Records of the First Sail Vessel and Early Steam-boating on the Chester River -
An Enterprising Company - The First Railroad, Its Cost, Ownership, et
In November, 1825, M. Tilghman advertises the schooner "Two Brothers" to carry letters, packages, grain, etc., to Baltimore. He also ran the schooner "Independence" from Travilla.
February 24, 1826, the fast-sailing, copper-bottom sloop, "General LaFayette," Robert Constable, master, left Chestertown on Wednesdays at 9 A. M. and Baltimore on Saturdays. "With a good wind can make -the trip in five and one-half to seven hours."
The first notice of steamboats is in March, 1827, when the steamer "Maryland" is advertised as leaving Baltimore on Monday at 5 A. M. and arriving in Chestertown at 12 M., stopping at Queenstown; fare, $1.50 each way. "Under no inducements shall more steam be employed than is necessary for her ordinary voyages." Lemuel G. Taylor was the commander of the steamer.
Then came the "Patuxent," Captain Weems. Sail vessels advertise a trip for $1.50, and meals; colored passengers, $1 and found.
The steamer "Cambridge" was put on in 1849; and competed with the "Maryland," Captain J. B.
Griffith. The "Osiris" was put on in September, and left Baltimore every Wednesday and Saturday, returning the same day. The "Hugh Jenkins" was put on in April, 1851, and charged $1.00 for the round trip. The Eastern Shore Steamboat Company, in 1852, gave Chestertown a boat as far up as Crumpton thrice a week. The "Wm. Selden," Captain John D. Turner, was put on in the summer of 1852. The "Cecil" also ran here; Corsica and Kent Island were the only wharves below here. The steamer "Arrow" was put on in November, 1860, Capt. E. S. L. Young. The steamer "Balloon," of the Eastern Shore Line, was put on in 1860.
The steamer "Chester" arrived in April, 1861. Captain Young, of the "Arrow," took command, and B. S. Ford, then clerk of the "Arrow," took Captain Young's place. H. B. Slaughter was proprietor of this line. The "Chester" and "Arrow" ran alternately, making a daily line from this town.
Thompson's wharf was built in 1856-7 by Capt. James Frizby Taylor. Ruth & Emory bought out Hiram Brown in 1854, and Taylor bought from Ruth & Emory, and the Chester River Company now holds all.
The late Col. B. S. Ford, who had served with the late Capt. E. S. L. Young in several capacities of purser and captain in Slaughter's line, about this time (1865) conceived the idea of forming a company, and with the valuable assistance of Capt. E. S. L. Young, who was well acquainted with the representative men of that time, procured a charter from the Maryland Legislature for the corporation known as the Chester River Steamboat Company. This company purchased the steamers "Chester" and "George Law," of the estate of H. B. Slaughter, and organized for business by electing B. S. Ford its president and general manager; the duties of which office he ably fulfilled through the struggling period of the young corporation's existence, until the foundation was laid strong and deep for the great success it has since achieved.
Well does the writer remember the initial trip of the "B. S. Ford." It having been well advertised that she would come from Baltimore in charge of her first commander, Capt. P. C. McConnor, on the 3rd, and take an excursion to Baltimore on the 4th of July, 1877; the wharves on the route were crowded on the Nation's holiday to greet this Queen of the Chester by an immense throng of people from all sections of the surrounding country; many to embark and many to admire her symmetrical beauty. This event was hailed as a new era of comfort to the traveling public and a marked advance in the business of the company. Alas! scarcely more than two years of the bright new era had passed away when the whole State was startled and many homes saddened by the news of the death of Col. B. S. Ford at Ocean City, July 28, 1879.
On Saturday night, May 5, 1884, the B. S. Ford was burned at her wharf in Chestertown. She had been off the line for several weeks for repairs, which had cost about $2,000. The Ford was insured for $41,000, and cost when new $75,000. She was afterwards rebuilt, and made her first trip to Chestertown on Saturday, May 7, 1887, with Capt. John A. Clark in command.
The elevation of Mr. George Warfield, of Baltimore city, to the presidency caused no surprise. This gentleman had great experience In business far remote from transportation, but like a good mariner took bearings before venturing too far, and devoted his time and talents to acquiring the experience required for his new duties, and rapid progress he made in that direction. By a wonderful development of its interests, he proved the wisdom of his election to the management of the company's affairs. Under Mr. Warfield's administration the steemers Corisca and Emma A. Ford were built and the Gratitude purchased, which, with the B. S. Ford, comprised the fleet. Capt. P. O. McConnor, Mate W. S. Taylor and Capt. Jack Anthony with Capt. William M. Vandike for many years were in charge of the fleet. The Chester River Company with all its boats and fine wharf property were sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, since which time it has been known as the Maryland, Delaware & Virginia Steamboat Company.
