This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: What was the largest depot town on the Kent County Railroad Corridor in 1877?
This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Answer is B: Kennedyville
The Kent County Railroad Corridor was a major contributor to the efficient transportation of freight and passengers through the rural areas of 19th-century Kent County. Cross-country travel over rough roads in horse-drawn wagons could not compare with powerful steam engines.
One of the advantages of building railroads is the fact that they run on tracks that can be added to or have intersecting joints inserted to change their directions.
It takes money and manpower, but, with the relatively level terrain of 19th-century Kent County, it was possible to create a rail network to serve its settlements. As the sections were added, new railway companies were formed, expanding the networks with interstate connections and competitive commerce. Building stable bridges required to support the massive weight became a challenge.
In 1856 the Kent County Railroad was chartered. The good news of the actual arrival of railway travel started in 1869-1870. The original construction of the Kent County Railroad, as the Kent County Railroad Corridor was called, opened its first section from Massey to Kennedyville in April of 1870 with a stage connecting Kennedyville to Chestertown.
The second section, from Kennedyville to Chestertown, opened in February 1872.
Since the early 18th century, the area surrounding Kennedyville had been farmed for grain. Its settlers had “ties with Philadelphia Quaker merchants and millers.” The community was “laid out” by John Kennedy from Port Kennedy, West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was attracted to the area when he learned that railroads were planned to be built through there.
By 1867, there were already “two stores, a milliner’s shop, hotel, a blacksmith and wheelwright and a brick church in the village.” In 1868, it was announced that Mr. Kennedy had 19 building lots for sale. “There will be a railroad station at this village, which makes it a desirable place to build,” he touted after he learned that the Kent County Railroad was acquiring right-of-ways in the Kennedyville area.
By 1877, 1 hotel, 2 churches, School No. 4, a post office and approximately 14 single family dwellings had been built. Kennedyville had become the largest of the “depot towns.”
The Kennedyville United Methodist Church, built in 1860, is the oldest building remaining today.
According to the Maryland Historic Trust, “prominent local merchants included William S. Culp, carpenter, builder and manufacturer of peach baskets, and wheelwright H. Anderson. B. P. J. Sparks, the proprietor of Sparks Mill offered ‘the best grades of family flour’ and promised payments of ‘the highest cash ‘or wheat at all times.’”
“C. H. J. Sparks, proprietor of the ‘Cash Store,’ advertised his goods were ‘bought for cash and can offer better bargains than can be obtained elsewhere. I intend to sell for cash or country produce. Give me a call before going elsewhere.’”
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. If you have a quiz idea, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.