Compelling photo: 1933 Princess Anne, MD

I recommend you use earphones while viewing this video. It isn’t long, about 10 minutes and will likely seem boring to you. I also apologize for my narration.  I speak slowly, much slower than normal, but only because I oddly spoke slower because of staring at the photo which is the subject of this video.  I created it for a Oct. 13th Maryland Lynching conference to be held at the Reginald Lewis Museum. I cannot make it to the event but decided to create this, whether or not they show it.  I would understand if they don’t, as the quality of the photo in question is poor.  It doesn’t look like much, but it just may be the only known photo taken on the night George Armwood was lynched in Princess Anne.  There are photos of his brutalized body, taken the next day. But there are no good quality photos of the mob during the night of the murder.

…..Linda Duyer

Posted in Uncategorized

The 1924 news of the KKK

It has been some time since I’ve written to this blog, but here goes.

This past weekend events in Charlottesville, Virginia has reared the ugly face of fear and the KKK (and other similar extremist groups).  Granted a permit to peaceably assemble on Saturday, the group entered town Friday night, marching through with torches in a menacing show that countered their peaceful intentions.  No wonder everything went deadly wrong.

Some journalists are looking back at the history.  Giving that sort of attention is both good and bad, but sadly it has to be done.  Today people may think the extremists are just nuts and don’t mean harm.  They mean harm.  At the very least they must know the rhetoric makes them fierce. For the rest of us, we’re just wondering if we’re in some bad movie in which none of this exists in our new century.

Back in 1924, at the height of the KKK’s resurgence, a local newspaper, the Maryland and Herald of Princess Anne, devoted a whole page every week to the KKK.  It’s shocking to see if you look at it up close.  It is all generally national “news” involving the KKK, though some were regional.  And there were ads selling everything from the infamous robes, to sheet music, to pocket knives, to hood ornaments.   Strange but sadly true.










Posted in Uncategorized

“Georgetown” indeed! (Salisbury, that is)

Georgetown in deed




The title — bad play on words but today I could not help but be excited, because for the first time I found the name “Georgetown” in a deed.  Alright, you are yawning, and I do not blame you, but for me it was a glorious sight.

Years ago I researched and wrote my book ‘Round the Pond, Georgetown of Salisbury, Maryland, a history of the old African American neighborhood of Salisbury once referred to as Georgetown.  No where had I ever seen the word Georgetown written, other than a mention or two in one of the books by the late Richard Cooper. It is one of those things that simply bugged me, which shows you the nature of my life.  It bugged me, I suppose, because the name was handed down by word of mouth and now only mentioned in a couple of history books, including mine.

And I have to thank the latest technology which allows you to search deeds far more easily, with a click of a mouse and tedious (but easy) browsing of the land records on line.  At the time I researched my ‘Round the Pond book, this was not available to me, making the prospects of trudging out somewhere to do that research seem like a mind-numbing exercise, so I did not do it.  I let others do it.

But now, in preparation for this next book, I can do the browsing in the comfort of my home (or with my laptop out at Viva coffee shop) and search as I see fit.  There are stumbling blocks, like when marching backwards in time following the paper trail only to get stuck when the deed writer failed to include liber and page numbers for the older deed.  That is when I curse and make the decision whether it is worth it to venture out and do the work.

Such is the case with this particular search, that of the old “colored” elementary school that was once on Commerce Street (formerly called Cemetery Street) at what is now an empty lot west of the railroad tracks.

Please forgive this burst of enthusiasm.  But seeing the word “Georgetown” written in this 1896 deed for the property gladdened my heart in perhaps a perverse way — for it validated not only the name but the place, the neighborhood that was nearly as old as the town of Salisbury itself.

— Linda Duyer

P.S., the image below is from the 1899 Sanborn map for Salisbury. Interestingly, it shows the A.M.E. church just south of Cemetery Street, along Water Street.  That was the first St. Paul A.M.E. Zion church built in this part of town; a newer and bigger church was built on Church Street just north of this image.

1899 Sanborn Commerce st school

Posted in Maryland, People, Schools

Delmar Medical Society?

A quick question, as I am hoping someone might have some answers.

Does anyone know about the Delmar Medical Society of the Eastern Shore?

Recently I was re-reading a past newspaper article in the Daily Times of Salisbury about the late Dr. E. A. Purnell of Salisbury.  I had met him only twice, and the image of that brilliant shock of white hair has never left my memory. I had met him first at his doctor office on West Main Street and later at a family reunion where he held court — with that brilliant white hair.

