This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: How did Betterton get its name?
A. By a contest.
B. After a frequently visiting steamship.
C. From Richard Turner.
D. Because it was a better place to live.
The Answer: Richard Turner.
The area that became Betterton was originally a tract of about 200 acres granted by Lord Baltimore (Cecil Calvert) in 1664 and known as the Fishall Patent. This was just about the time that Kent County beauty spots in the form of harbors were being discovered and settled. In time Fishall morphed into Fish Hall.
Edward Crew leased the same tract in 1715, when it became known as Crew’s Landing. It’s ideal setting on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Sassafras River made it a natural location for a fishing village and as a port stop on shipping routes.
Traveling through the northern area of Kent County, the name Turner appears frequently–an old and important Quaker family.
In 1851, Richard Townsend Turner (1819-1892), who had left his home near Still Pond to build a successful lumber and hardware business in Baltimore, purchased the Fishall Patent and changed the settlement’s name to Betterton, in honor of his wife, Elizabeth Betterton Turner (1824-1903.) The Bettertons were a prominent Baltimore family. Elizabeth’s father, Gardner Betterton, had left his family home and important social standing in Philadelphia about 1820 and moved to Baltimore where he met and married.
“Lizzie,” as she was nicknamed, and Richard were married in 1843. In 1851, after Richard had acquired the Fishall tract, he built “Ellwood,” a majestic country retreat for their eventual brood of 6 plus several orphaned first cousins that they raised. Bringing city sophistication to Betterton, Chippendale chairs and all, Richard saved the best of his timbers for Elmwood from a branch of his lumber business he had established in Betterton. He took great interest in the building project, but left the furnishing details to urbane Lizzie.
Richard soon retired and enjoyed both business and recreational life on the Eastern Shore. Richard built the Betterton Pier and owned many farms. He was an avid sportsman and apparently an accomplished skater. Lizzie sewed incessantly, entertained endlessly, and was a great gardener. Her boxwood and stylishly colorful bedded-out gardens were long remembered.
From all accounts it appears to have been a pleasant interlude in Betterton’s long life.
As always, we thank the researchers that have left us their rich legacy. In digging into the past, dates and spellings vary.
For more information on the Turners, please see The Rolling Year by H. Chandlee Forman, 1985.
The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey contributes 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.