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Cecil County in the 1830s

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This clip from the Martenet’s 1858 map of Cecil County shows the locations mentioned in the Oxford Press article. (Photo from the Library of Congress)

Historical Society of Cecil County

The Oxford Press was recently digitized for our research library. The newspaper was not a Cecil County publication, however it often contained news of the northwestern part of the county. This article was first published in the Oxford Press February 3, 1886.

The writer is not identified, but had an excellent remembrance of what life was like in the western corner of the county in the 1830s. This article was transcribed by Jo Ann Gardner, historical society volunteer.

“Fifty Years Ago

Some Remembrances of Old Forgotten Places Along

the Susquehanna River”

“To the readers of the Press,

From the memory of olden times I Propose to recall the occupation and inhabitants of the northwestern portion of Cecil County, now known as the 8th district, hoping you will not consider me wandering from my subject if I should come across the Pennsylvania line.

Fifty years ago we had a local village called Ark Haven, deriving its name from being located at the entrance of the old Maryland canal. This village contained three hotels doing a thriving business whose hosts were William Hasson, John Ross and Alexander Grubb. Elias Pennington kept a well furnished store, Thomas Cooney kept an oyster saloon, Samuel Crawford was a private citizen, John Marshall was Justice of the Peace and Superintendent of the inlet lock on the aforesaid Maryland Canal, which did a very large business at the time in transporting lumber coal, iron, wheat, corn, flour and whiskey. A few hundred yards above Ark Haven stood a large frame house called, Wild Cat House. It being near the famous Wild Cat Rock. This was kept by John Spence for the accommodation of raftmen.

We will now call the attention of our readers to the Bald Friar Ferry, where Gen. Lafayette’s army crossed during the Revolutionary War. I have no recollection of Lafayette’s army, but have had my grandfather tell of his having sold peaches for the officers. At Bald Friar there was one hotel. I am unable to say which of the three, John Hallaway, Dr Houston or Robert Henry kept it at the period in which I speak. John Awlyard a celebrated school teacher of that day resided on the public road, a few hundred yards above Bald Friar. I remember his flogging the boys as well and perhaps better than many valuable lessons which he taught. I must return to Bald Friar to mention Thomas Gillespie and William Grubb, who engaged with many others in the extensive fisheries carried on at this place.

We will proceed down the river to Valley Point. On the way we fine Jesse Reese who was renowned for shooting dear, wild turkey and catching large eels. At Valley Point there was a large saw mill operated by Wm. Wormwag, who get his supplies of timber in rafts down the Susquehanna. Joseph Miles, who spent a great deal of time and money trying to perfect perpetual motion, lived at this place and Miles Island, just opposite, is called for him to this day. Joseph D. Passamore and Joseph P. Shannon were other inhabitants of the place.

We will now proceed to Conowingo. This little town had more inhabitants at that day than it has at the present. The residents, as near as I can recollect, were as follows, Isaac Ely, Peter Shraf, John Moore, Patrick Hamlin, Smith Price, Isaac Preston Jr., William Reed, Abijah Finn (who kept the Fountain Hotel”, Joseph Glenn, Isaiah Cooper (store keeper), William Brown, Isaiah Brown, Henry Wesley, George Wesley, Johnson Cully, John Griffin, Isaac Morris, Thaddeus Morris and Isaac Brown. The latter carried on the saw mill business and controlled considerable le property. Mr. Brown is the only many, to my knowledge of the above mentioned now living. I had the pleasure of meeting him a short time ago in the cars and he called my attention to the lack of energy and capital in the same of the above named territory.

Ark Haven with water power unsurpassed by any on the Susquehanna, is today with house or inhabitants, Valley Point was also a village of the past.


When the coronavirus lockdown is over, please stop in and see us at the Historical Society of Cecil County on Main Street in Elkton to learn about this and many other topics. Access to the digital newspaper collection is free to members and is included in the $5 library fee for non-members.

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