East New Market

Historic Sketches

2006 - Kirk L. Hurley

Written for The Comprehensive History of East New Market
and the Wikipedia entry for East New Market

East New Market
by Kirk L. Hurley

Long referred to as Newmarket, the town arose from its beginnings in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to be a social and commercial center serving the northern hinterland region of Dorchester County, Maryland into the early 20th century. It was an early locale for education, and a hub in the rise of Methodism as a majority denomination in the region which in turn led to one of the state's largest free-black populations per capita. This was due in part to the Methodist discipline of freeing slaves, a belief which later led to a fundamental split in that church.

The town was a focal point of activity during the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. The granaries of Col. James Sulivane (commissary officer during the American Revolutionary War) and a regiment of militia known as the "New Market Blues" were integral to the County's as well as the colony's/State's efforts in the revolution. Now known for an unusually broad spans of architectural styles primarily arising from the late 18th century through the early 20th century, the town's history spans a period from the pre-Columbian to the modern.

Much of the native American Indian remains are thought to be lost. Sitting on the Nanticoke Indian path from the Choptank Indian "Fort", this same route placed the community at the near center of commercial crossroads of the Eastern Shore of Maryland until the 1930s and the opening of the "Governor Emerson C. Harrington Bridge" in Cambridge in 1935 with its dedication by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Until the construction of that bridge (begun in 1933) the town of East New Market had sat upon the main north-south road of the Eastern Shore. A history of boarding houses, hotels and other such facilities serving traveler and resident is replete in the town's history until that routing became secondary as too circuitous by comparison to the new more direct path from Easton to Cambridge and on to Salisbury. The "Bramble House," the "Old Brick Hotel," and "The Chesadale" are three of the names that cover over a century of hosting to the traveler along the road and from the subsequent rail line that also traveled North / South stopping at the depot on the eastern edge of the town.

Originally settled by colonists at what had become the juncture of several plantation farms the name for the town itself comes from a land patent and resurvey granted by patent from the Lord proprietor's land office to James Sulivane in May of 1776 just prior to the issuance of the American Declaration of Independence as "New Market." Some of the older grant names were "York," "Bath," "Westward," "Buckland," "Buckland Regulated," "Debate Enlarged," "Melvill's Meadow," "Sulivane's Meadow," "Hooper's Outlet," and "Anderton's Desire." At this point several of the more prominent families and their homes were located in the midst of what is now the town. A series of land transactions by purchase, marriage and inheritance over a number of years had put parts of many earlier grants in the hands of Sulivane. With these various parcels Sulivane created a single tract for which the new survey or re-survey was granted. This also eliminated some overlaps brought about by earlier survey and other error as all of the subject lands where the disputes might arise were now owned by him. From this larger tract, a smaller narrowing section, where many of the confluences occurred, the town evolved.

In one section of the new resurvey Sulivane changed the course of the road that constitutes the southern portion of the main street from its current intersection (Md. routes 14 and 16 as of 2006) to a subsequent bend and now fork in that road. On either side of this section of the newly relocated road he created a series of numbered lots and sold them off as building lots. The vacant lots ran from just south of what is now the intersection of Md. Rt.s 16 and 14 to a bend of the main St. leading out of town and towards Cambridge. The date of the first structure while predating the resurvey and the creation of these building lots, is not know. The oldest extant structure of European origins may extend back to the 1690s as part of a larger "newer" structure (1790s) known by various names such as "Temperance House," "The Old Brick Hotel," "Mitchell-Daffin House," or "House of the Hinges." Only two structures (as of this writing) are definitively shown to predate the resurvey. These two are "Friendship Hall" and "Buckland," each of which date to the mid 18th century. There is, however, strong speculation that the kitchen wing of the "House of Hinges" (or by whatever name) may reach back as far as the end of the 17th century but may have gone through significant remodeling when the main structure erected was erected by Cyrus Mitchell in the mid 1790s.

Early histories have erroneously ascribed all the of the great early homes to the Sulivane family. Such works as Jones's "History of Dorchester County," and "The Laskowski Papers," are rife with error, and inaccuracy. Even work by the noted colonial architectural historian Foreman is replete with historical inaccuracies as to ownership and other such non-architectural attributions. Despite such errors, closer examination reveal an even richer, deeper and more interesting story about a community that has been diverse, stable, progressive, far-sighted and which held far greater sway for the better part of two and a half centuries than one would associate with or ascribed to any community of such small size.

The greater area was the home of Civil War-era and Union-sympathizer Maryland Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks. Hicks served in several different elected offices ( before being elected Governor of Maryland(see Notable People below). He was one of the last nationally prominent Whig office holders. Later, as a member of the American Nativist Party (sometimes known as the "No-Nothing Party") and served as Governor and as a United States Senator the last years of his life. It is due primarily to his efforts as Governor that Maryland was held back from secession and remained in the Union. His efforts to avoid conflict between Federal Volunteer Troops of the 16th Massachusetts ultimately resulted in the federal occupation of Baltimore thus inadvertently guaranteeing Union control of the city (then 4th largest in the nation) and its crucial rail centers.

When Did New Market Become A Town?

As a formal entity the town is known to have been in existence as a town certainly as early as 1783 when the State Legislature authorized the payment for a road "... from the main road from Newmarket to Vienna to the grist-mill of Michael Hall Bonwill, and thence till it intersect the main road from Cambridge to Vienna." (Hanson's Laws of Maryland 1763-1784, Volume 203, Page 361, 1783, CHAP. XIV). By analogy Dorchester County itself marks the year of its organization as 1668 not form a formal creation but from the date on a writ to sheriff of the County of Dorset.

Among the first evidences of any incorporation comes in a state statute from 1803 where the town is given authority to control the ranging about of certain livestock. While this is not the granting of a town charter per se, the wording evidences that indeed there already existed a body of incorporated municipal leadership and raises the possibility of an even earlier charter. The 1803 law authorized the corralling of swine and geese running free "within the limits of said town " and providing for fines, etc.. ("1802 NOVEMBER. LAWS OF MARYLAND, ROBERT BOWIE, ESQUIRE, GOVERNOR, CHAP, LXX"; Passed 8th of January, 1803) The use of the term town and limits are terms of art as shown in contemporary gazetteers of the period in which the word village and town bore reference to population size and status of incorporation.

1805 saw the State Legislature empowered the Levy Court for Dorchester County to appoint a baliff for "New-Market" specifying qualifications for the office and enumerating powers and the extent of jurisdiction which was to extend three miles from the limits of the "village". (LAWS OF MARYLAND, NOVEMBER 1804 ~ ROBERT BOWIE, ESQUIRE, GOVERNOR, CHAP, LXX; Passed Jan. 19, 1805) Here again the term of art references "limits" which are used only in incorporated towns and must exist to specify jurisdictional limits and the points from which they may extend.

In 1832 the first formal charter incorporating the town is found. Incorporated under the name of "East New Market". This by no means that this was the first incorporation but rather the first that can be found. Boundaries for the town were set at 1/2 mile as measured from an intersection of what was called LeCompte's Tavern. (1832 LAWS OF MARYLAND, JAMES THOMAS, ESQUIRE, GOVERNOR; Session Laws, 1832 Volume 547, Page 174 CHAPTER 167; Passed Mar. 7, 1833). Later, a reincorporation in 1860 reduced the limits to 1/3 of a mile but still measured from "...the tavern house known as " James Lecompte's" or the " frame tavern" each way;..." (The Maryland Code : Public General Laws and Public Local Laws, 1860 Volume 145, Volume 2, ART. 10.] DORCHESTER COUNTY. EAST NEW MARKET. Sections 133 through 146 Page 523 – 525, incl.)

The idea of tracing the towns incorporation date is not dissimilar from Dorchester County itself which traces its establishment from 1668 and the issuance of a writ from the Governor's council to the Sheriff of Dorsett. The formal setting aside of the county has been lost.

The appellation "East" had been added in 1827 with the establishment of a post office. The change was made by the United States Postal Service to distinguish it from the town of New Market in Frederick County, and areas of Baltimore, Kent, and Talbot Counties Maryland as well as from several other areas up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Among most long time residents the emphasis upon the pronunciation of the town's name is on the word New perhaps reflecting the pronunciation of the original name.

A committed forward thinking leadership remained active over the expanse of time. By the outbreak of the First World War the town already had its first bank, electric company, water company, and fire brigade. It had its own sanitary sewer system by the 1930s.

Rise of Methodism

With a congregation dating back to the period prior to the "Christmas Conference of 1784," what is currently believed to have been the first Methodist meeting house in the town was established in 1810 and known as "Union Chapel." Francis Asbury, 1st Bishop of the American Methodist (Episcopal) Church held quarterly conference there and noted in his journal enemy activity locally during the War of 1812. The chapel was built with an adjoining graveyard. A Greek revival structure was built ca. 1848 at new location in the town and named "Trinity" replacing "Union Chapel" and with a separate cemetery on the town's outskirts established which some have come to believe was inspired by the "Cemetery Movement" of the period.

Members of the Methodist movement had, from early on met in various places ranging from the homes of members to meeting houses provided for their use. From such a congregation, meeting in the home of one "Brother Ayers," the congregation gave rise to the seat of the Dorchester Circuit when it was formally created in 1804. From that circuit various circuits were later carved but records, as was customary church practice, always remained with the church that sat as the seat of the circuit. In this case seat of The Dorchester Circuit was with the congregation in New Market with its place of worship at Union Chapel and its later successor Trinity. Thus it is in effect the "mother circuit" to all others set off from the Dorchester Circuit.

The Greek revival structure was, by oral tradition, greatly altered on the interior when a major wing was added ca. 1912. Supposedly a balcony was removed, new stained glass windows and a wing known as the "Sunday School" wing was added, and coal oil lamps replaced. A pressed tin ceiling and wall covering above beaded tongue and groove wainscoting installed, and a split chancel rail floor plan adopted and choir box added. The original exterior design remained fundamentally unaltered and the new wing continued the Greek revival look of the original. A series of vastly over sized folding panel doors separated the wing from the main sanctuary. However overtime, due to the lack a solid foundation footing, the great weight of the doors and the settling of the area where the original sanctuary and south wall of the wing met, the doors ceased to be able to open or retract and resulted in their being removed leaving a large squared arch opening between the sanctuary and the wing.

In addition to the Methodist denomination, an Anglican Chapel was known to have been built in 1791 under the auspices of James Sulivane. The original chapel and graveyard established by the Methodist congregation continued to be used by the local Episcopal congregation as its second location until the building of its third and current church, St. Stephen's Church, in 1893 on the northern end of the town's main street. The 'Methodist Protestant Church,' 'Baptist Church' 'German Evangelical and Reformed Church, and 'Lutheran Church, have also served in the community.

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

Various types of schools and academies serve the community and a far wider reach than might be imagined for a town who's core population remained relatively stable for close to two centuries. The earliest school was chartered by the state in 1818, and others public and private, male and female, white and black followed. The two main schools came about in 1878-80 and in 1912.

1819 was a remarkable year in education for the area. On February 6 of that year the New-Market Academy was incorporated. Only 5 days later the law providing for the free public school system in Dorchester County was passed and naming the Commissioners for the same. In 1829 the State Legislature provided for an annual payment of $200 to the Academy and the Academy was reincorporated in 1830. An additional statute made it clear that the annual allocation for the New Market Academy was not to be considered as part of the funding for the free school system. It is interesting to note in passing that these respective acts, they were passed under the governorships of Charles Goldsborough, native to Dorchester County, and Thomas King Carroll who had strong family ties with the county. In 1850 the Newmarket Academy and the county free schools were joined by the East New Market Female Seminary.

The Third Academy

In a series of articles published in the weekly newspaper “Democrat and News” (D. & N.) the basic origins of the third school built in East New Market can be followed. The articles are in effect the minutes of the Dorchester County School Board that were published subsequent to the board’s meetings and appear to be reprinted in whole without comment or editing by the newspaper itself.

At the February 14, 1912 meeting of the board (as reported in the minutes published on the 16th in the “D. & N.”) two residents of the town identified in the minutes only as Messers Demott, and Clifton appeared complaining of sanitary conditions. They urged the construction of a new school for the “accommodation and comfort” of the community.

It appears that at the time the board appointed from the respective communities members of the local citizenry to positions that oversaw the schools within the community in the event there were needs or problems. These appointees were referred to as trustees and reported to the members of the board. It is not entirely clear whether Messers and Demott and Clifton were in fact the referenced trustees. As the Secretary to the board was instructed to interview the trustees and report back it seems reasonable to infer that they were not. At the same meeting it is made clear that should a new school be in fact needed that a bond would have to be authorized by the state legislature as the board itself had no independent funds for such an undertaking.

By the April 23rd, 1912 meeting the state legislature had in fact passed the authorization for a $10,000 bond but the Board had not issued them. “A delegation composed of Messers William E. Johnson, Frederick Wright, Charles Meyers, Samuel J. T. Smith, and Otis Bramble from East New Market was present and requested the Board take action…” which they the proceed to do per the May 3rd issue of the “D. & N.” in that very session. The 21st of May was set for the deadline for bids.

Six bids were received and opened by the building committee as reported in the June 14th issue in the “D. & N.” with bids ranging from a high bid of $12,990.oo from Daniel Harding, Baltimore to a low of $9,996.oo from A. O. German, of Hurlock. The building committee did not award the contracts deciding instead to consult with the project architect one Mr. Charles G. Fisher of Milford, Delaware.

Two very interesting items appear in the “D.& N.’s” July 19’s report of the July 16th meeting. First, the final award of the contract was announced apparently after some negotiating to A. O. German, the successful bid being some $526.00 less than the original bid reported in the June 14th issue.

Second, the school board approved the payment to S. J. T. Smith [Samuel J. T. Smith]' of $150.00 for having Mr. LeRoy Lankford move the old East New Market School. Payment of $150.oo to W. E. Johnson, president of the building committee, to the order of the project architect was also ordered.

A point of confusion arises here per a conversation with the late Reuben Clauser from the 1960’s. In that conversation with Kirk L. Hurley, Mr. Clauser recalled being chased around the old school building in a game of tag during which he ran into the scaffolding surrounding the new brick structure. The question arises as to whether there was a delay in the moving of the school or some other explanation. It remains unanswered at this point

The last public high school in the town ceased operation when it was merged in 1954 with the school population of two other rural high schools (Hurlock High School, and Vienna High School) to form North Dorchester High School under its first Principal, Charles F. Hurley, Sr. The elementary school was merged in the late 1970s with that of the adjoining town of Secretary in that town.

It is immediately evident from these recitations that this community was one of prosperity with a forward thinking population. Among the most progressive of these was C. Edwin Bell (Cyrus Edwin Bell) who, after the "great fire" of 1914, persuaded the town to build its own water system. Fresh potable water was and is drawn from aquifers and delivered to each home and business. A system of fire hydrants was also installed. The efforts at the last quarter of the 20th century to revamp the system saw that the pipes had been placed at a death that even modern the road reconstruction of the early 1960s and subsequent traffic had not disturbed them and that provision had been made at the initial installation of the system, off of each major line, for expansion of the system concomitant to the hoped for and expected town's growth in population when it came.

