Part 1: Historic Charles Town
Gerard William Wittstadt, Jr., Esquire (c)2023
Chapter 3: Historic Charles Town Properties
Lot 1, "The Still House," also known as "The Locust"
This home was originally built in about 1760, and is situated on Lot 1 of the original town plat. Having a busy port in its early years, Charles Town's major imports included raw sugar and rum from the West Indies. In an Annapolis newspaper, the Maryland Gazette, on March 8, 1753, Peacock Bigger advertised that he had "erected a Distillery at Charles Town where he makes rum." It is thought that the Still House was the first such distillery in America. With the availability of raw sugar and rum in Charles Town, it is easy to understand how there were as many as ten taverns operating at one time in the town.
(Pictured above is the Still House, circa 1910, also known as the residence of John Hutton. Below, article as it appeared in the Historical and Industrial Edition to the Cecil Whig, July 26, 1919.)
The Village Blacksmith Shop, formerly located on the northeast corner of the Market Square. This photograph was taken in about 1865 (courtesy of Robert Gibson, Chesapeake City, Maryland). The shop was built in 1854 by Phillip F. Jackson, and Robert Boone Gibson started working at the business in 1875. In 1877, the town gave Mr. Gibson a ninety-nine-year lease and he carried on the business there until his death in 1942. Robert Boone Gibson was born in Charlestown on February 25, 1852. He married Hannah L. Chapman on September 29, 1881. They had three children: Belluah Mae Gibson, who never married and had no children; Ella Verna Gibson, who married Otha Gibson (no relation); and Price Gibson, who had no children. Ella and Otha Gibson had one child, Robert Gibson, who was born in 1918. Pictured below, Robert Boone Gibson and Hannah Gibson, circa 1890. Photographs courtesy of Robert Gibson, Chesapeake City, Maryland.
(Lot 82 "The Linton House")
This home, built in about 1787 by Town Commissioner William Linton, is where George Washington stopped on his journeys through town, when the property was used as a tavern. The house is located on the southeast corner of Lot 82. During the original balloting of the Charles Town lots, Town Commissioner Zebulon Hollingsworth selected the ballot for this lot. In 1763, Hollingsworth subdivided the lot and sold the section where the brick mansion now stands to Thomas Jacobs, who was a miller by trade. In 1792, it was sold to Samuel Hogg, who resided here until his death in 1826. The photograph above was taken in 1936 for the Historic American Buildings Survey.
In 1790, Maryland's General Assembly was considering the removal of the post office and the straightening of the Old Post Road, thus bypassing Charles Town. Having lost the courthouse and jail to Elkton in 1787, the townspeople were concerned that the straightening of the road would do further harm to the town's already weak economy. The town commissioners' minutes show that it was William Linton who was chosen to travel to Annapolis to petition the legislature during the session in 1792 against the proposed legislation. Apparently he was successful, as the Old Post Road was never straightened and the post office remained in Charles Town.
(Lot # 82 "The Indian Queen Hotel")
Town Commissioner Zebulon Hollingsworth, who originally drew the ballot for Lot 82 and subdivided the property, is referred to as "Innkeeper" on the original deed. The building was constructed in the mid 1700s and was restored in 1966 through the Maryland Historical Trust. During Revolutionary War times, the Indian Queen was owned by the Hasson family, a prominent Charles Town family. The property to the rear contains a log kitchen, with a loft, in addition to a smokehouse, which it shared with the neighboring Red Lyon Tavern.
Featured in a November 4, 1970 article in the Cecil Whig, the property was described by reporter Dot Clark, the women's page editor: "Inside the Indian Queen is only 30 feet square with a massive chimney rising through the center. The two-story construction has each floor divided into four rooms. The chimney was constructed on a diagonal to the house, so that each room has a fireplace in its innermost corner. Down in the cellar, the large stone foundation of the chimney is ten feet square. The back porch forms a short passage to a log kitchen where for years an old Negro cook, named Annie Sherwood reigned supreme. Legend has it that when she had finished her kitchen chores, she would sun herself on a bench in the doorway, smoking a corncob pipe."
