Dock of the Bay
Vol. 9, No.26
June 28 - July 4, 2001
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In Annapolis, Reconciled with a Pardon

Hazel G. Snowden and Gov. Parris Glendening at a ceremony celebrating the pardon of Snowden’s uncle, John Snowden, convicted and hanged in 1919 - the last man to so die in Anne Arundel County.

Keeping time with the gospel choir singing "Maryland, My Maryland," Gov. Parris Glendening marched down the aisle to the pulpit of Asbury United Methodist Church. He was in Annapolis to accept the thanks of a family, a church and a community for the pardon he signed on May 31, exonerating John Snowden, the last man hanged in Anne Arundel County.

The outpouring of joy at the celebration was in crisp contrast to the mood of February 28, 1919, the day Snowden was hanged. On that day, angry crowds and death threats kept then-governor Emerson Harrington fearing for his life in the State House, and police officers patrolled the Anne Arundel County jail with machine guns. By then, most Annapolitans had been convinced of Snowden's innocence. Many had signed their names to petitions requesting an appeal, but their request was denied.

The case had been volatile from the beginning. Snowden, a black man, was accused of killing Lottie Mae Brandon, a pregnant white woman. At first, beliefs of guilt or innocence split along racial lines, but soon doubt was cast on the trial's evidence, and public opinion turned. It was clear in most people's minds that Snowden was innocent. But the question lay unresolved for 82 years, leaving the local African American community distrustful of local authorities.

The June 22 celebration was planned to say thank you to the governor who had finally provided closure by issuing the long-sought-for pardon.

"Thank you, thank you and thank you again," said Hazel Snowden, John Snowden's niece. "You have cleared my uncle's name, the name of a good man who refused to leave this world with a lie in his mouth."

As well as Governor Glendening, Snowden thanked the John Snowden Memorial Committee and the many people who had helped her uncle's cause.

Much of the thanks went to Carl Snowden (no relation), a former Annapolis alderman who is a special assistant to Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens. He started the ball rolling in 1990 by writing a letter to then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer requesting a pardon. Governor Schaefer referred the case to the parole board but never formally responded.

It seemed forgotten until one day last year when Carl Snowden ran into a man standing in front of the Arundel Center on Calvert Street in Annapolis holding a bill.

"What you here for, sir? Are you here to pay a water bill or a tax bill?" Snowden asked with a smile.

"No no, no, no. I don't like this building. This is where they hanged old John Snowden."

Hearing those words, Carl Snowden realized the trial and execution were still on the minds of some Annapolitans. He wrote another letter. This time, Governor Glendening took action. At Friday's celebration, he told his audience why.

"There are a lot of things we do not know," said Glendening, "but there are a lot of things we do know. We know that two key witnesses recanted their testimony and that 11 of the 12 jurors wanted his sentence commuted. There can be little doubt that the hanging of John Snowden was a miscarriage of justice."

County Executive Janet Owens also climbed into the pulpit to give out certificates of thanks and to read her citation proclaiming June 22, 2001, Gov. Glendening Appreciation Day in Anne Arundel County.

Many other politicians sat in the audience for the tribute. Carl Snowden recognized State Sen. John Astle, Dels. Mary Anne Love and Dick D'Amato, Judge Clayton Greene, former Annapolis Mayor Al Hopkins and many more.

To recall the eight-decade-old tragedy, Scotti Preston and Lenward Barber Jr. performed the "Ms. Georgia Brown" act of the play Four Women of Annapolis. Dressed in a shimmering black floor-length dress in turn-of-the-century style, Preston played Ms. Brown, John Snowden's spiritual advisor and a member of Asbury, who spent much of Snowden's last year with him, singing hymns and reading the Bible.

As Snowden, Barber stood amid the congregation, filling the church with his deep voice as he sang a soulful "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."

The gathering of 644 was treated to an old-fashioned evening of thanks and praise, complete with a rare visit from their governor. They had come a long way to get there, writing letters of petition, gathering community support and raising the money for the ceremony and a memorial plaque.

