First Friday: History Happy Hour at the Bordley Building

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Elmer T. Hawkins

The Historical Society of Kent County will hold the latest installment of their History Happy Hour Lectures at 4 p.m. on Friday, August 4. Join us at the Bordley Building as  we discuss African American Teachers in Kent County presented by Airlee Johnson, Bill Leary, Susan Kenyon and George Shivers, members of the Community History Committee of the Historical Society of Kent County. They will present the results of their recent research into the experiences of African American teachers in Kent County prior to integration.  Interviews with retired teachers and relatives of deceased teachers reveal that they were well prepared, shared a special sense of mission to educate black children to be competitive with their white contemporaries, and were understandably proud of the work they did.

A related new exhibit at the Bordley Center presents the results of interviews with teachers and close relatives, including their recollections of the legendary principal of Garnet, Elmer T. Hawkins, and their comparative assessment of segregated and integrated schools.  It also includes an annotated map of Kent County showing the locations of over 30 African American schools in the 1920s. Information from school board records illustrates the growth of segregated public schools from their beginnings in 1872 to the consolidation of schools in the 1940s. Short biographies of 32 teachers also can be viewed at the Bordley History Center at 301 High St. in Chestertown.

The former Afridan American schoolhouse in Worton Point

Legacy Day Honors African American Teachers

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As school reunions go, the fourth annual Legacy Day in Chestertown breaks the mold.  This reunion will have a parade and block party in downtown Chestertown, and no one will care where you went to high school.  Everyone is welcome.

Legacy Day always attracts a large and diverse crowd and this year’s celebration should be the largest yet.  The parade will start down High Street at 5:00 on August 19, and from 6:00 to 10:00, the nine-member band “Soulfied Village” will make music while old friends and new, locals and come-heres, mix, mingle and dance in the street next to Fountain Park.

Every Kent County Historical Society Legacy Day highlights the county’s past.  In 2014, the first Legacy Day celebrated Chestertown’s Uptown Club, a stop on vaudeville’s Chitlin Circuit that featured stars as bright as Etta James, James Brown, BB King, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Patti Labelle.

The stars this year are the African American teachers who taught pride and excellence along with academics before county schools were integrated in 1967.  Now in their 70s and 80s, nearly 30 teachers, or, in the case of those who are no longer living, their relatives or friends, will ride in the parade in classic cars and, appropriately, on a school bus.

The Grand Marshall of the parade, waving from a 1937 Buick Roadmaster convertible, will be Garnet High social studies teacher Lauretta Freeman.

“The teachers were surprised when I called,” said Airlee Johnson, chair of the Legacy Day Committee.  Physical education teacher Gloristeen Powell Pinckett exclaimed, “Thank you for remembering us old gals!” and Mildred Upshur said, “Oh my gosh!  You all had the brightest minds.  I’ve always wanted to know what happened to you.”

For many, Legacy Day will be a reunion worth the drive from as far off as Georgia.  For others—too young to remember the pre-Brown v. Board of Education days or who attended all-white schools—it will be a chance to share stories and party.

Bill Leary, a white member of the Historical Society Board and a member of the Legacy Day Committee, says he attended segregated schools in Washington’s Virginia suburbs when he was a boy.

“I love Legacy Day because it is a genuinely interracial celebration of African American culture in Kent County,” Leary said.  “It is also great fun, as hundreds of people gather in downtown Chestertown to listen or dance to great music, eat good food and catch up with old friends.”

In addition to the block party and parade, Legacy Day will sponsor a Genealogy Workshop at 10:00 am on Saturday at Chestertown’s Public Library.  There will be a reception for the teachers on Friday.

Johnson says most teachers coming to Legacy Day taught at Garnet High, but some taught at elementary schools for African American children scattered throughout the county.  “Before I went to Garnet, I went to Worton Point,” Johnson said.  “It was a one-room school for grades one to four.  There was a table for each grade, a big stove and no indoor plumbing.”

A graduate of Garnet, Kent County Commission President William Pickrum will ride in the Legacy Day parade, but when he was a child he and his brothers walked 2½ miles to the three-room Coleman School from their home at YMCA Camp Tockwogh in Still Pond Neck.

