Friday, March 28, 2008

Port Tobacco Times and Sedimentation

The Abstracts from the Port Tobacco Times and Charles County Advertiser compiled by Roberta J. Wearmouth, provide some insights into the sedimentation of the Port Tobacco River. Obviously an abstract can not include all the information contained in the original but the abstracts of the Times are a very useful source until the team completes it own review of local newspapers.

One abstract entry of interest relates to a time period long before the Times started publishing. An 1873 letter to the editor states that about 130 years previously there were plans to move the county seat to Chapel Point. The new town, to be called New Edinburg, was laid out with “ample ground for wharves, for the accommodation of trade and commerce, on water then deep enough for any vessel that could go to Alexandria”. The writer attributed this planned move to the rapid filling up of the creek and the fast growing destruction of the navigation at Port Tobacco. The writer said he had seen the plan for the town about 50 years earlier “when the Clerk’s office near the center of the public square was pulled down”. I sure would like to know how he learned that river sedimentation was the reason for the proposed move!

An 1854 report by a committee of the Charles County Agriculture Society seems to indicate the river at Port Tobacco’s traditional landing at Warehouse Point was already too shallow for navigation by large boats. This report recommended two locations on the Port Tobacco River for development as public landings for shipment of produce by steamboat. The first, Deep Point, on the East side of the river is approximately 2 ½ miles below the village of Port Tobacco and 1 ½ miles below Warehouse Point. It was described as being “as high up the creek as a steamboat could successfully ply”. From there smaller vessels would be used to transfer freight to the warehouses. The other recommended site was Brent’s Landing on the West side of the river slightly downriver from Deep Point. The abstracts give no indication that the Deep Point location was developed as a steamboat landing. However they do state that by the Fall of 1857 steamboats were stopping at Chapel Point (at the mouth of the river) where wharfs and a warehouse had been erected. Apparently Chapel Point served as the Port Tobacco stop for the duration of the steamboat era.

The Brent’s landing location was developed in 1881 but it too seemed to suffer sedimentation problems, for within a year the owner asked Congress to improve navigation by dredging the mouth of the Port Tobacco Creek. The abstracts state that funds were appropriated for a preliminary study of the feasibility of dredging both the Port Tobacco Creek and another creek in Charles County. However, they do not indicate if the dredging actually occurred. The silting problem apparently was not solved because in 1883 the Times praised the skills of a Captain who was able to dock a 300 ton schooner at Brent’s Landing. The article states that not only was the schooner probably the “largest sailing vessel” ever on the river but that much smaller vessels usually had great difficulty getting into the creek safely.

The abstracts also provide a few hints about how soil erosion that caused the sedimentation of the river affected the land around Port Tobacco, but that’s a story for another day.

- Elsie

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finding Residents Through the Census

Using the US Censuses seems an obvious way of finding out who was living in the town of Port Tobacco in the 1800's. However. Charles County Census data was collected by districts and not by towns. Like most of the 1890 Census, the 1890 Maryland census data was destroyed by fire in 1921. However, the 1880 and 1870 Censuses do indicate who was living in Port Tobacco. For those years the Charles County census takers tended to skip lines in the ledger in order to group residences, and they specifically identified the people residing in the town of Port Tobacco. The Charles County census takers for prior years did no such groupings.
So how do we find the town residents before 1870?
We should be able to find out assuming
1) Census takers would ride from residence to residence collecting data, so people living near each other would appear in close proximity on the census pages.
2) Some people would continue to live in the town and would appear in consecutive censuses.
Using an on-line census database, the 1860 Census was searched for the head of each 1870 Port Tobacco residence. Some could not be found in Charles County. They may have lived outside Charles County, or else their names were not identifiable based on the census taken as writing and/or spelling. Luckily, a subset of 1860 Census pages associated with 1870 Port Tobacco residents was identified. The starting residence on the first page and the ending residence on the last page could not be definitively identified but could be bracketed by any residents who were farmers. Farmers would have needed more land than that of a town lot.
The same process works for the 1850 Census and for the 1840 Census, but it doesn't appear to help with the 1830 Census. So maybe the above assumptions don't hold for 1830. The assumptions definitely could not be used for the 1790 Charles County Census that has people listed in alphabetical order by surname.
- Carol Cowherd

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More Census Data, Part 2

I decided to repeat my analysis of the 1860 census on the 1870 census data. What I found is that a similar pattern holds true.

Of the 67 surnames that appear in Port Tobacco's 1870 census, only 28 also appear in the 1880 census. That is 42% retention.

