From Princess Anne to Powerhouse: The Inspiring Story of John A. Wilson, D.C.'s Trailblazing Clivil Rights Activist
John Augustus Wilson was born on September 29, 1943 in Baltimore, Maryland, but from an early age was reared by Laura and Walter Maddox, his maternal grandparents in Princess Anne, Maryland. He graduated from the old Somerset High School, which became Kiah Hall, on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) campus. After graduation from high school, he enrolled in the public teachers college for blacks, Bowie State College, now Bowie State University, in Bowie, Maryland.
John Wilson’s first attempt to obtain a college education was unsuccessful, so he returned to Princess Anne and enrolled in Maryland State College (MSC), now the UMES, in the spring of 1963, where he majored in physical education. His time at MSC coincided with student protests nationwide. MSC students struggled to achieve equal treatment in Princess Anne when they learned that a desegregation agreement that had been negotiated by the Princess Anne Biracial Committee had been broken. On February 20, 1964, the MSC students were led by John “Johnny” Wilson, and community leaders Warren Morgan, Reverend Autry Cash and Curtis Gentry, went into the town of Princess Anne and sought service at the local restaurants. They were served at all but two restaurants.
Civil Rights Activist:
On the second day of the protests, a door hinge was strung. On the charge of destruction of property, Johnny Wilson was arrested on the MSC campus by Maryland State Troopers, on the belief that his arrest would end the protests. Contrary to that belief, Wilson’s fellow protestors placed themselves on the street directly in front of the patrol car which prevented the troopers from leaving cam-pus with Wilson. He was released and the police left the campus, but later that day Wilson went to the jail and turned himself in to the authorities.
The protestors were committed to nonviolence, but the home of J. Leon Gates, an MSC accountant and Johnny Wilson’s uncle, was bombed, and a cross was burned in view of the campus. The students continued to protest the injustices and were attacked and bitten by police dogs, were beaten by baton wield-ing policemen, were called derogatory names, and were also blasted by high pressured fire hoses. Johnny Wilson was again arrested with nearly 30 other students.
The students continued to protest and received support from as far away as Denmark and Austria. Local support came from Gloria Richardson, a civil rights leader from Cambridge, who marched with the students. Other support came from the comedian, author, political activist, Dick Gregory, who arrived in Princess Anne and offered financial and moral support. He proposed a boycott of the town, which was effective because MSC was the major source of profit for Princess Anne, and town, state and government officials took note of that fact. A meeting was arranged for the students to meet with Governor Tawes at the State House in Annapolis. It was ironic that the same State Police who had beaten the students and trained dogs on them had to chauffeur them to and from the meet-ing. At the meeting, the Governor promised that an accommodation act which guaranteed equal access to restaurants, hotels, etc., would extend to the Eastern Shore, and the protests ended.
The protests put Johnny Wilson into the eyes of the media. Wilson did not complete his education at MSC. Instead, he left Princess Anne and became involved in the national civil rights movement, and allied himself with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Wilson also became close colleagues of Dick Gregory, Malcolm X, Congressman Allen Clayton Powell, Jr., and he work-ed alongside Marion Barry, the future Mayor of Washington, D.C., and future longtime Georgia Congressman John Lewis.
Home Rule Charter:
In the 1960s, John Wilson became a leading advocate of home rule for Washington, D.C. In 1974, Wilson served as the Chairman of the drive to approve the referendum to adopt the Home Rule Charter for the District of Columbia. The Charter allowed residents for the first time to elect both a mayor and a 13-member City Council called the Council of the District of Columbia. In 1974, Wilson was elected and won a City Council seat on the first D.C. Council.
Wilson was a unifier, who brought rich, poor, young and old together. He had the audacity to tell people what he thought, criticized them to their faces regardless of who they were, and somehow they respected him in spite of it. He chaired the Finance Committee of D.C. before he was elected chairman of the Council in 1990. Some members of the city government and assistants of the Mayor’s Office referred to Wilson, “as a wizard in municipal finances.” Wilson believed that the government had to be healthy in order for it to function properly.
John Wilson served 18 years as an elected official, including two years as a D.C. Council Chairman. He was a champion of the underprivileged and disenfranchised, used his political skill to push through legislation on rent control, child abuse prevention, tax reform, consumer protection and victim rights. He was instrumental in getting legislation passed that included limits on converting rental housing to condominiums, gun control, and expanded medical care for women and children. Wilson also wrote the District’s tough anti-hate crimes laws as well as its human rights laws. For all that he tried to do, John Wilson was considered to have been “one of the most powerful and most popular men in D.C. politics.” Some people even thought he would run for the office of Mayor of D.C.