Johnson says every African American school had the same goals.  “The expectation in our schools was that we would all excel,” she said.  “In a way, our schools were like exclusive private schools.  The teachers were preparing us to go out into the integrated world.”

Historical Society Presents Lecture on “Women and Work on the Eastern Shore and Beyond”

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The Historical Society of Kent County is proud to present the third installment of it’s

“Labor Lecture Series”

Featuring Dr. Kara French

“Women and Work on the Eastern Shore and Beyond”

Please join us on May 5th at 4 pm for the latest installment of our labor lecture series. Featuring the collections of Salisbury University’s Edward H. Nabb Center for Delmarva History and Culture, this talk will explore how women have worked from colonial times to the present. We will not only discuss the types of work women have performed, but also the barriers women as workers have had to overcome. Special attention will be paid to the work Eastern Shore women performed during World War II.

4:00 pm Friday, May 5, 2017 Admission is free.

Historical Society of Kent County, Boardley Building, 301 High Street, Chestertown, MD  410.778.3499  www.kentcountyhistory.org

Author of the Immortals’ Story to Speak at Historical Society’s Meeting

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The Historical Society of Kent County is collaborating with Maryland chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) to gather information about the Maryland 400. These Marylanders, “gentlemen of honour, family and fortune” who became known as “The Immortals,” are credited with protecting the Continental Army in a battle that could have ended the American Revolution almost at its start.

That battle was fought in August, 1776, when the British attacked the patriot army that had been holding Brooklyn Heights. With fierce and repeated bayonet charges, the Maryland regiment prevented the British from crossing the East River into lower Manhattan and enabled the Continental Army to retreat and survive. The Battle of Brooklyn felled 256 of the Maryland 400, but its leaders regrouped and, along with battalions from Delaware and fresh recruits from Maryland, went on to fight in most of the key battles of the Revolutionary War. These included Trenton, Stony Point, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown.

The Historical Society and SAR are seeking anyone who has relatives who served in, or fought alongside, the Maryland 400. The organizations want to gather both family stories and artifacts, such as letters and objects, related to that Maryland regiment and those battles.

On April 27, the bestselling military historian Patrick K. O’Donnell will speak to the Annual Meeting dinner of the Historical Society about the Maryland 400. Mr. O’Donnell’s 2016 book, Washington’s Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution, was recently named one of the 100 Best American Revolution Books of All Timeby the Journal of the American Revolution.

Mr. O’Donnell will be joined by Major General James A. Adkins (ret.), Eastern Shore native and Washington College graduate, who in 2015 completed his 40-year U.S. Army career serving as Adjutant General of the Maryland National Guard. General Adkins will discuss the Sons of the American Revolution effort, which he is leading, to reclaim and do justice to the memory of the Immortals.

Anyone who has information about the Maryland 400 or is interested in attending the Society’s Annual Meeting dinner may call or email the Society president, Stephen Frohock at the Society, 410-778-3499, or director@kentcountyhistory.org

History Happy Hour Labor Lecture Series

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The Historical Society of Kent County is pleased to have Dr. Lucy Maddox present our latest installment of our four part labor lecture series. These lectures will explore the way Kent County worked beginning with indentured servitude and culminating with women’s work on the Eastern Shore during World War II. On April 7, Dr. Maddox will present her research regarding African American businesses in Chestertown – Against All Odds: African American Businesses in Chestertown before the Civil War.

Dr. Maddox is professor Emerita of English and American Studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of four books, her most recent The Parker Sisters: A Border Kidnapping was published by Temple University in 2016. Currently, Lucy is working on a book about Rose Hill Plantation in Cecil County.

Please join us at the Bordley Building for our second installment of a fascinating and exciting lecture series! It all starts at 4 p.m. 301 High St.

Book Discussion by Alexandra Deutch February 3

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On February 3, 2017, the Kent County Historical Society will present a book discussion by Alexandra Deutsch, Chief Curator of the Maryland Historical Society.

