Milford Historical Society Serves as Community’s Heritage Keeper

An old traffic light at the Milford Historical Society points the way to George, Harrington, and Dover

An old traffic light at the Milford Historical Society points the way to George, Harrington, and Dover

There are many fine organizations serving as community heritage-keepers, all over Delmarva.  The organizations collect, preserve, and interpret the narratives of earlier times and share those stories with patrons.  As you travel through our many fine old communities this summer, stop and visit a few of these places to learn about the past.

Last summer I was in Milford, Delaware to give a talk so I stopped by the local historical society to tour its exhibits.  They have excellent collections, interesting exhibits, and many publications related to the past in the town on the Kent and Sussex county borders.   Check them in the next time you are down that way.

Here are some photos I snapped during my brief visit to the Historical Society.

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The Milford Delaware Historical Society


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Milford Delaware’s story








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Rescue Fire Company of Cambridge on Cover of 1957 Fire Engineering

In December 1957, the Rescue Fire Company station in downtown Cambridge, MD. was decorated for the holidays.  A photographer snapped the attractive picture and the Dorchester County firehouse ran on the cover of fire engineering that month.

Rescue Fire Company of Cambridge Maryland

Rescue Fire Company of Cambridge Maryland

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Mob Law on Delmarva, a New Regional Book by Linda Duyer

A new regional title, "Mob Law on Delmarva" by Linda Duyer.

A new regional title, “Mob Law on Delmarva” by Linda Duyer.

A new regional title, “Mob Law on Delmarva: Cases of lynching, near-lynchings, and race riots of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, 1870-1950,” has just been published. Its 287-pages seek to answer the question about the prevalence of mob violence in the region, and the author, Linda Duyer, has achieved that goal. Her investigations into many undocumented cases of violence serve as a valuable resource for anyone focusing on the issues of “segregation, intimidation, hate and violence toward African-Americans.” on the land between the waters of the Delaware and the Chesapeake.

This volume came about after assisting Dr. Kirland Hall with a 2010 program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore about the 1933 lynching of George Armwood in Princess Anne.   As a result of the being involved with the conference, people started asking about how many incidents there were, and those inquiries caused Linda to begin creating a registry of cases and documenting as many details as she could. She is now sharing this informative title with readers.

This title available from Lulu will be a valuable resource in my courses and lectures. The author has published other works such as “Round the Pond: Georgetown of Salisbury, Maryland,” a volume that describes the long gone African-American neighborhood in Salisbury.

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Delaware African-Americans Newspapers Chronicle the Local Story

The Delaware Reporter, Wilmington, July 12, 1940., Vol. 1., No. 1

Delaware has a strong collection of old newspapers available for historical and genealogical research.  These serials, including the city dailies in Wilmington and many weeklies in communities all over New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties, provide an invaluable resource for those studying the past.  But, too, there is a seldom used collection of newspapers publishing by and for the African-American community in the First State.

The Wilmington Herald Times was one of those.  Published every Friday in Wilmington in 1941 and 1942 by Eustace Gay, the weekly said it was “Delaware’s largest colored newspaper.”  In 1942 it became an edition of the Philadelphia Tribune, although Editor Gay continued his local responsibilities, covering the Delaware beat.

The Delaware Reporter published by J. Alexis DuBois was another product.  In the July 12, 1940, issue it said it was “born today for the purpose of filling a long felt need, a newspaper in Wilmington and down state that gives the essential news of the various activities of Colored people and their white friends . . .   Heretofore the space given to Colored people’s activities by the out-of-town papers and the daily, has been lamentably meagre.  Too many of the interesting social, fraternal, religious and political activities among the colored people of Delaware have remained unchronicled.  So the Delaware reporter comes to you today for the first time to publish some of the important news that its publisher can gather.”

There are other, briefly published titles on microfilm reel 619 at the University of Delaware, including the Delaware Abolitionist published by the Delaware Anti-Slavery Society, and “devoted to Emancipation in Delaware, which circulated in 1848.  The Advance, another Wilmington paper, was distributed around the turn-of-the-twentieth century, the Delaware Spectator (1974-1975), Delaware Observer (1968) and the Front Page (1945), published by Eugene K. Ross,

Here are two examples of front page news from the volumes.  The issue before the Wilmington City Council in December 1941 was employment of African-Americans as city firefighters.  When the Board went on the record as favoring the appointment of African-American firefighters the newspaper observed that the “startling pronouncement was a direct reversal of the former attitude,” but the city did say it might create a segregated firefighting unit. Hospital reforms was the subject covered by the Delaware Reporter in July 1940, since the City lagged “far behind in its hospital provisions” for the African-American Community.    Of course, there was plenty of social, personal, civic, and family news, which a researcher will find helpful.

The nation’s large cities, places such as nearby Baltimore and Philadelphia, had strong, long-running Black papers, providing unique coverage of interest to the community.  And while those papers sometimes covered Delaware, these broadsheets were based here, chronicling the local story.  Although their existence was brief, they are helpful products for understanding the past during the time they rolled off the printing press.

In the years subscribers received these titles, they provided a wealth of information as the editors and reporters worked to cover Delaware events of the day of interest to the Black community.  In those old pages are political and social news, obituaries, letters to the editor, and fresh insights.

These newspapers are found at the University of Delaware and microfilm reel 619.

Wilmington’s Herald Times, Nov. 8, 1941

A Wilmington newspaper, the Front Page, April 6, 1945, salutes Wilmington’s men fighting in World War II.

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Three Gun Wilson Arrives to Save Delaware From Skullduggery, Evils of Speakeasies and Booze

Harold D. Wilson, Source:  Sunday Star, Wilmington, DE

Harold D. Wilson, Source: Sunday Star, Wilmington, DE

As the “drys” celebrated their great victory, the passage of the National Prohibition Act, the difficult work of enforcing the law was just beginning.  The 18th amendment banned the production, manufacturing and transportation of alcoholic beverages, but thirsty types wouldn’t go without drinks for too long.  So virtually overnight a complex, underground market involving moonshiners, bootleggers, rumrunners, and organized crime, developed.  The lawmen charged with trying to keep the spigot closed, the Federal Prohibition Agents struggled to corral the illegal trade, but it was an almost impossible task.

This drastic action, a total booze ban, was too much for many law-abiding Delawareans.  That, coupled with the temptation for quick profits, caused stills, speakeasies, and criminal types to go into high gear, hatching plans to produce and distribute whiskey, moonshine, rum and bathtub gin.  In the woodlands across Kent and Sussex, “often working by moonlight,” many stills were seen, the Delaware State News reported.

The teetotalers in the First State demanded stronger enforcement and they didn’t want a mild-mannered agent.  To accommodate the outcry the federal government ordered one of their best, most aggressive supervisors transferred to Wilmington.  This man, Harold D. Wilson, was just the person the drys were looking for and he arrived in Delaware in 1930.   The State News hoped, the new lawman would “be able to take the word bootlegger out of Delaware’s dictionary.”

“Three Gun” Wilson was a hard-boiled, hard-hitting, Bible quoting relentless, dedicated prohibition agent, according to Bill Frank of the Wilmington News Journal.  When he got off the train in Wilmington, he was greeted by a large group of citizens who escorted him to the Customs House.  There he announced that he had come to “save Delaware from the skullduggery of corrupt officials, from the evils of speakeasies, and the eternal damnation of booze.”   In a few days he had completed an inspection of the city, where he saw a number of places with swinging doors, which he intended to stop from swinging in the near future.  A federal official confirmed the government’s intention to halt the flow of illegal booze here, saying “We propose to have absolute enforcement of the prohibition law in Delaware, under Mr. Wilson’s direction.”

His efforts rocked the First State as he swooped down on rum-joints, raided speakeasies, smashed stills, and chased rumrunners.  “Three Gun’s” actions were spectacular and much headlined, and the onslaught caught many citizens in the dragnet and seized thousands of dollars worth of liquor.  Once he took charge of a speakeasy and served liquor to customers until he had all the evidence he needed.  The actions of the Feds started threatening profits of bootlegging, soon enough. Naturally he annoyed many during these raids, but this was all to the delight of the States militant church people and temperance activists.


Three Gun Wilson death threat letter. Source: Sunday Star, Wilmington.

But when he began upsetting powerful politicians and business leaders, the lawman started getting into serious trouble.  He once got a letter warning him that he was going to be killed.  “You stay away from Lincoln Street or you will need more than three guns.  I think the best thing for you to do is to leave town and stay away if you value your life,” the Wilmington Sunday Star reported.

After the “clean-up man” raided the powerful Democratic League in Wilmington without a warrant, he refused to tell a judge the name of the person who tipped him off and furnished him with the key he used in the sensational visit.  The judge found him in contempt of court and threatened to jail the officer.  Sometime later, Wilson was transferred to Nebraska, the case was closed, and the contempt fine of $250 was paid.  By-the-way, he had been moved from Pittsburg to Wilmington soon after raiding a political picnic in western Pennsylvania.

“Three Gun” Wilson only lasted in Delaware for 15 months His next assignment was Nebraska, and he left town in 1932 on the B & O.  A large crowd was at the du Pont street station to see him off, and he was succeeded here by a very mild-mannered federal prohibition administrator, Willie Rowan.

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Three Gun Wilson heading to save Delaware from the evils of alcohol. Source: Pittsburg Post.

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Worm Moon Rising Over Havre de Grace

At dusk this evening the last full moon of winter, the Worm Moon, was rising over Havre de Grace.  Over by the boardwalk promenade about a dozen photographers gathered to wait as daylight faded and the moon illuminated the Concord Point Lighthouse and waterfront.  Technically this month’s full moon doesn’t take place until Sunday, but for strollers enjoying a comfortable late winter Saturday and those waiting with cameras in hand, it was a brilliant display as the moon climbed slowly above the waters of the Bay and early evening darkness arrived.

“Native Americans called this last full moon of winter the worm moon after the worm trails that would appear in the newly thawed ground,” according to National Geographic. “Other names include chaste moon, death moon, crust moon (a reference to snow that would become crusty as it thawed during the day and froze at night), and sap moon, after the tapping of the maple trees.”

Worm Moon rising over Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace on March 15, 2014.

Worm Moon rising over Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace on March 15, 2014.

As daylight fades in Havre de Grace, the Worm Moon appears.

As daylight fades in Havre de Grace, the Worm Moon appears.





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Searching Maryland’s Online Land Records

Land records are important resource for understanding the past, and Maryland has an online, digital repository to share the instruments recorded in the State.  In this virtual archives the genealogist and historian digging into the past will find deeds, mortgage and similar records pertaining to owning, buying, and selling land.

Orientation to this helpful site,, can take a little time.  But Emory’s Eastern Shore, a family history blog, has shared a helpful tutorial.  So if you are new to land records research check out this online simple training aid.

Thanks Emory’s Eastern Shore for sharing this training aid.  Click here to go to the post on Maryland Land Records.

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