Tag Archives: Delmarva Peninsula

Road research, part 1: Broad Creek to Indian River

18th-century maps of the Delmarva Peninsula are frustratingly short on details when it comes to roads. The major routes are depicted, of course, like the well-known stage road from Salisbury to Laurel Town, but when it comes to some of the minor routes alluded to in land surveys from the first half of the century, researchers are left guessing. Waterways are usually the best geographical features to use as reference points, being more or less stationary and often (but not always) retaining their colonial-era names, but many of those ancient footpaths and roads still exist under the paved surfaces of modern highways. It’s just a matter of figuring out which ones.

One such colonial road of uncertain location is mentioned in the description of a tract surveyed for Philip Wingate in 1748: “…Beginning at a markd white oke standing on ye north side of Broad Creek about three miles back in ye woods & on ye north side of a horse Rode leading from ye aforsd Broad Creek to ye Indian River…”

As I don’t know exactly where Wingate’s land was located (“ye north side of Broad Creek” is a rather large area), I’m only speculating, but this so-called horse road may have originally linked the Nanticoke reservation known as Broad Creek Town and the Indian River Indian reservation known as Askecksy (among other, similar names), both of which were settled as early as 1705. The town of Laurel now occupies the site of Broad Creek Town, while Askecksy was located south of present-day Millsboro, near Injun Town Road or Indian Town Road.  It is known that the residents of these Indian towns had settled there to escape English encroachment, and had contact with each other, despite belonging to different tribes; in 1742, they met in the area roughly between the two reservations known as Winnasoccum or Wimbesoccom, and planned to attack the local English settlers, as explained here. Shortly thereafter, the Indian River Indians sold their land, and most of the Nanticokes migrated to Pennsylvania. By 1748, the road in question may have been used almost exclusively by the English, and may have led directly to the mills located near the branches of Indian River, rather than the old Indian lands located a few miles south of them.

I’ve crudely spliced together maps of Broad Creek Hundred and Dagsborough Hundred from the Pomeroy & Beers Atlas of 1868, which was the first map of the area to show its extensive network of unpaved roads, and highlighted the route that the horse road of 1748 may have followed. Eventually I’d like to complete a map of the entire area as it looked during the colonial era, but for now, this rough mash-up is better than nothing.

Beers, edited

– Chris Slavens

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Indian River Indians, Maps, Nanticoke Indians, Sussex County

Rev. Richard F. Cadle: A Brief Profile

Richard Fish Cadle was born in New York in 1796. As a teenager he studied at Columbia College, and went on to become an important Episcopal minister and missionary, known especially for founding churches in the wild territories of Michigan and Wisconsin. He came to Laurel in the spring of 1853 following the resignation of the Reverend James W. Hoskins, and assumed responsibility for the Protestant Episcopal parishes at Seaford, Broad Creek, and Little Hill.

The churches under Rev. Cadle’s care included Christ Church, located a couple of miles northeast of the village of Laurel, and considered the mother church of the Episcopal churches of western Sussex County; St. Luke’s, located in Seaford; the recently completed St. Philip’s, a chapel in Laurel which quickly became more popular with parishioners than the comparably distant mother church; and St. John’s at Little Hill, a tiny chapel about seven miles east of Laurel, located just outside the hamlet known as Terrapin Hill, on the main road to Gumborough.

Rev. Cadle was given a house and $150 in cash, and was supplied with hogs and corn by some of the local farmers. Although the previous rector had been given two slaves, it is assumed that the vestry probably sold or freed them due to Cadle’s opposition to slavery. One of his first services in Laurel was the burial service of Joseph O’Neal, who had died in late March at age seventy.