(Pictured right is Annie Sherwood, the former cook, behind the kitchen at the Indian Queen, circa 1910. Notice that she is smoking her corncob pipe. Photograph courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. J. Cranford Henry, Charlestown, Maryland. Ms. Sherwood died in 1927 and is buried at St. John's Methodist Church in Charlestown.)
The 1970 Whig article goes on: "For 125 years, the Indian Queen was occupied by the families of Major John Nelson Black. The last survivor of the Black family was Edna Black Caulk, the Major's granddaughter." Mrs. Caulk died in 1964. The Black estate was probated in 1966, under the Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth C. Black, who had died on September 6, 1906. Many Charlestown properties belonging to the Black family were sold by the estate in 1966, including the Indian Queen.
(Above, back porch and log kitchen at the Indian Queen as it appeared in 1970.)
(Lot # 82 , "Red Lyon Tavern"/ "Black's Store")
Walking southwest on Market Street, next to the Indian Queen is the Red Lyon Tavern, later known as Stephen Porter's Tavern. The building was erected in about 1755. Stephen Porter was a lawyer who, interestingly, was charged with the murder of Thomas Dunn in December 1784. Porter was convicted of manslaughter but served no prison sentence, although he was incarcerated in the town's stone jail for a brief period shortly after the offense. The building is a duplex; to the left was Porter's Tavern and to the right, Black's Store.
(Photo above, Black's Store and Indian Queen to the right, circa 1880, courtesy Mr. & Mrs. J. Cranford Henry.)
The three subdivided lots of Lot 82, including this property, were sold to Jonas Owens in 1804. At the time, Owens owned the Linton House, the Indian Queen, and the Red Lyon, each property devoted to innkeeping. It was about this time that Owens also began a storekeeping business here with a relative, John Hasson. In 1802, Hasson married Nancy Meek and together they had two children, James Hasson, born on September 24, 1803, and John Hasson, born February 2, 1806. On April 3, 1808, John Hasson died and his widow married Major John Nelson Black on December 14, 1809. Major Black was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on February 16, 1787, the son of John and Rebecca Black. The family moved to Cecil County, where John Nelson Black grew up and in 1807 was commissioned a company officer in the county militia.
Major Black was an attorney, and in 1809 he was elected to serve as a commissioner of Charles Town in the stead of John Hasson.
(Major John Nelson Black (1787-1847), circa 1816, by unknown artist, probably Joshua Johnson, courtesy of Edgar McMullen, Charlestown, Maryland.)
(Nancy Meek Hasson Black (1778-1860), circa 1816, by unknown artist, probably Joshua Johnson, courtesy of Edgar McMullen, Charlestown, Maryland. This portrait accompanies that of her second husband.)
Nancy Meek Hasson Black was born in Port Deposit, Maryland, on April 22, 1778. First married to John Hasson of Charlestown, who died in 1808, the couple had two children, John and James Hasson. Her second marriage to Major John Nelson Black in 1809 resulted in four children, namely, William Washington Black (born April 13, 1814, died January 4, 1887); Martha Jane Black (born March 22, 1816); John Nelson Black Jr. (born January 27, 1818, died January 27, 1906); and Rebecca Ann Black (born December 29, 1820).
Major Black was appointed by the Orphans Court of Cecil County as the guardian of his wife's two children from her first marriage, James and John Hasson, pictured below.
(Portrait of James and John Hasson, circa 1816, attributed to Joshua Johnson, Charles Town, Maryland, courtesy Winterthur Museum, gift of the Estate of Mrs. John W. Perkins.) Note: Joshua Johnson was born in about 1763, the son of a slave mother and Caucasian father, George Johnson. He is the earliest African American painter in the United States, active from about 1796-1824. He was brought to Baltimore in about 1790 as a slave for a family related to Charles Willson Peale. His early works show Peale's influence. By the early 1800's he was a "freeman of color." It is reported that he lived in Charles Town while visiting with Charles Willson Peale. In the mid-1800's there were free blacks with the last name of "Johnson" living in Charlestown.)
