Dorchester County

cecil county seal Dorchester County, located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, extends from the Chesapeake Bay to the Mason-Dixon line and Delaware, bounded on the southeast by Wicomico County and the Nanticoke River and the north by the Choptank River and Caroline County. The exact date and legal origin of the county are unknown, but it was in existence by February 16, 1668/69, when a writ was issued to the county sheriff by the Lord Proprietary. The county was created from portions of Somerset and Talbot counties and named in honor of the Earl of Dorset, a family friend of the Calverts.

The county's tidewater country is popular with hunters and fishermen. Much of the land is fresh- or salt-water marsh, where muskrats and other game of all kinds flourish. Waterfront communities such as those on the Little Choptank and Honga Rivers depend on crabs and oysters and the packing, canning, and freezing of seafood. Cambridge, seat of Dorchester County since 1686, is one of the earliest settlements in Maryland, but much of its pre Civil War appearance has disappeared. Oystering became a major activity after the Civil War and in 1900, Cambridge was second only to Baltimore in the oyster trade. Shellfish processing is still a major industry in Cambridge and several trucking companies move the processed seafood to Eastern markets.

Dorchester County is home for the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, a 11,200 acre sanctuary for migratory waterfowl. The refuge, established by the federal government in 1933, raises Canadian geese, mallards, blue winged teal, and black ducks and is a migratory place for other varieties of waterfowl. Blackwater is also refuge for two endangered species, the bald eagle and the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel.

cabin, now blackwater migratory bird refuge
MSA SC 1477-6626

Waterfowl find the Chesapeake Bay region a favorite winter resort. In Dorchester, where this cabin was located, an eight thousand acre resort was established as the Blackwater Migratory Bird Refuge in 1931 by the federal government.

cambridge in 1935
MSA SC 1477-6396

Cambridge is the Eastern Shore's second largest city in both size and commercial activity. This view of the city was made in 1935

frozen creek in dorchester 1910
MSA SC 1477-6643

A wide creek divides the Dorchester County seat into East and West Cambridge. When a long freeze settled in on Cambridge Creek c. 1910, skaters came out in droves to enjoy the situation. Each evening the Rescue Fire Company hosed down the creek to make the surface smooth.

ice fishing for oysters
MSA SC 1477-6624

Oysters are in season from September to April, all the months that contain the letter r. During the cruel months of December, January, and February waters are often frozen over. These water men braved the weather and cut through the ice to obtain their prey.

oyster ships docked 1890
MSA SC 1477-6597

The oyster fleet was docked in Cambridge Creek c. 1890 when this unusual view was made. It is rare to see the work boats moored with their sails hoisted.