Rev. Richard F. Cadle

Although he was not considered an exceptional preacher, due to a minor speech impediment, Rev. Cadle was known as an educated man, a gifted writer, and a passionate teacher, establishing a class in Laurel for the study of “approved religious books,” a Bible study class, and Sunday Schools for children. Of course, he also performed all of the regular duties of an Episcopal minister, presiding over marriages, baptisms, funerals, and burials, not only at the churches he served, but also at Methodist and Presbyterian churches, and in private residences. At that time, Methodism was by far the dominant faith in the area. In early 1857, he organized St. Mark’s in Little Creek Hundred, a few miles south of Laurel, which initially met at a private residence.

During the time of Rev. Cadle’s ministry, Christ Church, which was already nearly ninety years old, was in rather poor condition, and he hoped that the historic house of worship would be repaired and maintained, writing, “It is earnestly to be wished that the object of so much nursing care may yet be a joy of many generations.”

After being caught out in a cold storm in October 1857, apparently while performing his duties, Rev. Cadle became ill, and died in a parishioner’s home on November 9. Reportedly, his final words were, “The blood of Christ is sufficient for all things.”

– Chris Slavens

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Map of the Nanticoke Indians’ territory, 1742

This week the Laurel Star (and presumably the Seaford Star) published an article I wrote about the Nanticoke Indians about a year ago, as well as a rough map of the area showing the approximate locations of the Nanticoke, Choptank, and Indian River reservations in 1742. It was in that year that the surviving tribes gathered near Trap Pond and planned to wipe out the English settlers and reclaim the Eastern Shore with the help of Shawnee warriors and French forces. The plot was discovered and foiled, otherwise the history of the peninsula might have unfolded quite differently.

I’ll post the full article in a week or two, as I’d like for everyone who’s interested in the subject and able to do so to support the newspaper and buy a copy, but in the meantime here’s the map. Click to enlarge.

Nanticoke territory, 1742

– Chris Slavens

6 Comments

Filed under Indian River Indians, Laurel, Maps, Nanticoke Indians, Sussex County

A Map in Progress, part 2

A few days ago I posted a draft of a map of the lower Delmarva Peninsula — portions of present-day Sussex, Dorchester, Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties — featuring villages and place names of the early 18th century. Although the locations of the Indian villages are approximate, and they may have been called by different names over the years, their existence is a matter of fact. Their names appear in colonial records, along with the names of nearby creeks and branches. We know when the reservations were established, who lived there, and about when they left. Some, but not all, appear on 18th-century maps.

The following map, though based on the same digital tracing of an old map of the peninsula, is a bit different. Locust Neck Town, Chicacoan Town, Broad Creek Town, and Askeckeky are still there, but I’ve added several sites that might have been home to Indian villages during or prior to the 17th century. Their names are italicized and I’ve placed question marks next to them. Just to be clear, there were many other villages. For example, in 1696 it was reported that there were at least ten Nanticoke villages, but I’ve shown the possible locations of only six. The text should be clear when viewed at full size.

Peninsula Indian Sites

 

Transquakine, also known as Ababco’s Town, was a Choptank village. I’ve placed it near the head of the Transquaking River, but I’m not at all certain about the location. It could be off by miles. The important thing is that there was such a village located in that general area. There were at least three Choptank villages during the 17th century.

Nause, a Nanticoke village, appears on John Smith’s map of Virginia, published in 1612. So does Nantaquack. I’ve tried to place them about where Smith placed them, but have no firsthand knowledge of either location.

Puckamee was the name of a neck of land on the north side of Barren Creek. In 1678, it was reported that Indians lived there; I assume they were Nanticokes.

I’ve placed possible village sites near present-day Sharptown and Bethel based on C. A. Weslager’s writings, but he was referring to archaeological evidence, not historical records, so there is no Nanticoke or English name for these sites. It’s possible that they were already old and abandoned by 1608. He thought that there was at least one village near Broad Creek when Smith traveled up the Nanticoke River. Based on all of the evidence I’m aware of, I can only guess that the village known as Broad Creek Town existed prior to 1705. Whether the Nanticokes reclaimed an old village, moved into an existing one, or established a new one at that time is unclear. It seems reasonable to assume that there were several villages and camps located along the creek and its branches during different eras prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Weslager also suggested, based on archaeological evidence, unexplained allusions in land records, and/or local folklore, that there were Nanticoke sites along Quantico Creek, Rewastico Creek, and Marshy Hope Creek. I haven’t looked into these locations yet, but might include them on a future draft of this map.