There were smiles of satisfaction all around. Then the benediction was given, and every voice said "Amen."-

- Greshen Gaines

Put Kids in a Bog and Both Thrive

Ten-year-old Beth Millford of Crofton begins to plant a carnivorous pitcher plant in the man-made bog at Arlington Echo.
photograph by Amanda Lofton

Children crowd each other to see some of these rare flesh eaters. One even volunteers to put a finger in. But the Venus fly trap returns it unscathed. Firsthand is how Planet Earth campers at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center learn about Maryland bogs and the plants that thrive in them.
As well as sweat and dirt, these hundred young environmentalists have gathered some impressive knowledge and concern for their planet. "Helping Earth is a good thing, and I don't want the earth ruined," declares nine-year-old Elizabeth Swigert of Huntingtown. She listens intently as Phil Sheridan, director of Meadowview Biological Research Station, explains how bogs work as natural water filters.
Bay pollutants like nitrogen, lead and mercury are filtered from running water and contained in the acidic sponge-like mixture of sand and peat that is a bog. Here, too, rare plants grow: carnivorous pitcher plants and Venus fly traps, sundews, blue flag irises, white water lillies, wax myrtles and cardinal flowers as well as bog-loving butterflies, frogs and turtles.
Bogs also aid in flood control, explains Jim Robinson, visiting from Chicago for the Meadowview Association. Bogs absorb water after a heavy rain and allow it to filter more slowly toward streams, rivers and the Bay.
Inside a pitcher plant, the young campers find the bodies of many tiny insects waiting to be digested, which takes about a week. In the Arlington Echo man-made bog, they plant these carnivores and other rare plants.
Referring to the Venus fly trap she is about to plant, 10-year old Beth Millford of Crofton explains "bugs go inside of it, and it has juices that digest them."
Why should the children be concerned with bogs and their inhabitants? Steve Barry, director of Arlington Echo, explains that only three natural bogs survive on Maryland's Western Shore. Barry calls this hands-on education in pollution prevention a "point-source project," focusing on stopping pollution before it enters the Bay. "There is very little you can do once it's there," Robinson explains. We are "educating children of Maryland about unique plants."
Echos of Elizabeth's concern for the future of the earth confirm the success of this project in winning the children's interest. Eleven-year-old camper Devon Cannon of Glen Burnie says he likes learning about "lots of things that help the earth," including water testing and waste reduction. This, says Ali Holzberger, 10, of Glen Burnie, as each camper gently places an insect-devouring plants into the 48-by-30-foot bog, is "stuff you can't do on family trips."

- Amanda Lofton

Chesapeake Biological Lab Wants You … To Be a Bay Scientist

Volunteer citizen-scientists sort fish aboard Chesapeake Biological Labs' ship Aquarius.
photograph by Connie Darago

For the research crew from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratories, business as usual is a fine day on the Bay. And so it is this June morning, with bright morning sun dancing upon the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River as the 65-foot research vessel Aquarius leaves her dock in Solomons.

Aboard is a crew of volunteers seeking to become scientists. They'll gain firsthand experience with fishes to carry back to the lab to share.

'Trips like this give people a better understanding so they can convey that message when they give tours of our facilities," says Erin Woodrow, who coordinates the "great bunch of volunteers" who explain how the lab helps the outside world.

The Chesapeake Biological Laboratories, founded in 1925 by Reginald Truitt, is the oldest state-supported marine laboratory on the East Coast. Its eight-acre campus (land donated by the people of Solomons) includes 23 buildings (seven of which have historical significance), a 750-foot research pier, four research boats and a maintenance facility.

More than 180 faculty, students and staff use the state-of-the-art facility to study the ecology and health of the Bay. Professors with degrees ranging from marine biology to biochemistry blend basic and applied science to the protection of the environment and the wise use of our natural resources.

'There are so many people that are new to the area," said Woodrow, explaining that the Laboratories want to reach out with its knowledge beyond the lab. "We want them to learn more about the water."

Which is why retired contractor Bob Moord joined up with the Lab. "I've always loved the water," said Moord, "and I was fascinated with the work the Lab does. They feed information to our legislators, who make the laws that protect our environment."

As it was for retired Delaware fire chief, Dick Woodall, who found in Solomons the perfect place to retire.
"When I came here," said Woodall, "I wanted to learn more about the water, so I began volunteering."
Both are now Chesapeake Biological Laboratories volunteer scientists.

At the Lab, volunteers open and close the visitors' center - located in the 1890 historic Sauders House - run videos, interpret displays and provide information. On Wednesdays and Fridays at 2pm, they give free public tours.

First, they must know their Bay science.

As Aquarius churns up the Patuxent dredging for oysters, fisheries scientist Eileen Setzler-Hamilton prepares tanks for the catch. Setzler-Hamilton has spent her entire 26-year career at the lab.

"My first assignment was in the upper Potomac," Setzler-Hamilton says. "They were considering building a nuclear power plant, and we did an impact study on the ecology."

Now she's teaching volunteers to be citizen-scientists.

Regional marine specialist Jackie Takacs and part-time media staffer Jim Love help Hamilton break open the oyster clusters.

