Thawley's and Tuckahoe Neck
This town is located on the Tuckahoe River in Caroline County at the point where the Queen Anne and Talbot counties meet the river on the opposite side, is on the site of one of the oldest settlements of the county.
Official records show that before the year 1750, an Episcopal Chapel was located directly across the river from what is now Hillsboro and further that a bridge had also been built before this time. Located as it is in a region conductive to good farming operations, it was only natural that the community should have been settled very early.
In those early times land was usually granted to representative people and families by the Lord Proprietor. Thus it was that John Hardcastle of Talbot County became the owner of large tracts of land in this section.
Aside from the occasional repair and rebuilding of the Chapel and bridge, but little is known of the settlement which was known as Tuckahoe Bridge, later called Hillsboro in honor of Lord Hillsboro of the Calvert family, until the close of the Revolutionary War when Francis Sellers, Esq., who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, had located here and married Elizabeth Downes the daughter of Henry Downes, who was a well known and influential citizen of the county of that
time. Mr. Sellers it was who had built the large brick house still standing near the eastern terminus of the bridge, as well as a brick warehouse along the river nearby where he evidently conducted his mercantile business. Someone has ascertained that the bricks in these two buildings as well as those in the Old Academy were of the same type and quality, indicating that Mr. Sellers was active in the building of the Academy as well. With the natural characteristics of a Scotchman, Mr. Sellers was energetic and thrifty in business and active in the advancement of his community along educational and religious lines. It seems that he must have amassed a considerable fortune in his business as indicated by his various benevolences. By ancestry, likely a Presbyterian, it seems that he was foremost in the councils of the local Episcopal church.
Whether Mr. Sellers prepared at Hillsboro the well known Sellers’ Medical Compound that has for a long time been made in Pittsburgh by his descendants, is not definitely known, but it seems very likely that he did, because of the records which show great amount of fevers in this section at that time. In fact, Mr. Sellers and several of his children succumbed to a fever which was epidemic in Hillsboro about 1804. A few years afterwards in 1816, Jesse Lee, a well known minister and close friend of Bishop Asbury attended a camp meeting near Hillsboro, was stricken with a fever and a few days later expired at the home of Mr. Sellers, a son of the late Francis Sellers.
In 1831 the first newspaper in the county was established here, being printed by Lucas Bros.
For some time Hillsboro was the site of the Tri-county Fair and frequently was the meeting place of Congressional Conventions.
A record has been found indicating that Charles Wilson Peale, one of America’s greatest painters, and the son of Rembrandt Peale who lived for a time in Queen Anne County, resided once in or near Hillsboro. Thus it seems that this place must have attained considerable prominence in religious and literary circles, as well as having been of much commercial importance, the latter characteristic being indicated by the establishment of a shoe factory, cannery, tobacco warehouse, tavern and one or more general stores.
The Old Hillsboro Academy
In 1797 a brick school house was erected in Hillsboro, the land having been donated by John Hardcastle, Jr., of Talbot County, and deeded in trust to the following men: Francis Sellers, William Smith, Valentine Green, Henry Nichols, of Caroline County, and Samuel Barrow of Talbot. For over seventy-five years the building remained on this lot known as part of “Hackett’s Garding.” Provisions of the deed prove the school to have been purely local. In the next year plans were made for one liberal school in each county, and this school became known as Hillsboro Academy.
Private subscriptions provided the money for the school building and was furnished not only by men from Caroline, but from Queen Anne’s and Talbot as well. Francis Sellers, a well known business man living near the Tuckahoe bridge, was largely responsible for the success of the school. He not only made generous subscriptions to the enterprise, but endowed the school for the benefit of orphaned children.
The first board of trustees were Francis Sellers, William Smith, Henry Nichols 3rd, Samuel Barrow, Henry Downes, William Richardson and George Martin. These trustees were “on the job” from the start; in fact the Legislature of 1806 placed the village government in their hands. They appointed a bailiff to collect taxes which were laid upon persons who kept dogs, also fines imposed upon residents who alarmed their neighbors by permitting their chimney to catch fire, and fines upon persons who enticed away or harbored any of the charity children in charge of the teacher or Trustees.
