Newsletter of
The Maryland State Archives
Vol. 16, No. 2
January 28, 2002

On January 8, Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse made a presentation at the State Archives to a delegation of officials from Maryland's sister state in China, Anhui Province. The group was led by Wang Wen You, Head Economist for the Province, and included a number of provincial officials, including the Director of the Anhui Provincial Commission of Agriculture. This group is visiting Maryland at the invitation of the Hagner R. Mister, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. Accompanying the delegation was Yu Aimin who was Dr. Papenfuse's interpreter during his visit to Anhui last October. 

The group was given an introduction to the web-based services of the Archives and a brief tour of the facility. Among the documents shown to the delegation were the sister state agreement between Anhui Province and Maryland signed in 1980 (MSA S1174-1) and the 1785 manifest of the ship Pallas, the first vessel to import goods from China to Baltimore (MSA SC1625). 



Beverley Coombs, an Archival Assistant at the State Archives from 1993 to 2001, died on January 24. Her strong work ethic and warm smile endeared her to both staff and researchers.  Her funeral will be held on January 31 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Joseph's Church in Pomfret, with viewings on the previous day at Airhardt Funeral Home in LaPlata.  The family is requesting donations be made to cancer related charities. 

Yu Aimin and Dr. Papenfuse

Page 2
The Archivists' Bulldog
by Pat Melville 

Appearing in the previous issue of the Bulldog was an article about the legal requirements concerning roads in Maryland. Beginning in this issue and several to follow will be articles about how the county justices implemented the laws, as shown in extant records. 

(Judicial Record) in series C1774 of the Somerset County Court contains the minutes of the justices. The first nine volumes, 1665-1692, are available online as  transcripts and image files through the Archives of Maryland. These minutes plus the originals for the later years were sampled to ascertain the types of information available about roads under the laws passed in 1666 and 1704. 

Most of the entries concerning roads were brief and precise routes were seldom specified. The normal description mentioned the beginning and ending points, often with one or both being a person's plantation or farm. The earliest extant reference to roads occurred November 8, 1670, in regard to "high wayes at Wiccocomoco." The justices resolved an unspecified dispute between the overseer and the residents by ordering "a way made for horse & foote to the point of marsh against Mr. James Jones house." 

The county court heard petitions about the establishment of new roads and bridges and the alteration or repair of existing ones. Road construction in the colonial period meant clearing a path for the movement of people and freight. As a result changing a route was relatively simple. In 1683 James Round wanted a road moved because it was too close to his house and a planned water mill would flood it. The court gave him permission to alter the course of the road and ordered John Cropper and Richard Hill to mark the new route.

In 1689 Rev. William Traill was preparing to clear land on a plantation along the Pocomoke, but was

hindered by a road running through the middle of the future corn field. He requested permission to change the path of the road at his own expense. The petition was granted with the proviso that the new route cause no damage to his neighbors. In 1702 Thomas Potter was authorized to remove a road through his plantation, as long as he bore the cost of clearing the new route. In 1729 the county court permitted Jeremiah Brittingham to move part of the Seaside Road 1/4 mile south so it no longer interfered with his corn field. 

Upon agreeing to open a new road the county justices could order the road overseers to construct it. Thus, in 1705 Peter Benton was ordered to clear the road from Pluncketts Road to the unnamed main road and William Alexander to clear the road from his house to that of Robert Wilson. Sometimes the directions specified geographical landmarks. In 1727 the court directed William Gray to grub a road from Windsors Bridge over Drappers Mill to Gravelly Branch. 

Some of the residents of Mattapony Hundred in 1741 asked for a public road to Mattapony Landing because of bad conditions on the existing private route. The justices ordered a road built from the seaside county road to the landing. By 1753 the court was requiring an inspection of any new or altered road before it was accepted as a public facility. Notations about the subsequent reports begin to appear in the records by 1763. Two years later Planner Williams and Isaac Coulbourn reported on viewing a change on the route between the farms of William Whittington and Josephus Bell. 

Inhabitants could protest against the laying out of a road. In 1727 the justices ordered Andrew Smith to clear a road from the county road to Mrs. Hampton's plantation on the sea side to Aaron Simmons' plantation. After complaints about the route, the court stopped work on the road and declared that the route no longer be considered a county road. Unfortunately the record does not provide the reasons for the objections.

