All posts by Don Barker

1670 map of the Chesapeake – How good was it?

Lord Baltimore commissioned the Bohemian-Dutch merchant Augustine Hermann to produce a map of his Maryland colony in exchange for a large land grant near the head of Chesapeake Bay.  Hermann’s map was published in England in 1670.

In his A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman’s Chesapeake, Prof. Christian Koot uses contemporary accounts of Dutch and English navigation, land survey, and maritime map-making methods to imagine how Hermann gathered data and produced his map.

How accurate was Hermann? I used GIS software to find out. 

I laid two prominent points from the Hermann map over GPS ground truth shown in a modern basemap — Elk Neck Point near Hermann’s Bohemia Manor in the north and Cape Henry at the mouth of the Chesapeake in the south.

How accurate are the points in between?  See for yourself.  Pan and zoom, swipe the bar to compare in the map here.

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I knew Flora Price when she lived in Denton. But where is she now?

The skipjack Flora A. Price was built at Chase, Maryland, in 1910.  She was one of the largest skipjacks ever built.  Flora lived briefly on the upper Choptank at Denton.

Flora A. Price at Old Harford Town Maritime Center, West Denton, Feb 2002.

Flora dredged Chesapeake oysters for 70 years, sailed as a yacht for awhile, and was finally donated to the now-inactive Old Harford Town Maritime Center (OHTMC) in Denton.  She arrived at Denton in February 2000.

Flora A. Price moored below Joppa Wharf in West Denton, 2000.

OHTMC had earlier acquired the skipjack FC Lewis Jr. and funding to preserve her as a landside exhibit.   Flora arrived at OHTMC about the same time as the skipjack Maggie Lee.  OHTMC planned to use Flora and Maggie as a living classrooms for boatbuilding and maritime skills.

During spring and summer of 2001, OHTMC volunteers refinished her spars and re-stepped her mammoth 75-foot mast at Caroline Summerfest.  But over the next several winters, it was hard for the small group of volunteers to keep the pumps running in Flora’s bilge, and there was no funding for professional repair and restoration.

In 2008, OHTMC handed over Flora A. Price to the Jim Richardson Foundation in Cambridge.  At that time, she was the largest surviving skipjack in the Chesapeake Bay and had been recently named one of the 11 Endangered Skipjacks by Preservation Maryland. The Richardson Museum was  working on a restoration plan and hoped to raise money for the restoration through grants and donations.  Like OHTMC in Denton, the Museum expected to use Flora for tours and educational programs.

But it didn’t happen.  Spinsheet and Last Skipjacks Project both reported that Flora A. Price had sunk in Cambridge Harbor, and in spring 2013 she was raised, broken up, and burned.

Last photos of Flora A. Price, at the Richardson Museum wharf, Cambridge, 2009.
Photo from The Skipjack Project

Our best photos and memories of Flora A. Price during her stay in Denton are here.

Stand in the Place.

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Where the Dead Rise Up

Check out our new Story Map:

click and go
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Haunted by the Heroes of 1776

Caroline County sent six regimental, militia, and staff colonels to war against British imperial troops during 1776-1783:

  • Col. Peter Adams
  • Col. Matthew Driver
  • Col. Philip Feddiman
  • Col. Benson Stainton
  • Col. William Richardson
  • Col. William Whiteley

Altogether, they fought at Harlem Heights, Camden, and Yorktown, and on fields of battle in between.  They tracked down spies, safeguarded the national treasury, tried deserters, and put down rebellion back home. They conferred with General Washington and urged Maryland’s governor to send more recruits and supplies to the front.

We know where they fought. But we know nearly nothing about the civilian life and final resting place of most of them –  Adams, Feddiman, Driver, and Stainton.

The tombs of Richardson and Whiteley are in forgotten places. The rest are lost.

The Tomb of Colonel William Whiteley

Col. Whiteley’s remains lies in the Whiteley family cemetery near Whiteleysburg. The Whiteley mansion is gone. The burial ground now lies isolated in a large farm field.

[Credit to Gale P. Nashold of Greensboro for locating and documenting this site.] 

GPS Destination

The Tomb of Colonel William Richardson

Col. Richardson’s tomb is located on a plot of publicly-owned land at Gilpin Point, where the Tuckahoe flows into the Choptank.   There is a decades-old, rusted marker miles away on MD 16.

By the 1920s, Richardson’s tomb was reportedly “crumbling”, and the manor house at Gilpin Point was already gone.  The Caroline Historical Society added brick work and the existing memorial plaque apparently after that time.  Today, the parcel is owned by Caroline County and is maintained as a public river access site.

Stand in the Place

The map below shows you the way.

Share what you know.  Leave a comment or email me.




Don Barker

GPS Destination

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The Bicentennial Search for Frederick Douglass’s Birthplace

We updated our map app that shows clues in the Search for Frederick Douglass’s Birthplace.  See the full-size app here.

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Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Park and Birthplace

An open letter to the Editor, Times-Record

Mr. Polk,

​I  would like to point out a couple of inaccurate ideas about Frederick Douglass’s birthplace which are presented in your article, Douglass Park opens on bicentennial, in the Times-Record, February 21.

You misquoted Douglass as having been born “in the town of ‘Tuckahoe’, which was located on the shore of Tuckahoe River but no longer exists.”  In fact, there never was a town by that name.  Tuckahoe was a rural place, the entire west bank of the Tuckahoe south of Queen Anne.  Douglass stated simply, “I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough”.