Taking it down to the level of individuals, of the 215 residents in 1870 only 41 remain in 1880. That is 20% retention. These individuals are:

H. Herber Boswell - a white male of 9 years in age in 1870 who is "at school" in 1880
Maria C. Boswell - a white female of 15 years in 1870 who is "at home" in 1880
Mary F. Boswell - a white female of 43 years in 1870, listed as "keeping house" both years
Mary F. Boswell (Jr) - a white female of 17 years in 1870, listed as "at home" in 1880
William Boswell - a white male of 48 in 1870, a merchant and farmer in 1870 and a merchant in 1880

Philip Chesley - a mulatto male porter of 42 in 1870, listed as a servant in 1880

John D. Corvall/Covall - a white male shoemaker of 43 in 1870 who continues this profession in 1880

John H Edelen - a mulatto male carpenter of 54 in 1870 and a laborer in 1880

Eliza C. Hawkins - a black female of 10 years in age in 1870

John H. Jenkins - a white male cabinetmaker of 43 years in age in 1870, who continues this profession in 1880
Lydia Jenkins - a 10 year olf white female in 1870 who becomes a teacher by 1880
Ruth Jenkins - a 3 year old white femaile in 1870 who is "at school" in 1880
Sarah E. Jenkins - a 17 year olf white female in 1870 who is "at home" in 1880

Joseph G. Lacey - a 38 year old white merchant in 1870, who continues in this profession in 1880
Joseph R. Lacey - an 11 year old white male in 1870 who becomes a store clerk in 1880

James A. Mason - a 29 year old black baker in 1870 who becomes a Barber in 1880

J Forbes Middleton - a 36 year old white male clerk who is listed as a "penman" in 1880

Mary R Owen - a 20 year old white female in 1870, listed as "keeping house" both years
T Somerset Owen - a 2 year old white male in 1870 who is "at school" in 1880
Thomas T Owen - a 23 year old white male clerk in 1870 who becomes a merchant in 1880

Samuel C Padgett - an 8 year old white male in 1870 who becomes a store clerk by 1880
William Padgett - a 48 year old white male merchant who continues in this profession in 1880

John Penn - a 1 year old black male in 1870 who is "at school" in 1880
Maria Penn - a 28 year old black female "keeping house" in 1870 and a servant in 1880

Martha A Pye - a 2 year old mulatto female in 1870 who is "at home" in 1880
Washington Pye - a 30 year old black male in 1870 who is listed as a blacksmith for both years

Adelaide Quensell/Quenzal - a 39 year old white female in 1870, listed as "keeping house" both years
Douglass Quensell/Quenzal - a 9 year old white male in 1870, and a printer in 1880
Helene Quensell/Quenzal - an 8 year old white female in 1870, "at home" in 1880
Julius Quensell/Quenzal - a 40 year old white male watchmaker in 1870 and a "watch repairer" in 1880

Amanda E. Swann - a 7 year old mulatto girl in 1870, "at home" in 1880
Jeanette Swann - a 3 year old mulatto girl in 1870, "at school" in 1880
John Swann - an 8 year old mulatto boy in 1870, "at home" in 1880
Martha Swann - a 29 year old mulatto female in 1870, listed as a school teacher in 1880

Henry Thomas - a 17 year old black male cook in 1870 and a farmer in 1880

Samuel Thompson - an 8 year old black male in 1870, no occupation listed in 1880

Jane C. Welch - a 43 year old white female, keeping house in 1870 and "at home" in 1880
William Welch - a 17 year old white male in 1870, and a printer in 1880

Anna E Wells - a 27 year old white female in 1870, "keeping house" both years

Harriet J Wells - a 9 year old white female in 1870, "at home" in 1880
Samuel O Wells - a 14 year old white male in 1870, an editor in 1880

Ann S. Wingate - a 27 year old white female in 1870, "keeping house" both years.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown

Remember back when I discussed some of the folks who attended George Washington as he was on his death bed? We had Father Leonard Neal and Dr. James Craik, all from the Port Tobacco area. There was one other from Port Tobacco: Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown.

Brown was born in 1748 and died September 30, 1804 and is credited with not only attending to Washington, but he also built the mansion Rose Hill, which we previously discussed as being the home of Miss Olivia Floyd and that scary Blue Dog. Brown studied medicine in Edinburgh, graduating in 1768. In addition to medicine, he was elected to the legislature of Maryland and served as a judge. Additionally, he was a member of the Maryland state convention of 1788 to ratify the U. S. Constitution. He is credited with opening a hospital for the inoculation of smallpox in June of 1776.

