What unincorporated community in Kent County was a commercial center in the 18th century?
D. None of the above
Answer: C. Chesterville
Picture traveling out of Chestertown northeast on Route 291 (Morgnec Road) towards Route 301. Just past the Crumpton exit, the next road north is Route 290. Turn left onto Route 290 and in less than a mile lies its interesting intersection with Route 444.
We have arrived at Chesterville. A postcard-perfect 18th-century brick building, known as the Chesterville Brick House and estimated to have been built around 1773, dominates the intersection. Luckily, the Maryland Historic Trust has recorded enough evidence of how the original settlement appeared, so that we can envision how this early commercial community might have looked as it grew in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Chesterville was known as New Market until 1844 when the Maryland postal system was created. The handsome brick building, now a residence, had originally stood across the road on land purchased by Isaac Spencer in 1773. His son, Isaac, built this large building for his business and it became known as Spencer Store. Over the succeeding decades it hosted many owners who repurposed it into many enterprises. It was moved across the road to its present location by the owners in 1973.
The Chesterville Store and Post Office are thought to have been constructed of brick around 1784 by John Woodall and located on the northeast corner of the intersection. He lived on his nearby farm and eventually left the property to his son, Edward, who was a blacksmith.
The Chesterville Hotel was constructed on the southwest corner of the intersection in 1784. It was a story and a half frame building. In 1973 it was moved to the grounds of the Kent Museum, but burned in 1991. Based on memories of those living at the time, it has been recorded that it was also run as a general store by a Mrs. Messick.
Two Methodist churches — Oldside Methodist and Southern Methodist are listed in an old drawing of the intersection layout. It also shows the locations of about ten residences, another store and a wheelwright shop. Unfortunately no date for this document is available, but the style is of the latter half of the 19th century.
Henry Highland Garnet was born in Chesterville in 1815. He escaped from slavery with his parents who moved to New York. In 1865, he was the first African American to deliver a sermon to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was appointed ambassador to Liberia in 1881. He arrived in December 1881 and died in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, on February 13, 1882. He was buried in Monrovia with a state funeral. The Henry Highland Garnet Elementary School in Kent County is named in his honor.
Whenever these settlements are discovered, it piques the curiosity to learn why they appeared and then disappeared. There are quite a few of these ghost towns in Kent County. They started appearing in the 17th century — almost four hundred years ago. Since then, Kent County has grown and evolved from a newly-discovered land inhabited by native Indian tribes to a still relatively undeveloped rural landscape with a handful of smallish incorporated towns and unbridled pride in its preserved history.
Thanks to the Maryland Historic Trust and to all who have contributed to our historic records.
The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion.
Do you have a Kent County history question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.