From Lake’s Illustrated Atlas of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, 1877. Source: Maryland Historic Trust.

This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: Where did the Kent County Railroad service terminate in Chestertown?

A. At the south end of Cross St.?

B. At Topping’s Mill?

C. At a wharf in the Chester River?

D. None of the above?

This Week’s Answer: C.  At a wharf in the Chester River.

Following the railroad line shown on Lake et al Illustrated Atlas of Kent and Queen Ann Counties, 1877,  the train chugged into town from the west and swung south of High Street to the passenger and freight stations and then on to the Railroad Wharf and Mr. Wilbur Watson Hubbard’s Peerless Fertilizer Company.

Passenger schedule for the Kent County service of the Smyrna-Delaware Bay Railroad, February 1881. Source: MHT.

It was Mr. Hubbard’s efforts that made the building of the spur line possible. It certainly made it easier and more efficient to off-load and load his goods surfside.  He was also the spirit and support  behind the building by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1902-1903 of the elegant new depot conveniently located near downtown Chestertown.

An excerpted portion of T. M. Fowler’s Birds Eye View of Chestertown, 1907. The railroad station and wharf operations are featured prominently in the south end of town. Source: MHT.

Until then passengers purchased their tickets from a warehouse.  It is not hard to picture Wilbur Hubbard’s daughter Miriam’s wedding guests departing the train and then escorted over to their impressive home, Widehall,  to celebrate the  socially prominent event in October of 1918 when she married her United States Army Lieutenant beau, George Maurice Morris.

In addition, The Strawboard spur provided another service leg from the depot area northwest to Topping’s Mill, later Radcliffe Mill, and The American Straw Board Company Paper Mill.  Straw board was made from a coarse yellow pulp of straw that was ultimately the foundation for making shipping boxes and cartons.  The Straw Board Mill provided many jobs for Chestertown residents and attracted other businesses to the same area.

The rail spur serving The American Straw Board operations is shown on the Sanborn Insurance Map of 1908. Source: MHT.

The Strawboard Spur line was shown in the 1901 USGS map of Chestertown.  It was eventually abandoned, but has recently become the basis for the first leg of the Rail Trail named in honor of former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey and columnist Kate Meehan contribute to the quiz’s development. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion.

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