"These look really healthy," says Setzler-Hamilton, explaining their contents to onlooking volunteers.

"The enthusiasm of this staff is contagious," says volunteer Lee Soderberg, who came to the Center after learning she would be living in Solomons for a year. "It's important to learn all you can about the area in which you live and help protect it."

The crew worked quickly as the heavy, dripping fishing net was hoisted aboard. Besides oysters, the catch yielded an 18-inch rockfish, countless yellow perch, four crabs, a toad fish and an odd-looking character called a hogchoker.

Early colonists named the fish: After feeding the fish to their hogs, they saw their swine choked on blood from slashed throats. This strange fish - resembling a blob of brown Jell-O with no defined head, body or skeletal structure when viewed head first - can invert its entire skeleton into rows of razors.

Such is the Bay lore to be taught this weekend and again in August, when the Lab widens its environmental education to teachers. Topics will include oysters, oyster reefs, aquaculture, biodiversity and ecology. "Teachers will receive free supplies" said Woodrow, "so they can duplicate the workshop. Everything is free, thanks to grant funds from the state of Maryland."

In an upcoming series, Savor the Bay, the lab plans to combine science and seafood. A workshop on rockfish, for instance, will unite a professor studying the fish with a chef who'll prepare a dinner featuring the fish.

Such workshops, Woodrow hopes, will draw more people of all ages and teach them about the water. Some may volunteer, too.

When the Aquarius returned to her dock, volunteers headed for their cars. Well, most of them. Some still had work to do.

Chesapeake Biological Laboratories' visitors center is open Tuesdays through Sundays 10am to 4pm. Information? 410/326-7491.

- Connie Darago

In Season: Peas from the Garden

Among the hierarchy of garden produce from my backyard, none is more rare and precious than Pisum sativum. Snap peas are sweet, crisp and fresh tasting. They are among the earliest of spring crops to plant and harvest. Plant them in early March, and if all goes well there will be peas from mid-May to mid-June. If all goes well.

Things sometimes don't always work out. The season for peas is short, and there aren't many second chances.

Peas are by nature chancy. You put the seeds in the ground when it is still winter. The air is raw and the ground is cold and clumpy. With other plants, you can start a dozen or a hundred in a flat in a south-facing window, then pick out the strongest looking from the ones that germinate and finally harden them off in a cold frame before transplanting them outside. But with peas there is no intermediate stage, no babying.
Some years, you get the cool weather that peas need to thrive; temperatures above 70 degrees cause the plants to stop producing. So if they are planted too late, or if the weather turns unseasonably warm, all will not go well.

This year, if you recall, the cruel month of April was hot and dry. My thermometer recorded a high temperature of 91 on April 10, and on two other days the high reached 89. The peas got off to a good start, but they could not handle that kind of heat.

The weather from mid-May to early June was good for peas, but the early season hot weather had been too much for them. We ended up getting about two pounds, good for about three meals.

The pea plants have been removed and cucumbers have taken their place. The beans, tomatoes and other summer crops are coming along fine. Come July an abundant crop of "Super-Sweet" cherry tomatoes will help me get over my lingering disappointment.

I doubt if I will plant a fall crop of peas. The cycle begins again in January. When the seed catalogs arrive, peas will be the first item on the list of seeds to order.

- Gary Pendleton

Way Downstream ...

In Virginia, authorities are trying to find out what killed nearly 200 protected sea turtles that have washed up along the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay. Suspecting that fishermen's pound nets snared the endangered loggerheads and Kemp's ridley sea turtles, they imposed emergency restrictions making it easier for the turtles to escape …

In Chestertown, many rejoiced last week after winning a nine-year war over a powerful and persistent foe. The Kent County Planning Commission voted 5-1 to reject Wal-Mart after critics argued that the chain's107,000-square-foot store would destroy local businesses and erode the town's charm …

In Montgomery County, the Humane Society is offering $2,000 for information bringing the arrest of a goose-hater who killed two Canada geese and dumped one of the beheaded carcasses on the doorstep of Jane Wilder, who was trying to settle a dispute over the growing goose population at her lakefront community …

Our Creature Feature comes from Key West, where an operation known as "The Great Chicken Lift" was carried out under the cover of darkness last week. For decades, wandering chickens have been part of the charm of one of America's quirkiest outposts. But no more.

After complaints about crowing and bird-droppings, the first batch of gypsy chickens were gathered up after some debate and hauled out of town in a U-Haul by specially appointed chicken-catchers. The birds may miss those Key West sunsets, but they won't lack much else at their new climate-controlled, beachside home at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary near St. Petersburg.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly