Mrs. Royall’s Pennsylvania …or Travel’s Continued In the United States

Originally posted on This Old Book:

A travelogue with a remarkably modern, no-holds-barred tone. One would be hard pressed to find a more amusing, biting piece of writing in Jacksonian America. The acerbic, outspoken, one might say curmudgeonly, Mrs. Royall takes us on a journey along the east coast as she dissects the characters, scenery, and ambiance in the mid-atlantic. Baltimore, Brandywine Hundred and New Castle, Delaware are highlighted below.


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Belvidere Fire Company’s First Engine

In 1949 residents of Belvidere, a suburban community outside Wilmington, started working to organize a fire company.  After raising money, the newly organized group acquired a fire engine and the men were just about ready to start answering alarms by the May of next year.  The Journal Every Evening, a Wilmington newspaper, published a photo of seven proud members of the start-up group with their first unit at that time.  According to a History of Flame in Delaware, the first responders had purchased a retiring unit  from Delaware City.  The company was formally incorporated in 1951.

Photo Source:  Journal Evening, May 17, 1950, from the Delaware Room of the Wilmington Free Library.

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The Belvidere Fire Company’s first engine. Source: Journal Every Evening, May 17, 1950

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Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware Lecture: Stealing Freedom Along the Mason Dixon Line

The Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware’s fall program takes place on October 27, 2014, at the Hockessin Friends Meeting, 1501 Old Wilmington Road, 6:30 pm.  Historian Milt Diggins will speak on “Stealing Freedom Along the Mason Dixon Line: The Story of Elkton Slave Catcher and Kidnapper Thomas McCreary.”  The program is free and open to the public.  

The Christiana Riot, Christiana, PA

The Christiana Riot, Christiana, PA

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Newark Historical Society Hosts Humanities Talk on History of Railroads in Delaware Sept. 30

The Newark Historical Society is hosting a Delaware Humanities Forum talk, “Rails of Delaware.” Railroads were once an important link to the outside world for many Delawareans and the local depot was the center of the community, a place to catch a train and learn the news of the day. As tracks spread throughout the state, growth followed the lines. In this slide illustrated talk historian Mike Dixon traces the social history of trains in the First State, from the beginning of the railroad age to the present. .

When: Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Newark Municipal Building, 220 S. Main Street, Newark, DE 19711

Cost:  Free

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A snowy day at the Newark Railroad Station in February 1899.


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Salisbury Police Take to the Air in 1941

Salisbury Police radio network takes to the air.  Source:  Salisbury Daily Times, Aug 8, 1941

Salisbury Police radio network takes to the air. Source: Salisbury Daily Times, Aug 8, 1941

The rapid response of Salisbury police officers puzzled wayward types in the tranquil summer of 1941, as officers started arriving on calls at surprisingly fast speeds. When someone phoned headquarters to report a suspicious activity, it seemed as if the officer was waiting around the corner.  More and more a patrol car screeched up on the scene before the troublemaker hastily departed the area.

This greatly enhanced efficiency wasn’t because of increased manpower, with added beats in every section of the City. Instead it was the application of the latest technology, a two-way radio system.

A few months earlier, the City Council spent $1,245 to purchase the network, made up of a base station at headquarters, two mobile units for prowl cars, and one for the motorcycle. With this system Salisbury became the second city in Maryland to place a two-way radio system in operation, the Salisbury Daily Times reported.

Headquarters Station WBVQ, went on the air at 8 a.m. Friday, August 8, 1941. A couple of hours later, the first call went out at 10:14 a.m. when Chief of Police William Catham sent patrolmen to investigate a complaint.  They handled the matter promptly, clearing the call in six minutes, the newspaper reported,

While the City Council was focused on modernization, the board decided to really step up. Two automobile sirens were purchased for the cars, in order to aid in getting around traffic.


Salisbury Police radio network on the air.  Source:  Aug 8, 1941

Salisbury Police radio network on the air. Source: Aug 8, 1941

The American City, March 1950.  The GE Radio System in Salisbury

The American City, March 1950. The GE Radio System in Salisbury

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Eastern Shore Digital Maps Available from Sheridan Library at Johns Hopkins University

The Sheridan Library of Johns Hopkins University has a large collection of digital  Eastern Shore maps.  Family and local history researchers will find these online collections to be helpful.  Products include digital aerial maps published in 1938 and 1952, topographic maps, and many other cartographic products.

Visit the search page by clicking here and searching for your county of interest.

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Historical Society of Kent County Offers Thoughtful Programs: The Case of USCT Obie Evans Was Examined This Month

At their office in New York City, NAACP staff hung a black flag outside entitled “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday.” Its purpose was to reminder every one of what was happening to African Americans in the South. Source National Archives.

On the First Friday of each month the Historical Society of Kent County in Chestertown hosts the history happy hour, a special time for blending a social mixer with local history. Guests at these well attended programs sip on wine and snack on light refreshments, before an informative and enjoyable lecture gets underway.  We attend many of these popular events because of the quality of the speakers.

This month, Dr. Steve Newton of Delaware State University presented a carefully researched and powerfully delivered examination of the story of Obie Evans, a member of the United States Colored Troops.  The military history professor’s powerful analysis examined the problems of acceptance of African-Americans in the Union Army and the problems of violence in the post-Civil War era border state, through the presentation of this wounded veteran’s story.

The speaker shared an absorbing narrative about the journey of Evans from a slave to murder victim in his quest for independence.  Living in the Fredericksburg area, this freedom seeker claimed his independence under the Emancipation Proclamation, and eventually joined the 20th division, Company E, of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT).  On July 30, 1864, the private was badly wounded during the Battle of the Crater, outside Petersburg, VA.  Three years later, he had made his way to Delaware, but on July 24, 1867, residents of Leipsic found his body hanging from a willow tree.

Until a systematic investigation of Delaware lynchings was undertaken by Yohuru Williams, formerly a Delaware State University professor, the state’s history books reported that an incident at the New Castle County Workhouse in 1903 was the only incident in the First State.  Questioning this assumption, Professor Williams launched an investigation and did an extensive search of primary documents.  In time, he uncovered at least three documentable lynchings during and immediately after the Civil War.

When Dr. Newtown noted his colleague had built the foundation for this new interpretation, he was asked how Delaware Historians lost track of this terrible crime.  He responded that a title published by a historian in the first few decades of the 20th century romanticized the situation for African-Americans, reporting the Greenbank Workhouse Lynching was an abnormality as relations in the state were good.

Subsequent writers used what he termed the “authority rule.”  They simply accepted what had been presented as the authoritative narrative without considering the face validity of the point or presenting facts and so additional critical evaluation of the assumption wasn’t done.  As time went on the event faded from memory.

We are pleased that we caught this thoughtful, engaging program as Dr. Newton presented a largely untold story and made several points about the need to share the narratives of underrepresented people. Most of the men serving in the Civil War have not been represented in our histories and don’t have a voice in our present works, as the majority of materials come from the perspective of political and military leaders and those able to create the written record.

Thanks Dr. Newton for giving us lots to think about and thank you Historical Society of Kent County for regularly offering these well attended and enjoyable programs.

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