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. http://blogs.archives.gov/blackhistoryblog/files/2014/02/0610002r.jpg

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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Photographer Ed Herbener Produced Many of Delaware’s Real Photo Postcards

Almost everyone enjoys looking at old postcards from around the Delmarva Peninsula.  Plying the trade that produced these tiny early 20th century time capsules were a number of local and itinerant photographs.

One of them was Edward Herbener, a Newark photographer.   The Newark Post said in 1910: “Mr. Herbener is one of the pioneers in the post card business.  He not only furnishes views of Newark, but makes views for the trade from New York to North Carolina. He has built up quite a business in this line. He also makes fancy cards.  And all this work is done in Newark. . . .”. .”

Herbener, whose business flourished during the height of the post card craze, produced many of Delmarva’s real photos postcards, and we are fortunate that he was such a prolific artist.  Around one hundred years old, these old views provide a visual record of day-to-day life, solid visual evidence of the past.   In this era, photographers were few and far between, and many people did not have a camera, so images weren’t as common as they are today.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, I met Mr. Herbener’s grandson.  He was a retired college professor, living in Michigan at the time.  He gave me a copy of this card, a selfie if you will.  The self-portrait shows Edward Herbener at the East Newark Station on the B & O Line.  The real photo card was an advertisement, which was mailed to alert customers that he would be in their area soon.  It read:  “I hope to get away from here soon and will be in your town in a few days with a full line of seasonable goods, including a nice assortment of local pictures.”

Ed Herenber, Newark photographer, sold postcards on Delmarva.  Source:  personal collection

Ed Herenber, Newark photographer, sold postcards on Delmarva. Source: personal collection

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At History Happy Hour Dr. Newton Examines Story of the Murder of Escaped Slave & Civil War Soldier

Press Release – Kent County Historical Society

The Charles Sumner GAR Post 25 here in Chestertown is a reminder of the many African-Americans from the Eastern Shore who fought in the Civil War. Identified as USCT or United States Colored Troops, these men fought bravely in some of the most difficult battles of the war including the Battle of the Crater. One of these soldiers, Obie Evans, escaped slavery, survived the Battle of the Crater and participated in Baltimore’s postwar street riots – only to be murdered by other war veterans near Smyrna 1866. His story reveals the triumphs and tragedies of African-Americans in the Civil War.

Dr. Steve Newton has been a Professor of History and Political Science at Delaware State University since 1990. Currently, he serves as acting Chairman of the History, Political Science, and Philosophy Department at the University. Dr. Newton is the author of nine books and an Associate Editor of North & South magazine and is uniquely qualified to lead us to a better understanding of local Africans-Americans in the Civil War. Join us for History Happy Hour , 4PM Friday, September 5 at the Bordley History Center, 301 High Street in Chestertown and learn more about our early history.

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Pass the Rum: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition, a Program at the Woodlawn Branch, August 27

political cartoon from the Chicago Herald Examiner, April 4, 1933

political cartoon from the Chicago Herald Examiner, April 4, 1933

LECTURE:   Pass the Rum:  The Rise & Fall of Prohibition

LOCATION:  Woodlawn Library – 2020 West 9th Street, Wilmington, DE 19805

DATE:  Wed., August 27, 2014, 7 – 8 p.m. free

This popular lecture and discussion by Mike Dixon looks at the historical attempt to regular the consumption of alcohol over the centuries. While most people are aware of prohibition in the 1920, during the so-called Noble Experiment, attempts to regulate this behavior extend far into our past. While the program pays deeper attention to the modern era, as the nation and the State of Delaware struggled to live with the prohibition law for nearly 14 years, it takes a much longer view. During the presentation the audience will hear colorful stories of rum runners, moonshiners, bathtub gin, intriguing personalities, complicated Delaware politics, organized crime, outgunned lawmen, and the temperance movement.

This is a Delaware Humanities Forum speakers Bureau presentation hosted by the Woodlawn Library. For additional program details, please contact the library (302) 571-7425.

Wilmington police stand by as beer flows freely in the city.  Source:  Wilmington Morning News, April 9, 1933

Wilmington police stand by as beer flows freely in the city. Source: Wilmington Morning News, April 9, 1933


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DelMarVa Postcard and Local History Show, Dover, Sept. 13, 2014

Press Release

DOVER, DE — The DelMarVa Postcard Club is presenting a postcard and local history show in Dover on September 13, 2014.  

Dealers in postcards and Delmarva Peninsula local history (books, ephemera and photos) will be exhibiting at the United Methodist Church of Wyoming, located at 216 Wyoming Mill Road in Dover on Saturday, September 13.  Show and sale hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and free door prize drawings will be held every hour.

 Show coordinators Gary Spengler of Frederica and Bill Burton of Dover noted that well-known postcard dealers such as Mary L. Martin of Havre de Grace, MD, Collectors’ Rowe of Kennett Square, PA and Lee Dixon of Marydel, DE will be among the dealers exhibiting.

“Collectors of Delmarva Peninsula postcards and local history will find a wide variety of items of interest to them,” said Spengler, who has been a postcard and antiques dealer for more than 10 years. “The history of our communities here is fascinating and this is an opportunity to find and own a piece of it.”

“The show has traditionally been held during the winter in Salisbury, Maryland,” noted Burton, a collector of local history and postcards for 20-plus years. “By shifting the date to the fall and relocating the show closer to the larger population centers of Wilmington, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia has been met with a lot of enthusiasm from collectors and dealers alike.”

For further information call Gary Spenger at 302-335-1112 or Bill Burton at 302-734-9259.



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Links to High Quality Digital Content for Local & Family History Research on Delmarva

Since there is an enormous, rapidly growing body of research information available on the web, there is a need for a curated landing page, a place in the public commons on the net, to help someone digging into the past on the Delmarva Peninsula.  This opportunity to help researchers is something I encounter often during public lectures and courses as I get questions about how to find quality e-information. As a result, I have beta tested some curated social media products and apps, such as http://www.learnist.com and http://www.liiist.com.

Based on that experience, I have decided that the best way to point someone to valuable e-resources is to simply create a series of web pages.  Thus I have established this series of pages, which focuses on linking to quality family and local history research repositories   This new section of my website provides links to digital repositories, which have richly organized information and provide access to collections of quality resources for family and local history research.

Divided into major regions on the Peninsula, select your region of interest and on the page you will find topical headings to direct you to rich content. The pages will concentrate on linking to high quality digital repositories of online data to help local and family history researchers.

Hopefully this helps you with your study of the past. If you have suggestions for additions or how to improve the product, email me. I will continue to monitor the web and e-news outlets for developments, which should be added to the pages and add them as they come up, in order to help all of us with research in the region.

Click here to go to curated links site.

This curated site links to rich content digital pages, which help with family and local history research on Delmarva.

This curated site links to rich content digital pages, which help with family and local history research on Delmarva.


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The Gorsuch Tavern and the Christiana Resistance of 1851

At the 19 mile stone on the York Road stands a structure built in 1810 by Capt. Joshua Gorsuch. This place is connected with the Christiana Resistance, according to the state historical marker.  Baltimore Countians departed from here to go to Christiana Pennsylvana to reclaim their slaves.

Click here for information on the resistance.

The Gorsuch Tavern and its connection to the Christiana resistance of 1851

The Gorsuch Tavern and its connection to the Christiana resistance of 1851

The Gorsuch Tavern and its connection to the Christiana Riot of 1851

The Gorsuch Tavern and its connection to the Christiana Riot of 1851

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