Unfortunately, on May 19, 1993, John A. Wilson was found deceased. His death was ruled a suicide based on the belief of the pressures of the job, a promising political career, possibly personal concerns, coupled with a guarded history of medical concerns, all may have loomed too large. His untimely death shocked everyone because he was described as a beacon of hope for everyone as he tried to improve the lives of others.
In 1994, the District of Columbia municipal government building was named in his honor. A private drive off Backbone Road at the edge of UMES bears the name of “John Wilson Lane.” UMES also has two scholarship funds named in his honor. Therefore, John A. Wilson’s legacy lives through scholarships to help educate others. However, on a grand scale, according to John Wilson’s former math professor and President of UMES, Dr. William P. Hytche, “his [Wilson’s] legacy lies in his desire to make life better for other people.”
The Unforgettable Legacy of Kermit Travers, Sr.: Journeying with the Last Black Skipjack Captain
Kermit Robert Lee Travers, Sr. was born August 13, 1937 to Mable Pritchett Travers and George Travers in the Blackwater region of Dorchester County, eighteen miles east of Cambridge, Maryland. He was a part of a blended family of 12 children, but he was the only boy of nine children born to his parents. Kermit grew up in the poor, segregated backwater neighborhood among the water marshes and creek edges of the Honga, Blackwater and Choptank Rivers.
Born just two years before the end of the Great Depression (1929-1939), when banks collapsed, businesses closed, homes were foreclosed, some people were reduced to starvation, and many of those who were employed as share-croppers and tenant farmers were forced off the land they worked. Even the most enterprising individuals found it difficult to care for their families. Few government agencies existed at that time to help families in dire straits. In many in-stances, those few who found employment were hired but were never paid.
Kermit’s family was extremely poor, and they lived in an old two-story house that had little or no insulation as they could see through the cracks in the structure, which forced them to put paper and rags into the holes when it snowed. Nor did they have plumbing or running water, so the family trekked about a quarter of a mile to Kermit’s uncle’s residence for water. The rule of thumb was that there was no wasting of water. The family lived off the land and hunted for squirrels, rabbits, black birds, turtles, and raised ducks for subsistence. Just before Christmas, they killed 6 or 8 hogs and stored the meat. The family’s struggle to survive was so acute that for Christmas, Kermit often received hand-me-downs as gifts. As early as six years of age, Kermit learned to shoot a rifle to hunt animals in order to help feed the family and to cut wood to heat the house and to use it as fuel to cook their food. He also helped his father cut wood and hauled it on his shoulders out of the woods to sell to others.
Kermit began school at the age of six, but the survival of his family was a major concern. At the age of seven, he began to seek ways to help the family, and found employment in crab houses shucking oysters. He sought any type of work that would benefit the family, which meant that his desire to obtain an edu-cation and to become the first in the family to obtain a high school diploma be-came secondary. As a result, Kermit’s attendance at school was sporadic at best, as he worked on any job he could find to help support the family. Survival of the family was his major concern, coupled with his father’s illness, forced Kermit to quit school in the 10th grade, and he was forced to become a man before he wanted or truly understood the reason.
At 15 or 16 years of age, he continuously sought gainful employment, and he was introduced to work on the water. By eighteen, he actively began to work on the water, but it did not produce enough funds for his family to survive. By the age of 18, he began to have a family of his own, but he was not making enough money to properly care for them, his mother, and siblings. Kermit even went to Florida in search of sufficient employment, but he soon returned to Cambridge because the situation there was no better than when he left Cambridge. In 1958, at the age of twenty-one, he accepted a job working with his uncle in New Jersey and learned to work on a tonging boat.
No job was beneath Kermit. He soon found employment with Captain Eugene Wheatley, who taught Kermit all of the tasks that were required to operate a skipjack. Captain Wheatley was not in the best of health, and Kermit realized that someone had to be knowledgeable about the operation of the boat in an emergency if Captain Wheatley became ill or incapacitated. Wheatley taught Kermit the duties and responsibilities of being a captain, even though he did not want to be one at that time. Kermit worked with Wheatley and remained on his boat, the Lady Katie, for 15 years, was installed as a skipjack, and became one of only five known African Americans to captain a skipjack on Chesapeake Bay waters.
