Centreville Heritage Trail
Born in Denton, Caroline County on June 1, 1828, Captain Ozmon was already a well-known sea captain by the time he established his business in Centreville in 1858. In the 1860's he began purchasing properties in the wharf area and continued to do so for forty years. While his schooner business was primarily on the Bay between Baltimore and ports around the Bay, he was also a builder of homes in the wharf area. By the time he died in 1902 he had built more than thirty houses nearby, many of which remain.
Ozmon had granaries here on the wharf front, one of which stood on the location of this sign. This granary stored corn and wheat for shipping on the two upper floors, and phosphate fertilizer on the ground floor. Next door on one side was the coal business of R.J. Price. By 1873, Captain Forman was raising chickens and running his schooner business on the right side of the granary. Ozmon's grain and wheat being so attractive to Foreman's chickens, they became a nuisance. To quote the Centreville Observer of the time, "...this did not sit will on the stomach of Captain Ozmon, although he grinned and bore while wheat was less than $2 per bushel." As the price of wheat went up, Captain Ozmon's tolerance went down, and he shot five chickens and wounded others. Forman took Ozmon to court. Defendant and plaintiff were each represented by the best attorneys in the county, but Captain Forman won. The newspaper concluded; "This case will long be remembered as the first chicken case on record." The court room was packed for the duration of the trail.
(Inscription next to the image in the upper center) Captain Ozmon was a passionate promoter for Centreville business, and wharf business in particular. The Corsica River was so badly silted in that neither his ship nor others could get into the wharf. Goods had to be offloaded downstream and freighted up to in smaller boats. This letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a demonstration of his efforts to promote Centreville's wharf business.
(Inscription next to the image in the lower center) The dredging had been intended for 1883 and the contract went to the American Dredging Company as seen from this document from the Army Corps of Engineers, but it took until the efforts and letters of Captain Ozmon and William McKenny to release the funds to accomplish the dredging. Photo credit: ad for Chesapeake Dredging Company.
When the Corps of Engineers dredging was completed there was a celebration noted in the Baltimore Patriot paper on May 19, 1887: "...The steamtug the Madden took an excursion down the creek to the mouth of the Chester River. The Madden took in tow the schooners Corsica and Chesterfield, both loaded with grain. The boats were gaily decorated with flags, and salutes were fired and whistles blown in celebration of the event. It was the first time in the history of Centreville, so far as known, that a loaded vessel passed from Centreville wharf down the creek, vessels heretofore being compelled to anchor at some distance from the wharf, and lighter the cargo to and fro." Captain Ozmon, Clash and Bryan and Dr. R.M. Price contracted privately with the dredging company to dredge in front of their properties on the wharf to complete the effort.
(Inscription beside the image in the upper right) Ozmon had a store just opposite this sign which is still standing but is now a home. The store was built in 1882 in anticipation of the dredging of the Corsica when he expected he would be able to get all freight offloaded at his landing. The store sold more than ship and fishing supplies. It was the grocery store of the Wharf. There was a walk-in safe, the door of which still remains, as pictured here. Photo credit: Centreville History Collection of MMR Goodwin.
(Inscription next to the image on the bottom right) All accounts and notes were kept on boards in the office, one of which is pictured here. When Captain Ozmon died the safe held spices, tobacco products and a bag of gold dust. By 1919 the granary on this site was sold to the Superior Guano Company for $1300. Guano was a highly desirable fertilizer of the time. Photo credit: Centreville History Collection of MMR Goodwin.