The course of study included classics as well as the elementary subjects. In recognition of the high standing of the school the General Assembly of 1812 made the school a donation of $500, which custom was kept up for nearly twenty years. In 1823 the following report was sent to the Assembly:
Five free students.
Eight classical students.
Nineteen students in English and Mathematics.
Total number of pupils, 27.
Hillsboro Academy held indisputable sway in Caroline until 1827 when half of the State’s annual donation was taken from it to give to the Denton Academy, not then erected. For a few years after this the type of teaching at Hillsboro was unchanged. Then came a period of struggle when it alternated between a private school and a local county school according as it enrolled the fifteen subscribing scholars necessary to receive the State donation. Later years saw the revival of interest in the Academy, but only for a brief period. In 1878 the school was taken over by the County Board of Education, who replaced the old building by erecting a more modern two-room structure for a graded school.
A history of the Episcopal church will be found elsewhere in this volume under the caption—Early Churches.
Methodism in Hillsboro and Vicinity
In the year 1776, the Rev. Mr. Ruff was then preaching on what was then known as Kent Circuit. For some reason he was called away for a short time from his work, and at his request Freeborn Garretson came over to take his place while he was away. Garretson preached in Queen Anne’s County, and came into Caroline, first at Greensboro, then traveling southward he visited the upper parts of Tuckahoe Neck near where Hillsboro now is. He was the first Methodist preacher the people heard in these parts.Garretson says:This was at the home of the step-father of the Rev. Ezekiel Cooper, who was an officer in the American Army, and as it was a day of great mustering, Garretson, sitting on his horse, preached to the soldiers, many of which were converted and became Methodists.
“I was wandering along in search of an opening for the Word in deep thought and prayer that my way might be prosperous, when I came to a gate, where I had a sudden impression that I ought to turn in, which I did and went up to a house and told the mistress who came out to meet me, that if she wanted to hear the word of the Lord, to send out and call her neighbors, which she did, and I preached that evening and the next day.”
A Methodist Society was formed in the year 1776 or 1778 and between 1780 and 1784 the first Methodist Meeting House in Caroline County was built near the Meeting-house Branch and was known as “Ebenezer Chapel.”
This was a rallying center for Methodists for more than a quarter of a century. Quarterly Conferences were held with Bishops Coke and Asbury presiding. On his first visit to this community in 1784 Bishop Coke said, “The people here are the best singers I have heard in America.”
Several prominent Methodist itinerants came from this section. Among them were Ezekiel Cooper, Solomon Sharp, Stephen Martindale, and Thomas Neal.
About the year 1838 the church was moved from the Old Meeting-house Branch into Hillsboro, where it has occupied its present location ever since, and it still bears its original name “Ebenezer.”
From its earliest beginnings to the present time Methodism has had a prominent place in the Religious life of the community, and has always helped to bear the burdens of the denomination.
Contributed by Rev. E. W. McDOWELL
FRANCIS SELLERSIn the old brick mansion down the hill,
Lived Francis Sellers a man of will.
He came from Scotland far across the sea,
And settled Hillsboro, don’t you see?
He was very honest, steadfast and true,
And his fellow citizens knew it, too.
Now as to slave he had many (?)
But never was known to ill treat any.
Old Hillsboro Academy owes its origin to him,
Which goes to show he was a man of vim;
He donated much money to help the poor,
And had he been richer he would have donated more.
Miss Downes of Caroline became his wife,
And they lived an ideal married life.
Seven beautiful children God gave to them,
Two of which became noble men.
In the Seller’s graveyard upon the hill,
He lies buried but we honor him still.
We know that in Heaven he is at rest,
His friends mourned his death but God knew best.
On the eastern bank of the Tuckahoe midway between Hillsboro and the Choptank is located a colonial type of house which is best known, perhaps, as the Thawley House, but earlier as the home of Rebecca Daffin, who was a sister of Charles Dickinson that fell in the duel with Andrew Jackson at the beginning of the 19th century.