Work on the water was not easy. In spite of the dangers of the job, Kermit survived many situations, including: a number of serious injuries, that caused life-threatening accidents, explosions, and fires on board; capsized boats that included the drownings or near drownings of close friends, relatives and associates; governmental regulations that threatened the future of oystering; and the future employment of watermen prompted by the death of the seafood industry. For example on one fateful day in 1975, the captain of the Somerset ran into Kermit’s boat and injured his crew. The accident busted a 55-gallon drum of gasoline, broke the sails, and set the boat afire. No one came to their aid because of the fire. One member of the crew was so severely burned that when the wind hit him, his skin began to peel. As the fire continued to blaze, someone on the Tidewater Fishery threw two fire extinguishers on board the boat. Kermit and the crew threw the drums overboard, but no one could get close to their boat. Kermit went below deck and put out the fire, and he never got a singe. Kermit’s hands were so firmly attached to the fire extinguishers that those who came on board the ship to help them used a screw driver to pry Kermit’s hands from the extinguishers. From that point on, Kermit was called “The Devil,” because he had walked through the fire to extinguish it. The reason Kermit did not jump over-board and abandon the ship during the fire was because he could not swim. He had rationalized that over the years that he could not swim and save himself, but he had learned to balance himself, or he would fall off the boat and drown.
Kermit had been injured more than once, was incapacitated for 6 or 7 years, and emphatically stated that he was not going back on the water. How-ever, the lure of the water pulled him back. The love of the water and the sense of freedom he found on the water kept him there. He believed that there was little or no racism or discrimination on the water because work on the water demanded that Blacks and Whites cooperate with each other for survival. It was only when the watermen returned to the land that racism and discrimination existed. For Kermit and other watermen, life on the water was relatively color blind.
When work on the water was unfruitful or out of season, Kermit worked as a Dorchester County Sheriff Deputy. He was employed from 1976-1985 by the Dorchester County Board of Education in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Department, primarily at Cambridge High School, because some of the children were disorderly, fought each other, set off cherry bombs, vandalized the school, and committed other offenses. The goal was to maintain peace in the school. For many years, Kermit did not wear a uniform while working at the school. He did not believe that suspending students from school was beneficial because he felt students needed all the education they could get. He understood the value of education because he did not have the opportunity to acquire the education he so desperately desired in his youth. When things were relatively quiet in the school, Kermit often visited the classrooms and listened to the teachers as they taught various lessons. He used those opportunities to deal with the students directly and encouraged them to learn as much as possible.
Kermit found employment whenever and wherever he could. He also worked as a contractor. He went to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for five or six months and while there, he trained and became a contractor. While there, he also took night classes in Criminology and earned his high school diploma. His original goal was to remain in Mississippi, but due to a death in the family, he returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, obtained a contractor’s license, and began his con-tractor business. His work as a contractor required him to find able-bodied employees to work in the fields to harvest cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. Kermit labored as a licensed contractor from 1973 to 1985. He was so well-known that within 24 hours he could get over 200 or 300 employees in the fields. As a result of his speed in delivering workers for big producers, he obtained a reputation for getting a job done. The workers were loyal to him because he transported them to and from the fields, paid them daily and paid them more than the other contractors, which assured him that he would have an ample supply of workers. Those workers included Mexicans, African Americans, Haitians, a host of unemployed individuals, and high school students who used their funds to purchase school clothing and to pay for extracurricular events. Kermit also got people out of jails and prisons and found jobs for them.
However, once the harvests were over, Kermit found employment in other ways. He worked on a farm with a local family, split logs, worked in various crab and oyster houses, painted houses, and sold wood for Dorchester County Social Services. He was so swift in shucking oysters that numerous restaurants, such as Suicide Bridge, the Hyatt in Cambridge, and others paid him to shuck oysters on the half-shell on some Friday nights because the workers could not keep up with the demand from the customers. In short, Kermit Travers was as he called it a “Hustler,” as he found various means to care for his family.
Regardless of the many jobs he held, his love was always the water, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. He often stated, “He would rather work on a boat than anywhere else,” because he loved being around boats, oystering and everything associated with the water, due to the sense of freedom it provided. Being on the water became so much a part of his being that if you observe Captain Travers and other watermen, you will see that even when many of them are not on the water, they still rock or sway as if they are still on the boats be-cause it is a part of their rhythm of life. He and they also stand with their feet apart so that they are sure-footed and are firmly planted on the boat. After more than three decades on the water and many years as the last African American Skipjack Captain, Kermit Travers will never lose his love of the Chesapeake Bay and the bounty of it resources.
Work is underway to rebuild a living history site and honor local black history in Wicomico County. The location of what was once the homestead of Buffalo Soldier, Thomas E. Polk and his wife Hattie Polk, located in Allen, is being brought back to life by Deborah Scott, granddaughter of Thomas Polk.
