Sharps Island

Lower Choptank River Historic Site

Dates

1650s-1940s

Other Names

Sharpe’s Island

River

Lower Choptank

River Mile

0.0

County

Dorchester

Nearest Public Landing

Black Walnut Landing

Cultural Resources include:  Site of geological interest, summer resort, lighthouse, War of 1812 raid site.

Sharps Island lies directly at the mouth of the Choptank River. It is named after Peter Sharpe, a Quaker “Chirurgion” who owned the island before 1675.  The island then consisted of over 700 acres.  Exposed to wave action on all sides, the island had eroded to about 100 acres by 1914 and  eroded completely away by the early 1940s. 

Sharps Island was raided by the British on April 12, 1813, where livestock valued at $225 were seized and Jacob Gibson was paid for his loss.  Though Gibson later donated the money to the state and national governments he was still accused of trading with the enemy.

...At the mouth of Choptank lies an Island of some extent and value, called Sharp’s Island, owned by one Jacob Gibson, a violent democrat, a gentlemen of considerable influence and celebrity in the election contests of Talbot County...This gentleman happened to be there, like Sancho on his Island, in the ful possession and exercise of sovereign power, at the Time the British arrived.  It was said he went for the purpose of removing his property to a place of safety.  They landed and took possession of them and his Island, but without restraining his personal liberty, and saved him the trouble of removing his stock as they slaughtered and appropriated to the use of his Majesty’s fleet such of his Beeves and Hogs and Sheep as were fit for that purpose.  These however they honorably paid him for.  He remained there nearly a week.  In which time he made an acquaintance with Admiral Warren, whom he represents as the most perfect Gentleman he ever saw.  The Admiral invited him to take coffe [sic] with him on board of this ship which lay in the middle of the bay opposite the Island on which occasion he represents himself to have been treated with the most polite attention and to have had much free political conversation with the Admiral and his officers, in the course of which he candidly informed them that he was decided friend and supporter of the administration and advocate of the War...The Admiral lamented the war, spoke of the reluctance of his Government to its continuance, assured him that no depredations would be committed on the land, nor any molestation of personal property further than to procure provisions which they would honestly pay for; and that their object was to destroy the trade and all vessels of every description, which they intended to effect as far as was in their power.  In return for the Admiral’s politeness, the Citizen gave him an invitation to dine with him the next Day on his Island.  The invitation was accepted and he treated Admiral Warren to a barbecued pig dressed in the best style of our electioneering cookery. In time, they got at last upon such terms of civility and goodwill that the Admiral gave a protection, directed to all his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the American and W. India stations for his Island and all the property of every sort upon it, another protection or license to remove his crop of wheat, which was on Hand, and which they did not touch, off to any place except Baltimore, and a passport for him to carry across the Bay a young lady from the western shore, then a visitor at his house, and also his daughter, who wished to accompany her friend upon her return home...(Charles Goldsborough, April 2, 1813).

A summer resort consisting of a hotel, serviced by steamboat from Baltimore, operated here just after the 1900.  A dwelling is shown on the island in 1877.  The first Sharp Island lighthouse was built in 1838 when the island had been reduced to 480 acres.  The small wooden tower apparently was built on wheels so it could be moved as the island eroded.  The lighthouse was moved again in 1848.  As erosion continued the island light was replaced by a screw pile lighthouse in 1866, erected in seven and half feet of water.  However, on February 10, 1881, the lighthouse was lifted from its foundation by ice floes, the keeper clung to the structure for 16 hours when it finally grounded on land.  The present caisson lighthouse tower was built in 1882 and automated in 1938. This caisson lighthouse is well known as the leaning lighthouse due to ice flows which tilted the tower in 1977; but it still stands.

 

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River Sections:
Lower Choptank
Lower Tributaries
Middle Choptank
Upper Choptank
Tuckahoe

Historic Sites
on the Lower
Choptank River