A couple of weeks ago I wrote about “Planting an Empire, The Early Jean Chesapeake in British North America,” by Jean B. Russo and J. Elliot Russo. Drove to Annapolis vicinity yesterday to see the former talk about the subject at Historic London Town in Edgewater. They are holding their Winter Lecture Series, which will feature local Chesapeake historians.
When it comes to book talks, I’ve always enjoyed the dovetailing of subject matter and place history. This one had it in spades. The 23-acre site interprets the history of an early Chesapeake town and overlooks the South River. The hammerhead-shaped peninsula sits about four miles south of the capital city. No modern noises spoiled the serenity.
Like Colchester, Port Tobacco and others, London Town is a case of what might have been. Founded in 1683, the colonial seaport rivaled Annapolis and was in the running for state capital. Not being selected as a tobacco inspection station and other factors led to its decline.
Whereas Colchester turned into a bedroom community, London Town dipped into its past. The site offers reconstructed buildings, woodland gardens, the museum, archaeological lab and digs, interpretive signage, and its crown jewel, the William Brown House. Built circa 1760, it is historically known as the London Town Publik House.
Russo showed maps and explained the geographical differences between Virginia and Maryland. The lay of the land favored Virginia with proximity to the mouth of the bay and a longer growing season. Maryland was less suited to growing tobacco. At the same time, Eastern Shore residents did not suffer from the extremes of wealth seen in Virginia.
I really enjoyed this event. About 50 folks showed up, demonstrating, I think, the popularity and appeal of holding events at 10 am. The museum sells topical books, including "Lost Towns of Tidewater Maryland" by Donald G. Shomette and "Historic London Town, Maryland," by Donna Valley Russell.
In Shomette’s book he provides a plat of the town. Sadly, none exist. But research conducted by Gladys Nelker, Charles E. Moyland and Shomette created this reconstructed one.
The London Town lecture series continues with a talk next week about Annapolis, then Colchester, and then Colonial Towns. We thank Russo and her colleagues for their in-depth looks into the early years of our region’s history.