Friday, July 10, 2009

Neat and new finds from Poplar Grove

The Poplar Grove Collection seems to have something about everything and anything that has happened in Maryland’s history. This is what I’ve learned in my short time as a summer intern here at the Maryland State Archives working in special collections here on the Poplar Grove project. The newest find that I have come across is a vast group of records dealing with the Eastern Shore Rail Road­ note that the word railroad was two words back in the 1800’s.

In the first week of my internship I was shone a badly damaged and eaten plat that showed a path proposed for the Eastern Shore Rail Road. This plat is in series 13 of our Poplar Grove special collection and can be found at the Maryland State Archives web page, through special collections. It was determined that this plat was the original of a printed version of this plat at the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, as State Archivist Dr. Edward Papenfuse notes in his online transcription of the plat.

Since this short introduction of what Poplar Grove has concerning the Eastern Shore Rail Road I had not come across anything else concerning the E.S.R.R. until recently.

Thomas Emory’s dream was to see a railroad on the eastern shore of Maryland. He spent part of his life trying to achieve this feat. It would only make sense that I would find a vast collection of documents dealing with the railroad while scanning his papers. While some of the documents are in surprisingly good condition, many are not. For this reason the exact span of time of these documents is not known; however, one could conclude that from the documents that I came across, the earliest date is from the 1830’s spanning until the documented date of 1871 on one fascinating piece, which we will get to later.

My recent finds are not yet up on the MSA webpage since they have only just been scanned, but I hope they will be shortly.

One interesting find is resolution papers of the E.S.R.R. These are from what is believed to be 1836, but this is not documented. These papers tell of resolutions concerning the railroad, ranging from stock selling in an attempt to financially support construction of the railroad, to an agreement on the importance of a railroad on the eastern shore as well as how the people deserved a railroad.

A survey of Maryland’s Eastern

Shore, marking pickets for a

possible rail line from Rice

Creek towards the Green

Swamp was one of my favorite

discoveries while scanning.

The survey marks roads and

rivers on the line as well, should

things cross like“Road to

Sockwood’s folly bridge

and “Middle River”.

A bill draft for the railroad, possibly from the 1830's, was discovered that appears to have been ripped or cut in half. This bill dealt with a

variety of topics, such as, how the Eastern Shore Rail Road

would be set up and run by directors,how the elections for

directors would be organized and how land owners of land

needed for the railroad should be dealt with.

A short excerpt about director’s elections...

"Sect. 2. And be it enacted, that the elections of Directors, required by the Act, referred to, in the proceeding section, other that State Directors, shall be conducted in the following manner, that is to say; The Directors, for the time being, shall, annually, appoint two of the Stock holders, not being Directors, to the Judge of said elections, and to conduct the same, after having severally taken and subscribed an oath, or affirmation, before a Judge, or Justice of the Peace, well and truly, and according to the Law, to conduct such elections..."

The last two finds I want to note are a Queen Anne’s and Kent Rail Road ticket from 1871 and an Eastern Shore Rail Road Company seal from 1836. I was really excited to see these and was amazed by their wonderful condition.

Thomas Emory’s dream and life’s work towards a railroad for the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is both fascinating and important to the eventual development of the oft- forgotten Eastern Shore. I certainly hope to find more documents concerning this matter, and I’m sure I will. After all, Poplar Grove is Maryland history 101.

Many thanks to Dr. Edward Papenfuse’s helpful transcription and of course Thomas Emory, for saving such a valuable collection of information for future generations to preserve and learn from.

Until next time…

Your trusty intern,

Nathan Miller

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A place where time stands still

Ever just stumble upon someplace?

Now we're not talking about anyplace... It has to be somewhere special. A place that grabs a hold of you — a place that draws all your attention and focus — a place that captures your imagination. Well on November 18, 2008, around 2:30 pm, I just so happened to come across such a place.

Poplar Grove is its name, and fascination is its game.

I'm sure the faithful followers of this blog need no introduction to this sprawling seventeenth century plantation, but I'll give a somewhat cursory description of mine, and how I came to be sitting here at this very computer in the State Archives' Electronic Classroom No. 1, writing for the Poplar Grove Project blog.
Now, I've long been a fan of history. Ever since I can remember, one of my strongest inclinations has been to memorize names, dates, people, and places. More than likely, the reasoning behind this has to do at least partly with the native human desire to discover the unknown. It's a fairly frightening prospect, isn't it? To think that there's so much that we simply don't know. For instance... Where did we come from? How did we get here? Who was instrumental in making those things happen?

Although the answers to these questions vary in length and degree, and some still have yet to be answered, these are the types of questions that help fuel our need for knowledge.

And if knowledge is what you're looking for, then Poplar Grove is an intellectual goldmine. It's simply indescribable how incredible this place is. But it's not just the place, it's what was found here. Hundreds of years worth of family records — hundreds of years worth of history — hundreds of years worth of knowledge.

There was something that made me smile as I stepped through the door frame, and into a world previously unknown. At first I couldn't quite place it... But slowly I began to understand what contributed to its overall importance and intellectual wealth. Poplar Grove is a time warp — a gateway to the past if you will. It's a place that most historians not lucky enough to experience it in person would dream about.

My personal introduction came on a field trip to the site itself. This past fall, I took a class entitled, "1607: Jamestown and All That," which dealt with life in the seventeenth century Chesapeake region. My teacher, one Adam Goodheart, gladly offered our class a unique perspective on the rather adventurous aspects of the Colonial American lifestyle. In talking about such matters and giving Mr. Goodheart's extensive involvement with the project, naturally the topic of Poplar Grove trickled its way into our class discussions.

As luck would have it, on the 18th of November we took it upon ourselves to venture to the very site that we had heard so much about. And let me tell you, it certainly didn't disappoint... Walking through the house and around the surrounding plantation grounds was an experience I won't soon forget. I felt as connected with the past as I ever have! Lest we forget... The fact that such a place still exists in Maryland (let alone anywhere) is truly remarkable.

How did I get involved might you ask?

I applied for the Summer Internship Program at the Maryland State Archives. Every morning, I wake up and come to Annapolis to assist in preserving this priceless collection — this precious piece of history — this invaluable assortment of knowledge.

And the best part is, not only am I getting the opportunity to preserve the past, but I'm getting the opportunity to help those people in the future — the ones hungry for the same quest of knowledge that keeps all of us coming back to this very blog.

Well I sure stumbled upon a place. And what a thrill! I've found a place, where time stands still.

Until then,

Jas. Goldſborough Bigwood