A member of the well known family of Daffin of Dorchester county came to Caroline county early and constructed a very handsome residence of brick. Evidently no expense was spared to make this an elegant home with large rooms, high ceilings, beautiful stairways and elaborate mantel pieces. It is said that the great cost practically led to the financial failure of the builder.
Here one may easily imagine the goings-on of that period--the stately minuet, the joyous game, the elaborate feast, and the exciting hunt and chase so much indulged in in that day, with all cares left to the disposition of the faithful slaves that made up the household.
The Daffin farm apparently includes the present Thawley farm as well as the Clark land extending as far as Thawley's church. This tract seems to have been the gift of Henry Dickinson to his daughter Rebecca.
It seems that this section was early cleared and developed as a good farming community. The mill nearby, known now as Knott's or Elben's mill, was standing in 1804 as per a plat filed in the Clerk's Office in Denton. At this time it was known as Morgan's mills and was included in a tract of 1500 acres of land belonging to Henry Nichols and extended much of the way towards Hillsboro.
It seems likely that the Hillsboro school served for this community until about 1870 when a local building was erected. This was burned about 1885 when the present one was erected on land purchased by J. W. Clark.
This section of Caroline County lying between the Choptank and Tuckahoe rivers and the main road leading from Denton to Hillsboro has for a long time been almost as well known by name and reputation to the inhabitants of Maryland and Delaware as the famous "blue grass region" of Kentucky.
Endowed by nature with two crowning attributes--location along the river and fertility of soil, it is of little wonder that this section early attracted settlers from other counties. Until about 15 years ago, this region was inhabited almost entirely by the land owners themselves, a situation which meant that the buildings and fences were in first class condition, and the land in a high state of cultivation. Travellers from other counties to Caroline County at that time would not easily miss a trip of inspection on this beautiful section. Some of the most important families of the county and state have live at one time or another in Tuckahoe Neck. Joshua Clark, one of the largest landowners, and one of the county's earliest court justices, lived during the Revolutionary War period at Lyford, an estate even well known at the present day. Later on John M. Robinson who became a distinguished jurist in this state was born and raised in Tuckahoe Neck. Suffice it to say that several worthies have come from this section.
It seems that the earliest inhabitants of this neighborhood either attended the Quaker meeting near Denton or went to Tuckahoe Chapel which was located near Hillsboro.
In 1842 Isaac Harris, then a prominent resident of this section, deeded to Edward Carpenter, James Nichols, George W. Wilson, William Williams, John Nichols, Benjamin Atwell and William Cade, trustees, land to be used as the site of a church which was established under the Methodist Episcopal control. Thus the name of Harris Chapel most likely originated. It was provided in the deed that in case of a vacancy among the trustees the remaining ones should fill the vacancy provided the applicant be at least 21 years of age and a member of the church for at least one year previous. For a long time this church was served by ministers from Denton, but for the past 20 years from Hillsboro. At present, service is conducted by the Southern Methodist minister at Queen Anne.
Owing to there being a large pond nearby where wild geese on their annual trip south formerly alighted for food and rest, this church, the school nearby and in fact the general section has long been known as Goosepond.
The earliest school for this section of which we have any record was located near the junction of the road to Lyford with the Tuckahoe Neck road. Z. P. Steele, Esq., of Denton, recalls having attended this school and perhaps, as a very small boy, to have seen the original school building which seems to have been constructed of logs. Because of the crowded condition of this school in 1870, the School Board appointed a committee consisting of James B. Steele, G. W. Collison, and Edward Saulsbury to consider the advisability of dividing the school district. Their report was favorably accepted by the Board and Upper Tuckahoe and Lower Tuckahoe districts were formed. Since this time public schools have been maintained in these two districts-the one Saulsbury's honor of Edward Saulsbury-the other Cedar Grove because of its being surrounded by a grove of cedars. In 1885 an exchange of sites was made by means of which Cedar Grove school acquired a lot of two acres.
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