wind N. W. Cloudy this evening and cool Wind E

Saturday 9th It was cloudy and pleasant this morning Wind E. It has rained this evening Wind N. E.

Sunday 10th It has rained all day with the Wind N. E.

Monday 10th Clear and worm Wind N. W.

Tuesday 12th Cloudy and rainy to day Wind N. E.

Wensday 13th Cloudy and rainy to day Wind S. and S. E.

Thursday 14th It has snowed all this morning Wind N. W. And cleared off this evening Wind N. W. And it will freeze hard to night

Friday 15 It has been clear and worm this morning Wind [N?] Cloudy and worm this evening with wind east E

Saturday 16th It has snowed all day fast wind N. E.

Sunday 17th It snowed all the morning but cleared off this evening and the sun shone bright and worm the wind N. W.

Monday 18th It has been clear and worm all day to day after the morning Wind N. W.

Tuesday 19th Cloudy and snowed this evening Wind N. E.

Wensday 20th Cloudy and snowed all day Wind N. E.

Thursday 21th It has rained and blew a storm to day with the wind at North east N. E.

Friday 22th It rained and blew a storm all this morning with the wind North east N. E. and it has snowed all this evening and is snowing and blowing a gale to night Wind North West N. W.

Saturday 23th Cloudy with rain this morning wind N. E. Cloudy this evening Wind North east

Sunday 24th Cloudy all day to day and cool Wind N. E.

Monday 25th Clear and worm to day Wind N. West

Tuesday 26th Clear and worm to day there was some ice this morning Wind North West

Wensday 27th It rained all this morning Wind South Cloudy and worm this evening West W.

Thursday 28 Cloudy and windy and cool this evening [W. N. ?] Cloudy cool and very windy this evening wind N. w

Friday 29th Cloudy cool and windy wind N. W.

Saturday 30th Clear and worm to day Wind N. E.

Sunday 31th Clear and worm to day Wind S. N. W.

Monday April 1th Cloudy and rain to day Wind S. W.

Tuesday 2th Clear and windy wind N. W.

Wensday 3th Clear and windy wind to day N. W.

Thursday 4th Clear and windy to day ind N. W.

Friday 5th It has rained to day wind S. E.  S. and S. W.

Saturday 6th Clear and windy to day wind N. W.

Sunday 7th Clear and windy to day wind N. W.

Monday 8th Clear and worm and windy wind N. W.

Tuesday 9th Clear and worm to day wind North

Wensday 10th Clear and worm to day wind E. S. E.

Thursday 11th Clear and worm to day wind W

Friday 12th Cloudy and worm to day wind S. W.

Saturday 13th Clear and worm to day wind W.

Sunday 14th Clear and worm to day wind N. E and E

Monday 15th Cloudy and worm to day wind South S

Tuesday 16th Cloudy and worm to day wind South S

Wensday 17th It has rained to day wind South S

Thursday 18th Clear and worm to day wind S. W. W. and N W

Friday 19th Clear and cool to day wind N. W.

Saturday 20th Cloudy and worm to day wind South S

Sunday 21th Clear and worm to day wind North east and E

Monday 22

One wonders why the entries stop at this point. Perhaps with the arrival of spring and consistently warm weather, McCready was just too busy to keep up with them.

– Chris Slavens

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Filed under Maryland history, McCready-Hurley Ledger, Virginia