The current issue of Cecil County Life, a Chester County Press publication, has an informative article about a historical investigation focused on understanding centuries long transformations on the land at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area.
Emily Kilby decided to make a scholarly, in-depth study of this place in northeastern Cecil County, a couple of years ago. The interest in digging into long unexamined records from earlier times, something that would require weeks of work, grew slowly as she strolled the area. On those leisurely visits, accompanied by her two dogs, she noticed surviving artifacts, including stone ruins, crumbling foundations, unexplained trenches, and other fading but visible markers of human activity.
Puzzled by those vestiges, she decided to find answers to her questions. At first, according to the article, Emily thought it would be a quick search, but in doing preliminary work the curious park-goer found “there wasn’t much.” No one had previously undertaken much of a study so “I decided to do it myself,” she noted.
Her initial work started at the Historical Society with 19th century maps, which highlighted the nature of the land at different points in time. Once the cartographic baseline was visualized, she followed the holders of the land back through time and owners as generations came and went. The retired magazine editor spent lots of time doing fieldwork too, visiting the ruins to document and collect visual data. The checking of estate records and wills and much more followed.
At the Hagley Library in Wilmington, her due diligence really paid off. William duPont started piecing together his country estate, “purchasing parcel after parcel of land – nearly 8,000 acres in all – beginning in the late 1920s” There she found the 1931 inventory for his estate. Modern technology such as Google Earth also supported the in-depth investigation.
Emily has given two standing room only talks on the subject at Fair Hill as over capacity crowds were drawn to each event. People were anxious to hear about the copious amounts of information she had collected. She had tapped into an audience of local history enthusiasts, genealogists, park supporters, conservationists, preservationists, and the horse-industry crowd.
Called “Investigating Fair Hill’s Past,” be sure to check out the interesting piece written by Carla Lucas. By taking a serious, scholarly approach to an important subject, while collecting and interpreting a large body of primary source materials, Emily has added greatly to our scholarly understanding of the past in Cecil. These types of comprehensive studies of an area with so much heritage just waiting to be carefully examined are important.
There are also a number of other engaging articles in the issue of Cecil County Life Magazine, too. Thanks Carla for an interesting article. And thanks Emily for undertaking and sharing the careful work done with this scholarly examination.