In the Brice Stump article, Dr. Purnell stated, “I was a member of the all-black Delmar Medical Society. It was comprised of black doctors from Cape Charles to Dover.” At the time of the article, there were only two surviving members; he had recalled there used to be 25 members.

Dr. Purnell opened his office on West Main Street in 1944. He had received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Tennessee with additional medical courses from Howard University, Harvard University, and the Universite D’Sorbonne in Paris. Stump wrote, “A Salisbury native, Purnell had the distinction of being one of three black doctors who practiced in Salisbury in ‘the early years,’ a time when a black physician on the Eastern Shore was almost heard of.” The two other doctors of that time were Drs. Brown and Sembly.

So if anyone should know anything more about this Delmar Medical Society, I would appreciate hearing from you.

— Linda Duyer

P.S.  A few fun facts courtesy

Before 1865, medial schools were closed to African Americans in the south and to a lesser degree in the north. “Because of the color line in medicine, the first few Negro physicians received their medical degrees abroad. A few older medical schools in the east admitted some Negroes; namely, Harvard, Yale, and Pennsylvania. In the Midwest, Indiana, Northwestern, and Michigan accepted some Negro medical students.” The first African American to graduate from a northern medical school was David J. Peck in 1847 from Rush Medical School in Chicago.

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895), the first African American woman to earn a doctor of science degree was born in Delaware although she was raised by an aunt in Pennsylvania.   You can view an interesting documentary about her on YouTube at       






Posted in Delaware, Maryland, People, Virginia

San Domingo’s Rosenwald School Dedication

20140823_184138Jason Brown started the first grade in 1931 in the San Domingo Rosenwald school in Wicomico County.  And today he sat in the same No. 1 classroom of that school, today dedicated as the San Domingo Community and Cultural Center.  He proudly told me he was the oldest living resident of San Domingo, though I was not sure if it was pride or a frequently expressed astonishment of the fact. Eighty three years ago almost to the day Mr. Brown sat in this spot in what was then a nearly brand new school.  He likely then did not know it was a Rosenwald or understood that significance.  He only knew that he was seated in a brightly lit, impressive-looking schoolhouse, an extraordinary improvement over the rundown drafty one-room schoolhouse that had for years been located out back on the property.

This particular Rosenwald school (so-called for philanthropist and Sears President Julius Rosenwald who collaborated with Booker T. Washington to construct 5,000 such schools for African American education throughout the south from Maryland to Texas) was unique for it’s size, given its rural location.  But the rare two-story four-classroom Rosenwald elementary school served students from all over that part of the county.  One former student attending today’s dedication teased another, who had to walk quite a distance to school, boasting how she got to arrive in a school bus.

I was relatively unaffected until today I walked into this restored historic structure for the first time.  This was something special, and you could feel its specialness.  Photos do not do it justice.  The foundation created to restore the building was fortunate because years ago siding had been placed over the exterior which actually protected the architectural integrity and stability of the structure.  And they were also blessed, for much of the original interior was intact.  The freshly painted wooden plank walls and ceiling were the original, as were the warm brown wooden floors. Two of the original windows could be restored, but the remaining windows were replaced to meticulous standards to replicate the originals.  The result is a stunningly vibrantly-lit interior, a hallmark feature of Rosenwald schools.  To the attending former students, the only thing missing was the pot-belly stove in the corner.  So now they’re looking into including one, to fuel those memories and to teach young visitors what it was like to go to this school.

The John Quinton Foundation, Inc. today realized their dream of restoring history in order to teach its history to future generations.  Newell Quinton and his wife Tanja organized a memorable dedication, with incredible guests, many of whom were community members and former students and a couple of past teachers.  The memories permeated the air.

In addition to a local dignitary or two, there were other extraordinary guests, including  Stephanie Deutsch who researched and authored a 2011 book, “You Need a Schoolhouse, Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and Building for the Segregated South.” Her connection with this history is intriguing, as she married a great grandson of Julius Rosenwald, but she was initially unaware of this history of Rosenwald.  Also on hand was filmmaker Aviva Kempner, along with her film crew, documenting the event as part of her work creating the film documentary, “The Rosenwald Schools.”

But the star of this dedication was the community.  The close-knit historic community of San Domingo was carrying on a tradition of support for history and education.  I asked Mr. Brown if he was a descendent of the founder of San Domingo, James Brown.  Jason Brown shrugged his shoulders, saying maybe, distantly.  Chances are he’s a descendant.  It seemed only fitting Mr. Brown was in attendance today, enjoying the dedication of a building which had been an important part of his life and of the history of San Domingo.

