— Port town to "front porch" town in 300 years —
Before the American Revolution, Lower Marlborough (the spelling officially changed to Marlboro in the 19th century) was a thriving port town with large homes, inns, stores, warehouses, a sawmill, a tobacco inspection station, and the British tariff office.
As sails gave way to steam power, the port town retained its identity as the premier port on the upper Patuxent River. By the early 20th century, a steamship landing with two large tobacco warehouses was the focal point of the town's social and economic life. Soon roads and railroads encircled the Chesapeake watershed and the bustling commercial port became a residential community
The last steamship came to Lower Marlboro when the Western Shore Steamboat Company ended service on the Patuxent River in 1938.
"'Swampoodle' was the name given to the south end of Lower Marlboro, which always had water lying on the ground after a heavy rain, often flooded the post office and the blacksmith shop, and giving ducks a puddle for a paddle."
The Swampoodle Book
Top & above right: The steamboat Potomac
docks at what is believed to be the Lower Marlboro wharf, circa 1908. From the H. Graham Wood Collection. A steamboat and the twin warehouses at Lower Marlboro, undated. Both courtesy of Mariners' Museum, Newport News, VA.
Right: Town map, late 1800s, after The Swamppoodle Book
Background Map: Special Collections (Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, courtesy of Maryland State Archives), J. Dennison, Map of the States of Maryland and Delaware, 1796.
MSA SC 1399-1-49.
Where Time & Tide Meet:Southern Maryland
Wayside exhibit developed by the Southern Maryland Heritage Partnership.
Funding provided by the National Park Service. For more information call the Calvert County Department of Economic Development at 800 331-9771.
FURY and FOLKLORE
THE WAR of 1812
"An Attack on the Town Would Be a Sad Annoyance to the Enemy" British Capt. Robert Barrie
The impacts of the War of 1812 were felt here in the summer of 1814 when about 160 British Royal Marines and some 30 Black Colonial Corps raided Lower Marlboro. In mid June, after the militia and townsfolk fled, the British took "quiet possession" of a large quantity of tobacco, valued at $125,000 (1814 dollars.)
Newspaper accounts described the British destruction of the town:
"They opened all the feather beds they could find, broke the doors and windows out and so tore the houses to pieces inside as to render them of very little value?"
American & Commercial
June 20, 1814 "A British officer and FIVE MEN marched three miles into the country and stole with impunity from a widow lady, thirteen slaves, and done considerable damage by the destruction of furniture, &c. at other places."
June 25, 1814
Detail from "Attack on Fort Washington on Potomac, 17 August 1814." Watercolor by Irwin Bevan, 1852-1940. Courtesy of the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, VA.
In August, the British fleet again anchored at Lower Marlboro. Local tradition claims that several British soldiers, who died of "swamp fever" and wounds received in battle, are reputed to be buried in the town.
Sir George Cockburn, mezzotint by C. Turner, 1819. Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-12334
LOCAL FOLKLORE INSPIRED BY INSECTS
A young boy of Lower Marlboro was the hero of local folklore when he told British officers that a hornet's nest was a rare humming bird nest. He told them "if you stop up the hole in the bottom and take the nest about ten miles out to sea, you will have a couple of little birds that will stay with the ship as mascots."
According to the folktale, the plug was pulled while the British ship was still in the Patuxent River, and residents saw Admiral Cockburn and a dozen of his officers dive overboard, sword and all.
"The hornets surely won the day,
And made their foes feel shame;
Those insects were American
And lived up to their name!"
Dennis Griffith, Map of the State of Maryland, 1794
. Maryland State Law Library, MdHR G 1213-356.
Interpretation of Maryland's Star-Spangled Banner
Heritage is a cooperative project of Calvert County,
Maryland's Department of Business and Economic
Development—the Office of Tourism Development,
and the Department of Housing and Community
Development - Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum's
Exhibit Services Program
Star-Spangled Banner Site
For more things to do and see in Maryland,
log onto our website, www.mdisfun.org
or call 1-866-War-1812.
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