The supposition (infra) that the retention of such a major number of old buildings in whole or in part dating in some cases as far back as the latter part of the seventeenth century was due wholly or significantly to the lack of financial resources and economic prospects of the community is correct only due to many factors such as the severe and lasting effect of the economic collapse suffered by the United States in general during the Great Depression. The failure of the steam ship lines (which had by the 1920s and 1930's been acquired by the railroads) came at a time when there were insufficient resources, public or private, to maintain them). Subsequently the decline and loss of profitability by the railroads marked a period in which the entire region of the Eastern Shore of Maryland fell into decline and obscurity. For such a small town to have achieved and maintained so much is truly remarkable. Only the county seat of Cambridge with a population vastly larger by comparison could boast so many municipal achievements so early for so long.

In 1880, four years after the nation's centennial, the town's population stood at 242 with no comparable data from the 1870 census. With East New Market and Cambridge as the only two communities set out in the census report, the picture of a rural agrarian and aqua-cultural county is complete. The report notes that the election district had a total population of 2498. This represented an increase in the districts' total population by 151. This is remarkable when noting that a significant portion of the district was lost prior to the census due to the creation of the 14th or Linkwood Election District.

Population counts for the town showed 1,267 in 1900 (all statistics per U.S. Census Bureau as reported by minor civil division per respective census.). By comparison the population of the village of Secretary was 410. There were 721 persons in the East New Market election district living outside the town limits. The village of Hurlock, which had by 1900 been made part of the new 15th election district subsequent to the 1890 census, had a population of 280. In 1910 the election district's total population was 2,068 with the town proper showing a decrease in population to 880 and Secretary's at 409. Hurlock had grown to 516. By 1930 the entire East New Market Election district had a total population of 1,800 of which 940 are noted as rural farm population. No separate town figures are shown. In 1920 the total for the district had reached 2008 without breaking down the totals for the town of East New Market nor the Village of Secretary.

This decline in population over the past century reflects the national trends as shown the same respective census reports of declines in family sizes and the shift of the population to a more urbanized society with its concomitant economic offerings and social advantages. That in combination with the effects of a World War, the economic devastation and the resulting isolation of what had been a thriving economic community and other factors saw the decline ensue. The Town of East New Market's total was 153 at the 1990 census, and 167 at the 2000 census. The 2005 estimate is 245. This estimate is based on the projected relocation of retirees from the northeastern and other sections of the United States for purposes of retirement. Even in 2007 and 2008 in a period of economic decline for the nation and region in general, construction has outstripped any total that has occurred in the combined near half century in total.

Historic Preservation

Efforts made by Dr. M. Fred Tidwell, Phd., and his protege Joseph Gavlick, in the early 1970s to preserve the Sullivan family's Georgian style home, Friendship Hall, combined with activities during the 1976 celebration of the United States bicentennial promoted a renewed awareness of the town's uniqueness. This renewed awareness in turn combined with a federal C.E.T.A. grant used to excavate and re-lay the town's brick sidewalks (originally laid in 1894) provided part of the impetus to a larger effort to preserve the historic town and its heritage. The use of the grant for this purpose was the brainchild of then Mayor Charles F. Hurley, Sr. who saw it as a way of combining a federal jobs program with a life-long interest in historic preservation. These and other efforts culminated in the bicentennial year town-wide costume ball held under a great tent on the grounds of a the transitional Georgian/Federal house known as "Edmondson Hall" a.k.a. "Liberty Hall."

From the aforementioned activities came a new initiative. then council member Hurley, Dr. Tidwell (who was also an elected town councilman) and educator/school principal John Nossick (who later served on the town council) founded the East New Market Heritage Foundation, specifically to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of the town. The town contemporaneously passed a zoning, and historic district ordinances. The initial historic district declaration provided the impetus for the next steps.

Based on the research of local historian Kirk L. Hurley application was made to the state for the granting of state historic district status. This research comprised a house by house, property by property account taking every property back to resurvey of 1776 and the prior grants. The result of this was the basis for the section dealing with East New Market in the historic sites survey published in the Maryland Historical Trust's book Between the Nanticoke and the Choptank, An Architectural history of Dorchester County (Weeks, 1984, The Johns Hopkins University Press). From the granting of state historic district status a successful recommendation was made and accepted for a National Historic District Status.