A. Betterton Beach
D. None of the above
The Answer: C. The Tolchester Amusement Park became the Tolchester Marina, Inc.
It is 1877, and “All Aboard for Tolchester!” rings out as throngs of sun-hatted tourists gather on the wharf in Baltimore’s harbor, excited and anxious to pile aboard for the twenty-some mile cruise to the Eastern Shore and the Tolchester Amusement Park .
Captain William C. Eliason, “Organizer, president and manager of the Tolchester Steamboat Company,” began his daring venture when he was piloting excursions on the Delaware Bay. He was approached to buy a one-quarter share in the steamboat Pilot Boy and some land, an easy distance from Baltimore’s harbor on the Eastern Shore, that was to be developed into a resort destination. And so in 1877, what turned into a bonanza, Tolchester Amusement Park, made its exciting debut on ten acres of beach land, with the Pilot Boy bringing full loads of 600 passengers to enjoy a salt-water swim and a few pleasures.
It was all run by Captain Eliason, on sea and land, following his strict rules–including complete temperance on the steamboat. This strict ordinance met with nay-sayers and predictions of “will never work,” but it did.
Over its eighty-five years, the amusement park grew by leaps and bounds. Five more steamboats and a ferry were acquired to bring the “tens of thousands” revelers. The parcel was expanded to one hundred fifty-five acres and filled with more thrills and amusements to fill out the heady experience. Tolchester had everything possible to please its fans–a lighted baseball diamond, horses to ride and horse-racing, hotels, restaurants, picnicking, and every ride ever conceived to bring out whoops and hollers–games that challenged and a merry-go-round with the sought-after brass ring that brought prizes.
But times changed, and Tolchester had pretty well become time-worn and forlorn by the 1950s–except for the local residents. There are still many who remember those fun days and, with a smile and a far-away look, they recall their favorite activities now buried in happy memories.
Dennis Reichelderfer talked of being able to walk along the beach to the amusement park from his home, which was wide enough to keep his feet from getting wet. He described a favorite rope swing at the park. His neighbor Kay Sheats fondly reminisced about the merry-go-round with the brass ring and Pletser’s Store.
Tolchester closed in 1962. The land was purchased by David Bramble in 1967 and an attractive, full-service marina, the Tolchester Marina, Inc., opened in 1972. Celebrating 50 years of business, the marina has been the life work of Alan and Cathy Bramble, who are joined by their sons.
Their popular beach bar, “The Shanty,” was named for a childhood memory of Alan Bramble. “The Channel” restaurant is named for the Chesapeake Bay shipping channel just outside the marina’s bayside entrance.
Cathy Bramble laughs as she remembers the fun she had as a child with a game that involved a channel filled with challenging swimming wooden fish that could be caught with the fishing pole provided by the proprietor of the game. There were prizes for catching the fish.
There are so many stories that can be told about the Tolchester Amusement Park. Luckily George Eastman had invented photographic film in 1888, which could be used in his new Kodak camera–allowing amateur photographers to record their adventures as well as the professionals who produced popular picture postcards.
We now have records of how it all looked, how the happy visitors dressed, what they did, and a feel of that marvelous energy that fills the air when people are having fun.
Thanks to all. History is made every day.
The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey, local newsman and history sleuth Kevin Hemstock, 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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