(Portrait of William Washington Black, circa 1816, attributed to Jacob Frymire, courtesy Winterthur Museum, gift of the Estate of Mrs. John W. Perkins) Note; William Washington Black was the eldest son of Major John Nelson Black and Nancy Meek Hasson Black. The portrait was painted in the Indian Queen Hotel.)
John Nelson Black Jr. was born at the family home in Charles Town on January 27, 1818, the second son of Major John Nelson Black and Nancy Meek Hasson Black. On January 1, 1856, he married Elizabeth C. Ewing (born May 23, 1834, died July 14, 1916). The couple had ten children, nine of whom survived, shown in this family photograph taken at Christmas in 1876.
(John Nelson Black, Jr. Family, 1875, courtesy of Nancy Black Beck, Springfield, Virginia. Mrs. Beck is the daughter of Bayard Gayley Black..)
The Black children were Josephine L. Black (born November 14, 1857, married Harry M. Cantwell, M.D., on April 19, 1881); Walter Ewing Black (born April 2, 1860, married Clara Walker on December 25, 1916); Isabella Ewing Black (born April 21, 1862, married Perry K. Barnes on December 21, 1882); Nelson Montgomery Black (born November 3, 1864, married Myrtle E. Richardson on May 11, 1892); Emma Margaretta Black (born January 3, 1867, died February 12, 1890); Pinckney P. Black (born April 19, 1869, died February 20, 1902); Bayard Gayley Black (born August 27, 1874, married Nellie Clark on August 4, 1909); Ressie E. Black (married Harry R. Barnes on August 17, 1899); and Edna Maude Black (born September 19, 1876, married Franklin Caulk on March 27, 1935). John Nelson Black Jr. died January 27, 1906.
The Black family posed again for a family photograph in about 1890 on the front porch of the Black family store, next page. This photograph courtesy of J. Cranford Henry, Charlestown, Maryland. Mr. Henry is the grandson of Isabella Ewing Black.
(Pinckney P. Black and Edna Maude Black, 1885 Below, Isabella Ewing Black, circa 1890 behind the store at Charlestown, Maryland.)
(Lot # 73, "Hamilton House" (site))
Before its unfortunate removal to Pennsylvania in the 1970s, the Hamilton House was one of the oldest buildings, if not the oldest building, in Charlestown. It is named for the Reverend John Hamilton, rector at Saint Mary Anne's Episcopal Church in North East, Maryland, who purchased the northernmost half of Lot 73 from Robert Thompson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on October 18, 1751. In 1758, Rev. Hamilton was elected to serve as a town commissioner. When Rev. Hamilton purchased Lot 74 in 1751 from John Kanky, the deed states that there was already a house standing on Lot 73. It is therefore quite possible that Rev. Hamilton built this home in 1751.
On July 30, 1853, Thomas E. Burnside purchased the property. Burnside, who left a journal describing his many courting adventures in Charles Town, was a storekeeper in town. He was born on May 5, 1815, the son of Thomas and Catherine (nee Moore) Burnside, who were married on January 28, 1813. According to his journal, which was written in 1836 and 1837, young Thomas was quite the eligible bachelor. He was a hunter and duck decoy maker, who printed his own money to be used at his store in town.
(Photograph above, 1936 Historical American Buildings Survey)
(Lot # 81 "Paca House")
The original portions of this home were built in 1750 by John Paca (1712-1777). It has undergone several rehabilitations. In 1770, the house was described as a frame dwelling 20 feet by 30 feet. In 1753, Paca and his wife, Margaret, sold the property to Edward Mitchell, a commissioner of Charles Town. The stone wing on the west end of the building was added later. In the late 1800s the home became the residence of Richard K. Barnes (1865-1934) and his wife, Ann Cooling (1867-1920).
