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History & Lore

Black on the Shore in the early 20th century, as painted by Ruth Starr Rose

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Ruth Starr Rose believed she had been “suddenly transplanted into a fairy world.”     After Wisconsin, rural Talbot County under the dominating influence of Chesapeake Bay must have been quite the surprise. Certainly her mother was taken aback by their new home, Hope House, a run-down Georgian mansion and tobacco plantation that had belonged to General George Washington’s aide de camp Tench Tilghman. She had gotten nothing much more than a view, a stairway and a cemetery, Ida Starr lamented upon their arrival.

Start at the beginning as you would for American ancestors of any race

You’d expect Chris Haley, director of the Maryland State Archive’s Study of Slavery, to be hooked on genealogy. He is. Nephew of Roots author Alex Haley, Chris has studied the subject from the ground up. Here he shares some tips for learning about African American ancestors.

Great-great-grandfather Samuel Barr’s graceful cursive seems in itself an art of love

Editor’s preface: If you do not burn your love letters, they may outlive you. Because contributing writer Diana Dinsick’s great-great-grandmother did not heed that caution, the romantic passion of her husband-to-be lived on for 200 years, finally becoming a love story for you to share.

Oystering takes muscle, hope and political savvy

It’s still dark when I park my car at the public boat ramp in Solomons where I am to meet Ryan Mould, who drives 46 miles from Shady Side each weekday to oyster on a public bar below the Solomons Island bridge. As I walk out on the pier, the lights of four or five boats are hovering over the oyster bars, drifting slowly. At 7:05am I see the lights of Aquaholic approaching the pier to pick me up. Like all the others oystering this day all over the Bay, Ryan and his mate, Mike, will start at daylight, 7:21am.

Painting the land, I learned its history

When we were looking for a home to call our own, we drove. We searched up toward Frederick and Rockville, around Annapolis and down Route 2. We kept heading down Route 2, and from there we ventured down Route 2/4.     We saw areas of open farmland, old barns in open fields, crops growing, fenced pastures and shopping districts. All this was interspersed with communities that clearly had been built on old farm fields, rolling land with no existing trees but sometimes a barn. There were sections of forests and homes along the way with mailboxes right on the road.

Once upon a time, this fish meant food and sport in early spring

Mention the word gudgeon to any Bay angler, and you’ll usually get a quizzical look. It was not always so.     The gudgeon (Gobio gobio) is a small (up to five inches) schooling fish of the carp family that lives in our brackish waters but spawns in fresh water. They will sometimes appear in good numbers in our tributaries in early springtime, sprint to more lonesome areas to procreate, then disappear to whence they came.

The story here is all about living up to expectations

Once I got married, it seemed as though the children started coming along on a regular basis like the books in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Elizabeth, Ester and Ruth. They just kept coming. That’s what good Catholic wives and mothers did back in the day. I learned how to stretch the grocery budget with lots of rice and pasta. Money was always tight, especially at Christmas time.

NORAD, Civil Air Patrol track Santa’s flight

When Santa enters North American airspace, the North American Aerospace Defense Command switches its defense mission to monitoring his travels around the world in his sleigh.     “Every year on December 24, 1,500 volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from around the world,” according to www.norad.mil. Live updates come in seven languages on the NORAD Tracks Santa website: www.noradsanta.org.

Good health or the Lemming Effect?

Charging into a nearly freezing body of water in the middle of the winter is a tradition for people around the world. Frequently, the plunge is made on New Year’s Day.     The first New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge is credited to Coney Island, New York, in 1903. Founder Bernarr Macfadden believed that a dip in the ocean during the winter could be “a boon to stamina, virility and immunity.” The Coney Island Polar Bear Club takes ocean plunges every Sunday from November through April, with the largest on New Year’s Day.

Still dazzling after 35 years

Let me describe the spirit of Christmas: It’s the wonder in a child’s eyes when Scrooge talks to them as they wait in line November 19 with their parents for a ticket to Colonial Players’ 35-year Annapolis holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol. It’s another child’s giddy excitement when Ebeneezer pulls them from the audience to dance as he joyfully transforms from cold-hearted humbug to warm, genial benefactor.