Buffalo Soldier was a nickname given to members of African American cavalry regiments of the U.S. Army who served in the western United States from 1867 to 1896, mainly fighting Indians on the frontier. The nickname was given by the Indians, but its significance is uncertain. According to folklore, the name was given to them by Native Americans, and the term means 'man with hair like buffalo’. In conjunction with the restoration of the site will be the construction of ‘Hattie’s Trail’. Henriette den Ouden will oversee the planting of native species — including elderberries, spice bushes and butterfly weed — along the trail beginning in the fall. Ouden is a University of Maryland Eastern Shore Extension specialty herbs consultant.
Ouden is also interested in building a garden to showcase traditional foods and medicines used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Certain medicinal plants she hopes to include are willow trees, meadowsweet and plantains.
Henry Wayman, a member of the Eastern Shore 9th and 10th Buffalo Soldier Motorcycle Chapter, will serve as technical adviser on the project.
It’s hoped that the site will become a place where history is shared for generations and where anyone can learn about a piece of history often forgotten.
Following the site’s launch, guests will be met with signage detailing the history of the buffalo soldiers on the trail. The site will also feature soldier reenactments and video presentations.
The trail is being established in part by funding from a program under the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The Preservation Trust of Wicomico is serving as the sponsor of the project’s grant. Those looking to participate in the project can reach out to McCoy Curtis at UMES email@example.com
Any discussion of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s immediately brings to mind images of powerful water hoses turned on demonstrators, police dogs yelping at the flesh of protestors, condiments poured on the heads and clothing of protestors at lunch counter sit-ins, and other indecencies throughout the Deep South. Those things occurred and more, including violent beatings and some deaths, but most individuals do not associate those factors with the small fishing village of Crisfield, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; however, reality is something quite different.
On Christmas Eve, 1961, a group of protestors, mostly college students, arrived in Crisfield to stage a demonstration against racial inequality. The pro-testors were: Angeline (Angela) Butler, from New York City, aged 20; William (Bill) Hansen, Jr., from Cincinnati, Ohio, aged 21; Reggie Robins, from Baltimore, Mary-land, aged 22; Faith Holsaert, from Brooklyn, New York, aged 18; Bonnie Kilston, from New York City, aged 21; Diane Ostrosky (Ostrowski), from Baltimore, Mary-land, aged 18; Margaret (Peggie) Dammond, from New York City, aged 19; Donnie Fleming, from Baltimore, Maryland, aged 18; Frank McDougald, from Baltimore, Maryland, aged 19; and David Williams, from Baltimore, Maryland, aged 20. The group consisted of six blacks and four whites; five females and five males; and three white females, two black females, and four black males and one white male.
The ten protestors and some of their relatives, some who served as look-outs, and their supporters, arrived in Crisfield, late Christmas Eve, 1961. The pro-testors were members of the Civic Interest Group (CIG), of Baltimore, Maryland and purposely chosen to protest in Crisfield, the home of then Maryland Gover-nor Millard Tawes, where public facilities were segregated. The protestors were familiar with African diplomats who had regularly traveled from New York to Washington, D.C., who in September of 1960 had been refused service at a White Tower restaurant on U.S. Route 40. As a result of that insulting situation, Presi-dent John F. Kennedy personally appealed to Governor Tawes to correct the racial incident. The President passed a public accommodations bill that related to a small area parallel to U.S. 40, but it did not extend to the rest of the state or nation. The CIG, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), had been staging demonstrations against segregation throughout Maryland to make the public aware of racial inequality and to awaken their conscience since the African dip- lomatic incident. Their goal and that of the student protestors was to obtain the support of the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly to help eliminate racial segregation by passing a public accommodations bill.
The protestors arrived in Crisfield late in the afternoon. Their slogan for their planned sit-in was “No Room at The Inn,” reminiscent of Mary and Joseph in the Bible who had been refused room at the inn prior to the birth of Jesus, two thousand years earlier. The protestors arrived too late to stage the demonstration in front of the Governor’s home, but held a sit-in at a local restaurant. Unbe-known to them, the Governor had already left his home and had returned to Annapolis prior to their arrival in Crisfield. They stopped at City Restaurant, the only one that was open at the time, which was owned by Hilda Carey Marshall. When they arrived, the restaurant was closing for the evening and all of the workers had left to be with their families for Christmas Eve. The owner offered to feed the demonstrators at her home, if they were hungry, but they refused to leave the establishment, so the police were called. The demonstrators were charged with trespassing, were arrested, and jailed in Princess Anne, Maryland. When word spread about their arrest, some students from Maryland State College, now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), serenaded them with Christmas carols.