Much wharf property has been added to the holdings of the company and piers and warehouses built that are not surpassed by any on the Chesapeake Bay or tributaries. This rich section of the Eastern Shore is highly favored in transportation and mail facilities, and we indulge the hope that the great West may yet find an outlet to the sea through this peninsula. Several times in its history has the company had to contend with opposition, but they generally managed to get them out of the way before they grew formidable.
On Friday, April 24, 1868, a contract was entered into for the construction of a railroad from near Masseys, by way of Kennedyville, to Chestertown, Bel Air, Rees' Corner, to the terminus on Swan Creek, 32.09 miles; also wharf at Chestertown. The entire work to -be completed for $548,000, of which $169,332 was to be paid in cash, $98,640 in Kent County bonds at par, and the balance in the bonds of the company at par. The names mentioned as contractors were A. F. Sears, Peter Sanford, Rod-man Backus, of Newark, N. J.
Masseys to Kennedyville $155,272.98
Kennedyvnle to Worton 95,213.31
Worton to Chestertown 64,003.34
Chestertown to near Fairlee 80,007.65
Bel Air to Battershell Hill 48,383.89
To Deep Landing (Rock Hall) 105,118.83
On Friday, January 10, 1869, it was decided to build a railroad on "the ridge," and on May 15 the following directors were elected: Hon. George Vickers, T. W. Eliason, Isaac Parsons, J. B. Fennimore, W. B. Wilmer, William Janvier, Abel J. Rees, Thomas J. Shallcross, and officered thus,: President, P. W. Eliason; treasurer, Richard Hynson; secretary, Charles T. Westcott. Bishop & Ferguson contracted to carry the U. S. mail between Middletown and Chestertown in -a two-horse stage coach. On July 23, 1870, the Kent County Railroad was employed to bring the mail as far as Kennedyville. and from thence by stage. By this route the Baltimore mail arrived in Chestertown at 3 P. M. instead of 6. In August, 1870, the road had reached Worton, and grading to town was begun, Mr. Jackson contractor. Mr. Eliason resigned the presidency after a short service. J. K. Hines resigned as superintendent, and Mr. Owens, of Queen Airne's, was appointed. A stage ran from Hall's Hotel daily at 6 A. M.; returning, would leave Worton at 1.30 P. M., and the fare to Philadelphia was $3.30. In April, 1871, the Board of Public Works appointed the following directors: Abel J. Rees, Robt. Nicholson, William S. Walker. A dispute arose, and the road was not accepted until a year later. On Tuesday, February 20, 1872, the first train arrived at Chestertown. On Sunday, March 3, 1872, the train was caught in a snow drift, and the Queen Anne's engine had to come and get our train out. In 1874 a big strike occurred, and the mail to Worton was carried to Worton on a hand car. On July 10, 1874, the road was leased to M. W. Serat, president of the company. In 1877 the road was sold at public sale at the Voshell House to Jay Gould; through J. F. Bingham, Esq., for $33,000 and other considerations. Col. Fred Gerker leased from Gould, it is said, for $1 a year, and B. F. Fleming was made manager. Gerker gave it up on April 1, 1889, but previous to this he was offered the road for $275,000. He refused, but E. P. Thielens, of New Jersey, bought it at $375,000. The Jersey Central took $250,000, and gave Thielens the balance. The latter was to pay taxes and keep up the road with his one-third for two years, and then the Jersey Central would assume control. Col. E. P. Stacey was made superintendent. The present corps of men comprise: (Jonductor, J. P. Welch; engineer, Horace Reed. The train arrives here at 11 A. M. and 7 P. M., two trains per day besides a freight train running daily.
Propositions looking to the extension of this road to the bay have been made, but at this time there is but little prospect of the same being consummated. The road bed at one time was finished as far as Tolchester, but the company never placed a track there and the land is now in cultivation.
Page(s) 114-122, History of Kent County, Maryland, 1630-1916, by Fred G. Usilton, 1916
Transcribed by Nathan Zipfel for the Maryland History and Genealogy Project