There was some controversy surrounding the diagnosis of Washington as he lay ill. A third attending physician was Dr. Elisha Dick. Craik and Brown were certain the General suffered from quinsy, a tonsil related illness and, according to the best practices of the time, the “bled” him several times. Dr. Dick's opinion was that the symptoms suggested, not quinsy, but a violent inflammation of the membranes of the throat and he suggested a tracheotomy. As we all know, none of this worked and Washington expired. Shortly after Washington’s death, Dr. Brown wrote to Dr. Craik:

Port Tobacco, January 21, 1800
Sir:I have lately met Dr. Dick again in consultation and the high opinion that I formed of him were in conference last month, concerning the situation of our illustrious friend, has been confirmed. You remember how, by his clear reasoning and evident knowledge of the cause of the symptoms, after the examination of the General, he assured us that it was not really quinsy, which we supposed it to be, but a violent inflammation of the membranes of the throat, which it had almost closed, and which if not immediately arrested would result in death. You must remember he was averse to bleeding the General, and I have often thought that if we had acted accordingly to his suggestion, when he said, "he needs all his strength - bleeding will diminish it," and taken no more blood from him, our good friend might have been alive now. But we were governed by the best light we had, we thought we were right, and so we were justified.

It seems our good Dr. Brown was honest enough to admit his error.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Preparing for Next Year

Well, we are getting ready to launch a major field effort at Port Tobacco with the Archeological Society of Maryland, we plan to extend the field and laboratory effort through the summer, and we are looking at ways of making our findings more accessible to the public. All of this will occur over the next five months. So, naturally, it makes sense to think about a more distant future at the same time.

This week we will submit a grant application to the Maryland Historical Trust to fund more intensive research at Port Tobacco. The amount: nearly $50,000. Our chances of getting all or a significant portion of what we are asking for? I'm not sure. It is very competitive and the State's fiscal affairs are far from certain. But if successful, the grant--with funds available as early as September--would put the project on the firmest ground to date and help insure its continuity and vitality until we can secure more reliable funding.

Got paper and pen? A computer and printer? How about writing a letter of support to:

Mr. J. Rodney Little
Director, Maryland Historical Trust
Maryland Department of Planning
100 Community Place
Crownsville, MD 21032

We will ask local political leaders for their support, but a vote of confidence from our friends couldn't hurt.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

More Census Data

I decided to probe a bit further into the Port Tobacco population trends I mentioned yesterday. I went through each surname in the 1860 census (pre-Civil War) to see if the same surname appeared in the 1870 census (post-Civil War). What I found is that only 40% of the surnames appeared in both.

Taking the analysis to th next level, I studied the individuals of these surnames to see if the same people were in Port Tobacco in 1860 and 1870. What I found is thatonly 15 of the over 134 residents of Port Tobacco appear in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses. These people are:

Charles A Edeline/Edelen - a white male who was 3 at the time of the 1860 census
John H Edeline/Edelen - a mulatto male who was 54 in 1860 - a carpenter then a laborer
John Jenkins - a white male, 33 year old cabinetmaker who appears in 1860, 1870, and 1880
Fenita H Jenkins - a white female, 33 who also appears all three years
Sarah E Jenkins - a white female, 9 years old in 1860, also all three years in Port Tobacco
Julius C. Middleton - a 20 year old white male clerk in 1860 and hotel keeper in 1870
Bennett Neal - a 45 year old white physician in 1860
Ann C Neal - a 39 yer old white female
William Neal - a white male, 4 years of age in 1860
Earnest Neal - a white male, 1 year old in 1860
Winfield Scott - a 10 year old white male in 1860 who is listed as a teacher in 1870
James W. Shackelford - a white male, 1 year old in 1860
Francis Toleson/Tollson - a black male, 5 years of age in 1860
William Welch - a 38 year old white male shoemaker in 1860, listed as postmaster and boot/shoemaker in 1870
William Welch (Jr) - a white male, 8 years old in 1860 who becomes a printer by 1880

Of these 15, only 4 appear in all 3 censuses.
John Jenkins
Fenita Jenkins
Sarah Jenkins
William Welch Jr.

So now I am back to the possible post-Civil War exodus of Port Tobacco that was an integral component of my hypothesis. Although the white population of Port Tobacco stayed relatively constant from 1860 to 1880, there was a significant amount of turnover in the town's population.