After their arrest, each protestor chose to remain in jail rather than pay $103.60 bond. On Tuesday, December 26, after a preliminary hearing, four of the protestors were released on $100 bond and the remaining six remained in jail. Those released on bail were Bonnie Kilston, Frank McDougald, Donnie Fleming and Reginald Robinson, all from Baltimore, Maryland. The bail bondsman for the four was Frederick St. Clair of Cambridge, through whom their bonds were paid by the NAACP. St. Clair was a cousin of Gloria Richardson, who later became the leader of the Cambridge Non-Violent Action Committee (CNAC), who organized sit-ins at movie theaters, restaurants and other segregated public places; regis-tered new black voters, and lobbied for equality in education, health care, hou-sing and wages. St. Clair and Gloria Richardson were also cousins of Anthony E. Ward, a local mortician who became the first Black City Councilman in Crisfield.
At the preliminary hearing, the protestors asked for a jury trial. Their attorneys, Mrs. Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Paul J. Cockrell, asked that the charges be dismissed on the grounds that they were based on prejudice and a violation of the protestors’ Fourteenth Amendment rights. Their motion was denied by Trial Magistrate Albert C. Rich. Those six who remained in jail began a hunger strike and sang songs to encourage themselves in order to keep their spirits up, while imprisoned in an unfamiliar place.
State and local newspapers reported that the Christmas Eve sit-in was a forerunner of an anti-segregation drive planned for the Eastern Shore, in January of 1962, which was slated for U.S. Route 50, all the way to Ocean City. In carrying out their plans, the CIG notified Governor Tawes that it planned another protest in Crisfield on Friday, December 29th, and asked the Governor to assist them in desegregating Crisfield. CORE also said that it would follow with a similar free-dom ride on Saturday, December 30th. The Friday sit-in was scheduled to coincide with the release of the six protestors who remained in jail and then they were scheduled to attend a rally at Shiloh Methodist Church, in Crisfield, where 300 persons were expected.
As time wore on and the protestors remained in jail, rumors and false information were spread. One rumor was that the protestors were paid $200 each to participate in the sit-ins. Another falsehood was that 50 carloads of protestors were scheduled to descend on Crisfield. The reality was that only 50 protestors were scheduled to attend the demonstration in Crisfield on Friday, December 29th.
On Friday, December 29th, a total of 120 individuals, most of them local Blacks, marched and chanted without violence. Due to bus trouble and having gotten lost about three times, the bus of 50 protestors arrived with only 28 protestors, around 8 p.m., more than five hours late. By the time they arrived, nearly all of the town’s restaurants had closed. Upon their arrival in Crisfield, two groups entered lunch counters and were served. One establishment announced that it was serving Negroes that night only, rather than changing its segregation policy. Two of the local restaurant owners agreed to allow anyone to be served in their establishments as long as they exhibited good behavior. The only arrests that were made came from two spectators for trying to annoy the protest mar-ches. Some bystanders threw eggs, but they did not reach the marchers. To the credit of everyone involved, the protests were non-violent and no one was physically assaulted.
After the march, the groups went to Shiloh Methodist Church for a rally where speakers urged the passage of a public accommodations bill to end further demonstrations. The purpose of the church rally was to encourage locals to fight segregation because they would have to continue to fight in order to achieve equity once the protestors left the area.
More rumors and innuendos spread throughout the local area and the state regarding the protests. For example, a statement was issued by Somerset County State’s Attorney Wade Ward, “that community leaders planned to appoint com-mittees comprised of both races and merchants to work out an agreement that would be satisfactory to all persons.” After the protestors left town on Friday, December 29, it was reported that Wade had an agreement from four Crisfield restaurants to desegregate before the freedom riders left Baltimore, but when they found that a bus load of riders were coming anyway, they tore up the agreement. Wade also reportedly revealed that CORE and CIG leaders were informed of the agreement. The bus came anyway with instructions that if they had actually agreed to integrate there wouldn’t be a demonstration. However, the bus got lost and two restaurants remained open two hours later than their normal operating hours, as a show of good faith. However, the restaurants closed before the bus finally arrived at 8 p.m. The most positive thing to come out of the protests was that the Maryland Bi-Racial Commission agreed to create bi-racial commissions on the Eastern Shore.
After December 29th, protests were planned in other towns on the Shore, such as in Cambridge and Easton. For Crisfield, change occurred slowly, and without violence, as had been exhibited throughout the state and other areas of the Deep South. After restaurants opened their doors to all people, other estab-lishments followed suit.
For nearly forty-three years, very little was mentioned or known about the Crisfield Protests of 1961, because most of those who witnessed the protests or participated in them had passed. For some unknown reason, pictures of the pro-testors were found in California and someone noticed that one of the pictures had a sign with the name Crisfield, Maryland on it. Those who held the pictures notified the local authorities and the Tawes Museum and inquired if they were in-terested in the photographs. The photos were sent to the museum and fortune-ately, Tim Howard, a History graduate student at Salisbury University and em-ployee at the museum, saw the photos and purchased some of them.
