Cecil Whig first edition

ELKTON — Each week, we take a look back in time to examine what was on the minds of Cecil County readers. Rotating through the Whig’s 177-year history, we hope to not only provide direct text from our archives, but also context as to why the issue was important at the time.

Join us as we thumb through the pages of our history.

August 4, 1894 (125 years ago)

We heard quite a bit about rats this week during President Trump’s criticism of Baltimore, so we thought it was quite a coincidence that county residents were discussing the vermin 125 years ago this week as well — albeit for a far different reason.

It is said an Elkton man has discovered an economical crab bait in rats, which he successfully used on Wednesday afternoon in the Elk River. Authority states that, he halved the rodents and completely took the crabs by storm and bewilderment so that they allowed themselves to be captured in goodly numbers. Who the inventor is cannot yet be made public.

The Cecil County Fair just wrapped up a week ago, but our ancestors were preparing for their annual festivities as well. While some of the fair offerings are the same 125 years later, including ice cream, soft drinks and fair guides, other wouldn’t make the cut today: namely cigars and horse racing betting cards.

Almost all the privileges at the Elkton Fair have been disposed of, and at good figures indicating that the purchasers expect a large attendance. The important concessions are to the following persons: Fruits, cigars, ice cream, George Booth, Elkton; merry-go-rounds, George L. McCay, Chester; soft drinks, Samuel B. Foard, Elkton; souvenir fair program and race card, V.M. Torbert, Elkton; dining room, C. H. Burns, Chester; peanuts, John Reisinger, Baltimore. Pools will be sold on the track, the privilege being secured by Joseph Walters of Baltimore.

The Whig was often filled with obituaries in its early years as news of passings was among the most read news of the day. This story caught our attention, however, as it detailed a 98-year-old man in the 1800s — a rare occurrence in itself for its time — and his sister, who was credited with cultivating the first tomatoes in the county.

Death of Robert Dawson

Mr. Robert Dawson formerly of Leeds in this county, and who had attained the remarkable age of nearly ninety eight years, died on Monday last at the home of his daughter Mrs. John Hughes at Passaic, New Jersey. Mr. Dawson was born in this county between Leeds and Blue Ball in 1797, and was by occupation a farmer. His sister Maria Dawson was for a number of years a member of the family of General James Sewell at Holly Hall, and afterwards married Stephen H. Ford in Sassafras Neck, the owner of Ford’s Landing on the Elk River. Mrs. Ford was a most estimable woman and skilled housewife. The introduction of the tomato in this county — at first cultivated as a flower and called the love apple — was attributed to her, and her success in canning and preserving peaches and fruits was proverbial, the Ford’s Landing farm having on it a large and prolific peach orchard.

Robert Dawson her brother, spent a good deal of his time in Elkton in those days, he and his sister having been left orphans. Robert was celebrated on all the country side as an athlete and wrestler. His visits to Elkton were frequent and “Bobby” Dawson as he was known was a familiar figure on election days, his convivial habits rendering him one of the characters of his times. To several generations of our people he has been known by the familiar title of “old” Robert Dawson, and the period covered by his life is rarely reached by mankind.

He was a kind hearted, amiable man, an enemy to no one but himself, and our personal recollection of him covers just fifty four years, since we distinctly remember him on the occasion of a big Harrison meeting at Elkton in 1810. He had several children, a son Richard, and two daughters, one of whom Mary Ann Dawson married John Hughes at one time a merchant at North East, and who now resides with her family at Passaic, New Jersey.

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