John Paca was born in Maryland in 1712. He was a Maryland planter who lived near Abingdon in what was then Baltimore County. Paca served in many public offices and was a delegate to the lower house of the Maryland General Assembly. His second son, William Paca, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the first governor of Maryland. John Paca was a major landowner and purchased the lot in Charles Town as an investment. There is no evidence that he ever lived there, although he certainly visited the town to survey his investment.
(John Paca, circa 1765 by John Hesselius, MSA SC 4680-10-0084.)
(Lot # 72, "Cecil Hotel")
The "Cecil Hotel" or "Cecil House," as it may be called, was built in about 1810. It is a two-story frame Federal structure sitting on a high stone foundation. It was a hotel from its earliest days well into the late 1800s, later being called the "Valentine B. Algard Hotel." It has a center staircase with interior woodwork characteristic of turn-of-the-nineteenth-century trimmings.
(Cecil House, circa 1920, courtesy of Robert Gibson, Chesapeake City, Maryland. Below, Ella Verna Gibson, who lived in the home, on her way to the train station at Charlestown to North East, where she taught school, circa 1920.)
This unique Charles Town property is the site of a tavern that was owned and operated by Mary Palmer, who had been widowed by the Revolutionary War. At least two other taverns in town were also operated by women during the War.
This property is located just off the Old Post Road on Caroline Street, behind the Cecil Hotel. It is a three-story, three-bay frame house with a side hall, sitting on a stone foundation. It was originally built in the late 1700s and was renovated in the mid 1800s by John Black Graham, the town undertaker and cabinetmaker, who purchased the home in about 1845 and lived there until his death in 1912.
(Home of John Black Graham, Charlestown, Maryland, circa 1880, courtesy of B. Woods Mattingley, Jr., San Jose, California.) Pictured are John B. Graham and family friend, Nellie Clark Black.)
(Lot 40 "The McKown House" Photograph circa 1920, courtesy of Nancy Black Beck, Springfield, Virgina.)
Without doubt the grandest house in Charlestown, this home was built in about 1900.
In the late 1900s the two McKown brothers went west to mine for silver in Nevada. Unsuccessful, they traveled to the Klondike goldfields of Alaska, not to mine but to open a bar and gambling facility. They prospered so well that the brothers had this home built for their mother. Although referred to by most in town as the "McKown House," some call the home the "Jackson House," as Mrs. McKown's daughter, Millicent, married Craig Jackson of Principio and lived at the home until his death.
The water tower pictured left was originally located behind the home and can be seen just to the right rear of the home behind the side porch. The water tower is now located, in its restored condition, behind the house on Lot 107.
Mr. Barnes built this home as his "town house" in about 1880, as he and his half-brothers, George W. Barnes (1862-1915), Robert Lee Barnes (1864-1936), Richard K. Barnes (1865-1934), and Harry R. Barnes (1870-1926), operated a commercial fishery at Carpenter's Point. Perry K. Barnes (1849-1919) also owned and operated the icehouse in town, located on a protective cove on the waterfront near the Wellwood Club. Mr. Barnes also built the icehouse in about 1880. Both the Perry K. Barnes house and the icehouse remain today in essentially the same condition as when they were constructed.
(Photograph left, Perry K. Barnes, circa 1917, holding two geese in front of his home in Charlestown, courtesy of J. Cranford Henry, Charlestown, Maryland.)
(Perry K. Barnes House, Charlestown, Maryland)
(Barnes Ice House, Charlestown, Maryland)
From the early 1800s through the mid 1900s, ice was good business on the North East River. When the river froze, Mr. Barnes would send his men out on the ice to cut blocks from the frozen river; the ice would be placed on tracks and pushed along with poles, making each block the correct length and size.