Your article also suggests that the location of Douglass’s birthplace is not precisely known.  In fact, you can stand within 30 yards of the exact site of the cabin where Douglass was born  and raised by his grandmother, Betsy Bailey.​

Drive east on MD 303 from Cordova to the stop sign on Lewistown Rd. – a junction known as Tapper’s Corner.  Look toward the woods across the farm field.   The closest trees mark the head of a gully that was called “Kentucky Ravine” in Douglass’s day.  The cabin where he was born stood at the edge of the woods near the head of the gully.  Kentucky Ravine may have eroded several dozen yards deeper  into the farm field (toward Tapper’s Corner) in the past 200 years.  But its head is still very close to the birth site.

The site of Douglass’s birth was researched from Talbot County land records, Douglass’s autobiographies, and Lloyd family historical sources by Dickson J. Preston and published in his book, Young Frederick Douglass – The Maryland Years, in 1985.

Preston’s book was not widely known until my daughter, Amanda Barker Doran, and I first published his findings online with photos and maps  in 1996.  I have updated The Search for Frederick Douglass’s Birthplace website since then.  The web site has attracted hundreds of visitors and email notes from historians, students of African-American history, and tourists since we first published it.

Your readers can learn more about Frederick Douglass’s connections to Caroline and Talbot County at  Search on “Douglass”.

Don Barker
Ridgely, MD


Looks like Tuckahoe Park (since 2006) was simply renamed Frederick Douglass Park, and they made a new sign.  “X” shows the birthplace location.   – DB

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How Old Black Churches Die

I was scanning aerial photography of Caroline County and saw this striking image in the landscape – above-ground crypts in a church graveyard:

The 1897 map shows this was the site of St Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church:


I finally visited the site a few weeks ago.  The scene was incredible.  Pulpit, piano, pews, and stained glass were still in place.  I found hand-hewn sill timbers – evidence that the building was indeed built in the early 1800s, as noted by one source.

The roof is caving in.  One of the newer headstones in the graveyard was deliberately toppled off its pediment.   Within a generation, this old church building will die and disappear into the landscape like many others.  The gravestones will remain hidden under tangled vines for a thousand years. Then they will disappear, too.  The viewing is here:

Stand in the Place.

Soon St. Paul AME church will be gone.  The obituary might read like this –  adapted from the non-profit St. Paul Church Historical Revitalization and Maintenance Inc.:

“St. Paul Church Historical Revitalization and Maintenance Inc. was formed in December 2000 to preserve church and maintain the grounds.  The church building is over 150 years old …

“St. Paul United Methodist Church represents a  disappearing part of Afro-Americans  history – religious freedom”  …   This church supplied need for local Afro -American to have their own place of worship.  Small churches like St. Paul are slowly disappearing.  We feel the strong need to save this one….
“The charter of the organization was simply to preserve St. Paul United Methodist Church and its burial grounds.   They were originally deeded to its AME founders on November 17, 1883, after the church building was purchased from the white  United Methodist Church located in nearby Concord, MD.  It’s believed the building was constructed in the early 1800’s.
 “St. Paul United Methodist Church was a vibrant place of worship for local community through the 1960s. Memberships started to dwindle as family members passed on or moved from the area. Membership declined, the church was closed in the early 1980s, and the grounds were about to be abandoned.
 “This led to the formation of St. Paul Church Historical Revitalization & Maintenance Inc.  The formation meeting was held at the home of  Melvin and Barbara Cook on December 16, 2000.  Attending the meeting were threse founding members:
Rev. William and Audrey Briggs
Barbara Cook – First President
Maurice Stanford
William H. Briggs – First Treasurer
Sadie Johnson
Virgie Johnson
Odette Hawkins – First Secretary
Crawford Johnson”
I am in touch with members of St. Paul Church HRM, Inc.  Let me know if you want more info, have new info, or want to help:
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Historic Boon Farmstead – Vanished from the face of the Earth

A century before Ridgely, there was Boonsboro.

During 1800-1850, Boonsboro was a thriving crossroads village with a church, school, wheelwright shop, and homes.  Its leading citizens were the descendants of John Boon, who acquired large landholdings nearby in the late 1700s.


Boonsboro disappeared before 1900. The historic Boon farmhouse vanished suddenly before 2016.  Only the family burial plot remains.

Maps, aerial photos, and a CRH site visit in 2009 tell the story.

Continue reading Historic Boon Farmstead – Vanished from the face of the Earth

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For map geeks only: Choptank watershed 1898-1944 from KML

I created a map app where you can compare  hi-res USGS topo maps of the Choptank River watershed for different time frames, 1898-1944.

I did it by downloading KMZ files using the USGS TopoView app and publishing them on my own web server.  Then adding the URLs to my map app.  So easy, you can do it yourself.  Heh.  I’m sure you’ll want to read details here about the map scales, dates, and metadata.

To see all the layers for all the years, you have to view the larger map app.  No time?  Just zoom in with this map that shows only 1904-1918.  You’ll get the idea.  (Yeh, that a KMZ service can be slow.)

View larger map

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The black blacksmith with a bellowy laugh

In West Denton … there were two blacksmith Shops serving the farmers and residents of the area. One was operated by a Negro named Walter Moore …  I doubt if any kingdom ever fell because Walter’s nails came loose.

Continue reading The black blacksmith with a bellowy laugh

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