One of the most interesting sites is that of the “Indian Cabbin” mentioned in the 1720s. Indian Cabin Branch was a tributary of Deep Creek. Descriptions of an adjacent tract refer to Peterkin’s Branch and the Great Branch. According to Scharf, it was also known as Green Branch, and extended to Little Neck Branch. Unfortunately, none of these names appear on any map I’m familiar with, so I’ve simply placed the cabin near Deep Creek.

– Chris Slavens

Leave a comment

Filed under Laurel, Maps, Nanticoke Indians, Sussex County

A Map in Progress

Recently I decided to create a series of maps depicting the Broad Creek area during the colonial era. Many of the local place names have changed since then, making it difficult to describe where anything was.  It’s all well and good to explain that Gray’s Branch used to be known as Sockum Creek, and Wimbesoccom Creek before that, but it would be helpful to be able to point to Wimbesoccom Creek on a map. Maybe there is such a map, but I haven’t found it, so I’m in the process of creating it.

The following map is part of a digital tracing of an old map of the peninsula, plus several place names dating back to the early 1700s — say, between 1705 and 1735. (Most of the names date back to the 17th century, but some of the English creek names only date back to the 1720s and 1730s.) Eventually I’d like to create a map based on a modern map or satellite imagery, but this is a good first step. The text should be clear when viewed at full size.

Delmarva Early 18th Century

The locations of the Indian villages are approximate. There were many others, of course, some of which are well-documented and can be added to future drafts, and some of which are shrouded in mystery. For example, it was once reported that there were ten Nanticoke villages, but John Smith only visited four or five of them (Nause, Arseek, Sarapinagh, Nantaquack, and/or Kuskarawaok, which might have been another name for Sarapinagh), and colonial records only name Chicacoan Town and Broad Creek Town.

Somerset County, Early 18th Century

The location of Broad Creek Town is based on atrocious photocopies of old land records in a folder at the Laurel Public Library, which hint at, rather than show, the location of the reservation created in 1711. Most, but not all, of the Nanticokes’ land was on the north side of the creek. It should be noted that there is at least one reference to “Broad Creek towns,” plural, but all of the other colonial documents I’ve studied refer to only one town or village. Rossakatum Branch, located east of Little Creek, doesn’t appear on this map.

I’m unsure about the identity of Bald Cypress Branch, which was described as a branch of Broad Creek. (Not to be confused with the Bald Cypress Branch that flows through Gumboro and into the Pocomoke River.) If it wasn’t another name for Raccoon Branch, the source of Raccoon and Trap Ponds, then it might have been the next branch to the west, later known as Tresham or Trussum Branch. Bald cypress trees can still be found on both branches.

The map I traced to create the base layer of waterways didn’t show Chicacone (or Chicacoan, as it was usually spelled) Creek, so I drew a squiggle in that area and placed Chicacoan Town next to it.

The location of Askeckeky, also known as Askecksy, Ackequesame, Askakeson, etc., roughly corresponds with the location of the modern road named Injun Town Road or Indian Town Road. Now a back road, this road was once one of the main routes to Millsborough, and perhaps an Indian trail during the colonial era.