In her recent book, A Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, Deutsch writes of Elizabeth Bonaparte’s life and world. This cultural biography details the experience of the famous beauty who married Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother. Because of the Emperor’s machinations, the unapproved marriage was soon annulled. In spite of the unyielding forces against her, Elizabeth was eventually able to become financially independent due to her brilliance in the Baltimore real estate market.

Alexandra Deutsch has been the curator of several museums in the Northeast, Manager of Decorative Arts at Sloane’s Auction Gallery and now serves as Curator at Baltimore’s Maryland Historical Society. The discussion will take place at the Bordley Building, at the corner of Cross and High streets at 4:00 p.m.

We hope to see you there!

A Nice Little Chat on Kent County’s Only Mass Murder set for November 4

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Kent County’s only mass murder took place 165 years ago at a farmhouse near Galena. But to this day there are many mysteries surrounding the case that resulted in five deaths and a very public, triple hanging outside of Chestertown.
What was the real motive of the three men convicted of 1st-degree murder? What part did the clock mender play? After his cohorts were executed, what happened to Stephen Shaw, the fourth member of the murderous cabal? Why did a Philadelphia murderer confess to the Cosden murder a year after the three, who were convicted, breathed their last at the gallows? And, what happened to the scaffolding after the executions?

Kevin Hemstock will examine these and other questions during History Happy Hour, Nov. 4.

Hemstock, former Kent County News editor and a local historian, is working on a comprehensive account of the sensational home invasion murder that horrified the nation in 1851. He also will have available his self-published book, The 13 Most Sensational Murder Cases in Kent County, Md.

It all starts at 4 p.m. at the Bordley Building, 301 High St.

Jon Powers Assumes Leadership at Historical Society

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After an extensive search campaign, Steven Frohock, President of the Historical Society of Kent County, proudly announces that Jon Powers has accepted the position of Executive Director. He replaces Susanne DeBerry Cole, who has relocated outside the state. Powers began work on October 1, during the Society’s annual walking tour of historic homes in Chestertown. In its new headquarters on Chestertown’s busiest corner, the Society looks forward to innovative programs to make Kent County history more relevant to both the community and visitors.

kent-photo-amanda-002A Washington College graduate with a degree in Political Science, Jon Powers excelled in a university career that focused on development and outreach. He served as Director of Development at Dickinson, a private liberal arts college in Carlisle, PA, and as Vice-President for Development at a division of the University of Maryland. He is currently the founder and president of Mid-Shore Fundraising, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in non-profit institutions. Powers looks forward to renewing contacts and friendships in Kent County, where he years ago wrote a column supporting the Humane Society for Kent County News editor Hurtt Deringer and worked as an on-air commentator for local radio station WCTR.

Amanda Tuttle-Smith will continue as Deputy Director and Curator, assisted by librarian Joan Andersen and a growing crew of volunteers. Powers expressed enthusiasm for new program opportunities at the Bordley History Center, on the corner of High and Cross Streets, where renovation work is complete. The Society’s research collection and genealogical materials are fully accessible on the second floor and the Alexander Rasin Learning Center has been transformed into an attractive space for exhibits, lectures and other public programs. Powers praised the new facility, commenting that “our next challenge is to reach out to members, residents and visitors to Kent County with programs to stimulate our imaginations and enrich our lives.”

The Society is grateful to its members and many other supporters who have made these changes possible. The public is invited to visit both the new headquarters and the Society’s website, kentcountyhistory.org, to learn more about ongoing activities.

History Happy Hour at the Bordley

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Please join us at the Bordley History Center to hear board member Jane Nevins present her work entitled “How Washington Became a God.” Nevins’s book, Turning 200: The Bicentennial of the Constitution (Richardson & Steirman, NY, 1987), told the story of the founding of our government and was the start of her fascination with the Founders and founding. She was a journalist in California in the 1970s, an appointee in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations in the 1980s, and the head of a nonprofit publisher in the 1990s through 2013. Her interest in the American founding is purely an avocation, but she hopes to inspire others to admire and cherish America’s founders, especially George Washington. Come relish in your love for Washington during History Happy Hour at the Bordley, Friday, October 7, at 4pm.