(continued on Page 3)

The Archivists' Bulldog 
Page 3
ROADS (continued from Page 2)

The road laws required the county courts annually to list all public roads and to appoint overseers responsible for maintenance. The justices executed their obligations, but the clerk seldom used the minutes for recordation of the lists and appointments. The designations of overseers for new roads and to fill vacancies appeared frequently within the records. Only two full lists of roads and overseers were found in the records through 1765. Both listed the appointed overseers in relationship to specific roads or areas within a hundred. One appeared in the minutes for August Term 1723 and the other for March Term 1733/34. 

Examples from the lists of overseers and roads include the following. In 1723: "Levin Gale appointed Overseer in the [Wicomico] hundred from Merrick Ellis's Gate to the head of Wickacomoco Creek and from his own house to the main road that leads from white haven river to the witch Bridge & the road that leads from Jay Hobb's to John Leatherbury's, and likewise to clear a new road from his own house along by the corner of Thomas Holbrook's fence." In 1734: "Ordered that William Jones of Goos Creek be overseer of the Road from the head of the branch that leads to Mr. Rigsby's to the Bridge by Mr. Ballard's plantation at the head of Manocan and from the head of Goose Creek to the new Church, and from the New Church into the main Road that leads from the head of Saint Peter's Creek to the aforesaid Bridge, and to clear a road to the north side of John Shore's plantation." 

The roads were important to the people who relied on them for transportation. Complaints about failures to maintain roads were filed with the county court. In 1690 some residents accused Capt. Ratcliffe of neglecting the highways of the upper part of the seaside. The justices named John Freeman as the new overseer. Sometimes the overseers themselves
sought relief. In 1703 Matthew Wallice claimed he could not handle all the road work. The court 

authorized him to hire Adam Hitch as an assistant. A similar complaint in 1705 was handled by dividing the duties among Peter Benton and William Stevens. 

Other complaints resulted from individuals blocking usage of the roads. In 1703 Gideon Tilman accused John Strawbridge of blocking the road to Tilman's landing, a route that had existed for twenty years, thus preventing people from rolling tobacco to the landing. The court gave Tilman permission to remove the obstacles. In 1741 John Purnall was charged with erecting a fence across a road that had been open for forty years. This time the justices ordered a new route laid out around the fence. Even blockage of a commonly used private road was considered appropriate for a hearing. In 1753 six men objected to disruption of their use of a route through the plantation of Capt. Sampson Wheatley to land they owned in Condockway Marsh. The court ordered that the route be laid out and declared a county road. 

Bridges and ferries were also important for the transportation of people and goods in Somerset County. The county court licensed keepers of public ferries and handled the construction and maintenance of bridges and other crossings. In 1727 Samuel Dorman agreed to keep the ferry over the Pocomoke River and to maintain the one-half of the causeway next to it. Philip Quinton, an overseer, was ordered to maintain the other half. The county justices in 1729 directed Gabriel Cooper, an overseer in Nanticoke Hundred, to repair the causeway through the marsh to the Vienna ferry. 

Several residents of Salisbury petitioned the court in 1741 for a horse bridge at the head of the Wicomico River where John Caldwell, also one of the petitioners, kept a ferry for his own use. People had to travel six miles to the Cypress Bridge in order to cross the river. The court contracted with Caldwell for the construction of a twelve foot bridge. He was 

(continued on last page)

ROADS (continued from Page 3)

paid £65 and consented to maintain the bridge for the next fifteen years at his own expense. The overseers arranged for laborers to fulfill their work obligations by working on the facility. Also built were roads on either side of the bridge. 

In the 18th century taxpayers were required to work on the roads or supply laborers for a few days each year under the supervision of the overseers. This procedure was deemed easier than trying to hire laborers with tax funds. The county court could make special arrangements for the fulfillment of the labor obligation. Four men had petitioned for a county road through their lands on Wicomico Creek. After its construction in 1727, the court ordered the men to maintain the road and excused them from the regular maintenance duties. In 1752 the justices directed John White and Mr. Whittingham to fulfill their duties by having their hands work on the road from Princess Anne over Whittinghams Bridge to the Pacosens. 

Despite the brevity of most entries, enough information exists in the minutes of the county court to compile a general representation of the road network in Somerset County in the colonial period.