Kent County, second in the tier of Eastern Shore counties, is also one of the original counties of the province. It was first referred to as a county in 1642 when the governor and Council appointed commissioners for the Isle and County of Kent. The county is bordered on the north by Cecil County, the east by the Mason-Dixon line and Delaware, the south by the Chester River and Queen Anne's County and the west by the Chesapeake Bay. The county is named for the English county of the same name.
The fertile farm lands of the county produce a variety of cash crops, and the addition of dairy and beef cattle and hogs diversifies the local economy. Some large estates maintain prize-winning herds of Aberdeen Angus cattle. In the winter, hunters come from all over the East to shoot ducks and geese that arrive by the thousands to feed and rest in fields and creeks. Oyster dredging and tonging, commercial fishing and fish packing are among the commercial activities in the area.
Chestertown, the county seat since 1706, is a gracious town that recalls centuries of pleasant living. Along the waterfront, eighteenth century brick houses overlook the Chester River. Washington College was founded here in 1782 by the Reverend William Smith. The college was the first chartered college in Maryland, the tenth oldest in the country, and the only college to which George Washington gave permission to use his name. Rock Hall, on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, offers excellent facilities for fishing and is a leading center for processing fish, crabs, and oysters. Used as a landing as early as 1707, Rock Hall was the Eastern Shore terminus of a post road from the north for many years, and thus the point of departure for passengers for Annapolis and the south. George Washington crossed here many times, and Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman crossed in the Rock Hall ferry in October 1781 as he was taking the news of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown to Congress, then sitting at Philadelphia.
Chesapeake House was the principal hotel at Betterton Beach, captured here in a famous picture post card view by Henry Rinn, Jr., c. 1908.
In spite of its name, Sassafras is not located on the Sassafras River, though it is near the river's headwaters. This house at Dreka Mill, located near Sassafras, featured unusually ornate ironwork when this photograph was made c. 1885.
Circa 1940, Kent County grown tomatoes are loaded onto a boat bound for Baltimore.
Betterton Beach is located at the mouth of the Sassafras River in northern Kent County. Its excellent beach and hotels made it a favorite vacation spot for many, especially Baltimoreans.
Tolchester Beach, opened in 1877, was a mecca for day-trippers from all over Maryland. Steamboats from Baltimore arrived twice daily to deliver thousands of merrymakers for a day of fun and frolicking at the amusement park.