— Linda Duyer

First photo below;  Jason Brown, seated on the right. Second photo: Newell Quinton

















Posted in Maryland, People, Schools

1963 Fire takes Salisbury’s West Side — Ritz, Blue Moon, The Spot, & more

A fire on Saturday afternoon, February 16, 1963, erupted at Lake and Main Streets, destroying a theater, a night club, and a five and ten cent store.  Salisbury fire fighters were assisted by firemen from Hebron, Parsonsburg, Delmar, and Fruitland; finally the fire was under control by 5 p.m. (Salisbury Times, February 18, 1963).

20140814_132027_editedThe newspaper described the fire.

“The building is owned by Mrs. Frank Parker of Isabella St. She leased the various businesses.

Polan’s Five and Ten sustained heavy damage from fire and water.  Fire Marshal Grier said some stock may be salvageable.

The second floor Blue Moon night club, operated by Mrs. Nellie Marshall, was destroyed as the roof on the building burned away.

The adjacent Ritz Theater, operated by E. Costen 20140814_133427_editCordery, was called a total loss by him.  He said the afternoon show had not started yet when the fire was discovred. It apparently started under the stairwell where a heating plant is located.

A men’s hair processing salon, operated by Charles Jones, was damaged as was The Spot, a small restaurant which was not open at the time.”

This all happened in what was then the black business district of downtown Salisbury.  The community lost the only movie theater African Americans could use freely; being relegated to the balconies of the white-owned and operated theaters in town.

The second photograph of the remains of the totaled buildings being torn down is from the February 23, 1963 edition of the Salisbury Times.

— Linda Duyer

Posted in Maryland, People

A Bird’s Eye View of Salisbury’s “California” (c. 1908)

You may have to click on the image to see it better, but below is part of the Bird’s Eye panoramic map created by T. M. Fowler of Morrisville, Pennsylvania, believed to be dated 1908.  This portion of the map, looking roughly east is of the “California” area of the West Side of Salisbury, Maryland.

It shows West Main Street from about Lake Street up to Catherine Street (then called Fourth Street).  Delaware avenue was then called Third Street. You can see the ships, including the Virginia, at about where the restaurant Brew River is located now.  Just out of range of the map, to the right, there was a ship building business then, just as there is now, at about where Chesapeake Shipbuilding is now, near Delaware Avenue and Fitzwater Street.










I am a fan of Fowler’s panorama maps. They are incredibly accurate given the hundreds of structures that were drawn.  This map shows likely the oldest of the surviving West Side “California” structures, located on Hill Street at the corner of First Street.

House on GoogleEarthArchitectural historian Paul Touart estimates that this structure dates to about 1820, making it one of the oldest structures still standing in Salisbury. In his book on the architectural history of Wicomico County he refers to the structure as the Benjamin H. Byrd House due to an early deed. Some may refer to it as the Azariah Hillman house, as he operated a small store attached to the corner of the house sometime in the 1930s, since removed. He is listed as a gardener by profession, in a 1908/09 directory.

There is a bit of a mystery as to where the building came from, because it does not appear on the 1877 Atlas map of the area.  But I may have narrowed in on a possibility, based on a plat that Touart had located.  Few people realize that First street did not always extend south of Hill Street as it appears today and on the 1877 map.  But the adjacent property was a parcel known as the “Spencer Todd farm.”  The Todd farmhouse is shown on a plat only a few yards away in the vicinity of where First Street is today.  There are a couple of unidentified structures on the 1877 map in that vicinity. It is possible this is that house and was realigned when the road was extended through.   It cannot be confirmed, as there was another structure near by but not as close that could have been the farmhouse, but it is highly likely this was it. Today it is rental property.  Alexine Cornish told me that she and her husband the late Tommy Cornish had lived for about four years on the second floor of this building before purchasing the house across the street.  This property as well as the home Alexine lives in now were white-owned until the mid twentieth century.

At the time of the 1908 Bird’s Eye panoramic map, there was a roughly equal mix in this part of Salisbury. Many living here and across the river in the Camden area were employed in jobs related to the water trade — ship carpenters, caulkers, sailors and more. A few mid-nineteenth century structures in this area were identified during Touart’s work, but I suspect there are a few more.  If you stop and take the time to look at some of these buildings, you can see many are likely very old.

— Linda Duyer

Posted in Maryland, People