While Howard was enrolled in Dr. Clara L. Small’s History 590 class in Local History at Salisbury University in the spring of 2004, Congressman John Lewis was a speaker in Salisbury University’s Sarbanes Lecture Series. On March 29th, 2004, students in Dr. Small’s class were given the opportunity to meet, privately for about an hour, with Congressman Lewis. Tim Howard was one of the honored students. He had some of the photographs of the participants of the Crisfield protests and showed them to Congressman Lewis. The Congressman readily identified four of the ten demonstrators in the Crisfield protests because he had participated with them in various protests, or he had trained with them in previous non-violent procedures. Recent publications of women in the Civil Rights Movement, the persistence and fortitude of Tim Howard, and those photographs will forever link the late Congressman John Lewis, one of the most famous icons of the Civil Rights Movement, to the Sarbanes Lecture Series, Salisbury University, and the little known Crisfield Protests of December 1961.
Clara L. Small, Ph.D.
Emerita Professor of History
May, 25, 2022
Judy Johnson Day
The Worcester County NAACP has been awarded a mini-grant to host Judy Johnson Day on June 12 at Shorebird Stadium in Salisbury at 2pm.
Judy Johnson Day will feature special appearances by previous negro league players; Sam Allen, Pedro Sierra and Rayner Banks! The informational flyer is attached below:
Our Bucket List for 2022
There are so many options to exploring the shore but we wanted to narrow the list to a few of our
favorites. Whether you are into nature, history or culture, there’s something for everyone on this list.
Top 5 Things to Do in 2022
1. Discover Assateague Island in the off-season. Explore the 3 nature trails and walk the beach for some
great off-season finds.
2. Take a Smith Island Pelican Tour. See hundreds of nesting pelicans with local guides and watermen.
This is a once in a lifetime experience!
3. Visit Smith Island and stop in at the Smith Island Cultural Center in Ewell. Sample some Smith Island
Cake while you’re there.
4. Paddle the Pocomoke and see beaver dams, birds and reptiles. The section from Porter’s Crossing
Road to Snow Hill is eligible for the Wild River designation due to its pristine wilderness and beauty.
5. Attend the 81st Annual National Folk Festival in Salisbury. This free, three-day event celebrates the
great and diverse folk and traditional arts in America. Nowhere will you find so many cultural arts in one
place. Coming back August 26-28, 2022.
We are excited to announce our mini-grant awards to 6 organizations across the heritage area.
Berlin Heritage Foundation
Berlin Heritage Foundation was awarded $2,500 for the development of two new exhibits in the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum. The Museum will be researching, creating, and installing two new exhibits telling the stories from the African American communities in Berlin. The first will be about Briddletown, which refers to the east end of Flower Street that was established in 1866 by free blacks and formerly enslaved people who settled there in the years following the Civil War.
The second will revolve around the history of Reverend Doctor Charles Albert Tindley, an American Methodist minister and gospel music composer who was born in Berlin, MD and whose composition "I'll Overcome Someday" is credited as the basis for the U.S. Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."
Crisfield Heritage Foundation
Crisfield Heritage Foundation was awarded $900 create a new exhibit within the J. Millard
Tawes Historical Museum in Crisfield. The exhibit will showcase the history of the Agricultural
industry in Crisfield and the surrounding areas of Somerset County. Current and past exhibits within the
museum have showcased industries such as Seafood (crabbing and oystering), decoy carving, shipbuilding, manufacturing and even the political heritage.
Delmarva Discovery Museum
Delmarva Discovery Museum was awarded $2,500 to host Delmarva Heritage Days, a 2-day event in March that will celebrate Delmarva’s rich decoy carving history and its unique traditions. Master carvers and living legends will be on hand to demonstrate their craft and tell their stories. In addition, their will be a decoy historian on hand to historic decoys for their age and value.
Maryland Coastal Bays Program
The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is receiving $2,500 to promote the heritage and history of the fishing industry in the greater Ocean City Area in what is titled Voices of the Coastal Bays. The stories hidden within these fisheries will be told, recognized and supported with individual oral histories of local fishermen and commercial fishermen. They’ll also be producing a Sustainable Seafood Guide highlighting local species and the importance of making environmentally-conscious seafood choices that promote local catches. In addition, an interactive story page on their website that will take the visitor through the history of fishing in the Coastal Bays.
Somerset County Historical Trust
Somerset County Historical Trust was awarded $1,000 to produce a Fairmount Academy Film Series. Finds will be used to acquire and market a 3 date film series, to be shown outside on the Fairmount Academy Grounds, in Spring, early Summer and Fall of 2022. Proceeds will be used to continue to restore the Fairmount Academy property and buildings.
Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art
Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art was awarded $2,500 in funding to support an exhibit (January 28 – May 15, 2022), gallery book (available January 2022), virtual exhibit tour (March 2022), and artist talk and community roundtable (February 2022), all focused on a new series of artworks reflecting Black experiences of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, created by Berlin, MD artist Patrick Henry.
Germantown School Video
The Germantown School is a two-teacher, Rosenwald school serving students in the African American community of Germantown, Maryland from its opening in 1922 until the late 1950s.
Seal Stewards of the Maryland Coastal Bays
It’s almost seal season (late December-May) so thought we’d share this great program in case you want to get involved.
Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) and the National Aquarium partnered in 2012 to launch an outreach program on responsible seal viewing and sighting reporting. Out of this partnership developed the seal steward program, as Ocean City and Assateague Island have been experiencing a significant increase in seal sightings.
This citizen volunteer opportunity is an ‘on call’ opportunity. When a seal hauls out, seal stewards are contacted to see if they are available to man the haul out area to make sure beach and dog walkers keep a safe distance to protect both the walkers, dogs, and the seal.
Maryland Heritage Area Authority awards 4 projects in the Beach to Bay Heritage Area for $73,138
Town of Snow Hill- $29,715
Upgrades and refurbishment to the hull of the Paddlewheel boat- The Black-Eyed Susan
The Black-Eyed Susan is a 111-foot paddle wheel boat was purchased by the Town of Snow Hill in the fall
of 2020 for $324,900, which will be used to enhance Snow Hill and the region through tours, education,
training, seminars and other cultural heritage-centered events and uses. This vessel will provide a
unique venue and magnate for enhancing cultural heritage appreciation and knowledge for the region.
In the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022. the Town will need to upgrade and refurbish below the water line
so that this vessel will be viable for years to come, which is the subject of this project application. The
project includes transportation of the vessel to Cambridge, MD, from Snow Hill, MD, and extraction
from the water for restoration, and return transportation to Snow Hill.
Through this project, the museum and the Town of Snow Hill have an opportunity to provide exposure
to and interpretation of the history and culture of Snow Hill, Worcester County, and the surrounding
region while reaching out to heritage tourists, local residents, and school-aged students. The welcome
exhibit and programs will add to the museum's ability to market itself to heritage tourists and engage
with the local community. It will be on display indefinitely and will contribute to the town of Snow Hill's
appeal as a heritage destination.
This vessel will be used for group events, community events, private charters and regional attraction of
visitors to Snow Hill for heritage tourism, cultural sustainability, inclusivity, and accessibility. The vessel
has a full kitchen and capacity for 150.
All Hallows Church, Snow Hill- $10,000
All Hallows Episcopal Church Historic Structure Report
Development of Phase II of a comprehensive and professionally prepared Historic Structure Report for
the purpose of evaluating the current conditions of All Hallows Episcopal Church in order to: prioritize
needs; guide the immediate and long-term phases of restoration for the structure; and plan for
historical interpretation and expanded use by the public. This Exterior Envelope “Historic Structure
Report” will define and chart a course of action to assess and guide the effects of actual “bricks and
mortar” interventions of a proposed treatment or construction related project on the existing fabric of
the building. It will provide a framework to guide the architects, structural engineers, conservation
experts, and contractors in the renovation, reconstruction, and restoration needs. Moreover, it will be
beneficial to All Hallows in funding its capital improvement program and to prioritize the most pressing
and urgent restoration needs as well as establishing a program for long-term renovations.
Pocomoke City- $10,000
Pocomoke City- $10,000
Sturgis One-Room African-American School Museum & 1850 Heritage House
The Sturgis One Room School is a historic U.S. school and is the only African American One Room School in Worcester County retaining its original integrity; it is urgent we preserve this monumental building. The community used this one room school from 1900 to 1937. It was originally known as Sturgis School and was located on Brantley Road. It was moved to its current location in 1996. Restoration and outfitting the Sturgis One Room School is an ongoing task of Sturgis One Room School Museum, Inc. It has been made possible through funds from Pocomoke City, Worcester County, charitable organizations, and personal contributions.
This project would allow for roofing repairs, wood replacement, paint, deck accessibility ramp and landscaping; signage.
Sturgis One Room School Museum, Inc. is an organization that actively works to preserve, promote, and protect the rich cultural heritage of Sturgis One Room School and educate our youth to value the school's cultural and historical richness.