– Chris Slavens

Leave a comment

Filed under Maps, Nanticoke Indians, Sussex County

Terrapin Hill

If you were to travel from the thriving town of Laurel to Gumborough during the Civil War, you would not take today’s Route 24 to Lowes Crossroads. You couldn’t. At that time, the main road ran roughly parallel to what was known as the main branch of Broad Creek, veering southeast shortly after Bull’s Mills, about six miles east of town. A mile farther, and you’d be at Terrapin Hill, a low hill that was probably prime real estate during the colonial era, when the surrounding area was part of the Pocomoke or Cypress Swamp and the local landowners were still working to drain it with a network of ditches. There was a community there, smaller than a village, but busier than the typical country crossroads; there were four intersections within a quarter mile, and about thirty houses within a one-mile radius.

Terrapin Hill appears on a map published in 1856. I’m not sure how old the name was at that time. In Folklore of Sussex County, Delaware, Dorothy W. Pepper stated that the name was of Indian origin, but didn’t elaborate. I suspect she meant that terrapin is an Algonquian word, not that the Nanticokes named this specific location after terrapins. Other local Nanticoke place names include Asketum or Assacatum (possibly derived from ah!secque, or crane), Rossakatum, and Wimbesoccom or Winnasoccum (possibly derived from weensquaaquah, or cedar; wineak, or sassafras; and/or sachem, or chief). Nanticoke place names are a fascinating subject for another day.

There was a sawmill at Terrapin Pond, and another at nearby Raccoon Pond, which were owned by various members of the Hudson, Matthews, Wootten, and Cannon families over the years. The nearest gristmill and post office were back at Bull’s Mills. Two stores offered whatever the residents didn’t make or grow themselves. Most attended Bethesda M. E. Church, which had been built in 1823, but the slightly older St. John’s at Little Hill, a small Episcopal chapel, was only about a mile away. Children learned to read and write at the one-room Bethesda schoolhouse. From Terrapin Hill, you could travel south to Whitesville, southeast to Gumborough, or northeast to Lowe’s Crossroads and Millsborough—in the unlikely event that you needed or wanted to.

 A century and a half later, little remains of the community at Terrapin Hill. The stores, mills, and schoolhouse are gone, as are all but one of the old farmhouses. Bethesda M. E. Church, which was replaced in 1879, has been beautifully restored, but St. John’s was converted into a private residence a few years ago. Even the roads have changed; part of the old road to Little Hill has been a driveway for decades, and the road to Lowes Crossroads has vanished completely. Terrapin Hill still shows up on some modern maps, but the name is meaningless to most locals, little more than the fading ghost of a forgotten community.

Bethesda Methodist Episcopal Church, located near Raccoon Pond, was built in 1879. Photo taken by Brittney Slavens in February 2014.

Bethesda Methodist Episcopal Church, located near Raccoon Pond, was built in 1879. Photographed in February 2014.

– Chris Slavens

Leave a comment

Filed under Laurel, Sussex County

Yet Another Blog

When I started thinking about creating a blog about Delmarva history, folklore, and genealogy, my first thought was, Yet another blog. I’ve published one about politics, one about religion, and contributed to several others. It seems like I’m always telling people about the latest blog I’m publishing or contributing to. But, as a matter of fact, I haven’t written for any blog in over a year. So, yes, this is yet another blog, but it’s also my only blog at the moment.

I decided to create this blog for several reasons. First, I’ve been interested in genealogy — family history research — since I was a kid, and although I periodically share stories about and photographs of my ancestors on Facebook, I’d like to share that sort of information on a site that anyone can stumble upon. Second, I’ve been working on a short book-length history of Laurel, Delaware, since November, and I frequently come across information that just doesn’t fit into the book. Sometimes, pages of research boil down to a single sentence. I’ll share some of that “overflow” material on this site. Third, I’m interested in learning what others might know about a particular subject — like the Nanticoke village at Broad Creek during the 17th and 18th centuries — so I hope that posts about such subjects will provoke discussion.

Concerning the name of the blog, I chose Peninsula Roots on a whim and will probably change it several times. Once I settle on a name, I’ll buy the domain. I liked the name Between the Bays, but apparently that’s already a thing. Peninsula Roots will suffice for the present.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized