Thursday, April 3, 2008

The New Edinburgh Plan

Reading through Shomette's "Lost Towns of Tidewater Maryland" this afternoon, I cam across this Port Tobacco related story that I had not yet heard.

"In 1771, [Port Tobacco] would receive something of a shock from a scheme parented by Father George Hunter, a Jesuit priest ensconced at St. Thomas Manor. Hunter announced that he had been requested, "for the convenience of the inhabitants of Charles County," to draw up plans for yet another new town. The site, he tactfully proposed, would be named Edenburgh, in honor of the popular current governor of Maryland, Robert Eden. A survey was carried out, undoubtedly at private expense, and a plan of the proposed town was produced. The handsomely executed colored plat showed a town situated around a public square upon which sat a courthouse, with streets running to it and to the river."

Sure sounds like the 1880s plat maps of Port Tobacco, doesn't it?

"The General Assembly ultimately refused the petition, but the rationale for its submission could not be denied. Nearly half a century later, during the demolition of the clerk's office near the center of the public square in Port Tobacco"...

Why is a clerk's office in the public square and could this have anything to do with the demolished structure we discovered in front of the courthouse in October?

..."Hunter's plan for "New Edinburgh," as it was later called, was rediscovered and erroneously believed to be a survey plat for the redevelopment of Port Tobacco itself. Though addressing the wrong town, the editor of the Port Tobacco Times, who was apparently familiar with the plat, correctly put his finger on the root cause for its instigation. "This shows," he wrote, "that the movement was seriously entertained in influential quarters, prompted, no doubt, by the rapid filling up of the creek and the fast growing destruction of the navigation at Port Tobacco. In my younger days I have heard many of our best men regret that the plan for removal did not succeed.""

So, was New Edinburgh really a plan to replace Port Tobacco with a new town at Chapel Point? If so, was this one of the reasons why the county did not attempt to dredge the river to deal with the siltation problem? How does this 1771 plat differ from the 1880s plat of Port Tobacco and does the 1880s plat represent a similar planned rebirth of Port Tobacco instead of a map of the actual town?




Scott said...

April, I think I inadvertantly stumbled across similar information when I blogged about Thomas Ridate:

We have learned that there was a big push to move Port Tobacco to LaPlata in the late 18th century. There was also talk of moving the County Seat to Chapel Point at one time. Ridgate and others like Thomas Stone started a petition in 1783 to keep the Seat where it was and were successful...this time.
Do you think these reference the same movement?

April M. Beisaw said...


I think Chapel Point offered better port access once ships could not get passed Warehouse Point. La Plata offered better railroad access once a station was established there.

It seems like there was more focus on moving Port Tobacco than there was in fixing the problems there.

Why didn't they address the silting problem? Why did the railroad pass them by?