Columbia University Professor Talks About Biography of John Randel, Jr., Chief Engineer of the C & D Canal Comany April 12

The Measure of Manhattan

The Measure of Manhattan

The author of a biography about the chief engineer of the C & D Canal, John Randel, Jr. will speak at the Historical Society of Cecil County April 12 at 2:00 p.m. “An eccentric and flamboyant surveyor,” Randel was “renowned for his inventiveness” and his irascibility.

After “drafting and executing the street grid plan for Manhattan,” he took on other important engineering projects. In 1823 the accomplished surveyor was hired to oversee the building of the Canal. But after the Company dismissed him four years later, he filed a wrongful dismissal suit, collecting a staggering settlement of more than $5-million in today’s dollars.  With that, he bought a 1,000 acre estate, Randelia, in Cecil County, the New York Times notes.

Marguerite Holloway, the director of Science and Environmental Journalism at Columbia University has written for Scientific American, Discover, the New York Times, Natural History and Wired. While researching the eccentric engineer, she spent days in Cecil County, working at the Historical Society and visiting the land Randel traveled.  “I am really thrilled to be talking at the Society.  It is where my quest for Randel really took hold,” the professor remarked.  There she found newspapers, the Martinet map, and journal entries from the diary of Judge McCauley.

“The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr: Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor,” was published in 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. Illustrated with dozens of historical images and antique maps, it is an absorbing story about a fascinating man. “Marguerite Holloway offers up a well-deserved biography of the chronically aggrieved and litigious visionary,” the New York Times writes. “Professor Holloway . . . deftly weaves surviving fragments of Randel’s life . . . with a 21st century scavenger hunt by modern geographers to find the physical markers of his work.”

Date:       April 12, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.

Location:  Historical Society of Cecil County, 135 E. Main Street, Elkton, MD.

Admission: Free

Chart of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Fielding Lucas:  Source:  www.oldmapsonline.org, the David Rumsey Collection

Chart of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Fielding Lucas, 1840: Source: http://www.oldmapsonline.org, the David Rumsey Collection

 

Chesapeake City Library Talk Examines Historical Evolution of Crime, Punishment, and Police Work in Cecil County – March 24

Social historian Mike Dixon will present an engaging presentation on the evolution of crime, punishment and police work in the region.  This engaging talk will examine old county jails, headline-grabbing criminal escapades of long ago, discontinued methods of punishment, and unheralded peace officers.

Registration is required.

Date: 3/24/2014  at 6:30 p.m

Library: Chesapeake City Branch

Contact: Chesapeake City Branch Library, 410-996-1134

The Elkton Police Department acquired this patrol car, in the late 1920s. (L to R  Mayor Taylor McKenney, the night officer, and Chief Potts).  This was the first county or municipal police vehicle in Cecil.

The Elkton Police Department acquired this patrol car in the late 1920s. (L to R Mayor Taylor McKinney, the night officer, and Chief Potts). This was the first county or municipal police vehicle in Cecil.

Recalling an Elkton Landmark, the Howard Hotel

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Evelyn V. (Vaggi) Scott

There was lots of inspiring talk about old Elkton during the middle third of the 20th century at the Historical Society of Cecil County this afternoon. Remembering those lively, youthful days was Evelyn V. (Vaggi) Scott, the 80-year-old daughter of George D and Mary G. Vaggi, who purchased the Howard Hotel, a long-established downtown business in 1923.

The place bustled with activity as waitresses served fine meals, the bartender dispensed drinks, and overnight guests booked comfortable rooms. This was long before Interstates and dual highways bypassed town centers and hotel chains sprouted up along those new roads.  In that earlier age, traveling salesmen, families making their way up or down the east coast, and others passing this way came right down Main Street.  There on this busy thoroughfare, Mrs. Scott grew up in the business, maturing, going off to college, and eventually marrying and moving to Michigan. Her parents decided to retire in 1973, when they sold the well-known establishment to the Ruth family.

It was a pleasant walk down memory lane, as Mrs. Scott recalled stories while looking at photographs of earlier times in Elkton.  Thanks Mrs. Scott for sharing your narratives and for donating so many fine pictures and materials to the Society.

The Society taped part of the interview and will stream a portion of it later, along with samples of the donations.  By-the-way, Mrs. Scott was back in Elkton as the property is now in the hands of new owners and they are creating an Irish Pub at this old landmark, which has anchored downtown for centuries.

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Mrs. Scott sharing photographs and being interviewed at the Society.

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The Clydesdale Budweiser team visits Elkton. Mr. George Vaggi is seated next to the Budweiser driver. Source: Mrs. Scott

Genealogical Research Guide for Cecil County

The Genealogical Research Guide for Cecil County, Maryland (revised edition) by Darlene McDowell McCall is an informative out-of-print title packed with guidance and information for anyone starting on genealogy in the county.  Last updated in 1997, it served as a good starting point for anyone seeking to discover records and sources.

The last edition of this twenty-year-old volume was published just as the Internet age was starting to transform research.  Records, in the mid- and late-1990s, were paper or microfilm based, requiring a visit to the courthouse, the Historical Society, State Archives, or some other special collections library.

Of course, in the passing decades we have seen a revolution in research methods as records became available in digital repositories for online access.  But still the methods and records groups one needs to access to investigate genealogy haven’t changed.  The transformation has been in the way we access the records as the research strategies have largely remained the same.

Since the title still provides insightful guidance for anyone beginning on genealogy in this area, the author recently gave the Historical Society of Cecil County permission to publish it online in the Society’s virtual library.  Here is the link.

Remember it is a publication from 1997 so many of the addresses and locations of records have changed in the age of the World Wide Web.  But you will find helpful pages addressing the types of records you need to access to dig into family history and the types of insights you will be able to extract from primary sources.  Too, there may have been additions to collections.

Thank you Darlene for allowing us to place your helpful work online.

Bootleggers’ Ball and Talk on Temperance and Prohibition in Cecil County April 5th

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Click here for more information.

Water Witch EMS Prepares to Mark 50 Years of Service

This year the Water Witch Fire Company of Port Deposit marks an important milestone in the department’s history, a half-century of EMS service to the community.  It was in the autumn of 1964 that the Company purchased  its first ambulance, a 1957 Oldsmobile from the Union Fire Company of Oxford.

With that important enhancement, much speedier emergency medical service was provided to residents of the fire department’s territory with an ambulance housed in the center of the Susquehanna River town at Station 7.

To support the service, an ambulance membership drive was started with subscribers contributing $3 a year.   The secretary-treasurer of the fund, Russell McFall, was the first member and Port Deposit Mayor Hubert F. Ryan and Ambulance Captain William H. Keetley were on hand to accept the donation.  Anyone wishing to subscribe to the ambulance service as instructed to contact McFall at DR 5-7271.

The new Water Witch Ambulance, a 1957 Oldsmobile purchased from the Union fire Company of Oxford.  Source:  Cecil Whig, Nov. 4, 1964.

The new Water Witch Ambulance, a 1957 Oldsmobile purchased from the Union fire Company of Oxford. Source: Cecil Whig, Nov. 4, 1964.

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The company started an ambulance subscription fund to support the service. L to R: Mayor Hubert F. Ryan, Secretary-Treasurer Russell McFall, and Ambulance Captain William H. Keetley. Source: Cecil Whig, Dec. 2, 1964.

To Drink or Not Drink: Program Examines Colorful Days of Prohibition, Speakeasies, Bootleggers and Bathtub Gin

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Prohibition enforcement. Source: Wikipedia

The Historical Society of Cecil County wraps up the winter 2013-14 speakers’ series with a particularly lively event as the group taps into a fascinating period when Americans gave up the legal right to drink intoxicating beverages.  Taking on this watershed event in the roaring ‘20s,  “Pass the Rum: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” and the Bootleggers’ Ball, examines the “noble experiment” from a local perspective, as the Society wraps up another successful year of public programs.

The lecture by Mike Dixon, a social historian, looks at attempts to regulate the consumption of alcohol and rid America of crime and vice.  While most people are aware of prohibition in the 1920s, the attempt to regulate behavior extends far back into the County’s past, as wets and drys battled over booze.  Although the program pays deeper attention to the modern era, the period when the nation, the State, and Cecil struggled to live with the 18th amendment and prohibition agents fought illegal activities, it takes a much longer view.  But after the entire country went dry at midnight, January 16, 1920, when the federal government corked the flow of alcohol, the nation entered an intriguing chapter in history, a long dry spell.  Colorful stories, of rum runners, moonshiners, bathtub gin, intriguing personalities, complicated politics, organized crime, outgunned lawmen, and the anti-saloon movement fill this period.

After enjoying the informative program, get your secret password for free access to our after-hours rendezvous from one of the flapper girls milling about.  “With it, you will easily gain entrance to the Bootleggers’ Ball at the North Street Hotel as we toast the repeal of prohibition, celebrate and socialize after the talk,” the program host, Beth Boulden Moore, noted.  “Come dressed in your finest flapper girl dress or moonshiner/bootlegger attire to win a fabulous prize.  Or just come as you are to enjoy the afternoon.”

Musical entertainment will be provided by the infamous Boxturtle Bob, and perhaps he will even spin a few unique Cecil County tunes.  Light refreshments will be provided and alcohol will be available for purchase from the bar.  To help the “drys,” those temperance and teetotaler types, catch the spirit, the Society will have complementary non-alcoholic beverages that even the Saloon Smasher, Carrie Nation, would approve of, Bathtub Beth added.  So for thirsty guests it will be bottoms up for everyone.

Don’t miss this lively program as we wrap up another successful year of talks exploring Cecil’s heritage.

When:    Saturday, April 5th at 2:oo p.m.

Where:  Historical Society of Cecil County, 135 E. Main Street, Elkton, MD

Cost:      Free

Afterwards:  The bootleggers ball a chance to toast the end of prohibition, celebrate and socialize at the North Street Hotel, Elkton.  See Bathtub Beth and the Flapper Girls for the free password to get into our after-hours rendezvous.

After the talk on prohibition everyone is invited to the bootleggers ball at the North Street Hotel.  But be sure to get your secret password in case any drys or prohibition agents are keeping an eye on us.  L to R.  Trish Moore, Jimmy Nicholson, and Megan Moore

After the talk on prohibition everyone is invited to the bootleggers ball at the North Street Hotel. But be sure to get your secret password in case any drys or prohibition agents are keeping an eye on us. L to R. Trish Moore, Jimmy Nicholson, and Megan Moore