East New Market


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1970s? - East New Market and Friendship Hall

The town of East New Market is a mystery. No one seems to know how this northern Dorchester County community got its start. Lack of recorded documents has left historians and local citizens alike to speculate that the town began as a trade center for the surrounding rural homes. In many cases, the advent of the railroad initiated the growth of a town, but not so in East New Market whose architecture predates the iron horse.

One extant record says the land on which the present town stands was granted to Bartholomew Ennalls between 1660 and 1670. Another settler, John Edmondson, a Virginia Quaker, who immigrated from Talbot to Dorchester County, reputedly came to the area about 1665. One can assume the town’s major growth occurred sometime between these earliest settlers and the next hundred years.

Disregarding historical records, the present town bespeaks its eighteenth century history through its architecture. East New Market today has several outstanding examples of late eighteenth century architecture. One of these is Friendship Hall. The house is remarkable for its associations with noted Marylanders as well.

Called “one of the most outstanding eighteenth century mansions in Dorchester County”, Friendship Hall was built about 1790. The house is a two-story brick structure with a hyphen and a kitchen wing. The particular feature of hyphen and wing is found in the Edmondson House and Rose Hill, two East New Market homes which date from the same period. Friendship Hall’s architecture is of Georgian style, characterized by simplicity and repetition of form, though the house was built during the period when the more elaborate Federal style was more popular.

Like the history of East New Market, the history of Friendship Hall is also sketchy. The house’s builder was James Sulivane. Dorchester County land records show that a Major James Sulivane purchased 387 acres called New Market in 1695. The builder of Friendship Hall, no doubt a descendant of the earlier James Sulivane, was an organizer of the New Market Blues, a Revolutionary military company. James Sulivane also served as the Deputy Assistant Commissary for Dorchester and Somerset counties during the Revolution. As Deputy Assistant Commissary, Sulivane was responsible for the purchasing or food and supplies for the colonial forces. By 1780, according to Elias Jones’ History of Dorchester County, Maryland, Sulivane was promoted to the rank of Quartermaster General. He was given the authority to impress all ships that could be used for transporting troops and supplies “…that could be found in the rivers and harbors of the Chesapeake Bay…”

Though Friendship Hall’s date of construction has not been definitely established, the house was standing in 1799 when the county was divided into election districts one of which was called New Market and contained “…the dwelling house of Mr. James Sulivane…” The property was apparently part of a larger estate which included a number of properties totaling approximately one thousand acres.

Dorchester County’s land records are extremely fragmented and it is not until 1836 that the next transaction of Friendship Hall can be positively documented. The house then fell into the Hicks family, a large and prominent Dorchester County family. Perhaps the most famous member of this family was Thomas Holliday Hicks, (1798-1865), thirty-first Governor of Maryland.

Hicks was born near East New Market, the son of Henry C. and Mary Sewell Hicks, and attended the New Market Academy. At twenty-one, he was elected town constable and by the time he was twenty-five, he was Sheriff of Dorchester County. Hicks continued to hold public office until he was elected governor in 1858 on the American or “Know-Nothing” Party.

Though Hicks announced from the outset his beliefs in the rights of the citizens of the Southern states and his opposition to the abolitionists, he was a Unionist. Hicks’ term of office was devoted to keeping Maryland within the Union. As tensions mounted toward the outbreak of the war, Hicks, of necessity, became more closely aligned with the Unionist forces and President Lincoln. By the end of his term in 1862, Hicks was extremely unpopular and did not run again. He served briefly as a U.S. Senator until he died suddenly in 1865.  Hicks is buried in Cambridge Cemetery.

Friendship Hall remained in the Hicks family throughout the nineteenth century and until recently when it was bought by Dr. Tidwell. The house is currently undergoing restoration.

Friendship Hall is listed on the Maryland Register of History Sites and Landmarks, a survey of outstanding examples of the state’s architecture conducted by the Maryland Historic Trust. The house has been approved by the Governor's Consulting Committee for historic preservation for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, a publication of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
[Errors - The original tracts were not owned by Bartholomew Ennalls or John Edmondson.  The majority of the town's growth did not occur between 1670 and 1770.  New Market could not really be considered a town until the 1790s at the earliest.  James Sulivane did not purchase 387 acres called New Market in 1695.  He did not purchase any land during that time period and the name New Market wasn't used until 1776.  The Hicks information may be correct, but not all of it has been verified.]