We sure did miss the Eastern Shore while we were traveling to the other side of the Bridge this holiday season, so we couldn’t wait to dive right back into some Shore trivia in the New Year. We started by investigating the rich cultural past of the waterfront town of Cambridge, Maryland, located along the eastern side of Dorchester County.
Cambridge’s past was cemented as a piece of Native American history when in 1669, part of Cambridge was designated as the Choptank Indian Reservation. The spot was later chosen as a harbor for boats, bringing significant trade into the area. According to the town’s historical marker, Cambridge is one of the few remaining towns from that particular era that continues to thrive today.
The area also has a flourish of British influence. Dorchester County was named in 1669 after Sir Edward Sackville, the 4th Earl of Dorset England. Cambridge is also named after the town in England that shares the same name. Many other towns on the Eastern Shore were similarly named after European towns, such as Oxford, Salisbury and Vienna. Some mistakenly believe that Berlin was named after the German city; however, its name derives from the Burley Plantation that once stood where the town is today.
Cambridge was also notably involved in the civil rights movements. After the Emancipation Proclamation, many freed slaves from Cambridge joined to fight in the Civil War as part of the United States Colored Corps, a division of the Union Army. Also during this time, there were many “conductors” of the Underground Railroad. Most notably, Harriet Tubman grew up just outside of Cambridge and helped thousands of escaped slaves to freedom. Also, during the Civil Rights movement, members of the Black Panther Party protested in Cambridge for equality and to end segregation.
Other famous people to pass through the waterfront town include the rapper Jay-Z, the famous sharp-shooter Annie Oakley, the defensive tackle Antwan Lake, and Bea Arthur (most well-known for her roll on Golden Girls). Stephen Allen Benson was born in Cambridge and grew up to become the second president of Liberia from 1856 to 1864. There are also a number of politicians who have passed through Cambridge. Charles Goldsborough was both a Maryland Senator and Congressman until he became Governor of Maryland from 1818-1819. And Phillip Lee Goldsborough became the 47th Governor of Maryland from 1912-1916 and was later appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the director’s board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Another major player in the rich history of Cambridge is the Choptank River Lighthouse. Located just down the shore from the Sailwinds Visitor Center, this lighthouse is a replica of a six-sided screwpile lighthouse, that was once located farther upstream near the mouth of the Tred Avon River. This replica was just built last year when it was completed in the fall of 2012.
The original lighthouse was built in its former location in 1871. At the time, it was the only manned lighthouse on the Choptank that guided ships to Cambridge and on to Denton. Steamboats were often the most common mode of transportation seen floating by the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the structure was tested by ice and storms many times and was eventually destroyed by a flood in 1917. The lighthouse was then replaced with the Cherrystone Lighthouse. The Cherrystone was used until 1964 when the Coast Guard had the building taken down.
The structure that stands along the Choptank today is a replica of the original Cherrystone Lighthouse. The lighthouse is open for self-guided walking tours from 9am-6pm, from May through October and is also available for special event reservations. For the true lighthouse enthusiasts, the Choptank Lighthouse will soon be a part of the U.S. Lighthouse Society Passport Program, where members can receive stamps from each lighthouse they visit.
While we only had time to peruse the Cambridge riverfront, we passed a few historic homes on our way to the docks. Historic downtown is filled with quaint buildings and restaurants, which means we will be back soon for a full day trip…