These blocks would be stored in the icehouse and later placed on the nearby trains for shipment to Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Barnes icehouse, shown in these turn-of-the-century photographs, was made of 18-inch eastern white pine planks, and the inner walls contained18 inches of tick cork used for insulation. The two other buildings shown are, to the far left, a boathouse owned by Dr. Lavalina and the smaller building was the Barnes' decoy house.
(Circa 1905 Photographs courtesy of J. Cranford Henry, Charlestown, Maryland.)
The Home of Harry Housekeeper and Pauline Barnes
(The photograph above was taken to be used as Christmas Card that was sent in 1939 to Nancy Black Beck, and shows the home of Harry H. & Pauline Barnes.)
The oldest child of Perry K. and Isabelle Black Barnes was Harry Housekeeper Barnes, named after Dr. Housekeeper, the respected pharmacist from North East, Maryland. Like other members of the Barnes family, he too was drawn to the North East River to fish, hunt, and otherwise enjoy its natural bounties.
(Harry H. Barnes, at home circa 1917, and right, with Snake Heverin, circa 1945, courtesy of J. Cranford Henry, Charlestown, Maryland.)
Not only did the Barnes family find the North East River a source of fair income when the river froze, it also provided Harry H. Barnes with an opportunity to challenge his neighbors to a daring race. "This is the fastest boat of them all, and when its blows my breeze, I'm ready for all comers." Harry H. Barnes, 1917, Charlestown, Maryland.
Harry's summertime launch, "The Louise," provided the boys a getaway to Betterton. Shown here from left to right are Marcel Cathers, George Cooper, Harry H. Barnes, and John Cooper, circa 1925.
George Cooper and Harry H. Barnes remained friends throughout the years. Avid sportsmen, the two especially enjoyed gunning the North East River for Canvasbacks. As a member of the Barnes family and the son of Perry K. Barnes, Harry had an unlimited supply of decoys made by his uncle, Wash Barnes.
(George Cooper and Harry H. Barnes (right) repainting decoys for the upcoming season. They are working at the Barnes decoy house in 1950, the same year that Mr. Barnes acquired this Sneak Boat License for the Susquehanna Flats.. Photographs courtesy of J. Cranford Henry, Charlestown, Maryland.)
(The photograph above was taken by Cran Henry in 1950 on the pier in front of the Barnes' Ice House in Charlestow, and pictured left to right are Burnsie Lawson, Harry H. Barnes, George Cooper and Arthur Paulson, with a load of shad. In the background getting ready to spread the nets are Pauline Barnes, Ike Heisler and Will Heverin.)
The Richard K. Barnes General Store
(The Barnes Store, circa 1919 from the Historical and Industrial Edition of the Cecil Whig, July 26, 1919.)
Richard Kirby Barnes was born at Carpenter's Point on December 3, 1865. He owned and operated a general store in Charlestown from 1913 until his death in 1934. His home was located just to the southeast of the store, where he and his wife, Ann Cooling, lived. They had two children, Richard Kirby "Dick" Barnes and Margaret Barnes (Johnson).
(Richard K. Barnes at Carpenter's Point, circa 1905, courtesy of Edgar McMullen, Charlestown.)
From about 1915 through 1930, the Barnes Store was the gathering place for the men of the town. During the day, it was not uncommon for several of the town's men to sit on the front porch passing the time of day. Children, too, would come by the store. The store carried all the necessities of the day, including hunting and fishing supplies, and everything from eggs to oar leathers. After the death of Mr. Barnes, his son, Dick Barnes took over the operation of the family business. He expanded the business to include the restaurant and bar on the right side of the building.
(Above, Barnes Store, circa 1930. Left to right Nancy Black, June Guiberson (both girls on roller skates); Otas Murphay; unknown; Richard K. Barnes; Harry Clayton; Will Heverin; and Dick Barnes.)
(Richard K. Barnes, circa 1919 from the Historical and Industrial Edition of the Cecil Whig, July 26, 1919.)