Category Archives: Local Flavor

I’m Goin’ Down County

Over the last few days I’ve been throwing myself into sorting through my ‘To Be Sorted’ folder. It’s only been years in the making. In fact I’m taking it a step further and cleaning out my whole second hard drive. I’m just starting with the ‘To Be Sorted’ folder. I have higher ambitions though. I want an organized computer and I won’t quit until I get it!

However, yesterday I took a break from the sorting, and I finally read a book I bought at a Cecil’s Country Store in town (I love that store!). You can read the St. Mary’s County Tourism blog’s press release on the book. I will admit that I don’t read many reference books. Most times I start getting lost in the technical jargon. However, that didn’t happen with this book. I don’t know if it’s because I took architecture classes in high school or if it’s the book, that doesn’t matter though! I haven’t read all of it yet, but I’m definitely going to make a concentrated effort over the next few weeks to read more bits of it.

While yes, the book is mostly about the architectural history of the county, it’s also an actual history of the county. I was very surprised by how much information is packed into this book.

There are tons of historical and newer photos littered throughout the book while the history of the county is given.

 

Remember my San Souci Shopping Cemetery post? Not only was the cemetery listed in the book, there are also many references to the Hammett family. The index is so easy to navigate that every time I thought of another place in the county, I was able to easily find it in the index and then from there go to the part of the book I needed. You’ll also notice the SM-489 that marks the cemetery’s entry in the book. Every historical site has a similar number. In addition to the regular index, there is also an index by SM-#.

Overall, I have to say I LOVE this book. I can’t believe it’s been sitting on my bookshelf since March and I hadn’t read it yet. I was even talking about it on Facebook yesterday and a lot of my local friends were inquisitive about it. So I told them where I got it and I hope they take the time to buy it because it’s such a great way to open our eyes up to the history around us in this area.

To be honest with you, I’m thinking about visiting a lot of the sites over the summer. A lot of the places I never knew they were even there and I definitely want to rectify that.

The Cleanup is Ongoing

St. Mary's County damage

The great news is that picture was taken the day after Irene hit and as of today, that pole has been fixed! We had to take a ride around the county today to check out the school bus routes. My mother’s was fine, but we took backroads on the way home and it looks like a war zone back there!

I’m very fortunate to live on the highway, so I have power and internet again. However there are many in the area who are going to be without for a while yet. We’re loaning out our generator and helping all we can and I encourage anyone who lives in an affected area to do the same. You’d be surprised at how much a hot meal or a hot shower can help people who are displaced or without power still. We were even debating making a big pot of chili and taking it out to the work crews. It’s a mess out there and they have some long, dangerous hours ahead of them.

I’m going to get back into my daily grind in a bit, but I wanted to take some time out to let everyone know how we fared!

 

Missing my Family!

I’ll admit it. I’m missing my Ohio family something fierce! It used to be that we would only see each other every five years or so. It’s been less then a month since my Aunt Melinda and cousin Patty were here. It’s only been a week from that time that I was in Ohio visiting for a few days. I miss them though! It’s funny how when you’re a child and on a trip to a family reunion, all you can think about is your friends and what you’re missing back home.

I don’t think about any of that now! It’s been since October that I saw my cousins in New Jersey and New York. Longer than that for some of them. Probably since Aunt Diane’s funeral. I miss them too!

Aunt Melinda and Mom, July 2011

Here’s Aunt Melinda and Mom checking out something in the water at Point Lookout.

Point Lookout Lighthouse

I love Point Lookout. I think Melinda was a little disappointed it wasn’t this huge, tall lighthouse. We don’t need those big ones here though. We’re right on the water! Nothing blocking the lighthouse but water!

Slight Problem with Mapping Software

I love technology. I love learning new things. I love being frustrated with something only to conquer it after hours and hours of cursing it. I have a slight pet peeve of technology though. In this current technology boom, with as much as computers can do, they’re still slightly behind on one important fact. Sometimes “as the crow flies” isn’t exactly a great way to gage something that is “close” or “nearby”.

We start off innocently enough in the new iPhone app 1BGraves. However, I quickly realize that this app has the same problem for me that Find a Grave Volunteer Service does. Halfway down that list, you can see it gives a nearby cemetery of ‘Potomac Cemetery’ in Hague, Virginia. Oh. It says the cemetery is 17 and a half miles away.

As you can see, it’s not exactly “nearby”. If there was someway to go straight across the river, then sure! However there isn’t. I’m located at the blue dot, and in order for me to get to the green pin, I’d have to drive all the way up to the Route 301 Bridge and cross into Virginia and drive back down the coast again. To be honest with you, this is the reason I don’t get many Find-a-Grave requests filled. 70% of the requests come from that area of Virginia and the other 30% are from Point Lookout Confederate Cemetery. However, Point Lookout doesn’t exactly have tombstones, just plaques with names listed and a book with the names that don’t fit. So usually those requests are snatched up within a few minutes of being sent out.

It’s easy enough to just ignore the Virginia cemeteries and requests if I’m not in the mood to drive about 3 hours each way on the weekend, but I wonder why these software folks don’t use actually driving times from the home zip code instead of “as the crow flies” distance.

Local Flavor: Historic St. Mary’s City

One of the things I’ve longed to do with this blog is to talk about my local history. I’m not an expert, despite having lived here my whole life, but I’m fascinated by it none the less. This weekend, I needed to get out and relax a bit and my mother felt the same way. It had been a long time since either of us went somewhere just for the heck of it, without a shopping list in hand or goal in mind. So we just got in the car and drove around. It reminded me of the age of a lot of the historic sites around me. I know Jamestown and Williamsburg are very popular historic cities, but I wonder if many people realize St. Mary’s City is one of the first established cities in America. In fact, it’s easy for the citizens, like myself, to even forget the magnitude of history we’re sitting on in our county.

Maryland's First State House (1676), reconstructed

St. Mary’s City was established in 1634! I still remember our elementary school field trips to visit. Even today, there are amazing things happening. There is an active archaeology program that makes amazing discoveries. You can visit many, many reconstructed buildings and even ships there! The Ark and The Dove were the ships that brought the first settlers to St. Mary’s City. At the time I didn’t realize what I was seeing, but I definitely appreciate it more now.

Reconstructed buildings

I’ve always wanted to know what this place might have looked like back when it was being settled. St. Mary’s City gives you a piece of that. Almost all (if not all) of the buildings are actually reconstructed on original foundations. All the buildings are open to go inside where they have authentic furnishings and equipment. If you go during the “season”, you will be led on tours where college students and volunteers are dressed in costume and they play the roles of settlers. Further up the hill there is even an Indian camp to show that the Indians and settlers originally tried to get along. The Indians had actually already settled the town but gave the land to the settlers as a gesture of good faith.

Trinity Church Cemetery, viewed from behind the State House

It’s really quite interesting to walk around the whole town and get a sense of the history. The cemetery is a great example of the past and present living in harmony. It has very early graves and very new ones too.

Lone grave on the cliff

This memorial/grave is by itself on the very edge of the cemetery and overlooking the water. There is nothing around it but a tree and bench. I spent a few quite moments there looking out over the water taking it all in… Okay so I was trying to get a peek of the ship down at the docks, but I didn’t have a ticket for those areas, so I didn’t try and sneak down there.

In Memory of Thomas Allen Semor. A passenger of the Ark and Dove expedition. Member of Assembly of Maryland, 1648. Justice of the Peace of Isle of Kent. Found shot on the sands of Point Lookout, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. August 11, 1648. Placed by his descendant in the eleventh generation, Marguerite Dupont deVilliers Boden, 1972.

This was my first time seeing this. It looks much older then 1972, but it tells a very tragic tale. It won’t be  the first tragic tale that involves Point Lookout though, I’ll have to get some more information about it for you.

Peaceful view

Reconstruction in Progress

St. Mary’s City is actually the current site of St. Mary’s College of Maryland too. The college plays a huge part in all the projects going on around the historic sections. As you drive through the college, you see these framework houses all along the road. They are in the process of being reconstructed. This is actually huge progress. When I was in elementary school, I don’t think any of these had even been found yet. I remember doing community service hours at the college and they had us learning to dig for artifacts on these sites.

Reconstructed Catholic Church

The newest finished reconstruction is the Catholic Church. This was actually big news when I was in the fourth grade. They were already mapping out the foundation for the church, when they made a huge discovery. They had found three lead coffins inside the foundation of the church. The remains were identified as Philip Calvert, his first wife, and a child of Philip’s from his second wife.

I personally can’t wait to see what else the students and professors at St. Mary’s College uncover. It was after visiting this weekend, that I started to think about going back to school for History.

Visit St. Mary’s City website

San Souci Shopping Cemetery

I am literally surrounded by history where I live. It’s one of the things that goes along with living in an area that was founded in 1634. One of the things I’m pledging to do is get more of St. Mary’s County history online and available. I’m not connected in any way with societies or organizations, so really it’s just me researching the things that interest me. Though, I’m hoping this commitment leads me to the library and historical society more often.

One of the most memorable pieces of history in my area is the cemetery in the middle of a shopping center. That’s right, we have a cemetery in the middle of a shopping center. 30 years ago, this county was a whole lot of farmland. Today it’s the land of strip malls.

Amongst Fashion Bug and Dollar Tree, we have this little patch of land. County lore says that when the shopping center was being put in, the developer didn’t want to take the time or money to figure out what to do. Instead of moving the graves or finding next of kin, they just built around it. This little cemetery is definitely a talking point to anyone who passes through the shopping center. In fact, the tax lady came for a visit to my house and we talked genealogy and this little cemetery.

The graves are that of the Hammett family. Hammett is what I like to call a “county” name. There are about 10-20 families that I consider to be “county”. These families have been here forever and you’ll find the surname everywhere. Another county legend is that these Hammetts are related to Dashiell Hammett, who was born in St. Mary’s County.

The dates on these gravestones tells me that I was completely justified in considering this a county name. Fortunately, I have more tools at my disposable then just the county message boards. I decided to check on the family a little bit.

Just by looking at the 1850 census, I find out Joseph is definitely the son of James. James was a farmer who was born in Harford County, Maryland. By the way Harford is right next to Baltimore County, Maryland. Dashiell Hammett spent his time growing up between Philadelphia and Baltimore. Don’t you love when things start to connect a little bit. A Few more censuses shows the family staying in the Great Mills area of St. Mary’s County. I’m assuming back in the day Great Mills was considered the whole area and not the little metropolis of 8 cities it is now. The shopping center right now is considered to be California… I think. It could be Lexington Park, but I’m pretty sure it’s not still Great Mills. I’m going to learn a bit more about that.

In the meantime, I’ll show you the shopping center. On the left side of the photo where the center steps back and you see green, that’s where it is. Sorry there’s no arrow pointing, I forgot that part. To be honest it makes a nice unique shopping center if you ask me.

Whatever the reasons, I think this little bit of history fits so well into our current times. It makes you stop a minute and remember those who came before you. We’ve got an awful lot of history around here. Even though my family doesn’t have history here, I’m intrigued by the deep roots people must have in this area. In fact I’m going to research more about this little Hammett family in the future.

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