Salisbury, MD - $23,423
Ward Museum Nature Trail Interpretation
This project will replace decades-old interpretive signage along the nature trail at the Ward
Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University (operated by the Ward Foundation). The nature trail runs
along Schumaker Pond, and currently interprets the natural heritage of the region, with attention to
biological diversity. The signs are badly faded and cracked to the point of being illegible.
MHAA funds will support the creation of new signage featuring revised interpretation focused on
regional natural and cultural heritage. These signs will be a welcomed improvement to the nature trail,
which has become a respite for many local visitors. Additionally, the signs will be a means for out-of-
area visitors to get to know the cultural and natural heritage of our region, and a tool for museum
educators, who regularly use the Nature Trail during field trips and afterschool programming.
Proposed sign themes include: 1) history of the landscape, including a history of the pond and the WM
campus; 2) indigenous history and contemporary presence in the region, with attention to interaction
with the natural landscape; 3) understanding the pond as part of the Atlantic Flyway, and interaction
and importance of birds in the cultural landscape; 4) native plants and the benefits of maintaining these;
5) Schumaker Pond as part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed 6) human impacts on the natural
environment that affect the pond—e.g., increasing stream flow due to climate change, causes of algal
blooms, 7 & 8) the Lower Shore's cultural landscapes. Phases including interpretation of Native themes
will include collaboration with regional tribal leaders (Assateague, Accohannock, Nanticoke, Nause-
Waiwash, and Pocomoke), with focus on the Nanticoke Indian Tribe and Pocomoke Indian Nation due to
traditional proximity to the landscape.
Parsons Cemetery, located in Salisbury, is today both operational and historic. According to their website, it is an urban green space, an outdoor museum, and in the words of architectural historian, Keith Eggener, urban cemeteries "are where life meets death, nature meets city, and present meets past."
Preservation Maryland recently bestowed Parsons Cemetery with the 2020
Best of Maryland Community Choice Award. Over the past several years, the Parsons Cemetery Advisory Board has worked hard to develop walking tours in Parsons Cemetery. Seven tours have been developed and more are being planned for future release. In addition to the tours, Parsons Cemetery is an active participant in
the Wreaths Across America program which honors veterans at Christmas time.
Over the past year, a comprehensive database was created to identify all the veterans who are
interred in Parsons Cemetery so they can be recognized, even those who have no markers.
Work is now underway to create a comprehensive database of all first responders interred in
the cemetery. Ultimately, the Board’s goal is to make the information in the Cemetery
Information Management System (CIMS) available to the public, so they can search for and
locate any person interred in Parsons Cemetery. However, this information is not very useful if people are not easily able to locate graves. Thus, the Board believes the installation of signage is a critical next step in the continued development of self-guided tours and other activities like Wreaths Across America.
Currently, there are no signs which delineate the layout of the cemetery. Parson’s Cemetery is
broken into 9 sections with 40 rows of plots. Through the strategic placement of 19 signs at
various points in the cemetery, the signs will make it easier for people to complete the self-
guided tours in a timely manner. The signs will also make it easier for visitors to locate a specific
person interred in Parsons. The impact of these signs will be immediate and long-lasting, as the
signs will be a permanent feature of the cemetery. Work is expected to be completed by June
You can visit their site, by clicking here.
Mac and Tuck Seem to Crave Visitors
The pandemic has been hard on individuals, on small businesses, and on museums such as the Delmarva
Discovery Museum in Pocomoke City, Maryland. It has also been challenging for Mac and Tuck, the river
otters at the Delmarva Discovery Museum. It turns out they would prefer to have more visitors. In spite
of having lots of attention by trained staff who adore them, they miss hamming it up for visitors.
They follow their visitors as they move from the 6,000-gallon aquarium replicating the Pocomoke River
into the stream and land exhibit. They often show off by wrestling or press a curious nose to the glass
along with their wide webbed feet.
They seem as curious about human behavior as we are about otter behavior.
Schedule a Private Tour
The museum is now offering private guided or self-guided tours to increase social distancing.
Appointments are available Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. The otters are most
likely to be playful around 10 am, or at about 2 pm. Museum admission for a self-guided tour is $10 for
adults and $5 for children. Self-guided tour groups will be limited to no more than 10. Members may
enjoy unlimited visits, subject to schedule availability. Once you have finished your tour, enjoy a private
shopping experience in the museum's gift shop. Reservations are required and can be made online at
delmarvadiscoverycenter.org or by calling the museum at 410-957-9933.
"Otterly" Silly Saturdays Coming Back
The museum will again begin offering Otterly Silly Saturdays on February 6. This program gives a chance
for guests to watch the otters enjoy a special treat, such as live fish or a peanut butter filled toy, while
learning about this native animal. The fifteen-minute program begins at noon, and reservations are
required. Mac and Tuck would love to see you!