Secretary is located at the head of navigation of the Warwick River (also called Sewall’s Creek and Secretary’s Creek). The town is named for the creek which was formerly called Secretary Creek, after Henry Sewall who was secretary to the third Lord Baltimore from 1661 to 1665 (when he died).
Near the end of Main Street on the north side before it crosses the river a wharf and granary stood on the point at the fork of the river. On the north shore of the south branch of the river was located a second wharf owned by Noah Webster. A warehouse was located on this point by at least 1877. The Raleigh was the first vessel to sail to this wharf in 1878. Webster formed the East New Market Navigation Company and acquired the wharf and granary on the east bank. In 1880 the Choptank Steamboat Company formed and used this wharf.
Secretary was incorporated in 1900; it was an oyster shipping and canning point. A second wharf was built at the point along with cattle pens. The Choptank Steamboat Company, Wheeler Line, Eastern Shore Developing Company, Maryland Steamboat Company and the Baltimore, Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad Company all used wharves at Secretary between 1906 and the late 1920s.
A steamed oyster packing plant was located at the end of Myrtle Street owned and operated by Cook & Conkle. Fruits and vegetables were canned at an adjacent plant also operated by Conkle but later sold to Charles W. Webster, Sr. and operated by Daniel M. Webster (no relation). Later the cannery was sold to the City Service Oil Co. Another canning plant was located south of the wharf. It was operated by Noah and Frank Webster. It was destroyed by an exploding boiler and fire in 1906. The Harrington oysterhouse later occupied the site.
The waterfront buzzed with boats bringing fish, crabs and oysters and wagons bringing fruit and vegetables to the canneries. Barracks to house the cannery help were located near the river on Myrtle and Water streets. The town also included a general store, livery stable, warehouse, hardware store, sewing factory, blacksmith shop, butcher shop, ice cream parlor and a boarding house. B.M. Sard operated a boat building shop on High Street. The James Adams Floating Theater tied up at a small wharf east of the main wharf and opposite Water Street.
Carthagena (originally called Bath) was the home of Captain Henry Trippe, high sheriff, deputy commissary, and burgess from 1733 to 1742. He was the grandson of Henry Trippe I who served as a captain in a war against the Nanticoke Indians in 1674 for which he received a payment of 1,000 pounds of tobacco.
The paneling from the first floor of the house was bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1917 and is on display there. The house was later used as the Rectory for the Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church. The hyphens and wings are each side were added in the 1960s. This home was reputed to be the finest house in Maryland in 1669, built by Henry Sewall, secretary to the colony of Maryland under Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore. Sewall’s son Nicholas improved the house by importing English mahogany and rosewood mantlepieces and paneling.
(Choptank River Cultural Resources Inventory, 1999-2002)