A Brief History of Caroline County
Caroline County has long been referred to as the "Land of Pleasant Living." This nickname is quite fitting. Whether it is the homegrown produce, historic homes and landmarks, or outings on the Choptank River, our county provides some of the best that Maryland has to offer. No wonder so many prominent Americans have called Caroline County home or have stopped by and left their mark.
Caroline was once a part of two other Mid-Shore counties: Queen Anne's and Dorchester. Residents of the area had to travel to either Queenstown or Cambridge to vote and pay their taxes. By 1773 the population had increased to the point that it could support its own local government. The Maryland General Assembly agreed and in that year passed a bill establishing Caroline County. Gilpin's Point native Col. William Richardson introduced the bill. Melvill's Warehouse was appointed as the temporary county seat until the new courthouse building at Pig Point (now Denton) was completed. After brief stops in Bridgetown (Greensboro) and the Brick Hotel, the county government moved into the courthouse in 1797.
The names of the county and its seat are connected to its colonial past. Caroline Calvert Eden was the sister of the last Lord Baltimore, Frederick Calvert - thus the name, Caroline County. She was also the wife of the last royal governor of Maryland, Robert Eden. The village that grew up around Pig Point was called Eden Town. Eventually it was shortened to Edenton, and finally Denton.
English religious refugees were the first to settle the land. The area was also populated with transplanted Virginians and New Englanders. Maryland had passed a religious toleration act in 1649 permitting people of all religions to settle there. Most colonists chose a site near the water so their goods could be easily transported. The banks of the Choptank River were an ideal place to live. The channel was deep and the waters plentiful. The river also provided power if needed. The existence of Linchester Mill near Preston can be traced back as early as 1681. It has a valid claim as the nation's oldest free enterprise business, and even played a part in the Revolution. General Washington's troops received flour and cornmeal from the mill while at Valley Forge in 1777. The people of Linchester also provided meat and molasses for the Continental Army.
This is not the only time that Caroline County has come into contact with a United States president. In fact, two have visited the county. Andrew Jackson was once entertained at the Daffin House on Tuckahoe Creek en route to Philadelphia. It was there he met Charles Dickinson, another promising but arrogant attorney. The future president and the Harmony resident struck up a conversation about their racehorses. Later, when both were living near Nashville, Dickinson pulled out of a scheduled race between two of their horses. This infuriated Jackson to the point that he challenged Dickinson to a duel. In the much-celebrated contest, Dickinson lodged a bullet in Old Hickory's chest. Unfazed, Jackson pulled the trigger and fatally wounded his adversary.
Under much calmer circumstances, Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to Caroline County in 1938. He spoke in front of the courthouse in Denton on Labor Day; the speech was broadcast on radio to the rest of the country. Roosevelt was there to support his New Deal programs and also to win votes for his ally in Congress, Rep. T. Alan Goldsborough. The local Congressman would lose the election to Millard Tydings, but nonetheless it was an event the county would not soon forget.
Denton has seen its share of state officials as well. It holds a unique distinction as the hometown of governors of two different states. Both Harry Hughes (Maryland) and Sherman Tribbett (Delaware) grew up on Franklin Street in Denton. Even more amazing is the fact that both played baseball professionally in the Eastern Shore League. Caroline County is proud of its native sons as well as its rich baseball heritage. Ridgely has played host to several great athletes. Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx caught for the local hardball team before going on to star with the Philadelphia Athletics. Buck Herzog, a solid player for the New York Giants, made his residence in Ridgely for many years. It should also be noted that Federalsburg supported a team in the Eastern Shore League for a number of seasons.
Caroline County has quietly built a name for itself over the last two hundred years. It has produced a number of famous Americans and Marylanders while retaining its peaceful, rural identity. It remains a successful agricultural area and an attractive location for businesses. There is no doubt that the future of Caroline County will be as bright and colorful as its past.
Charles T. Dean, III
Return to the Denton history web page.